Grand Street Democrats endorses Maloney & Niou in hotly contested primaries

One member of Congress faces four primary opponents in possibly the biggest political challenge of her career, while our representative in the NY State Assembly is vying for only her third term against a well-funded challenger. And though Grand Street Dems was borne out of a challenge to the status quo, and has often stood with underdogs and local allies without any bias toward incumbency, this year club members are rewarding the hard work of public service by voting to endorse Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou for re-election.

On Sunday, GSD heard from all five candidates for US Congress NY-12 and voted solidly to back Maloney. (We were all set to practice ranked-choice voting, but Maloney won a majority on the first ballot.) Maloney’s accomplishments in securing funding for 9-11 first responders, her long-standing advocacy for the Equal Rights Amendment, and her recent elevation to chair of the House Oversight Committee gave her the edge over the admirable progressive spirit and energy of her challengers.

Assemblymember Niou is still running high from what was Albany’s most progressive legislative session in generations, and club members had no interest in punishing her for those accomplishments — bail reform, rent regulations, and the Child Victims Act, just to name a few.

GSD members will be carrying petitions for Maloney and Niou to get on the ballot starting on February 25, and then helping to support their campaigns leading up to the primary on June 23.

Yuh-Line Niou, State Assembly Member (AD 65)

Yuh-Line Niou
Twitter: @yuhline

I am honored to have previously received the Grand Street Democrats’ endorsement, and I am ready to continue fighting for historic progressive victories and giving a voice to Lower Manhattan. 

I am currently the only Asian-American woman representative in the New York State Legislature. With my 17 years of state-level government policy experience, I have been able to take on tough fights and special interests to deliver for working families: 

1. Affordable Housing and Rent Regulations: As a Member of the Assembly Committee on Housing, we passed the strongest housing reforms in a generation, protecting millions of rent stabilized tenants in New York City. We made our rent regulations permanent, repealed vacancy deregulation and bonuses, invested in affordable housing, and overhauled tools used by bad landlords to raise prices and harass tenants. 

2. Child Victim’s Act: I have been an outspoken champion for the Child Victims Act which brings justice to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This law amends our statutes to increase the statute of limitations on cases of child sexual abuse and provides a one year look- back window which began on August 14th for adult survivors, who under previous law, were unable to seek civil action. 

3. Transportation: We need to ensure that we have accessible, on-time transit systems while also creating a transportation system that meets the needs of people who bike, drive, or walk. I will continue to fight to ensure that the MTA will have the funding it needs to serve our growing population while ensuring future plans are fair to our community in Lower Manhattan, while promoting pedestrian safety and protected bike lanes. 

4. Public Housing: Since coming into office, I’ve led historic efforts and secured hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for NYCHA. NYCHA is still in great need of permanent, extensive funding and I remain committed to fighting to fulfill that need. 

5. Education: New York currently ranks 49th in the nation on equity in education spending, and we are owed billions more since the recession a decade ago. I have delivered over $1 billion in additional funding for New York City schools. We are still owed $44.3 million dollars in school aid funding, and I will continue fighting to ensure the state gets us our fair share—before we allocate funds to charter schools or private institutions. 

6. Campaign Finance Reform: The only people legislators should be accountable to is our constituents. I led a fight for public financing of campaigns because it is a real, viable system that can fight back against corruption and send a message to our constituents that their voices matter. It empowers the communities that we should be representing in Albany. It encourages individuals to participate in elections through small-dollar donations, and it helps level the playing field, especially for people of color and women, who are taking on special interests. 

7. Criminal Justice: I helped pass historic reforms that fix our broken criminal justice system, including the elimination of cash bail that disproportionately affected Black, Latinx, and 

low-income families. It means that innocent people sit in jail which leads to a whole other host of problems — by eliminating it, people will not be forced to give up their job, become homeless, or be away from their children while awaiting trial. This is one important step in ensuring our criminal justice system is fair and that our community remains safe. 

8. Climate Change and Resiliency: There is no doubt that there will be another severe weather event like Superstorm Sandy — the question is when it will happen. We need to ensure that the State and local government work together to protect and invest in our community, which is one of the most at-risk from extreme weather events. Just recently, I helped to pass the most comprehensive climate change legislation in the nation. This law sets New York on a course for a sustainable future by transitioning our state to clean renewable energy, creating new jobs for communities of color and low-income communities, and reducing greenhouse emissions by 85%. 

There’s more to deliver for our shared values—on all these issues—and I’m ready for that fight. I’m running for reelection because our community needs someone that has genuine experience and knowledge in government, listens, knows the issues, and fights for all of us. I’ve stood with the members of the Grand Street Democrats against anti-Semitic attacks on our community, rallied with them in vigils and community events, and fought together to resolve local issues like the street conditions in Grand Street and Clinton Street, bus line service cuts in our community, and more. I’m ready to continue fighting for our priorities together and would be honored to have the endorsement of the Grand Street Democrats once again. 

— Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou

Grand Street Dems asked each 2020 candidate to submit a statement ahead of our endorsement meeting on Sunday, February 2.

Grace Lee, Candidate for State Assembly (AD 65)

Grace Lee
Twitter: @graceleefornyc

Grace is a mother of three children, a small business owner, and a first-generation Asian-American proud to call Lower Manhattan her home for nearly 15 years. She is the co-founder of Children First, a parent-led activist group fighting for the safe cleanup of a toxic site located across from two elementary schools in the South Street Seaport.

Grace is a successful political organizer and entrepreneur. Prior to Children First, she was the New York events director for Swing Left, helping flip the House in 2018. She is also the co-founder of Nine Naturals, a toxin-free beauty line for pregnant and new moms.

Grace received her BA from Columbia University and her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Grace is proud to have the endorsement this year from Downtown Independent Democrats.

As our 65th District representative in Albany, Grace will fight to:

  • Fully fund the public school system: Grace will fight for more schools, more classrooms, and more teachers at higher wages.
  • Create more affordable housing: Hundreds of thousands of homeless New Yorkers sleep on streets lined with vacant luxury condos; Grace will fight for more affordable housing, NYCHA funding, and a real pathway to homeownership.
  • Expand environmental justice: Grace is running to protect our children, our seniors, and ourselves from overaggressive developers and corporations that exploit our health for profit.
  • Advance climate change resiliency: Grace lived through Superstorm Sandy and knows the consequences of not being prepared. She will take immediate, decisive action by plowing through the red tape and holding bureaucrats accountable.
  • Clean up campaign finance: Grace is committed to campaign finance reform. She is the only candidate in this race who has not taken money from developers.
  • Combat anti-Semitism: Grace will always stand up on the front lines against anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.

Grand Street Dems asked each 2020 candidate to submit a statement ahead of our endorsement meeting on Sunday, February 2.

Suraj Patel, Candidate for Congress (NY-12)

Suraj Patel
Twitter: @surajpatelnyc

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself and to speak about our campaign for Congress. The 2020 election is the most important election of our lifetime. Every one of us can agree that this country is headed in the wrong direction. We desperately need change this November. But if we want change in November then we have an obligation to lead with change in June.

I’m running for Congress because the promise of New York — education, opportunity, and economic mobility — is broken. When my parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1960s, the halls of Wall Street and the Ivy League were closed to them. So, like so many immigrants, they started a business. My childhood was spent working in motels, washing bed sheets, bussing tables, and filling vending machines. And in one generation, my parents were able to send me to college, I became an attorney in New York City, and I got to work for the greatest President in our lifetimes.

Every one of us can remember how exhilarating it was when we worked together to elect Barack Obama. We came together to elect somebody with fight, and somebody with vision for the future. I’m fighting to fulfill that progressive vision, and I’m asking you to join me because you believe in this vision, too.

In our vision for the future, families, not corporations, have a seat at the table, so that work ethic and effort, not the circumstances of your birth, determine your outcome. In our future, New York has fighters in Washington, so we get our fair share to rebuild our infrastructure, our housing, and our schools. In our future, inevitability is not a moral justification. Climate change, mass incarceration, and mass deportation are relics of the past.

That’s why I’ve put forward an ambitious “Upward Mobility Agenda” that is focused on economic opportunity for families, fighting for New York, and addressing the greatest social justice causes of our generation. (You can find it at I want to thank you for all your work as a Democratic organization and hope you will consider being involved with our campaign. The promise of New York belongs to each and every one of us, and our doors are always open. I look forward to meeting you all individually and hearing your ideas, questions, and concerns over the next few months.

— Suraj Patel

Grand Street Dems asked each 2020 candidate to submit a statement ahead of our endorsement meeting on Sunday, February 2.

Carolyn Maloney, Member of Congress (NY-12)

Carolyn Maloney
Twitter: @CarolynBMaloney

In every political campaign, candidates will tell you what they intend to do. But it’s important to know what they’ve done already  — what they’ve achieved for their community. I’m proud to say that I have a long record of achievement for this district, our city, and our country. 

This past year, for instance, I was elected by my peers to become the first woman to ever chair the Oversight Committee. That has put me on the front line in the battle to take on Donald Trump — and hold him accountable. We’ve already stopped him from adding the citizenship question to the Census, and have a case before the Supreme Court to get his financial records and tax returns. We also impeached him; I was one of the committee chairs who helped lead the investigation, and signed the articles of impeachment. I’ve also held hearings on family separation, abortion access, paid family leave, harassment and retaliation in the coast guard, and facial recognition software  — which is definitely not ready for prime time — and worked to hold DHS, CBP and ICE accountable for their treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers at the border.

I passed landmark legislation to make permanent the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, a $38 billion dollar, publicly-funded program for the heroes, heroines and survivors of 9/11, which I’ve been fighting for over the last 18 years. 

My Debbie Smith Act was reauthorized. It funds the testing of DNA evidence – which has already helped to put thousands of rapists behind bars, and has been called one of the most important anti-rape bills ever passed.

I also pushed for a Congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment – the first hearing in 36 years. And now  — after it’s ratification by Virginia and a vote to remove the ratification deadline in February — we are on our way to finally putting women into the Constitution.

We passed paid parental leave for 2.1 million federal workers, an effort I led the fight on for years. It’s the first step towards universal paid family leave for every American, and I’ve already held oversight hearings on how we can make that happen.

I was also successful in securing $25 million for the CDC to finally study the epidemic of gun violence. That’s the first federal funding in more than 20 years. And I plan to keep working to enact common-sense gun reform, like background checks, an assault weapons ban, and ending illegal gun trafficking by making it a felony at the federal level. 

Here at home, I’ve worked to create parks and public spaces, partnered with local officials to get rid of illegally parked garbage trucks, stood by NYCHA tenants to demand the repairs they deserve, gotten audits on postal service issues, built bridges and more, thanks to strong partnerships with members of the community and a lot of hard work.

But there is so much more work to be done. We must ensure healthcare for all  — it’s a human right, and while we protect the Affordable Care Act’s protections, particularly those for people with pre-existing conditions, we must also lower drug costs and work to pass single payer Medicare for All.

We also have to make progress on the climate crisis  — the greatest existential threat of our time. I’m an original co-sponsor on the Green New Deal, and a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal for Public Housing. In our district, I think the Green New Deal for Public Housing will help alleviate the housing crisis, green the housing stock we already have, create good jobs, and help build even more public housing in the future.

And we have to make sure we’re giving everybody a fair shot to succeed and thrive, through good jobs, fair wages, enabling our seniors to retire with dignity, providing free four-year college tuition at state schools, and eliminating student debt.

In my career, I’ve passed over 70 bills and billions in federal infrastructure funding for this District– and I’m not done yet. I hope the work I’ve done for our district and my ability to partner with constituents to achieve results has earned your support for 2020. 

— Rep. Carolyn Maloney

Grand Street Dems asked each 2020 candidate to submit a statement ahead of our endorsement meeting on Sunday, February 2.

Erica Vladimer, Candidate for Congress (NY-12)

Erica Vladimer
Twitter: @EricaForNY

Hello GSD members! My name is Erica Vladimer, and I am a licensed attorney, education advocate, workplace protection activist, and community ally, who firmly believes that the government can be a source for compassionate and inclusive societal advancement. 

My belief in the government’s capacity to be a source of social justice is what inspired me to build my career in government service. Before announcing my run for Congress, I worked as an education policy analyst for New York City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), evaluating federal and state policies that critically affect students and their families. Before joining IBO, I spent two years in the New York State Senate — first as a Senate Fellow, and then as counsel. During those two years, I partnered with advocates and coalitions built to develop comprehensive education policies. I drafted legislation and represented the interests of senators at the budget negotiation tables.

As it currently operates, our government institutions continue to shut out the very people who define what it means to be a forward-thinking, inclusive community. I was one of those voices that so many elected “leaders” tried to silence when I came forward to tell my story of sexual assault at the hands of one of their most powerful members, and my former boss, ex-State Senator Jeff Klein. Instead of cowing to their demands to “stop talking about it” (a direct quote), I stood shoulder to shoulder with other survivors of harassment and assault, asking elected officials to center our experiences while crafting sexual harassment protections.

Our advocacy — with meaningful support from a new generation of leaders elected to office in 2018 — led to sweeping reforms of state laws. A group of thoughtful, ambitious women spearheaded this new vision of government by listening to advocates, experts, and those with real-life experience lead the conversation. We could trust them to zealously advocate for our cause “in the room.”

I’m running for Congress because I want to be *that* legislator on the federal level! I want to be the legislator that advocates, experts, activists, and the people closest to the pain trust to fight for them on the inside. Elected officials need to have the hard, uncomfortable conversations and make room at the table so those with the lived experiences can lead those conversations. But, the current process centers money and power over the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. We need, we deserve, electeds who are willing to put themselves out there for their most vulnerable neighbors. 

NY-12 deserves a leader who does more than co-sponsor popular bills or speaks out on controversial issues days after everyone has chimed in. Actions speak louder than words, and we deserve a congress member who leads with action. A new voice — our voice — will disrupt these current processes. We cannot enact bold, progressive policies if the methods in which we draft, negotiate, and debate those reforms remain the same.

Being a member of Congress isn’t a job. It’s a privilege, and I will honor that role by working with advocates, activists, and experts to create a more just and equitable society.

— Erica Vladimer

Grand Street Dems asked each 2020 candidate to submit a statement ahead of our endorsement meeting on Sunday, February 2.