Q&A with Ambur Nicosia, Assembly District 75 Candidate

Image via nyassembly.gov

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Picture it: January 1, 2021. As New York City’s first COVID-era election cycle unfolds, online forums replace brick and mortar gatherings as the candidate vetting venue of choice. The format proves popular, with tenant organizations and block associations holding their own candidate forums alongside more traditional presenters such as political clubs. Flash forward one year and NYC has a new mayor, comptroller, Manhattan District Attorney, and District 3 City Councilmember—all charged with setting a course to guide the city through the post-pandemic era many thought we’d be in by now.

But as the Omicron variant demonstrated, life is full of game-changing twists—such as the one that came via a December 13, 2021 press release noting New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried will not seek reelection. The 2022 ballot was suddenly the first one in over five decades without Gottfried as a choice for the NYC Assembly District 75 seat. Those who would succeed him were quick to react, with several announcing their intent in little more than 24 hours after Gottfried’s announcement. The current crop of candidates is comprised of five-year Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4) member Chris LeBron, current CB4 member and former CB4 Chair Lowell Kern, Manhattan Community Board 5 (CB5) member Layla Law-Gisiko, former leader of the Reimagine New York Commission’s support for workforce and small businessess Harrison Marks, Penn South Co-Op President Ambur Nicosia, and community organizer Tony Simone. (Campaigns have been suspended by former NYC Council staffer Louis Holden-Brown and Carl Wilson, formally NYC Council Speaker/District 3 rep Corey Johnson’s liaison to CB4.)

Two political clubs have already presented online opportunities to learn about the candidates. First up was Jan. 27’s Zoom-held forum sponsored by the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats (HKDems), available to view by clicking here. A Feb. 2 forum held by the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club can be viewed by clicking here. Chelsea Community News began our own coverage by sending an identical Q&A form to all candidates—which brings us to the below exchange with Ambur Nicosia.

Scott Stiffler, for Chelsea Community News (CCNews): Why do you want the job, and what tone will you set to align yourself with, and/or set yourself apart, from your predecessor?

Photo of Ambur Nicosia courtesy of the candidate’s campaign

Ambur Nicosia (Ambur): With four generations of my family having lived and worked in the district, I am deeply committed to working with our residents and businesses to make this district both safer and more livable. This is where my wife and I are raising our children and where we will remain—so I am equally dedicated to protecting the unique character of our neighborhoods and making sure they remain diverse and vibrant.

I was raised by my grandmother, Rita, a city social worker who believed deeply in the spirit of cooperation and service to others. I studied human services in college (I did my internship at Holy Apostles on W. 29th St.), I became involved in Health Advocacy and have worked with local organizations including Visiting Nurse Service of NY and GMHC [Gay Men’s Health Crisis].

As active PS11 parents, my wife and I are involved in supporting both the students and the teachers in our district. I was on Community Board 4 for six years, advocating for education, land use (including the renovation of Clement Clarke Moore aka “Seal” Park), as well as quality of life issues.

Currently, I am the President of Penn South, the largest affordable housing community in the district and I am responsible for an area that covers six city blocks, has almost 5,000 residents and 27 commercial tenants. We produce our own energy, have two public playgrounds, 20 acres that provide much needed green space for the neighborhood to enjoy and a vibrant senior center that serves thousands of residents throughout the West Side. As President, my most important role is getting everyone to the table to collaborate, so that we can address issues quickly and provide results for our residents.

Dick Gottfrieds’s office has an open door policy and he is always available and accessible to resolve problems when needed. It is a tone that has worked well for me in my business—and I would continue this as an Assemblymember. I can’t solve problems I don’t know about!

CCNews: What currently enacted Assembly legislation can be strengthened or used in a different manner to further benefit the people you’re running to represent?

Ambur: Eminent Domain. Eminent Domain was created to give the state the right to seize property for the betterment of the public—such as a park or infrastructure upgrades. And while other states have updated their laws to become more protective of residents, New York State laws still allow Eminent Domain practices that are far too reaching and broad in their scope. An example is the Pennsylvania Station Area plan where one portion of the plan would displace longtime residents, small business, artist studios, affordable housing—even a historic church—and be turned over to a private developer. While this benefits the developer, who decides if it meets the definition of being in the bet interest of the public? The law needs to be updated to put common sense protections in place so that Eminent Domain isn’t working against the community but for the community, as it was intended.

CCNews: During last year’s primary races, we asked candidates what they’d do in January 2022, to create a strong “post-pandemic” NYC. Our assessment was too optimistic. How do you regard the pandemic as it currently stands, what is required before we can declare ourselves in a “post-pandemic” period, and what should we be doing now, at the state level, to facilitate that?

Ambur: I am cautiously optimistic.  While we still need to emphasize safety, I have already begun to plan for what a post-pandemic will look like this summer for our 27 commercial tenants and residents at Penn South.  This is the time to be proactive and develop a strategy to take advantage of a shift in the pandemic. Supporting local business is at the key foundation of our district’s recovery plan. Businesses need to be open and operating to mitigate what I call the “Ripple Effect”—when shuttered storefronts lead to piles of litter, rodents, graffiti, drug activity, and become an area where unhoused individuals seek shelter. Having been raised in the community, I learned from our past economic down turns and know that we need business to bring in more than goods and services. We depend on them to be the eyes and ears of the community and bring in activity and energy to our streets. If I am in Albany, I will introduce legislation that prohibits businesses from remaining dormant for extreme lengths of time (sometimes years!), while we are left to manage the resulting Ripple Effect.

CCNews: The time machine has been invented. Once you’ve played the stock market, it’s time to visit your younger self. What, if any, actions do you tell yourself to take or avoid—and what concert ticket do you buy?

Ambur: I grew up in Chelsea, and there was incredibly energy in the neighborhood. There were challenges here but I knew my neighbors and the storeowners and I felt very connected and safe here.  I would tell my younger self to appreciate this, because it wasn’t until I started to travel outside of Manhattan that I realized how unique New York is. The concert I missed was Aretha Franklin—and I’m still thinking of this!

CCNews: The current Assemblymember is often seen alongside the Manhattan Borough President, our District 3 Councilmember, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler at press conferences or as a signee to action-oriented letters (often generated by Community Board 4). How will you work local elected officials and stakeholders to advance matters of mutual importance?

Ambur: In my day-to-day business as President at Penn South, I am responsible for addressing the needs of the residents as well as the operations and infrastructure for an area of Chelsea that covers six city blocks. In the last two weeks I have been in contact with City Council, State Assembly, State Senate, HPD, HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Sanitation. I have testified at City Council hearings and I have already worked to get legislation passed through City Council and Albany. This is a world that I am immersed in every day and I know well. I can take these years of experience and be immediately effective in Albany. When it comes to getting projects completed and programs funded, collaboration among our elected officials is essential.

CCNews: Conflict and Compromise: What do these words mean to you, in terms of their role in being an effective Assemblymember?

Ambur: To be an effective Assemblymember, I will have to rely on both. When in conflict it is important to have the confidence to take a strong stance on issues and then follow through. One of the best ways to move past conflict is listening and understanding and then having the strength of conviction to educate the other person. Compromise doesn’t mean giving in, it just means having the long game in mind and waiting for the right opportunity! Sometimes you have to chip away to be more effective.

CCNews: Favorite Golden Girl, and why: Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia, or Rose?

Ambur: Sophiashe was a New Yorker!

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 people to ask themselves when casting their vote in your race?

Ambur: Ask yourself what each candidate wants to accomplish by being in Albany. Make sure you feel they are meaningfully invested in the long-term solutions in our community, and they have the experience and knowledge to deliver those solutions.


Chelsea Community News is made possible with the help of our awesome advertisers, and the support of our readers. If you like what you see, please consider taking part in our GoFundMe campaign (click here). To make a direct donation, give feedback, or send a Letter to the Editor, email scott@chelseacommunitynews.com.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login