Margaret Chin: An Elected Official Who Gets Down in the Trenches

Written by Alissa Fleck on . Posted in Downtown OTTY Awards, Special Sections.


Council Member Margaret Chin fights to keep Lower Manhattan a vibrant and thriving community

While Hurricane Sandy hit Council Member Margaret Chin’s district hard, a blow from which Lower Manhattan is still scrambling to recover, the council member says a lot of major strides have been made this year in her district. Many would argue, with no small thanks to the council member herself.

During the year’s budget negotiations, 70 percent of daycare programs and an even larger percentage of after-school programs in District 1, Chin’s district, were threatened. Chin saw these budget cuts as unacceptable.

“We had to do a lot of organizing and fighting back to restore all these programs,” said Chin. “When we first saw the budget, I thought, ‘That can’t happen.’

“Ultimately we were successful,” she added.

In addition to restoring all daycare and after-school programs in her district, Chin devoted significant time to both stop-and-frisk and living-wage legislative campaigns and oversaw the establishment of 500 permanently affordable housing units at the SPURA site, after 40 years of deadlock over development in the area.

She also assisted in the passing of state legislation to permit intercity buses, brought increased attention to military hazing issues in the wake of the Private Danny Chen case and helped get cancer coverage for first responders by way of the James Zadroga Bill.

Catherine Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1, said, “She joined the bus departing at 5 a.m. packed with residents and first responders to go to D.C. to lobby for the passage of the James Zadroga bill—she was the only [city] elected official to do this.”

Hughes had a few more accomplishments to add to Chin’s already impressive list.

“She has held hearings on Lower Manhattan’s unique issues, like the effect of increased tourism, parkland development and small business development,” Hughes said.

“This fall she led a march in Tribeca with Speaker Quinn to make our parks safe by stopping budget cuts to NYPD, mental health and homeless services,” she added.

Hughes said the council member has also been enormously helpful in mitigating the impacts of construction in Lower Manhattan, which is crucial in such a physically small area.

“Without fanfare, she quietly pulls people together to get work done and does a lot of good for our community,” said Hughes.

Chin is always eager to talk about the perks of her role as a council member and the important perspective it provides within the community. Chin’s favorite part of her job as a council member is all the people she gets to meet on a regular basis, whether it’s seniors, students or local business owners. She regularly attends performances and celebrations in her district and is consistently in awe of the diversity it confers.

“It’s wonderful to be able to represent a district I grew up in and to be able to find all the different treasures,” she said. “It’s got diversity of interest … it’s a great place.”

The council member added that she loves going shoe shopping among the area’s small businesses.

While Chin has many goals for her district’s future, she knows first and foremost it’s important to be realistic about storm recovery.

“The amount of devastation … it was really unprecedented,” she said, pointing out she’s spent almost 50 years in Lower Manhattan.

“We still have a lot of dark buildings,” she said. “Lower Manhattan is always so lit up.”

Chin also hopes District 1 will continue to be a place where “people love to live and work and visit.”

“We will continue to work on improving the quality of life, whether from complaints about traffic and noise or making sure we continue to build these neighborhoods as neighborhoods people love,” she said.

The council member has a vision for the future that includes more neighborhood interconnectedness. She said neighborhoods are accessible by walking and transportation, but New Yorkers are sometimes wary of taking advantage of this connectedness.

“It’s so easy to travel from one neighborhood to another,” she said. “Hopefully we can do more to let people know all neighborhoods are connected and easy to visit.”

According to Hughes, Chin “spends her days, evenings and weekends making Lower Manhattan even better and addressing the diverse and complex needs of residents and businesses.” Despite all her hard work, however, Chin still manages to have free time.

“I get enough sleep,” she said, laughing. She also practices tai chi, and said she’s always improving her skills.

“I love to go see movies,” she said, “But I prefer movies that are inspirational—movies with happy endings.”

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