By Celia Bernhardt | firstname.lastname@example.org
Republican challenger Kelly Klingman claims she’s the voice of a disenfranchised majority in Tiffany Cabán’s district.
“I believe that she has an ideology that is far different from what the people in the community really want,” Klingman said. “They want somebody who is going to focus on cleaning up the streets. They want somebody who’s going to work with the NYPD.”
Klingman, an Astoria resident, single mom and real estate professional, is running for city council in District 22. The district, which covers Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside, and Rikers Island, came out in full force for progressive Democrat Cabán in 2021, and is repped by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Congress, both prominent DSA members.
But Klingman said she believes the progressive tilt of her district’s vote is due to voter turnout issues.
“You know, it’s interesting that she only had 5,000 votes in the Democratic primary when you have [about] 64,000 Democrats who live in the district,” she said. “So really it’s voter turnout, and people that I talk to, they’re very disenfranchised. They feel like their vote doesn’t count.”
Klingman pointed to her appreciation of her local Astoria community as her motivation to run, recalling her initial move to the neighborhood as a divorced mother of twins.
“This community rallied behind me to help me raise my kids,” she said. “I feel so a part of this community that I can’t just turn around and watch anymore from the sidelines with everything that’s going on.”
One of Klingman’s core platforms is advocating for a more traditional approach to policing, in contrast with Cabán’s outspoken abolitionist stance.
“My problem with Tiffany is that she spews so much hateful rhetoric against police,” she said. “And it’s not helping any side of the community. How do you get anything done?”
“The cops feel disenfranchised,” Klingman said. “Like their hands are tied, like they can’t do anything. And then it’s very easy for them to say, ‘Well, we can’t do this, this is something we can’t do…’ I truly believe police officers go into the job because they actually care about people…I think building morale is number one, and then building trust with the community.”
In her 22 years in real estate, Klingman worked with Ryan Serhant to line the Jersey City waterfront with housing post-9/11, utilizing an urban renewal zone. She later focused on low-income and rent-stabilized housing in Queens. This background, she argues, gives her a unique perspective on housing issues.
“It’s very easy for people to get up on a soapbox and say the answer to housing is to build more housing. [But] I know the cost to build housing is insane,” Klingman said before turning her attention towards rent-stabilized housing.
“You’ve got small landlords that are not putting rent stabilized apartments on the market, because they can’t afford to bring them up to code regulations that have now been instilled,” she said.
As a council person, Klingman said she would want to incentivize middle income and lower class landlords.
Klingman also argued that Local Law 97, the city’s premier climate change legislation forcing building over 25,000 square feet to have stricter greenhouse gas limitations by 2024 and 2030, is an unfair burden for landlords.
“I’m against Local Law 97. I would love to extend it [the rollout], at least, for the time being.”
Klingman continued to say that she would support similar legislation to a recent bill introduced in the council, which was sponsored by 13 members of the body, which would delay the timetable
Klingman voiced her 100 percent support of charter schools, a hot-button issue in the city. She also expressed hesitation about plans to install bike lanes and car-free zones on 31st Avenue, though stopped short of coming out against bike lanes entirely.
Though the odds are against her, Klingman says an election in an off-year—where the only races are for City Council, District Attorney, and Civil Court—could work in her favor.
“This will be an interesting election,” she said, “because I feel like people that are gonna come out for city council really care about what’s going on in the community.”
Summarizing her thoughts on the election, Klingman said that she tries to stay away from politics as much as she can. “I’m running for the community, I’m a community person, I’m not running as a politician—it’s hard for me, I’m not gonna stand up on a soapbox and promise all this stuff and then not deliver on anything, either. The thing I can promise is that I’m actually in it for the community, I’m not in it for some ideology and for the next office.”