Weissman Hosts Discussion with Mayoral Candidate Kathryn Garcia (‘88)
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Social studies teacher Linda Weissman hosted a discussion with New York City mayoral candidate and Stuyvesant alumna Kathryn Garcia (‘88) via Zoom on May 19. Senior Ann Zhang facilitated the discussion, touching on topics such as Garcia’s Stuyvesant background and policy reform.
During the event, Garcia talked about how her experience as commissioner for the NYC Sanitation Department, which is responsible for garbage collection, recycling collection, street cleaning, and snow removal, inspires many of her climate change-related policies. She also worked at the Department of Environmental Protection and launched NYC’s first electronic waste recycling program, a styrofoam ban, and the nation’s largest food scraps recycling program.
Some of her mayoral initiatives would include converting Rikers Island, NYC’s main jail complex, into a renewable energy zone, implementing a Green New Deal for public housing, and introducing green roofs for every school.
Attendees were aware of her experience in public service and responded favorably to the feasibility and direction of her policies. “I was impressed by her experience running the Department of Environmental Protection and Sanitation Department in the Bloomberg and De Blasio administrations. She impressed me with her discussion about reorienting the city towards renewable energy, building green infrastructure, and protecting the coastline,” social studies teacher Robert Sandler said in an e-mail interview. “Garcia also knows how the vast city bureaucracy works—she was interim chair of NYCHA—she’s a real New Yorker and she’s a pragmatist.”
Garcia’s transportation policies, which aligned with her climate change policies, struck a chord for other attendees. Some of her policies include expanding the bike lane network by 250 miles and electrifying 10,000 school buses. “I’m really into transportation policy [...] and I think she knows the ins and outs on how the city government works. Having worked in it for so long [...] she has already done things with the waste management that was positive,” social studies teacher Dr. Zachary Berman said.
Regarding education, she plans to end middle school test screenings permanently and take away the Gifted and Talented program. However, she does not plan on abolishing the SHSAT, a major point of contention among school administrators and public officials. “Kathryn Garcia did say that Stuyvesant was one of the most stressful experiences she had ever been in, and that sort of prepared you for the real world, but I do understand that it’s an unpopular opinion to preserve the specialized high school system, so she wasn’t really campaigning for that policy,” junior Cadence Li said.
Some also expressed surprise at the direction of her policies and would have liked further elaboration. “I remember being kind of surprised that she wanted a lottery program [...] especially since she's a product of the Gifted & Talented program since she came to Stuyvesant,” Li said. “I thought that she would [...] maybe be hesitant to abolish it. I would’ve appreciated it if someone asked her to go more in depth about how a lottery program would necessarily function better than some sort of revamping of the K-8 program.”
Overall, the discussion presented an opportunity to learn more about the mayoral race and local politics. “[I] went with my mom, and we just wanted to get the bigger scope of the mayoral candidates, and we wanted to see who all the options were and who seemed good and who didn’t, so I just thought it would be a good thing to go to for more information,” sophomore Lavender Reynolds said.
The discussion allowed attendees to learn more about Garcia and her policies. “I didn't know much about Garcia before the talk except that she was the sanitation commissioner, a Stuy alum, and that the [New York] Times and [the New York] Daily News had endorsed her. If I saw her on the street, I don't think I'd recognize her,” social studies David Hanna said.
Moreover, Garcia’s discussion provided insights to her character. “She felt kind of casual, more like your teacher than a politician running for mayor of New York,” Li said. “Looking back on it, that kind of speaks more of her character than her policies. She doesn’t rely on pure speaking skills, and she has experience and plans for her policies moving forward.”
Hanna added, “Garcia was pretty down-to-earth. This was what struck me most. The contrast with some of the better known candidates (Adams, Yang, Wiley) was pretty pronounced [...] They all sound like they're selling something. She sounded more like a manager, which I guess is what she is.”
If elected, many believe that Garcia could be a role model. “Garcia is a good example for Stuyvesant students, and in particular young women. It made an impression on me when she said that ‘Our city is nearly 400 years old, and we've never had a female mayor,’” Hanna said.
Ultimately, attendees left the discussion with a positive outlook on Garcia. “After the talk, I felt like she definitely felt like a very solid candidate. She felt very educated and well informed and I thought that her policies lined up with what I would want in a candidate,” Reynolds said.