Alumni Association Hosts Discussion with New York City Mayoral Candidates Kathryn Garcia (’88) and Dianne Morales (’85)

The Alumni Association hosted a conversation with Stuyvesant alumni and contenders of New York’s upcoming mayoral election Kathryn Garcia and Dianne Morales.

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As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s second term has begun to wrap up, the 2021 New York City mayoral election quickly approaches. Two contenders for this year’s election are Stuyvesant alumni: Kathryn Garcia (’88) and Dianne Morales (’85). The Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association (SHSAA) hosted a virtual Zoom event on December 9, featuring a conversation between the two candidates and WNYC senior reporter Ilya Marritz (’95).

Throughout the pandemic, the SHSAA Committee has been organizing all of SHSAA’s virtual events, the mayoral panel being one of them. Though there was initial hesitance to host a talk that could turn political, the event was ultimately successful, according to SHSAA member Rachael Biscocho. “When the idea was first proposed to our office, I was a little skeptical because I didn't want it to turn into a debate, as that is not the goal of the events the Alumni Association hosts for the Stuyvesant community. But the final event was great,” she said in an e-mail interview.

Several topics were discussed in the event, including handling the pandemic, defunding the police, and reshaping the school system. In addition, each candidate expressed their distinct campaign initiatives. Morales’s campaign emphasizes how the government can go beyond policy and how opportunities can be created when people take responsibility for their communities. Garcia’s campaign strives to establish an organized bureaucratic system and would foster openness to new ideas if elected.

Morales’s personal and professional experiences have made her aware of deeply rooted issues in education, police, and economy; thus her campaign is centered around equity and justice. She believes that various perspectives should be represented in leadership in the city. Her campaign initiatives focus on defunding the police, implementing basic income for all New Yorkers, and providing adequate housing for all.

Ceci Bachana (’20), who attended the event, had the opportunity to learn more about Morales’s campaign. “I learned that [Morales] comes out very strong on progressive ideals and policies, which I love. In response to the very first question asked about what she would do in office, she immediately listed defunding the police,” Bachana said in an e-mail interview. “I have never seen a local candidate so adamant about policies that are so left-leaning, [and] she seems like a very capable woman, with actions and determination behind her words, which is encouraging.”

Being a former Commissioner for the NYC Department of Sanitation, Garcia is experienced in public service. “I have not been a politician during my career. I've been a public servant, and I know that everyone who wakes up every day depends on services whether or not it was dealing with garbage or snow,” Garcia said. “Really understanding how to make that work doesn't happen overnight. It requires experience, and I have very broad experience knowing how you make the city work for people.”

Connecting to her experience with public service, Garcia’s initiatives center around homelessness, police reform, education, transportation, and recovery from the pandemic. Her COVID-19 recovery plan would make the vaccine accessible to all New Yorkers but prioritize essential workers. “Distributing the vaccine has to be very transparent, and you can't have anybody jump the line just because [they] have money. We need to make sure that healthcare workers are getting it first, essential workers. The grocery store clerks should get it before I get it [because] they are actually doing essential work,” she said.

As an alumnus, Garcia’s experience as a Stuyvesant student has significantly impacted her personal growth. “Attending Stuyvesant High School was very competitive, but I think it prepared me more than anything else to manage [myself] in a situation that's very competitive,” she said. “I was able to excel and really feed off of all of the intelligence around [me], [including] listening to folks who have phenomenal ideas that [I] never thought about. Everyone is bringing such different experiences to Stuyvesant from all over the city, and that I think was really a blessing.”

Students who attended the talk were able to learn more about the candidates and their policies. “I decided to attend the event because I had heard about [Morales] through a friend’s Instagram, and I wanted to learn more about her. It was a plus that [Garcia], whom I had not heard of, was there as well,” Bachana said. “I thought it was cool that Morales and Garcia were both Stuy alumni. I already thought Morales seemed great, [and] I wanted to learn more about her character and her platform beyond what I saw on Instagram, and this was the perfect opportunity.”

Sophomore Lex Lopez, who attended the event, was also excited to hear Garcia and Morales’s agendas. “I am very interested in politics and feel like national politics is too distant because it is too much of an analytical, methodical, cold calculated game to get the most money, votes, or fame. Local politics and activism [are] where change starts,” he said.

The two alumnae have attracted the attention of Stuyvesant students who are enthusiastic to see someone from their high school become a leader in local politics. “The fact that they graduated from Stuy makes me feel more connected to them, of course, as a Stuy kid,” Bachana said.

Students also felt that the candidates being Stuyvesant alumni will have an impact on their work in office. “A mayor who knows the school system not only from the administrative side, like Garcia and Morales both do, but also from the perspective of a student, is a mayor who knows how to enact policies with students and teachers in mind,” Bachana said.

Attending the event has inspired Bachana to contribute to Morales’s campaign. “I intend to help campaign for Morales, a decision I made after attending the event and then talking to a Stuy friend who is friends with Morales and on the same activist team as she is,” Bachana said. “She will be the first candidate I [will be] actively [campaigning] for, once I learn how, and I'm very excited [to do so].”

Overall, the event was a success as it related to students. “The next mayor is going to be coming into office after tens of thousands of New Yorkers died, thousands of businesses closed, and much more so they have a lot on their plate,” Lopez said. “Regardless, I'm excited to see more people represent Stuyvesant and new ideas at a local level.”