“Where do you see yourself at this time next year?” wasn’t always such a loaded question. Before COVID-19, forward thinkers could confidently project ahead 365 days to find themselves dancing at their wedding, playing contact sports, or making good on a campaign vow to bring sweeping legislation before their fellow New York City Council Members.
At this time next year, that last scenario will be brought to you by either Erik Bottcher, Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick, Marni Halasa, Aleta LaFargue, Leslie Boghosian Murphy, or Arthur Schwartz. They’re the six people determined to represent our namesake neighborhood, alongside others in the District 3 area of coverage (Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, Upper West Side). The winner will succeed Corey Johnson, who was re-elected in 2017, became Council Speaker in 2018, and is compelled by term limits to step down.
Chelsea Community News begins its coverage of this race with a Q&A that’s as curious about the person as it is about their policies. All candidates were sent the same questions. Below, find responses from Aleta LaFargue, followed by links that take you to the answers provided by others. For info about the Primary Election (June 22) and the General Election (Nov. 2), visit https://vote.nyc.
Scott Stiffler, for Chelsea Community News (CCNews): Regarding the Biography/About section on your website: What policy, belief, or personal detail sums you up nicely, and why?
Aleta LaFargue: We are all in this together and until we all understand that notion we will continue to struggle. This is most relevant when it comes to our public safety. I have worked directly with our precinct police to forge relationships between them and our community. This is the first step in breaking down implicit bias and helping them to feel connected to the communities they serve. We must also create opportunities for re-education that includes diversity and inclusion training as opposed to intimidation tactics.
CCNews: Can you envision a situation when the duties of advocating for District 3 and the city as a whole are not in agreement? If so, how will you reconcile local obligations with the greater good?
LaFargue: When the pandemic hit, the City understood that leaving people in congregate shelters would be unsafe, and in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus it was decided that they would be moved into empty hotels. This was, of course, the right thing to do but unfortunately, it was not thought out well and the hotels ended up being concentrated in one area of Hell’s kitchen. This has brought many problems to the district including an increase in gang violence and drug dealing which is dangerous not only for the full-time residents but as well for our homeless neighbors. Had officials found ways to spread these locations out across the city we would have avoided much of the turmoil that we face today.
CCNEWS: Regarding the above question, apply that to an example in your personal life. Are you any more rigid or flexible when it comes to advocating for yourself vs. others?
LaFargue: I have always been better at advocating for others than for myself. It is something I am actively working on. Now that I have a child, it is so important that I am taken care of, so I can better care for him.
CCNEWS: Conflict and Compromise: What do these words mean to you, in terms of how you will be an effective Council Member?
LaFargue: Conflict is always an opportunity for compromise. I have always been willing to compromise unless that compromise will be harmful to one party. We must know the difference between taking a stand on an important issue. Even if it may not be so popular in the long run, it will serve the most good.
CCNEWS: The time machine has been invented. Once you’ve played the stock market, it’s time to visit your younger self. What one action do you tell this person not to take? Which one action do you choose not to mention, because it has to happen in order to make you who you are
LaFargue: If I could go back to my younger self, I would encourage her to attend the conservatory I was admitted to for musical theater. I really thought I knew better then and had my own ideas of what success should look like but in retrospect, I do regret not taking that opportunity and I could have been performing on Broadway instead of running for council!! I would not warn myself against getting involved with my son’s father even though he has caused me tremendous angst and pain, he gave me the most glorious blessing in the form of my son.
CCNEWS: What local small business do you wish we all gave our business to? How have they fared during the pandemic, and what can we do to help?
LaFargue: There are so many special businesses that I wish we could support including theaters and restaurants but if I had to pick one it would be Chez Josephine. Throughout the years, Jean-Claude, Josephine Baker’s son, and owner of Josephine’s did so much to help our community. During the AIDS crisis, we helped to create a volunteer-based project called the Manhattan Plaza AIDS project that served people who were sick and dying from the terrible disease. Jean-Claude provided meals and would through parties and dinners for all the folks involved including an annual Valentine dinner that made everyone feel so special. He was always such a loving member of the community. When he tragically ended his own life several years ago, He left the restaurant to the guys who had worked for him from the beginning. They continue his legacy of love and kindness and create a beautifully romantic atmosphere that immediately transports you to Paris when you walk through the door. It’s truly a special place.
CCNEWS: Favorite Golden Girl: Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia, or Rose?
LaFargue: Sophia. I aspire to have her wisdom and wit when I get to her age and also her love and commitment to family.
CCNEWS: You took the time to answer our questions—even that last one, which, frankly, was a little gimmicky. So in the interest of fairness, we end by turning the tables: What one question do you want voters to ask themselves when they see six names in the running for City Council, District 3?
LaFargue: Who will stand up for my community and myself? Who will fight for our children? Who truly understands what I am going through, because my struggles are their struggles?
NOTE: To see Chelsea Community News’ Q&A with Erik Bottcher, Phelan Dante Fitzpatrick, Marni Halasa, Leslie Bogosian Murphy and Arthur Schwartz, click on their names, which appeared earlier in this… sentence.
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