Interview with State Senate candidate Lisa Grey
By Ilya Galak
Would you give us a brief biography?
Both of my parents were born in Brooklyn of Italian descent. They grew up very poor, married very young and they gave birth to five children, two boys and three girls. I grew up in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn, where I attended PS 207, Marine Park JHS and James Madison HS. After graduating high school we moved to Staten Island. I secured a BS degree from St John’s University and my law degree from Brooklyn Law School. I am a Roman Catholic by faith, and I’m married to a NYPD detective.
What childhood influences shaped the person you became as an adult?
I’d have to say both of my parents have influenced me greatly. They instilled in me a love of country and an understanding of just how fortunate I am to be American. My mom worked outside of the home and still managed to raise five children. She is everything I aspire to be, intelligent, independent, strong, loving and caring. She is selfless and truly is my foundation and strength. My dad is one of the smartest people I have ever known; I always said if he had the opportunity to go to college, he could have been President of the United States. I don’t believe a topic existed that he could not discuss intelligently.
Who or what inspired your interest in law?
I’m not really sure. My family tells me that from the time I was a baby, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always respond “a lawyer”. I did attend the “Law Institute” at James Madison High School, which I found fascinating. I was hooked. As I grew older, I looked at the profession as an honorable one, with a great history, after all many of our founding fathers were attorneys. It is a profession which impacts people’s lives in a profound way. There is great satisfaction in knowing that you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life.
What part of your career made you most proud?
I was fortunate enough after graduating Brooklyn Law School to serve as a prosecutor with the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office under both William Murphy and Dan Donovan. I remember well what Mr. Murphy told me during my first interview: “A prosecutor’s job is to do justice” he said, then added “sometimes that means a person goes to jail, sometimes it means they don’t, and sometimes it even means a case get dismissed”. I fundamentally believe that as representatives of the people, whether as a prosecutor or defense attorney, we must insure that all people are treated fairly and that their rights, whether as a victim or an accused, are well advocated. I work hard at fulfilling this maxim every day and of that I am most proud.
When and why did you become interested in politics?
My interest in politics originated with my parents. They were well informed about local and national issues. Talk radio and the news were a part of everyday living and dinner conversation was dominated by political issues. This is the reason I chose to major in political science at St John’s University. Although “politics” can have a negative connotation, I believe that it should be an honorable profession and that all politicians should truly be public servants.
What inspired you to run for office, and why did you choose the 23rd senate district?
I see politics as a means to an end – a profession where you can do tremendous good for your community. I have lived in Staten Island since I was a teenager. I went to college here and have spent my entire working career in the district. My law office is on Bay Street. I know the district, its people, and its issues well. I want to be able to help maintain all that is good in the community and help fix all that is broken, and I believe that serving in the New York State Senate is the best way to do just that.
What qualities do you think you can bring to the state Senate that the incumbent lacks?
Independence and open-mindedness. My opponent consistently votes to benefit municipal unions – which is where virtually all of her campaign money comes from – even if that vote is to the detriment of the community. Certainly, municipal workers need protection, but so do private sector workers, small businesses, the elderly and the young. ALL of the resident’s of the district will get my full attention and energies.
As a freshman Senator, what would be your top priorities?
Jobs, education, toll relief and term limits. First and foremost, we must get people back to work and the economy back on track. That requires putting more money into the pockets of the working people in the state and on the businesses that must thrive in order to hire. We also must roll back excessive regulations that are strangling these same businesses. No longer can New York finish last in the nation when it comes to business friendliness.
We need to aggressively advance the cause of school choice. Charter schools and vouchers will not only insure that our children get the education that they need to compete in today’s world, but that they get the education they deserve.
For toll relief we must pass legislation that provides more governmental oversight of public authorities’ unrestrained power to use tolls as a private piggy bank without any accountability.
And finally, we need term limits. The fact that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver believed he could secretly give $103,000 in taxpayer money to cover up sexual harassment claims against Vito Lopez clearly illustrates the need for term limits. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Speaker has been in the assembly since the Carter Administration and his actions speak volumes; he believes he is no longer accountable to the people. Term limits will act as a safety net to ensure our representatives don’t become so entrenched and powerful that they believe in their own infallibility.
What is your vision of the 23rd Senate district over the next four years?
I want to see the people of the district flourishing, in a booming economy where the district is working, not collecting unemployment checks. I want to see parents having the option of sending their children to the schools of their choice instead of failing schools. I want to see a reduction in crime, where the police department and the community work hand in hand to ensure safe streets. I want to see the people of the district genuinely enjoying their community and all it has to offer.
How do you expect to beat an incumbent when she has a heavy advantage in party registration?
I believe in the people. I believe that they care about electing someone who will represent THEIR interests in Albany, rather than the special interests. I believe they want a better life for themselves and their children and they know that the status quo is not working. We don’t have to accept this and we can change this, but it will take someone with fresh ideas and a fresh approach. I believe that I am that person, and that if this race is about people, and not party registration, I will be honored to represent the 23rd Senate District in Albany.