As Manhattan grows, it is clear that we need an increased number of affordable units. 44% of all New York households are rent burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income towards rent. We’re a city of islands and cannot develop out, so we must develop up. Changes to zoning that allow higher density construction are part of the solution to our affordable housing crisis. These rezonings must be conscientious towards the environmental, racial, and economic concerns of the neighborhood. All rezonings should be made with public transit in mind - whether looking towards areas with existing robust access for upzoning or with a plan for subway and bus service expansion in a less developed area. I expect that every community in Manhattan plays its part, and I plan to facilitate these conversations, ensuring the representation of all interested groups and residents of each neighborhood.
With the expansion of work from home programs and a reduction in need for traditional office space, we have a fantastic opportunity to rezone Midtown Manhattan and revitalize our business district. Increasing residential units, under a plan similar to 421-g program, would create affordable housing in a central location, decreasing transit times, supporting the local businesses and restaurants of the neighborhood, and decrease the emissions of these older buildings, given the renovations necessary to transform them into residential units.
New York City has an affordable housing crisis. Our current leaders have failed to provide adequate support, leaving 70,000 New Yorkers unhoused. As a community, all Manhattan districts have a responsibility to do their part and provide affordable housing and social services. There is no denying that it is less costly and better for families to receive funding to keep their housing, or to be placed in housing, rather than routed through the shelter system. We need more interventions before people lose their homes, to address the homelessness crisis. I recognize that the two leading causes of homelessness are domestic violence and eviction, and our approach must take these factors into account.
We cannot lose any more affordable housing units, and must grow our stock responsibly. New York City functions best when there is support for all ranges of income: middle class, working class, and public housing.
In light of the continuing pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming eviction crisis, we need a compassionate rent and mortgage relief program.
New York City needs a #CorpsOfTheBigApple, a program that puts motivated young people to work with the support of subsidized housing. I am in particular inspired by the CUNY Service Corps program.
Homeless and Supportive Services
I’ve worked with the homelessness population throughout my adult life. Affordable housing, shelter spaces, and supportive services have been a consistent problem throughout borough. We, as a community, need to do right by our fellow New Yorkers. Every neighborhood needs to do its part. In the COVID era, I will lead collaboration with the private sector and public health. We need solutions, like a robust rental assistance program, that bring people together rather than divide. The Manhattan Borough President should be convening stakeholders, bringing together communities and moderating discussions, in Community Planning groups. In order to have these discussions, greater transparency from the Mayor’s office and NYC Department of Homeless Services is required. We need to know where people are and what kind of support they need, in a timely manner.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of hybrid and remote learning have revealed the sorry state of public school buildings, some of which, it is now clear, were not safe for children pre-pandemic. Upgrading and retrofitting these buildings would not only make children safer and healthier, it would provide Green jobs and contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment.
The DOE and the Mayor need to be more transparent with their decision making process. As we’ve seen through their handling of hybrid learning and school closures, New York City parents are adaptable, but they need advance notice, and their lives shouldn’t be casually interrupted by unnecessary abruptness. I will work with the City to release a clear guideline and path to return to hybrid, and then in-person learning, as we endure this pandemic.
This is not to say that the normal way of doing things, pre-COVID-19, was acceptable or easy to navigate. The admissions criteria for elementary schools and G&T programs is opaque and places a higher burden on low-income families who do not have the resources to devote to navigating a byzantine system. A simplified, streamlined process, with easily accessible assistance for those families who need it is essential for addressing our shameful segregation problem.
It is unacceptable that New York City’s public schools are among the most segregated in the country. In my capacity as Chair of Manhattan Community Board 7, I supported the redrawing of PS 199’s catchment district, improving the range of economic distribution of students in Upper West Side public schools. I supported City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s District 3 Middle School Diversity Plan, which prioritized 25% of seats for low income students in middle school admission. I will fight to ensure that every child is treated equally, that school districts are drawn equitably, and that there is equal opportunity for success for every student.
We can’t ignore the digital divide and unequal distribution of reliable internet. I will work with tech companies, but also hold them accountable on their contracts to expand broadband access, giving our city the tools to succeed in the new demands of remote learning and work. Students and those living in public housing must have access to this necessary utility.
The funds appropriated by The Smart Schools Bond Act must be directed to providing the 77,000 unfilled requests for remote learning devices that our students so desperately need. This is also a great opportunity for our private technology and philanthropy to step up and partner with our schools, contributing to the communities that they are embedded in. As Manhattan Borough President, I will bridge that public-private divide and connect our students to these opportunities.
I believe that a robust, modern public transit system is the lifeblood of Manhattan and its workforce. A more efficient transit system will support the long-term environmental and public health goals of our borough, while also cleanly, safely, and effectively transporting people to their homes and places of work. That’s why I support expanding bike lanes, creating dedicated bus lanes, and increasing the number of electrical vehicles used in and by the city. Congestion pricing in Downtown Manhattan, when enacted appropriately, will fund public transportation, and reduce congestion and carbon dioxide emissions.
The expansion of the 2nd Avenue subway must continue in a timely manner, to connect the residents of East Harlem to mass transit, jobs, and education. Although there are valid concerns of gentrification and rising rents, that is no reason to fail to provide essential resources.
Open Streets and Accessibility
New York and Manhattan are, above all, walkable cities. I’ve loved the innovation and ingenuity of our restaurants in adapting to the challenges and opportunity of street dining and I’m thrilled that the Open Restaurants program has been made permanent, but the streets must be kept accessible.
In a walking city such as ours, every person needs to be able to safely and comfortably traverse the streets. When the sidewalks, and access to the sidewalks are obscured, wheelchair-users, strollers, dollies, food carts, and anyone with mobility issues faces difficulty accessing their city. A report by the current MBP found that only 9.5% of street corners curb cuts surveyed were compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The same issue arises with the dearth of accessible subway stations, and the lack of maintenance for existing elevators. An investigation by THE CITY.NYC shows a failure to install OMNY scanners at the automatic gates that are the only accessible entrance to New York City’s wheelchair users. This second class service, in a system where only around one quarter of stations are accessible, is unacceptable.
I will work with the MTA and the DOT to inspect and maintain our streets and aggressively pursue accessibility expansion.
I support a Green New Deal - a jobs program that puts people to work, upgrading city infrastructure, generating long-term savings in energy efficiency and resilience against the impacts of climate change. A Green New Deal will create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers, while also saving the City millions of dollars in landfill and waste costs, as well as avoiding the tragedy and recovery process of climate change-based natural disasters.
I’ll work with the private sector to transition NYC’s power source to green, sustainable energy, in line with the governor’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the mayor’s Roadmap to 80 x 50, and the City Council’s Climate Mobilization Act.
Trash Removal & Recycling
Trash bags that litter our streets are an eyesore, but more importantly, a safety hazard. They obscure the sidewalk and attract pests. The clearing of trash from our city’s sidewalks is imperative to preserving the health, safety, and beauty of New York. As Borough President, I will use the office to support our city’s sanitation department and bring in industry experts to expand our recycling capabilities -- making our city not only more beautiful, but cleaner for the environment. I will also expand the presence of recycling bins in NYCHA housing and apartments, which have often been overlooked, by working with landlords and building managers to transform garbage storage and collection. By increasing our sorted recycling, we’ll both save money and the environment.
Duties of the Borough President
I support term limits for Community Board members, and an outreach program to neighborhood residents to make more equitable appointments reflecting the demographic makeup of the communities they represent. There needs to be reform in the selection process. I intend to prioritize the participation of NYCHA residents, as well that of tenant’s groups and renters.
As Borough President, my first priority will be to increase transparency with the district managers, meeting with them regularly. The public has every right to have access to the ongoings of their elected officials, and I will ensure the utmost transparency of the office. At the same time, I plan to increase the responsibilities for, and accountability from district managers, given their status as public servants and ambassadors for their neighborhoods. There must be standardization across the different boards. I will host each monthly Borough Board meeting in a different district each month, drawing attention to each neighborhood throughout the year. I will expand the use of the uptown 125th office, as I firmly believe that the borough president needs to be present all over Manhattan, and not just downtown in City Hall.
Supporting Small Business & Tech
I will increase outreach to small businesses and the tech community. Small businesses fell behind when they faced difficulties applying to the Paycheck Protection Program, and other state and federal aid programs. I will use the office to provide outreach and help navigate federal, state, and local bureaucracy.
New York City needs to be on the forefront of tech innovation. As Borough President, I will reach out to Data NYC, Tech NYC, and the Roosevelt Island tech hub to streamline functions of the office, and reform the budget priorities and district needs review process.