Reshma Patel is the most qualified candidate for NYC Comptroller

Exclusive interview with the only South Asian running for a citywide office.  

By Parveen Chopra
Editor, The South Asian Times
Fellow, CCM NYC Election Reporting

Running extensive election coverage in recent weeks, The South Asian Times landed another exclusive interview, this time with Reshma Patel, the only South Asian running for a citywide office this election cycle and arguably the most qualified to be the next NYC Comptroller, replacing Scott Stringer. The MIT graduate has a long experience in finance. She has served as an advisor to the Comptroller’s office for a decade. She asserts that the Comptroller is like the city’s CFO whose  job it is to keep a check on the Mayor and the City Council. The India-born believes that her extensive outreach to various communities and efforts to get the vote out can take her to the finishing line in the Democratic primary on June 22. Philanthropist Meera Gandhi stood by during the interview and endorsed Reshma.

Excerpts from the interview:

  • The South Asian Times: Your background in finance and experience of already working with the city and Comptroller’s office make you the most qualified in this race, so how are you getting the word out?

Reshma Patel:  We’re getting the word out. I am running in a large field. There are 10 people in the race, 5 of them are elected officials who already have been out there campaigning. One of the main ways we are doing outreach is meeting with community groups, doing door knocking, and talking to people on the streets, and going to large outdoor events. Just last weekend, I went to several events and met with hundreds of people. We are also doing TV ads, social media posts and ads. We will do a few newspaper ads as well and send out mailers to people who are what we call prime voters, the people who always vote. Democratic primary being on June 22, we are also doing phone banking where we call in the evenings to people in different neighborhoods who would be our  likely voters to get the vote out.

  • The South Asian Times: Only a few weeks are left before the primary, and a little more than a week when early voting starts. So how do you plan to catch up with the front runners in the Comptroller’s race, people like Corey Johnson, NYC Council Speaker?

Reshma Patel:  Johnson obviously has the most name recognition and he entered the race after I entered it when there were only four people running. Yet, a recent poll says that almost half the voters are still undecided on who they want as Comptroller, or even Mayor. So, there is the opportunity and we are going to do this blitz. We are really working to get the vote out in different communities. My focus has been the Asian American and immigrant communities, which often don’t show up at the polls. If only we can get them out to vote, we can really change the results of this election.

  • The South Asian Times: We know you are not running for Mayor, but what do you see are the pressing problems facing the city and how would you solve them?

Reshma Patel:  The Comptroller is really the chief financial officer and the chief accountability officer who should hold the mayor and the city council in check. With everything that happened in New York City last year, we’ve had 631,000 people who lost their jobs, and a third of small businesses have closed. So, we have a lot of things that we need to fix. We got lucky with the Democrats gaining the majority in the US Senate. We are going to receive nearly $15 billion in federal assistance. The City was looking at a $5.3 billion budget deficit when I decided to run in January, the federal assistance has helped fill that gap.  But we really need to make sure that we use wisely the money we’re getting from the federal government and we track it because we have all these programs to fund. We need to make sure it helps those who were most impacted by the pandemic.

We need to also think about what happens when the money runs out and are we creating private sector jobs and how do we bring people back into the city so that we can support all these services and programs that we have and preserve our tax base.  We need to provide capital for our small businesses to make sure that they can get back on their feet. Some people will continue working remotely, some jobs will be lost permanently. And what kind of new businesses do we attract to New York City and what incentives do we provide them? We really need to invest in our arts economy, because that’s what brings the tourists here. Besides, a lot of people want to live here because of the restaurants, because of the culture, for the performances that they want to see.

  • The South Asian Times: We know you are an MIT graduate, but don’t you think having Blockchain technology on your platform is too abstruse for ordinary people? So, what is it and how can it help the city’s economy?

Reshma Patel:  I do agree it is relatively unknown, but Blockchain is a new technology, and it is financial technology. New York has always been the center of finance. I believe that we should also lead the way in financial technology. Other cities like Miami have been doing a lot to attract Blockchain companies. I think New York should not miss out on this opportunity. Blockchain would be very useful in government transparency, as it is about getting rid of the middlemen and creating trust. In financial technology you can have a transaction on the blockchain, and you eliminate, say, Visa in that process. Many small businesses are unable to contract with the city because it takes six months to a year for a contract to get approved and for them to get paid. But if we use smart contracts, we use blockchain, we can make the process more transparent. And multiple agencies that are involved in this process can all work together. Thus, we can create a more efficient process and a process that’s more inclusive and gives more opportunities to all our small businesses.

  • The South Asian Times: Can you  name a few organizations and people who  have  endorsed you?

Reshma Patel:  Ours has been a very grassroots, organic campaign to come about.  Several organizations that I have received endorsements from include: Roadmap for Progress, which is a national organization, a PAC that was formed to support Pete Buttigieg last year when he ran for President; Resilience PAC, an environmental group that gave me their Resilience builder seal; Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, and Progressive Women of New York.  I was also named a New American Leader Champion.

I also got shout out by another candidate for Comptroller. Last week I spoke at the 92 Street Y where they had a candidate forum and they asked every candidate, if not them, who would they want to be the Comptroller. And Brad Lander, a city council member, said that his second choice would be me if it wasn’t him.

  • Kamala Harris in the Vice President chair has broken many barriers for minorities and women to run for big office.

    The South Asian Times:  Who would be your choice for city Mayor?

Reshma Patel:  I have not decided because I’ve been busy with my campaign. The role of the Comptroller is to hold the Mayor accountable. So, I’m really thinking between several candidates and need to decide soon on this.

  • The South Asian Times: Are you supporting any candidate for New York City Council?

Reshma Patel:  Yes, there are candidates I have worked with, such as Sanjeev Jindal, who is running from Bellerose-Floral Park in Queens, and Nabraj KC in Whitestone/College Point. There are several other South Asian candidates who we haven’t officially cross-endorsed, but we are coordinating stuff together.  It’s actually a momentous time for South Asian candidates in New York City right now.

  • The South Asian Times:  Why do South Asians find it difficult to win citywide or statewide office? We remember Reshma Saujani and Suraj Patel fell short when they ran for Congress from New York.

 Reshma Patel:  Yeah, we don’t have any citywide elected official. We don’t even have an Indian or South Asian descent person in the City Council. Now a few Bangladeshis are also running for the council as are Indians. So, I think we will have somebody from the community this time in the council. And I think it has been hard partially because in the districts like the one where Sanjeev Jindal is running, or Amit Bagga, quite a few South Asians are all running in the same district. So that dilutes the vote. But this year will be different because of ranked choice voting. Hopefully, somebody will win, earning first and second choice votes. Even in a citywide race.

I can’t win with just votes from the South Asian community because we’re not large enough. So, my outreach has been wide–I’ve talked at many Chinese community events, Korean community events, especially the Chinese being one of the largest immigrant groups. And then obviously the African-American community and the Hispanic community being much larger, that their votes alone can help you win. But with our South Asian community you cannot do that.

  • The South Asian Times: Do you think ranked choice voting introduced this year in New York City elections is good – it will help minorities?

Reshma Patel: Yes. In other places like California and Maine, where they have ranked choice voting, it has helped elect non-traditional candidates, people who aren’t traditional politicians, and helped elect women and minorities. In New York the last time they had ranked choice voting was in 1937. And that’s the first time we had a woman and a black person elected to the city council.

  • The South Asian Times: You have worked with some community organizations like Sakhi and Chhaya. What was your experience like?

Reshma Patel:  I’ve been a long-time volunteer with Sakhi for South Asian Women, which works with victims of domestic violence. And I helped set up a scholarship fund for women coming out of abusive relationships in the memory of a friend who was a fellow volunteer who passed away. Chhaya is an immigrant rights organization; they started fighting for tenants’ rights because abusive landlords take advantage of immigrants from our community. But now we teach financial literacy. We got ten thousand people out to vote last year. We have ESL (English as Second Language) classes. We started a lending circle for people to start businesses. We support services to small businesses in the Jackson Heights and Richmond Hill area. This past year, with Covid, we set up a Covid relief fund to help those immigrants who weren’t qualifying for aid from the federal or state assistance programs. We did food distribution.

  • The South Asian Times: Are you still working with the Manhattan Community Board 6 as vice chair and what does it do?

Reshma Patel: All these other are volunteer positions — for Chhaya I was board co-chair. Manhattan Community Board 6 is something that you are appointed to by the Borough President and your City Council member. I’m vice chair of the Budget Committee and I’m on the Environment and Parks Committee. The community board is the lowest level of city government. About one hundred thousand people are in each community board and a lot of land use decisions are made at the community board level. Anybody who needs permits, for a building, opening a restaurant, or wanting a liquor license, they come to us. With the parks we oversee all the upgrades and new construction. And with the Budget Committee, we decide what in our community needs to be funded and then we advocate for it at the city.

  • “Every Person Counts” – Census outreach with Chhaya staff. Reshma Patel is Chhaya’s board co-chair.

    The South Asian Times: Tell us about your family, your hobbies and interests?

Reshma Patel: My parents live in Massachusetts and I grew up there. I live in New York by myself, I am single. I have a sister who lives in Columbus, Ohio, and she’s got two children, my nephew and niece. I have lots and lots of cousins.

As for my hobbies, I love to dance and the way I relax is by doing dance fitness classes or yoga. I also love traveling and I love the arts. I serve on the board of Dance/NYC, which is a service organization for the dance field. I’ve also been a founder and producer of plays for a community theater group called Alter Ego Productions. I’ve been very involved with the Asia Society and lots of other arts organizations over the years in New York City.

  •  The South Asian Times: You came to America as a child from India. So, do you have any interest in Indian politics?

Reshma Patel: I’m knee deep in American politics, but I do love India. And until the pandemic, I was traveling to India at least once or twice a year. I obviously don’t know as much about Indian politics as I do American politics, having never lived there.

Reshma Patel welcomes volunteers for her NYC Comptroller campaign. Go on her website: reshma2021.com or call: 9175325709.     

Meera Gandhi endorses Reshma Patel for Comptroller

Philanthropist Meera Gandhi and NYC Comptroller candidate Reshma Patel flanked by Mukesh Prasad and Sonali Prasad.

“I am the CEO and Founder of The Giving Back Foundation and a businesswoman who has raised a large family of three amazing children here in NY. I understand NY needs a real CFO who understands finance and so I am endorsing Reshma Patel for NY Comptroller. I am supporting her 100 percent of the way because I really think she is the most qualified, sincere and transparent. We don’t need another politician who has no clue about how to run the finances of a huge city like New York. She has over 20 years of experience in banking – with big names like Prudential and most recently with Barclays. She has  also worked in the Comptroller’s office. She understands how things happen in the city’s work. And she’s young, she’s dynamic.

Besides being clear that she has to be the CFO of New York, Reshma Patel really cares about the community. She has worked with many communities and organizations. She cares for everybody. She really believes that when we lift everybody up, the entire state of New York will be lifted.

How am I supporting her? Every which way —  emotionally, financially, intellectually and hospitality wise. I have immediately taken to Twitter and Instagram. We did an extensive Instagram post mentioning Reshma’s finance/banking background, which got a huge feedback. I have nearly six hundred fifty thousand followers on Instagram. My email database has over half a million. We’re going to do a blitz for Reshma because time is short. Digital is the way to get the message out to thousands and thousands of people quickly. Door knocking is also important, I have done it for Hillary Clinton.

I have lived in the city for 32 years and I know a lot of people who will really understand and resonate with Reshma’s message. I am approaching my contacts in the media – not only television, I have also spoken to somebody in the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

We have a huge following on Long Island as well as in New Jersey. I have already reached out to HR Shah who is totally behind Reshma ji and we will soon have a live event on TV Asia. Indeed, people have been impressed with Reshma’s résumé and with what she wants to do for the city.

And here is why I believe Reshma has a fighting chance of winning her race. You see, change happens one moment at a time. Currently, Kamala Harris occupies the Vice President’s office, making it an accepted thing to have an Asian woman leader in a very powerful position. So, I believe the whole  rhetoric and the mindset has completely changed. Going forward, there are going to be less and less hurdles for people when they see persons from minorities or Indians or Asians running for big offices because it’s now becoming the norm. So, I’m very confident that we have already broken through that barrier.

My last word is, New York City needs a competent person to run its finances, someone who  has diverse experience in both public and political banking. We don’t want our taxes raised. And we are 100 percent behind Reshma.”

Reshma Patel with her parents Pravin and Saroj Patel in India.

Image courtesy of (Photos provided)

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