Mariya Markh, a long-time City Council staffer from Sheepshead Bay who most recently worked as a community liaison to City Hall, has declared for the 2021 Democratic primary in the 48th City Council District.
“In 2022, when the next Councilmembers are going to come in, it’s hopefully going to be the tail end of the pandemic; there’s not going to be any time for a learning curve,” Markh told Hamodia on Monday, in her first interview since announcing her candidacy for the seat being vacated by the term-limited Chaim Deutsch. “I want to make sure that the district has the experience and the leadership, so that we will be able to recover from this.”
Markh, 33, immigrated to the United States in 1990 from the former Soviet Union. Her traditional Jewish family first lived in Queens before moving to Midwood when she was in third grade. Since then, Markh has spent her entire life in the 48th Council District. She currently lives in Sheepshead Bay with her husband Lenny, who serves as chief of staff to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, and their 2-year-old daughter.
Markh began volunteering with political campaigns in 2006, and in 2009 got her first paid political job, on the reelection campaign of Councilman Lew Fidler. She then served as a staffer to Fidler until 2014, then for two years each with Councilmen Chaim Deutsch and Alan Maisel, all while volunteering on some 35 political campaigns.
In 2019, Markh was hired by the de Blasio administration as a liaison to the Russian community, later serving also as senior liaison to Brooklyn Community Boards 13 and 15. She resigned from City Hall last week, prior to announcing her Council bid.
A major plank of Markh’s campaign is “the COVID recovery and everything that comes with that.”
The candidate says the city should provide free counseling to businesses to help them apply for the many existing programs, including those by the federal government.
“When it came to the first round of the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, for example, people didn’t know how to apply. People missed out on deadlines, and even when they did submit everything in a timely fashion, the money ran out.”
She would also like to see the city provide grants to businesses to help them keep employees, because if the employees are laid off, “they would be going to food pantries, they would be going to get on to other programs. The money is going to be spent one way or another.”
Since much of the 48th district lies on or near the Atlantic Ocean, Markh says the city needs to work with entities, including the Army Corps of Engineers, on “major infrastructure projects,” and that she will advocate for the city to address the long-term risks to infrastructure.
“A lot of the district, unfortunately, within 50 years may be subject to annual flooding,” the candidate says. “So we have to do what we can now to help mitigate that.”
Following a year of noted tensions between police and some civilians in New York and around the country, and a sharp rise in shootings and murders across the city, the self-described “moderate Democrat” is advocating a “tough on crime” approach combined with an effort to “reinforce the trust between the public and the NYPD.”
“I think we should be tough on crime,” Markh says. “But I think we also have to make sure that everybody is treated in a fair way.
“Unfortunately, what we saw in the summer with all of the protests and everything that happened, there is a big disconnect — not so much in the 48th Council Districts, but more so in other parts of the city — between the NYPD and some communities. I want to work with the NYPD to build back that trust. We have to be able to count on our officers not only to solve crimes, but also to be part of our communities.”
Markh opposes some of the police reforms enacted last year, including a $1 billion decrease in the NYPD budget, along with removing certain responsibilities from the police, such as homeless outreach and street-vendor enforcement. And she says that the NYPD’s plainclothes anti-crime unit “needs to be brought back.” The unit, which was largely responsible for taking illegal guns off the street, was disbanded in June by Commissioner Dermot Shea, partly because the unit was the subject of a disproportionate number of complaints of overaggressive tactics.
Markh says “I definitely don’t agree with a lot of things that Mayor de Blasio has done” with regard to crime and policing, but “the community policing, I think, is a really good thing, because I’ve seen that in action. And I’ve seen the way that police officers that are part of the NCO program [neighborhood coordination officers, who serve as liaisons between the police and the community] specifically, are able to get information a lot of the time that a random officer that’s getting a 911 call doesn’t necessarily have. So that I think is a really great program, and I’ve seen that work in a successful way.
“But we are still seeing massive crime, and it’s something that is very, very concerning.”
Markh believes the secular-studies curricula at private schools “should be up to the parents and the schools.” She says the city should give a suggested curriculum but, ultimately, each school should be free to create whatever curriculum it wishes — provided that it makes clear to the parent body the nature of its curriculum.
“I went to public school almost my entire life,” says Markh, “but my first school was yeshivah, a kindergarten in Queens I attended for one year. During that year, we had half a day of secular and half a day of religious teaching. And even at that young age, the secular education was there. It was, if not better than, the same as in public school.”
She also would like to see government financial support for private schools.
“The reason that I was only in yeshivah for one year is because I had a scholarship for exactly one year,” she says. “My parents could not afford to put me into yeshivah for longer than that. I think that there should be opportunities for any child to be able to go to the schools that either they or their families choose, and get the kind of education that they deem fit for themselves. So if a family decides that they want to send their child to yeshivah, there should be some kind of mechanisms that are available to that family so that they can.”
While she says that the actual funding for private schools would typically come from states, there are ways the city can help. For example, at times during the COVID pandemic, public schools were closed while private schools were allowed to be open — but the private schools could not get their city-provided bus service. “Those children were allowed to go get their education, but the parents weren’t able to get them to the schools without the buses. We can’t link the bus schedule to public school schedules; that’s a really important thing.”
Likewise, Markh would like to see increased city funding for security at private schools. Currently, the city provides security funding only for private schools with at least 300 students, and none for houses of worship.
“There should never be a situation where somebody is scared to go and pray,” says Markh, a traditional Jew who attends a Conservative synagogue with a Modern Orthodox Rabbi. “When there were shootings and other anti-Semitic incidents around the country, my shul started locking its doors. I heard that from so many other people as well. It’s so incredibly upsetting, but that’s what they had to do because they could not afford to hire security.”
Markh on Other Issues:
Taxation: Markh says she supports raising taxes only on “those making more than $1 million per year.”
Sanctity of life: “Ultimately, it’s a decision that a family would need to make with their doctors, their entire families, their spiritual leaders. A woman and a family should never have to answer to a bureaucrat when it comes to matters of her own health.”
On running in her first major political campaign: “I’ve done a lot of the behind-the-scenes things for a very long time. And I think that this community needs somebody who’s familiar, who’s ready on day one.”
Markh has received endorsements from Assemblymembers Steven Cymbrowitz and Helene Weinstein, Councilman Alan Maisel, and Democratic State Committeeman Brad J. Reid.
The Democratic primary is scheduled for June. Markh joins fellow Democratic nominees Amber Adler, Boruch (Boris) Noble and Steven Saperstein. Other rumored Democratic candidates include David Heskiel, a community liaison to Deutsch and police chaplain, and Heshy Tischler, a radio and social-media personality. Inna Vernikov, an attorney and activist, is thus far the sole Republican candidate.