A place with ‘strong and vibrant community ties’ – Why Tony Simone feels an affinity with Hell’s Kitchen

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Born and raised in New York, Tony Simone has lived on the West Side throughout his adult life. Until recently, he was director of external affairs for Hudson River Park Friends before turning to politics. Here is Tony’s West Side story.

Tony Simone (third from left) with New York City officials. Photo provided

So what’s your story in New York? Were you born here or just arrived?
I was born and raised in Queens NY and lived my adult life on the West Side of Manhattan.

I was raised by a working class family. My mother, a Peruvian immigrant, worked in hair factories and eventually started her own business, making wigs for chemotherapy patients and also opening a small restaurant with my father. My father drove taxis and trucks. We dealt with his addiction and alcoholism, but luckily he got sober later in life. With my grandfather Tony, a Teamsters steward, they taught me the importance of giving back to the community and that public service is a worthy cause. My grandfather, who organized workers, also taught me the importance of collective action and building broad and diverse coalitions.

Growing up, we almost had to have our house seized and the bad landlords wouldn’t give us heat. I got involved in organizing and politics working on the Clinton-Gore campaign and local campaigns for Jerry Nadler. I earned a master’s degree in public policy, management, and finance from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. I eventually went to work for State Senator Catherine Abate, beginning my career in public service.

How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
After college, I moved to Manhattan, living in Hell’s Kitchen when I first worked for council member Christine Quinn as a community liaison.

What is your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
The strong community ties that exist from our strong blocks, small businesses and vibrant theaters and arts spaces.

Tony Simone (left) campaigning on 9th Avenue. Photo provided

And what is your peeve from Hell’s Kitchen?
Traffic is heading for the Lincoln Tunnel! New Jersey drivers are a plague on our streets.

Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for part of the time?
Jason, Radar (our dog) and I stayed here in Hell’s Kitchen.

What did you do for work before COVID? What are you doing now?
I worked as Director of External Affairs for Friends of Hudson River Park. The work we did there to maintain and expand our beautiful waterfront park was so important during COVID, when we all needed a peaceful outdoor space the most. I am now fully focused on representing our community at the Assembly.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Being always at home during the early stages of the pandemic has really brought home the incredible difference that the lack of cars and access to green spaces can have on our well-being.

Tony Simone (second from left) at the PRIDE March this weekend. Photo provided

Tell us one thing that gave you hope during the pandemic?
The incredible ways New Yorkers connected and supported each other, especially making sure seniors had what they needed to get through the toughest months.

What is your closest contact with world fame and stardom?
Meet Hillary Clinton while working on her US Senate campaign.

What is your superpower?
I can always dance no matter my mood or where I am.

What song do you sing out loud in the shower?
vogue by Madonna

Which people inspire you the most?
My grandfather, Tony, was a Teamsters shop steward and taught me the importance of collective action to achieve great things. His lessons have guided me throughout my life.

What is your favorite quote or saying?
“It doesn’t take any compromise to give people their rights…it doesn’t take money to respect the individual. It doesn’t take any political agreement to give people freedom. It does not take an investigation to suppress repression. —Harvey Milk

Do you like Times Square? Why or why not?
Like most New Yorkers, I avoid it as much as possible.

Tony Simone (second from right) at the Roe protest last week. Photo provided

Do you like Hudson Yards? Why or why not?
Hudson Yards is an example of how not to make new developments. While the new park space is pleasant, overall it feels like a walled fortress that separates itself from the surrounding community. I would have liked accommodation in the Penn South or Manhattan Plaza model.

If you could bring back one thing (person/place/event) to HK that no longer exists, what would it be?
Captain John Doswell was a brilliant and wonderful member of our community until his passing six years ago. His hard work and activism helped shape our waterfront, including opening Pier 84 to the public, being a founding member of Hudson River Park Friends, and restoring the John J. Harvey fireboat.

Add your cheeky take or your personal profile?
You can find out more about me at www.Tonyfornewyork.com, on twitter at @tonysimoneon Instagram at @tonywsimone or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TonyForNY

Official campaign photo of Tony Simone. Photo provided

Hell’s Kitchen Happy Places

norma “My favorite place for a date with my fiancé Jason.

Hudson River Park — Working to help maintain and expand the park has been one of the highlights of my career, and it’s always refreshing to spend time there.

riser bar — One of my favorite places to dance!

the place “I can always come in and find a friendly face.

Sullivan Street Bakery — My go-to place when I need carbs!

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