Raised by a single father on the Upper West Side along with three siblings after his mother died when he was 10, Steven Appel has called the Upper West Side home for more than 25 years. Steven’s Jewish upbringing instilled in him an unwavering commitment to fight for justice and equality for all people. And he continues to draw inspiration from his late mother’s call for unity. Steven lives on 106th street and cares deeply about the future of our community. He believes there is extraordinary potential in our community waiting to be tapped. Steven has built a reputation as a progressive and innovative social entrepreneur who combines bold vision and integrity with a collaborative servant leadership style that unifies people and produces extraordinary results. He is both a dreamer and a doer.

Steven graduated from Queens College-CUNY in 2009 as Valedictorian, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in political science and cultural anthropology and a minor in Honors in the Social Sciences. He also holds an MBA in management and sustainability from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College-CUNY.

Leadership at the Center for Ethnic, Racial & Religious Understanding at Queens College

Driven by the desire to serve others and inspired by his late mother’s call for unity, after graduating from college in 2009 Steven co-founded the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at Queens College, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating cross-cultural engagement to advance understanding. As the assistant director of the organization from 2009-2014, Steven helped grow CERRU to a staff of 8 with an annual budget of nearly $700,000. His work impacted thousands of lives in Queens and he oversaw hundreds of events and programs focused on everything from income inequality to immigration reform to combating hatred and anti-Semitism to human trafficking and racial injustice. Hundreds of students were trained by CERRU in facilitating difficult conversations and engaging across cultures.

In 2012, in addition to his position as assistant director of CERRU, Steven became CERRU’s Director of Social Innovation. In this capacity, Steven conceived of and developed two original programs: Noticing that students tended to self-segregate in the cafeteria, Steven developed CERRU’s Lunchtime 2.0 program, an innovative program designed to reinvent the cafeteria space to encourage intercultural dialogue. The program was so successful that Lunchtime 2.0 placed as a global semi-finalist for BMW’s Intercultural Innovation Award and received significant print and TV coverage, including from ABC 7 TV, NY 1, and a full page article in the Daily News. Steven also conceived of and developed CERRU’s annual Social Innovation Exchange. The Exchange brings together diverse social innovators from around the world once a year at Queens College to share their work with the public. The Exchange has attracted hundreds of members of the community and has put social innovation on the map in central Queens. Short videos from the exchange are available here.

To this day, CERRU continues to thrive and bring diverse people together in Queens. In January 2014, the Queens Courier listed Steven as a “Rising Star in Queens” for his work in bringing diverse people together in the borough. Steven has also been recognized by Congressman Joe Crowley, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall for his leadership and vision in co-founding CERRU.

Undergraduate Leadership

Steven graduated from Queens College-CUNY in 2009 Valedictorian, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in political science and cultural anthropology and a minor in Honors in the Social Sciences.

As an undergraduate at Queens College, Steven was the recipient of the college’s highest academic honor, The Paul Klapper Scholarship and he took graduate and PhD-level courses at the CUNY Graduate Center. He was elected editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, The Knight News, as a freshman. Twice re-elected, he led the paper for three years, winning 17 state and national awards, some for the first time in CUNY history, including twice placing as a finalist for the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Award, considered one of the most prestigious awards in collegiate journalism. At the paper, Steven founded and edited a section dedicated to interfaith dialogue—one of the first college newspapers in the country to do so. At the paper, Steven won awards for his own design work and impassioned editorials. When the newspaper’s budget was cut by the student government, Steven paid staff members out of his own pocket and continued the practice for the following two years.

Steven founded the Queens College branch of STAND, an anti-genocide coalition group. He is the recipient of the Stefa Burger Award for Community Service, the Murray Kempton Pride of the University Award for Outstanding Editorial Writing, the 2009 Society of Professional Journalists Second Place Award for editorial Commentary and Columbia University’s 2008 Scholastic Press Association Third Place Award for Best Front Page Design.

As a Lipper Intern, Steven taught public school students through the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust about combating hatred and the Holocaust. In the summer of 2008, Steven participated in the Edward T. Rogowsky Program in Government and Public Affairs in Washington where he interned with Senator Charles Schumer. That summer, he also volunteered with abused women and children in DC. In August 2008 Steven spent time volunteering with poor children in Cairo, Egypt, where he developed a grant proposal to fund a new school.

In 2008, Steven appeared on Fox News TV to discuss Obama and the youth vote. In 2006, Steven interned with Congressman Joe Crowley. In March 2009, with some personal savings, Steven co-founded Kangaroo Baggage LLC, an airport baggage delivery company with his two brothers. Although the company eventually failed, Steven learned invaluable lessons and gained newfound appreciation for small business owners and the sacrifices they make.

Current Work

Steven currently serves as senior manager of communications and events at Working In Support of Education, a national non-profit with programs in 43 states that develop financial literacy and readiness for college and the workplace among low-to-moderate income communities.


Steven is an accomplished photographer who loves dogs and enjoys traveling.

Guiding Principles

Our mission is to humbly serve, innovate, and unify to unleash our community’s potential. How do we achieve our mission? We believe in three core guiding principles that form the basis of our philosophy of leadership—facilitative leadership:

Each day our campaign staff asks ourselves—and holds ourselves accountable to—three questions:

  • Are we being bold and innovative about our community’s potential?
  • Are we practicing humility?
  • Are we unifying our community?

We believe that bold vision and humble values lead to greater unity of purpose and make it possible for government to unleash the full potential of the people it serves.

Bold Vision

  • Dreaming Big Together
  • Reimagining What is Possible for Our Community
  • Renewal
  • Innovation
  • Creativity

Some see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"
George Bernard Shaw

Clear and bold vision provides us with what evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls shared intentionality.

Boldness also stems from that fundamental human need, of which Czech writer Milan Kundera writes:

To imagine—to dream about things that have not happened—is among mankind’s deepest needs.
Milan Kundera

It’s a call to lead from one’s highest future potential as C. Otto Scharmer of MIT explains. True boldness of vision creates that inspirational appeal that inspires people to join the movement and mission.

Humble Values

  • Servant Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Accessibility
  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Transparency
  • Co-creation
  • Compassion for those Less Fortunate
  • Not Offending through Superiority
  • Embracing Diversity
  • Introspection
  • Self-Awareness
  • Sharing Credit
  • Openness to New Ideas
  • Allowing People to Save face
  • Never Shaming People in Public
  • Admitting Mistakes & Changing Course
  • Flexibility & Compromise
  • Justice
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Being Vulnerable
  • Sensitivity
  • Empowering Others
  • Giving Others credit
  • Engaging Across Cultural & Political Divides
  • Cultivating dissoi logoi, an ancient Greek pedagogy that insists on informed engagement with multiple perspectives

We don’t believe in the type of leadership model where one foists one’s ideas on a group of people or where one believes that he or she is the end-all. We believe that the best leaders surround themselves with people far smarter and talented than themselves and then help facilitate and maximize the potential of those people by allowing their authentic selves to emerge. These leaders are flexible in the sense that they understand the final outcome may look very different than what they might have produced if they micromanaged; however, as leaders facilitating potential, these leaders understand that the ultimate goal is the realization of bold vision and that there are often many paths to excellence. These leaders have the humility to fully trust people and extend significant creative leeway to them knowing full well that they will make mistakes. We believe that people who are empowered in such a fashion with their own mandates and the capacity to pursue their own leadership styles in their spheres of authority are more likely to be loyal to the organization and will feel more fully invested. They are also more likely to find strength in themselves because they are entrusted with significant responsibility. We live in a culture that denigrates failure but we believe making mistakes is critical to growth and people should be encouraged to take risks that result in mistakes. The knowledge that we will inevitably make mistakes if we pursue a given course of action informs our belief in extending creative leeway and allowing others whom we trust to make their own mistakes, learn from them, and emerge stronger and more empowered leaders. We will inevitably make mistakes in whatever position we assume and we want our campaign members to hold us accountable and speak their mind if we are doing something someone doesn’t agree with. We are fallible and very much willing to listen and be flexible.

Unifying Leadership

  • Connecting Diverse People
  • Dialogue
  • Always Striving to be Inclusive
  • “Keep the family together”
Men often hate because they fear; they fear because they don’t know; they don’t know because they cannot communicate;
and they cannot communicate because they are separated from each other.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Stories that Inspire Us

Our campaign’s guiding principles are inspired by two simple stories from Steven’s childhood. One about his mom. The other about Moses.


On May 11, 1996 Steven’s mom died of cancer here on the Upper West Side. He was ten years old. A few days before she passed, she called him over to the couch she was resting on and whispered to him the last words he would ever remember hearing from her: “Keep the family together.” At a very early age, Steven’s mom taught him the importance of unity. Her message has remained with him and inspired him for 20 years.


Growing up in a Jewish home here on the Upper West Side, Steven learned about the political leadership style of Moses. He often wondered how it was possible that one of the greatest visionary leaders of his generation was also considered the most humble. The two seemed like a contradiction in terms. It was only after many years and much personal growth that Steven understood the wisdom of this particular approach to political leadership. To be bold in vision while at the same time humble in values. To dream big while at the same time deeply listen to—and empathize with—all people, to fight for those less fortunate, and to treat all people with kindness and integrity. Steven learned the value of unity from his mom. And from the story of Moses’s leadership he learned a valuable model of political leadership. By being both bold about what we can achieve as a community and humble in how we engage with each other, we believe we can unify our community and unleash its greatest potential.

Steven’s Vision

Steven believes that the role of government is to unify people and facilitate their deepest potential. Steven’s vision for our district is a place where everyone has an equal chance of realizing their potential and where we are more connected to each other. Steven passionately believes that there is extraordinary potential in our community waiting to be tapped and that connecting diverse people—and organizations—to each other is key to revitalizing our district. Steven is inspired by the words of Dr. King:

Men often hate because they fear; they fear because they don’t know; they don’t know because they cannot communicate; and they cannot communicate because they are separated from each other.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Steven believes that one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century is to connect diverse people to each other, increase intercultural understanding, and generate the types of innovative solutions to problems that can only come through diverse engagement. Steven believes if we dream big together and come together in new ways, we can unleash extraordinary untapped potential in our district.


What potential would you like to unleash in our district? (potential underlined and in fun font)

Box for people to type comments and submit the potential they see.

Our platform is progressive and innovative and will continue to grow as we proactively listen to diverse members of our community. Our platform reflects our commitment to bold vision, humble values, and unifying leadership.

Government Reform and Accountability

Sunlight is the best disinfectant and we will fight for transparent and open government that restores trust and is driven by a deep commitment to integrity. We will embrace open data to ensure even more New York government data is available digitally. We will be accessible and accountable to the people we serve. We will hold constituent town halls once every two weeks to enhance communication and transparency. We will be guided by the work of the Moreland Commission and fight to create a government that reflects its recommendations.

Livable Wage

We support the fight for a $15 minimum wage. We believe no one in our district should work full time and still live in poverty. The minimum wage must match the realities of living in our city. We believe in a just economy that works for everyone.

Paid Family Leave

We believe the people of our district should be able to take time off to care for a new baby or a sick parent without the fear of losing their entire life savings to do so.

Affordable Housing

We will fight to ensure that the members of our community have access to affordable housing. We will fight to strengthen NYCHA and ensure that it is sustainable for years to come.

Strengthening the Social Fabric of Our Community and Jumpstarting Social Innovation

We will sponsor community dialogues that deeply connect diverse people to each other and build community. We will engage in the important work of improving race relations and members of our community. We will facilitate resource sharing between community organizations so that everyone in our district benefits. We will hold a semi-annual Innovation Summit to bring together diverse leaders in our community from government, the non-profit sector and local businesses to share the work they are doing, network cross-culturally, and develop new solutions to the challenges we face. We will co-sponsor more events with a diverse array of local community groups to increase their visibility. We will publish a calendar of community events so we are all better informed about our district.

Helping Lower Income Members of Our Community

We are committed to ensuring that no one is left behind, that everyone is given a fair chance to succeed, and that all members of our community are equally represented. We will not wait for community members to come to us. Instead, we will operate from the premise that all members of the community deserve equal representation no matter where they live or what their background is. We will be proactive in listening to diverse members of our community.


We are committed to protecting our environment through clean energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


We believe in strengthening the public schools in our district and supporting them to ensure they are the best they can be. We will listen to what teachers and educators tell us and not assume that we all the answers. As a proud graduate of Queens College and Baruch College who has seen firsthand the extraordinary opportunity CUNY provides to many low-income students, Steven will fight to ensure Albany strengthens CUNY and SUNY.

Quality of Life Issues

We will work to empower everyday members of our community to tackle quality of life issues like litter on our streets through technology platforms that encourage citizens to take ownership over their communities.

Constituent Services

We will pursue a proactive constituent services model that doesn’t wait for folks to come to our district office but meets them in the community. Better service through enhanced technology. In a digital era, constituents expect high standards of service and we will deliver a better client experience: The ability to contact us via Skype A google voice number so constituents can text us Utilize AskThem platform to enhance participation and accountability Utilize state-of-the-art software to better manage constituent services

Assembly Office

We will hire a diverse staff that is gender balanced. We will pursue the most progressive workplace and family leave policies to ensure an equal office environment.

Policy Ideas

We will propose and pursue legislation that first and foremost serves the people of our district and addresses their most pressing concerns. We will pursue new ways to crowdsource ideas for legislation through technology as well as by proactively asking diverse members of our community what they would like to see done.

Voter Enfranchisement

We will work to ensure that more people in our district vote and that everyone has an equal say in the politicians we elect. We will work to remove impediments to voting.


Would it be possible to embed this Google map of the distrcit without it appearing that it came from O’Donnel’s website? Assembly District 69 http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Daniel-J-O'Donnell/map/ Alternatively, here is a map of the district: http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/maps/ad/ad69.pdf



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