With early voting having concluded on August 21, it all comes down to one final day of decision. For those traditional voters who await the actual date to participate, Primary Election Day is Tuesday August 23, with polling sites open from 6am to 9pm. In the New York State Senate District 47 race, Maria Danzilo appears on the ballot alongside incumbent Brad Hoylman. In anticipation of Election Day, we posed a few questions to candidate Danzilo, with her answers below. For information on where to vote and to access a sample ballot, click here.
Chelsea Community News (CCNews): Much of your time in Chelsea has been spent addressing quality of life, crime trends, and public safety. Other than these concerns, what else is foremost on the minds of area residents, and how do you plan to address those concerns?
Maria Danzilo (Danzilo): After public safety and quality of life, the issue that comes up most often with Chelsea voters is the stability of New York post pandemic, and the related issue of affordability, both housing and cost of living. Given all the vacant storefronts and the fact NY’s commercial centers are slow to rebound from the pandemic, voters are concerned that living in NY will become even more challenging and expensive. From young people starting out in the City looking for an affordable place to live, financial insecurity experienced by the elderly living on a fixed income, to families worried they won’t be able to stay in the City, myriad voters in all corners of the district expressed real concern about these related issues. With housing, there is disappointment that for years the city has not created (or honored commitments to create) more moderate to middle income affordable housing. They want less vacant storefronts, and they want to New York to be on more solid economic footing and heading in the right direction.
All roads point back to public safety, as the first order of business. Our streets and subways need to be safe for workers to feel comfortable returning to the office. When our commercial centers come back to life, New York will be back on track. As we go forward, to reach this goal, we need to build more housing for middle income individuals and families, and more homeowner opportunities for people who in the past could not afford to buy. ( For example, I would like to see NYS expand its down payment assistance program. A healthy community will have a mixed range of incomes invested in home ownership.) It was grossly irresponsible of the legislature to abandon the 421 A program without a replacement option presents many risks.
New York currently has the highest tax rates in the country, and the State lost $19.5 billion in revenues in 2021 because people left NY for lower tax States. This is a reality we must face. When Federal stimulus money dries up in two years, NY will have even more serious economic challenges if we do not take steps now to restore our economy. That is why we must take a serious look at how we can improve our tax structure and lower taxes where it makes sense to do so. This will stimulate growth, lift our economy, and stop the exodus to lower tax states.
Another issue coming up repeatedly with voters is the sudden proliferation of smoke shops opening throughout Chelsea, some of which are open 24 hours. Voters support marijuana decriminalization, but they expect the NYS legislature to do a much better job rolling out marijuana legalization, so stores are not sited near schools and playgrounds and are properly regulated. I will fight to make sure these smoke shops are properly regulated and sited appropriately.
CCNews: If elected, you’d be representing Chelsea but working on things that impact all residents of New York State. Is there a difference between what’s best for Chelsea and what’s best for New York State?
Danzilo: There will be issues where what’s best for Chelsea or any community must be weighed against the interests of the entire State. Interests may not always be aligned. I think this is normal and expected in a legislative process. However, I am in the position of always being able to prioritize what is in the best interests of District 47 because I am not indebted to or tied into any special interest groups that would compromise my ability to put the voters first. Deeply entrenched incumbents cannot make this claim, and that is why I support term limits.
CCNews: What examples from your past might allow us to better understand the negotiating skills and temperament you would bring to Albany?
Danzilo: I have been working nonstop since I was 14 years old. I worked my way through Brooklyn College, Brooklyn Law School and then received a fellowship to NYU where I earned a Master of Law degree in Trade Regulation. For 35 years I worked as legal director for Wiley, a major global scientific, technical and educational publisher and tech provider. Throughout my career, I was often the only, or one of the only women in the room. I have negotiated hundreds, if not thousands of contracts, and was never once not able to close a deal. I managed dozens of complex acquisitions and commercial transactions, and I relish complex challenges. I believe these skills will be particularly important to District 47, especially regarding the possibility of new large-scale developments where tough negotiating is needed to make sure the needs and best interests of the community are protected. I will fight tooth and nail to protect our interests.
I wrote and administered Wiley’s conflict of interest policy, and for several years I was also its representative on legislative and government affairs matters. I have taken part and commented on all types of legislation in this role.
I am lifetime Trustee and Past President of the Copyright Society of the USA, the country’s largest association for copyright lawyers. I was the second female and probably the youngest president in its history when I was appointed to that role. I held many positions in the organization and earned the trust of far more senior lawyers because of my temperament and leadership skills before being named President.
From about 2005 to 2015 I organized and worked on an industry coalition to fight the challenges of big tech disruption on the publishing industry. On the front lines of these “copyright wars” I earned a reputation as a fierce advocate of the rights of authors, publishers and creators, but also someone with whom people with diverse and conflicting interests could work. I kept this coalition together through many challenges, and of I was a principal architect of several large scale successful litigations that helped the creative communities.
For the last few years, I have had a solo law practice representing authors, creators, athletes and others, and I also started a not for profit called OneCity Rising. OCR is a city-wide group dedicated to building a stronger, more vibrant city through community partnerships. I am also a co-chair of New Yorkers for Competitive Elections, which is working on bringing Final Five Voting to New York. FFV is a combination of Ranked Choice Voting and Open Primaries.
Perhaps the best measure of my negotiating skills and temperament is the fact I raised three children in NYC while working full time and commuting to New Jersey. Public service runs deep in our family. My oldest daughter is a software engineer specializing in gaming, and has an impressive resume of community service. In graduate school, for example, she worked on a project to help blind children play video games and was a teaching fellow. My twins are rising college juniors. This past summer my daughter worked with disabled adults, My son has volunteered extensively with underserved kids.
CCNews: What one question would you have voters ask, when the ballot is before them, and they see the list of candidates in your race?
Danzilo: “Why are you running for this office?” Answer: As a lifelong New Yorker and 41 year resident of the West Side, I am running because I care deeply about the future of the West Side and New York. I want my children to be able to afford to live in New York, and I want them to have good job opportunities here. The unemployment rate is double the national average, and many employers are leaving the City and State. This is reality. While New York is special and we love the City, employers have to make decisions. Workforces are becoming more available elsewhere due to remote work, and other places are more affordable, have lower taxes and a good quality of life. Housing affordability, cost of living and quality of life issues such as gun violence and major spikes in crime all need to be fixed for New York to come back. The State legislature is far more important to New York’s future than most voters realize. They write the criminal laws and many other important laws that govern so many aspects of life in the city. The fact the New York State Senators are very antagonistic toward Mayor Adams is making it hard for him to do his job and deliver on his promises. We need people in Albany who will work with City leaders not against them. They are hurting us, the people of New York, and it is time for change. It has been a great honor to spend the last few months talking with voters in Chelsea and all the District 47 neighborhoods, and listening to their concerns. New leadership in the New York State Senate will take the City forward with hope and optimism for a better future.
CCNews: Thanks for your time, and please provide statements about a topic of importance not covered by the above questions.
Danzilo: Here is my statement on the Penn Station Plan:
I am against the proposal in its current form. I believe deep engagement with the community and stakeholders must take place before this plan moves forward and the input of community groups is essential. I am astonished that my opponent threw in the towel on this, and is willing to go along with the displacement of tens of thousands of workers, businesses, and residents, in exchange for a “drop in center” and the possibility of a few “affordable” apartments. If elected I will demand reconsideration of this whole plan, and will fight vigorously to get it. I will fight to make sure every person, every worker and every business is given just compensation for their loss. I will advocate for improved services, community facilities, affordable/middle income housing for essential workers, teachers, artists, seniors, LGBTQ+ youth, and others, improved public safety, environmentally sound construction and infrastructure upgrades.
Relocating MSG has been called “one of the most complex development challenges in recent history” and demands a thorough review and hearing from all vested interests. It is quite apparent that this is becoming a highly politicized battle, and what’s best for the City and its residents is not the driving principle whenever that happens. The neighborhood needs a fierce, unbiased advocate to represent them, and I believe I am that person. I am a grass roots funded candidate who owes nothing to any special interest groups and will work WITH the community to make sure we get the deal that is in our best interest overall, not in the best interest of special interest groups.
—Compiled by Scott Stiffler
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