Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


The American Dream is Still Possible in NYC, But We Need Strong Local Leadership

Ursila Jung, the author

As an immigrant, I see a truth that is sometimes not obvious to everyone: the United States of America is so much more than a mere geographical entity. It is a land where the American Dream of opportunity and prosperity  is possible. It is a place that people around the world aspire to because it is a beacon of hope and promise. I know this to be true because the U.S. is a country where a person like myself - an immigrant woman - can dream of having a fair chance at running for public office.

Unfortunately, today, it seems as though the American dream is beyond the reach of many. I am running for New York City Council in Lower Manhattan’s District 1 because I believe I can help restore people’s confidence in this possibility. I am running because I remember how choked up I was when I caught my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and thought of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who set foot on Ellis Island escaping persecution, drought, famine, or war, looking to build a new life in this brave new world. I am running because I have seen the grit, perseverance, and determination of everyday New Yorkers, which was never more clear than in the months following 9/11. I am running because I believe in this democracy.

If America is the land of opportunity, New York City is where it all happens. I believe for this country and this city to be at its best, every American must participate in our democracy. We must all take collective ownership. Change begins when everyday people like us choose to make our voices heard. Many New Yorkers I speak with feel left out of the political process and disenchanted with many of our elected officials.

Despite most of this country being firmly in the middle of the political spectrum, our attention is diverted time and again to the loudest voices at the fringe. Many feel that their votes don’t matter and that they cannot make a difference. I am running with the express purpose of bringing more people into the political fold, to help them feel confident in the strength of their vote. I am running because I know that we need to work together to have an economically, socially, and culturally vibrant city that values hard work and respect for all.

In speaking to New Yorkers in District 1 since I launched my campaign last month, it’s become clear that there are a number of issues we need to address, most notably: Growth, Learning, and Safety. I believe New York City can soar again by prioritizing these issues.

Growth: New York City has long been at the heart of the global business and financial world. Our city has always been a place for innovation and creativity that powers not only our local economy, but the nation as a whole. Unfortunately, our business community has been left unsupported despite its essential role in making New York City unique and in many cases, carrying us through the COVID-19 pandemic.

These businesses need elected leaders with the political will to help them survive and thrive. By cutting through the bureaucratic maze small businesses have to navigate, better controlling commercial rents, and providing incentives for businesses to open locally, we can drive our local economy forward with good-paying jobs.

Learning: As a mother, I know that there is nothing more important than the safety and education of our children. I am committed to ensuring that all children, especially those who have been under-resourced for so long, have access to a high-quality education that focuses on preparing them for a technological world.

By offering families more options in their children’s education, we can empower parents to make the best decisions for their families. Educating our children is essential to ensure that all Americans will be at the level needed in this increasingly competitive and interconnected global economy.

Safety: As a New Yorker, I know that our perception of safety has been drastically altered in this post-pandemic world and that it is impeding our ability to return to the New York City we know and love. I’m running because I know we need to increase public safety in our neighborhoods so that families feel safe. In some instances we can do that with more training for police officers and more foot patrols to assist our small businesses with petty crime. We can also better serve individuals who need mental health and social services by providing them with professionals trained to handle those specific situations, reducing the need to put police officers in situations they’re not prepared to handle.

The answer here is not easy, but I believe when we invest in community policing and increase collaboration between law enforcement and local organizations, we can create a safer environment for everyone so our neighborhoods are places where families can live, work, and play without fear.

I am running for New York City Council because the time for extreme politics is over. I’m running because I believe in the potential of our community to rise above our current challenges and build a better future for us all. As your City Council representative, I promise to be a tireless advocate for these goals and to work diligently to make our community the best it can be.

Ursila Jung is an immigrant, mother, and community advocate running for New York City Council in District 1 in the June Democratic primary. On Twitter @UrsilaJung.

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