Improving Quality of Life
Manhattan is a global Borough within a global city – a beacon of diversity, individuality, and progress. New Yorkers are fiercely loyal to their city – but that doesn't mean they should accept inconvenient trade-offs without question. The events of 2020 dispersed scores of New Yorkers across the country. The small things add up, and if we want residents to return – and bring with them the next generation of innovators, artists, business leaders, and activists – we have to take a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, block-by-block approach to improving our Borough.
Make free public restrooms available across the Borough
Public urination was decriminalized by the City Council in 2017 as part of an effort to reduce interactions between New Yorkers and the police. While summonses for public urination have declined since then, public urination and defecation remain a significant problem, especially in Manhattan. The City has not taken the relevant steps to eliminate the underlying problem of restroom access. We must increase the number of public restrooms available. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the restaurants and bars Manhattanites typically used to access a restroom have closed temporarily or permanently. This combined with the strengthening of rules regarding who can use the restroom at many establishments has aggravated the issue.
As Borough President, I will work with Community Boards to pilot a free public restroom network, as has been successful in Japan and Europe. Restrooms would be placed in communities according to need and with local input, and funded by sponsors and philanthropy, with the ultimate goal of a widespread network of free, clean, and accessible public restrooms throughout Manhattan. I will lobby for the City to create an app that maps publicly-access restrooms, including this network.
Make Open Streets, outdoor dining and drinks to go permanent
Our city’s pandemic response was rife with missteps, a lack of transparency, and some marked failures. Even so, some COVID-era policy changes and adaptations were notable successes, like the Open Streets initiative and the temporary legalization of to-go cocktails. I support making permanent, improving, and expanding those adaptations that have borne fruit during a devastating time.
The Open Streets program was a success for Manhattan residents and businesses, and it should be continued. I will advocate to make the program permanent. I will also work with the Department of Transportation to implement measures to make it safer and more successful, including providing permanent and more durable signage, barriers, and traffic calming measures; creating a program to provide support to the neighborhood groups; and making a more transparent process for community feedback.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Manhattan’s restaurants and bars to be more creative in serving their customers. One such experiment has been offering cocktails to-go. This has been a welcome boon to establishments and patrons alike – serving as a lifeline to hospitality businesses hindered by COVID-19 restrictions. Cocktails to-go has also offered New Yorkers a taste of their favorite drink at home.
Many of New York State’s long-standing laws around alcohol are sensible; barring the sale of to-go alcohol from licensed establishments is not one of them. With no evidence that this policy is leading to increased public drunkenness or other quality-of-life-related issues, there is no reason to discontinue it. I will lead the charge to keep this regulation undone.