Candidate for City Council District 46
How will you get New Yorker’s back to work?
I will focus on the safe re-opening of schools, small businesses, and government offices; and skilling and re-skilling our workforce. For the safe re-opening of these institutions, especially our public schools, we have to ensure that they have the proper ventilation systems. We also need right now is investment in digital infrastructure and improvements in digital access that eliminate unfair disparities based on race, income and geography. We need to make sure that families can afford the broadband access that will enable students to use the laptops in productive ways, teachers are well-trained in distance learning and educational programs equip young people with the skills needed in the 21st century economy.
We need afterschool and sports programming for all to fill the school day, assist students, and help parents with affordable childcare. 3K for All, if utilized and expanded properly, will also assist with childcare.
We must skill and re-skill our workforce and ensure that the workspace is not overcrowded. We need to set up partnerships with the DOE and the labor unions to ensure that vocational and apprenticeship programs are brought to high schools and adult continuing education programs. We need to also implement these short-term credential programs within CUNY and make it free through private partnerships and union engagements. We also need safe construction and architectural projects.
Hence, the paradigm that architecture and the built environment once operated under, where masses of people congregate to work, and the like has been slowly changing over the last decade. However, in the era of COVID and post-COVID, this warehousing of individuals in small spaces, must change. There must be new modes of thinking about architecture, space, and form of the built environment. Given that my platform focuses heavily on public health and what it means for our community, I would be adamant about the types of structures that are built in our community. For example, there are no hospitals in District 46 even though we have one of the highest rates of chronic illnesses (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity) throughout the NYC along with infant mortality; hence, I would be supportive of evidence-based designs (EBDs) of stand-alone Community Health Centers (CHCs) if we received the opportunity to build them.
If we are addressing how to integrate health facilities in schools and public housing, I would want to see how we decrease pathogens and prevent infections with the materials used. I would also want to see plans for energy conservation and sustainability. I would want to know how the materials used in these new constructions increases the positive experiences of patients and caregivers. Most importantly, how new healthcare facility guidelines could be incorporated into the building, design, and the rehabilitation of any facility that comes into District 46 and that comes into existence around NYC.
We must assist our small businesses. As a successful business owner and the former president of a merchant association, I believe that it is important to establish and strengthen partnerships with the Chambers of Commerce; and encourage the development of more BIDs. Now more than ever, it is important for businesses to pool their resources to attract more foot traffic to their establishments. I would support the current “Chambers on the Go” program to assist with this process.
Brick and mortar stores must also provide the best of both worlds. It is important that compensation and benefits remain current. Organizations must encourage employee engagement and when they relocate to New York City, unionized jobs must be a part of the plan. I would encourage brick and mortar shops to propose flexible work schedules especially as part of this pandemic and FMLA.
Three years ago, the NYC Council commissioned a study by the Department of City Planning called “Planning for Retail Diversity”. In this plan, many recommendations were made that could assist in preserving our brick and mortar shops in our communities. One of the key statements made in this study was that: City government should seek to ensure that critical neighborhood retail is available in every neighborhood. The availability of fresh food, health clubs, and pharmacies helps keep residents healthy and fit, and the presence of essential goods and services like tailors and hardware stores improve residents’ daily lives by saving travel time.
Key recommendations resided around: 1) Commissioning a study and mitigate the impact of e-commerce on the brick-and-mortar retail sector; 2) reforming commercial rent tax policies and providing incentives for retail; and more.
How will you make our city’s streets safer?
Crime is not an issue that occurs in silo, but as a result of a culmination of other issues in community such as housing security, education and access to opportunity. The criminal justice system, as it stands, does not envision inclusion of community and the resources found within it- That must change. Offering our youth greater engagement and opportunity through education is one way that I believe will help make communities safer. Having appropriate personnel respond to emergencies is critical. And taking reanalyzing how police fit int the equation is important. Safety does not necessarily mean a greater police presence- it can and should mean interventions by, innovation from and inclusion of community.
- I want to expand funding for to support CURE Violence organizations because we know they work
- A person in Mental Health Crisis DOES NOT need police – A different number – other than 911, that office should be staffed by TRAINED mental health professionals
- I raised four children and I’ve never believed police should be in our schools.
- We need to give children the support and tools they need to help them cope with difficult situations
- My role as a City Council member will be to make sure budget, legislation that reflects our criminal justice needs
- I will ensure that correction centers, including Rikers until it closes, will truly become places of rehabilitation
- I will also work with the superintendent in my district and ultimately the chancellery of NYC’s Schools, to place ethics in the curriculum. A significant number of our children live in unstable environments where they are constantly in survival mode. We must find a way to “prevent” certain behaviors and get our young people to appreciate the difference between right and wrong and following a certain code of conduct.
- Again, understanding that systems have to be integrated. This is one of the ways in which we break the schools to prison pipeline.
- We will also work with programs that specialize in criminal justice education to assist in the re-entry process to promote – “From Prison to School” as opposed to the School to Prison Pipeline. We need to change the narrative. Officers are trained to respond to situations involving violations of the law. Individuals who are having episodes not related to a criminal violation should not be put at risk of having an untrained officer mitigate the issues. Officers should not be placed in situations for which they are not trained. That is malfeasance on the part of the city to do so. The city has highly trained professionals that are equipped with the tools necessary to help individuals undergoing mental health crises, homelessness and other non criminal incidents. Where a crime is suspected to have taken place or is about to occur is the only time NYPD should be activated.
How will you address the city’s increasing budget deficit?
We must engage in responsible contracting, combatting high Healthcare costs, and help produce a progressive legislative infrastructure.
We must encourage businesses and New Yorkers to remain in NYC. We need to curtail property taxes, sell more binds that build equity such as housing and education bonds, and utilize multipurpose spaces more effectively that satisfies multiple goals and objectives. For examples in districts such as District 46 that have no hospitals, NYCHA community centers could be utilized as Community Health Centers. We need greater transparency and accountability in Healthcare costs. We could also implement more School-Based Health Centers in our community schools. This saves on overhead costs, keeps NYC and vulnerable families healthy and keeps costs down. With a greater workforce, we will have more tax-paying individuals who also are able to afford reasonably-priced housing.
How will you stop the exodus of residents from New York City?
We need to provide more stability in housing. We need a complete overhaul of NYCHA with a board to oversee spending. We need more tenant options to purchase so that families are able to remain in their living spaces and not move around a lot. I support The Public Advocate’s push for a racial impact study for all re-zonings and want to see greater community input closer upfront to the start of the application process. Also, public transportation must be reliable and safe. For those who drive, walk and bike, infrastructure must be in place- the streets must be smooth, traffic lights working and everyone on the road educated on best practices to ensure safety while sharing the road. Public transportation is critical to getting my district’s frontline workers and elderly to and from their destinations.
Two issues plague our district – access to public transportation and making sure our neighborhoods connect with school zones and employment. We need to ensure that we have faster bus service and that there are straight transportation paths to critical services. We need to keep our streets safe. We need more speed bumps, stop signs, and working traffic lights; transporting now becomes a safe means for our residents.
We need Climate Justice and more education around the Climate Mobilization Act so that communities do not continue to get displaced during natural disasters.
District 46 was seriously impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Many members of my community including myself, were unaware of the physical and health damages that this superstorm would cause. This was the first time that I was unable to offer assistance to my neighbors when called upon to do so and the for the first time, I felt extremely vulnerable. Although I have always advocated for the building of the waterfront wall to protect our communities, I became adamant about this. When elected, I will work with my congressional partners and other members of the federal government to ensure that this wall is built, similar to what was done on Wall Street.
A major part of my platform addresses Housing. District 46 leads NYC in foreclosure. Our district is both mortgage-burdened and rent-burdened.
- We need to bring more organizations to the district that could educate the residents around these issues such as CAMBA, Legal Services. We currently have NHS but one is not enough. We can have these organizations set up in our district offices
- We can also have Community Housing Court for foreclosure prevention set up in our community (similar to how Community Justice Courts are set up). Again, practicing the politics of place and serving as a model for NYC
- We need to re-establish the Mortgage Assistance Program even post-COVID and educate homeowners that they too have access to HRA’s one-shot deal
- 52% of our district is rent-burdened which matches Brooklyn overall and is slightly higher than NYC overall
- Must have stabilization in housing
- Low-income families are constantly moving; they have no stability in their lives
- When families move they either have long commutes to work and school or run the risk of chronic absence and lateness if they are even able to keep their positions or children in the same workplace or school. This is a result of lack of affordable housing. While we have won many victories with housing rights, we have a long way to go. One of the things that Hosing Justice for All is proposing is the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act
- Housing Justice for All is advocating for a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) which I firmly believe in. TOPA would allow tenants the right to intervene in the sale, demolition or foreclosure of their building in order to convert it to permanently affordable and community controlled housing.
- Eliminate Major Capital Improvements increases which makes homes unaffordable
- Foreclosure – some may be due to their income gaps from a high mortgage rate, but a lot have to do with water and property taxes as well as out-of-pocket expenses that arise due to flooding and the like in the district (Superstorm Sandy)
- Our system needs to become more integrative
- NYCHA is also underutilized with respect to its community centers and in terms of surveying the residents’ needs – money from other areas could be utilized to rehabilitate some living spaces where domestic violence is concerned, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and the needs for members of the remaining vulnerable populations. We know that Medicaid/Medicare is often tapped for these services and it could be tapped here rather than re-building units to serve the same individuals.
I will work with my partners in government as well as activists and advocates to lobby for greater funding. I will help to engage and activate NYCHA community members to advocate as well. It’s time to reinvest not privatize. When we privatize people with low incomes are eventually priced out of their homes.
How will you bring back tourism?
We need to build a “smarter city”. We need to build in public health platforms in everything that we do. Given that the vaccine will be accessible for everyone after May 1st, we need to place them in accessible locations and allow for walk-ins.
We need to make sure that our streets are safe and that our transportation system is efficient and effective. With safe streets, we can utilize outdoor spaces for theater and the arts.
We need to upgrade our digital infrastructure and make sure that our hotels can accommodate tourists needs – healthy foods, restaurants, etc. We need to safely re-open our restaurants with proper ventilation and build more green space and bring back opportunities especially in our neighborhoods.
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