Lex Hosts Massive City Council Candidate Forum

with the Lenox Hill Democratic Club
& Lex Club General Club Meeting


Monday, May 15, 2017, 6:30 – 8:00 pm (Lex General Club Meeting 8:00 – 8:30 pm)

The Sanctuary, All Souls Church, 1157 Lexington Ave. @ E. 80th St.

Meet and Hear from all the Democratic Candidates running for City Council in the Fourth District to take over from longtime Councilmember Dan Garodnick.

Vanessa Aronson (www.vanessataronson.com) – Maria Castro (www.mariacastro.nyc) – Gus Christensen – Alec Hartman (www.alechartman.com) – Rachel Lyn Honig (www.honigfornewyork.com) – Jeff Mailman (www.jeffmailman.com) – Keith Powers (www.keithpowers.nyc) – Bessie Schachter (www.bessie2017.com) – Marti Speranza (www.martiforcouncil.com)
Candidate Statements:


Vanessa Aronson is a NYC public school teacher dedicated to students, families, and our community. Vanessa is no stranger to public service. Prior to teaching, she spent a decade working in government, fighting food insecurity, helping victims of sexual assault, and reuniting families through the immigration process. Vanessa is a skilled negotiator. While representing the U.S. at the UN food agencies (WFP, IFAD, UNFAO), she helped negotiate multi-million dollar agreements bringing food assistance to 795 million people.

Vanessa has a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago, where she met her husband, Reid, in the theater club. She has a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Masters in Education from Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City. Vanessa volunteers with the community Meals on Heels and chairs the Tikkun Olam Social Justice Committee at Park Avenue Synagogue.

Vanessa’s vision for our community is one where people using wheelchairs and walkers as well as parents with strollers can access all aspects of city life; all students have access to a first-rate education; middle and low income tenants have access to stable, affordable housing; and all New Yorkers, regardless of where they were born, have access to legal representation.

You can learn more about Vanessa and the issues she is championing at www.vanessataronson.com



Issues in order of importance:

1) Quality of life (including health care, housing and education)

2) Environmental

3) economic development

4) transportation

5) Immigration



Gus Christensen is a lifelong New Yorker and native eastsider. He lives on the Upper East Side with his wife Courtney and daughter Eleanor. Gus received his BA with Distinction from Yale University and his MBA with honors from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked as an investment banker for two decades before leaving Wall Street for a life in public service. Gus’ campaign is focused on economic issues, including income​ and wealth inequality as well as housing affordability. If elected to the City Council, he will be a champion for working people on economic matters while also fighting to reform the criminal justice system, to ensure high quality public education for all, and to protect tenants and seniors.



Alec’s family is originally from the city, and he grew up in a household that valued work ethic and prioritized creative thinking. His father ran a small business and his mother worked as a hospitalist. Even from a young age, Alec has been dedicated to public service and has been exceptionally active. In high school, he was a nationally ranked debate champion, played tennis, achieved a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and graduated from the International Baccalaureate Program. He also started a small business selling computers out of the back of his mother’s car. He could often be found volunteering and tutoring at-risk kids in math.

In college, Alec found his footing as a leader through debate and the student government. A graduate of Emory University, Alec studied Political Science. Not long after graduating, he followed his father’s example and started his own business. A few years later, in keeping with the momentum of his success, he co-founded DigitalOcean; a tech startup that has grown to be the second largest web hosting provider in the world, employing hundreds of New Yorkers.

In his effort to continue to build the tech community here in NYC, in 2012 Alec founded TechDay – which has become the largest startup event in the US, hosting tens of thousands of innovators each year. As a leader in whatever he pursues, Alec can often be found devoting his time mentoring others. His reputation as a dedicated and vital member of the NYC community has been recognized by NASDAQ- he’s been a three-time guest to ring the bell on behalf of the tech community.

In addition to his leadership in the tech sector, Alec currently serves on the board of advisors for the Estonian government’s e-Residency Program, and the Bermuda Tourism Authority. He has a passion for building the success of those around him and he now wants to help build New York’s future with technology, integrity and increased opportunity for all.

The love of Alec’s life, his wife Marcie, is a special needs teacher and a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University. They live in Lenox Hill with their puppy, Rio, and are active members of their local congregation at temple Emanu-el.



Rachel Honig has spent the last two decades as a public relations executive advocating for small and mid-sized businesses. In that time, she has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, retailers, trade associations, and not-for-profits to assist them in successfully achieving their objectives. Rachel is a sought-after strategic advisor to CEOs, management teams, and executive boards addressing a wide range of organizational and communications-related challenges.

Rachel’s passion for public service was nurtured while working at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), a state grant-making agency. As NYSCA’s Director of Special Projects, Rachel managed the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts. In this role, she brought attention to the state’s cultural icons and institutions, while helping spotlight the importance of arts education in schools.

A first generation college graduate, Rachel studied Ethics and Art History at Smith College while competing nationally, and internationally, in parliamentary debate. Education and culture continue to be important priorities for Rachel, as she has rallied efforts to benefit Arts organizations, such as a 40th birthday party focused on fundraising and mural painting to benefit Creative Art Works, a non-profit that incorporates academic enrichment, workforce development and community engagement.

Rachel is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Masters Degree program in Communications at Baruch College. Additionally, she sits on the Board of Directors of She Runs It (formerly Advertising Women of New York). Rachel is gratified to be able to give back to her alma mater as President Emeritus of the Smith College Club of New York City.
Rachel resides on Sutton Place South with her rescue dog, Hester, where they both enjoy exploring their neighborhood. Rachel enjoys sailing the New York waterways, running through Central Park, and exploring the unlimited foodie destinations in the city she loves.

As Council Member for New York City’s fourth district, Rachel will work tirelessly for the interests of her constituents with a focused, pragmatic, results-oriented approach to solving the challenges facing our city today such as small business displacement, homelessness, eradicating lead from our public schools and preserving our green spaces.

Rachel believes that now more than ever it is important to fight to preserve and improve quality of life for residents of the fourth Council district in a manner worthy of the great city that she calls home.



Jeff is a resident of Turtle Bay and is a member of the Turtle Bay Association and is a public member of Community Board Six, where he serves on the Health and Education committee.  Jeff obtained his B.A. in economics from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton, where he graduated magna cum laude.  He earned his J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and served as a Notes Editor on Cardozo’s Journal of Conflict Resolution.  He has worked in the N.Y.S. Attorney General’s Office to protect consumers and investors and taught Legal Writing as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Cardozo Law School.  For the past five years, Jeff has served as Legal Counsel and Legislative Director to Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.  Jeff remains active in his community through his membership at Temple Emanu-El and by attending neighborhood events and civic association meetings.

Jeff will use his legal training and more than five years of experience working in the City Council to provide the residents of District 4 with the highest level of representation from the very first day on the job.  He has gained extensive knowledge on a diverse array of subject areas, including housing, small businesses, homelessness, education, senior services, fire safety, emergency medical care, animal welfare, criminal justice, and quality of life issues to name a few.  More information about Jeff and his work experience can be found at www.jeffmailman.com.  Jeff is passionate about public service and is running to use his experience to improve the lives of New York City residents.



I am excited about the opportunity to serve our community and to be a strong voice for the future of our city. As a native New Yorker, I have spent my life thinking about ways in which we can build a better, brighter future for our city. I hope to bring fresh ideas to the City Council on how to improve the lives of New Yorkers.

I have previously worked for State Senator Liz Krueger and as Chief of Staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing. I recently worked for City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., advocating for clients including the LGBT Network, The Park Avenue Preservation Coalition, Citizen Schools, Quality Services for the Autism Community, and other great organizations.

I currently serve as a District Leader for the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, Member of Community Board Six, Steering Committee Member of the League of Conservation Voters, and as a Board Member of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

As a Council Member, I would prioritize affordable housing, improving our public transportation system, and increasing our investment in education. Find out more about my deep roots and new ideas at: www.KeithPowers.nyc



Bessie Schachter is a wife, mother and community leader who lives on New York City’s Upper East Side. As a resident of District 4 for over a decade Bessie has worked to provide the people of the community with access to the support that they need both through her work at Senator Liz Krueger’s office and as a Democratic State Committee Member. for the Lexington Democratic Club. Bessie is running for City Council to talk about building sustainable communities and provide District 4 with the kind of representation that they have long enjoyed. Bessie is proud to have earned the endorsements of Senator George Latimer, Assembly Members Dan Quart and Ron Kim as well as Council Member Helen Rosenthal.



District 4 is an example of New York City at its finest: diverse, entrepreneurial, unstoppable, and bighearted. Everywhere I go I see the strength of our ideas and the character of our neighborhoods. I believe in the power of government to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve heard your ideas and formed a platform around a simple, yet provocative idea: A Livable City. Imagine a community where teachers and nurses can afford to live in the neighborhoods in which they work. Imagine a city where small businesses can flourish and thrive. Making the right choices on housing, education, transportation and the environment will be key to preserving the high quality of life our residents deserve, and that is why I am running for City Council. If elected, I will both advocate for everyday priorities and work to keep New York City on the forefront of innovation and positive change. I invite you to join the conversation. Your ideas are critical to our mission of making our neighborhoods more affordable, livable and successful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally at marti@martisperanza.com.
Marti Speranza was most recently Director of Women Entrepreneurs (WE) NYC, a New York City initiative that aims to raise up thousands of female business-owners from underserved communities. Prior to that, Marti was Director of Strategic Initiatives for New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Marti has served as Democratic State Committeewoman for the 74th Assembly District and is President of  Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats. Marti was appointed by Council Member Dan Garodnick to be a member of Community Board 5 where she is a member of the Public Safety and Quality of Life Committee and the representative for the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.  Marti is a Member of Health + Hospital’s Bellevue Community Advisory Board and the Leadership Council of Habitat for Humanity. Marti studied Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and earned her MBA from Harvard University. Marti is married to Dr. Roderick Wong and they reside on the east side of Manhattan with their children Leo and Gia.


Author: Lexington Democratic Club

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