2004_08_jessicalappin_large.JPGVital Stats:

- Jessica Lappin
- 29 years old
- District Chief of Staff to Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Candidate for City Council on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.
- Grew up on Manhattan's East Side; now lives on UES


Jessica's World:

As a young ‘un in NYC, was it always your ambition to work in politics? Especially City politics?
I have always had an interest in government and politics, and after spending a summer interning in Washington for (the late) Senator (Daniel Patrick) Moynihan, I was positive that I wanted to pursue a career in public service. But I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but New York. Local city politics was a great opportunity for me to do what I love in a place that I love.

Is it more fulfilling to work on a local level where you can see the changes more tangibly? How do you think this year's Federal Elections will affect, if at all, the progress of City government over the next year?
What happens at City Hall does have a direct and tangible effect on the cityscape, and it is very gratifying to walk down the street and literally see bus stops you saved or parks you help renovate. But, what happens nationally matters enormously as well.

I think a lot of voters don’t make the connection, but the results of the impending national elections will have a huge effect on the future of this city. If Bush wins in November, he will continue to short shrift New York in terms of anti-terrorism funding, transportation funding, and health care funding. That impacts projects like the 2nd Avenue subway; it means fewer cops on the streets; it could mean losing the VA hospital on First Avenue and 23rd Street. So, electing John Kerry is a priority for me.

Can you really fight City Hall?
I believe very strongly in the power of democracy. Writing letters, gathering petition signatures, and attending rallies – it works. Generally speaking, elected officials are responsive to the voters who elect them. So, yes, if you organize and demonstrate unified opposition to or support for a specific policy, people listen.

Much has been made about the apathy of our age group. Do you find that this is indeed the case?
I think that younger New Yorkers do tend to be less involved because they haven’t yet realized how much government impacts their daily lives. But, as my friends have started to think about buying homes, starting families, and investing in their neighborhoods, I see that changing. They are realizing how important it is to be informed and involved. Reading the regional news in the paper every day is a great way to start.

Do you find as much partisan politics within City Hall as we currently see on the federal and even state level?
The City Council is a very collegial group, and you don’t see the same ideological battles that you do at the state and federal level. But elected officials at all levels need to be mindful of the fact that they are elected to serve, and sometimes that means working together for the greater good. Being stubborn and refusing to negotiate gets you nowhere. Compromising doesn’t have to be a bad thing, so long as you stay true to your beliefs.

You’re planning to run for city council with an education platform. As a product of the city schools – Stuyvesant High yourself -- what will it take to fix them?
Our public schools are, quite literally, falling apart and bursting at the seams. How can we expect our children to learn when 40% of elementary schools are over capacity, 73% of high schools are over capacity, and almost all of them are crumbling? It’s a disgrace.

I was blessed with the opportunity to attend Stuyvesant, but it shouldn’t be Stuyvesant or bust. This Mayor needs to commit enough capital dollars to dramatically attack this problem over the next 5-10 years so we can repair crumbling facilities and build state of the art new ones.

How does one run for City Council? Aren't New Yorkers a bit too jaded to take glad-handing seriously?
New Yorkers are a jaded bunch, which makes street campaigning difficult, but still necessary. People want to vote for someone they have met, or know, or feel like they identify with in some way. Meeting voters at bus stops and town hall meetings does make an impression and is a critical part of any successful campaign.


Ten Things to Know about Jessica (with debts to Proust, Krucoff, Meyers-Briggs and previous G.I.s):

What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged from the street?
Furniture! I have certainly done my fair share of rescuing and abandoning over the years.

Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
East Post. A fantastic restaurant on 2nd Avenue. It’s my Cheers.

Gotham Madlib: When the ________________ (noun) makes me feel _______________ (adverb), I like to ______________ (verb). Feel free to answer, or explain your answer.
When the city makes me feel sweaty, I like to drink.

Personality problem solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you and vice-versa?
Since I was born and raised here, being a New Yorker is a key part of my personality.

NYC confessional: do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Rooftop barbeques.

When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
John Finley Walk along the East River.

What's the one place across the five burroughs you swear you'll check out, but probably never will?
The Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria.

Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
Taking the Lex Line during rush hour is enough to cause anyone to lash out from time to time.

311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
311 is helpful for small easy requests. Otherwise, you are better off calling your local elected officials.

There are 8 million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
Since I have always been a big fan of blinds, I really don't have a naked story to tell.


A product of the NYC public school system, Jessica Lappin serves as senior advisor to City Council Speaker Gifford Miller on issues such as education, health care and the environment and as his representative to a number of cultural institutions including NYC & Company, the New York Botanical Garden, BAM and the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design.

-- Interview by Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei