New York City is entirely unprepared for another Superstorm Sandy. We must face the realities of escalating ecological dangers and push for capital infrastructure projects that protect the major flood zones of the city. Additionally, we hope to attack the District's impact on global warming by entangling our public budget with non-profits focused on the redistribution of food waste. If wasted food were its own country, the emissions produced from its decomposition would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gasses behind the United States and China. We can use this quality, packaged, wasted food to further social good.
One of the biggest problems facing New Yorkers right now is the absence of affordable housing. It is a crisis that threatens to rob New York of what makes it special - the variety and diversity of the people who live here. The City's plan to address the problem has already seen the construction of more than 60,000 new, affordable residences, with many more still to come. I intend to push for many of those residences to be in District 2 to help maintain the rich, diverse community that has developed here.
Simultaneously, I will insist that new developments have affordable housing components. The Union Square Tech Hub is an example - the hub will create jobs, but must include a plan to include new affordable units. Residents of District 2 deserve the new job opportunities and advancement that can accompany development, but must have their right to live in their community protected.
One of the most forward-thinking ways we intend to address the affordable housing crisis is through the formation of Community Land Trusts (CLTs). CLTs would put the control of affordable housing structures, community gardens, and the like back in the hands of the community (as the name implies) , and may be best arranged by having a centralized fund paired with Individual Land Trusts (ILTs), which would further cement local control of these structures.
Finally, I stand firmly in opposition to the privatization of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Given the current administration, HUD cuts are coming and will sap federal money coming in. Rather than cuts, an in-depth audit needs to be ordered and analyzed, to make sure every dollar is being used efficiently and to reallocate money that isn't. Frequently, repairs that are desperately needed in NYCHA properties are poorly managed, which leads to understandable frustration on behalf of tenants and the city throwing good money after bad. There must be a better way.
"The burden [of a lack of commercial lease protections for small businesses] falls disproportionately on the immigrant small business owner community, which is particularly devastating to me, the child of immigrants."
New York City Council needs to provide more and stronger protections for small business. There are more than 200,000 small businesses in New York City, many of them in District 2, and I understand the importance of making it easier to own and operate a small business. The government can and should be a partner to help small business owners advance, especially by increasing access to loans.
I will also help small business owners plug into existing programs they may not already know about. An example of this is NYC Love Your Local, which is a city service that has an interactive map to push business to small, locally own businesses, and gives out grants of up to $90,000. Only 1,700 businesses are listed on it city-wide. Making sure District 2 small business owners know about it and are plugged into it and similar services will help them get ahead by giving them access to loans and increasing traffic.
The Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) must be moved out of committee and made law. The current bill addresses the dilemma of commercial leases in New York, a field in which business owners currently have very little control, and would give them the opportunity re-up their leases and protect them from certain taxes being passed along by landlords. The inability to re-up leases robs business owners of the ability to plan - something crucial in growing any small business. This burden falls disproportionately on the immigrant small business owner community, which is particularly devastating to me, the child of two immigrants.
Workers must be protected as well, and there are ways to enact these laws that won't place an undue load on small businesses. Scheduling for workers' shifts must be legally required two weeks in advance - "on call scheduling" makes it impossible for workers to plan, be it to arrange affordable childcare or budget effectively. This traps workers, particularly minimum wage, restaurant, and retail workers, in a cycle of poverty that c
Naloxone has been legally available over-the-counter for years in New York City, and yet in practice it remains difficult to find. I personally visited 12 pharmacies around the city asking if they stocked Naloxone and was horrified to discover that many pharmacists had never heard of the program. One even said he needed a prescription to distribute it. Naloxone is a drug only needed in an emergency - when someone has overdosed on opioids. No one in need of Naloxone will be able to obtain a prescription in the short window it would be effective.
I believe this is a perfect example of City Council's current dilemma - a commitment to progressive ideals, but no practical follow through. Naloxone could save lives, if only it were stocked. There was a huge PR push, but no follow through, many pharmacists hadn't heard of it, and there are obviously no repercussions for pharmacies that don't carry it or inform their employees of its availability. That's unacceptable.
Non-Profits and Advocacy Groups
Non-profits and advocacy groups have the backing of experts and have spent their existence focusing on solving specific issues. Moreover, the people there have spent their lives obtaining multiple degrees in their fields or in the trenches, facing problems and assessing solutions every day of their working lives. New York City doesn't take enough advantage of how hard these people have worked or the proposals they put forth.
To address this, I propose a two-pronged solution. First, policy solutions from these groups must be analyzed as policy to be enacted by the city immediately. They've done the legwork; now City Council must close the loop with legislation.
The second side of this is that funds must be allocated to help these great groups do the work they're already doing better. Utilizing their existing infrastructure, we can make a dent in large problems without significant budgetary damage.
There is nothing more important to community engagement than transparency. I truly believe that anyone willing to get involved should be able to, and, too often, politics feels so complicated that people feel that it eludes them.
But if there is a single lesson to be learned from the 2016 election, let it be that people cannot afford to disengage at any level of politics. As such, politicians who intend to truly represent the public, must make it easier for the public to engage.
If elected, I will establish an easy tracking system on my website for legislation, be responsive to public ideas for new laws, and hold frequent town halls. I will be entirely accountable to the people; District 2 deserves it.
I will support legislation to refer incidents involving the NYPD to be investigated by an independent task force, and that this task force must be made up of individuals from all walks of life. A task force composed only of police officers will consistently provide biased judgments; institutional changes must be enacted to protect both New Yorkers and the officers that protect them.
I believe that the implementation of body cameras is a necessity to the protection of civilian rights, and is a reasonably simple way to increase police accountability, and decrease the cultural pressure to not report corruption to internal affairs.