New York City Council 2014: Helen Rosenthal

By Kristina Skorbach, Epoch Times
February 5, 2014 Updated: February 24, 2014

NEW NORK—Council member Helen Rosenthal was elected to New York City Council in 2013 to represent District 6, the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Prior to be elected to the City Council, she served as an assistant director of the New York City Office of Management and Budget and helped manage the City’s health care budgets under three different mayors.

What was your biggest achievement in 2013?

In 2013, before being elected to the council, Rosenthal worked on two main issues: providing more school seats and maintaining affordable housing.

She worked with parents in District 3 and convinced the Department of Education to start a brand new school. “That was just so satisfying,” she said.

Rosenthal used her skills in administration overseeing healthcare budgets to prove that overcrowding is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. She also worked on affordable housing in her district. Specifically, she worked with a building to help them maintain their affordable housing status. Because of that work she learned about other buildings in the community that also have financial problems.

What will you be focusing on this year?

Rosenthal wants to let the community know she’s very accessible, just like her predecessor, current Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. In her new role as the chair of the Committee on Contracts she wants to address the pressing issue of homeless shelters.

“The contracts that the city has with service providers or landlords leave a lot to be desired,” she said.

She will be having a hearing to explore why the contracts go wrong and why the city is spending too much tax payer dollars on contracts that provide shoddy services.

“I’d love to unravel that,” Rosenthal said.

Another spending issue has to do with pay equities, and other contracts in central office of the DOE.

“The city spends about $12 billion on its contracts and it’s ripe for oversight,” she said.

Another issue is the agencies the city contracts with for services. According to Rosenthal, the contracts need close scrutiny and need to be paid in a reasonable amount of time. Right now the city’s payment for service is delayed by 6 months, which means the contracting agency gets a loan from the bank, and the city then has to spend more of taxpayer money to pay back those service providers.

What are some of the issues your constituents are concerned about?

The thing on everyone’s mind at the moment are the three pedestrian deaths that happened at 96th and Broadway, the intersection that is on the border of Council member Levine’s district and hers.

“It’s highly unusual what happened there,” Rosenthal said.

She wants to work with Police Department to help fix the situation and applauds their increase in issuing violation tickets for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

“I see that as a great way to, a little harsh, but educate drivers about following the rules of the road,” she said.

The Department of Transportation presented a new traffic pattern plan recently and after approval will begin construction at the intersection in March.

If you had a coat of arms, what would it be, and why?

The biggest part of Council member Rosenthal’s Coat of Arms would be a symbol of the city’s budget, representing expenses and revenues. “It would be a symbol of spending our dollars wisely,” she said. For her, the city should be as generous in providing services as possible.

“There’s so much need in the city, there are so many sad, tragic stories, for want of good city services, and if we were better with how we choose to spend our money, if we were able to close the tax loopholes for the very wealthy and the big businesses, if we could limit the waste, the fraud, in some of our big contracts that spin out of control, because no one’s watching them, it would free up the city to provide more.”

She would depict a wise owl building its nest on her Coat of Arms.

Epoch Times is interviewing members of the 2014 New York City Council to find out what their biggest achievements were last year and what they hope to accomplish in this one. For a list of all council member articles in this project, click here.