Mark Levine looks to ‘chart that course forward’ for Manhattan as its incoming borough president

Incoming Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has lofty ambitions for his new position, and is the first one to admit that he has his work cut out for him as he prepares to take office in 2022.

Charged up and looking to tackle climate concerns, a possible winter spike in COVID-19 cases, and the continued revitalization of the arts, the current City Council member from Washington Heights and borough president-elect is hoping to hit the ground running.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity at this critical moment and incredibly excited to get to work on Jan. 1. I feel like this is a moment of enormous challenges and opportunity for me, and I think it makes the office of Manhattan Borough President more important than ever,” Levine told amNewYork Metro.

Levine believes he will have the guidance to complete his goals with the help of a transition committee that includes District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido and former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. 

“We have an amazing and diverse group of leaders from government, from nonprofits, from the arts, social services, and business that are going to be a brain trust for us as we put in place a plan for the office and the policies we want to focus on. I am really grateful for this collection of leaders,” Levine said.

The incoming Manhattan Borough President prides himself on accessibility. Speaking on walking throughout Manhattan meeting voters throughout his run, he says things are unlikely to change. He hopes he will continue to converse with constituents and affirms the groups who endorsed his campaign will have a seat at his table.

“I think that I’m better as a leader when I benefit from input from advocates and leaders from all perspectives, including folks who don’t agree with me and who want to push. That makes me better. We need advocates continuing to agitate to make government better,” Levine said. “I freely give my personal cell number out. I respond personally to constituents’ requests when I can. I value those interactions. I walk everywhere, I take mass transit regularly partly because it’s a chance to run into constituents and hear their concerns directly.”

Entering office during a global pandemic, climate crisis, and a racial and class divide showcased prominently by the COVID-19 virus will be no easy feat. Levine desires to concentrate on the disparities that have been exacerbated by this virus as well as the ongoing issues with climate and resiliency. Still, Levine affirms he is looking to make a difference on all fronts.

“We have a chance to come back as a different, healthier, more just and better Manhattan in New York City. I feel like the job of the Borough President is going to be to chart that course forward and use the tools in the office to help us get there,” Levine said.

Levine shared that at the peak of the pandemic, he contracted COVID-19 along with members of his family. His experience as a New York City Council Member trying to aid his district throughout the pandemic, as well has his first-hand experience with the virus has made him a vigorous fighter for public health. He assures that he will have prioritized COVID response, and is concerned over the dwindling vaccination numbers, particularly among children.   

“I consider myself a public health warrior for the rest of my life. I think COVID changed us all, COVID changed me. I’m never going to stop focusing on the challenge of public health, the tremendous inequality and access to health, even beyond the crisis phase beyond COVID,” Levine said.

He also adds that one of his goals is to make Manhattan the global leader when it comes to carbon neutrality, but the only way to do this is to make what he calls audacious policies to help build efficiency and to electrify everything. This includes breaking the dependence from private automobiles, fixing waste management and improving composting, addressing the food system since he believes plant-based foods are better for the environment, and addressing climate change issues.  

“Most people forget that Manhattan is a very little island off the edge of the Atlantic and we are incredibly vulnerable to climate change that is already here as we have experienced quite painfully this summer multiple times,” Levine said. 

Transition Committee Members

Dr. Debbie Almontaser – Founder & CEO, Bridging Cultures Group & Board President, Muslim Community Network

Vincent Alvarez – President, New York City Central Labor Council

Quemuel Arroyo – Chief Accessibility Officer, State of NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Barbara Askins – President & CEO, 125th St BID

Murad Awedeh – Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition & NYIC Action

Ahsia Badi – Director of Public Engagement NYIRC

Aneiry Batista – Chief of Staff, Office of Congressman Adriano Espaillat, NY-13

Dr. Uché Blackstock – Founder & CEO, Advancing Health Equity

Aldrin Bonilla – Executive Vice President, Fund for the City of New York. Commissioner and Chair, Equal Employment Practices Commission

Andy Bowen – Principal, Bowen Public Affairs

John Calvelli – Exec. V.P Public Affairs, Wildlife Conservation Society; Chair, Cultural Institutions Group

Carl Cambria – UFT Manhattan Borough Representative

Jesse Campoamor – Principal, Cultural Productions

Hildalyn Colon-Hernandez – Director of Policy & Strategic Partnerships, Los Deliverista Unidos

Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff – Minister, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ

Deyanira Del Rio – Co-Director, New Economy Project

Dr. Hazel Dukes – President, NAACP New York State Conference

Jahmila Edwards – Associate Director, District Council 37

Anthony Feliciano – Director, Commission on the Public’s Health System

Stanly Fritz – Political and Campaigns Director; Citizen Action of New York

Esther Fuchs – Professor of International & Public Affairs and Political Science, Columbia University

Adam Ganser – Executive Director, New Yorkers for Parks

Michael Garner – President, One Hundred Black Men

Hon. Dan Garodnick – President and CEO, Riverside Park Conservancy

Matt Gewolb – Assistant Dean & General Counsel, New York Law School

Elizabeth Goldstein – President, The Municipal Art Society of New York

David Greenfield – Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Met Council

David Gruber – President, Friends of Father Demo Square

Danny Harris – Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives

Dr. Ramona Hernandez – Director, Dominican Studies Institute of The City University of New York (CUNY)

Wayne Ho – President/CEO, Chinese-American Planning Council

Adriene Holder – Attorney-in-Charge, The Legal Aid Society

Betsy Jacobson – Executive Director, United Jewish Council of the East Side

Jennifer Jones-Austin – CEO & Executive Director, FPWA

Justin Kalifowitz – Executive Chairman, Downtown Music Holdings

Dr. Rafael A. Lantigua – Associate Director Columbia University Medical Center; Co-founder, Board of Alianza Dominicana, Inc

Khary Lazarre-White – Executive Director & Co-Founder, The Brotherhood Sister Sol

Maria Lizardo – Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito – Former Speaker, New York City Council

Janos Martin – National Director, Dream Corps JUSTICE

Hon. Ruth Messenger – Global Ambassador, American Jewish World Service & Former Manhattan Borough President

Frankie Miranda – President & CEO, Hispanic Federation President

Carmen Neely – President & Co-Founder, Harlem Pride

Clare Newman – President & CEO, Trust for Governors Island

Thomas O’Donnell – President, Teamsters Local 817

Sonia Ossorio – President, NOW-NY

Laura Penn – Executive Director, Stage Directors & Choreographers; Co-Chair, Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis

Andrew Rasiej – Founder & CEO, Civic Hall

Damaris Reyes – Executive Director, Good Old Lower East Side

Andrew Rigie – Executive Director, NYC Hospitality Alliance

Voza Rivers – Founder & Chair, Harlem Arts Alliance

Rosita Romero – Executive Director, Dominican Women’s Development Center

Allen Roskoff – President, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

Bobbie Sackman – Advocate for older New Yorkers

Rev. John Scott – Pastor, St. John’s Baptist Church

Jonathan Shabshahkes – Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, NY Attorney General Letitia James

Peggy Shepard – Co-founder, Executive Director; WE-ACT for Environmental Justice

Risa Shoup – Interim Executive Director, Art/New York

Greg Silverman – Executive Director, West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Dr. Craig Spencer – Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine and Population and Family Health, Columbia University Medical Center

Yvonne Stennett – Executive Director, Community League of the Heights

Assetou Sy Traore – President, USA Mali Charitable Association of NYC

Bhav Tibrewal – Political Director, Hotel Trades Council

Candis Tolliver – Vice President and Political Director, 32BJ SEIU

Dr. Jav Varma – Professor of Population Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medicine

Jessica Walker – President & CEO, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

Matthew Washington – Vice President and Chief of Staff, Phipps Houses; Former Deputy Borough President

Lloyd Williams – President & CEO, Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce

Larry Wood – Director of Advocacy & Organizing, Goddard Riverside

Justin Chin-Shan Yu – President, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association

UJA-Federation of New York (Represented by Hindy Poupko, Deputy Chief Planning Officer)