I was born and raised in Flushing, at the southern edge of District 24.
And after 30+ years, seemingly nothing has changed.
On top of this, the pandemic has further exacerbated the inequality plaguing our district, borough, and city.
Below is my agenda for representing my district when elected to City Council. Together, we can reinvest in our community, build an accessible neighborhood, and create a fairer city.
Reinvesting in our communities
In the midst of COVID-19, we need to immediately invest in our community. Our residents sorely need relief, and now is the time to rectify economic, racial, and housing injustice.
Building a safety net that touches every corner of City housing
At a minimum, the city needs to step up its rent relief initiatives for tenants. Upon taking office, I’ll work towards a rent cancellation option that provides tenants some economic piece of mind. The last thing anyone should be doing during a national health crisis is worrying about whether or not they’ll have a place to live. These policies go hand in hand with pushing the State to dramatically expand its existing programs regarding rent relief and the eviction moratorium.
I’ll also work to expand the Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project for Housing Security, which the Mayor enacted in July. In particular, I’ll push for legislation that requires private landlords to engage in mediation tenants who’ve been adversely impacted by the pandemic. This will afford tenants with a long-term path to staying in their homes, rather than worrying about potential eviction or overdue rent.
Unfortunately, the pandemic poses graver consequences to the state of NYCHA / public housing. In order to save NYCHA, we need to start adequately funding it, instead of simply relying on the Mayor’s privatization program. I’ll advocate for greater funding at the State level. We need far more than just $450 million of a $95 billion budget to remedy our distressed public housing system.
Beyond this, tenants often have little to no recourse when issues with NYCHA buildings / units do arise. Privatization / the RAD program does alleviate some of the operational burden on the city itself, but we’ve already seen how the loss of a federal monitor puts tenants at risk of mismanagement by the newly privatized buildings.
When elected, I’ll implement a comprehensive monitoring program that continues to hold private landlords accountable to their tenants and the spirit of a true public housing program. This includes streamlining how issues from tenants are reported, and persistently driving down the response time to these complaints.
Finally, we can’t take for granted that with the loss of jobs and economic security, the risk of homelessness is higher than ever. Of our ~7,000 public housing units in the district, >40% are at-risk of disappearing, and there are ZERO city-funded homeless prevention centers.
Ultimately, this pandemic has put the entire housing ecosystem at risk. I’ll fight for solutions that touch every corner of this issue, and fight for policies that keep people in their homes.
I’m a firm supporter of the One Fair Wage initiative, guaranteeing a $15 minimum wage for all workers. The pandemic has disproportionately harmed black and brown communities, whether through the actual health impact to our communities, or the fact that our most vulnerable populations are the ones deemed “essential” frontline workers.
The Governor has a bill on his desk that would rectify this economic injustice, and it’s on our local elected officials to continue pushing for this to become a reality.
We also need to drastically increase investment in local community centers that help people find, hold on to, and actively thrive in their jobs. In District 24, we have no city and state job centers, no financial literacy programs, and no formal apprenticeship / training programs. We can only begin thriving as a District when we start to actively invest in peoples’ futures.
Beyond this, there are several glaring problems in our community that limit economic mobility. We lack any true small business corridors / economic opportunity zones in our District. One of my core focuses during my time in office will be to make it easier to keep local dollars local, whether through public-private partnerships that increase access to startup capital and encourage entrepreneurship, or establishing permanent Superblocks where local residents can easily access a hub of local businesses.
We’ve already seen this latter approach adopted in an ad hoc manner during the pandemic, where local side streets are proactively closed so restaurants can expand their outdoor dining area. I’ll fight to bring this to District 24, so we can actually make our district a place where people live and play.
Much of my work during the pandemic has focused on food insecurity, and I’ve witnessed first-hand how public-private partnerships can help feed families in need.
When I’m elected, I’ll build a city-wide program that connects local restaurants with non-profits so the two can partner together to feed at-risk and food insecure New Yorkers.
New York City is already leading the charge for U.S. cities navigating climate change thanks to 2019’s Climate Mobilization Act. We need to double down on recent legislation that mandates carbon reduction targets for large buildings by investing in the job creation needed to sufficiently prepare our city for climate change. To do this, we need to expand the Climate Mobilization Act to retrofit all buildings with solar panels and/or green roofs (instead of just new buildings as currently required).
Given the scale of the work required, this alone will lead to thousands of new jobs directly aligned with ensuring New York City is prepared for the impacts of climate change.
Building an accessible neighborhood
District 24 – like much of Queens – doesn’t have great access to public transportation. Bus stops (let alone subway stops) are few and far between.
The 14th Street busway has been a resounding success, and the Mayor’s recent plans for 20 miles of new bus lanes and five new busways will similarly extend accessibility to other parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
People are used to sitting at home during this pandemic. So if we want to build a truly vibrant city coming out of it, we need to massively expand the scope of this initiative. Even within the scope of this program, the Mayor’s office selected busway corridors that were outside the scope of the MTA’s wish list.
I’ll work with both their office and the MTA to identify transportation deserts and significant areas of congestion within District 24. As the pandemic subsides, we need to get the city moving again, and the only way to ensure that all New Yorkers – especially those in my District – are part of that recovery is to make sure that everyone has access to public transportation.
Beyond basic public transportation, there are a grand total of zero Citi Bike locations in District 24 (or for that matter in most of eastern Queens). We need to make it easier just to get around the District, and there’s no reason that something that’s so accessible to residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn shouldn’t also be expanded to the outer boroughs.
As is often the case with so many of these issues, COVID-19 has exposed the lack of a sufficient safety net in our city. We pride ourselves on getting in front of the first wave, but still don’t have adequate testing infrastructure nor a recovery plan – especially for District 24, which is now a COVID hot spot.
When elected, I’ll bring more affordable urgent care centers into the District. Over the last few years working in Manhattan, I’ve noticed firsthand how urgent care centers have become nearly ubiquitous across different neighborhoods. During the pandemic, these have turned into accessible and reliable places for both COVID testing and other mental or physical ailments. By simply lowering the bar to access higher quality, low cost health care, we can improve the overall health of the residents in our district.
On the individual side, I’ll work to ensure that the NYC Care program is sufficiently implemented across all five boroughs, and fight to both broaden the guidelines of who it covers and the type of care that can be provided. This includes expanding covered services to urgent care centers so folks can receive affordable primary care outside of the prescribed NYC Health + Hospitals patient care locations.
I’m fortunate that geography alone gives me an opportunity to send my son to a high quality public school (luckily the same one that I went to when I was his age).
We can’t leave our children’s education to the lottery determined strictly by where their parents can afford the rent. We need to build more high quality schools in local neighborhoods so that parents have a choice of where to send their kids. When you look at more affluent New Yorkers, that’s exactly what they experience – whether they stay in the city or move to the suburbs, they exercise their choice of where to live, based partly on the quality of the public schools in that area.
Instead, we have this dynamic in the city where families feel burdened by where they live, where they lack any choice or say in the quality of their childrens’ education. And if their child does hit the lottery or gains admission to a specialized school, then they often travel upwards of 2 hours just to have a fair shot at a quality education.
The answer is to both expand the number of schools in local communities while simultaneously raising the bar. We will have to start by holding the State accountable for its ~40% share of the DOE’s annual budget.
From there, we’ll expand the Smart Schools Bond Act program with a mandate that goes beyond just infrastructure improvements for high-speed broadband or acquiring learning technology equipment (computers, tablets, interactive whiteboards, and 3D printers).
By repurposing this program to help build the high quality education system our children deserve.
Studies have shown a 43% lower rate of recidivism in individuals who participate in a correctional education program. The John Jay Institute has done a wonderful job in providing a comprehensive program for rehabilitation. That’s why I propose the expansion of the college into more prisons and increase access for prisoners so that we don’t create more new jails and focus on rehabilitation
I propose advocating for the ending of the TAP Gap, the $160 million hole in CUNY budgets because of NY State’s policy of not funding the full cost of tuition. CUNY and SUNY students have contributed over $2.5 billion in tuition. The time is now to fight for a fully funded tuition freeze.
Creating an equitable district
My mission when elected is to create a fairer, more just District.
Policing & community justice
In my platform, I’ve outlined in detail about the lack of access to essential services and opportunities with respect to education, healthcare, transportation, and housing.
In our District, there are only a handful of community centers, community gardens, job centers, and public pools. Essentially, we are lacking in some of the very basic services needed to support our community.
Given how large our District is, part of my mission will be to build high quality community centers where folks looking for a job can get the training they need, where kids can come to learn and play after school, or where people can just meet on a regular basis.
Community centers that serve as the focal points for our neighborhoods alleviate many of the other burdens, including the risk of over-policing. Sometimes crime is the last resort, when someone feels like they have no other options, when they feel like they have a lack of support and understanding from their community.
Instead, we must engage our residents with activities, resources, and spaces dedicated to keeping them informed and engaged. This will be a strong first step in building a more equitable District grounded in communal trust.