Gotham Gazette Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:22:26 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) City Council Anti-Harassment Bills Don’t Apply to the City Council Johnson City Council staff

Speaker Johnson and others (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)

Last week, the City Council proposed a legislative package aimed at confronting sexual harassment in private and government work environments. It includes 11 bills, four of which would apply to city agencies should they become law. Council members sponsoring the bills, including Speaker Corey Johnson, touted the legislation as evidence of the Council taking significant action toward preventing and punishing the type of harassment that has become the focus of a national movement. But the bills do not apply to the City Council itself.

“All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace – and this starts with sending a strong message to employers that there is no place for sexualharassment in New York City,” Johnson said in a press release. “With more and more sexual harassment cases being brought to light, it has never been more important for the government to play a role in the movement to end sexual harassment and assault.”

There was also some confusion among the bill-sponsoring Council members and in the speaker's office as to whether the bills applied to other non-mayoral government entities such as the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. After this article was originally published, a Council spokesperson clarified that "The legislation as it is written will cover non-mayoral government entities, including the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, or Borough Presidents. The Council will be covered through a rule that will be drafted to ensure compliance."

Speaker Johnson, along with Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, and Adrienne Adams, are the primary sponsors of the bills that add requirements to city agencies’ anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures. Johnson’s bill would mandate twice-annual sexual harassment training; Adams’ bill would instruct the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and Commission on Human Rights to partner in determining risk factors “associated with sexual harassment” in city agencies; Levine’s would mandate that city agencies collect and then report sexual harassment cases; and Rosenthal’s would direct the Commission on Human Rights to administer surveys that test “general awareness and knowledge of workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention.”   

When originally asked about the omission of the Council and other non-mayoral entities in the legislation, a City Council spokesperson said that the Council is in the beginning stages of the legislative process, the bills may change, and that the Council will adhere to the laws they pass. There was no discussion of the Council’s own policies at the hourslong hearing on the bills held February 28 at City Hall.

A spokesperson for Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Women, told Gotham Gazette that the process is in its early stages, insisted the Council would comply with the practices in the new laws, and said that many of the provisions in the bevy of bills are already the Council’s policy, such as the provisions included in Johnson’s bill.  

A spokesperson for Adrienne Adams also said the Council was early in its process and “intended to comply” with the legislation.

A spokesperson for Mark Levine did not respond to requests for comment. Last year, Levine announced plans to introduce legislation that would designate Council staff complaints as the purview of the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which currently only has oversight of elected Council members. The proposal has yet to make it into bill form.

For the several hundred employees of the City Council, the body’s own harassment policies and procedures are not public and Gotham Gazette is still awaiting the results of a Freedom of Information Law request for information regarding how harassment complaints are handled and how the Council’s equal employment committee (EEC) functions.

When it comes to handling complaints at the Council, sources indicate that there is a process for making and evaluating complaints through the EEC. Elected Council members themselves, are subject to the Committee on Standards and Ethics, made up of Council members, which evaluates complaints and can adjudicate punishment, as it recently did with Council Member Andy King, who was assigned additional training after a complaint of undue attention to a staff member was substantiated.

The bills will likely be changed before they are voted through committee and then the full Council, but to what extent remains unclear.

It was also unclear whether the offices of the Comptroller, Public Advocate, and Borough Presidents were aware of their inclusion in the legislation. When asked about their exclusion, working from apparently incorrect initial responses from the Council, those offices sent the following replies.

A spokesperson for Comptroller Scott Stringer declined to comment regarding the Council leaving itself out of the legislation, but provided Gotham Gazette with the office’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct.  

A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, "We have a standing EEO policy and trainings are conducted annually in coordination with DCAS. Even though the agency is not required to do so, Brooklyn Borough Hall implements the same anti-sexual harassment training that is applied in mayoral agencies. I will continue to apply the highest City standard for combating sexual harassment in the workplace, and I appreciate the City Council taking up this important issue.”

A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. told Gotham Gazette, "Our office has a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that reflects the policies published by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services on the issue."

A spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said they had to review the legislation before commenting and that the office has existing policies in place for sexual harassment.

A spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declined to comment on the legislation.

A spokesperson for Staten Island Borough President James Oddo also declined to comment on the legislation, but told Gotham Gazette the Borough President’s office follows the procedures used by city agencies and has both a male and female Citywide Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, told Gotham Gazette that the omission of the City Council is part of a “pervasive disease of legislators.” “They like to prescribe vaccinations for everybody else but themselves,” she continued. “I have no idea what the motive is.”

Note: this story has been updated in several places based on new information provided by the City Council after the story was originally published.

City Council Anti-Harassment Bills Don’t Apply to the City Council Thu, 08 Mar 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Landmarks Brooklyn Home Against Owner’s Wishes peter rosa huberty google earth

1019 Bushwick Avenue (via Google Maps)

In October, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Peter P. and Rosa M. Huberty House, at 1019 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, as a city landmark.

“The designation of the Huberty House honors both the historic character of Bushwick Avenue as it developed in the early 20th century, as well as the contributions of architect Ulrich Huberty to the borough of Brooklyn," LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said at the time. “Today's landmark designation will preserve this splendid Colonial Revival for future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy."

A little more than three months later, on February 6, the item passed the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. It then passed the Council’s Land Use Committee on February 8, and finally the full City Council on February 15. The landmarking has the support of the LPC, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the district the house sits in, Reynoso’s predecessor, Diana Reyna, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the Historic Districts Council, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, to name a few.

The problem: the owner of the house, Virginia Giovinco, is staunchly against it.

Giovinco testified at a January 23 meeting of the Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee, when the landmarking of the house was being considered.

“It’s a terrible burden on me,” she told the subcommittee. “I just cannot live with that idea. So I strongly oppose this designation for that moment that I don’t have control over my house.”

The home has been in Giovinco’s family since 1937, when it was purchased by her grandfather, Luciano Giovinco, a tailor who had immigrated from Italy at the beginning of the 1900s. The house, a 4,000 square foot colonial revival mansion, was originally built in 1900 by the architect Ulrich Huberty for his parents, Peter and Rosa. Huberty also designed buildings such as the landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Hotel Bossert, and the Prospect Park Boathouse.

Giovinco, now in her eighties, claimed at the hearing that the city has been attempting to landmark the house for at least 15 years. Her main worry appeared to be losing the autonomy of regular homeownership. She testified that, over the course of the Giovinco family’s 81-year ownership of the house, it had been kept in immaculate condition and any improvements had not deviated from the original colonial style of the home.

“The old-timers did not need an outside agency to tell them they should preserve the appearance of this house,” she said. “And I don’t need an outside agency either.”

Virginia Giovinco’s cousin Paul Giovinco also testified at the hearing, attesting that the house was not just within Virginia’s immediate family but rather a focal point for the entire extended family. Paul called out the city for not being supportive, saying that they had not received an offer from the city to cover a fixed portion of maintenance costs required by the landmarking.

“We’re not gonna go ahead and throw down some tar paper, and some shingles,” Paul said. “We’re gonna maintain it the same way. But I don’t see no compensation or help. So what is the landmark giving us?”

In response to testimony from the Giovincos, Council Members Daneek Miller and Mark Treyger discussed the need to strike a balance between the issues of homeowner autonomy and the need to preserve historic structures and communities through the landmarking process. Council Member Peter Koo recommended that the committee lay over the matter until further study.

At the February 15 meeting of the full City Council, Miller, Treyger, and Koo all voted to advance the landmarking.

Seven Council members voted against the designation: Joe Borelli, Ruben Diaz, Sr., Mark Gjonaj, Bob Holden, Steven Matteo, Eric Ulrich, and Kalman Yeger -- the Council’s three Republicans and several more conservative Democrats. Giovinco’s objections to the landmarking were on their mind.

“It is my understanding that the property owner was not in favor of the landmark designation,” Ulrich told Gotham Gazette. “Therefore I voted against it.”

Borelli went even further in his objections, suggesting that the landmarking is a violation of the owner’s personal liberties.

“No owner is treated fairly if their rights are taken away without compensation,” Borelli said in an email. “There is no other agency in government that has that power, only this commission that decides which buildings are more relevant than others.” Among the rights Borelli cited as being taken away by LPC include “everything from putting a new addition on; to painting it with purple polka dots; [t]o using aluminum siding; [t]o demolishing it, because the cost of maintaining it under LPC guidelines is costly.”

Borelli said the Landmarks Preservation Commission should be focusing more on landmarking buildings wherein preservation would be a public benefit, rather than simply picking “the prettiest house on the block.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission describes itself as “the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation;” 36,000 buildings are landmarked properties in New York City. Most of those are located in larger historic districts, but there are 1,405 individually landmarked buildings, along with 120 “interior landmarks” and 10 “scenic landmarks,” which consist of city parks such as Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park. Its leadership is made up of 11 commissioners appointed by the mayor. When the LPC designates a city landmark, the designation must then be approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee and then the full council.

Virginia Giovinco declined to comment for this story. She has been on record against the landmarking since at least 2013, when she testified at an LPC hearing with the same concerns as she has now: that landmarking the house would result in her losing autonomy over her property.

For its part, an LPC representative said that the commission has designated approximately 150 free-standing homes as landmarks, with another 2,000 being landmarked as part of a historic district. Zodet Negron, a spokesperson for the LPC, told Gotham Gazette that the LPC has designated eight single-family homes as landmarks in the past four years, receiving the support of six of the owners; in the end, the owner’s approval is not required for designation. Negron stated that the LPC had done “extensive outreach” with Giovinco and that it intended to work with her “to ensure a smooth regulatory process.”

“Our intent and approach is always to seek the cooperation of owners and establish a collaborative relationship that continues after designation,” Negron told Gotham Gazette. “Thousands of single-family homes are regulated by the Commission throughout the city, including both individual landmarks and within historic districts, and we work closely with homeowners to appropriately and expediently meet their needs.”

According the city’s administrative code, minor work on a landmarked property typically requires a permit from the LPC, unless another city agency deems an improvement necessary for safety. Major work such as demolitions or new construction requires more permissions from LPC, including a “certificate of no effect” on “protected architectural features,” a “certificate of appropriateness,” or are otherwise authorized to proceed with the work. The code also says that owners should keep properties in “good repair” and prevent decay and deterioration. Negron said “routine maintenance” of landmarked properties typically does not require review from LPC.

City Council Member Adrienne Adams, the chair of the Landmarks Subcommittee, also told Gotham Gazette that she had met with Giovinco after the hearing.

Though Bushwick Avenue is lined with many historic properties, only one other home on the avenue has been landmarked: the Catherina Lipsius House at 670 Bushwick Ave. Other landmarks on the stretch include a church, a Brooklyn Public Library branch, a Masonic Lodge, and the Williamsburg Houses NYCHA development.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

City Landmarks Brooklyn Home Against Owner’s Wishes Thu, 01 Mar 2018 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Members Outline Priorities for New Term 38866913345 afd4b05a3e z

City Council members (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)

The New York City Council is gearing up for a new agenda under Speaker Corey Johnson, with several newly created committees and fresh faces in the legislative body. As the Council begins to schedule its first committee hearings and readies for the reintroduction of legislation from the last session, there are a number of priorities that Council members are planning to pursue. Returning members say they want to pass bills that have been pending and build on their work from the last four years, while new members are eager to follow through on the policy platforms that got them elected.

New issue committee chairs appear ready to steer those committees in new directions, while Johnson has promised a robust agenda and is taking steps to beef up the Council’s oversight powers, expand its land use division, and increase its scrutiny of the mayor’s budget. Many of the committees, new and old, under his watch will take on greater responsibilities and are expected to tackle a slew of contentious policy issues, legislation, and oversight matters. Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette indicated a broad list of priorities, with some agenda items that will have citywide ramifications and others more parochial, district-level in their scope.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, in her new role as chair of the women’s committee, said she will pursue legislative and public policy solutions to combat sexual harassment in the public and private sectors, to end the gender pay gap for municipal workers, and advance criminal justice reforms to protect sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.

“We are seeking to empower women at every level -- in the workplace, in the economic arena, in social interactions, and in politics,” Rosenthal said. In December, Rosenthal stood with Council Member Mark Levine to announce a request for drafting legislation that would require complaints by Council staffers to be investigated by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, as is currently the case for complaints against elected Council members, and would also mandate that city agencies report on sexual harassment claims twice a year.  

Rosenthal also wants to see through the full implementation of her legislation, signed by the mayor in September last year, to create an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings. Among her other priorities are protections for small businesses in her Upper West Side district, seniors’ needs, and the city’s social safety net. Formerly chair of the contracts committee, which will now be led by new Council Member Justin Brannan, Rosenthal said her guiding philosophy in approaching priority issues will still be “fiscal responsibility.”

Council Member Levine said he hopes to follow up on unfinished business from the last session, including the implementation of Right to Counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court, which was a bill he sponsored and waged a years-long campaign to win support from the mayor. Now chairing the health committee (he had parks last term), Levine will also focus on expanding healthcare coverage and addressing racial inequities in health outcomes across the city. One priority he has expressed support for is single-payer healthcare, an issue that Speaker Johnson has been vocal about pursuing.

After chairing the public safety committee last term, Council Member Vanessa Gibson is chairing the new Subcommittee on Capital Budgets, which will be tasked with analysing the city’s now $96 billion capital budget. The subcommittee will assess the procurement process at city agencies and how agencies spend their capital dollars. Gibson said she is “looking to create better capital spending oversight and ensure there is a consistent process for capital projects so that we can truly realize meaningful investment in New York’s aging infrastructure.”

Gibson also said she will continue to advocate for bail reform, an issue that Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to put his weight behind this year. Gibson will also have to navigate complicated land use issues as she tackles the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning in her Bronx district. The project is moving forward quickly and will come through the land use committee now being chaired by Gibson’s Bronx colleague Council Member Rafael Salamanca.

Council Member Ritchie Torres, another Bronx Democrat, is overseeing the newly empowered Committee on Oversight and Investigations, which will comprise a dedicated investigative unit of former prosecutors, professional investigators, and former journalists. While the division is staffing up, Torres’ first public task will be a joint oversight hearing on February 6 with the Committee on Public Housing, which he chaired last term, concerning heat and hot water failures in NYCHA housing. The new chair of the public housing committee is newly-elected Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who formerly worked at the public housing authority, NYCHA.

[Related: New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates]

The new chair of the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, Council Member Karen Koslowitz, said last week she was still formulating her agenda for 2018. Her committee is expected to lead the way on a package of internal rules reforms that a majority of the Council, including Speaker Johnson, have endorsed.

Koslowitz, of Queens, also spoke of extending traffic safety laws to bicycle riders, saying that she would “like to see them be registered, licensed.”

Council Member Mark Treyger, a former teacher who has taken over as chair of the education committee, spoke at length about the issues plaguing public school infrastructure. “I come from a district that some of our schools were built with money from the New Deal, and haven't seen upgrades since the New Deal,” he said of his southern Brooklyn community, also emphasizing the need for additional school aid.

Treyger also wants to advance two bills he proposed in the last session: one requiring the city to station licensed social workers in all police precincts, and another to make it illegal for police officers to engage in sexual activity with a person in their custody. The second bill was prompted by a recent case in which an 18-year-old woman accused two officers of rape while she was in their custody. The officers claimed the act was consensual, leading to public outcry over the loophole in the law that does not automatically categorize it as custodial rape. Legal proceedings continue in the matter.  

Council Member Fernando Cabrera, the new chair of the governmental operations committee, said he will push campaign finance reforms over the next few years since his committee has oversight of the Campaign Finance Board, which administers the city’s public matching funds program to incentivize small-dollar donations in elections. “The whole idea of the campaign finance [program] was to equalize the playing field,” he said. “Whenever you have policies that don’t… [that] puts a candidate at a disadvantage, I have issues with that,” he added, without going into specifics.

In his role, Cabrera will also oversee the city Board of Elections, the Law Department, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, among other agencies. The BOE will administer at least three election days this year, in June, September, and November, with a fourth likely in some districts if Cuomo calls for special elections to fill several currently vacant state legislative seats.

Council Member Steven Matteo, the Republican minority leader, said he plans to prioritize property tax relief this year, something he has long advocated for. “Last year we had the veterans property tax that we passed here, my bill. I want to expand on that this year, too, do some real property tax relief for everyone else,” he said. Matteo, one of three Republicans in the Council, was appointed by Johnson to chair the Committee on Standards & Ethics, which, if new legislation on workplace sexual harassment is passed by the Council, will likely see its role expand this session. The committee is currently investigating an allegation of sexual harassment against Council Member Andy King.

Mayor de Blasio has promised to take up property tax reform this term, which Matteo intends to hold him to. The Council had announced plans for a property tax reform task force last term, but it never came to be.

Council Member Brannan also hopes to tackle property tax reform, he said, hoping that he will be able to sit on the proposed commission “to really take a deep dive into it.” As a former employee of the Department of Education, Brannan also said the Council has an opportunity to increase its oversight of DOE operations. “I think, it’s a couple areas where I think we can get a little more aggressive,” the contracts chair said. DOE contracts to outside vendors have been a point of contention for years, an area Brannan may be able to meld his prior experience and new responsibilities.

Council Member Carlina Rivera, also newly-elected, will have her hands full chairing the Committee on Hospitals, newly created to oversee the city’s municipal hospital system, which is in financial crisis. But she also has local concerns she wants to address, she told Gotham Gazette, including reforms to city rules that allow construction in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, an issue leftover from her predecessor, former Council Member Rosie Mendez.

Some of Rivera’s other priorities concern land use and infrastructure projects, particularly the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an integrated coastal protection initiative aimed at reducing flood risk due to coastal storms and sea level rise. She also intends to focus on NYCHA’s infrastructure woes, citing the numerous developments in her district and the issues of heat and hot water in NYCHA housing, and she must negotiate a major land use deal in her district related to a proposed Union Square tech hub that the de Blasio administration wants to build.

Council Member Diana Ayala, another rookie lawmaker, is chairing the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services. She said she expects some examination of safe injection sites coming to New York City, which advocates argue would reduce drug users’ risk of overdose, transmitting diseases, and death. Speaker Johnson has said he is in favor of exploring the possibility. "The safe injection sites I know are going to be a big issue," Ayala told Gotham Gazette. "There's been a lot of conversation around bringing those to New York."

Ayala also suggested that she will be looking into how New York City’s criminal justice system deals with the issue of domestic violence.  

When asked about her policy priorities, new Council Member Adrienne Adams emphasized immigrant protections and homelessness. Adams expressed deep concern about the policies coming out of  Washington, D.C. under the Republican-led Congress and President Donald Trump. Under former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council passed a number of immigrant-friendly laws and curbed the city’s cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities. “My district is extremely diverse and with the policies coming from Washington these days, they’re affecting my district and the entire city of New York tremendously,” said Adams, of southeast Queens.

Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr., of the Bronx, who joined the Council from the state Senate, is the first chair of the Council’s new Committee on For-Hire Vehicles. When asked about his priorities, Diaz Sr. simply said, “Taxis.”

Samar Khurshid contributed to this article.

by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been updated to better clarify Diana Ayala's comments on safe injection sites.

City Council Members Outline Priorities for New Term Tue, 23 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Queens Council Candidates Attempt to Offer Stability to Burned District richard david district 28 queens 

Candidate Richard David (photo: David campaign)

The July corruption conviction and August sentencing of City Council Member Ruben Wills created a newly-open seat representing Council District 28 in southeast Queens. Because of the timing of the vacancy, the seat will be filled through the normal electoral calendar, with the determinative September 12 Democratic primary rapidly approaching.

The 28th Council District includes neighborhoods such as South Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park. Along with the predictable subjects of corruption and ethical governance, the campaign is centering on education, senior citizen care, and housing affordability.

Competing for the seat are Adrienne Adams, a long-time Community Board 12 member who entered the race shortly after Wills was convicted, and, given widespread establishment support, has emerged as the frontrunner; Richard David, a Community Board 9 member and employee at the city’s Administration for Children’s Services; and Hettie Powell, a lawyer and community activist. David and Powell had declared for the race while Wills was under indictment, but before he had been convicted. As soon as Adams jumped into the fold, she was quickly endorsed by many Democratic elected officials and organizations.

As of the mid-August campaign finance filing, Powell led the field in funds with $142,919 on-hand. David had a bit over $114,00 left to spend. Adams, whose campaign began just weeks ago, had $43,845 in the vault. A new filing is due this week.

But where Adams’ campaign lags behind in funds and miles accrued on the campaign trail, she makes up for in those endorsements and, likely, in name recognition given that she ran for state Senate in 2016, unsuccessfully challenging Senator James Sanders but making a name for herself, and has been involved in the community for years.

In recent weeks, Queens Congressional Reps. Gregory Meeks and Joe Crowley, along with the larger Queens Democratic Party that Crowley runs, and City Council Member Corey Johnson have endorsed Adams, along with 32BJ SEIU, the large building services workers union. On Tuesday, Adams was endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The candidate attributes these endorsements to having worked closely with elected leaders during her time heading and being active in the community board.

“I feel that I am the most qualified candidate for this seat,” Adams said in an interview. “I have been a member of Community Board 12 since 2009. I was quickly appointed to education chair of the community board in 2010 and was elected in 2012 to chair the board. I was since elected to my third term last December, to continue to chair the board, happily,” said Adams. “I have also been sitting at the table with our elected officials and others since 2009.”

During an August 24 debate on NY1 featuring the three major candidates, Adams made a similar case for her candidacy, touching upon her time on the community board. “I am involved in decision-making and policy as the first line of governance to our local elected officials. I believe that I am the most qualified candidate on the ballot because of my 24-by-7 dedication to my community,” she said.

Powell, for her part, has the backing of several organized labor groups such as SEIU 1199, Teamsters Joint Council 16,  DC 37 Local 372, as well as housing advocacy group TenantsPac.  She feels her support is a testament to her years fighting for those in Queens in her time as a lawyer at Queens Law Associates. “I have been in this community for 35 years,” she said. “I have been working on behalf of all the residents in this community. I have been getting things done.”

In the NY1 debate, Powell again spoke about what she believes to be her strengths as a candidate as well as what she plans to do if elected. “We will work together to bring senior services, quality education for all our children, making sure that we have safe streets and our seniors get the service that they deserve,” said Powell. “I will continue to work for all the residents at all times, putting them first,” she said. “I am the best qualified, I have the years of service, dedicating my time for that job.”

“The strategy of the campaign is one of direct voter contact,” said Powell’s campaign manager, Peter Brown, when asked about the endorsements competition. “Having said that,” Brown continued, “it’s not surprising she’s getting support from significant unions because she’s a very viable, strong progressive candidate who offers results and honest leadership to the district.”

As for policy priorities, Powell aims to make her pitch to voters on improving police-community relations, education and housing affordability. “They want to be able to have the education they’re looking for without going outside of the district,” she said. “They're looking for better partnerships with the police making sure police are safe, that our residents are safe,” said Powell. “They are looking for affordable housing making sure that the people who live here, our hard-working residents who are working everyday and cannot afford to live -- they are looking for affordable housing in the district.”

“They are also looking for more senior center and senior programs, especially in Richmond Hills,” Powell added.

David, born in Guyana and now living in Ozone Park, has a hopeful message for a district that has been repeatedly burned by corrupt politicians. “We’re ready to move forward,” David said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “We need to unify the district and bring everyone together.”

“This is my first time running for public office,” said David during the NY1 debate. “I am running because we are a district emerging from corruption. We have a unique opportunity to elect the right person who is going to bring representation to our people, who have been neglected for a long time, on day one.”

David went on to detail his community engagement which he believes gives him an awareness of the district’s needs, along with a track record of selfless service. “In addition to being on the Community Board also for nine years what I did at night was tutor kids, helping over 300 young people in our district graduate from college,” he noted. “The people in District 28 are looking for new leadership. I think now is the right time to try something new,” he said.   

Though he lacks the lists of endorsements touted by others, David was endorsed by the Communications Workers of America and a few other groups, as well as City Council Member Eric Ulrich, a moderate Republican of a nearby Queens district. “I have a lot of respect for Hettie [Powell], but I do think I can do a better job as an elected official because I’ve actually worked in government,” he said when asked to compare himself to other candidates. “I’ve actually testified in the City Council on different legislation.”

In his campaign website biography, David’s campaign says his time at the New York City Economic Development Corporation helps give him the right background to represent District 28 in city government. It says that his work at EDC helped him learn both how government works and how to help improve neighborhoods.

Should he be elected, David said he’d tackle issues such as the disparity between high property taxes and a disproportionately low amount of funding being allocated into resources southeast Queens residents use. “We have one of the highest home ownership rates, whether it’s as cooperators or private homeowners,” he writes on his campaign website. “We also pay some of the highest property tax assessments,” he continues, “[y]et, hardly any of this funding seems to come back to our district. Homeowners are continuously being asked to pay more, and we get far less, from higher water rates, insurance, and fines. We must make owning a home in Southeast Queens more desirable and relieve some of the burdens the City has unfairly placed on homeowners.”

Along with these policy priorities, David aims to bring unity to an area divided by ethnic and geographic lines. Having lived on both sides of the Van Wyck, David believes he is uniquely fit for the task. The Van Wyck, in addition to serving as a popular thoroughfare connecting Queens and the Bronx, forms a geographical divider between ethnic enclaves. The north side, which includes Jamaica, is predominantly African-American, while the Ozone Park and Richmond Hill neighborhoods have large immigrant communities, including Caribbean-American, Central-American and Indian-American populations.

Adams, however, believes her background makes her the most qualified for the seat. She says the most important policy issues in the race are education, housing affordability, senior care, and “quality of life” issues such as homelessness.

Adams also aims to unify both sides of the Van Wyck Expressway, which, she says, intersects with education policies. “The Richmond Hill side of the Van Wyck has a significant South Asian population and a Caribbean population,” she said. “We see the pervasive theme in the community: education and the fact that the children have a language barrier. That significantly affects their quality of education,” she added. “So what people in the community are telling me is that we need to close that communication gap between the children and the education system.”

On the other side of the Van Wyck, Adams said, “we’re taking a look at significant sanitation issues. We also have education issues as well, which we know. And we only have one high school that is lacking significant resources and has been under threat for closure for a number of years. We also have schools that lack resources still to this day.”

More than any particular policy, Adams’ says he personal mission to to make sure everyone in her home borough has a high quality of life, like that which her family enjoys. “They’re beautiful people with families of their own and I believe that my children and my grandchildren deserve a great quality of life just like other communities enjoy a great quality of life,” she said. “So I am committed to becoming one of the leaders that makes sure that happens for my family, and for the families of others in southeast Queens.”

With Wills’ conviction looming over the race, corruption has become an important factor as the candidates make their final push ahead of the September 12 primary. In the NY1 debate, the three candidates each made their case that they will be ethical if elected. “I am an independent thinker and my track record speaks for itself. So as far as there being a cycle [of corruption], I will stand on the record I have as community board leader for so many years,” said Adams. Some, including her opponents, have questioned her ties to the Queens Democratic machine, led by Crowley, which had been supporting Wills as he sought reelection while under indictment.

“I’m an attorney, practicing for 25 years. We have a strict code of ethics to follow,” Powell said. Certain people, she contended, only seek office for personal benefit, bringing heightened need to examine the reputation of those seeking political office. “I have been in this community for 35 years. I have used my personal money to start programs to help young people, [such as] mentorship programs,” said Powell.

“We have an elected official in District 28 who had remained in office without financial powers...for over six years,” David said of Wills and his ability to allocate discretionary district funds being stripped by the Council. “Our community lost resources during that time,” David added. “At the point of an indictment,” he continued, “an elected official should be removed from office. It should not be at the point of conviction.”

Queens Council Candidates Attempt to Offer Stability to Burned District Wed, 30 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000