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NEW @ THE ACADEMY

Meet our Fellows: Daniel Feldman (‘16)

Professor Dan Feldman teaches Oversight & Investigation, Ethics & Accountability, and Administrative Law. In 2019 the MPA faculty elected him as Program Director for its Inspection & Oversight track. He was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 1980, and served as a member of the Legislature from 1981 through 1998, writing over 140 state laws, including New York’s Megan’s Law and Organized Crime Control Act. As Correction Committee chair for twelve years, he led some of the first efforts to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws. For six years thereafter, as a senior member of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s staff, he exposed HUD’s 203k mortgage loan guarantee scandal and led the investigation of UnumProvident’s disability insurance scam. Until his full-time appointment at John Jay, he worked as Special Counsel for Law & Policy to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Feldman's fourth book, Tales from the Sausage Factory: Making Laws in New York State, with co-author Gerald Benjamin, was published by SUNY Press in 2010, and his fifth book, The Art of the Watchdog: Fighting Fraud, Waste, Abuse and Corruption in Government, with co-author David Eichenthal, also by SUNY Press, in 2013. His most recent book, Administrative Law: The Sources and Limits of Government Agency Power, was published by Sage/CQ Press in 2016. He also wrote numerous scholarly articles, and served as Perspective and Commentary Editor for Public Administration Review from 2013 through 2017. His current research involves government oversight, administrative theory, and legal philosophy.

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Here is a recent interview with Daniel:

  1. How did you get involved in public service?

While it is difficult to ascertain deep-seated psychological motivations, so far as I can come up with a conscious motivation I attribute my interest in public service to a childhood experience. I went to an excellent New York City public elementary school, where in sixth grade we were given the New York Times every morning and were required to write letters to the editor. This was the late 1950s or early 1960s, and we read some stories about the terrible things that were done to African-Americans in the South. I remember feeling a wave of fury rising -- seemingly from my feet up -- with the certitude that I wanted to be able to do things to combat that kind of crime. For some reason, I thought that elective office was the only way I could be confident of having that power (maybe I just didn't trust anyone else).

  1. Looking at the present and into the future, what do you think a public administration “Grand Challenge” is or might be?

One "Grand Challenge" is to reawaken the best of American aspiration among citizens who seem at present oblivious to that range of values -- reasoned discourse, principled compromise, the rule of law, humane and decent treatment for all, and appreciation for great diversity in our population.

  1. Reflecting on your career, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

Several of my legislative victories might be "tied" for my own favorite accomplishment; I don't know that I can be objective enough to pick my "greatest." But crafting, writing, negotiating, and enacting New York's Organized Crime Control Act of 1986 might be my favorite.

  1. What is the best advice someone gave you?

At age 11 or so, I was talking with an uncle who was a teacher of the deaf. I realized at some point that some of his students were born deaf, so I said that it must be very difficult to teach such children. He said, "Well, it can take six months, sometimes, to teach a student one word." I said that it must be very frustrating. He replied, "Oh no -- when they learn that word, you feel REALLY good." This may have been the most useful advice I was given, even though it was not in the form of advice. The lesson was that it often takes tremendous effort to accomplish anything worthwhile, so you'd better learn to take sufficient satisfaction in such accomplishments.

  1. What inspires you?

What inspires me? My students -- who often come from tough backgrounds, working full time and caring for families while pursuing a graduate degree -- who strive successfully against the odds; courageous fighters for justice here in the United States and abroad, today and yesterday.

  1. What did/do you want to be when you grow up?

I wanted to be a U.S. Senator, only made it to election to the New York State legislature, but I feel good about what I accomplished in 18 years of service there. What I want to be now is a grandparent.

  1. What was the last book you read?

In the Shadow of Justice, by Katrina Forrester (Princeton University Press 2019).

  1. What was your first job?

Shoveling snow for neighbors, when I was 8 or 9. My first "official" job was cleaning Rockaway Beach for the New York City Department of Parks, when I was 17 or so.

  1. What is the best part about where you live?

Manhattan -- I can walk to work!

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