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My views on:

Affordable housing

NY needs a masterplan to boost the housing supply, while protecting neighborhoods and planning for flooding risks. I support a bit more housing everywhere via rezoning and taxing empty lots, conversion of old office buildings, Federal funds to upgrade NYCHA (with governance changes), and identifying areas for large developments (@30% AMI). I favor common-sense reforms to dramatically expand new construction without destroying historic neighborhoods. My father worked in urban planning, so this subject is near to my heart. New York faces five simultaneous housing and infrastructure challenges which all need to be tackled concurrently: climate resiliency, which in-turn drives where large-scale, affordable, housing can be developed, protecting the unique character of each neighborhood, upgrading old infrastructure, and upgrading our housing stock to reduce emissions and save on energy costs. This crisis must be tackled at the City, State and Federal levels via better planning, more funding for affordable housing, and active rezoning. I favor the common-sense reforms in Mayor Adams’ City of Yes, including allowing garden-units and providing a zoning bonus for affordable housing. But considerably more is required to unlock potential supply, including increasing the property tax rate on vacant lots, eliminating the tax benefits large companies get when buying existing residential properties (driving prices up without adding to supply), encouraging upsizing of low-rise retail space (i.e. supermarkets, bodegas, etc.) to also include housing, allowing construction of small low-cost single occupancy studios near transportation hubs, converting vacant commercial space, fixing the unacceptable maintenance backlog in public housing, and more! Community Boards and the City Council must remain involved to provide a voice to local communities. NYCHA needs better oversight, more funding, and in some cases a total rethink. The hundreds of tenants I have spoken to almost unanimously described persistent maintenance issues, including broken elevators, leaks, and intercoms broken since their childhood. They suffer such indignities as the ban on owning both a wash and a dryer—while there are none on the ground floor—as well as the insecurity and nuisance caused by homeless people and drug addicts entering the broken front door and living in the stairwells. I will champion a bill mandating maintenance standards (including functioning intercoms!), better agency oversight, and the development of a plan which will provide a path to ownership for long-term tenants. The limited new supply of affordable housing in NYC is rarely affordable. I favor identifying areas which have the space, the infrastructure, and the locally community support for hosting massive high-rises, partially funded by the Federal government, which can offer truly affordable housing with a 30-40% AMI threshold.

Homelessness

Caring for the unsheltered with mental illness cannot be left to the MTA, shelters, ERs, and the police. I will champion more Permanent Supportive Housing which provides on-site mental care. It is humane, more effective, cheaper, and will improve everyone’s quality of life. Only a comprehensive approach can mitigate the homelessness crisis. This entails adopting a long-term, multi-pronged strategy, including building more affordable housing, tackling inequity, incorporating views from people with homelessness experience, and shifting the burden of treating homeless people with mental illness to specialized residences with qualified staff on-hand. This strategy involves coordination between social services, developing a centralized source of information of all individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and overcoming privacy issues around mental health in the Psyckes database. A key to success will be continuing a housing-first approach (placing first-time homeless folks in shelters immediately), while prioritizing the placement of families to ensure they never sleep on the street. Second, the construction of low cost, single occupancy apartments, or even shared boarding homes, close to public transportation, must be encouraged. New York needs a range of more affordable housing, but this type would address the needs of very low income, single folks of all ages. Of course, we must also dramatically increase the construction of affordable housing for families. Thirdly, adopting a novel approach for addressing the needs of homeless people with severe mental illness must be a top priority. It is absurd that their care is left in the hands of overburdened police, shelters, social services, and ER rooms. It is also not fair that New Yorkers, particularly straphangers, must suffer the consequences of these failed policies. The solution must involve Permanent Supportive Housing which provides on-site mental healthcare. It is humane, produces better results, is more cost effective, and will improve everyone’s quality of life.

Inflation

High cost of living is a major challenge and my bills will help by preserving Social Security, reinstituting the child tax credit and SALT deduction, cutting student debt, boosting the affordable housing supply, cutting healthcare costs, and cracking down on monopolies. Additionally, I will champion small grants to support the expansion of successful community-based businesses, such as the Park Slope Food Coop. High costs of living are tough on New Yorkers, whether it be rent, mortgage, education, health insurance or groceries. I will approach the challenge from both sides of the equation: income and expenses. From an income perspective, I will make it a priority to pass legislation which supports the income of all New Yorkers: saving Social Security (which runs-out of funds within 8 years), re-instituting the child tax credit (best way to reduce child poverty), fully-funding 3-K, re-instituting the State & Local Tax deduction (so unfair to New Yorkers), and supporting efforts to cut student debt. I will also support a national minimum wage and parental leave bill, as well as the roll-out of an initial phase of government supported daycare centers. From a cost perspective, the top priority is rent, which consumes 30-50% of the incomes of most tenants. The best response is accelerating housing construction, Federal financing of new public housing, and shifting the mix of affordable housing towards the bottom-end of the AMI range (i.e. 30- 40%). Healthcare is another area in dire need of reform. We must build-on the ACA, expanding Medicare’s ability to negotiate the price of medication, limit the ability of insurance companies to also own drug companies, cap the amount they can spend on administrative expenses, cap their profit margins, and mandate more transparency in pricing. I will also encourage the City of New York to carefully review all rules & regulations applying to small businesses, so that they can more effectively compete against large businesses. Finally, we must continue to crack down on the growing concentration of business interests which limits competition. As a long-time member of the amazingly successful Park Slope Food Coop, a member-run business which provides high-quality ingredients at affordable prices to more than 10,000 families, I will seek to provide start-up grants to entities which can roll-out similar alternatives to more neighborhoods.

Immigration

Immigration is vital to NYC, but it must be orderly. We must secure the border, process cases humanely and expeditiously by hiring more judges, create more pathways for legal immigration (particularly where there are labor shortages), and better cooperate with Mexico. I will fight for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. I support orderly immigration. We are a nation of immigrants, and every community contributes to our economy and our vibrant culture. Such diversity makes New York uniquely attractive. As a result, we must continue to offer legal paths for entering the US, based on the needs of the economy, family reunification, or protection from political oppression. We must also provide a path to citizenship to all Dreamers. But open borders do not work—one need only look at the chaos in Germany during the Syrian migrant crisis. It is the duty of the Federal government to control our borders, in a humane but effective way, and we are failing. Despite the lack of collaboration from MAGA Republicans in Congress, happy to use this issue as a pollical cudgel, we need to find working solutions. Over the past six months of walking every residential street of the district, and speaking with thousands of voters, I believe that the overwhelming majority of people agree with this view. But most folks, particularly in the more diverse or low income neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Chinatown, Borough Park, Two Bridges, Red Hook and even the East Village, are upset at the migrant situation. The concerns are three-fold: 1) the large financial burden on the city (most older immigrants had to pay their own way), 2) competition for entry-level jobs (single moms in the gig economy were particularly vocal), and 3) a general sense of chaos. I favor the following policies: 1) dramatically increasing the number of immigration judges (the average wait time for a hearing is currently 4 to 6 years!), 2) creating more pathways for legal entry into the US, with all applications processed in the home country or in a country where the applicants are temporarily seeking asylum, 3) dramatically increasing resources for patrolling our border with Mexico and humanly treating unauthorized entry (but with an end to catch & release), 4) offering a path to citizenship for Dreamers, 5) automatically deporting undocumented immigrants involved in a felony, if they have only recently arrived, 6) increasing cooperation with Mexico and Central America by providing financial assistance to help stem the flow of migrants and the work of smugglers, including encouraging the end of visa-free entrance into these countries from departure zones, and 7) placing strict criteria to ensure that political refuges seek entry into the US to save their lives, not for improved economic wellbeing.

Crime

Crime remains too high. We don’t need aggressive policing, or under-policing. What we need is good policing: professional, motivated, accountable, from the community, and well-funded. We also need to expand mental health resources, tighten the flow of illegal guns, expand teen programs, and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Crime in New York is too high—well above pre-pandemic levels—and a major resident concern, across all neighborhoods. The less affluent the community, the more concern. Many of the communities I have visited believe that lower police budgets have disproportionately affected them. NYCHA residents say that NYCHA police are no longer inspecting housing units, or evicting drug addicts from the stairwells—often people external to the community. In fact, I have had the same young men complain about both police brutality and the lack of police presence in their neighborhoods, despite an increase in shootings. There is a deep longing across most neighborhoods for more policing–community policing. Overly aggressive policing of the past was clearly unacceptable, but under-policing is not the solution. I am in support of good policing—professional, motivated, heroic, sufficiently funded—but which treats all citizens equally, is closely integrated with social services, representative of the community, and minimizes deadly violence. That is why I support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It is imperative that the police force do its part to ensure that the very small fraction of serial bad cops is prevented from doing harm. Reducing crime requires a comprehensive approach. This includes providing more teen after-school and summer programs, working closely with social services, addressing the mental health crisis, expanding community policing, providing ongoing police training, and demanding accountability of the police force. And all of this while also cracking down on serial criminals, expanding the definition of hate crimes, tightening gun control, and providing clear guidance to the police force as to what is expected from them. At a time of desperate need, the police force is shrinking—a result of frustration and retirements. Many police officers will volunteer that while they love their jobs, they feel disliked by part of the public. We must redress this alarming situation!

Schools

Schools should be an equalizer. I support universal 3-K, smaller classes, tutoring in poorer schools, after-
school funding, and doubling school lunch budgets to improve their dismal quality. We need to

dramatically increase the focus on mental health with full-time staff in all schools. There is no one-size-
fits-all in learning. As a result, I support diversity of choice including some charter schools, the
specialized high schools, and vocational schools.

Racial Inequality

Persistent racial and social inequality must be addressed with pragmatic, yet bold, measures including more affordable housing, enhanced support in poor schools, after-school programs, good community policing, fairness in justice, cutting pollution and enhancing voting rights. One of the greatest sources of inequality is housing. The housing shortage results in intense competition for existing units and exorbitant rent. Tackling this crisis must be a policy priority. In addition to my plans for expanding the supply of affordable housing in NYC (see Affordable Housing Views), I believe that we have an obvious lever at our fingertips to tackle racial and social inequality: we should provide a path to homeownership to the 340,000 hardworking New Yorkers who live in NYCHA housing. NYCHA is a broken institution: funding is insufficient, oversight is problematic, corruption clearly present, and living conditions for residents unacceptable. Solutions adopted over the years have failed. Intercoms have not worked for decades. Many buildings have damaged front doors which do not lock, resulting in drug addicts—mostly external to the community—shooting-up in the stairwells which have become unsafe, urine-stained, no-go squatter zones. Elevators are frequently out-of-order, ceilings leaking, and maintenance tickets take months—even years—to resolve, often in unsatisfactory ways. Residents are made to never feel at home through a cumbersome process which requires them to re- apply for housing annually. Additionally, some residents feel deep humiliation from their living conditions and their inability to move elsewhere. In my talks with 500 NYCHA residents since early May, living in a dozen properties, it was painfully obvious that NYCHA is deeply dysfunctional and that, worse, it just keeps residents in a perpetual state nof anxiety, dependency, and inability to improve their standards of living. In fact, a resident who gets a better job barely sees the fruits of their labor since the effective tax rate is roughly 55% due to 30% of the increase going to rent. Many residents I have spoken to, including Gaile, Stella, Christopher, Shirley, Angela, Markia, Carolyn, Armando, Cindy, and Ms. D. feel trapped. Conditions are not improving, and they cannot save to move elsewhere. The population of NYCHA is 45% Hispanic, 43% Black, 6% Asian and 6% White/Other. What is particularly striking is that the average tenure is 25 years, with many people born and raised in those properties. Only 13% receive any other public assistance (i.e., welfare). Many are old enough to remember when their developments had a majority of residents who were recent European immigrants. Most of these White residents had an opportunity to move elsewhere and purchase a home. What better way to address class and racial injustice, and to adopt a novel approach to the problematic NYCHA model, than to provide long-term residents with an opportunity to become the proud owners of their apartments? We all know that homeownership plays a critical role in accessing the ranks of the middle class. While the principle is very straightforward, the implementation must be crafted intelligently, so that residents can afford to continue living in their apartments once they become owners. Properties must be renovated prior to transfer, and flexible schemes must be developed so that the transfer is done on attractive terms, with imbedded flexibility to provide financial resiliency to residents (i.e. ability to build “ownership credits” during good times, and to put them on hold during tougher times).

Healthcare

We love our doctors and hate our insurers. We must bring costs down while improving care: cap profit
margins, ban insurer ownership of pharmacies, require pricing transparency, negotiate-down the price
of meds, save Beth Israel hospital, and gradually offer the option of Medicare for All.

Congestion pricing

I support congestion pricing, but believe the current plan must be improved. Economists focused on climate change believe that congestion pricing (“CP”) can reduce emissions, improve pedestrian safety, improve traffic flows, and raise funds for public transport, and I fully agree. I am convinced, however, that the current plan is flawed. The fee should be set lower during a transition period while the program is evaluated and improved, and to give affected drivers living in the zone time to adapt. Additionally, there should be more exemptions for local residents, and a greater effort must be made to invest some of the revenues to support public transportation needs in the transportation deserts affected by CP. I am a committed environmentalist who relies on public transportation, does not own a car, and lives in Brooklyn, outside the CP zone. It would be really easy for me to merely forward the press releases of so many elected officials who are disappointed by the Governor’s decision, particularly since I am in favor of CP over time. This view will not be popular, but the reality is that the current plan is flawed. It is flawed because it is meant as a revenue generating toll rather than a means to reduce congestion (which would of course also generate revenues). Congestion pricing needs to be part of the toolbox for making New York more livable, less reliant on cars, and to reduce the city’s emissions. The MTA is vital to NY and it clearly needs more funds for capital improvements and expanding the network. Supporters can point to London, Stockholm and Singapore where CP has been successful. Implementation in NYC, however, is more difficult because the city does not have a uniformly shaped central business district, there are many residents in the zone below 60th Street and public transportation access varies by area. As I set-out walking the entire district, I was firmly in the camp of CP. But my discussions with hundreds of voters in “transportation deserts” such as the Lower East Side, Alphabet City, Battery Park City, and Red Hook, as well as in neighborhoods where small businesses are particularly affected, such as Chinatown and Borough Park, opened my eyes to the flaws in the plan. I was struck by the level of distress from small businesses in Chinatown (who rely on customers visiting from outer boroughs), from LES residents—including low-income NYCHA tenants—who have difficult commutes, and from residents in Red Hook who only have access to limited public transportation options. The current law has three key flaws: 1) it sets an arbitrary $1 Bn in revenues to be raised for the MTA, 2) it sets an arbitrary definition of the Central Business District below 60th Street, and 3) there is no phase-in period. With a limited area (it could have captured a broader area in Manhattan), and a requirement to raise $1 Bn, the MTA was forced to start the fare at $15, with very limited day-time variation (even though congestion pricing schemes can modulate pricing according to levels of congestion). London started with a smaller area, with few residents who were mostly exempt from the charge, a lower fare, a much wider range of off-peak hours, and an expansion of bus schedules. We should all remember that fighting Climate Change is both existential, and a long-term effort which requires thoughtful implementation to avoid the type of backlash which results in good long-term programs being cancelled. I urge the State Assembly to amend the law to make sure it is enacted in such a way that it does not cause undue near-term burden to many communities, while also setting it on a path to long-term success. The primary goals should be to manage congestion and reduce emissions, while also raising revenues for the MTA. If CP pricing is progressively phased-in (starting at perhaps $5 for several years), with more exemptions for residents, more off-peak hours, and without an arbitrary revenue target, we will get a better plan, better buy-in, cause less disruption to some working families, and undoubtedly have a better result in ten years!

Other pro- views:

Choice, Mental healthcare, Perm. Supportive Housing, public option, public schools, after-school, good policing, gun control, MTA, Safe & Clean streets, hate-crime laws, LGBTQ+, equity, secure borders & immigration reform. 

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