Tasha Young didn’t always know about the power of policy in politics. She knew the basics about political ideologies — Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals — and saw what formed views, but she didn’t consider the actions needed to form the laws and policies that benefit or in some cases adversely affect certain groups of people.
As a student majoring in social work, she learned the effect that policies had on individuals. Then, as a practicing social worker, she saw firsthand what happened when policies failed and the effects that it had on people in the community.
“Whatever the policy is, you probably don’t have to dig that deep to see who benefits and who gets hurt,” said Young. “I look at policy in a way to create better outcomes for more people.”
An advocate and self-proclaimed reformer, Young will announce her candidacy for Greenburgh town supervisor on Feb. 1, challenging 30-year incumbent Paul Feiner.
Young said she forms policy through an anti-racist and anti-oppressive lens. She focuses on introducing policies that work for all, rather than the few. Rooted from her own personal experiences in life, she supports giving power and voice to those who want to instill policy based on their lived experiences.
“If you don’t have people that are being negatively impacted at the seat of power, it is very easy to continue to have disparities,” said Young. “It is very easy … to hold up practices that oppress people.”
Young, 49, has had many lived experiences, including multiple careers and working two jobs to put her daughter through college.
Born in White Plains and raised in the unincorporated section of Elmsford, Young graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in the Elmsford Union Free School District before deciding to pursue a journalism degree at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. After starting a family halfway through her college career, she moved back to New York and worked in retail before landing a job in the nonprofit sector at the Theodore Young Community Center where she helped start competitive cheerleading and revitalized the competitive double Dutch program for girls.
She eventually decided to go back to school and enrolled at Fordham University where she studied business administration and gained an interest in forensic accounting. Young said her interest in the financial sector arose from her belief that’s where the real policymaking was happening — people who had money were making all the decisions. She wanted a piece of that pie and took a job with a New York City-based investment group.
While she saw finance as politically powerful, she eventually learned “it’s the people [who] really have the power,” she said.
After the 2008 financial crisis, Young was out of a job for four months and sold jewelry and handbags to make ends meet before being offered an executive assistant position at Abbott House in Irvington, where she was introduced to social work for the first time.
She worked at Abbott House focusing on child welfare for five years and eventually started working at the North American Family Institute (NAFI). After some time, she started doing consulting work and grant writing to help former prisoners re-enter society.
During her foray into social work she decided to go all in and got her master’s degree at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Then the 2016 election happened and Young felt an urge to move into a new direction. The election was the powder keg that launched Young into political activism and advocacy. She got involved with Indivisible New Rochelle and Progressive Women of Pelham and started lobbying for legislation to end cash/bail, bolster discovery laws and expand reproductive health rights.
In 2018, Young ran an unsuccessful two-week campaign for county legislator in District 11, a race she said she had “no business” being in, though it taught her about the basics of campaigning and how to “lose well.”
“You don’t have to disparage people personally. You do not need to have sour grapes,” she said. “I lost and I learned. I spent my time building my network and … learning about other communities.”
Young currently is the chief of staff for New York City Council member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant in District 35 in Brooklyn. She hopes to bring all the expertise she’s learned while working for Cumbo’s office to Greenburgh where she is now wholly focused on unseating the longstanding incumbent Greenburgh town supervisor.
“I really think that 28 years is too long for an executive to be in office. I think Greenburgh needs a renaissance,” said Young. “COVID-19 has given us so many terrible things that we need to come out of it vibrant [and] … with fresh vision.”
In New York, recent campaigns to unseat long serving Democratic politicians from progressives and activists coming from outside the system have proved successful.
Last year, former Congressman Eliot Engel, who served as U.S. Representative for District 16 for 32 years, was unseated by progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal. Progressive Mondaire Jones was voted in to represent District 17 after U.S. Representative Nita Lowey retired after 32 years, and Democratic challenger Jennifer Williams ran a viable but unsuccessful campaign to unseat longtime New York Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti.
Riding on this wave, Young wants to build a broader coalition and has been on a listening tour of the town since November to hear from community members about the challenges they face.
Young wants to invest in beautifying the town and reconstruct the Fairview section of Greenburgh by bolstering Black-owned businesses and reimaging how zoning and land use affects residents and the environment.
She said she believes the concerns of Edgemont residents are legitimate but she supports keeping Greenburgh together rather than having Edgemont incorporate as a separate village.
“There are very real concerns that have led up to the petition to incorporate that I would hope, if elected, can be addressed,” said Young.
To mend the divide between the town and Edgemont, she said she wants to meet with leaders in the hamlet to talk about their concerns on land use and budgeting. Unlike Feiner, who has not been willing to share monetary figures with the Edgemont Incorporation Committee for potential contractual services, such as police and the Department of Public Works if the hamlet were to incorporate, Young said she wouldn’t shy away from sharing the data.
“The numbers tell the story. In my opinion, the numbers could even work in favor of the argument not to [incorporate],” said Young. “But if you don’t give people the numbers, I think that’s lowering your leverage.”
Though initially hesitant to do so, Young said it would be fair for the town to conduct a study on the potential impacts of Edgemont incorporation.
Young said she would consider the consolidation of fire departments but needed to do more research on the topic.
Like many previous candidates in Greenburgh, Young supports instituting term limits for the town supervisor; in her view, there should be a 12-year term limit. She was unsure about implementing limits for councilmembers but said she would make a case for it, if elected, and put it to a vote.
She also wants to keep up with the constituent communication bar that has been set by Feiner, who has become well known for direct line of access. (He has his phone number posted on his car so people know how to reach him.) Young said she would accept people’s calls to her cellphone if residents are not receiving assistance with issues when they call the town for help.
“I’m available and if it’s an issue that is complex, I will work with you to get to the bottom of that issue,” she said. “If I don’t know how to do it, I will find out.”
After the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis last May, protestors and activists rallied for a movement to “defund the police.” Young said the “defund” headline hadn’t been well received and was thought up during the height of Black people being severely mistreated and abused by police officers. She said she wants to highlight “public safety for all” and sharing services with Westchester County to provide better access to mental health crisis response.
“I would also like to see some kind of anti-oppressive, anti-racist policies within the police department,” she said. “That’s going to cost money because nobody knows how to do that. Nobody knows how to do anti-oppression.”
With COVID-19 still a constant threat and vaccines from the federal government in short supply, Young said she wants to work with local senior-based and faith-based organizations to provide important information on vaccine distribution to those who need it.
She also supports limiting gas-powered leaf blowers throughout the town and, although she supports environmental endeavors, she doesn’t support the special permit application for the proposed battery storage facility at the Knollwood Country Club.
As she travels across the town, listening to constituents and preparing for the Democratic primary in June, Young said she wants residents to have control over their own destinies.
“You have to let people be the experts of their own lives,” she said. “We need more policymakers that understand that.”
Correction: A previous version of this article noted that Young prepared to announce her candidacy on Jan. 24. Young's campaign pushed back their announcement to Feb. 1.