Since The Daily launched in 2016, we’ve welcomed participation Question & Answer formats because it gives officials a chance to be themselves – to speak freely in their own voices. Today, we’re getting to know our new City Council Member Julie Menin.
The Daily: Tell our readers about yourself, your experiences and how they prepare you for your new role.
Julie Menin: I have a great deal of experience in city government -having served as Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment and as the city’s Census Director. I also have experience in the private sector, as a lawyer and small business owner, and have taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia on city, state and federal government.
I started as a lawyer at a law firm, but after practicing for a number of years I became a small business owner – opening a restaurant and catering business downtown called Vine, which was right near the Stock Exchange. My business grew to almost 100 employees so I know first hand how hard it is to build and grow a small business in this city. Then 9/11 hit and my business was devastated–all our windows were blown out and had ash in every nook and cranny. I wanted to help my community, and this city, come back, so several weeks after 9/11 I founded a non-profit , which grew into a 30,000+ member organization- all dedicated to helping residents and small businesses downtown.
Most recently I served as the city’s Census director where we beat almost all other major cities to make sure NYC will be receiving over the next 10 years its fair share of the billions of federal dollars that flow out of the Census- money desperately needed as we build our way back from the crisis we are in now.
TD: We’ve asked both of your predecessors, Jessica Lappin and Ben Kallos, this question: Given the demands of your work and your family responsibilities, how do you manage work-life balance?
On a personal note, I am a proud mom, and my dad also lives in the district on 57th Street so it is an honor to represent a community where I have such strong family ties. I’m proud to be a 3rd generation resident: my grandmother and mother came to Yorkville looking to start a new life after escaping the Holocaust. I love this district and am honored to represent it. In my downtime, I love spending time with my family: we walk on the Esplanade, we swim at Asphalt Green, and play at Carl Schurz Park.
TD: Roosevelt Island is a unique community. How familiar are you with the local dynamics?
Roosevelt Island is one of New York’s most vibrant and distinctive communities, and I am very familiar with Roosevelt Island’s unique position and dynamics. I have met with members of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), the Roosevelt Island Disability Association and many community leaders.
I support the creation of a permanent credit union on the Island to address the Island’s banking needs following the closure of Amalgamated Bank. Enhancing the Island’s transportation options is a top priority of mine including working with the MTA to improve F Train service and to bring OMNY to the Roosevelt Island tram.
I believe storm resilience and shoreline conservation are pressing issues facing Roosevelt Island and support increased funding to restore and modernize the waterfront. I also support the Haki Compost Collective in their effort to enhance the sustainability of the Island’s sanitation system.
TD: What do you see as the most compelling issues for Roosevelt Island, and what ideas have you for addressing them?
As we focus on recovering from the Covid pandemic and the damage it has brought to all aspects of our community life, my highest priorities will center on education, affordable housing and job opportunities/economic recovery. We must achieve the long vision of a more equitable, more prosperous, and more sustainable city. As a former small business owner and Commissioner of DCA, I have a robust plan for reviving our small businesses including focusing on reducing the burden of fines, protecting legacy businesses, and connecting small business with NYC & Company for strong marketing investment from the city.
In addition, having world class healthcare institutions is of vital importance during the ongoing pandemic, and it was just announced that NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler has a new CEO. I will be working with incoming CEO Stephen Catullo to improve ties between Coler and the local community on Roosevelt Island.
TD: How will you build relationships with the community?
I believe in round the clock responsiveness on constituent issues and have a strong track record of understanding what needs to be done, forming coalitions to frame solutions, and then driving to get those proposed solutions implemented. These are skills sharpened over many years of problem solving. Throughout the course of my campaign and my first couple weeks in office, I have made sure to have a presence on the ground on Roosevelt Island. My team and I are there frequently (we did two mask giveaways in one week) and love engaging with residents.
TD: The state’s control over Roosevelt Island presents unique issues for you as it dilutes your authority. How can you influence decisions and operations, if residents are dissatisfied with RIOC?
As a Council Member, our office has an ex officio seat on RIOC and I look forward to partnering and working with Shelton Haynes and the whole RIOC Board on important issues. At Columbia, I taught on the relationship between state and local governments and believe this expertise will be helpful for me as I work with state officials to improve the lives of Roosevelt Islanders.
TD: What are you reading, right now?
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
Editor’s note: In case you’re not familiar with Gotham: A History of New York to 1898, there’s a fair chance Menin will be reading the same book if we do a new Q&A, next year.
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