Presumptive Republican mayoral nominee Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis stopped by this paper’s office earlier this month to discuss her candidacy and identify the issues that she believes are fueling her campaign to defeat incumbent Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Home Reporter (HR): Talk a little bit about your vision for the city.
Nicole Malliotakis (NM): I’m running because I see a clear deterioration in the quality of life in this city. The homeless numbers have spiked. This year alone, the street population has increased 40 percent. Train delays top 70,000 a month. Traffic has gotten worse. Our education system continues to fail despite more money being pumped into it. There’s a lot of bureaucracy at the top levels of the education department, and the money is not trickling down to the classroom.
And it seems to me that the mayor has failed in his basic responsibilities of managing this city. He’s off fighting an ideological war, and meanwhile these basic responsibilities and quality-of-life issues are falling by the wayside.
Also, spending has increased dramatically: There’s been a 22 percent increase in just three and a half years. The property tax levy, especially for those in the outer boroughs who are property owners, has increased 28 percent. Water bills have increased by double digits. We’re asked to pay more and we’re getting less.
I think that we need to get back to basics, make sure that the traffic is flowing, the trains are running, the fellow New Yorkers sleeping in the street are taken care of and all our children are getting a quality education. I think those things are very important to people across this city regardless of political affiliation.
HR: As mayor, what would you do to get the MTA to fix its problems? What do you think the mayor ought to be doing?
NM: Well for starters, this mayor is simply pointing fingers at the governor. Not only does he have his own bully pulpit as mayor, he also has four individuals who he has appointed to the MTA board who are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of New York City commuters.
There was a train derailment in the city a couple of weeks ago and our mayor didn’t go to the scene, didn’t issue a statement, didn’t even wish those injured a speedy recovery.
Then you have delays. All the major cities around the world have upgraded to a more computerized system, and they see more trains running per hour which eases congestion. They’re much more reliable systems, and cheaper in terms of maintenance.
If I were mayor right now, I would pick the phone and call the governor and say, ‘This is a serious crisis and it’s both of our constituents who are suffering. We need to find a way to work together.’
This mayor has shown that he not only doesn’t have the ability to work with Republicans in Washington, but he can’t work with Democrats and I think it’s the people of New York City that suffer.
HR: How do you feel about the mayor’s policy on immigration?
NM: I am the daughter of immigrants. It’s the American Dream that’s allowing me, in one generation, to run for mayor of New York. We have to preserve that.
Going back to Ed Koch, there’s been sort of a sanctuary policy in this city where if individuals come forward to report a crime, we don’t ask their immigration status. I do believe in a path to citizenship for individuals who are here, who are trying to achieve the American dream. I would work with Washington to resolve this issue that has been in flux for 30 years. And so, secure the border, have a Visa entry-exit system and streamline the process so people don’t have to wait decades and spent thousands to become citizens.
But, what this mayor’s done is change the policy. In this budget, they put in $27 million for a legal defense fund for individuals who even have committed murder and rape to protect them from deportation. When it’s explained in that context, accurately, I would believe that most New Yorkers would agree with me.
HR: How do you feel about the IDNYC program?
NM: I have no problem with the program. I have a problem with the mayor wanting to destroy all the records associated with that program. I think, particularly, in a post 9/11 world, it is very dangerous to be issuing government ID cards to individuals and then to destroy all those records.
HR: If the federal government wanted it, would you hand it over?
NM: I don’t think the federal government wants to have it. I don’t think the federal government needs to have it. That’s fear-mongering. If it’s someone who’s committed a crime and is a threat to public safety then yes, but just to turn over documents for no reason, no.
HR: How would you deal with Rikers Island?
NM: We can use the existing facilities. Instead of building five new jails across the city which neighborhoods will reject, we can use that money to retrofit the buildings, modernize them, make Rikers more humane and safer for both the inmates and the officers.
HR: How would you deal with guns coming in from other places where they are easier to acquire?
NM: I voted for the Safe Act in Albany. As strong as we make gun laws, there are always going to be guns that can enter illegally from other parts of the country. I do believe that stop-and-frisk was a tool that should be allowed to be used selectively. We want to make sure it’s used appropriately. I also believe we need to increase penalties for illegal guns.
HK: As a Republican, could you reach out to Republicans in Washington about tightening some of the gun loopholes?
NM: I think in New York, a lot the problem is with illegal gun ownership. And I believe that there are a number of factors here. There are issues with mentally ill individuals. For example, the individual that shot Police Officer Familia was a schizophrenic off medication. I’m willing to work with everybody across the aisle on every issue and I have an open mind.
HR: Illegal guns here may be legal in Virginia though.
NM: But transferred illegally. That’s why stop and frisk needs to be a tool.
HR: As a Republican in a city that’s five to one Democrats, how do you expect to bring people onto your side?
NM: We are a Democratic city. But this mayor is trying to play residents for fools. He is not doing his job, he’s not managing this city, he’s not addressing the quality of life that has deteriorated under his watch, and he thinks that New Yorkers are going to vote for him anyway, just because he has a Democratic label. And I think that’s very insulting to the voters.
New Yorkers have shown that they will pull the lever for a Republican if they are unhappy with the current administration, and I think that’s what’s happening here. You have a mayor who, having all these issues that we have right now, from the homelessness to the train delays to education, decides going to Germany is more important than doing the job that he was elected to do. I’m not looking to fight a national ideological war. I’m looking to manage the city and address these quality of life issues.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.