Assemblywoman learns from run for mayor
For Nicole Malliotakis, 2017 was a landmark year: She helped secure $151 million in funding for the East Shore sea wall, fought to restore additional bus service throughout her district and worked tirelessly to expand a state-funded tuition assistance program that will benefit middle-class families. And even after an unsuccessful bid to unseat Mayor Bill de Blasio in November, the Assemblywoman reflects on the accomplishments of her campaign with great positivity.
“In running for mayor, I think I was able to bring to light a lot of important issues plaguing the outer boroughs,” Malliotakis noted. “I think Staten Island is now at the forefront of a lot of critical discussion, and I’m happy that Mayor de Blasio is talking about topics that we brought up during the campaign — like freezing the property tax levy. This year I’m going to reiterate those same topics and hold him accountable for those promises when he comes to Albany.”
Malliotakis (R-East Shore- Brooklyn), who first ran for New York State Assembly in 2010 after becoming disenchanted with her own Manhattan commute, has been a key player in securing tremendous benefits for Staten Island residents throughout the past seven years.
“I ran for Assembly because I felt I was paying more and getting less in terms of services,” Malliotakis noted. “I was on the outside looking in, and it occurred to me that I could be a more effective part of the solution.”
Malliotakis immediately focused on issues of transportation, restoring 24-hour service to the X1 express bus line and helped add fiscal sanity to the state’s budget by closing the gap on a $13 billion deficit.
“I’m very proud to say that I have voted against every tax that has come before me and voted against increasing the debt of the state. We’ve made some improvements, but we also have a long way to go,” she said.
A longtime resident of Bay Terrace, Malliotakis says her immigrant parents inspired her to pursue her own American dream. Her father, a native of Greece, and her mother, who came to America from Cuba in 1959 when the Castro regime took over, worked hard to start a small business in Brooklyn. With that view of America as a country of opportunity, Malliotakis started working as a liaison to former state Sen. John Marchi and Gov. George Pataki while earning her MBA from Wagner College. She worked for Con Edison prior to taking her Assembly seat, researching energy issues and advocating against hidden utility taxes and fees.
“I was always working on or involved in state issues in some capacity, whether I was working for Sen. Marchi, Gov. Pataki or Con Ed,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion for it and felt I could just make some kind of difference.”
And Malliotakis’ accomplishments in Assembly have been proof of that passion: In addition to making strides for commuters and helping to balance the state’s budget, she has also been committed to advocating for her district’s children and senior citizen population. She has advocated for tougher penalties on drunk drivers and child abusers and fought funding cuts to senior centers and programs such as Access-A-Ride. Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged her district, remains a pivotal piece in her daily puzzle.
“Securing funding for the East Shore seawall was pivotal for this area, which was shattered by Sandy,” she noted. “This federal project can now move forward because the state portion of the funding is now in place.”
A big part of Malliotakis’ 2017 agenda was the modernization of the state’s existing tuition assistance program, in which the assemblywoman fought to increase qualifying income from $80,000 to $125,000.
“This is significant for so many middle class families,” Malliotakis noted. “We’ve been fighting for this since 2011, pushing for an increase in qualifying income. With increasing tuition and other mounting costs, the modernization of this program was so past due.”
Malliotakis also secured a $13,000 grant for Borough President James Oddo’s “Too Good for Drugs” program.
“Our borough is currently at the center of a drug epidemic,” Malliotakis said. “So this program is extremely important and necessary.”
In 2018, she hopes to further those initiatives while also pursing new borough-wide concerns.
“Prime transportation issues like the South Shore Ferry need to be addressed,” Malliotakis said. “The state needs to find more funding for the MTA, and we need to work on alternate transportation options to keep up with our borough’s growth.”
The assemblywoman also plans to focus on several business concerns — advocating for more recreation and borough-wide activities to support Staten Island’s rapid retail growth.
“We’re looking closely at all of the waterfront growth on the North Shore and planning accordingly,” she said. “I think bike rentals are necessary in that area and more recreational activities are needed throughout the borough. We’re talking about the development of kayak rentals and other Boardwalk activities which have the opportunity of being an instrumental boon to businesses along those corridors.”
And she’s also placing great importance on her interactions with de Blasio.
“I’m happy that my campaign forced the mayor to wholeheartedly listen to the concerns of Staten Island,” Malliotakis said. “We disagree on a lot of areas, but we’ve found some common ground. His town hall meeting here after the campaign shows his willingness to work on improving our community.”
And for Malliotakis, this is her most important role.
“I am extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Staten Islanders already,” she concluded. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done. We are very focused on making even more strides in 2018.”