Bringing Back New York
What would New York City and our nation be without Manhattan, its bustling engine? To regain the quality of life that puts Manhattan at the core of the greatest city in the world, we need a whole-of-Borough effort to support the businesses, artists, and communities that enliven our city. That means getting our children back to school, making it easier for businesses to roar back to life, and finding creative ways to support the cultural communities that make our city tick.
Ending COVID-related school closures
I have been the only candidate standing with our public school parents from the start. Remote learning has become disastrous for students, who have lost over a year of instruction and social interaction. Internet learning has disproportionately hurt students with disabilities, students from low-income families, and students of color. Keeping kids home has also created immense burdens on parents.
Working mothers have borne the brunt of this shift to remote education, exacerbating gender inequality in our city. Over the last year, more than 2 million women left the workforce in the U.S. alone. Mothers of young children have been particularly affected by the shift to remote instruction. One commentator noted that the “biggest issue of gender equality in 2021 may well be whether schools return to near-normal this fall.” Our city’s parents and children have been failed by our local leaders. Now, we must both look forward with an eye toward full in-person instruction in the fall, while also demanding transparency and accountability so the mistakes of the last year do not persist and are never repeated.
I will work to ensure New York City Public Schools have all the resources and policies in place they need to return to five-day a week instruction for all students this fall, including frequent free testing for all students, teachers, and staff. If necessary, I will work to secure additional outside facilities for schools if that helps ensure adequate social distancing.
Refund small businesses for COVID costs
On top of an economic crisis, business owners have had to incur extra expenses to COVID-proof their shops and restaurants. These expenses are disproportionately greater for small businesses, which are unable to rely on the resources of large corporations.
As Manhattan reopens, we need to do all we can to help our small businesses recover and thrive. I will support a program to reimburse businesses for COVID-related expenses – including sanitizing supplies, air purifiers, and PPE – as well as future improvements restaurants will make to ensure safe indoor and outdoor dining.
Direct payments for small businesses and workers
New York City is due to receive $6 billion from the American Recovery Act, with an additional $6.5 billion allocated to the MTA and $4 billion to our public school system. The City must use these funds to directly help New York’s hardest-hit sectors, like hospitality and tourism, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Direct payments for individuals from the federal government have stimulated the economy. Now is no time for red tape. We must use a large portion of our recovery funds for direct payments to current and former workers in struggling industries and our hardest hit small business owners. This will help rent-burdened small businesses from going under, and help prevent New Yorkers from losing their homes.
Create a safety net for arts and gig workers
The arts are central to Manhattan’s vitality and economy. They represent one in every eight dollars spent in New York City. Unfortunately, the arts and entertainment sector has been decimated by the pandemic. The 90,000 New Yorkers who were employed in the arts have paid a steep price in the pandemic, with employment down 66 percent from 2019 to 2020. While many arts unions have come to agreements with theaters and production companies, many players and backstage workers have not. The agreements that have been brokered don’t include freelance artists.
Saving New York’s arts sector will require a long-term strategy and substantial investment. The State Comptroller says government intervention will be required. Workers need a long-term solution specific to them, especially as they return to our city’s stages and theaters.
A community that is so crucial to Manhattan’s essence and economy deserves our support. I propose establishing a civic fund that would provide an emergency safety net for workers in the arts for when current arrangements fall short. I would also explore the possibility of creating a city-backed, opt-in 401k-style retirement program for freelance artists, which could serve as a pilot for a similar long-term program for gig and freelance workers.
Free same-day PCR test results
While we are making great strides toward herd immunity through vaccination, we will be living with COVID-19 for the near future. Easy and accessible testing will be key to pinpointing outbreaks and new variants, and will facilitate travel and other currently restricted activities. While New York City already offers free PCR and same-day antigen testing, we must get our testing capacity to a place where we can offer same day results of PCR tests, considered the gold standard for testing, to any New Yorker who wants or needs them. This will prevent future outbreaks and keep New Yorkers safe.
Create a jobs corps for young Manhattanites
More than 75,000 young people benefit from New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the program was cut during the pandemic, hitting a population already suffering from a disproportionately high unemployment rate. I support reinvigorating and expanding the program, with an increased focus on supporting green jobs. Sustainability-related jobs young people could perform include tree maintenance, converting pedestrian plazas, helping with coastal resilience projects, and painting roofs through the CoolRoofs program, with the potential to expand this to other large infrastructure projects.