Barbara Kavovit is going to make some big changes. Typically, when a former reality TV star makes such a bold statement, they’re talking about putting their name on a line of Chardonnay or releasing a dance pop single about living luxuriously. However, Kavovit, who is most recognized as Barbara K., the now former friend of Luann de Lesseps of Real Housewives of New York, has her sights set on becoming New York City's next mayor.
"It was one of these things where I said to myself, 'why should I run?' she told VICE. "We need change. New York City is a mess. It's in a crisis, it's in chaos, and we need to save it."
The Bronx-born novelist and owner of Evergreen Builders & Construction Services believes she understands the city more than any politicians, and is willing to jump into the snake pit of politics if it means building something better for the Big Apple. Having spent time dealing with the likes of Ramona Singer and de Lesseps, she thinks she's prepared for every shady, backstabbing move politics can bring.
Kavovit spoke to VICE about her plans for NYC, which of her former RHONY friends could have a spot in her mayoral cabinet, and how she plans to rehabilitate the city. If you're staunchly a believer that ACAB, you may want to look away.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
VICE: What do you think are the biggest issues facing New York right now?
Kavovit: Crime, safety, the homeless issue, racial inequality, women's equality, housing... Do you want me to keep going?
I mean, you certainly can. You mentioned safety and crime, and on your website you’ve talked about reforming and rebuilding the NYPD. Obviously, there's been a lot of discussion about abolishing and defunding the police. The police have been very instrumental in perpetuating that inequality that you just mentioned, especially in Black and brown communities in the city. What do you think needs to be done with regards to the police?
I definitely don't believe in defunding the police. Obviously, there are issues, but what we have to focus on is not over policing, but not under protecting. I think we need to divert funds to different areas. We should get the police out of the homeless business. They should be in the business of protecting, and maybe in certain communities we should direct forces to better serve those communities where there is additional violence. I would even go so far as to say, why not have fully qualified women that run in departments in the NYPD? Why not have an African American woman as Police Commissioner? Let's see what she would do.
I think that to get the city back on track, we need to get to the core, and to get to the core is to have safe streets, clean streets, and to do that, we need the police. We need them to work with us, and we need them to be on our side. There is that part where police have over-exercised their rights, but I think somebody needs to come in there and redirect the way we operate with the NYPD.
Every day we see different stories, though, where people ask, how do you reform this? When you see police handcuffing children and countless other abuses. Where do you redirect something like that?
Well I have to tell you, New York City has, in the country, the lowest amount of police brutality. (Editor's note: Statistics show New York City has some of the lowest rates of fatal police shootings in the country, but reporting of rates of police use of force in most states has been historically inaccurate.) I'm not saying that it doesn't happen in New York. There is always room for improvement. And I think the way to do that is to have a mayor that comes in and talks [to the police]. First of all, you can't demoralize the police. The more you demoralize the police, the worse is going to be. You have to respect the police. If I were mayor, I would put together committees that would oversee the police, and allocate certain funds to help the police do a better job.
Where do you think you'll do better than de Blasio? Do you think you could do better than he’s done?
There is chaos and crisis in New York City. We're in financial trouble. The city's not being managed properly. You have COVID on top of that. And you have a government built on excuses by politicians. I really want to build a government that's built on the needs of the people. It's really about the middle class. It's about the working class. They're the very foundation of everything New York stands for. I want to be able to put together a comprehensive plan to deal with social problems. The homeless issue! I mean, this incenses me. It breaks my heart to see people without food, without shelter, people without anything who are on our streets. This is not the New York I want to see. And if I'm mayor, it's definitely not the New York that will exist.
We never had, from the way I look at things, a comprehensive plan for the homeless. The homeless—the emotionally disturbed, the chemically dependent—we should give them the same opportunity that all New Yorkers have, and that's the ability to be rehabilitated and go back to society. How do you do that? You have to get social services involved. I would put together a comprehensive plan. The city is the largest landlord. We have millions of square feet of space, let's build permanent housing with the right infrastructure. I'm a builder. The $300 million that we spent on temporary housing could have been used for permanent housing with the current facilities to rehabilitate the homeless. We could have created co-op programs so we can get them working, maybe even to a rent to own program so that they own the housing. We should have a long term plan, not just throw them into a hotel.
A big part of your background is your time on the Real Housewives. How do you think that's prepared you for getting into an even dirtier game than reality TV, which is politics?
Well, I tell ya, reality TV and dealing with the women prepared me more for anything that might be thrown my way. Even construction has given me a very tough skin. Being from the Bronx, my dad taught me when I was nine how to build and how to fight. Being on Housewives taught me to hear what people say, but know that people can be extremely mean for no reason. I believe that New Yorkers are mainly kind people. My time on the show made me realize that there are a few unkind people. But it's prepared me.
And you think you're more capable and more experienced than people that have been longtime politicians?
Yes, I think it'll take someone that's not a politician to run the city and get the city out of this mess. The city is a melting pot not only for the smartest people in the world. We have institutions and colleges that I would tap into. Being in the private sector of business for as long as I have, I have relationships with corporations and people that lead corporate America. I would tap into all of that.
This can be a little bit triggering to hear because the last time we had a big business mogul in politics it did not go well for the country. How are you going to set yourself apart when we had a Trump presidency that was a disaster on such a massive level?
Disaster is an understatement. I think also you have someone who was a megalomaniac, and a narcissist, who treated the country as if it was his own business. If you look at the people that believed in him, none of them were New Yorkers. Trump was handed a building. I was never handed a building.
Do you find it disappointing that some of your former colleagues on RHONY, like Ramona Singer, are allegedly Trump supporters? She's sort of alluded to it in many ways.
She doesn't even have to say it. You can tell she's a Trump supporter. People that are like that don't want good for all. I want to see the same opportunity for everybody else that I had.
If you were to build your team once you're in office from the Real Housewives, who would you have?
Of New York? No. There is nobody. They're fired.
You don't think any of them could do any good?
No! They're too narcissistic. I might look at some from outside of New York and bring them in. Well, I don't know Leah, but from what I've seen on TV, maybe Leah McSweeney and Elyse Slaine. They might be two people that I would bring in. But the others? No. I think being narcissistic goes along with being self-centered. I don't know if they can actually get around being self-centered to think about other people. If you want to fix New York, you have to think about all the different people in the city.
How is your relationship with the women on RHONY? Are you still not speaking to Luann?
No, we're still not friends. We're not friends at all. It's sad. You can have a friendship for 14 years, and it can dissipate over something really quite meaningless when you look at the big picture. But again, you got to look at where it's coming from.
What do you mean?
She was upset that I said she didn't sing like Adele, but she doesn't. I was honest. You need honesty. You need a mayor who's honest. Who's in reality.
Not reality TV, but actual reality?
You need to be in reality to be mayor of New York City. That is reality TV, but I don't know if anybody on the show is in reality.
I mean, she doesn't sound like Adele.
It's factual, just like I said she shouldn't have married Tom. I mean, it was my opinion at the time, but it ended up being a proven fact, so.
Well, I guess what the future there holds, and also your future as a converted New York politician.
I'm doing this because I really do care. I really do believe in New York City. There's no place I'd rather be. There's no place I'll ever live. I want to see the shining, modern city with opportunity for all that I know it can be.