BENSONHURST/BORO PARK – The 10 Congressional District, which encompasses the Upper West Side in Manhattan and many Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods as well as Bensonhurst and Boro Park, has been represented by Congress Member Jerry Nadler since 2013. Lindsey Boylan is looking to change that.
“The pace of change and the reality we see in DC is not good enough for me,” she said. “We’ve got some of the wealthiest people in this district and we’ve got some of the poorest. It’s a district front and center for the impact of climate change. We’ve got miles of coastline.” She is impatient for more action, and more progressive action.
Why Run For Congress?
“I was inspired by the women who got out in the Midterms and I just said ‘What am I waiting for?'” she responds. “I’ve got a supportive husband… I’ve been privileged to get so many more opportunities than my parents. What am I using it for?” Boylan was born in Calfornia and moved to Virginia for high school, a military kid. She settled in NYC after attending Wellesley college and most recently worked as Chief of Staff for the NY State Economic Development Corporation.
In order to win the seat, Boylan has to get the votes and support of the left-leaning folks on the Upper West Side, and the block of Trump voters in Boro Park, and win in the Democratic primary which will determine the outcome of this election in the heavily Democratic district. She has to win against the Democratic establishment as well, as she is running to unseat the powerful House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, who’s been a Congressman for 26 years and is leading the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
For Boylan, it’s about keeping her message consistent.
“I don’t change my message no matter where I am. I don’t pretend to like Donald Trump whether I’m in Boro Park or the Upper West Side,” she said. “When I go and talk about housing or SNAP benefits or I try to figure out fiscal benefits, these issues are important to everyone. The ability to make life work for your family, to make ends meet, to have a safe home and expectation that you’ll be able to stay there, that doesn’t have any party affiliation.”
Boylan, 35, exudes energy and impatience with the status quo. She is attentive and focused on listening and finding pragmatic solutions to their problems – residents in her district haven’t been listened to for a long time, she says, as we sit down to talk about her run and issues important to her district – the rise in white nationalism, hate crimes, NYCHA, affordable housing, and climate change. It is obvious how passionate and knowledgable Boylan is about issues that affect her community.
Boylan believes housing is and should be treated as a human right.
“These things have gotten to the point where they are at because we’ve had decades of disinvestment,” she said. “It’s not just the issue of NYCHA. It’s not just the issue of rent regulation. It’s the fear that you literally can’t afford to stay here,” Boylan says of conversations with neighbors. “It’s the fear that if you have a medical emergency or if you have a family crisis or if you have a parent you have to care for, you will have to live somewhere else.”
To help solve the housing crisis, Boylan would provide a lot more subsidies through Section 8 housing vouchers. She says that would immediately alleviate some of those problems.
She’s for a “pragmatic Green New Deal”, Boylan says. To deal with storm-related problems, Boylan believes the entire appropriations process needs to be rethought.
“You shouldn’t have California forest fires fighting against Puerto Rico for recovery work. You shouldn’t have flooding in Houston battling with the 9/11 Victims Fund. The appropriations process is completely divorced from the reality that we increasingly face,” she said.
Just a few weeks ago, over a thousand people gathered in Downtown Brooklyn to protest police brutality and the crackdown on MTA’s fare evasion. Boylan said she does not agree with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan of adding 500 cops in subway stations. That is not the solution, she explained.
“I’m totally against it in terms of adding police to the tune of $600 million. Police that won’t have to wear body cameras, won’t fall under the same constraints,” she said. “I’m totally against over-policing communities of color, which this ends up really being about.”
With Virginia turning Democratic in the local elections the day before our interview, Boylan was excited about the prospect of the Equal Rights Amendment passing – enshrining in the constitution the rights of women and others as equal to those of men. More locally, in Borough Park, the all-female voluntary EMT service Ezras Nashim is facing some problems with the all-male ambulance service Hatzolah. They are all members of the same orthodox Jewish community, and the women are fighting for a right to have an all-female ambulance license to serve their community. Boylan says she supports the women.
“I would be supportive of pretty much any and every effort women in the community would make to advocate for things that would improve their lives,” she said.
Though she takes strong stances on certain issues, Boylan agrees that she’d have to compromise, too.
“I think particularly when we talk about civil rights, there isn’t a compromise. I think how we get to the problem solving around housing– if we’re going to get $30 billion for NYCHA, that’s going to come with some compromise. I’m open to compromise,” she said.
According to Boylan, part of the compromise is maintaining friendships and relationships, but also standing up and saying something isn’t acceptable and needs to change when you believe that.
“For example, I am personally and also reflective of the district, supportive of Israel… and a two-state solution. But I think the idea that we wouldn’t discuss the quality of life in the West Bank, annexation, and how abhorrent that is, is a huge problem. That we wouldn’t talk discuss the reality of life in Gaza, and how one in five pregnant women are malnutritioned,” she said.
“I wish the leadership and the likely leadership of Israel was not Bibi Netanyahu,” she said. “People in this district have the most ties to Israel. And this is an important issue for me as well, but not without critique and pushing human rights and quality of life issues for Palestinians.”
A Progressive, A Woman
A progressive, a woman – will she try to join “The Squad” if elected?
“Nancy Pelosi isn’t excited about me,” she laughed. “I think there are a lot of opportunities to work with any young, particularly women, members of Congress. I’m not trying to be a part of any squad. I’m just trying to be myself… I think there’s a very important role to play in terms of fighting against this president who has chosen to demonize four women of color in Congress.”
There’s one year left until the elections and plenty of candidates on the stage. For Boylan, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stick out the most. She says the Joe Biden narrative of moving to the center is something she disagrees with. “It hasn’t inspired people and it hasn’t dealt with the problems we have.”
For Boylan, being a progressive woman running for Congress is a huge honor. She is in awe of the women in Congress who came before her, and she hopes to win to create the changes she wants to see in the country.
“There’s a history in this country, but globally also, when all of the options have been exhausted and the problems are big, women show up and they say ‘I’m not going to take this,'” Boylan said. “These are the moments when women step up. My only hope is that this time, we don’t step away at any moment. We have to continue to move forward.”