Bed-Stuy’s Stefani Zinerman Interviewed

Zinerman for 56th Assembly District Announcement Event
Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman

KCP caught up with the likely newly elected 56th District State Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman, who barring any changes in untallied absentee ballots, ran for election and beat candidate Justin Cohen in the Democratic primary last Tuesday.

According to the Board of Elections unofficial totals, Zinerman received 6,976 votes to Cohen’s 5,353 votes of a 1,623 vote difference. As of this posting, the BOE received back 1,021 mail-in ballots and is slated to start counting all mail-in ballots on Wednesday.

In our Q&A we asked how she was feeling about her first win as an elected official and any plans she has for her new office.

KCP: How are you feeling, how has the last week been?

Zinerman: I’m feeling good. I have worked very hard over the last decade to represent local interests, working with community boards, working with block associations, working with our local schools to make some improvements, and now to have the opportunity to represent my neighbors, my family, my friends, and the people who live in the district is incredibly exciting to me. 

I think we all agree this is a pivotal point in our history with COVID and the spotlight on just how deeply ingrained racism is in our society. This is a watershed moment for us, and I think you need steady and strong leadership to kind of usher in a shared value system for our community so we can work together. 

KCP: Do you feel nervous about the job considering this hectic time in our city?

Zinerman: I know I have assistance, a task force, and a legislative commission, obviously hasn’t been made official, but they’re all aligned with my platform. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running.  

KCP: Do you have any initiatives or plans that you want to jump into, other than the continued battle against a second wave of coronavirus?

Zinerman: I want there to be a lot more organic, working groups having conversations that establish common threads we want to work on. The question I’ve been asking as I was going through the district campaigning is, ‘What is the one thing that you would want to work on about our community?’ So I have a whole list of those things, and I want that to govern the next few months and into the fall.

Communication, everybody is not getting the information they need about what resources are available in our community, or when something happens, how do you get help to fix it. Food, education, getting a job. People are incredibly interested in doing something about community violence, and that includes domestic. People are extremely worried about working and maintaining their businesses. 

I think the other big issue is that people are incredibly frightened for our young people with the cancellation of SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program). There’s a whole movement to push [Mayor Bill] De Blasio out of office, and he was the only Mayor of a major city to make that decision and the Governor [Andrew Cuomo] didn’t push for him to make that decision.

KCP: Former Assemblymember Tremaine Wright vacated the seat you just won. Being that she has supported your campaign, how do you feel about her ‘loss’ to Jabari Brisport for State Senate?

Zinerman: I’ll have to wait until we get the results on Wright. I’ll reserve my thoughts. 

KCP: Are you keeping an eye on results for your own race too? Just to be on the safe side.

Zinerman: Definitely, will be monitoring the Board of Elections. The absentee ballots haven’t been counted yet, some people didn’t receive ballots until the day before or day of, which is unacceptable. We shouldn’t have had to rely on that. So there are some more election reforms that need to happen, we have to move into the 21st century. We can literally do everything on the computer, there’s no reason why we cannot figure out a way to vote that way. If not for an actual vote, certainly to request and view a ballot.

KCP: What do you think is important for constituents to know?

Zinerman: I need people to understand what the one person is responsible for when sent to represent them, and that the power basically lies with the people. When you have your own sense of agency and you feel empowered enough, and have an open door with your legislator about what you want to include in your community and you’re willing to help that legislator push those things on the state level, then you will see those results.  

KCP: You mentioned the 2021 NYC Charter Revision Commission coming up. How will this year’s turbulence in health, social justice, and police reforms affect the city’s constitution?

Zinerman: Everybody who is a citizen of this great state has a voice in deciding what to change. 

It has a lot of implications on how we govern. When we think about the Black Lives Matter movement, I know people are focusing on the justice part of it, in terms of policing reform. But when you look at the statistics for Black lives, whether it be education, employment and economic development or healthcare, we have the greatest disparity across the board. It can’t be delegated to just justice, that has to be accepted in our charter revisions.