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MANY Profile: Interview with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)

April 28, 2020 2:38 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

MANY: Now that we’re all working from home, and our home offices are our windows onto the world, what do you see when you look out your home office window?

Congresswoman Maloney: The best part of my day is always looking out of my window and joining my neighbors to cheer on our essential workers. It is so beautiful to see New Yorkers come together to recognize the people on the front lines of this crisis and say thank you for their service and sacrifice. Every day, I am amazed by the resilience and strength New Yorkers continue to display and I could not ask for a better view. 


What was the last museum you visited before Governor Cuomo's Executive PAUSE Order?

The last museum I visited was the Museum of Jewish Heritage, one of my favorites in New York City. I toured an incredibly powerful exhibit entitled “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not Far Away” just before the House passed my Never Again Education Act. I believe witnessing articles from the Holocaust and learning of these horrors is crucial to understanding the consequences of hate and intolerance. Museums, like the Museum of Jewish Heritage, play an important role in educating the public and preserving this important history. 


Having represented NY-12 in Congress since 1992 what legislation are you most proud of? 

I’m proud of a lot of the legislation that I have passed over the years, but it was the honor of my life to finally secure health care and compensation for our 9/11 heroes. For over 18 years, I advocated alongside inspiring 9/11 first responders, survivors, and families to make permanent the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. These brave men and women were there for us during one of our nation’s darkest hours, and I did not rest until every single one of them could get the critical care and compensation they deserve.  

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you and your work as a Congressional representative?

On March 11th, I chaired a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing to examine our nation’s preparedness for and response to COVID-19. It was the first time the American public heard directly from medical experts like Dr. Fauci, and it was the day that everything changed. Shortly after the hearing, my staff and I began working from home to continue this important work safely. While all of my meetings are taking place virtually, I am still working hard for our nation and the great people of NY-12. Every day I am fighting to secure necessary supplies for our communities, hold the Trump Administration accountable, protect the American people, save the US Postal Service, and so much more.


What lessons were learned in the aftermath of 9/11 that might be applicable to our current crisis as we think of the future of our state?

Thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors have become ill and many have lost their lives from exposure to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals present at Ground Zero. Just like our 9/11 heroes, those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis bear the physical and mental scars of their heroic work long after the immediate crisis is over, and our government must protect and support them. The nearly 20 year battle to secure proper health care and compensation, shows the importance of protecting our essential workers NOW. 

Museums in NYS thank you for leading the effort in asking $4B in support to museums and cultural institutions in the CARES Act. What can museums do to help achieve this goal?

Reaching out to your Member of Congress is always a great start! A healthy channel of communication is important so that your representatives in Congress know exactly what you’re dealing with and what you need, so they can be as effective as possible in shaping policy that will help you. My staff and I are always here to listen and help, and we want to hear from you.

What information should museums share with their legislative representative to help advocate their cause? 

The economic implications of this crisis are devastating, and smaller museums and cultural institutions in particular are very vulnerable. Your representatives know that, but they don’t see it the way you do; hearing about the human impact directly from you is deeply powerful. Please share how your employees are doing, what you need from your representatives to ensure that you can keep your employees, any adaptations you’ve made, and the difficult measures you’ve had to undertake, or are contemplating, to stay afloat. Additionally, if you apply for funding from NEH, NEA, or IMLS, please let your representative know so they can endorse your application. 


We know from your work serving on the House Financial Services Committee and serving as Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that you have great financial expertise. Museums contribute $5.4B to New York State’s economy annually. With your financial experience and the threat to the museum field from closures due to COVID-19 why do you see this advocacy as critical to the future of New York’s economy? How do you museums fit into your overall legislative priorities? 

There is no question that our nation and New York are strengthened by our artistic and cultural institutions.  New York is uniquely defined by its world-class arts and cultural institutions. This industry is a massive economic driver in our state – museums in New York support 61,000 jobs - in addition to being a point of pride for all New Yorkers. For New York to survive this economic crisis, we must support its museums.. I am committed to protecting the hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on the survival of nonprofit museums, and I will continue to fight for funding to help our state and our nation navigate this economic crisis.  

Your career has been a series of firsts...the first woman to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District, the first woman to represent New York City’s 7th City Council district, and the first woman to Chair the Joint Economic Committee. Museums have recently been called a pink collar profession with a workplace that is close to being majority female, but with men still being paid more and holding the highest paying positions. As someone who has broken economic and social barriers in the workplace what steps would you advise women leaders in museums to take during this time to strengthen advocacy for their institutions?

I would encourage women in leadership positions museums to conduct equity audits of salaries and benefits, make plans to correct gaps, and present this information. Diversity and gender equality within leadership not only makes moral and common sense, but also makes financial sense. Studies have shown that organizations with more women and more diversity are better positioned to succeed. Connecting disparities and the about the lack of women in leadership positions and highlighting that gender inequality does a disservice to the institution, can help address the problem. 

If the public believes that the museum workforce is overwhelmingly female, how does that influence the public support and private funding of our museums and institutions?

Gender bias a factor that can never be ignored, but without significant research it will not be clear whether gender bias has profoundly influenced private funding for museums and institutions. The majority of the essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis are women, and every day they demonstrate that women are necessary to the strength of our nation. I hope that after this crisis, we will continue to recognize the invaluable contributions that women make in all areas and sectors of our economy. 

What is your hope for museums by this time next year? 

I hope museums, and our nation, have recovered from the COVID-19 crisis by next year. The nonprofit museum community is an integral part of New York, and making sure that these museums can reopen and bring back their staff is my top priority. I am doing everything I can to help us get there and ensure that museums can continue playing an invaluable role in preserving American art, history, and culture.

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