What next for Garodnick?


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In an exit interview, the outgoing East Side Council member reflects on three terms in office, ponders a political future, recounts his accomplishments — and heads for the TV and the kitchen


Photos



  • City Council Member Dan Garodnick at the September 2016 ribbon-cutting for the new Trygve Lie Plaza on First Avenue at 41st Street. Photo: Daniel Avila / NYC Department of Parks




  • City Council Member Dan Garodnick at a January 2016 rally in Battery Park to protest the Trump administration's proposed ban on travelers from predominately Muslim nations. Photo:Cory Epstein / Dan Garodnick's office




  • City Council Member Dan Garodnick attends a "Shop Second Avenue" event in front of Stanley Schoen Glass & Mirror at 96th Street during disruptive subway construction in 2008. Photo: William Alatriste / City Council




BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN

After 12 consequential years in the City Council in which he steered to passage more than 60 pieces of legislation, Dan Garodnick is ready for a small, short break: He’s going to finally take the time to watch “The Wire.”

And that’s not all. The 45-year-old Democrat, who is leaving office on December 31st because of term limits, will be trading in politicking and governing for a new regimen – grocery shopping, cleaning, jogging and cooking for his family.

“I make a mean spaghetti and meatballs. Also sausages, fried chicken and chili. Nothing particularly healthy,” he says. “I feel like this is my moment.”

Don’t expect it to last. Garodnick is on a very short list of the political players most likely to mount a credible run for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s job in 2021 when the incumbent must depart City Hall and the race is wide open.

In fact, four years out, he’s already sitting on an enviable campaign treasury with $1.1 million in the bank, including $353,000 he amassed for the 2017 election cycle, when he wasn’t even running for office, filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board show.

What will he do with the nest egg and who or what will he spend it on? “Those dollars were always raised with an eye toward a future campaign,” he said. “The question is really, what opportunities exist, and where can I best serve the city and state.”

Can he speculate about that? Garodnick smiled a tad mischievously: “Probably not,” he said.

During a wide-ranging, 75-minute exit interview on December 7th in his legislative office on the 17th floor of 250 Broadway, a panoramic view of the downtown skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, the East Side pol spoke with great pride about a string of accomplishments — and pondered his political future, if a little obliquely.

“I’m going to think about what comes next,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy taking a breath after 12 long years of rather constant excitement.” He fully expects to remain in the public arena, but adds, “I don’t know what form that’s going to take yet, but I am keeping an open mind.”

First elected in 2005, then reelected in 2009 and again in 2014, he is exiting what has been dubbed the “Garodnick seat,” which takes in a swath of the Upper East Side close to Central Park, plus East Midtown, Times Square, Turtle Bay, Central Park South, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where he grew up and still lives.

This isn’t the first time his name has been in the mayoral mix. In the run up to de Blasio’s landslide re-election, he was viewed as one of the A-listers who might seek to unseat him. He never took the bait. Why?

“There had been a lot of inbound interests, and I found it very flattering,” he acknowledges. “Ultimately, I did not feel it was the right thing to do ... The city is fundamentally in a good place, and I didn’t see a rationale for it then ... It’s not what I wanted to do.”

Yet Garodnick’s political ambitions have never been a secret: He mulled a run for city comptroller in 2013. Then in 2014, he vied for City Council speaker — and was outpointed by Melissa Mark-Viverito, who won with de Blasio’s muscular backing.

“This is a very fluky business,” he said. “If I’ve learned anything in 12 years in public life, it is to understand the volatility and unpredictability of politics ... You’re up one minute, you’re down the next ... And the whims of the electorate change periodically, too. So the thing that is most predictable is the unpredictability.”

If he had four more years, Garodnick says, he’d focus on the escalating retail crisis. But his successor, Council Member-elect Keith Powers, is aware of the issue and committed to addressing it, he said.

Garodnick is known as collegial and respectful of colleagues. He’s not a rhetorical bomb-thrower. He’s seen as a shrewd dealmaker, negotiator and compromiser. But in contentious, even ugly, political times, is that an asset or a liability for a potential seeker of higher office?

“You’re never going to see me insult somebody on Twitter,” he said. “Name-calling, below-the-belt politics, and dishonest behavior, that’s not a trend — it’s an aberration. And people are going to tire of it very fast ... So I think honest, collegial grown-ups in public life are going to be in high demand.”

Instead, he points to a record of accomplishments that include:

* A November 30th bill that provided relief from the much-reviled commercial rent tax to roughly 2,700 small businesses south of 96th Street.

How did he get outer-borough colleagues to back — unanimously — a bill boosting Manhattan businesses? Despite their physical location, he argued, “These business are owned by everyone’s constituents, they employ everyone’s constituents, and we’re stepping on their necks with an unfair and outdated tax.”

* A 2014 affordable housing preservation deal — the largest in the city’s history — that preserved 5,000 units in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village as middle-income housing for the next 20 years.

* An ambitious rezoning of Vanderbilt Avenue and Midtown East that permits increased development rights and fosters growth, in exchange for sweeping transit and infrastructure improvements.

“The first building approved through that rezoning, One Vanderbilt, will alone bring in about $220 million dollars in improvements to Grand Central,” Garodnick said. “And that’s just one building!”

* The 2015 creation of a new park at Asser Levy Place, a demapped and underutilized two-way street between East 23rd and 25th Streets that’s now completely closed to traffic.

“What’s better than that?” he asked. “To go and see people out there enjoying new open space that you had a hand in delivering? I mean, that’s about as good as it gets.”

Okay, it’s quite a list, but what about disappointments, Garodnick is asked, the things he wanted but never got done? For the only time in the interview, the Council member hesitates: “Disappointments?” he repeats.

“I think the things which I really put my heart and soul into, we were able to get over the end zone,” he said.

By “focusing on the big things that were achievable,” he didn’t spin his wheels or “waste time on lost causes that are not important,” he said.

“I’m sure there were some disappointments, but nothing that’s really nagging at me,” Garodnick said.






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