East Siders of the Year
City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin exemplify the Upper East Side spirit
This year for the first time ever, the East Sider of the Year Award will be shared by two significant politicians and community members: Council Members Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin.
These two will often say that although they share a borderline in their districts on the East Side, these borders are often blurred. Garodnick and Lappin are the type of people who have worked tirelessly together in 2012 on issues like fighting the Marine Transfer Station on the Upper East Side, which would add a waste disposal plant to the area around Asphalt Green, a beloved recreational facility. They are also the type of politicians who walk up and down the blocks of the Upper East Side in search of a facility for a new middle school.
As for working together, Gerodnick jokingly asked who had gotten more points or votes in the "race" for East Sider of the year. But he said that Lappin has been a great partner. Lappin agrees, and said that Garodnick has always been a great and efficient City Councilman, and that they have blurred district lines while working together over the better part of a decade.
Jessica Lappin has represented the Upper East Side in the city council for seven years. This year, she is trying to make an even bigger difference in New York by running for Manhattan borough president, and already has support from people like Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assembly Members Dan Quart and Micah Kellner, as well as having raised almost $900,000 already.
"We're very actively engaging voters and starting to talk about the issues," said Lappin. "I love the chance to meet new people, talk about issues and get to know people."
Lappin was drawn to politics as a student in high school when she attended a march on Washington for women's rights. From there, she worked for various politicians including Senator Moynihan and Gifford Miller, who was her predecessor.
As City Councilwoman of District Five, Lappin has always taken her roots seriously, focusing on the issue that drew her into politics: women's rights. In fact, one of her most proud accomplishments has been the Crisis Pregnancy Center Bill, which was passed in 2011, and is waiting on a decision in the district courts. The bill would regulate these centers that, Lappin said, are often dishonest with pregnant women, in attempting to convince them not to get an abortion. She was surprised, she said, when she learned that there were a couple of these centers on the Upper East Side.
"The right has tried to roll back women's rights and its important for us on the left to not allow them to gain ground," said Lappin. "People had told me 'there's nothing you can do on the local level to advance women's rights', but I didn't believe them."
Lappin also has focused on senior citizens as chair of the aging committee, who have become an increasingly larger part of the city's population.
"We want to protect the most vulnerable population," said Lappin. "This year we got the mayor to agree to baseline money for senior citizens."
Lappin is also extremely proud of the parks and schools that have opened on her watch, including P.S. 267, on York Ave. and East 78th Street, and P.S. 151 on East 88th Street, which both opened in 2010, as well as P.S. 527 on East 91st Street, which opened this year. She also said that there is a fourth school under construction, which will open in he fall. She is committed, she said, to keeping parents living on both the Upper East Side, and in the city.
Councilman Dan Garodnick, like his colleague, has also focused on creating schools and parks in his district. He worked on creating a school in Midtown at 35th St. and First Ave. that will be opening in September, as well as working to plan for a revived East River esplanade, that would run along the waterfront in midtown and the Upper East Side. He also said that he is committed to opening a new middle school on the Upper East Side, despite not yet having a location.
"One of the biggest frustrations New Yorkers have is when they feel like the city isn't addressing the needs of their kids," said Garodnick. "You have overcrowding in schools, you feel like the parents themselves have to push the city to build new schools."
Garodnick, a lifelong East sider, began his career as a lawyer, and has always wanted to be a public servant. After dabbling in political campaigns, and coming back from law school, he saw a vacancy in the city council when Eva Moskowitz left in 2005, and ran with it.
As City Councilman, Garodnick has been particularly proud of his accomplishments that affect New Yorkers citywide, and not just on the Upper East Side, including environmental impact bills, and tenant's rights. He also passed a bill that protects whistleblowers who are pointing out corruption in city government from getting penalized. He is the author of the city's first green energy code, which is all part of the mayor's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
"Even small things, like a mandate for new commercial and school construction to have censors that automatically turn off lights," said Garodnick. "It comes out of a concern for the New York City environment locally and broadly and a worry that we're on the wrong path and a hope that we can be a leader in reforms for other cities."
But Garodnick points to his efforts during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as one of his proudest moments this year. Every day for four days after the hurricane, he and his team went literally door to door in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village and along the waterfront, to make sure that people had enough food and supplies.
"I hope we will have a neighborhood in which people feel like the city is working for them, and is highly functional," said Garodnick. "Whether it's mass transit or the schools or the need to afford affordable housing. East siders have a government that's addressing their needs."
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