Assemblymember Dana Levenberg represents the 95th district in the New York State Assembly. Her road to statewide elected office included a stint as chief of staff for former New York State Assemblymember Sandy Galef, time on the Ossining School Board, and four elected terms as Ossining Town Supervisor. On this episode of Policy Outsider, Assemblymember Levenberg speaks with Rockefeller Institute President Bob Megna about her path to the Assembly and the common thread that weaves together her work across different issues and different levels of government.


  • Honorable Dana Levenberg, New York State Assemblymember, Assembly District 95
  • Robert Megna, President, Rockefeller Institute
  • Transcript

    Transcript was generated using AI software and may contain errors.

    Joel Tirado 00:03

    Welcome to Policy Outsider presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. I’m Joel Tirado. Dana Levenberg represents the 95th district in the New York State Assembly. Her road to statewide elected office included a stint as Chief of Staff for former New York State Assembly Member Sandy Galef, time on the Ossining school board and four elected terms as Ossining town supervisor. On this episode of Policy Outsider, Assemblymember Levenberg speaks with Rockefeller Institute President Bob Megna about her path to the assembly and the common thread that weaves together her work across different issues and different levels of government. That conversation is up next.

    Bob Megna 01:05

    Hi, I’m Bob Megna, from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, and we’re here with a program we’re running where we’re interviewing legislators, freshman legislators or legislators who are new to the legislature. And today we have Dana Levenberg, and she’s an assembly member from the 95th district, which covers portions of Westchester and Putnam counties along the Hudson River. Welcome to the show.

    Dana Levenberg 01:38

    Thank you so much, Bob. And thanks so much for the opportunity to talk to you and the Rockefeller Institute. And thanks for doing this series. No,

    Bob Megna 01:47

    great, and and we’re actually getting some great things out of it. So, again, Ken, why don’t we start with the basics? Why don’t you share a little bit about your background? Why you decided to run for office? And we know that you have a public service background that extends back further than the assembly? So why not just talk a little about you? Absolutely.

    Dana Levenberg 02:12

    Sure. Well, I mean, some of the, you know, the significant parts of my background are that I, well, I learned a lot about advocacy from being being in the PTA and being becoming a leader, you know, as President of this and that PTA. And then I got very involved in schools, and it’s sort of like a natural sort of female rise or not rise, but whatever directive direction that I took, because I, again, I started out advocating for my kids in school, and then I learned about advocacy. And then I went on to run for school board. I served on the school board for nine years. And about my first year in I guess, I started working for Assemblywoman Sandy Galen, who represented what was essentially the district that I’m now representing. I worked with her for eight years. One is her communications director part time and then full time as her chief of staff, mostly running her district office, I didn’t spend a lot of time in Albany, I spent a lot of time working on, you know, constituent issues, making sure that we put together programs where she was reaching out to the public newsletters, and really just engaging with the public. I also learned a lot the Regional Economic Development Councils were introduced. And I became very involved in that because it seemed to me like knowing how those worked really helped the district and helped bring money back to the district. So I got very involved in that I learned a lot about Sing, sing, which is in the district because they wanted to put a sing, sing prison museum project together. So that’s something that I learned about. And that also sort of helped me learn about this economic development and how the grants worked was a great experience. Of course, also working for Sandy. I learned a lot about reform and elections, fair elections, and all sorts of things in education, financing, and you know how funding flows to the school districts. So it was a great opportunity for me to learn. Sandy was also just a great mentor in general, and really helped a lot of specifically a lot of women but men to sort of get their sea legs in local government, and when an opportunity arose to run for a local position on the tent on the town board in the town of Ossining. She encouraged me to run which I did and originally, I thought I was running for council seat, but I ended up running for the town supervisor seat and winning. So I served as the oceny town supervisor for seven years and then Sandy announced her retirement as I was going into My, the last year of my fourth term, and, and she was happy that I was I decided that I would be interested in running for her open seat. So that’s that’s sort of what my trajectory was to get here. Why would I want to run for assembly? Well, I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with just, you know, making an impact on your community. And my mission is building healthy communities, I sort of something that I kind of came to, as I was town supervisor, I was very into environmental issues, very into economic development, and making sure again, that we brought money back and infrastructure improvements. Also making sure that we were, I say, environmentally healthy, economically healthy, physically and mentally healthy. All through the lens of equity. I started the equity task force in the town of Ossining, very focused on how we can bring equity into our government operations and in general into our society, because I think it’s sorely lacking and it needs a lot more attention. So running for assembly was an opportunity, again, for me to take some of those important missions and bring them to the next level, and expand my reach, and, you know, hopefully be able to have a positive impact on many communities and not just the one that I was living in.

    Bob Megna 06:24

    You know, that’s very interesting, because, you know, you had a pretty significant job at the local level as town supervisor, where I’m sure you were making decisions on a daily basis about things that were happening in Ossining now that you’re a freshman legislator, it, you know, can you talk a little about the differences and about what you what your first year and a half or plus has been? Like?

    Dana Levenberg 06:56

    Absolutely. And yes, you’re right. It’s funny when I was, I was turning 40, my husband threw a birthday party for me, and I really didn’t have a career at the time, I decided, after having been in television and on air promotion, and all sorts of things. You know, I took a little break when I had when I kids, and I was a stay at home mom for a little while. And so at some point, you know, some of my very strong women in my life were like, What are you doing? Like, when are you going back to work already? Like what’s taking so long? And, and so my husband threw this party for me when you know, what was what are you going to be when you grow up kind of thing. And everybody came to the party with the ideas for me, and my sister gave me the thing, this little, you know, thing that you put on your desk, great that said, the boss, because I’m an older sister, so I’m bossy. So that’s how she characterized me at least. But I loved being the boss, as town supervisor, and I was, you know, the top elected, obviously, and I was a legislative sure I legislate tour, as you know, as part of the five person council as well as administrator because I was a strong supervisor, which, you know, nobody can see me making my strong muscle. But I like to, I like to be strong supervisor, because I also got to get my hands dirty. And I got to really learn. And I think that the theme for me, even going into this assembly seat is I like to just kind of be constantly learning. And so all of these opportunities that I’ve had in my life, and I don’t think that I set out ever to be an elected official when I was younger, even though my dad was really into politics. It was something that was like, okay, yeah, I like to stuff envelopes for Andy McGuire. I grew up in New Jersey. So, you know, I worked on congressional campaigns and local school board campaigns and all sorts of things. But I didn’t, it wasn’t necessarily what I chose for my path. It was just sort of me getting involved helping my dad, and you know, again, helping society. But as an assembly member, this first year and a half has been an opportunity for me to really learn and understand and I have learned so much. And while I of course, learned a lot working for Sandy, I didn’t really see how the sausage gets made in to the extent that I am seeing that now, you know, being up in Albany, just having all of this collegiality with colleagues meeting, you know, so many colleagues and I have to say that every time one of my colleagues gets up, and just listening to what everybody has to say, especially in our majority conference, at conference, I’m just so impressed. I find what people have to say, just really thrilling because they’re there everybody’s coming from their own district, their own needs and you know, really bringing to the forefront what their issues are. And again, it you know, during debate, during comments on resolutions, you just really get a sense of people reading about them and you No, in a city and state of the Empire reporter who, you know, all of the different things are listening to the radio again, you know, hearing interviews that that people do, you really get a sense of where people are coming from, how they’re representing their district, and really digging in deep to some of these issues. And I just, I really have learned so much from my colleagues. And I know the areas that I’ve really focused on which you’re probably going to ask me next. But, you know, continued to be the environment. I think, just coming from working on the SingSing prison Museum, I’ve met a lot of people working at SingSing, on reform, and education, you know, inside the walls and making it possible for people to get out and get out on a strong foot. So I’ve kind of like also dug in a little bit to criminal justice reform, that’s been an issue that I’ve been focused on housing, you know, we know that we have this housing crisis. And one of the things that we hear about the most from our constituents is that they can’t afford to continue to live here, they can’t find housing, where they can live for any length of time, and, you know, count on being able to have stable housing in one place. So it’s something that I’ve, again, kind of dug into also, with my colleague, Chris Burdick, also from Westchester County just butts up against me, sort of, to the eastern to the eastern part of my district. And so we’ve been working very closely on trying to figure out how we can do better with with housing and building housing, but also protecting people in their current houses. So whether it’s, you know, kind of tax reform tenant protections, again, yes, we do need incentives for municipalities and developers to improve infrastructure so that we can put put in place housing, but we also really need to build smart, smart communities. And we have to think about how we’re building out instead of continuing the sprawl that was started, you know, so many years ago, the suburbs, in my opinion, just don’t really do justice, even though we all want to, you know, sort of get out of the city, or that’s why many of us landed where we did, and be able to commute into the city if we need to, again, not all of us have to do that anymore, because of so many more people are working remotely. But you know, I think it’s really, again, it’s really important that we focus on housing. So again, digging into these issues, housing, climate justice, issues of equity, issues of an education continues to be at the forefront, as well as fair pay for labor and making sure that, you know, we’re very focused on home health care workers, making sure that not only seniors, but people who rely on home health care workers are getting the supports that they need. And in general, health care is such a priority and such a difficult one, because we’re paying through the ears, you know, through the teeth or everything for for, to actually make sure that we can stay healthy. And it’s just a system that is really broken. And, you know, we’re just kind of doing this patchwork to fix it versus what we could really be doing much, much better, in my opinion, if we had something like a single payer health care system, certainly at the federal level, that would be you know, the best. But if we were could do that at state level, too. So I kind of did, I sort of touched on a bunch of different issues that have been my priorities. Again, all kind of focused around like people’s like, well, what is your one most important thing? Well, Building Healthy Communities is my one most important thing. And those are the elements that create healthy communities is you know, stable housing, good education, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink an environment that we can, we can actually rely upon to you know, give us joy, and also give us air again, that that air to breathe and food to eat, making sure that we have food on the table. And yeah.

    Bob Megna 13:59

    Oh, that’s great. And one of the things you mentioned, I worked early in my career as a staffer for ways and means in the assembly. Yeah, I think the best show in Albany that no one ever gets too sick, is the democratic conference. In the assemble. Yeah, for the reasons you stated. And it’s, it’s a shame in a way because it gives you know, 100 plus members an opportunity to talk to the other members about the stuff that’s really on their mind. And it is an interesting thing.

    Dana Levenberg 14:37

    So it is true, and but it and it’s also interesting, because, you know, because it is that’s the one piece that doesn’t have to actually be in the sunshine. It’s something that where people feel free to speak. Again, you only get three minutes per whatever for time, but it is an opportunity where you really hear again, what people’s priorities are, where they’re coming from, you know, what could make or break their future, as as a legislator, because you know, if well, if I vote on, you know, I can’t support this, because my community isn’t there, even if I believe in it, like the people who I represent and don’t necessarily agree with it. And sometimes, you know, that’s really, that really is a challenge. But, you know, hopefully, your morals and values align with your district. And that’s why you got voted in to office in the first place. So hopefully, you’re able to stick to those morals and values strongly. Because you know, that people voted for you, because they believe in you. And they believe that you can, that you’re going to do the right thing. But sometimes it’s hard because social media is, you know, really cruel to people. And, you know, it really, you know, you can really, people really hit below the belt and accuse you of things, you know, but again, this isn’t my first, you know, rodeo here. I mean, I’ve been in elected office school board for nine years. And then town supervisor, you know, I was elected four times for two year terms. So for seven years there, and then obviously working for Sandy, even though I wasn’t I didn’t hold a seat, I saw sort of, you know, the lay of the land, I guess you could say, at least, you know, how she operated, and, you know, understanding how to sometimes tackle difficult issues. And and I don’t always do great at that, you know, I sometimes I do have a little bit of, you know, sometimes a little bit of Foot and Mouth, because I do sometimes just say what I believe and sometimes that can actually backfire. Hopefully it doesn’t like I said, hopefully, people are like, yeah, go, Dana. That’s why we have you there. But you know, right now, I have had a lot of support. I did have a interesting primary, you know, running last time, and that, again, informed a lot of the decisions that I made and how I move forward. But also, all of the various and sundry groups that maybe were behind this person or that person really coalesce behind me very strongly for the general election. But way beyond that, now, I just have tremendous support throughout my district. I think because people see, so even the doubters, you know, are like no, I really think this person is going to be better for us are seeing how hard I work for all of my communities. And, you know, it’s just important to, you know, show up and be there and be at, you know, as many events as you possibly can be in your district when, when we’re here, and then when we’re up in Albany really fighting for for our communities and what their needs are and making sure that they’re that their needs are getting met, which, you know, sometimes it’s really tricky. I mean, one of the hardest things is getting our roads fixed. And that’s, you know, I have to say that’s probably the number one hit that we get in emails and phone calls, like wondering how to fill the potholes, you know, we right now as certainly as pothole season, but you know, our roads in the in Region eight, which is the D O T region that that might 95th assembly district is in. We’re supposedly according to some Construction Industry Council friend of mine, we’ve been rated with the worst roads in the state. And, you know, when we ask, How can we get some more money here for Region eight? We’re like, well, we don’t do it that way in the assembly, you know, but for many, many years, my understanding again, I’m not pointing fingers because I wasn’t here exactly then. But you know, Long Island was getting a lot, a lot, a lot of borrowed money. So really working hard. I’ve been working hard with my colleague, Mary Jean Schinsky. And she’s just south me Tarrytown and sort of South Greenberg. On route nine, a nine A is sort of, you know, a very busy highway that runs through many of my communities and hers. And it needs to be transformed, not to mention repaved, but it’s got a lot of low bridges that that trucks hit and it doesn’t have doesn’t have any shoulders. So it’s not really that safe of road and you know, traffic has increased exponentially on that road since it was originally built. It’s very difficult to rebuild roads, you know, once they’re there and in communities and, and so we’ve had a number of we did Sandy and Pete harcombe, Senator Pete harcombe, were able to get about $3 million to do a study of this route and against Central in my district and it now the study is sort of coming to a completion and now we have the recommendations for sort of next steps and they’re expensive, so we’re trying to get money again, targeted to that. I also have the Hudson line running right through my district. We know and I learned a lot of this from again, my Greek focus on climate change that was, you know, how is it going to be impacting our communities. And I know that that the Hudson line is actually going to be underwater in about 75 years. It already is underwater in parts, when it floods, but like, really, because of sea level rise, you know, we’re gonna see the Hudson come up onto the, onto the land, to where it will cover over the tracks. So again, Mary Jane shamsky. And I have both been very focused on making sure that we address this now is, you know, we can’t wait 75 years, because it takes that long to get the studies done, get figure out what what actually needs to happen. And, you know, these are some of the infrastructure improvements that are critical to our communities, making them more livable, making communities more bikable and walkable and having access to public transportation. So again, all things that I’ve been really, really focused on, I can’t remember what question I was answering. No,

    Bob Megna 21:05

    you’re doing great. Thank you. And I think, you know, I remembered that chips, funding for transportation is always a big issue where the legislature is always concerned that not enough is being spent, especially on local roads. You know, you talked a little bit about this already. But moving forward, now that you’ve been there for a while, and you have all the experience, you talked about, what are the things you you’d most like to see, you know, get done over the next year or two? Well,

    Dana Levenberg 21:39

    I certainly think that climate change is a critical priority that we have to address. And I really want to see the New York heat act get passed, where we stop subsidizing the build out of gas infrastructure. And instead, we can subsidize the build out of energy infrastructure, we really look very hard at what our infrastructure needs are, and how we can transition to a clean green economy. I think that has got to be at the top of the list, because, to be honest, were probably 50 years behind in addressing this. And we know that because we’re seeing the floods, we’re feeling the heat, we’re feeling the the extreme weather conditions and having these experiences is making it harder and harder for people to live comfortably in our communities. And of course, it threatens housing and infrastructure and everything else. So if we don’t, if we don’t seriously address it, by finding ways to segue off of our reliance on fossil fuels, we’re never going to get to where we need to be for our children or grandchildren, etc. And even for our own selves, because we’re going to be here and suffering through the extreme heat if we don’t address these very, you know, critical issues. And we and so we have to get our buildings, you know, off of fossil fuels, we have to build up that grid, we have to put battery energy storage in place. One of my my bills that I that I’ve been trying to get which I considered low hanging fruit, and it’s passed the Senate a number of times, and again, Sandy introduced it, but it’s a big focus of mine is getting rid of the need for an alienation of Parkland bill if you want to put solar canopies over parking lots in municipal parks. So right now, if I want to put up a solar canopy structure, maybe you’ve seen them, you may have seen them college campuses, sometimes train stations, it’s like a roof over the parking lot. It’s fantastic. It’s great again, for you know, Parks people or beaches. You know, I was talking about Jones Beach, we have huge, these huge parking lots and their roofs. If you were to be able to put solar canopies over all these parking lots, we really would help build out that solar infrastructure in places that are already cleared. So we’re not, you know, asking you to take up precious farmland and you know, we’ve heard a lot from our ag communities that they don’t want, you know, solar to just take over all the farmland, we need that farmland we do. We don’t want to have to cut down millions of trees to put up solar because we need our trees to you know, all these things that we need. So finding the balance. We already have this clear parking lots, we could put up those solar canopies. It’s you know, they really help a lot to be able to tie in and, and so the bill actually exempts the Catskills in the Adirondacks, but would not require a municipality to have to get a home rule message and alienation of Parkland from the from the legislature every time they want to put a solar canopy up over an already built parking lot in one of their parks. So I’m working on that, you know, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction, we may end up having to do a pilot with just one county. I know Westchester County is very interested in it. But I’m hoping that we can get the whole state taken care of in one shot so that those who see this as an easy way towards, you know, adding solar into the mix can do it. So that’s, you know, we also have, you know, clean energy coming down from upstate, that needs to get cited, you know, going through our communities. And again, nobody wants anything in their backyards, but we need it. And so finding ways finding, like good paths forward, where we can actually make improvements to communities at the same time, as we’re bringing clean energy from upstate downstate, I think is a good thing for everybody. And it’s something that we need to do. And you know, I have Indian Point, the closure of Indian points been very traumatic for many in my district, because, no, there was a lot of job loss. There’s a lot of tax revenue loss from Indian Point for our school districts in the area. And at the same time, you know, we have this company Holtec that wanted to finish up the job and put the treated water just dumped the rest of the treated water into the Hudson. And we had so much pushback statewide, and all of the community, so many county executives, again, both sides of the aisle who said, No, you we can’t keep using our Hudson River as an industrial waste site, which it has been for years, and we’re still trying to get the PCBs out of it. So you know, something that I really was fighting for, alongside all of the people who reached out to us and alongside my, my Senate partner, Pete harcombe, was even the Hudson from dump from Holtec dumping. But we still have to figure out what to do with the waste, so that they can close the site down and have potential to put something else there. But having the loss of that energy is really significant. So making sure that we do focus on again, a clean or cleaner, greener future is something that I’m working very hard on with my, with my colleagues in the in the Senate and the Assembly, there’s many bills, there’s the climate Superfund Act, which would find polluters for what they’ve done, as well as you know, how they’ve added to climate change. And then, again, the New York heat Act, which would get rid of the 100 foot rule, which is, you know, making sure that there’s gas infrastructure within 100 feet of every home, we could have that for energy, but not it doesn’t it shouldn’t be for gas, like we shouldn’t have this focus on the gas, and making sure that and again, subsidizing that infrastructure build out, it just doesn’t make sense when we know we have to be, you know, segwaying off of the fossil fuels. So again, just making sure that we’re moving forward in the right direction for the for the environment. This year. Right now, we’re talking about in our budget, making sure that foundation aid is not going to undercut the ability for school districts to serve their students. And we have a lot of need in across the across the state. And we need to make sure that the funding is distributed in a way that school districts can count on to make sure they can provide the programs and services that an education that that that all of our parents and the students have come to rely upon so that we can have an educated

    Dana Levenberg 28:46

    public. So that’s really important that the governor did change the way that the formula was calculated this year. We think that the many of my colleagues and I feel that the foundation aid formula is 20 years old, it needs to be looked at it needs to be retooled, and then there needs to be a bridge to get to it so that we are actually just li divvying up the state funds for education, which is significant. But we want to make sure that it’s again getting out to school districts in a way that that fills the needs for the students that they have to educate and helps offset especially around not outside New York City, the the property tax impact. So education, environment, and housing. And so housing. My colleague Chris Burdick and I actually held a housing summit in October of 2023. And we brought in our municipal officials, we brought in housing experts, planners, and some lawyers and some some we were at paste land use Law Center and they helped us as well as brought we brought in RTA rpa, the Regional Planning Association, I got an RTA and RPA. So, but the Regional Plan Association that does these 50 year plans for the metropolitan area, they sort of helped us by bringing again talking to, and we also had housing, housing authorities, housing groups that county, Westchester County was there. So lots of different people came to the table to talk about what can we do about housing? How can we move forward, and this was sort of in response to the governor’s housing compact that didn’t wasn’t moving forward, didn’t move forward in the budget last year. And then we ended up with nothing. And we know we can’t just do nothing about housing. So again, we talked to our municipal officials about the some of the pushback that we had been hearing, and a lot of it was around home rule and stepping on toes, and for the state to be telling, you know, communities how they need to put housing in place or build up their housing that that that was revolting. Nope, can’t do that. So we were again, reaching out to all these people to come together. And we also had developers in the room, especially developers who do a lot of affordable housing. And that, and again, that’s, you know, sort of getting some of the point of it is like, how do we build out housing that’s affordable at multiple levels. And then we also have communities that are livable. And, you know, how can we do all that here in Westchester, and Putnam counties? After that, suddenly, Ben Burdick and I have been working on legislation in response to what we heard from, you know, what were some common ground that we heard, and, you know, we heard what we need more sticks, I mean, more carrots, sorry, we need more carrots, and not as many sticks. But we need some sticks, we need a little stick side, you know, maybe a little push. But you know, it shouldn’t be devastating. And one of the things that, you know, I talked about was that our previous governor went to look at police reform, asked communities to develop their own plans for how they’re going to reform their departments to address some of the concerns that arose out of George Floyd and out of Black Lives Matter and all of those issues, and that came to the fore again, during the pandemic. So that that sort of seemed like a potential model for some legislation. And one of the bills, that is part of this package that Chris Burdick and I have introduced, is about creating a housing action plan for everyone, I call it happy. And really trying to figure out how we can move forward to have housing in place that’s affordable for the people that live here, but also people that work here. So Chris, is Bill’s look at putting together a comprehensive plans in communities and really deciding if your, your comprehensive plan is way too old, if you didn’t ever have one, you know, putting one together and making sure that you like look at affordable housing, and you know, housing affordability in that putting together and then the second bill of his is actually doing housing needs assessment. However, coming coming up, really evaluating what your housing situation is currently in your community. And then my bill is putting together that housing action plan. And, you know, hopefully, as these we just really introduced these last week, and as these get rolled out, I’m sure that they will get amended, hopefully, I don’t think they’re going to make it into the budget this year. But at some point, we do think that there are there is going to have to be some kind of fiscal note attached to actually give those incentives to communities. And then the last one that I’m going to be working on, which is really has to do with smart growth around transit with climate change in mind. And that’s really come up because of my district being along the Hudson and seeing what’s really happening with climate change. And thinking, well, we don’t want to just build transit oriented development real, a lot of density arrayed around the train station, because our train station is going to be again underwater, you know, not not, not too distant future. So we need to think about that. And make sure that we are, you know, developing smartly and not, not just doing it, because there’s a train there now. So, really thinking about, again, how climate change impacts how we build in and that really, again, has a lot to, you know, inform infrastructure in general, and we heard a lot from our communities that we don’t have the, you know, we don’t have the water and sewer that we need. And we know, again, our we do have aging infrastructure in New York state. So we’re going to need to make sure that we can put the pieces into place so that the housing that gets developed around around us is not going to collapse. And has has the the support it needs to, to, to sustain the people that live in it.

    Bob Megna 35:29

    Great. Thank you for that. And look, I do think that the environment in terms of both energy usage and climate, as well as housing are the two issues you’re going to be dealing with for the next decade. I think they’re not going away, and they’re only getting more serious. Absolutely. Let me sum up and ask you a question. I think one of the good things of the past 20 years, is the legislature has become much more diversified a lot more women in the legislature. Huge. You mentioned, being a mother and also a legislator. Um, how do you think that experience, you know, affects you as a legislator? And and how, you know, what does that help you bring to the job,

    Dana Levenberg 36:25

    I’m sorry, I have to I have two grown, grown sons 26, and soon to be 29. And my oldest son is getting married and very excited about that. And he’s hopefully going to be graduating from law school I anticipate with with honors, very soon, and going off to work for environmental policy firm. So certainly, and my younger son is hopefully going to continue on a path towards becoming a wildlife biologist. And that’s very cool. So I mean, certainly, all of my experiences, as I said, evolved out of being a mother and advocating for my kids. I mean, even my focus on the environment, I now have to say, my, I have to give my husband credit for really starting me on this path. Because, you know, even since we, since we got married, you know, he’s always like, why do you need to use saran wrap? Can you put that in a container, we don’t need to use oil, turn off the lights, like, let’s you know, and we, I mean, since the very beginning, I’ve sort of taken his lead on on so many things, but as we see the environment, you know, tanking, you know, putting more and more of an effort around that it has hasn’t for me, and but again, for my kids, right, you know, like we’re supposed to leave the earth better. And we know, we’re not doing that. So having, you know, talking to your kids about that than them continuing to have kids. It’s a scary time. And we know that there’s a lot of people who are not planning to reproduce, because they’re nervous about what’s next, you know, so I think that, again, as a mother, looking at that, that’s something that certainly informs my focus, I guess you could say, and even housing right now, you know, my kids got moved to Brooklyn, my son and his fiancee moved to Brooklyn. And they were during, I guess, you know, shortly after the pandemic, and rents were still really low in the city, and then they were jacking them up, like some crazy amount, you know, and so seeing those things, those that’s for our kids, you know, we’re seeing that and like, Okay, well, I’m glad that you can afford that. But, you know, how, what percentage of your income are you actually putting into your rent right now. It’s crazy. It’s an and seeing that for, you know, my kids, my and my kids, my friends, my kids, friends, and, you know, our, that generation really makes you nervous. And, again, I’m having that as well as all of my colleagues with their little kids. Now we have, you know, a lot of women who have babies, and there’s childcare available to them, which is great. There’s so much more focus on childcare, and I got to give the governor credit for that. And, you know, I think it really does change when you have two women and one man in the room versus three men in a room. I think it makes a huge, huge difference. And again, like again, I don’t I want to just say, you know, the how our conversations over gender over the last few years. It has been fascinating, fascinating, and I really think so positive that gender isn’t just black and white, he and she anymore It’s, there’s gray, there’s, you know, and I think that that also has informed our decisions that and really, you know, having so many more people of color in our, in our conference changes every ever how we talk about all of our issues. And it’s critical that we do that, because these are the people in our state, these are the people that life should be better for. And we want to make life better for everybody in New York State. And no matter what the color of the skin, their skin, no matter how they identify, no matter who they love, you know, we need to make sure that people have the potential to have happy, productive lives, and they can pass that on. And literally, that’s what, that’s our common denominator, we all want it to be better for the next the next generation. And whether you’re a parent or not, whether you’re a parent of a fluffy animal, you know, I mean, not a parent, but you know, your caretaker, it doesn’t you don’t have to be a parent. It certainly has informed us though, you know, again, as you as you asked, you know, again, it’s informed me because it’s how I got my start. And that’s why I guess why I’m here.

    Bob Megna 41:17

    Listen, I want to thank you for the time that you’ve spent, this has been great. I think it’s always great to hear from new legislators, and you know, what they’re feeling what they’re seeing and how they’re approaching the job. So I want to thank you again, for doing this.

    Dana Levenberg 41:33

    Well, I think you and I thank you for your many years of public service as well. And, you know, again, I think we can’t none of us can do it alone. All of us, you know, we rely so much on so many groups, advocates, family, and our friends and colleagues. And it’s only by working together that we’re going to get anywhere in this world. And I’m so grateful. Again, I’m grateful to the Rockefeller Institute for all the good work that you do and digging into issues and making, making things make sense for people. And again, we rely on on institutions, educational institutions, to help us and help us inform us as we make decisions that will hopefully make New York a better place to live for many, many years and centuries to come.

    Joel Tirado 42:36

    Thanks again to Assemblymember Dana Levenberg for joining us on policy outsider and sharing more about her experience as a public servants. Stay tuned with new episodes as we continue to interview recently elected legislators to provide more insight into how they approach serving their constituents and setting state policy.

    Joel Tirado 43:06

    Policy Outsider is presented by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The Institute conducts cutting-edge nonpartisan public policy research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the challenges facing New York state and the nation. Learn more at or by following RockefellerInst. That’s i n s t on social media. Have a question comment or idea? Email us at [email protected].

Policy Outsider

Policy Outsider” from the Rockefeller Institute of Government takes you outside the halls of power to understand how decisions of law and policy shape our everyday lives.

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