CITY Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/city 2021-01-22T15:54:46+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Comptroller Candidates Pitch Manhattan Democratic Clubs 2021-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10059-nyc-comptroller-candidates-pitch-manhattan-democratic-clubs Nuha Dolby ndolby@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/jmm-op-21/city-comptroller-603_1.jpg" alt="city comptroller 603 1" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>(l-r): Brad Lander, Brian Benjammin, David Weprin, and Kevin Parker)</p> <hr /> <p>The four Democratic candidates running in this year’s election for New York City Comptroller appeared one-by-one at two recent online forums hosted by Manhattan Democratic clubs.</p> <p>The West Side Democrats, during a forum moderated by district leader Joan Paylo, hosted the candidates on January 12, while the Uptown Community Democrats and the Audubon Reform Democratic Club, with moderators Curtis Young, co-president of UCD, and Maria Luna, district leader of the ARDC, hosted them on the 14th.</p> <p>The four participants in both forums were City Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn, State Senator Brian Benjamin of Manhattan, State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, and State Assembly Member David Weprin of Queens. They are the four current candidates to be the next chief fiscal officer for the city, seeking to succeed term-limited Comptroller Scott Stringer. They are all Democrats, competing in the June primary, with the winner all-but-certain to prevail in the fall general election given the city’s heavy Democratic voter enrollment advantage.</p> <p>At the first event, candidates were given time for a brief opening statement, after which Paylo asked them a series of questions, differing by candidate. Each candidate had 15 minutes in sum. At the second, candidates were given three minutes for an opening statement, followed by four questions from Luna, which dealt with transparency in city contract proposals submitted to the comptroller's office, settlements in litigation against the city, bonds, and the time it takes for contracts to be paid out to nonprofits. Young then asked questions from attendees of the forum, sent in via an online chat box, which was followed by closing remarks.</p> <p><strong>Brian Benjamin</strong><br />Benjamin opened the second of the forums by noting he was “the only person running who actually has investment management experience, which is so critical.” In both forum introductions, Benjamin stressed his education — he attended Brown University for public policy, and Harvard Business School for investment management.</p> <p>He also focused remarks on his work in the State Senate, where Benjamin is chair of the Budget and Revenue Committee, and said he was “very involved in helping to make sure that our private prisons were not getting pension money.” He discussed efforts to get the state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, to divest from private prisons as well.</p> <p>Benjamin added that his priorities involve safeguarding pensions, having a plan for affordable housing, and holding the NYPD accountable.</p> <p>He told Luna that when it comes to city contracts, “there should be a real transparency around what are the guidelines that we are requiring for any company.” He said small, minority- and women-owned businesses have a hard time getting contracts from the city or even applying for contracts, because the process “is completely rigged towards the big companies.” But he added that there was a second hurdle as well — that it takes a very long time to get paid, and the city “should provide transparency around that process.”</p> <p>He later elaborated that “one of the reasons why it takes so long is because there are all of these bureaucratic procedures are in place,” in part to prevent corruption and “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.” However, he said because of the financial situations of nonprofits, they “cannot afford to wait a year,” and he committed to designing “an expedited plan that makes sense, that protects the taxpayer dollar, but at the same time helps our small businesses grow.”</p> <p>Benjamin further discussed transparency when asked about settlements, pointing to the NYPD’s costs to the city in settlements — over $200 million. He said “we don't have a lot of transparency as to where that money goes,” in terms of the causes of the settlements, and pointed to a bill he introduced in the Senate requiring the State Comptroller and the City Comptroller to provide more detailed reports. Benjamin said “if we're going to make sure that we don't have another George Floyd situation, we have to make sure that there's more information that is provided to the general public as to where there could be problematic police, who needs to be reined in more quickly, as opposed to them growing and causing us more problems in the future.”</p> <p>When it comes to bonds, Benjamin told Luna that following his undergraduate degree, he spent time working in the treasury department for a multinational corporation, “where my job was to issue the municipal bonds and also the commercial papers. I’m very familiar with how that works.” Like the other candidates, he noted record low interest rates.</p> <p>Regarding a public bank, Benjamin told Young he’d been working with senators “because we do need Albany legislation to help make that happen.” He stressed his commitment to the cause: “we need a public bank. I'm committed to it. I'm going to work with the state to help make that happen, and help provide the key information to convince some of the legislators who are not on board as to why this is a better for the city of New York, particularly in a crisis.”</p> <p>Benjamin said Thursday that he “supports the spirit behind the people who want to cancel rent,” but there are logistical issues. “You've got people who don't need their rent cancelled so now you're going to create this whole system where you're going to have all this pressure on the landlord and the property tax structure which we now have to figure out,” he said. “I am very committed to [making] sure that people are not kicked out of their homes, but at the same time, we need to do things that are constitutionally bound and are most efficient ... the idea that the multimillionaires downtown don't have to pay their rent because we have this broad bill didn't make sense to me.”</p> <p>Regarding homeless housing, Benjamin said that temporary shelters are being used in a permanent way, and it was expensive. “We can invest, we can look at some of these distressed hotels, we can purchase them, and we can provide working with permanent supportive housing operators, provide permanent supportive housing at a much lower cost,” he said.</p> <p>He added that he wanted to use the comptroller’s office to hammer out real plans to build affordable housing. “We know we need over 600,000 units of affordable housing. We know we need it at the $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 [annual income] increment levels. We know what we need. We just don't have a plan to get there. And I think if you have a plan to get there, then the comptroller can be a part of that investment.”</p> <p><strong>Brad Lander</strong><br />“[Making] government work better for people,” Landers said, “[is] the approach we're going to need for the daunting challenges we face to secure a just and durable recovery to help millions of families.”</p> <p>Lander committed to investing in a Green New Deal, minority- and women-owned businesses, job creation, and affordable housing. He also said he would soon present a plan “to create a new shared equity homeownership program modeled on Mitchell Lama,” and he would “undertake smart, hard-hitting, values-driven audits” of city agencies like the New York Police Department. At both forums, he committed to divestment public pension funds from fossil fuel companies, a process that has begun under Stringer.</p> <p>When asked by Luna about city contracts, Lander said he had co-sponsored a bill because he wanted “more transparency on the contracts while they're moving through the administration before they get to the comptroller,” because “right now you can't see the contracts until the comptroller registers them.” The proposed bill, he said, would require the city to create a public, transparent database for contracts.</p> <p>He added that, similarly to how the public advocate’s office has a worst landlord’s list, if elected comptroller he would establish a most abusive contractors or employers list “so that we're shining a spotlight on those folks who aren't living up to obligations, and then putting policies in place to make sure everybody does.”</p> <p>Lander told Luna that the two biggest kinds of claims the city settles are police misconduct and city drivers injuring pedestrians or cyclists. The former, he said, is “just tragic,” and “one thing we must do is make better use of that settlement data to require change by the agencies to hold the officers accountable who are responsible for those settlements.” Because of the repeal of Section 50-A, a state law that allowed police to shield misconduct records, he says it’s now possible to increase transparency.</p> <p>He pointed to a plan on his website “for getting city agencies to make sure their drivers don't drive recklessly. Then we can save lives, prevent injuries and save money.”</p> <p>Lander has already passed a yet-to-be-implemented law that uses data to find reckless drivers across the city, not just at government agencies, “and say to them, you have to change the way you drive, we're going to give you an opportunity to do so. But if you can't, we're not going to be able to let you keep your license and keep your car.”</p> <p>When asked about bonds, Lander said, “right now, interest rates are at historic lows,” and since the federal government “has created some new authority for cities and states to borrow at these very good interest rates, of course it's a good time to refinance city debt. But you have to do it very carefully.” He said he would also make sure to have a strong deputy comptroller for public finance “who’s got a history of working in the bond markets.”</p> <p>Lander told Young that the Inwood rezoning “was too much about gentrification and displacement and not enough about working class folks and a fair city,” and he supported “rezoning for new mixed-income, affordable developments, including a lot of affordable housing for low-income and working-class families in neighborhoods...that [are] mostly whiter and wealthier.” He said he’s “trying to practice what I preach on affordable housing,” and suggested his own Brooklyn district as one where more affordable housing should be created. Lander is currently negotiating a rezoning of part of Gowanus in his district that would lead to significant development, including more housing, some of which would be rent-capped.</p> <p>Lander also got into his resume, and how he sees his experience as preparing him for the job of comptroller. He discussed his tenure leading nonprofits Pratt Center for Community Development and Fifth Avenue Committee, where he had to raise money, balance budgets, and invest in community development, and his work on ten city budgets as a Council member, including his focus on capital budget reform. He also mentioned being of the Council members who brought participatory budgeting to the city.</p> <p><strong>Kevin Parker</strong><br />Parker opened both forums with his credentials as State Senate Majority Whip and chair of the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Telecommunications, and said he was running “because I think my experience, my leadership, and most importantly my vision separates me from the other candidates and I think is exactly the kind of vision and understanding that the city needs.”</p> <p>When asked about city contracts, Parker told Luna that he was ”certainly open to the idea of posting statuses on public contracts on websites...It’s certainly one of the things that I will review and diagnose and fix from the very beginning because it's been a major hindrance to the operation of the city.” He later told Young that not only was he open to adding a section to the comptroller’s website showing the status of all contracts, it was “just a shame that we don’t do that already.”</p> <p>“Not only do we need to deal with the contracting end of it and make sure that we have more access to contracts and that we're paying people on time, but we also need to look at the pension fund in that same regard,” Parker told Paylo about MWBEs. “The reality is that African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians, and women represent over 60% of the population, and they got 2% of the money under management for the pension fund.”</p> <p>Parker also said that “the work of diversity also has to do with the money managers. Blacks, Latinos, Asian women represent less than 2% of those who are managing the money in the pension fund. I don't think that's right.” When asked how he would find candidates of color, he said he’d find them “the way he finds them all the time”: through professional organizations, his own experiences, and that his “Rolodex was ample.”</p> <p>Parker said he’d grown up in NYCHA housing in Bushwick, and that the Legislature didn’t do nearly enough for public housing. He “along with probably a lot of my colleagues, believe that NYCHA needs a management order badly. They kind of are not efficient, don’t seem to use money well, and have not done a great job at garnering resources and putting them where they need to go.”</p> <p>When asked about settlements, Parker said “a lot of this stuff is actually decided by the corp counsel and, or the Law Department, and so it really depends on what the claim is,” but “I do think that we need to do a better job at administering those claims.”</p> <p>In response to a question from Paylo about bonds, he said, “I'll use my judgment in the way of guiding the state and to having better rates and to have good fiscal health.” He also said, “the state, since I've been there, has improved. We've got on time budgets, we have paid our bills, and we have one of the highest bond ratings in the entire country. And that's been one of the things that we worked on in the Finance Committee and certainly one of the things that I'll continue to pay attention to.”</p> <p>Parker told Paylo that he’d heard complaints from those leading nonprofits that the way their contracts are processed by the city was hurting them, “and when you mess with the financial health of nonprofits, particularly the community-based nonprofits, you actually have your hand in the pocket of New Yorkers [who need, are counting on those resources to feed their families. And so we certainly need to do a better job.”</p> <p>When asked about public banks by Young, Parker said he had heard Weprin’s answer and he “thinks some of the answers that David gave, I think makes sense.” He said there was a “parallel track” that needed to be taken: making sure banks do what they’re supposed to be doing, and then also looking at the public banking process. He also suggested conducting studies to figure out the feasibility of the venture.</p> <p><strong>David Weprin</strong><br />Weprin gave the grim reminder that “this is probably the worst fiscal crisis we have ever been in, and we'll be in for many years to come.” He said while the incoming Democrat-led U.S. Senate meant there was likely federal aid on the way, it wouldn’t be enough, and is “really not going to get us through this, in and of itself.”</p> <p>In both forums, Weprin pointed to his finance experience, having been Chair of the Finance Committee of the City Council for eight years, Deputy Superintendent of the New York State Banking Department for four years, and his 25 years in municipal finance experience with major Wall Street firms.</p> <p>Weprin spoke to his history of progressive legislation, including that in his four-and-a-half years chairing the Assembly’s Corrections Committee, he’s “been involved in every progressive legislation in criminal justice reform.” He also cited authoring two progressive bills that became law over the past two years — an Adoptive Bill of Rights, which allows adult adoptees for access to their original birth certificate and medical history, and the Religious Garb bill, which prohibits discrimination against employees based on clothing or facial hair worn in accordance with their religion.</p> <p>When asked by Paylo about making sure pension investments meet the legally required standard of 7% annual returns, Weprin said he would involve fiscal experts, bring labor to the table, and suggested bringing the private sector in “to bail us out.”</p> <p>When Young asked if he would be “willing to implement socialist principles into [his] philosophy as controller,” Weprin said while he supported many progressive issues, “you have a fiduciary obligation as Comptroller.” When it comes to investing pension monies, he said he didn’t think the job was “inconsistent with picking companies that are also socially responsible but do a good return.”</p> <p>He also said “there's no question we need affordable housing throughout the city,” and suggested utilizing economically targeted investments to fund it. He pointed to ETIs again when asked about investing in infrastructure across the city. According to the city comptroller’s website, ETIs are designed to address market inefficiencies by providing capital to underserved communities citywide, by allocating 2% of pension assets towards investments in those populations.</p> <p>“I'm not a supporter of defunding the police,” Weprin told Paylo. “I'm certainly a supporter of using police resources differently, and having better community relations and mental health training.”</p> <p>He also cited a Gotham Gazette op-ed he wrote over the summer, reaffirming Tuesday his support for progressive wealth taxes, legalizing marijuana, implementing a tax lien, and an online sports betting tax.</p> <p>When asked by Luna about city contracts, he said there should be more transparency throughout the process. He added that “something has to be done to streamline the process once you get a contract, because not-for-profits can't afford to wait a year or two to get paid and to operate.” Weprin later told Young he would commit to adding a section to the comptroller’s website showing the status of all contracts, so that the public can see how money is being spent and contractors could see where they were in the process.</p> <p>Weprin said Thursday that the city has a division that deals with claims against the city, but he thinks it needs expansion and “the settlements have gotten out of hand in some ways, and there's a lot we can do through that division to make sure that the city is not paying out multimillion dollar settlements that could be settled [for] a lot less.” He added that prevention of problems, “like actions of city employees or departments,” also needed some attention.</p> <p>There’s “no question that we need to effectively manage our bond issues,” Weprin told Luna. He said current “historic” interest rates need to be taken advantage of “by having creative bond issues and reducing the interest on those bonds by refinancing new bonds.”</p> <p>When asked about a public bank on Thursday, Weprin said the public banking system did not work in the ‘70s and he thinks the city should “work with the private sector to make it more competitive and efficient.” He added that there were enough financial institutions where he’d “be hesitant to create a public bank,” but “I think we can use what we have now in financial services to make them more friendly to underserved communities and minority communities and certainly as comptroller I will make that a priority.”</p> <p>

***
by Nuha Dolby for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/jmm-op-21/city-comptroller-603_1.jpg" alt="city comptroller 603 1" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>(l-r): Brad Lander, Brian Benjammin, David Weprin, and Kevin Parker)</p> <hr /> <p>The four Democratic candidates running in this year’s election for New York City Comptroller appeared one-by-one at two recent online forums hosted by Manhattan Democratic clubs.</p> <p>The West Side Democrats, during a forum moderated by district leader Joan Paylo, hosted the candidates on January 12, while the Uptown Community Democrats and the Audubon Reform Democratic Club, with moderators Curtis Young, co-president of UCD, and Maria Luna, district leader of the ARDC, hosted them on the 14th.</p> <p>The four participants in both forums were City Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn, State Senator Brian Benjamin of Manhattan, State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, and State Assembly Member David Weprin of Queens. They are the four current candidates to be the next chief fiscal officer for the city, seeking to succeed term-limited Comptroller Scott Stringer. They are all Democrats, competing in the June primary, with the winner all-but-certain to prevail in the fall general election given the city’s heavy Democratic voter enrollment advantage.</p> <p>At the first event, candidates were given time for a brief opening statement, after which Paylo asked them a series of questions, differing by candidate. Each candidate had 15 minutes in sum. At the second, candidates were given three minutes for an opening statement, followed by four questions from Luna, which dealt with transparency in city contract proposals submitted to the comptroller's office, settlements in litigation against the city, bonds, and the time it takes for contracts to be paid out to nonprofits. Young then asked questions from attendees of the forum, sent in via an online chat box, which was followed by closing remarks.</p> <p><strong>Brian Benjamin</strong><br />Benjamin opened the second of the forums by noting he was “the only person running who actually has investment management experience, which is so critical.” In both forum introductions, Benjamin stressed his education — he attended Brown University for public policy, and Harvard Business School for investment management.</p> <p>He also focused remarks on his work in the State Senate, where Benjamin is chair of the Budget and Revenue Committee, and said he was “very involved in helping to make sure that our private prisons were not getting pension money.” He discussed efforts to get the state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, to divest from private prisons as well.</p> <p>Benjamin added that his priorities involve safeguarding pensions, having a plan for affordable housing, and holding the NYPD accountable.</p> <p>He told Luna that when it comes to city contracts, “there should be a real transparency around what are the guidelines that we are requiring for any company.” He said small, minority- and women-owned businesses have a hard time getting contracts from the city or even applying for contracts, because the process “is completely rigged towards the big companies.” But he added that there was a second hurdle as well — that it takes a very long time to get paid, and the city “should provide transparency around that process.”</p> <p>He later elaborated that “one of the reasons why it takes so long is because there are all of these bureaucratic procedures are in place,” in part to prevent corruption and “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.” However, he said because of the financial situations of nonprofits, they “cannot afford to wait a year,” and he committed to designing “an expedited plan that makes sense, that protects the taxpayer dollar, but at the same time helps our small businesses grow.”</p> <p>Benjamin further discussed transparency when asked about settlements, pointing to the NYPD’s costs to the city in settlements — over $200 million. He said “we don't have a lot of transparency as to where that money goes,” in terms of the causes of the settlements, and pointed to a bill he introduced in the Senate requiring the State Comptroller and the City Comptroller to provide more detailed reports. Benjamin said “if we're going to make sure that we don't have another George Floyd situation, we have to make sure that there's more information that is provided to the general public as to where there could be problematic police, who needs to be reined in more quickly, as opposed to them growing and causing us more problems in the future.”</p> <p>When it comes to bonds, Benjamin told Luna that following his undergraduate degree, he spent time working in the treasury department for a multinational corporation, “where my job was to issue the municipal bonds and also the commercial papers. I’m very familiar with how that works.” Like the other candidates, he noted record low interest rates.</p> <p>Regarding a public bank, Benjamin told Young he’d been working with senators “because we do need Albany legislation to help make that happen.” He stressed his commitment to the cause: “we need a public bank. I'm committed to it. I'm going to work with the state to help make that happen, and help provide the key information to convince some of the legislators who are not on board as to why this is a better for the city of New York, particularly in a crisis.”</p> <p>Benjamin said Thursday that he “supports the spirit behind the people who want to cancel rent,” but there are logistical issues. “You've got people who don't need their rent cancelled so now you're going to create this whole system where you're going to have all this pressure on the landlord and the property tax structure which we now have to figure out,” he said. “I am very committed to [making] sure that people are not kicked out of their homes, but at the same time, we need to do things that are constitutionally bound and are most efficient ... the idea that the multimillionaires downtown don't have to pay their rent because we have this broad bill didn't make sense to me.”</p> <p>Regarding homeless housing, Benjamin said that temporary shelters are being used in a permanent way, and it was expensive. “We can invest, we can look at some of these distressed hotels, we can purchase them, and we can provide working with permanent supportive housing operators, provide permanent supportive housing at a much lower cost,” he said.</p> <p>He added that he wanted to use the comptroller’s office to hammer out real plans to build affordable housing. “We know we need over 600,000 units of affordable housing. We know we need it at the $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 [annual income] increment levels. We know what we need. We just don't have a plan to get there. And I think if you have a plan to get there, then the comptroller can be a part of that investment.”</p> <p><strong>Brad Lander</strong><br />“[Making] government work better for people,” Landers said, “[is] the approach we're going to need for the daunting challenges we face to secure a just and durable recovery to help millions of families.”</p> <p>Lander committed to investing in a Green New Deal, minority- and women-owned businesses, job creation, and affordable housing. He also said he would soon present a plan “to create a new shared equity homeownership program modeled on Mitchell Lama,” and he would “undertake smart, hard-hitting, values-driven audits” of city agencies like the New York Police Department. At both forums, he committed to divestment public pension funds from fossil fuel companies, a process that has begun under Stringer.</p> <p>When asked by Luna about city contracts, Lander said he had co-sponsored a bill because he wanted “more transparency on the contracts while they're moving through the administration before they get to the comptroller,” because “right now you can't see the contracts until the comptroller registers them.” The proposed bill, he said, would require the city to create a public, transparent database for contracts.</p> <p>He added that, similarly to how the public advocate’s office has a worst landlord’s list, if elected comptroller he would establish a most abusive contractors or employers list “so that we're shining a spotlight on those folks who aren't living up to obligations, and then putting policies in place to make sure everybody does.”</p> <p>Lander told Luna that the two biggest kinds of claims the city settles are police misconduct and city drivers injuring pedestrians or cyclists. The former, he said, is “just tragic,” and “one thing we must do is make better use of that settlement data to require change by the agencies to hold the officers accountable who are responsible for those settlements.” Because of the repeal of Section 50-A, a state law that allowed police to shield misconduct records, he says it’s now possible to increase transparency.</p> <p>He pointed to a plan on his website “for getting city agencies to make sure their drivers don't drive recklessly. Then we can save lives, prevent injuries and save money.”</p> <p>Lander has already passed a yet-to-be-implemented law that uses data to find reckless drivers across the city, not just at government agencies, “and say to them, you have to change the way you drive, we're going to give you an opportunity to do so. But if you can't, we're not going to be able to let you keep your license and keep your car.”</p> <p>When asked about bonds, Lander said, “right now, interest rates are at historic lows,” and since the federal government “has created some new authority for cities and states to borrow at these very good interest rates, of course it's a good time to refinance city debt. But you have to do it very carefully.” He said he would also make sure to have a strong deputy comptroller for public finance “who’s got a history of working in the bond markets.”</p> <p>Lander told Young that the Inwood rezoning “was too much about gentrification and displacement and not enough about working class folks and a fair city,” and he supported “rezoning for new mixed-income, affordable developments, including a lot of affordable housing for low-income and working-class families in neighborhoods...that [are] mostly whiter and wealthier.” He said he’s “trying to practice what I preach on affordable housing,” and suggested his own Brooklyn district as one where more affordable housing should be created. Lander is currently negotiating a rezoning of part of Gowanus in his district that would lead to significant development, including more housing, some of which would be rent-capped.</p> <p>Lander also got into his resume, and how he sees his experience as preparing him for the job of comptroller. He discussed his tenure leading nonprofits Pratt Center for Community Development and Fifth Avenue Committee, where he had to raise money, balance budgets, and invest in community development, and his work on ten city budgets as a Council member, including his focus on capital budget reform. He also mentioned being of the Council members who brought participatory budgeting to the city.</p> <p><strong>Kevin Parker</strong><br />Parker opened both forums with his credentials as State Senate Majority Whip and chair of the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Telecommunications, and said he was running “because I think my experience, my leadership, and most importantly my vision separates me from the other candidates and I think is exactly the kind of vision and understanding that the city needs.”</p> <p>When asked about city contracts, Parker told Luna that he was ”certainly open to the idea of posting statuses on public contracts on websites...It’s certainly one of the things that I will review and diagnose and fix from the very beginning because it's been a major hindrance to the operation of the city.” He later told Young that not only was he open to adding a section to the comptroller’s website showing the status of all contracts, it was “just a shame that we don’t do that already.”</p> <p>“Not only do we need to deal with the contracting end of it and make sure that we have more access to contracts and that we're paying people on time, but we also need to look at the pension fund in that same regard,” Parker told Paylo about MWBEs. “The reality is that African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians, and women represent over 60% of the population, and they got 2% of the money under management for the pension fund.”</p> <p>Parker also said that “the work of diversity also has to do with the money managers. Blacks, Latinos, Asian women represent less than 2% of those who are managing the money in the pension fund. I don't think that's right.” When asked how he would find candidates of color, he said he’d find them “the way he finds them all the time”: through professional organizations, his own experiences, and that his “Rolodex was ample.”</p> <p>Parker said he’d grown up in NYCHA housing in Bushwick, and that the Legislature didn’t do nearly enough for public housing. He “along with probably a lot of my colleagues, believe that NYCHA needs a management order badly. They kind of are not efficient, don’t seem to use money well, and have not done a great job at garnering resources and putting them where they need to go.”</p> <p>When asked about settlements, Parker said “a lot of this stuff is actually decided by the corp counsel and, or the Law Department, and so it really depends on what the claim is,” but “I do think that we need to do a better job at administering those claims.”</p> <p>In response to a question from Paylo about bonds, he said, “I'll use my judgment in the way of guiding the state and to having better rates and to have good fiscal health.” He also said, “the state, since I've been there, has improved. We've got on time budgets, we have paid our bills, and we have one of the highest bond ratings in the entire country. And that's been one of the things that we worked on in the Finance Committee and certainly one of the things that I'll continue to pay attention to.”</p> <p>Parker told Paylo that he’d heard complaints from those leading nonprofits that the way their contracts are processed by the city was hurting them, “and when you mess with the financial health of nonprofits, particularly the community-based nonprofits, you actually have your hand in the pocket of New Yorkers [who need, are counting on those resources to feed their families. And so we certainly need to do a better job.”</p> <p>When asked about public banks by Young, Parker said he had heard Weprin’s answer and he “thinks some of the answers that David gave, I think makes sense.” He said there was a “parallel track” that needed to be taken: making sure banks do what they’re supposed to be doing, and then also looking at the public banking process. He also suggested conducting studies to figure out the feasibility of the venture.</p> <p><strong>David Weprin</strong><br />Weprin gave the grim reminder that “this is probably the worst fiscal crisis we have ever been in, and we'll be in for many years to come.” He said while the incoming Democrat-led U.S. Senate meant there was likely federal aid on the way, it wouldn’t be enough, and is “really not going to get us through this, in and of itself.”</p> <p>In both forums, Weprin pointed to his finance experience, having been Chair of the Finance Committee of the City Council for eight years, Deputy Superintendent of the New York State Banking Department for four years, and his 25 years in municipal finance experience with major Wall Street firms.</p> <p>Weprin spoke to his history of progressive legislation, including that in his four-and-a-half years chairing the Assembly’s Corrections Committee, he’s “been involved in every progressive legislation in criminal justice reform.” He also cited authoring two progressive bills that became law over the past two years — an Adoptive Bill of Rights, which allows adult adoptees for access to their original birth certificate and medical history, and the Religious Garb bill, which prohibits discrimination against employees based on clothing or facial hair worn in accordance with their religion.</p> <p>When asked by Paylo about making sure pension investments meet the legally required standard of 7% annual returns, Weprin said he would involve fiscal experts, bring labor to the table, and suggested bringing the private sector in “to bail us out.”</p> <p>When Young asked if he would be “willing to implement socialist principles into [his] philosophy as controller,” Weprin said while he supported many progressive issues, “you have a fiduciary obligation as Comptroller.” When it comes to investing pension monies, he said he didn’t think the job was “inconsistent with picking companies that are also socially responsible but do a good return.”</p> <p>He also said “there's no question we need affordable housing throughout the city,” and suggested utilizing economically targeted investments to fund it. He pointed to ETIs again when asked about investing in infrastructure across the city. According to the city comptroller’s website, ETIs are designed to address market inefficiencies by providing capital to underserved communities citywide, by allocating 2% of pension assets towards investments in those populations.</p> <p>“I'm not a supporter of defunding the police,” Weprin told Paylo. “I'm certainly a supporter of using police resources differently, and having better community relations and mental health training.”</p> <p>He also cited a Gotham Gazette op-ed he wrote over the summer, reaffirming Tuesday his support for progressive wealth taxes, legalizing marijuana, implementing a tax lien, and an online sports betting tax.</p> <p>When asked by Luna about city contracts, he said there should be more transparency throughout the process. He added that “something has to be done to streamline the process once you get a contract, because not-for-profits can't afford to wait a year or two to get paid and to operate.” Weprin later told Young he would commit to adding a section to the comptroller’s website showing the status of all contracts, so that the public can see how money is being spent and contractors could see where they were in the process.</p> <p>Weprin said Thursday that the city has a division that deals with claims against the city, but he thinks it needs expansion and “the settlements have gotten out of hand in some ways, and there's a lot we can do through that division to make sure that the city is not paying out multimillion dollar settlements that could be settled [for] a lot less.” He added that prevention of problems, “like actions of city employees or departments,” also needed some attention.</p> <p>There’s “no question that we need to effectively manage our bond issues,” Weprin told Luna. He said current “historic” interest rates need to be taken advantage of “by having creative bond issues and reducing the interest on those bonds by refinancing new bonds.”</p> <p>When asked about a public bank on Thursday, Weprin said the public banking system did not work in the ‘70s and he thinks the city should “work with the private sector to make it more competitive and efficient.” He added that there were enough financial institutions where he’d “be hesitant to create a public bank,” but “I think we can use what we have now in financial services to make them more friendly to underserved communities and minority communities and certainly as comptroller I will make that a priority.”</p> <p>

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by Nuha Dolby for Gotham Gazette

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Video Brief: Climate, Resiliency and the 2021 Election 2021-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10084-video-brief-climate-resiliency-2021-nyc-mayor-election Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/january/5-video-brief-climate.jpg" alt="5 video brief climate" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer &amp; others (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In this episode, we discuss the issues of climate change and resiliency, and key aspects of what candidates in the 2021 New York City elections are considering as they present their visions for the future of the city, protecting it from the impacts of climate change, fostering a green economy, and more.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/x4WarzK_6OI" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/january/5-video-brief-climate.jpg" alt="5 video brief climate" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer &amp; others (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In this episode, we discuss the issues of climate change and resiliency, and key aspects of what candidates in the 2021 New York City elections are considering as they present their visions for the future of the city, protecting it from the impacts of climate change, fostering a green economy, and more.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/x4WarzK_6OI" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: What the De Blasio Administration Wants from the Biden Administration 2021-01-21T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-21T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10089-max-murphy-podcast-what-de-blasio-administration-wants-from-biden-congress Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/podcast/us-conf-mayorswinter.jpg" alt="us conf mayorswinter" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 20, 2020 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: What the De Blasio Administration Wants from the Biden Administration<br /></strong></p> <p>Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for Mayor de Blasio, joined the show to discuss the de Blasio administration's priorities when it comes to the new Biden administration in Washington.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/969560509&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-271-what-the-de-blasio-administration-wants-from-the-biden-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 271 What The De Blasio Administration Wants From The Biden Administration">Episode 271 What The De Blasio Administration Wants From The Biden Administration</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/podcast/us-conf-mayorswinter.jpg" alt="us conf mayorswinter" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 20, 2020 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: What the De Blasio Administration Wants from the Biden Administration<br /></strong></p> <p>Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for Mayor de Blasio, joined the show to discuss the de Blasio administration's priorities when it comes to the new Biden administration in Washington.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/969560509&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-271-what-the-de-blasio-administration-wants-from-the-biden-administration" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 271 What The De Blasio Administration Wants From The Biden Administration">Episode 271 What The De Blasio Administration Wants From The Biden Administration</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Kevin Parker on His Run for New York City Comptroller 2021-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10064-max-murphy-podcast-kevin-parker-nyc-comptroller-bid Gotham Gazette bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/podcast/kevin-parker-senate.jpg" alt="kevin parker senate" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Senator Kevin Parker (photo: NY Senate)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 19, 2021 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Kevin Parker on His Run for New York City Comptroller<br /></strong></p> <p>State Senator Kevin Parker joined the show to discuss his candidacy for New York City Comptroller.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/968779966&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-269-kevin-parker-on-his-run-for-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 269 Kevin Parker On His Run For New York">Episode 269 Kevin Parker On His Run For New York</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/podcast/kevin-parker-senate.jpg" alt="kevin parker senate" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Senator Kevin Parker (photo: NY Senate)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 19, 2021 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Kevin Parker on His Run for New York City Comptroller<br /></strong></p> <p>State Senator Kevin Parker joined the show to discuss his candidacy for New York City Comptroller.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/968779966&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-269-kevin-parker-on-his-run-for-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 269 Kevin Parker On His Run For New York">Episode 269 Kevin Parker On His Run For New York</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Mayoral Hopefuls Appeared at a Candidate Forum; Then the Conversation Got Interesting 2021-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-20T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10082-2021-nyc-mayoral-candidate-forum-conversation-got-interesting-late Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ray_mcguire_on_zoom.jpeg" alt="ray mcguire on zoom" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p>Ray McGuire on a different Zoom (photo: @RayForMayor)</p> <hr /> <p>A mayoral race forum on Friday night started with a traditional format, questions asked by journalists and answered by eight candidates seeking to win the crowded Democratic primary set for June, but eventually turned into a late-night, open discussion that became contentious and frank, offering insights into the thinking of some of those seeking to become the next mayor and that of some of the city’s Black civic leaders.</p> <p>Some candidates -- particularly among the five who stayed on the zoom for the late-night discussion that stretched well past midnight -- found that simply showing up to listen and offering platitudes won’t be enough to convince the city’s diverse Black electorate that they deserve to hold the highest office in the city. The candidates, for their part, offered candid and at times assertive responses to the questions and criticism that they faced from others on the Zoom call.</p> <p>Former presidential candidate and recent entrant in the race Andrew Yang attempted to tout his record of activism even as he appeared out of touch with issues affecting Black New Yorkers. Former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire and Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who has endorsed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, clashed over McGuire’s lack of experience in city government and more. Former President Obama cabinet official Shaun Donovan defended his work on housing under Mayor Bloomberg. Council Member Carlos Menchaca spoke of “the legacy of white supremacy” in the work of leftist activists while activists on the panel railed against the Democratic Socialists of America and more.</p> <p>The virtual forum was the latest episode of “The Justice Clapback” hosted by activist and Reverend Kirsten John Foy, founder of Arc of Justice, but was special in that it included a mayoral candidate forum and commemoration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Candidates were scheduled to be present for a two-hour discussion but several ended up staying the full stretch of just over eight hours of freewheeling conversation as candidates asked and answered questions on education and the Specialized High School Admissions Test, health care infrastructure, policing reform, NYCHA, economic development in communities of color, gun violence, Black maternal mortality, ranked-choice voting and more.</p> <p>The other candidates who participated were former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. They are among still others who are running in perhaps the most diverse mayoral candidate field the city has seen – McGuire and Adams are Black men, Wiley is a Black woman, Morales is Afro-Latina, Menchaca is openly gay and Latino, Yang is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, and Donovan and Stringer are white men.</p> <p>Several elected officials made appearances early in the event, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, State Senators Leroy Comrie and Jamaal Bailey, City Council Members Robert Cornegy and Laurie Cumbo, State Assemblymembers Latrice Walker, Inez Dickens, and Alicia Hyndman, to name a few. A who’s who of activists and political operatives were also present including Gwen Carr, Erika Ford, Jacqui Williams, David Banks, Karen Jarrett, Rev. Kevin McCall, Pastor Kaji Dousa, Patrick Jenkins, Zakiyah Ansari, Khari Edwards, Ifeoma Ike, Rasheida Smith, and others.</p> <p>After hours of appearances, and the mayoral candidates answering policy questions from several journalists, the evening shifted.</p> <p>After four hours, Yang, Menchaca, McGuire, Morales, and Donovan remained on the Zoom. Yang left after a little later after getting significant pushback to the question he asked the group. McGuire left at the six-and-a-half hour mark after his extended exchange with Cumbo.</p> <p>Yang was perhaps the first to face the heat when he spoke of his experience door-knocking in Georgia in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock during the Senate runoffs, alongside Martin Luther King III, who is co-chair of Yang’s newly-launched mayoral campaign. Since he launched his campaign, Yang has faced broad criticism for his seeming lack of touch with everyday New Yorkers and his relative ignorance of local matters.</p> <p>“You know what that activism resulted in? Reverend Warnock being the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate that could activate tens, hundreds of billions of dollars for New York City, New York State, our communities,” he said. “I mean, like, that's just activism, that's activism at work, like, and I wanted to share that image with you of Martin knocking on doors for Reverend Warnock because like, that is what I believe the legacy that we're celebrating this weekend.”</p> <p>Yang then proceeded to take his turn, promoted by Foy, to ask the assembled audience about “the one thing” that they would like to see their next mayor really focus on. Though some participants quickly offered up issues like education, police reform, and gun violence, others saw it as a narrow gaze that assumes the Black community is a monolith. “I would say the question is a flawed question,” said David Banks, who is President &amp; CEO of The Eagle Academy Foundation. “There is no such thing as the one issue. New York City is the biggest, baddest city in the country. The whole country needs New York to come back. It is a very complex question. It cannot be reduced to such a simple question. All of these things are connected...There's no one soundbite answer that any of us are looking for. We have no time to play around with this stuff. I'm actually kind of, I'm actually sick of hearing just a lot of talk about a lot of stuff.”</p> <p>Jacqui Williams, a real estate lobbyist who leads the firm 99 Solutions, said, “I think it's disrespectful to put it in one format as this one question.”</p> <p>Citing her own experience of running for office and being elected, Council Member Cumbo said any candidate has “to learn how to very quickly chew gum, and to address all of the complex issues in your district right now.”</p> <p>Yang took the criticism in stride after listening as his prompt got battered a bit. “I agree with you all that the next mayor...needs to be like a Swiss Army knife to the nth degree because at this point we have crises facing us on so many fronts,” he said, before saying goodnight to the group.</p> <p>McGuire, in response to Cumbo’s remarks, made a comment that set off one of the most contentious exchanges of the night. “I am like the great Shirley Chisholm...unbought and unbossed,” he said, referring to the slogan of the famous Democratic congresswoman from Brooklyn who went on to become the first African-American candidate for a major political party and the first woman seeking the Democratic nomination for president. McGuire was attempting to make the point that he rose from rags to riches and then turned around to help his community.</p> <p>“[W]e obviously should applaud the people who are in this room, we've been on the front lines forever,” he said, in what could have been a veiled jab at Yang. “This is not new. Clapback is not new. The issues that we're talking about are not new. COVID and George Floyd just uncovered things that we have known for generations. 4,000 years of systemic inequity, so we need to be about it today....We can’t continue to talk about it. We need to be about it.”</p> <p>McGuire’s analogy prompted a sharp response. “I just want to be clear about something as an African-American woman, and no disrespect, I wouldn't want you to compare yourself to the great Shirley Chisholm, our congress member who spoke very passionately about being unbought and unbossed,” Cumbo said, while also pointing out that McGuire’s campaign fundraising has been largely from wealthy donors, unlike Chisholm’s. “And I'm not knocking the strategy that you've taken but I do take affront to you comparing yourself to Shirley Chisholm,” she said.</p> <p>“And I would say that I am old school, and I support the candidate who's been in the trenches, who's been doing the work, and who has the longest track record of rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done in our community,” she added of Adams.</p> <p>Ifeoma Ike, activist and founder of Pink Cornrows, a consulting firm, told McGuire it was a “very far-fetched comparison” and “almost ahistorical,” even as he offered an explanation for his thinking in offering the analogy, in terms of his ascent in the largely white-dominated world of Wall Street, then an apology.</p> <p>He detailed in firm terms his modest upbringing and working his way to the top on Wall Street, where he has used his position and wealth to boost Black entrepreneurs and businesses, support and sponsor Black artists and curators, create jobs in Black communities, support the education of Black youth, and invest in healthcare and public libraries.</p> <p>“If I have offended any of the women here, I apologize for that. It certainly wasn’t intentional...It’s on her shoulders I stand,” he said. “It was only out of respect for that.”</p> <p>Cumbo went on to critique both McGuire and Yang for trying to become mayor when they have failed to be involved in grassroots activism and direct work in communities. She took particular issue with the fact that neither of them voted in recent mayoral elections. “[T]hat's really problematic for me because I feel that voting in elections is at baseline where you begin…When I look at the long lines, particularly in Black communities in this last election cycle, of people that waited on line for ten, twelve hours in the rain, in the snow, in the sleet, in the light, in the dark, with their kids, with walkers. It’s very concerning to me and disappointing frankly that you didn’t see in your time of service that voting is fundamental,” she said.</p> <p>She also added, “I just feel that people that run for office should be people that have been in the field toiling, doing the work. It’s difficult when you’re an elected official and you go to like maybe ten press conferences a week on issues from lead paint to gun violence to schools not having appropriate computers. And to never have seen many of the mayoral candidates in those years is disturbing because it means that a lot of the issues that have been impacting our community from the killing of Eric Garner to so many other issues that we face, we just haven’t seen you.”</p> <p>Other panelists did come to McGuire’s defense, however. “Some people occupy the streets, some people occupy the boardroom. We are not a monolithic people...I don’t think it’s fair to hold him to that standard,” said Karen Jarrett, downstate political director of the New York State Nurses Association, praising McGuire for his success on Wall Street.</p> <p>Rev. Kevin McCall, piggybacking on Cumbo’s comments, posed the same question to Donovan and the other candidates. “He’s not exempt from it. It’s all the candidates that are running for office,” McCall said. “If you’re running for office, you should be involved in everything, not just in economics, not just marching for justice.”</p> <p>There were several more heated debates and comments during the wide-ranging discussion. For instance, when Menchaca asked how the city could encourage communities of color to agree to be given the covid vaccine, some panellists proposed solutions while others were openly sceptical of the vaccine.</p> <p>The most intense debate of the evening was about Black elected power and the threat that some of the panellists see in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the introduction of ranked-choice voting in the upcoming mayoral primary.</p> <p>Foy was the most ardent critic of DSA. “They have declared war on the Black political establishment,” he said. “They have sought to actively displace us in the midst of our most vulnerable time. They have sought to institute ranked-choice voting against our will. They have sought to replace leadership that has fought its way to the top with folks that have just arrived off the boat. And they actively seek to undermine, and I've seen this repeatedly, undermine the character of Black women in particular.”</p> <p>“And intelligence,” added Cumbo, who has had ongoing disagreements, at times contentious, with members of the DSA, including now-State Senator Jabari Brisport, who won his seat last year with the backing of the DSA, two years after he had unsuccessfully challenged Cumbo in her 2017 reelection bid.</p> <p>“[T]he DSA is a leftist threat to everything I hold dear, from the church to the school to my communities,” Foy said.</p> <p>“That's some medieval shit there,” McGuire said.</p> <p>Foy’s broader question was directed at Menchaca and whether he would side with Black activists over the DSA on any particular issue, considering the Council member’s far left leanings. As Menchaca began his response, Cumbo rubbed her hands with glee.</p> <p>Menchaca critiqued the DSA as well, particularly for the role it played in opposing the proposed Industry City rezoning in his district, which fell apart last year after he opposed it and rallied other elected officials to call on the developer to pull the proposal.</p> <p>“Me being progressive in the Council has caused me issues with even members in the Council itself,” he went on to say. “Me standing up and saying this is wrong, the fact that we're building four fuckin’ jails, four new jails in four different boroughs is wrong, and that we haven't closed Rikers and it's not going to close unless we bring a mayor that's going to actually do it. Those are moments where I have confronted power structures and the DSA is not different.”</p> <p>“I think that there are elements of the DSA as white people that do not understand sometimes that they are...fulfilling the power of white supremacy,” he added.</p> <p>Donovan, who was largely silent, measured his words carefully as he relayed an anecdote from his time as a top housing official under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Asked by Foy about when he disagreed with Bloomberg on housing, Donovan paused, and took some flak for it, including from McGuire. He then name-checked “Ray” and said that after the Great Recession, when Bloomberg blamed the government for causing the subprime mortgage crisis, Donovan said he pushed back and blamed Wall Street.</p> <p>“Shaun, you cannot hesitate in the neighborhood. You can’t go down that alley like that,” McGuire interjected.</p> <p>Donovan responded, “Ray, I don’t think you wanna pick this fight ‘cause I’ll tell you, being very blunt with you, the thing I disagreed with him most on, he thought the government caused the mortgage crisis and I thought Wall street caused the mortgage crisis.”</p> <p>“That ain’t a real beef Shaun, let me tell you that,” McGuire said. Through laughter and crosstalk, McGuire took another shot at Donovan, asking Rev. McCall, “Was Shaun out there with y’all?”</p> <p>“Let us put all joking aside here for one second. I am the only white man on this call right now and I want to be careful about what I'm saying,” Donovan said. “I have looked in the eyes of thousands of families that lost their homes in the mortgage crisis. Southeast Queens was Ground Zero. During the mortgage crisis, I was in Southeast Queens starting the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and trying to keep people in their goddamn homes. So when I say the idea that government caused the mortgage crisis, when I've looked in those family's eyes, and not Wall Street, is personal to me. This is not funny. This is not a joke. So the question to me is, I made a choice the last 30 years to be working in neighborhoods around New York City and working across this country to keep people in their homes, not to put them out of their homes. That's the disagreement I had with Mike Bloomberg. When he said to me, this is the government's fault, it was completely unacceptable to me. I’m not bullshitting here. This is not funny to me. This is people's lives.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/608025375/videos/10158363158130376/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Watch the full Arc of Justice event here.</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ray_mcguire_on_zoom.jpeg" alt="ray mcguire on zoom" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p>Ray McGuire on a different Zoom (photo: @RayForMayor)</p> <hr /> <p>A mayoral race forum on Friday night started with a traditional format, questions asked by journalists and answered by eight candidates seeking to win the crowded Democratic primary set for June, but eventually turned into a late-night, open discussion that became contentious and frank, offering insights into the thinking of some of those seeking to become the next mayor and that of some of the city’s Black civic leaders.</p> <p>Some candidates -- particularly among the five who stayed on the zoom for the late-night discussion that stretched well past midnight -- found that simply showing up to listen and offering platitudes won’t be enough to convince the city’s diverse Black electorate that they deserve to hold the highest office in the city. The candidates, for their part, offered candid and at times assertive responses to the questions and criticism that they faced from others on the Zoom call.</p> <p>Former presidential candidate and recent entrant in the race Andrew Yang attempted to tout his record of activism even as he appeared out of touch with issues affecting Black New Yorkers. Former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire and Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who has endorsed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, clashed over McGuire’s lack of experience in city government and more. Former President Obama cabinet official Shaun Donovan defended his work on housing under Mayor Bloomberg. Council Member Carlos Menchaca spoke of “the legacy of white supremacy” in the work of leftist activists while activists on the panel railed against the Democratic Socialists of America and more.</p> <p>The virtual forum was the latest episode of “The Justice Clapback” hosted by activist and Reverend Kirsten John Foy, founder of Arc of Justice, but was special in that it included a mayoral candidate forum and commemoration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Candidates were scheduled to be present for a two-hour discussion but several ended up staying the full stretch of just over eight hours of freewheeling conversation as candidates asked and answered questions on education and the Specialized High School Admissions Test, health care infrastructure, policing reform, NYCHA, economic development in communities of color, gun violence, Black maternal mortality, ranked-choice voting and more.</p> <p>The other candidates who participated were former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, and Comptroller Scott Stringer. They are among still others who are running in perhaps the most diverse mayoral candidate field the city has seen – McGuire and Adams are Black men, Wiley is a Black woman, Morales is Afro-Latina, Menchaca is openly gay and Latino, Yang is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, and Donovan and Stringer are white men.</p> <p>Several elected officials made appearances early in the event, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, State Senators Leroy Comrie and Jamaal Bailey, City Council Members Robert Cornegy and Laurie Cumbo, State Assemblymembers Latrice Walker, Inez Dickens, and Alicia Hyndman, to name a few. A who’s who of activists and political operatives were also present including Gwen Carr, Erika Ford, Jacqui Williams, David Banks, Karen Jarrett, Rev. Kevin McCall, Pastor Kaji Dousa, Patrick Jenkins, Zakiyah Ansari, Khari Edwards, Ifeoma Ike, Rasheida Smith, and others.</p> <p>After hours of appearances, and the mayoral candidates answering policy questions from several journalists, the evening shifted.</p> <p>After four hours, Yang, Menchaca, McGuire, Morales, and Donovan remained on the Zoom. Yang left after a little later after getting significant pushback to the question he asked the group. McGuire left at the six-and-a-half hour mark after his extended exchange with Cumbo.</p> <p>Yang was perhaps the first to face the heat when he spoke of his experience door-knocking in Georgia in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock during the Senate runoffs, alongside Martin Luther King III, who is co-chair of Yang’s newly-launched mayoral campaign. Since he launched his campaign, Yang has faced broad criticism for his seeming lack of touch with everyday New Yorkers and his relative ignorance of local matters.</p> <p>“You know what that activism resulted in? Reverend Warnock being the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate that could activate tens, hundreds of billions of dollars for New York City, New York State, our communities,” he said. “I mean, like, that's just activism, that's activism at work, like, and I wanted to share that image with you of Martin knocking on doors for Reverend Warnock because like, that is what I believe the legacy that we're celebrating this weekend.”</p> <p>Yang then proceeded to take his turn, promoted by Foy, to ask the assembled audience about “the one thing” that they would like to see their next mayor really focus on. Though some participants quickly offered up issues like education, police reform, and gun violence, others saw it as a narrow gaze that assumes the Black community is a monolith. “I would say the question is a flawed question,” said David Banks, who is President &amp; CEO of The Eagle Academy Foundation. “There is no such thing as the one issue. New York City is the biggest, baddest city in the country. The whole country needs New York to come back. It is a very complex question. It cannot be reduced to such a simple question. All of these things are connected...There's no one soundbite answer that any of us are looking for. We have no time to play around with this stuff. I'm actually kind of, I'm actually sick of hearing just a lot of talk about a lot of stuff.”</p> <p>Jacqui Williams, a real estate lobbyist who leads the firm 99 Solutions, said, “I think it's disrespectful to put it in one format as this one question.”</p> <p>Citing her own experience of running for office and being elected, Council Member Cumbo said any candidate has “to learn how to very quickly chew gum, and to address all of the complex issues in your district right now.”</p> <p>Yang took the criticism in stride after listening as his prompt got battered a bit. “I agree with you all that the next mayor...needs to be like a Swiss Army knife to the nth degree because at this point we have crises facing us on so many fronts,” he said, before saying goodnight to the group.</p> <p>McGuire, in response to Cumbo’s remarks, made a comment that set off one of the most contentious exchanges of the night. “I am like the great Shirley Chisholm...unbought and unbossed,” he said, referring to the slogan of the famous Democratic congresswoman from Brooklyn who went on to become the first African-American candidate for a major political party and the first woman seeking the Democratic nomination for president. McGuire was attempting to make the point that he rose from rags to riches and then turned around to help his community.</p> <p>“[W]e obviously should applaud the people who are in this room, we've been on the front lines forever,” he said, in what could have been a veiled jab at Yang. “This is not new. Clapback is not new. The issues that we're talking about are not new. COVID and George Floyd just uncovered things that we have known for generations. 4,000 years of systemic inequity, so we need to be about it today....We can’t continue to talk about it. We need to be about it.”</p> <p>McGuire’s analogy prompted a sharp response. “I just want to be clear about something as an African-American woman, and no disrespect, I wouldn't want you to compare yourself to the great Shirley Chisholm, our congress member who spoke very passionately about being unbought and unbossed,” Cumbo said, while also pointing out that McGuire’s campaign fundraising has been largely from wealthy donors, unlike Chisholm’s. “And I'm not knocking the strategy that you've taken but I do take affront to you comparing yourself to Shirley Chisholm,” she said.</p> <p>“And I would say that I am old school, and I support the candidate who's been in the trenches, who's been doing the work, and who has the longest track record of rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done in our community,” she added of Adams.</p> <p>Ifeoma Ike, activist and founder of Pink Cornrows, a consulting firm, told McGuire it was a “very far-fetched comparison” and “almost ahistorical,” even as he offered an explanation for his thinking in offering the analogy, in terms of his ascent in the largely white-dominated world of Wall Street, then an apology.</p> <p>He detailed in firm terms his modest upbringing and working his way to the top on Wall Street, where he has used his position and wealth to boost Black entrepreneurs and businesses, support and sponsor Black artists and curators, create jobs in Black communities, support the education of Black youth, and invest in healthcare and public libraries.</p> <p>“If I have offended any of the women here, I apologize for that. It certainly wasn’t intentional...It’s on her shoulders I stand,” he said. “It was only out of respect for that.”</p> <p>Cumbo went on to critique both McGuire and Yang for trying to become mayor when they have failed to be involved in grassroots activism and direct work in communities. She took particular issue with the fact that neither of them voted in recent mayoral elections. “[T]hat's really problematic for me because I feel that voting in elections is at baseline where you begin…When I look at the long lines, particularly in Black communities in this last election cycle, of people that waited on line for ten, twelve hours in the rain, in the snow, in the sleet, in the light, in the dark, with their kids, with walkers. It’s very concerning to me and disappointing frankly that you didn’t see in your time of service that voting is fundamental,” she said.</p> <p>She also added, “I just feel that people that run for office should be people that have been in the field toiling, doing the work. It’s difficult when you’re an elected official and you go to like maybe ten press conferences a week on issues from lead paint to gun violence to schools not having appropriate computers. And to never have seen many of the mayoral candidates in those years is disturbing because it means that a lot of the issues that have been impacting our community from the killing of Eric Garner to so many other issues that we face, we just haven’t seen you.”</p> <p>Other panelists did come to McGuire’s defense, however. “Some people occupy the streets, some people occupy the boardroom. We are not a monolithic people...I don’t think it’s fair to hold him to that standard,” said Karen Jarrett, downstate political director of the New York State Nurses Association, praising McGuire for his success on Wall Street.</p> <p>Rev. Kevin McCall, piggybacking on Cumbo’s comments, posed the same question to Donovan and the other candidates. “He’s not exempt from it. It’s all the candidates that are running for office,” McCall said. “If you’re running for office, you should be involved in everything, not just in economics, not just marching for justice.”</p> <p>There were several more heated debates and comments during the wide-ranging discussion. For instance, when Menchaca asked how the city could encourage communities of color to agree to be given the covid vaccine, some panellists proposed solutions while others were openly sceptical of the vaccine.</p> <p>The most intense debate of the evening was about Black elected power and the threat that some of the panellists see in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the introduction of ranked-choice voting in the upcoming mayoral primary.</p> <p>Foy was the most ardent critic of DSA. “They have declared war on the Black political establishment,” he said. “They have sought to actively displace us in the midst of our most vulnerable time. They have sought to institute ranked-choice voting against our will. They have sought to replace leadership that has fought its way to the top with folks that have just arrived off the boat. And they actively seek to undermine, and I've seen this repeatedly, undermine the character of Black women in particular.”</p> <p>“And intelligence,” added Cumbo, who has had ongoing disagreements, at times contentious, with members of the DSA, including now-State Senator Jabari Brisport, who won his seat last year with the backing of the DSA, two years after he had unsuccessfully challenged Cumbo in her 2017 reelection bid.</p> <p>“[T]he DSA is a leftist threat to everything I hold dear, from the church to the school to my communities,” Foy said.</p> <p>“That's some medieval shit there,” McGuire said.</p> <p>Foy’s broader question was directed at Menchaca and whether he would side with Black activists over the DSA on any particular issue, considering the Council member’s far left leanings. As Menchaca began his response, Cumbo rubbed her hands with glee.</p> <p>Menchaca critiqued the DSA as well, particularly for the role it played in opposing the proposed Industry City rezoning in his district, which fell apart last year after he opposed it and rallied other elected officials to call on the developer to pull the proposal.</p> <p>“Me being progressive in the Council has caused me issues with even members in the Council itself,” he went on to say. “Me standing up and saying this is wrong, the fact that we're building four fuckin’ jails, four new jails in four different boroughs is wrong, and that we haven't closed Rikers and it's not going to close unless we bring a mayor that's going to actually do it. Those are moments where I have confronted power structures and the DSA is not different.”</p> <p>“I think that there are elements of the DSA as white people that do not understand sometimes that they are...fulfilling the power of white supremacy,” he added.</p> <p>Donovan, who was largely silent, measured his words carefully as he relayed an anecdote from his time as a top housing official under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Asked by Foy about when he disagreed with Bloomberg on housing, Donovan paused, and took some flak for it, including from McGuire. He then name-checked “Ray” and said that after the Great Recession, when Bloomberg blamed the government for causing the subprime mortgage crisis, Donovan said he pushed back and blamed Wall Street.</p> <p>“Shaun, you cannot hesitate in the neighborhood. You can’t go down that alley like that,” McGuire interjected.</p> <p>Donovan responded, “Ray, I don’t think you wanna pick this fight ‘cause I’ll tell you, being very blunt with you, the thing I disagreed with him most on, he thought the government caused the mortgage crisis and I thought Wall street caused the mortgage crisis.”</p> <p>“That ain’t a real beef Shaun, let me tell you that,” McGuire said. Through laughter and crosstalk, McGuire took another shot at Donovan, asking Rev. McCall, “Was Shaun out there with y’all?”</p> <p>“Let us put all joking aside here for one second. I am the only white man on this call right now and I want to be careful about what I'm saying,” Donovan said. “I have looked in the eyes of thousands of families that lost their homes in the mortgage crisis. Southeast Queens was Ground Zero. During the mortgage crisis, I was in Southeast Queens starting the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and trying to keep people in their goddamn homes. So when I say the idea that government caused the mortgage crisis, when I've looked in those family's eyes, and not Wall Street, is personal to me. This is not funny. This is not a joke. So the question to me is, I made a choice the last 30 years to be working in neighborhoods around New York City and working across this country to keep people in their homes, not to put them out of their homes. That's the disagreement I had with Mike Bloomberg. When he said to me, this is the government's fault, it was completely unacceptable to me. I’m not bullshitting here. This is not funny to me. This is people's lives.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/608025375/videos/10158363158130376/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Watch the full Arc of Justice event here.</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
7 Months Later, No Sign of De Blasio's Promised 'Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission' 2021-01-18T16:00:00+00:00 2021-01-18T16:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10066-no-sign-de-blasio-promised-racial-truth-reconciliation-commission Ethan Geringer-Sameth ethangs@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/visits-si-blm.jpg" alt="visits si blm" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio painting a Black Lives Matter mural (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>After weeks of mass demonstrations last June calling out police violence against Black people, New York city and state officials responded by passing and signing legislation for police reform and accountability that had seemed indefinitely stalled, ordering investigations into the policing of the protests themselves, and painting murals as a sign of government solidarity with its people.</p> <p>One of the commitments made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was to establish a commission to explore, in a comprehensive manner, the history of racial injustice in the city, a broader scope than any standalone reform with the promise by the mayor that it would lead to structural change and the redistribution of wealth and resources. But despite its fanfare (de Blasio held a press conference to announce it, then raised it more than a dozen times in remarks last summer) no public work has been done to advance the project in the seven months since it was proposed and, with less than a year left in office, the de Blasio administration says it is not ready to discuss it.</p> <p>"By having a Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission, we are saying officially, we want the truth to come out in the open, and then we want to work structurally to address the falsehoods and the pain and the injustice," de Blasio said at the announcement on June 19, Juneteenth, the day observed by some to commemorate a milestone in the formal end of slavery in the United States. (The same day, he signed an executive order making future Juneteenths a holiday for city employees but <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/1/13/22230134/juneteenth-holiday-deblasio-promise" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hasn't begun the necessary contract negotiations</a> with the city labor unions.)</p> <p>After more than three weeks of marches, set off by the killing of George Floyd by Minneopolis police on May 25, de Blasio announced the city would establish a commission to examine "the effects of structural and institutional racism in New York City," according to an official press release. In the days leading up to announcement, the mayor himself had been the target of a great deal of criticism, both for the ways the protests were policed and for his lack of progress in many areas of police reform, which had been a central commentent of his 2013 mayoral campaign.</p> <p>The Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission would look at racially-motivated violence against Black communities, as well as policies that contribute to and reinforce segregation "with an emphasis on housing, criminal justice, environmental racism and public health." It would be modeled on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the most famous of its kind, undertaken in the aftermath of Apartheid.</p> <p>"The commission will examine how the disease of racism has infected all facets of our lives in New York City, from the disruption of families, to the seizure of land and other hard earned assets, from the parade of humiliations that declare we are worthless human beings to the systems that thwart the ability to accumulate wealth, racism has shaped our everyday practices and policies and is reflected in our behaviors and our norms," said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion, at the Juneteeth press briefing.</p> <p>The commission was not only intended to identify the causes of institutional racism in New York but provide a specific road map to "tear it down in all agencies," de Blasio said at a press briefing two weeks later.</p> <p>"I want to get to the material and tangible work of changing what we do in this city, redistributing wealth in this city, changing policies that are racist and discriminatory, changing structures that are inherently institutionally racist -- breaking them down," he told reporters at a separate briefing on June 23.</p> <p>The administration provided few details on how the commission would be composed, who its members would be, who would appoint them, or what kind of budget it would have. Nor did the mayor define to what extent the commission would be independent and how much of a hand he would have in setting its scope and mandate. De Blasio has made no mention of the project in any of the transcripts of his public remarks after August 5.</p> <p>The Mayor's Office declined to provide any information on the status of the commission in response to several Gotham Gazette inquiries.</p> <p>"We were very excited when we heard about the proposal...and we're looking forward to see it happening," said Anna Myriam Roccatello, deputy executive director and director of programs at the International Center for Transitional Justice, which had some informal exchanges with the administration around the announcement. "We couldn't support more an initiative of that kind."</p> <p>"Of course timing is very important because the sooner and the more promptly you demonstrate you want to address something of that significance the better it is, use momentum," Roccatello added. But doing it at a moment of high tensions and political posturing could have adverse effects on the process, she warned.</p> <p>"Six months is not ideal but it's not so dramatic. It's the six months in context, meaning how much longer de Blasio has in office and how has he used these six months after such a loaded presentation," she said.</p> <p><strong>The Importance of Independence</strong><br />Truth and reconciliation commissions are an element of some restorative justice models, often used when state-led or -sanctioned atrocities span policies and generations too numerous to adjudicate in court and which the state's legal system is not intended to address. They are a kind of government-run healing and record-setting process, meant to establish an officially-accepted historical account that comes from sources independent of the government and traditional channels of power, drawn from the testimony of people impacted and disserved by that history.</p> <p>In the best of circumstances commissions can create powerful tools of fact and accountability that can serve as the basis of policy change. "It responds to a strong agitation from a significant part of the population that represents greivances and instances of exclusion and discrimination," Roccatello told Gotham Gazette in assessing de Blasio's proposal. "It sets the basis for having a participatory process where these issues are discussed, often with a view of addressing through policies -- policies that were demands by the movement itself."</p> <p>There is always the risk of voices being excluded and cases being left out of the historical record. In New York City, the history of racial discrimination, violation, and neglect is well-documented but less frequently acknowledged in everyday policymaking or by the people who drive it.</p> <p>Much depends on how data is selected, gathered, and analyzed, how demographic factors are prioritized, and how histories are brought to light -- all of which are choices that must be decided on by the commissioners.</p> <p>According to Roccatello, the most important element of a truth and reconciliation commission is that it is allowed to be independent, both in its operations and to set its scope.</p> <p>"In some cases representatives have put their political capital behind an initiative of that type with an ultimate political agenda," she told Gotham Gazette, adding, "and that could be legitimate as long as once the initiative takes off that you retreat and let the process be as independent and legitimate and participatory and inclusive as possible."</p> <p>While it's not clear if de Blasio will in fact follow through on launching the commission, if he does, his involvement in its work will be closely scrutinized.</p> <p>The mayor was a frequent target of criticism during the spring and summer Black Lives Matter demonstrations, not only for the NYPD's often aggressive response to predominantly peaceful protesters, but for having been in power during the killing of Eric Garner by police, slowing subsequent investigations into the officers responsible, and meting out limited and delayed discipline of them. He has also been criticized by reformers for having overseen a more than $1 billion increase in the NYPD budget over six years in office, the addition of thousands of members to the police force, and for promising to significantly alter police accountability in the city but showing limited results.</p> <p>"This is the first time any city or state in America will actually examine our truth," de Blasio said last June. (There have indeed been other commissions of varying kinds established before and since de Blasio's announcement.)</p> <p>Depending on the scope of the issues under examination, commissions are generally divided into multiple bureaus, with departments dedicated to collecting public and private testimony and investigating emblematic cases. Typically, there are interdisciplinary teams -- social scientists of various kinds, anthropologists, historians, economists -- analyzing the data, ostensibly with a lense toward the human impact of the violations. The work could look at how patterns of abjection developed and embedded themselves in institutions, as intimated by de Blasio in the case of the city's commission announcement.</p> <p>New York City's Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission was announced by de Blasio with First Lady Chirlane McCray, who has co-chaired the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion with First Deputy Mayor J. Philip Thompson, since the task force was launched last spring to address racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.</p> <p>Questions remain about how this process, with few successful models in the United States, would function in a city and country with its old and uniquely engrained forms of racism.</p> <p>New York and the United States have a history of establishing task forces and commissions as a form of political deflection or to excuse the actions of white people. In other cases, government issued reports have been used to sanction practices and underwrite future policies that have had long-lasting and devastating effects on black communities.</p> <p><strong>Truth in the Present</strong><br />Implicit in the city's lofty goal is the fact that achieving racial justice and reconciliation is not just an exercise in uncovering the original sins of racism. There are also real-time examples of official truth-seeking in ongoing calamities taking place in underserved communities. They are notably part of current efforts to curtail the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color -- what advocates and some elected leaders have described in terms of unfolding atrocities in Black, Latino, and immigrant communities -- that have exacerbated long-standing disparities in health care, housing, and beyond.</p> <p>At a recent City Council oversight hearing of the de Blasio administration's COVID-19 vaccine programs, Council Member Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat and co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, read a statement from the caucus: "One of the most painful lessons drawn from this crisis was that a failure to provide timely reporting of racial demographic data at the onset of the pandemic resulted in a disproportionate number of dead black and brown New Yorkers that otherwise could have resulted in more aggressive mitigation measures employed in these communities.”</p> <p>"If the federal government can establish a system that integrates key logistical aspects for delivering and administering vaccines and products to facilitate vaccinations, surely our city and state can do the same," Adams read before the committees and members of the administration, including Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, "but such a system must be accompanied by a prompt disclosure of racial demographic data to help prevent the further loss of life and ensure that our historically neglected communities receive the desperately needed relief these vaccines provide."</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/visits-si-blm.jpg" alt="visits si blm" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio painting a Black Lives Matter mural (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>After weeks of mass demonstrations last June calling out police violence against Black people, New York city and state officials responded by passing and signing legislation for police reform and accountability that had seemed indefinitely stalled, ordering investigations into the policing of the protests themselves, and painting murals as a sign of government solidarity with its people.</p> <p>One of the commitments made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was to establish a commission to explore, in a comprehensive manner, the history of racial injustice in the city, a broader scope than any standalone reform with the promise by the mayor that it would lead to structural change and the redistribution of wealth and resources. But despite its fanfare (de Blasio held a press conference to announce it, then raised it more than a dozen times in remarks last summer) no public work has been done to advance the project in the seven months since it was proposed and, with less than a year left in office, the de Blasio administration says it is not ready to discuss it.</p> <p>"By having a Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission, we are saying officially, we want the truth to come out in the open, and then we want to work structurally to address the falsehoods and the pain and the injustice," de Blasio said at the announcement on June 19, Juneteenth, the day observed by some to commemorate a milestone in the formal end of slavery in the United States. (The same day, he signed an executive order making future Juneteenths a holiday for city employees but <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/1/13/22230134/juneteenth-holiday-deblasio-promise" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hasn't begun the necessary contract negotiations</a> with the city labor unions.)</p> <p>After more than three weeks of marches, set off by the killing of George Floyd by Minneopolis police on May 25, de Blasio announced the city would establish a commission to examine "the effects of structural and institutional racism in New York City," according to an official press release. In the days leading up to announcement, the mayor himself had been the target of a great deal of criticism, both for the ways the protests were policed and for his lack of progress in many areas of police reform, which had been a central commentent of his 2013 mayoral campaign.</p> <p>The Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission would look at racially-motivated violence against Black communities, as well as policies that contribute to and reinforce segregation "with an emphasis on housing, criminal justice, environmental racism and public health." It would be modeled on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the most famous of its kind, undertaken in the aftermath of Apartheid.</p> <p>"The commission will examine how the disease of racism has infected all facets of our lives in New York City, from the disruption of families, to the seizure of land and other hard earned assets, from the parade of humiliations that declare we are worthless human beings to the systems that thwart the ability to accumulate wealth, racism has shaped our everyday practices and policies and is reflected in our behaviors and our norms," said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion, at the Juneteeth press briefing.</p> <p>The commission was not only intended to identify the causes of institutional racism in New York but provide a specific road map to "tear it down in all agencies," de Blasio said at a press briefing two weeks later.</p> <p>"I want to get to the material and tangible work of changing what we do in this city, redistributing wealth in this city, changing policies that are racist and discriminatory, changing structures that are inherently institutionally racist -- breaking them down," he told reporters at a separate briefing on June 23.</p> <p>The administration provided few details on how the commission would be composed, who its members would be, who would appoint them, or what kind of budget it would have. Nor did the mayor define to what extent the commission would be independent and how much of a hand he would have in setting its scope and mandate. De Blasio has made no mention of the project in any of the transcripts of his public remarks after August 5.</p> <p>The Mayor's Office declined to provide any information on the status of the commission in response to several Gotham Gazette inquiries.</p> <p>"We were very excited when we heard about the proposal...and we're looking forward to see it happening," said Anna Myriam Roccatello, deputy executive director and director of programs at the International Center for Transitional Justice, which had some informal exchanges with the administration around the announcement. "We couldn't support more an initiative of that kind."</p> <p>"Of course timing is very important because the sooner and the more promptly you demonstrate you want to address something of that significance the better it is, use momentum," Roccatello added. But doing it at a moment of high tensions and political posturing could have adverse effects on the process, she warned.</p> <p>"Six months is not ideal but it's not so dramatic. It's the six months in context, meaning how much longer de Blasio has in office and how has he used these six months after such a loaded presentation," she said.</p> <p><strong>The Importance of Independence</strong><br />Truth and reconciliation commissions are an element of some restorative justice models, often used when state-led or -sanctioned atrocities span policies and generations too numerous to adjudicate in court and which the state's legal system is not intended to address. They are a kind of government-run healing and record-setting process, meant to establish an officially-accepted historical account that comes from sources independent of the government and traditional channels of power, drawn from the testimony of people impacted and disserved by that history.</p> <p>In the best of circumstances commissions can create powerful tools of fact and accountability that can serve as the basis of policy change. "It responds to a strong agitation from a significant part of the population that represents greivances and instances of exclusion and discrimination," Roccatello told Gotham Gazette in assessing de Blasio's proposal. "It sets the basis for having a participatory process where these issues are discussed, often with a view of addressing through policies -- policies that were demands by the movement itself."</p> <p>There is always the risk of voices being excluded and cases being left out of the historical record. In New York City, the history of racial discrimination, violation, and neglect is well-documented but less frequently acknowledged in everyday policymaking or by the people who drive it.</p> <p>Much depends on how data is selected, gathered, and analyzed, how demographic factors are prioritized, and how histories are brought to light -- all of which are choices that must be decided on by the commissioners.</p> <p>According to Roccatello, the most important element of a truth and reconciliation commission is that it is allowed to be independent, both in its operations and to set its scope.</p> <p>"In some cases representatives have put their political capital behind an initiative of that type with an ultimate political agenda," she told Gotham Gazette, adding, "and that could be legitimate as long as once the initiative takes off that you retreat and let the process be as independent and legitimate and participatory and inclusive as possible."</p> <p>While it's not clear if de Blasio will in fact follow through on launching the commission, if he does, his involvement in its work will be closely scrutinized.</p> <p>The mayor was a frequent target of criticism during the spring and summer Black Lives Matter demonstrations, not only for the NYPD's often aggressive response to predominantly peaceful protesters, but for having been in power during the killing of Eric Garner by police, slowing subsequent investigations into the officers responsible, and meting out limited and delayed discipline of them. He has also been criticized by reformers for having overseen a more than $1 billion increase in the NYPD budget over six years in office, the addition of thousands of members to the police force, and for promising to significantly alter police accountability in the city but showing limited results.</p> <p>"This is the first time any city or state in America will actually examine our truth," de Blasio said last June. (There have indeed been other commissions of varying kinds established before and since de Blasio's announcement.)</p> <p>Depending on the scope of the issues under examination, commissions are generally divided into multiple bureaus, with departments dedicated to collecting public and private testimony and investigating emblematic cases. Typically, there are interdisciplinary teams -- social scientists of various kinds, anthropologists, historians, economists -- analyzing the data, ostensibly with a lense toward the human impact of the violations. The work could look at how patterns of abjection developed and embedded themselves in institutions, as intimated by de Blasio in the case of the city's commission announcement.</p> <p>New York City's Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission was announced by de Blasio with First Lady Chirlane McCray, who has co-chaired the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion with First Deputy Mayor J. Philip Thompson, since the task force was launched last spring to address racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.</p> <p>Questions remain about how this process, with few successful models in the United States, would function in a city and country with its old and uniquely engrained forms of racism.</p> <p>New York and the United States have a history of establishing task forces and commissions as a form of political deflection or to excuse the actions of white people. In other cases, government issued reports have been used to sanction practices and underwrite future policies that have had long-lasting and devastating effects on black communities.</p> <p><strong>Truth in the Present</strong><br />Implicit in the city's lofty goal is the fact that achieving racial justice and reconciliation is not just an exercise in uncovering the original sins of racism. There are also real-time examples of official truth-seeking in ongoing calamities taking place in underserved communities. They are notably part of current efforts to curtail the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color -- what advocates and some elected leaders have described in terms of unfolding atrocities in Black, Latino, and immigrant communities -- that have exacerbated long-standing disparities in health care, housing, and beyond.</p> <p>At a recent City Council oversight hearing of the de Blasio administration's COVID-19 vaccine programs, Council Member Adrienne Adams, a Queens Democrat and co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, read a statement from the caucus: "One of the most painful lessons drawn from this crisis was that a failure to provide timely reporting of racial demographic data at the onset of the pandemic resulted in a disproportionate number of dead black and brown New Yorkers that otherwise could have resulted in more aggressive mitigation measures employed in these communities.”</p> <p>"If the federal government can establish a system that integrates key logistical aspects for delivering and administering vaccines and products to facilitate vaccinations, surely our city and state can do the same," Adams read before the committees and members of the administration, including Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, "but such a system must be accompanied by a prompt disclosure of racial demographic data to help prevent the further loss of life and ensure that our historically neglected communities receive the desperately needed relief these vaccines provide."</p> <p>

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Candidates Riding Cash Advantages in City's Down-Ballot Races 2021-01-18T17:30:00+00:00 2021-01-18T17:30:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10079-candidates-cash-advantages-nyc-down-ballot-2021-races Jarrett Murphy jmurphy@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/city-comptroller-600.jpg" alt="city comptroller candidates 4 Dems" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>(l-r) Comptroller candidates Lander, Benjamin, Weprin, Parker</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This article is published in partnership with <a href="https://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Limits</a>. Also read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>If money plays a decisive role in the Democratic race for city comptroller, it looks to be a two-candidate affair. But, even in the race to be the city's accountant, money isn't everything.</p> <p>According to filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board for the January 15 deadline, just over five months until the all-important primary day in June, Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander now has $2.7 million on hand, fueled by $800,000 of his own fundraising and a $2.3 million dose of matching funds in December.</p> <p>Manhattan State Senator Brian Benjamin, whose fundraising has been <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/1/4/22214373/brian-benjamin-comptroller-contributions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the source of controversy</a>, trails Lander by $100,000 in private donations but did on Friday receive a $950,000 injection of matching funds and had $1.5 million on hand as of the filing.</p> <p>Queens Assemblymember David Weprin had $295,000 in the bank and Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker just over $81,000.</p> <p>However, Weprin was the most successful fundraiser during the July to January period covered by this recent reporting deadline. He hauled in $292,000 to Benjamin's $244,000, Lander's $173,000 and Parker's $119,000. Both Lander and Benjamin started fundraising well before Weprin and Parker.</p> <p>As of the filing, Parker&nbsp;had raised $122,711 from 663 contributions for an $183 average. Weprin reported having raised a total of $465,212 from 1,431 contributors, for an average of $318.&nbsp;</p> <p>Benjamin reported raising a total thus far of $706,046 from 2,146 contributors, for an $327 average. And Lander has reported raising a total of $858,844 from 4,621 contributions for an $169 average.</p> <p><strong>Down Ballot But Big Money</strong><br />In 2021 as in earlier years, the race for mayor usually gets the spotlight. But down-ballot races contribute mightily to the cost of New York City's municipal campaigns and the spending that helps reach voters across the city.</p> <p>In 2013, the last time a large share of offices were thrown open by term limits, mayoral campaigns comprised just under half of the $122 million spent by city candidates. Races for comptroller, public advocate, borough president and City Council made up the rest.</p> <p>As in any contests, money is just one factor—always important, but not always decisive—in these races. John Liu outspent the field when he won a crowded 2009 primary race to win the nomination and go on to become comptroller. But Eliot Spitzer's heavy spending advantage in 2013 did not help him prevail over Scott Stringer in that comptroller primary.</p> <p>Last week's fundraising numbers do indicate something about how the down-ballot races are shaping up. In a year featuring an abundance of open seats, pandemic-related restrictions on campaigning, the first use of ranked-choice voting, and a generous eight-to-one matching ratio for public campaign financing of certain eligible contributions, having the most money might not be crucial, but having enough money to compete will be. It's a long five months between now and the June Democratic primary.</p> <p><strong>The Hunt for Matching Funds</strong><br />The threshold for receiving public matching funds in the comptroller's race is raising $125,000 in matchable donations from at least 500 New York City residents. Lander qualified in December and received money based on his fundraising through July. Benjamin received public funds on Friday based on the July numbers.</p> <p>The CFB will now look at the July through January fundraising reported last week to determine whether Parker and Weprin qualify, and to figure out the amounts any qualified candidates are owed. Benjamin and Lander could receive additional money based on their more recent fundraising. The next payout is in February.</p> <p>Parker, with just over $53,000 in matchable donations, appears to have fallen short of the threshold. Weprin posted what the campaign assesses as matchable donations of more than $209,000, which is enough to qualify, and his&nbsp;campaign said he's expecting nearly $2 million in public matching funds at the disbursement next month.</p> <p>As for Lander and Benjamin, they appear to be in line for additional public funds payments of as much as $940,000 and $480,000, respectively, in February, based on matchable donations they received from July on. The Campaign Finance Board will vet the numbers submitted by campaigns, which have made their own assessments that are published upon filing.</p> <p>While Lander had the smallest average donation thus far in the race, he's raised far more ($38,000) through intermediaries than anyone else in the field, though no single go-between brought in more than $2,500 to Lander.</p> <p>In the very quiet race for public advocate, there's been modest fundraising. Having raised $106,000 since July, incumbent Jumaane Williams -- the only citywide official eligible to run for reelection this year -- now has $44,300 on hand—a tiny amount for a citywide campaign, but much more than any of the three other candidates registered for that race. Closest to him is Anthony Herbert with nearly $1,500 on hand. The threshold for public funds in the advocate race is identical to the one for comptroller, and with just over $50,000 in matchable donations against the $125,000 threshold, Williams is short of qualifying.</p> <p><strong>Races at the Borough and District Levels</strong><br />City Council Member Fernando Cabrera has the biggest bankroll of anyone running for Bronx borough president, with $120,000 on hand. State Senator Luis Sepulveda has the second-most cash ($48,000) but his campaign has been imperiled by the allegation that he tried to strangle his wife. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson has $29,000 to spend and Samuel Ravelo some $16,000. Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez's campaign is in the red by $28.</p> <p>“Council Member Cabrera has built unprecedented support on the grassroots level throughout the Bronx," Cabrera's campaign manager, Timothy Tapia, said in a statement. "Fernando has demonstrated that his vision for repairing the Bronx has been embraced by residents from every corner of the borough."</p> <p>In the contest for Brooklyn borough president, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon ($187,599) and City Council Member Antonio Reynoso ($139,089) lead the money race. City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. has raised ($249,640) more than both of them, but spent nearly every dollar he’s raised.</p> <p>“Raised in just three months, the filing demonstrated strong local support for Simon, with Brooklynites making up over 80 percent of her more than 800 unique contributors,” Simon's campaign said in a statement. But cash position includes a $125,000 loan she made to her campaign.</p> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos has a healthy stockpile of cash ($574,139) in the race for Manhattan borough president, but State Senator Brad Hoylman ($278,421) and City Council Member Mark Levine ($235,920) also have competitive cash on hand. They are among six candidates in that Democratic primary, and the only three current elected officials in the race. Former community board chair Elizabeth Caputo has more than $55,000 on hand as of the filing.</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer's bid to unseat newly-elected Queens Borough President Donovan Richards received a boost with the CFB's award of $395,000 in matching funds on Friday, giving him a balance of $384,000—more than three times what’s in the account of Richards, who just won a November special election to serve out the rest of now-District Attorney Melinda Katz's 2018-2021 term. Both are Democrats.</p> <p>Staten Island borough president candidate Steven Matteo, a City Council member, now has $545,000 to spend. The only other Richmond County candidate registered with the CFB, Leticia Remauro, reported $34,000 in the bank. Both Matteo and Remauro are running in the Republican primary.</p> <p>Given the low threshold for qualifying for public funds as a borough president candidate (100 donors and matchable donations totaling $10,000 on Staten Island and up to $50,094 in Brooklyn), it appears that multiple candidates will qualify for funds in the borough president races once the CFB goes through the most recent filings and awards new funds in February.</p> <p>Across the five boroughs, City Council candidates have dropped a combined $4.8 million on the race so far, and have a collective $10.9 million to spend. Ten Council candidates received matching funds payments on Friday based on pre-July fundraising. A few dozen had received public funds in the previous round of awards, in December. Many are on track to receive matching funds in February and others will hope for March.</p> <p>The best-funded candidate citywide is Erik Bottcher, running in Manhattan's 3rd District, who has raised $133,000, received $160,000 in matching funds, and has $244,000 on hand. However, no one has raised or spent more than incumbent City Council Member Mark Gjonaj of the Bronx, who has already expended $446,000 of the $577,000 he has raised. Four years ago, Gjonaj outspent nearly every candidate in the city by dropping $1.3 million to win his Council seat. He’s again facing tough competition.</p> <p><strong><em>Also Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing">The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021</a></em></strong></p> <p><strong><em>***</em></strong><br />by Jarrett Murphy of City Limits, published in collaboration with Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CityLimitsNews" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CityLimitsNews</a></p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/city-comptroller-600.jpg" alt="city comptroller candidates 4 Dems" width="600" height="248" /></p> <p>(l-r) Comptroller candidates Lander, Benjamin, Weprin, Parker</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This article is published in partnership with <a href="https://citylimits.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Limits</a>. Also read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>If money plays a decisive role in the Democratic race for city comptroller, it looks to be a two-candidate affair. But, even in the race to be the city's accountant, money isn't everything.</p> <p>According to filings with the New York City Campaign Finance Board for the January 15 deadline, just over five months until the all-important primary day in June, Brooklyn City Council Member Brad Lander now has $2.7 million on hand, fueled by $800,000 of his own fundraising and a $2.3 million dose of matching funds in December.</p> <p>Manhattan State Senator Brian Benjamin, whose fundraising has been <a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/1/4/22214373/brian-benjamin-comptroller-contributions" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the source of controversy</a>, trails Lander by $100,000 in private donations but did on Friday receive a $950,000 injection of matching funds and had $1.5 million on hand as of the filing.</p> <p>Queens Assemblymember David Weprin had $295,000 in the bank and Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker just over $81,000.</p> <p>However, Weprin was the most successful fundraiser during the July to January period covered by this recent reporting deadline. He hauled in $292,000 to Benjamin's $244,000, Lander's $173,000 and Parker's $119,000. Both Lander and Benjamin started fundraising well before Weprin and Parker.</p> <p>As of the filing, Parker&nbsp;had raised $122,711 from 663 contributions for an $183 average. Weprin reported having raised a total of $465,212 from 1,431 contributors, for an average of $318.&nbsp;</p> <p>Benjamin reported raising a total thus far of $706,046 from 2,146 contributors, for an $327 average. And Lander has reported raising a total of $858,844 from 4,621 contributions for an $169 average.</p> <p><strong>Down Ballot But Big Money</strong><br />In 2021 as in earlier years, the race for mayor usually gets the spotlight. But down-ballot races contribute mightily to the cost of New York City's municipal campaigns and the spending that helps reach voters across the city.</p> <p>In 2013, the last time a large share of offices were thrown open by term limits, mayoral campaigns comprised just under half of the $122 million spent by city candidates. Races for comptroller, public advocate, borough president and City Council made up the rest.</p> <p>As in any contests, money is just one factor—always important, but not always decisive—in these races. John Liu outspent the field when he won a crowded 2009 primary race to win the nomination and go on to become comptroller. But Eliot Spitzer's heavy spending advantage in 2013 did not help him prevail over Scott Stringer in that comptroller primary.</p> <p>Last week's fundraising numbers do indicate something about how the down-ballot races are shaping up. In a year featuring an abundance of open seats, pandemic-related restrictions on campaigning, the first use of ranked-choice voting, and a generous eight-to-one matching ratio for public campaign financing of certain eligible contributions, having the most money might not be crucial, but having enough money to compete will be. It's a long five months between now and the June Democratic primary.</p> <p><strong>The Hunt for Matching Funds</strong><br />The threshold for receiving public matching funds in the comptroller's race is raising $125,000 in matchable donations from at least 500 New York City residents. Lander qualified in December and received money based on his fundraising through July. Benjamin received public funds on Friday based on the July numbers.</p> <p>The CFB will now look at the July through January fundraising reported last week to determine whether Parker and Weprin qualify, and to figure out the amounts any qualified candidates are owed. Benjamin and Lander could receive additional money based on their more recent fundraising. The next payout is in February.</p> <p>Parker, with just over $53,000 in matchable donations, appears to have fallen short of the threshold. Weprin posted what the campaign assesses as matchable donations of more than $209,000, which is enough to qualify, and his&nbsp;campaign said he's expecting nearly $2 million in public matching funds at the disbursement next month.</p> <p>As for Lander and Benjamin, they appear to be in line for additional public funds payments of as much as $940,000 and $480,000, respectively, in February, based on matchable donations they received from July on. The Campaign Finance Board will vet the numbers submitted by campaigns, which have made their own assessments that are published upon filing.</p> <p>While Lander had the smallest average donation thus far in the race, he's raised far more ($38,000) through intermediaries than anyone else in the field, though no single go-between brought in more than $2,500 to Lander.</p> <p>In the very quiet race for public advocate, there's been modest fundraising. Having raised $106,000 since July, incumbent Jumaane Williams -- the only citywide official eligible to run for reelection this year -- now has $44,300 on hand—a tiny amount for a citywide campaign, but much more than any of the three other candidates registered for that race. Closest to him is Anthony Herbert with nearly $1,500 on hand. The threshold for public funds in the advocate race is identical to the one for comptroller, and with just over $50,000 in matchable donations against the $125,000 threshold, Williams is short of qualifying.</p> <p><strong>Races at the Borough and District Levels</strong><br />City Council Member Fernando Cabrera has the biggest bankroll of anyone running for Bronx borough president, with $120,000 on hand. State Senator Luis Sepulveda has the second-most cash ($48,000) but his campaign has been imperiled by the allegation that he tried to strangle his wife. City Council Member Vanessa Gibson has $29,000 to spend and Samuel Ravelo some $16,000. Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez's campaign is in the red by $28.</p> <p>“Council Member Cabrera has built unprecedented support on the grassroots level throughout the Bronx," Cabrera's campaign manager, Timothy Tapia, said in a statement. "Fernando has demonstrated that his vision for repairing the Bronx has been embraced by residents from every corner of the borough."</p> <p>In the contest for Brooklyn borough president, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon ($187,599) and City Council Member Antonio Reynoso ($139,089) lead the money race. City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. has raised ($249,640) more than both of them, but spent nearly every dollar he’s raised.</p> <p>“Raised in just three months, the filing demonstrated strong local support for Simon, with Brooklynites making up over 80 percent of her more than 800 unique contributors,” Simon's campaign said in a statement. But cash position includes a $125,000 loan she made to her campaign.</p> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos has a healthy stockpile of cash ($574,139) in the race for Manhattan borough president, but State Senator Brad Hoylman ($278,421) and City Council Member Mark Levine ($235,920) also have competitive cash on hand. They are among six candidates in that Democratic primary, and the only three current elected officials in the race. Former community board chair Elizabeth Caputo has more than $55,000 on hand as of the filing.</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer's bid to unseat newly-elected Queens Borough President Donovan Richards received a boost with the CFB's award of $395,000 in matching funds on Friday, giving him a balance of $384,000—more than three times what’s in the account of Richards, who just won a November special election to serve out the rest of now-District Attorney Melinda Katz's 2018-2021 term. Both are Democrats.</p> <p>Staten Island borough president candidate Steven Matteo, a City Council member, now has $545,000 to spend. The only other Richmond County candidate registered with the CFB, Leticia Remauro, reported $34,000 in the bank. Both Matteo and Remauro are running in the Republican primary.</p> <p>Given the low threshold for qualifying for public funds as a borough president candidate (100 donors and matchable donations totaling $10,000 on Staten Island and up to $50,094 in Brooklyn), it appears that multiple candidates will qualify for funds in the borough president races once the CFB goes through the most recent filings and awards new funds in February.</p> <p>Across the five boroughs, City Council candidates have dropped a combined $4.8 million on the race so far, and have a collective $10.9 million to spend. Ten Council candidates received matching funds payments on Friday based on pre-July fundraising. A few dozen had received public funds in the previous round of awards, in December. Many are on track to receive matching funds in February and others will hope for March.</p> <p>The best-funded candidate citywide is Erik Bottcher, running in Manhattan's 3rd District, who has raised $133,000, received $160,000 in matching funds, and has $244,000 on hand. However, no one has raised or spent more than incumbent City Council Member Mark Gjonaj of the Bronx, who has already expended $446,000 of the $577,000 he has raised. Four years ago, Gjonaj outspent nearly every candidate in the city by dropping $1.3 million to win his Council seat. He’s again facing tough competition.</p> <p><strong><em>Also Read:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing">The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021</a></em></strong></p> <p><strong><em>***</em></strong><br />by Jarrett Murphy of City Limits, published in collaboration with Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GothamGazette</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CityLimitsNews" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CityLimitsNews</a></p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> The Money Race in the Mayoral Primary: January Filing Sets the Stage for 2021 2021-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10076-money-race-democratic-nyc-mayor-2021-primary-january-filing Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/10x10mashup.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: " /></p> <p>l-r: (top) Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Zach Iscol (bottom) Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire</p> <hr /> <p>With under six months until the 2021 primary elections, candidates running for mayor filed their January campaign finance disclosures. The disclosures were due on Friday, covering the last six months of fundraising and spending activity. For a number of candidates, it was their first filing.</p> <p>There are well over a dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will likely be the next mayor because of the overwhelming number of registered Democratic voters in the city. The January deadline was crucial, as candidates attempt to show the support they’ve garnered among voters and campaign donors, and particularly because it will help determine the next round of public matching funds payments made to candidates by the city’s Campaign Finance Board on February 16. Only two candidates -- Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- have qualified for matching funds prior to this upcoming assessment by the Board based on the new filing.</p> <p>The Democratic candidates include Stringer, Adams, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former city veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, veteran-turned-entrepreneur Zach Iscol, entrepreneur Joycelyn Taylor, former Campaign Finance Board member Art Chang, attorney Isaac Wright, Jr., and several others.</p> <p>Former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also jumped into the race last week, just one day before the campaign finance deadline, and has just begun raising funds, though he is expected to be able to raise them quickly given his base of support and the fundraising he showed in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.</p> <p>Stringer and Adams received public matching funds in December through the city’s program, putting both candidates well ahead of most others and nearing the money to hit the original spending threshold for the primary, though that ceiling is set to be lifted based on the fundraising by McGuire, who is not participating in the matching system and can therefore accept larger individual contributions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The matching funds program’s rules have been amended in recent years, setting a maximum individual contribution limit of $2,000 and matching the first $250 of every donation from city residents with public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio. Candidates must meet a dual threshold of raising a minimum of $250,000 from at least 1,000 donors who are New York City residents. Before any adjustments based on the fundraising of non-participating candidates, mayoral candidates who participate in the program can spend up to $7.3 million in the primary, as well as another $7.3 million in the general election. They can receive a maximum public funds payment of about $6.47 million for each leg of the race.</p> <p>To even the playing field with participating candidates, CFB rules mandate that if a non-participant (here, McGuire) raises or spends more than $3.6 million in the primary, 50% of the $7.3 million spending limit for participating candidates, then that limit will increase by 50% to just under $11 million. If a non-participant raises or spends three times the limit, almost $22 million, then the limit will be eliminated entirely for all candidates.</p> <p>Wiley is the only other candidate besides Adams and Stringer who has apparently qualified for public matching funds and expects a major windfall when payments are made in February.</p> <p>Adams has raised more than $3 million in total and has spent about $746,000 as of the filing. He received nearly $4.4 million in public funds last month, giving him a hefty campaign balance of more than $6.6 million. In the last six months, he raised more than $426,000, and spent about $334,000. His latest disclosure also includes more than $122,000 in matching claims, which could mean roughly another $980,000 in public funds. Those claims are estimates from the campaign and are likely to change after they are audited by the Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>In total, $1.9 million of Adams’ fundraising came from New York City residents and about $750,000 from outside the city. He has 6,261 contributors, with an average donation size of $424.</p> <p>Stringer is in second place in campaign funds. He has raised more than $3.25 million and spent about $820,000 overall. He got $3.37 million in public funds in December and another $38,000 payment on Friday. He has about $5.8 million in cash on hand as of the filing. In the last six months, he raised about $458,000, and spent a little more than $400,000. His campaign estimates that about $194,000 of that fundraising qualifies for matching funds, which could bring in almost $1.6 million for Stringer next month.</p> <p>In total, Stringer raised about $1.4 million from city residents and $445,000 from outside. He has 5,517 contributors for an average contribution size of $329.</p> <p>McGuire is the only major Democratic candidate not participating in the public funds program, which means he faces no limits on his spending and can raise $5,100 from individual contributors. He has already raised nearly $4.9 million and has spent about $1.1 million, all in the last six months, leaving him with about $3.75 million in cash on hand.</p> <p>McGuire has raised most of his funds, $3.3 million, from city residents and about $1.5 million from outside sources. He has 3,709 donors and an average contribution size of $1,317.</p> <p>Donovan, a former housing commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a top official in the Obama administration as housing secretary and budget director, has raised more than $1.6 million for his campaign and has spent about $690,000, for a remaining balance of about $913,000 as of the filing. He has $152,000 in matching claims, which falls well below the $250,000 threshold for public funds.</p> <p>Donovan raised $938,000 from city residents and $664,000 from outside the city. He has 2,044 donors for an average contribution size of $784.</p> <p>Iscol is a relatively unknown first-time candidate but he has connections that have apparently helped him out-raise a number of other Democrats. His mother, Jill Iscol, is a major Democratic Party donor with ties to Hillary Clinton, and his father is a mobile technology entrepreneur. He has raised more than $746,000 and has spent just over $261,000, leaving him with about $485,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. His campaign estimates it has more than $229,000 in matching claims, just short of qualifying for public funds.</p> <p>City residents donated $409,000 to Iscol’s campaign while $336,000 came from people outside the city. He has 1,943 contributors and an average donation size of $384.</p> <p>Wiley has some name recognition from her time as a contributor on MSNBC, her previous role in the de Blasio administration, and her work as a civil rights attorney. She has raised more than $720,000, spent about $404,000, and has $316,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign has made more than $287,000 in matching claims, which crossed the public funds threshold and will likely net her a major windfall of $2.3 million in mid-February, a major achievement.</p> <p>Wiley raised $451,000 from city residents and $269,000 from noncity sources. She also has 6,976 contributors, the most of any candidate so far, with an average donation size of $103.</p> <p>Morales has raised more than $336,000, spent more than $208,000, and has $127,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign’s matching claims of nearly $180,000 are about $70,000 short of the public funds threshold. Morales raised $235,000 from city residents and about $100,000 from outside sources. Her campaign has 4,423 donors and an average contribution size of $76.</p> <p>Garcia, who is running on management and having been Mayor de Blasio’s go-to fixer for several crises while also heading the sanitation department, has raised about $304,000 and spent only $27,000, leaving her with more than $277,000 in campaign cash as of the filing. Her campaign claims only $151,000 in qualifying contributions, which means she will not receive public funds next month</p> <p>Garcia raised $224,000 from city residents and about $80,000 from outside. She has 1,572 donors with contributions averaging $194.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sutton is the only candidate who opted into the public funds program but chose to follow its older rules, which are still an option till the end of this election cycle. That means she can raise a maximum of $5,100 from individual contributors but will only receive a 6-to-1 match on the first $175 of every contribution. She has raised about $192,000 overall and has spent nearly all of it. She only has about $398 in cash on hand as of the filing. She has just $14,228 in matching claims. She raised $117,000 from city residents and $73,000 from outside sources. She has 448 donors and an average donation size of $425.&nbsp;</p> <p>Menchaca has raised about $62,000, spent $48,000, and has about $14,500 left as of the filing. Taylor has raised $60,000, spent $51,000, and has about $8,400 left. Chang has raised $57,000, spent $39,000, and has $18,011 left. Wright has raised $50,000, spent about $8,800, and has roughly $41,000 left. None of the other Democrats have raised $50,000.</p> <p>There are few Republican candidates in the race and none have shown any significant fundraising.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/10x10mashup.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: " /></p> <p>l-r: (top) Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Zach Iscol (bottom) Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire</p> <hr /> <p>With under six months until the 2021 primary elections, candidates running for mayor filed their January campaign finance disclosures. The disclosures were due on Friday, covering the last six months of fundraising and spending activity. For a number of candidates, it was their first filing.</p> <p>There are well over a dozen candidates running in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will likely be the next mayor because of the overwhelming number of registered Democratic voters in the city. The January deadline was crucial, as candidates attempt to show the support they’ve garnered among voters and campaign donors, and particularly because it will help determine the next round of public matching funds payments made to candidates by the city’s Campaign Finance Board on February 16. Only two candidates -- Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- have qualified for matching funds prior to this upcoming assessment by the Board based on the new filing.</p> <p>The Democratic candidates include Stringer, Adams, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former city veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, veteran-turned-entrepreneur Zach Iscol, entrepreneur Joycelyn Taylor, former Campaign Finance Board member Art Chang, attorney Isaac Wright, Jr., and several others.</p> <p>Former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also jumped into the race last week, just one day before the campaign finance deadline, and has just begun raising funds, though he is expected to be able to raise them quickly given his base of support and the fundraising he showed in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.</p> <p>Stringer and Adams received public matching funds in December through the city’s program, putting both candidates well ahead of most others and nearing the money to hit the original spending threshold for the primary, though that ceiling is set to be lifted based on the fundraising by McGuire, who is not participating in the matching system and can therefore accept larger individual contributions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The matching funds program’s rules have been amended in recent years, setting a maximum individual contribution limit of $2,000 and matching the first $250 of every donation from city residents with public funds at an 8-to-1 ratio. Candidates must meet a dual threshold of raising a minimum of $250,000 from at least 1,000 donors who are New York City residents. Before any adjustments based on the fundraising of non-participating candidates, mayoral candidates who participate in the program can spend up to $7.3 million in the primary, as well as another $7.3 million in the general election. They can receive a maximum public funds payment of about $6.47 million for each leg of the race.</p> <p>To even the playing field with participating candidates, CFB rules mandate that if a non-participant (here, McGuire) raises or spends more than $3.6 million in the primary, 50% of the $7.3 million spending limit for participating candidates, then that limit will increase by 50% to just under $11 million. If a non-participant raises or spends three times the limit, almost $22 million, then the limit will be eliminated entirely for all candidates.</p> <p>Wiley is the only other candidate besides Adams and Stringer who has apparently qualified for public matching funds and expects a major windfall when payments are made in February.</p> <p>Adams has raised more than $3 million in total and has spent about $746,000 as of the filing. He received nearly $4.4 million in public funds last month, giving him a hefty campaign balance of more than $6.6 million. In the last six months, he raised more than $426,000, and spent about $334,000. His latest disclosure also includes more than $122,000 in matching claims, which could mean roughly another $980,000 in public funds. Those claims are estimates from the campaign and are likely to change after they are audited by the Campaign Finance Board.</p> <p>In total, $1.9 million of Adams’ fundraising came from New York City residents and about $750,000 from outside the city. He has 6,261 contributors, with an average donation size of $424.</p> <p>Stringer is in second place in campaign funds. He has raised more than $3.25 million and spent about $820,000 overall. He got $3.37 million in public funds in December and another $38,000 payment on Friday. He has about $5.8 million in cash on hand as of the filing. In the last six months, he raised about $458,000, and spent a little more than $400,000. His campaign estimates that about $194,000 of that fundraising qualifies for matching funds, which could bring in almost $1.6 million for Stringer next month.</p> <p>In total, Stringer raised about $1.4 million from city residents and $445,000 from outside. He has 5,517 contributors for an average contribution size of $329.</p> <p>McGuire is the only major Democratic candidate not participating in the public funds program, which means he faces no limits on his spending and can raise $5,100 from individual contributors. He has already raised nearly $4.9 million and has spent about $1.1 million, all in the last six months, leaving him with about $3.75 million in cash on hand.</p> <p>McGuire has raised most of his funds, $3.3 million, from city residents and about $1.5 million from outside sources. He has 3,709 donors and an average contribution size of $1,317.</p> <p>Donovan, a former housing commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a top official in the Obama administration as housing secretary and budget director, has raised more than $1.6 million for his campaign and has spent about $690,000, for a remaining balance of about $913,000 as of the filing. He has $152,000 in matching claims, which falls well below the $250,000 threshold for public funds.</p> <p>Donovan raised $938,000 from city residents and $664,000 from outside the city. He has 2,044 donors for an average contribution size of $784.</p> <p>Iscol is a relatively unknown first-time candidate but he has connections that have apparently helped him out-raise a number of other Democrats. His mother, Jill Iscol, is a major Democratic Party donor with ties to Hillary Clinton, and his father is a mobile technology entrepreneur. He has raised more than $746,000 and has spent just over $261,000, leaving him with about $485,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. His campaign estimates it has more than $229,000 in matching claims, just short of qualifying for public funds.</p> <p>City residents donated $409,000 to Iscol’s campaign while $336,000 came from people outside the city. He has 1,943 contributors and an average donation size of $384.</p> <p>Wiley has some name recognition from her time as a contributor on MSNBC, her previous role in the de Blasio administration, and her work as a civil rights attorney. She has raised more than $720,000, spent about $404,000, and has $316,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign has made more than $287,000 in matching claims, which crossed the public funds threshold and will likely net her a major windfall of $2.3 million in mid-February, a major achievement.</p> <p>Wiley raised $451,000 from city residents and $269,000 from noncity sources. She also has 6,976 contributors, the most of any candidate so far, with an average donation size of $103.</p> <p>Morales has raised more than $336,000, spent more than $208,000, and has $127,000 in cash on hand as of the filing. Her campaign’s matching claims of nearly $180,000 are about $70,000 short of the public funds threshold. Morales raised $235,000 from city residents and about $100,000 from outside sources. Her campaign has 4,423 donors and an average contribution size of $76.</p> <p>Garcia, who is running on management and having been Mayor de Blasio’s go-to fixer for several crises while also heading the sanitation department, has raised about $304,000 and spent only $27,000, leaving her with more than $277,000 in campaign cash as of the filing. Her campaign claims only $151,000 in qualifying contributions, which means she will not receive public funds next month</p> <p>Garcia raised $224,000 from city residents and about $80,000 from outside. She has 1,572 donors with contributions averaging $194.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sutton is the only candidate who opted into the public funds program but chose to follow its older rules, which are still an option till the end of this election cycle. That means she can raise a maximum of $5,100 from individual contributors but will only receive a 6-to-1 match on the first $175 of every contribution. She has raised about $192,000 overall and has spent nearly all of it. She only has about $398 in cash on hand as of the filing. She has just $14,228 in matching claims. She raised $117,000 from city residents and $73,000 from outside sources. She has 448 donors and an average donation size of $425.&nbsp;</p> <p>Menchaca has raised about $62,000, spent $48,000, and has about $14,500 left as of the filing. Taylor has raised $60,000, spent $51,000, and has about $8,400 left. Chang has raised $57,000, spent $39,000, and has $18,011 left. Wright has raised $50,000, spent about $8,800, and has roughly $41,000 left. None of the other Democrats have raised $50,000.</p> <p>There are few Republican candidates in the race and none have shown any significant fundraising.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Queens Council District Set to Hold City's First Ranked-Choice Election 2021-01-18T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-18T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10067-queens-city-council-district-first-nyc-ranked-choice-voting-special-election Allison Smith asmith@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/election-pres-rockaway.jpg" alt="election pres rockaway" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>New York City voting (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, and in some ways in response to them, 2020 proved to be a historic year for voting in New York City, with 3 million ballots cast in the presidential election in November, including a record-breaking 662,314 absentee ballots after the state eased rules on voting by mail, and unprecedented long lines at early voting poll-sites in the first presidential election with the nine-day period implemented in New York.</p> <p>Moving into 2021, the newest change impacting New Yorkers’ ballots is the first-ever implementation of ranked-choice voting (RCV), which applies to special elections and party primary elections for city government positions.</p> <p>The launch of ranked-choice voting will be a special election to replace the vacant seat formerly held by Rory Lancman in the 24th City Council District, covering parts of eastern Queens including Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Eastchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, and Jamaica. The ballot is set and absentee voting is underway, while early voting runs January 23-January 31, and election day itself February 2.</p> <p>The winner will serve out the rest of this term for Lancman, who took a position in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which means the rest of 2021. Meanwhile, the regularly-scheduled 2021 election for the seat, along with the rest of the City Council and city government, will take place with the primary in June and a fall general election. The winner of the special election, like those in several other City Council districts with special elections from December or upcoming, will quickly have to defend his or her seat.</p> <p>The race in City Council District 24 will be crucial not only for representation for that district and its residents, but as a litmus test for ranked-choice voting’s strengths and weaknesses in advance of the other special elections set for February and March, as well as the full citywide primaries in June.</p> <p>Six of the City Council hopefuls in the eight-candidate District 24 race appeared this past week at a forum on ranked-choice voting, hosted by Rank the Vote NYC a coalition of elected officials, business and labor leaders, and other reform groups that led the charge in 2019 to implement ranked-choice voting in New York City, Common Cause NY, the nonpartisan organization behind Rank the Vote NYC that has led education efforts on ranked-choice voting in New York City, the Queens Daily Eagle, Disability Rights NY, and the Northeast Queens Chapter of the NAACP. The event was moderated by David Brand, the managing editor of the Queens Daily Eagle, and Aditi Lamba, an anchor at ITV Gold, a South Asian network.</p> <p>The six candidates, listed in alphabetical order by last name, included Moumita Ahmed, a progressive community organizer, who is endorsed by the Working Families Party; James Gennaro, the former City Council member for District 24 in Queens, who served three terms from 2002 to 2013; Neeta Jain, a Democratic district leader and practicing psychologist; Dilip Nath, a higher education executive and president of the New American Voters Association; Deepti Sharma, a small business advocate and entrepreneur, including as founder of Food to Eat, a catering platform for small and mostly immigrant-owned restaurants; and Soma Syed, a practicing attorney and Queens County Women’s Bar Association president. Candidates Michael Brown, a real estate agent, and Mujib Rahman, a community activist, were not present at the forum. All candidates are Democratic, and with the exception of Gennaro, all are first-time candidates to the City Council. Special elections in the city are non-partisan, whereby candidates run on self-created ballot lines, so there are no party primaries or ballot lines from the major or even minor parties.</p> <p>The content of the forum focused on how candidates were incorporating ranked-choice voting into their campaign outreach, including education on ranked-choice voting, how ranked-choice voting would minimize vote splitting, or where ideologically or demographically similar candidates split a base of support, increasing the likelihood of a dissimilar candidate winning instead, and how the new voting system was affecting their candidacies overall, including broaching “taboo” or “hot-button” topics with voters and their interactions with the other candidates. Forum participants were not asked questions about district-specific issues, although candidates nevertheless raised them in their responses.</p> <p>In the interest of time, Brand and Lamba introduced the candidates themselves. Participating candidates appeared at the same time and took turns answering the same questions. They were each given 1-2 minutes to answer each question.</p> <p>Kenny Cohen, the president of the Northeast Queens NAACP, opened the forum saying, “NAACP has been fighting for voting rights since its inception in 1909. To see this beautiful, diverse group of candidates running here in this City Council District 24 in Queens is a beautiful sight. And it's a testament to the work that NAACP and all the civil rights advocates in the past have done to get us to this point.”</p> <p>Before the Q&amp;A portion of the forum began, Sean Dugar, the education campaign program director for Rank the Vote NYC, a citywide education and outreach initiative on ranked-choice voting, explained how ranked-choice voting works with a slideshow presentation, followed by a mock election.</p> <p>In summary, the new ranked-choice voting process allows voters to select up to five candidates (including a write-in) in order of preference. To win outright, a candidate must reach over 50% of the first-place votes. If a candidate does not win a majority of first-place votes on first count, then the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on their voters’ second choices. This process repeats itself until only two candidates are left, and then the person with most votes is declared the winner. The system will apply starting this year to party primary and special elections for City Council, Borough President, Public Advocate, City Comptroller, and Mayor.</p> <p>The goals of ranked-choice voting include preventing polarized elections, promoting demographically and ideologically diverse candidates and officeholders, increasing voter awareness of candidates who are running, disincentivizing negative campaigning, and eliminating the need for costly runoff elections, which have applied to party primaries for citywide positions. And perhaps most of all, ranked-choice voting is meant to ensure that the winner of crowded elections has broad support among the constituents they are elected to represent.</p> <p>Although the referendum passed with nearly 75% of the vote when a Charter Revision Commission put ranked-choice voting before New York City voters in the fall of 2019, critics have argued that it was an especially low turnout election given little was on the ballot and that the city has not adequately prepared voters for the change, potentially leading to voter suppression in marginalized communities where voters may not rank as many choices. But proponents of the new system disagree, pointing out that organizers in communities where voter suppression is more common led the charge for ranked-choice voting in the first place and that there is a robust voter-education underway. They also note that the 2019 Charter Revision Commission did painstaking work in a public process before proposing ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Brand kicked off the Q&amp;A portion of the forum, saying, “It's a historic moment. It's our city's first use of ranked-choice voting, and it’s cool that it's happening in Queens.”</p> <p>Lamba added that candidates in the race for District 24 were also scheduled to meet the following night on Thursday, January 14 for a forum co-hosted by multiple local organizations — Chhaya CDC, a housing advocacy organization geared toward low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers; India Home, a center for senior care; the Chinese-American Planning Council, an organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of Chinese American, immigrant, and low-income communities; Shetu, a community-based non-profit organization that assists low-income, Bangladeshi immigrant populations; APA VOICE, a non-partisan, pan-Asian coalition that seeks to increase civic engagement in the Asian-American community; and the MinKwon Center for Community Action, a Korean-led community group focused on social services for marginalized Asian Americans — and encouraged audience members to attend.</p> <p>Brand posed the first question, asking candidates how City Council District 24’s diversity has influenced their campaign outreach. According to 2010 Census data, District 24’s total 167,448 population was 33.2% white, 28.9% Asian, 21.8% Hispanic, and 11.7% Black. District 24 has the largest Bangladeshi population of any City Council District, with over 10,000 people, part of an overall New York City population where Bangladeshis are the fifth largest Asian group overall, with almost 62,000 residents, according to the 2015 American Community Survey..</p> <p>“I actually helped pass ranked-choice voting as field and education director for Common Cause. I believe in this way of voting; otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten involved,” Ahmed said.</p> <p>“As the only renter running, I am mobilizing all of our communities around the issue of housing justice,” she continued, listing numerous endorsements from various civic groups, including the Hispanic American Voter Association, the Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change, Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, and The Jewish Vote. “That's how we're talking to voters. That's how we're advancing the agenda of ranked-choice voting.”</p> <p>Sharma began on a personal note, saying, “I was born and brought up in this district on 150 Fifth Street, right by Queens College. My son is going to the same school that I went to, and our focus has been talking to every single voter.” Although Sharma is one of six candidates in the race hoping to become the first South Asian elected to the City Council, she also emphasized, “I'm not here to represent the South Asian district, but every single person that makes this beautiful district exactly what it is.” She went on to add that she wants to prioritize her voters' concerns, citing COVID-19 relief, the vaccine rollout, and safe schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.</p> <p>“What better place to have ranked voting than here,” said Nath, referring to Queens, which is the most racially and ethnically diverse county in the country. He went on to praise term limits for creating space for new and diverse leadership, saying that “ranked-choice voting will further enhance the concept of diversity and inclusion.” He added, “What matters to you, what matters to Jewish [communities], what matters to South Asian or Latino [communities], is what matters to me.”</p> <p>While Jain concurred that ranked-choice voting is important for amplifying diverse voices, including immigrants, she disagreed with the question’s premise, saying, “It is not affecting my election.” Jain highlighted her experience of community leadership — 30 years of practicing psychology, four years as a Democratic district leader, eight years as a founder of the civic engagement group International Ahimsa Foundation, and one year as the elected president of Daniel Patrick Moynihan Democratic Club of Queens — for “making a difference in their [people’s] lives.”</p> <p>Jain stressed the range of problems that she has personally witnessed people facing during the pandemic, citing small business owners who went to her for “help to fill out the forms for SBA loans” and “kids suffering at home” because “schools do not have proper devices” for remote learning.</p> <p>Gennaro emphasized his political career and the network of contacts he developed throughout his tenure as a City Council member, saying, “I was the one that appointed Kenny Cohen to the community board,” referring to Community Board 8 in Queens, and “I appointed the first Bangladeshi woman to Community Board 8,” alluding to Nargis Ahmed. “I’m quite confident that my relationships will serve me well in the upcoming election,” he said. Recalling his history with the community, Gennaro said, “I've had the ability to immerse myself in every community and really have a profound impact. I think people remember and appreciate that.”</p> <p>Since his departure from the City Council in 2013, Gennaro has served in the Cuomo administration as the deputy commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency at the Department of Environmental Conservation.</p> <p>In contrast, Syed said, “We need leadership that is of the future, not of the past.” Growing up in Jamaica and her experience as an attorney working pro-bono cases, has enabled her to form deep bonds within the community, across racial lines, Syed said. “Whether it be the Black community, Hispanic community, the Asian community, the Jewish community, and the white community — we are all together in one community. We’re all looking to better our lives, and the lives of our future, our children.”</p> <p>Lamba asked if there were any issues that candidates considered “taboo” or “too hot” that they felt ranked-choice voting allowed them to talk about more openly or even campaign on.</p> <p>“We have to make sure that we're talking about workers’ rights, and that includes sex workers,” began Ahmed, pointing out how certain groups like undocumented immigrants are excluded from federal aid and government protections. On that note, Ahmed spotlighted the “homelessness situation” as a “top priority,” explaining that “we’re closer to being homeless than becoming billionaires right now.” Even though these topics are often seen as taboo because “we’re talking about working-class Black and brown folks,” Ahmed said she believes they shouldn’t be. “That’s why ranked-choice voting is so great,” she added, “because it allows candidates like myself who come from working-class families...to talk about working class issues.”</p> <p>‘Policing is one of those issues that I've noticed that does alienate a few people, or groups of people,” said Sharma, ““one of the most important things that we need to think about.” To illustrate her point, Sharma described an incident as told to her by a Queens College student, who experienced a panic attack during finals. He called 911, but instead of a mental health professional or social worker, police officers responded to the call, and they handcuffed him. According to Sharma, “That didn’t help the situation. That made it worse.” She explained that the crux of the problem is funding, and then she centered Pomonok Community Center, which “used to have programs like taekwondo, gymnastics, and dance” but now “the only thing that exists there is homework help.”</p> <p>“When we talk about investing in our communities, we need to keep talking about where the money is going to come from,” Sharma said, though she did not explicitly raise support for the “defund the police” movement.</p> <p>For Gennaro, “Nothing is taboo. Nothing is off the table. Everything has to be discussed.” In response to Sharma’s mention of the Pomonok Community Center, where she said she personally benefited from its enrichment programs, Gennaro said, “I was happy to fund the good programming that she enjoyed.”</p> <p>Sharma clarified by saying, “I did that in the 90s, though,” predating Gennaro’s tenure on the City Council.</p> <p>On the question of taboo issues, Syed said, “I haven’t shied away from any issue. Everything that’s happening to even one person in our community needs to be discussed.”</p> <p>Jain flagged mental health as a conventionally taboo subject that she believes needs to be discussed more on a political scale. “School children are growing up with anxiety. Our youth are out on the streets, and they are doing more drug abuse. Our seniors are going through depression.” She warned, “We really have to pay attention” because “it’s not going to go away that easily.”</p> <p>Nath decried the state of remote learning, calling out the economic pressures placed upon low-income families who cannot afford high-speed broadband or laptops or iPads. He also pointed out that the closure of three hospitals in Queens in 2009 effectively transformed the borough into the epicenter of the pandemic a decade later.</p> <p>Brand then asked candidates how they thought ranked-choice voting might serve voters and how it has affected the way they talk about themselves, as well as other candidates.</p> <p>Candidates seemed to unanimously agree that ranked-choice voting creates a more level playing field for candidates in the electoral process. “RCV is giving a broader platform to everyone,” said Jain.</p> <p>Candidates also agreed that the new voting system allowed them to focus more on the issues rather than political attacks. “It's giving a chance for voters to actually research and look up every single candidate because now that they know that they're not just voting for their number one,” said Sharma. She also said that these conversations with voters in which she’s able to focus solely on the issues, have enabled her to squeeze into voters’ number two slots in cases where she isn’t their top pick, thereby securing as many votes as possible.</p> <p>Lamba asked candidates how they thought ranked-choice voting minimized the spoiler effect, or vote splitting between candidates who share similar demographics or ideologies.</p> <p>“We are trying very hard through RCV not to split votes,” began Jain, “but I think that it’s still going to happen.” Jain said she has conducted an educational seminar for voters on ranked-choice voting and is planning another one soon, which she hopes will minimize vote splitting.</p> <p>Syed expressed some doubt over the abilities of the New York City Campaign Finance Board and New York City Board of Elections to “invest enough resources and time to educate voters about RCV.” She went on to say that these shortcomings are “going to affect our minority communities who are already marginalized, who are afraid of the voting process. It falls on the candidates to pick up the slack and educate the voters.”</p> <p>Gennaro said he didn’t think significant vote splitting would occur, saying, “I think that the whole idea of ranked-choice voting is to turn that splitting phenomenon on its head.” He did concur with Syed that “there has not been enough education by the Board of Elections and by the Campaign Finance Board,” concluding that “this election is going to be a little bit of a shakeout.”</p> <p>Nath did not directly answer the question but voiced praise for the “many minority candidates running for office” compared to when he ran in 2005 for the same seat.</p> <p>Sharma said she’s hoping to mitigate vote splitting by staying focused on the issues rather than identity politics. “I don't just talk about my race. I don't just talk about my gender. I talk about the things that are affecting them.”</p> <p>“The beauty of ranked-choice voting is, yes, it diversifies the slate in terms of our identity. But issues, as well,” added Ahmed, citing her pro-worker platform.</p> <p>Brand then asked what was possibly the most controversial yet straight-forward question posed during the forum: who is your second choice?</p> <p>Sharma answered, “We are still analyzing our second choice based on how these forums go. I want to know that people are the same in every room, and don't pick and choose what they say, when it's convenient.”</p> <p>Jain also said she was in the process of evaluating her candidate picks.</p> <p>“My ballot is private,” said Gennaro, “but I will keep my eye on the candidates as the race progresses.” When Brand called this a “cop-out answer,” Gennaro told him, “I reject your characterization,” claiming that revealing his second choice would in effect attempt to “manipulate the voters.”</p> <p>Syed also said she has not yet decided on a second choice candidate, saying that she is going to wait for more debates to hear other candidates’ platforms.</p> <p>Nath did not explicitly share any names, but named top priorities: education, health care, and housing. He also said he’d rank candidates with “roots in the community.” Nath said he’s undecided on his fifth choice.</p> <p>Ahmed was the only one who shared her candidate picks, saying, “I like to walk the walk.” She went on to disclose that Sharma will get one of her votes because of her detailed housing plan, Nath will also get a vote from Ahmed, who praised his work with New American Voters Association, and she also committed to voting for Jain because she supports taxing the rich. She didn’t name a fifth vote.</p> <p>For the final question, which was submitted by a member of the audience, candidates were asked how they were educating voters on completing their ballots under the new system.</p> <p>Gennaro, Nath, and Syed all identified reminding voters to vote for up to five different candidates as part of their education on ranked-choice voting in order to maximize the potential of the new voting system.</p> <p>Sharma said her campaign volunteers have been taught how to educate voters on ranked-choice voting through a script and training sessions.</p> <p>“We have literature in multiple languages explaining how ranked-choice voting works,” said Ahmed, who also pairs this education with reminders about her platform and endorsements, so that they will think of her on Election Day.</p> <p>In addition to educational seminars, Jain also said that she has a sample ballot on her phone, which she uses to demonstrate for voters how the ballot will look and how to use it.</p> <p>The forum on Thursday night, hosted by Chhaya CDC, India Home, Chinese-American Planning Committee (CPC NYC), Shetu, APA VOICE, and the MinKwon Center for Community Action, also began with an educational presentation on ranked-choice voting. After that, the candidates each had one minute to introduce themselves. The Q&amp;A portion of the forum was divided into four rounds including questions from members of the organizations sponsoring the event; a “lightning round” requiring short answers; audience questions; and the candidates selecting an opponent of their choice to ask a question.</p> <p>The questions posed to candidates touched on plans for social services, language accessibility, gentrification and displacement, land use, housing, tenants’ rights, senior care, the city budget, and more. The forum was moderated by Habib Rahman of TBN24, a Bangla language live television channel.</p> <p>Although originally scheduled to appear, Gennaro cancelled an hour or so before the event, according to organizers. Habib called this news “disappointing” a few times throughout the forum, and said, “We’d like to thank all of the candidates who saw it important to come to the forum and speak to everybody who’s here.” Candidates Mujib Rahman and Michael Brown were also missing.</p> <p>When asked how they would enhance professional development programs geared toward immigrant and undocumented communities, all of the candidates agreed that language accessibility was a crucial aspect of this and proposed different strategies.</p> <p>Syed suggested coordinating with the Small Business Administration to “connect with employers to see what needs they have, and we train and provide funding simultaneously.” Additionally, Syed proposed “investing in trade schools,” as well as educating those with foreign degrees about the existing system for certificate conversion.</p> <p>On language accessibility, Nath took a few shots at Gennaro, saying, “Today, we have somebody who is running for this seat who voted against a language assistance program. Apparently, he’s not even on this panel. Maybe I’m missing him.” If elected to the City Council, Nath said, “I want to specifically work with CUNY and SUNY and create a center at York College and Queens College” that would help immigrants with their certifications.</p> <p>Jain emphasized funding, citing her experience as a Democratic district leader and a delegate for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the most recent presidential election. “I know how much money is sitting there for our adult education program. I want to bring that money to my district. I want to bring the fair share to my community,” she said.</p> <p>Sharma said she would create a task force of community leaders to strategize “innovative solutions” that are “on par with what’s happening in the community,” including making sure that “language accessibility is part of [job training].”</p> <p>Ahmed said her personal experience of providing translation for her immigrant parents has informed her understanding of the need for language justice, saying, “When you can't understand, you can't participate.” But the clock ran out before she proposed specific strategies.</p> <p>When asked how they would assist first-time homebuyers, Ahmed, Nath, Syed, and Jain all agreed that basements should be legalized as separate dwelling units.</p> <p>Ahmed went on to say, “And we need to work with state legislators to tax the rich and make sure there's funding to give a stipend to homeowners so that they're able to pay their mortgage.”</p> <p>Nath emphasized his commitment to helping homeowners, saying, “I have not taken a single dime from developers,” which he criticized for artificially inflating prices. He added that taxes should be suspended for first-time homebuyers and that the process by which to secure loans for homes should be easier.</p> <p>“There’s already a program that exists, which provides $40,000 for the first-time homebuyer,” began Jain, referencing the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program. “It should be extended more, and there should be some more educational programs also to be funded by the City Council,” added Jain.</p> <p>If elected, Sharma said that she would work with the state on property taxes, although she didn’t specify. She also proposed “creating a New York City public bank, where we can actually provide capital that goes to a more diverse group of people.” She identified loans at the “number one problem” for first-time homeowners.</p> <p>“Since 2002, property taxes have increased almost 18%,” began Syed. “When I get to City Council, I’m pledging not to increase property taxes on one-to-three [family] homes.” She also emphasized the need for seminars on purchasing homes and spotting predatory lending.</p> <p>On gentrification and displacement as a result of rezonings and real estate development, all candidates agreed that input from the community is vital.</p> <p>Both Nath and Jain called for the creation of more affordable housing.</p> <p>Sharma, Ahmed, and Soma said that racial impact studies, as suggested by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and some City Council members, should be required on major rezoning proposals. In addition to racial impact reports, Soma emphasized the need for environmental impact statements. Sharma and Syed also criticized what they say is a one-size-fits-all approach of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. “AMI, the average median income is the same across the board” when it should vary neighborhood by neighborhood, said Sharma.</p> <p>Ahmed called for reforming the entire land use review process overall, saying, “I would not vote for any rezoning under our current ULURP process,” which she said “prioritizes developers over our community.”</p> <p>On supporting tenants, Sharma said she would start with holding “problematic landlords” accountable by “taking them to court,” referring to Zara Realty, a real estate company that faced a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over violations of rent stabilization and tenant harassment laws.</p> <p>Syed, who has represented tenants against Zara Realty, said she would cancel rent “for those tenants who are not able to pay rent.” On this point, Nath disagreed, saying, “If we do that, that will hurt some of our small landlords.”</p> <p>“What I will do is work to continue the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic by working with state legislators, expand ‘right to a lawyer’ for all renters in housing court, encourage the creation of more tenant unions…and expand community land trusts to help working class families afford a home,” said Ahmed.</p> <p>On senior care, Sharma proposed distributing the COVID-19 vaccine via a mobile van, and Nath agreed, saying, “We need to bring the vaccine into the local community.” Syed promised using $750,000 in discretionary funds allotted to City Council District 24 to fund senior centers. Ahmed concurred, adding, “We also need adult daycare centers to provide help for our seniors, whether it's physical therapy, mental health support.” Jain, who serves as chair of the community advisory board of India Home, cited her experience in the role, including mental health counseling for seniors, providing hot meals, and vocational skills programs.</p> <p>When asked how they would approach the city budget in the midst of the fiscal crisis caused by the pandemic, Sharma, Ahmed, and Jain called for new revenue streams. Sharma and Ahmed suggested redirecting a portion of the NYPD’s budget toward social services, with Ahmed pointing out, “The city spent $230 million in 2018 alone on lawsuits against the NYPD for misconduct. It's clear that we need to stop pumping billions into a policing system that's broken and plagued with lawsuits and human rights violations.” Ahmed and Jaim also proposed taxing billionaires. Additionally, Ahmed said she would “work with state legislators to pass marijuana legalization,” “take away tax abatements so corporate landlords can’t avoid taxes,” and “make sure New York City collects fines for permit violations and tax commercial property warehouses.”</p> <p>While Sharma said that the city needs “to stop relying on federal funding,” Syed said that she would “push the Biden administration to provide state funding.” She also added, “We need to look at the entire city budget and make the appropriate cuts,” but she promised those cuts would not impact essential social services, such as senior care, mental health services, and support for the unhoused.</p> <p>“What I'm proposing is suspending the commercial rent tax for at least one year, and giving a grant to the small business owner, so they can open the business and create jobs,” said Nath. He also said he was “supportive of Amazon” building a massive new campus in Long Island City, but in lieu of that, “We need to make sure we invite companies who will create jobs that are going to help the middle-class American. Of course, they have to be union jobs.”</p> <p>During the lightning round, candidates were unanimous in their support of “people over profit,” Medicare for all, affordable housing, ranked-choice voting, and working-class communities. When asked to choose between investment in community programs and services or investment in law enforcement, most candidates chose the former, except Syed, who said she supported both.</p> <p>During the final round, in which candidates asked another candidate of their choice one question, Sharma kicked things off, asking Nath for his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement. To this, he said he was supportive. “We cannot end [systemic racism] by electing the same people year after year who violate term limits, who just treat politics as a career,” he said, seemingly referring to former City Council member Gennaro, who served three terms and is now running for his old seat in District 24. (The current law limits officeholders to two concurrent terms, but there is nothing barring Gennaro from running again. He was among those who approved a term-limits extension in 2009 that allowed Mayor Bloomberg and City Council members like himself the possibility of an additional term.)“By electing one of us, we can bring diversity and inclusion to the City Council. That's how we end systemic racism in this country,” Nath said.</p> <p>Syed asked Jain how she thought white supremacy affected immigrant communities, to which Jain replied, “This is a democratic country. What happened in Washington, that should not have happened.” She added, “Of course it affected our immigrant community,” highlighting immigrant concern over safety.</p> <p>Next, Ahmed asked Nath what his favorite Bangladeshi restaurant was on Hillside Avenue, and he answered, “Sagar Chinese.”</p> <p>When Nath asked Ahmed if she would pledge to not work with candidates “who violated the term limit,” seemingly another reference to Genarro, Ahmed said, “I absolutely support term limits and would not want to work with anybody who's exploiting a loophole.”</p> <p>For the last question of the forum, Jain asked Syed what she would do differently from the previous Council member, Lancman, for immigrant communities. Syed said, “We need to equitably distribute discretionary funds into communities that really need them.”</p> <p>

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by Allison Smith for Gotham Gazette
 @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/election-pres-rockaway.jpg" alt="election pres rockaway" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>New York City voting (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, and in some ways in response to them, 2020 proved to be a historic year for voting in New York City, with 3 million ballots cast in the presidential election in November, including a record-breaking 662,314 absentee ballots after the state eased rules on voting by mail, and unprecedented long lines at early voting poll-sites in the first presidential election with the nine-day period implemented in New York.</p> <p>Moving into 2021, the newest change impacting New Yorkers’ ballots is the first-ever implementation of ranked-choice voting (RCV), which applies to special elections and party primary elections for city government positions.</p> <p>The launch of ranked-choice voting will be a special election to replace the vacant seat formerly held by Rory Lancman in the 24th City Council District, covering parts of eastern Queens including Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Eastchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, and Jamaica. The ballot is set and absentee voting is underway, while early voting runs January 23-January 31, and election day itself February 2.</p> <p>The winner will serve out the rest of this term for Lancman, who took a position in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which means the rest of 2021. Meanwhile, the regularly-scheduled 2021 election for the seat, along with the rest of the City Council and city government, will take place with the primary in June and a fall general election. The winner of the special election, like those in several other City Council districts with special elections from December or upcoming, will quickly have to defend his or her seat.</p> <p>The race in City Council District 24 will be crucial not only for representation for that district and its residents, but as a litmus test for ranked-choice voting’s strengths and weaknesses in advance of the other special elections set for February and March, as well as the full citywide primaries in June.</p> <p>Six of the City Council hopefuls in the eight-candidate District 24 race appeared this past week at a forum on ranked-choice voting, hosted by Rank the Vote NYC a coalition of elected officials, business and labor leaders, and other reform groups that led the charge in 2019 to implement ranked-choice voting in New York City, Common Cause NY, the nonpartisan organization behind Rank the Vote NYC that has led education efforts on ranked-choice voting in New York City, the Queens Daily Eagle, Disability Rights NY, and the Northeast Queens Chapter of the NAACP. The event was moderated by David Brand, the managing editor of the Queens Daily Eagle, and Aditi Lamba, an anchor at ITV Gold, a South Asian network.</p> <p>The six candidates, listed in alphabetical order by last name, included Moumita Ahmed, a progressive community organizer, who is endorsed by the Working Families Party; James Gennaro, the former City Council member for District 24 in Queens, who served three terms from 2002 to 2013; Neeta Jain, a Democratic district leader and practicing psychologist; Dilip Nath, a higher education executive and president of the New American Voters Association; Deepti Sharma, a small business advocate and entrepreneur, including as founder of Food to Eat, a catering platform for small and mostly immigrant-owned restaurants; and Soma Syed, a practicing attorney and Queens County Women’s Bar Association president. Candidates Michael Brown, a real estate agent, and Mujib Rahman, a community activist, were not present at the forum. All candidates are Democratic, and with the exception of Gennaro, all are first-time candidates to the City Council. Special elections in the city are non-partisan, whereby candidates run on self-created ballot lines, so there are no party primaries or ballot lines from the major or even minor parties.</p> <p>The content of the forum focused on how candidates were incorporating ranked-choice voting into their campaign outreach, including education on ranked-choice voting, how ranked-choice voting would minimize vote splitting, or where ideologically or demographically similar candidates split a base of support, increasing the likelihood of a dissimilar candidate winning instead, and how the new voting system was affecting their candidacies overall, including broaching “taboo” or “hot-button” topics with voters and their interactions with the other candidates. Forum participants were not asked questions about district-specific issues, although candidates nevertheless raised them in their responses.</p> <p>In the interest of time, Brand and Lamba introduced the candidates themselves. Participating candidates appeared at the same time and took turns answering the same questions. They were each given 1-2 minutes to answer each question.</p> <p>Kenny Cohen, the president of the Northeast Queens NAACP, opened the forum saying, “NAACP has been fighting for voting rights since its inception in 1909. To see this beautiful, diverse group of candidates running here in this City Council District 24 in Queens is a beautiful sight. And it's a testament to the work that NAACP and all the civil rights advocates in the past have done to get us to this point.”</p> <p>Before the Q&amp;A portion of the forum began, Sean Dugar, the education campaign program director for Rank the Vote NYC, a citywide education and outreach initiative on ranked-choice voting, explained how ranked-choice voting works with a slideshow presentation, followed by a mock election.</p> <p>In summary, the new ranked-choice voting process allows voters to select up to five candidates (including a write-in) in order of preference. To win outright, a candidate must reach over 50% of the first-place votes. If a candidate does not win a majority of first-place votes on first count, then the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on their voters’ second choices. This process repeats itself until only two candidates are left, and then the person with most votes is declared the winner. The system will apply starting this year to party primary and special elections for City Council, Borough President, Public Advocate, City Comptroller, and Mayor.</p> <p>The goals of ranked-choice voting include preventing polarized elections, promoting demographically and ideologically diverse candidates and officeholders, increasing voter awareness of candidates who are running, disincentivizing negative campaigning, and eliminating the need for costly runoff elections, which have applied to party primaries for citywide positions. And perhaps most of all, ranked-choice voting is meant to ensure that the winner of crowded elections has broad support among the constituents they are elected to represent.</p> <p>Although the referendum passed with nearly 75% of the vote when a Charter Revision Commission put ranked-choice voting before New York City voters in the fall of 2019, critics have argued that it was an especially low turnout election given little was on the ballot and that the city has not adequately prepared voters for the change, potentially leading to voter suppression in marginalized communities where voters may not rank as many choices. But proponents of the new system disagree, pointing out that organizers in communities where voter suppression is more common led the charge for ranked-choice voting in the first place and that there is a robust voter-education underway. They also note that the 2019 Charter Revision Commission did painstaking work in a public process before proposing ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Brand kicked off the Q&amp;A portion of the forum, saying, “It's a historic moment. It's our city's first use of ranked-choice voting, and it’s cool that it's happening in Queens.”</p> <p>Lamba added that candidates in the race for District 24 were also scheduled to meet the following night on Thursday, January 14 for a forum co-hosted by multiple local organizations — Chhaya CDC, a housing advocacy organization geared toward low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers; India Home, a center for senior care; the Chinese-American Planning Council, an organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of Chinese American, immigrant, and low-income communities; Shetu, a community-based non-profit organization that assists low-income, Bangladeshi immigrant populations; APA VOICE, a non-partisan, pan-Asian coalition that seeks to increase civic engagement in the Asian-American community; and the MinKwon Center for Community Action, a Korean-led community group focused on social services for marginalized Asian Americans — and encouraged audience members to attend.</p> <p>Brand posed the first question, asking candidates how City Council District 24’s diversity has influenced their campaign outreach. According to 2010 Census data, District 24’s total 167,448 population was 33.2% white, 28.9% Asian, 21.8% Hispanic, and 11.7% Black. District 24 has the largest Bangladeshi population of any City Council District, with over 10,000 people, part of an overall New York City population where Bangladeshis are the fifth largest Asian group overall, with almost 62,000 residents, according to the 2015 American Community Survey..</p> <p>“I actually helped pass ranked-choice voting as field and education director for Common Cause. I believe in this way of voting; otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten involved,” Ahmed said.</p> <p>“As the only renter running, I am mobilizing all of our communities around the issue of housing justice,” she continued, listing numerous endorsements from various civic groups, including the Hispanic American Voter Association, the Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change, Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, and The Jewish Vote. “That's how we're talking to voters. That's how we're advancing the agenda of ranked-choice voting.”</p> <p>Sharma began on a personal note, saying, “I was born and brought up in this district on 150 Fifth Street, right by Queens College. My son is going to the same school that I went to, and our focus has been talking to every single voter.” Although Sharma is one of six candidates in the race hoping to become the first South Asian elected to the City Council, she also emphasized, “I'm not here to represent the South Asian district, but every single person that makes this beautiful district exactly what it is.” She went on to add that she wants to prioritize her voters' concerns, citing COVID-19 relief, the vaccine rollout, and safe schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.</p> <p>“What better place to have ranked voting than here,” said Nath, referring to Queens, which is the most racially and ethnically diverse county in the country. He went on to praise term limits for creating space for new and diverse leadership, saying that “ranked-choice voting will further enhance the concept of diversity and inclusion.” He added, “What matters to you, what matters to Jewish [communities], what matters to South Asian or Latino [communities], is what matters to me.”</p> <p>While Jain concurred that ranked-choice voting is important for amplifying diverse voices, including immigrants, she disagreed with the question’s premise, saying, “It is not affecting my election.” Jain highlighted her experience of community leadership — 30 years of practicing psychology, four years as a Democratic district leader, eight years as a founder of the civic engagement group International Ahimsa Foundation, and one year as the elected president of Daniel Patrick Moynihan Democratic Club of Queens — for “making a difference in their [people’s] lives.”</p> <p>Jain stressed the range of problems that she has personally witnessed people facing during the pandemic, citing small business owners who went to her for “help to fill out the forms for SBA loans” and “kids suffering at home” because “schools do not have proper devices” for remote learning.</p> <p>Gennaro emphasized his political career and the network of contacts he developed throughout his tenure as a City Council member, saying, “I was the one that appointed Kenny Cohen to the community board,” referring to Community Board 8 in Queens, and “I appointed the first Bangladeshi woman to Community Board 8,” alluding to Nargis Ahmed. “I’m quite confident that my relationships will serve me well in the upcoming election,” he said. Recalling his history with the community, Gennaro said, “I've had the ability to immerse myself in every community and really have a profound impact. I think people remember and appreciate that.”</p> <p>Since his departure from the City Council in 2013, Gennaro has served in the Cuomo administration as the deputy commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency at the Department of Environmental Conservation.</p> <p>In contrast, Syed said, “We need leadership that is of the future, not of the past.” Growing up in Jamaica and her experience as an attorney working pro-bono cases, has enabled her to form deep bonds within the community, across racial lines, Syed said. “Whether it be the Black community, Hispanic community, the Asian community, the Jewish community, and the white community — we are all together in one community. We’re all looking to better our lives, and the lives of our future, our children.”</p> <p>Lamba asked if there were any issues that candidates considered “taboo” or “too hot” that they felt ranked-choice voting allowed them to talk about more openly or even campaign on.</p> <p>“We have to make sure that we're talking about workers’ rights, and that includes sex workers,” began Ahmed, pointing out how certain groups like undocumented immigrants are excluded from federal aid and government protections. On that note, Ahmed spotlighted the “homelessness situation” as a “top priority,” explaining that “we’re closer to being homeless than becoming billionaires right now.” Even though these topics are often seen as taboo because “we’re talking about working-class Black and brown folks,” Ahmed said she believes they shouldn’t be. “That’s why ranked-choice voting is so great,” she added, “because it allows candidates like myself who come from working-class families...to talk about working class issues.”</p> <p>‘Policing is one of those issues that I've noticed that does alienate a few people, or groups of people,” said Sharma, ““one of the most important things that we need to think about.” To illustrate her point, Sharma described an incident as told to her by a Queens College student, who experienced a panic attack during finals. He called 911, but instead of a mental health professional or social worker, police officers responded to the call, and they handcuffed him. According to Sharma, “That didn’t help the situation. That made it worse.” She explained that the crux of the problem is funding, and then she centered Pomonok Community Center, which “used to have programs like taekwondo, gymnastics, and dance” but now “the only thing that exists there is homework help.”</p> <p>“When we talk about investing in our communities, we need to keep talking about where the money is going to come from,” Sharma said, though she did not explicitly raise support for the “defund the police” movement.</p> <p>For Gennaro, “Nothing is taboo. Nothing is off the table. Everything has to be discussed.” In response to Sharma’s mention of the Pomonok Community Center, where she said she personally benefited from its enrichment programs, Gennaro said, “I was happy to fund the good programming that she enjoyed.”</p> <p>Sharma clarified by saying, “I did that in the 90s, though,” predating Gennaro’s tenure on the City Council.</p> <p>On the question of taboo issues, Syed said, “I haven’t shied away from any issue. Everything that’s happening to even one person in our community needs to be discussed.”</p> <p>Jain flagged mental health as a conventionally taboo subject that she believes needs to be discussed more on a political scale. “School children are growing up with anxiety. Our youth are out on the streets, and they are doing more drug abuse. Our seniors are going through depression.” She warned, “We really have to pay attention” because “it’s not going to go away that easily.”</p> <p>Nath decried the state of remote learning, calling out the economic pressures placed upon low-income families who cannot afford high-speed broadband or laptops or iPads. He also pointed out that the closure of three hospitals in Queens in 2009 effectively transformed the borough into the epicenter of the pandemic a decade later.</p> <p>Brand then asked candidates how they thought ranked-choice voting might serve voters and how it has affected the way they talk about themselves, as well as other candidates.</p> <p>Candidates seemed to unanimously agree that ranked-choice voting creates a more level playing field for candidates in the electoral process. “RCV is giving a broader platform to everyone,” said Jain.</p> <p>Candidates also agreed that the new voting system allowed them to focus more on the issues rather than political attacks. “It's giving a chance for voters to actually research and look up every single candidate because now that they know that they're not just voting for their number one,” said Sharma. She also said that these conversations with voters in which she’s able to focus solely on the issues, have enabled her to squeeze into voters’ number two slots in cases where she isn’t their top pick, thereby securing as many votes as possible.</p> <p>Lamba asked candidates how they thought ranked-choice voting minimized the spoiler effect, or vote splitting between candidates who share similar demographics or ideologies.</p> <p>“We are trying very hard through RCV not to split votes,” began Jain, “but I think that it’s still going to happen.” Jain said she has conducted an educational seminar for voters on ranked-choice voting and is planning another one soon, which she hopes will minimize vote splitting.</p> <p>Syed expressed some doubt over the abilities of the New York City Campaign Finance Board and New York City Board of Elections to “invest enough resources and time to educate voters about RCV.” She went on to say that these shortcomings are “going to affect our minority communities who are already marginalized, who are afraid of the voting process. It falls on the candidates to pick up the slack and educate the voters.”</p> <p>Gennaro said he didn’t think significant vote splitting would occur, saying, “I think that the whole idea of ranked-choice voting is to turn that splitting phenomenon on its head.” He did concur with Syed that “there has not been enough education by the Board of Elections and by the Campaign Finance Board,” concluding that “this election is going to be a little bit of a shakeout.”</p> <p>Nath did not directly answer the question but voiced praise for the “many minority candidates running for office” compared to when he ran in 2005 for the same seat.</p> <p>Sharma said she’s hoping to mitigate vote splitting by staying focused on the issues rather than identity politics. “I don't just talk about my race. I don't just talk about my gender. I talk about the things that are affecting them.”</p> <p>“The beauty of ranked-choice voting is, yes, it diversifies the slate in terms of our identity. But issues, as well,” added Ahmed, citing her pro-worker platform.</p> <p>Brand then asked what was possibly the most controversial yet straight-forward question posed during the forum: who is your second choice?</p> <p>Sharma answered, “We are still analyzing our second choice based on how these forums go. I want to know that people are the same in every room, and don't pick and choose what they say, when it's convenient.”</p> <p>Jain also said she was in the process of evaluating her candidate picks.</p> <p>“My ballot is private,” said Gennaro, “but I will keep my eye on the candidates as the race progresses.” When Brand called this a “cop-out answer,” Gennaro told him, “I reject your characterization,” claiming that revealing his second choice would in effect attempt to “manipulate the voters.”</p> <p>Syed also said she has not yet decided on a second choice candidate, saying that she is going to wait for more debates to hear other candidates’ platforms.</p> <p>Nath did not explicitly share any names, but named top priorities: education, health care, and housing. He also said he’d rank candidates with “roots in the community.” Nath said he’s undecided on his fifth choice.</p> <p>Ahmed was the only one who shared her candidate picks, saying, “I like to walk the walk.” She went on to disclose that Sharma will get one of her votes because of her detailed housing plan, Nath will also get a vote from Ahmed, who praised his work with New American Voters Association, and she also committed to voting for Jain because she supports taxing the rich. She didn’t name a fifth vote.</p> <p>For the final question, which was submitted by a member of the audience, candidates were asked how they were educating voters on completing their ballots under the new system.</p> <p>Gennaro, Nath, and Syed all identified reminding voters to vote for up to five different candidates as part of their education on ranked-choice voting in order to maximize the potential of the new voting system.</p> <p>Sharma said her campaign volunteers have been taught how to educate voters on ranked-choice voting through a script and training sessions.</p> <p>“We have literature in multiple languages explaining how ranked-choice voting works,” said Ahmed, who also pairs this education with reminders about her platform and endorsements, so that they will think of her on Election Day.</p> <p>In addition to educational seminars, Jain also said that she has a sample ballot on her phone, which she uses to demonstrate for voters how the ballot will look and how to use it.</p> <p>The forum on Thursday night, hosted by Chhaya CDC, India Home, Chinese-American Planning Committee (CPC NYC), Shetu, APA VOICE, and the MinKwon Center for Community Action, also began with an educational presentation on ranked-choice voting. After that, the candidates each had one minute to introduce themselves. The Q&amp;A portion of the forum was divided into four rounds including questions from members of the organizations sponsoring the event; a “lightning round” requiring short answers; audience questions; and the candidates selecting an opponent of their choice to ask a question.</p> <p>The questions posed to candidates touched on plans for social services, language accessibility, gentrification and displacement, land use, housing, tenants’ rights, senior care, the city budget, and more. The forum was moderated by Habib Rahman of TBN24, a Bangla language live television channel.</p> <p>Although originally scheduled to appear, Gennaro cancelled an hour or so before the event, according to organizers. Habib called this news “disappointing” a few times throughout the forum, and said, “We’d like to thank all of the candidates who saw it important to come to the forum and speak to everybody who’s here.” Candidates Mujib Rahman and Michael Brown were also missing.</p> <p>When asked how they would enhance professional development programs geared toward immigrant and undocumented communities, all of the candidates agreed that language accessibility was a crucial aspect of this and proposed different strategies.</p> <p>Syed suggested coordinating with the Small Business Administration to “connect with employers to see what needs they have, and we train and provide funding simultaneously.” Additionally, Syed proposed “investing in trade schools,” as well as educating those with foreign degrees about the existing system for certificate conversion.</p> <p>On language accessibility, Nath took a few shots at Gennaro, saying, “Today, we have somebody who is running for this seat who voted against a language assistance program. Apparently, he’s not even on this panel. Maybe I’m missing him.” If elected to the City Council, Nath said, “I want to specifically work with CUNY and SUNY and create a center at York College and Queens College” that would help immigrants with their certifications.</p> <p>Jain emphasized funding, citing her experience as a Democratic district leader and a delegate for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the most recent presidential election. “I know how much money is sitting there for our adult education program. I want to bring that money to my district. I want to bring the fair share to my community,” she said.</p> <p>Sharma said she would create a task force of community leaders to strategize “innovative solutions” that are “on par with what’s happening in the community,” including making sure that “language accessibility is part of [job training].”</p> <p>Ahmed said her personal experience of providing translation for her immigrant parents has informed her understanding of the need for language justice, saying, “When you can't understand, you can't participate.” But the clock ran out before she proposed specific strategies.</p> <p>When asked how they would assist first-time homebuyers, Ahmed, Nath, Syed, and Jain all agreed that basements should be legalized as separate dwelling units.</p> <p>Ahmed went on to say, “And we need to work with state legislators to tax the rich and make sure there's funding to give a stipend to homeowners so that they're able to pay their mortgage.”</p> <p>Nath emphasized his commitment to helping homeowners, saying, “I have not taken a single dime from developers,” which he criticized for artificially inflating prices. He added that taxes should be suspended for first-time homebuyers and that the process by which to secure loans for homes should be easier.</p> <p>“There’s already a program that exists, which provides $40,000 for the first-time homebuyer,” began Jain, referencing the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program. “It should be extended more, and there should be some more educational programs also to be funded by the City Council,” added Jain.</p> <p>If elected, Sharma said that she would work with the state on property taxes, although she didn’t specify. She also proposed “creating a New York City public bank, where we can actually provide capital that goes to a more diverse group of people.” She identified loans at the “number one problem” for first-time homeowners.</p> <p>“Since 2002, property taxes have increased almost 18%,” began Syed. “When I get to City Council, I’m pledging not to increase property taxes on one-to-three [family] homes.” She also emphasized the need for seminars on purchasing homes and spotting predatory lending.</p> <p>On gentrification and displacement as a result of rezonings and real estate development, all candidates agreed that input from the community is vital.</p> <p>Both Nath and Jain called for the creation of more affordable housing.</p> <p>Sharma, Ahmed, and Soma said that racial impact studies, as suggested by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and some City Council members, should be required on major rezoning proposals. In addition to racial impact reports, Soma emphasized the need for environmental impact statements. Sharma and Syed also criticized what they say is a one-size-fits-all approach of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. “AMI, the average median income is the same across the board” when it should vary neighborhood by neighborhood, said Sharma.</p> <p>Ahmed called for reforming the entire land use review process overall, saying, “I would not vote for any rezoning under our current ULURP process,” which she said “prioritizes developers over our community.”</p> <p>On supporting tenants, Sharma said she would start with holding “problematic landlords” accountable by “taking them to court,” referring to Zara Realty, a real estate company that faced a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over violations of rent stabilization and tenant harassment laws.</p> <p>Syed, who has represented tenants against Zara Realty, said she would cancel rent “for those tenants who are not able to pay rent.” On this point, Nath disagreed, saying, “If we do that, that will hurt some of our small landlords.”</p> <p>“What I will do is work to continue the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic by working with state legislators, expand ‘right to a lawyer’ for all renters in housing court, encourage the creation of more tenant unions…and expand community land trusts to help working class families afford a home,” said Ahmed.</p> <p>On senior care, Sharma proposed distributing the COVID-19 vaccine via a mobile van, and Nath agreed, saying, “We need to bring the vaccine into the local community.” Syed promised using $750,000 in discretionary funds allotted to City Council District 24 to fund senior centers. Ahmed concurred, adding, “We also need adult daycare centers to provide help for our seniors, whether it's physical therapy, mental health support.” Jain, who serves as chair of the community advisory board of India Home, cited her experience in the role, including mental health counseling for seniors, providing hot meals, and vocational skills programs.</p> <p>When asked how they would approach the city budget in the midst of the fiscal crisis caused by the pandemic, Sharma, Ahmed, and Jain called for new revenue streams. Sharma and Ahmed suggested redirecting a portion of the NYPD’s budget toward social services, with Ahmed pointing out, “The city spent $230 million in 2018 alone on lawsuits against the NYPD for misconduct. It's clear that we need to stop pumping billions into a policing system that's broken and plagued with lawsuits and human rights violations.” Ahmed and Jaim also proposed taxing billionaires. Additionally, Ahmed said she would “work with state legislators to pass marijuana legalization,” “take away tax abatements so corporate landlords can’t avoid taxes,” and “make sure New York City collects fines for permit violations and tax commercial property warehouses.”</p> <p>While Sharma said that the city needs “to stop relying on federal funding,” Syed said that she would “push the Biden administration to provide state funding.” She also added, “We need to look at the entire city budget and make the appropriate cuts,” but she promised those cuts would not impact essential social services, such as senior care, mental health services, and support for the unhoused.</p> <p>“What I'm proposing is suspending the commercial rent tax for at least one year, and giving a grant to the small business owner, so they can open the business and create jobs,” said Nath. He also said he was “supportive of Amazon” building a massive new campus in Long Island City, but in lieu of that, “We need to make sure we invite companies who will create jobs that are going to help the middle-class American. Of course, they have to be union jobs.”</p> <p>During the lightning round, candidates were unanimous in their support of “people over profit,” Medicare for all, affordable housing, ranked-choice voting, and working-class communities. When asked to choose between investment in community programs and services or investment in law enforcement, most candidates chose the former, except Syed, who said she supported both.</p> <p>During the final round, in which candidates asked another candidate of their choice one question, Sharma kicked things off, asking Nath for his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement. To this, he said he was supportive. “We cannot end [systemic racism] by electing the same people year after year who violate term limits, who just treat politics as a career,” he said, seemingly referring to former City Council member Gennaro, who served three terms and is now running for his old seat in District 24. (The current law limits officeholders to two concurrent terms, but there is nothing barring Gennaro from running again. He was among those who approved a term-limits extension in 2009 that allowed Mayor Bloomberg and City Council members like himself the possibility of an additional term.)“By electing one of us, we can bring diversity and inclusion to the City Council. That's how we end systemic racism in this country,” Nath said.</p> <p>Syed asked Jain how she thought white supremacy affected immigrant communities, to which Jain replied, “This is a democratic country. What happened in Washington, that should not have happened.” She added, “Of course it affected our immigrant community,” highlighting immigrant concern over safety.</p> <p>Next, Ahmed asked Nath what his favorite Bangladeshi restaurant was on Hillside Avenue, and he answered, “Sagar Chinese.”</p> <p>When Nath asked Ahmed if she would pledge to not work with candidates “who violated the term limit,” seemingly another reference to Genarro, Ahmed said, “I absolutely support term limits and would not want to work with anybody who's exploiting a loophole.”</p> <p>For the last question of the forum, Jain asked Syed what she would do differently from the previous Council member, Lancman, for immigrant communities. Syed said, “We need to equitably distribute discretionary funds into communities that really need them.”</p> <p>

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by Allison Smith for Gotham Gazette
 @GothamGazette

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De Blasio Releases $92.3 Billion Preliminary Budget for 2022 Fiscal Year 2021-01-14T20:00:00+00:00 2021-01-14T20:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10073-de-blasio-92-billion-preliminary-budget-fiscal-year-2022 Samar Khurshid samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32386101031_825dc6f43e_c.jpg" alt="de blasio budget address" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>De Blasio in 2017 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio released a $92.28 billion preliminary budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year on Thursday, expressing optimism that the city will receive additional federal funds but warning of cuts from the state.</p> <p>The mayor’s budget plan for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is more than $4 billion larger than the budget that was adopted last year for the current fiscal year, and reflects a nearly $20 billion increase from the last budget he inherited from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it is lower than the $95.3 billion budget that he had proposed in January last year, when the city’s economy was at a peak and warnings of the coronavirus had yet to be heeded.</p> <p>The mayor said his chief priority in the newly-released budget plan is ensuring the city’s recovery from the pandemic and he highlighted new spending that includes direct covid response measures, closing gaps in education caused by the pandemic, and maintaining essential city services. “Everything is about building the framework to get to recovery. That's what we're going to focus on,” he said.</p> <p>The budget plan will be the subject of City Council hearings, followed by the mayor’s executive budget, released after a new state budget due by April 1. Both the city and state fiscal pictures will continue to depend on what comes out of Washington, D.C., among other key factors like economic recovery that may be spurred by the covid vaccine rollout.</p> <p>The coronavirus pandemic decimated the city and has led to an expected sum of $10.5 billion in revenue losses for fiscal years 2020-2022, de Blasio said Thursday. About $1.5 billion of that drop has happened since November. Property taxes, a typically steady and crucial element of the city’s revenue, are expected to decline by $2.5 billion alone in fiscal year 2022. Despite job gains in the past few months, unemployment, which reached a high of more than 20%, remains at about 12.1%.</p> <p>That leaves the city with an expected $5.25 billion budget gap for next fiscal year (FY22), which de Blasio said would be covered through a combination of measures including additional federal stimulus funds and fighting off potential cuts from the state. He said he will mandate a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) to cut $1.4 billion in costs at city agencies, along with a citywide savings plan. The mayor’s office will set an example by cutting its own spending by 13%, de Blasio said. “We want people to see we're tightening our belt. We expect every city agency to tighten their belt,” he said. Overall, the efforts will account for $3.6 billion in reductions between fiscal years 2021 and 2022, he said.</p> <p>The mayor also plans to reduce the city’s workforce, though he has no current plans to carry out mass layoffs that he had warned about for much of last year, he said. Instead, de Blasio said the city will reduce headcount by about 5,000 workers by through attrition, mandating that for most agencies, they can only make new hires for one position for every three vacancies, saving $349 million through fiscal year 2022. The city has already cut the workforce by 7,000 since January 2020, he said. Additional savings will come from the city pension system – $430 million this fiscal year and $300 million next fiscal year, the mayor outlined, through measures to more immediately use pension investment gains and reduce the expected rate of return on the pension funds so there is less strain on the city budget to make up the difference.</p> <p>Another $1 billion is meant to come from unspecified labor savings.</p> <p>There was some good news for the city on Thursday. In total, the city has spent $5.9 billion on the response to the pandemic, of which $1.3 billion had not been covered so far by reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But just prior to the mayor’s presentation, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, soon to be the Senate majority leader, announced that the incoming Biden administration had agreed that FEMA would fully cover emergency costs for New York and provide another $2 billion to the state and city.</p> <p>About $1 billion of that, de Blasio said, is owed to the city alone and would help prevent cuts that he had planned for the budget. De Blasio said the city will no longer have to cut $150 million for Fair Student Funding to schools in the next fiscal year and will not have to delay the expansion of free pre-school for three-year-olds, which would have meant a $44 million cut.</p> <p>There remains, however, the risk that the state’s own fiscal woes will end up harming the city. Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly cited a $15 billion deficit for the state, without taking into account the second round of fiscal stimulus delivered in December. Without additional federal aid to fill the state’s budget hole, Cuomo has warned that he will have to cut $8 billion in aid to localities, with a $4 billion hit to New York City.</p> <p>“This is the hidden danger here, massive potential state cuts that we have to be ready to guard against, and we need that stimulus in particular to help us do it,” de Blasio said Thursday. Even pre-pandemic, Cuomo has often sought to cut funding to the city or offload costs for shared entities like CUNY, Medicaid, and the MTA. The city’s fiscal picture has been far stronger than the state’s for a number of years. De Blasio and allies have beaten back some of those attempts but not others.<br /> <br />As de Blasio estimated Thursday, the second stimulus package included $4 billion to fund K-12 schools in New York State, and the city expects $2.3 billion from that sum. But, because the language of the legislation was not clear, the mayor is worried that the state could choose to cut from other areas, a process called supplanting. “We've already spent a huge amount of money to get schools back open and to support remote learning and to support free devices for kids who needed them,” he said. “We deserve this federal funding to make us whole and to help us move forward and we need to fight for it.”</p> <p>Instead, he urged the state to increase taxes on the rich, noting that 120 billionaires in New York have seen their net worth increase by $77 billion even as working and middle class families have suffered. “If you want to avoid cutting the vital services that cities and counties and towns provide to their people, here's a solution,” de Blasio said. “Tax the wealthy. The wealthy of New York State have never been taxed at the level they should. They have not paid their fair share.”</p> <p>To fight the pandemic, the city has budgeted about $200 million for the vaccination and test and trace programs in FY22 (which could be reimbursed by the federal government). “What matters most, well, unquestionably defeating covid, that's what matters most. We are throwing in the kitchen sink to put covid in the rearview mirror,” de Blasio said, noting that those costs will likely grow.</p> <p>Other spending the mayor outlined Thursday includes $62 million in the current fiscal year for the Learning Bridges child care program for students in ‘hybrid’ learning, expansion of WiFi in homeless shelters at a cost of $14 million in the current fiscal and $3 million in the next fiscal year, $52 million in the current fiscal for food relief, $35 million in the next fiscal to fund social and emotional learning programs, $10 million in extra funding in each of the current and next fiscal years to bolster the 311 city helpline, and $132 million in the next fiscal year to restore 70,000 Summer Youth Employment Program slots, though advocates have called for many more.</p> <p>The mayor also announced measures that will be music to the ears of homeowners. He said the administration has reached an agreement with the New York City Council to reform the city’s tax lien sales process to save homeowners struggling during this pandemic from hardship while also maintaining $1 billion in revenue for the city. He said the Council will vote on the reforms later this month.</p> <p>Additionally, he said again that “there's no way in hell” he will raise property tax rates. “That would be wrong, it would be counterproductive, it would hurt so many homeowners and everyday New Yorkers who are struggling through the covid crisis,” he said. Noting that property tax assessments are still set to increase because of state law, he said the city will create a new rebate, using federal stimulus funds, for owners of 1-3 family homes with a market value of less than $500,000. The rebate will affect 293,000 families, he estimated.</p> <p>The preliminary budget for next fiscal year also includes an increase in capital spending for infrastructure needs. The ten-year preliminary capital strategy is $118.8 billion with a major focus on affordable housing, Vision Zero projects, and climate change and resiliency construction.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32386101031_825dc6f43e_c.jpg" alt="de blasio budget address" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>De Blasio in 2017 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio released a $92.28 billion preliminary budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year on Thursday, expressing optimism that the city will receive additional federal funds but warning of cuts from the state.</p> <p>The mayor’s budget plan for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is more than $4 billion larger than the budget that was adopted last year for the current fiscal year, and reflects a nearly $20 billion increase from the last budget he inherited from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it is lower than the $95.3 billion budget that he had proposed in January last year, when the city’s economy was at a peak and warnings of the coronavirus had yet to be heeded.</p> <p>The mayor said his chief priority in the newly-released budget plan is ensuring the city’s recovery from the pandemic and he highlighted new spending that includes direct covid response measures, closing gaps in education caused by the pandemic, and maintaining essential city services. “Everything is about building the framework to get to recovery. That's what we're going to focus on,” he said.</p> <p>The budget plan will be the subject of City Council hearings, followed by the mayor’s executive budget, released after a new state budget due by April 1. Both the city and state fiscal pictures will continue to depend on what comes out of Washington, D.C., among other key factors like economic recovery that may be spurred by the covid vaccine rollout.</p> <p>The coronavirus pandemic decimated the city and has led to an expected sum of $10.5 billion in revenue losses for fiscal years 2020-2022, de Blasio said Thursday. About $1.5 billion of that drop has happened since November. Property taxes, a typically steady and crucial element of the city’s revenue, are expected to decline by $2.5 billion alone in fiscal year 2022. Despite job gains in the past few months, unemployment, which reached a high of more than 20%, remains at about 12.1%.</p> <p>That leaves the city with an expected $5.25 billion budget gap for next fiscal year (FY22), which de Blasio said would be covered through a combination of measures including additional federal stimulus funds and fighting off potential cuts from the state. He said he will mandate a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) to cut $1.4 billion in costs at city agencies, along with a citywide savings plan. The mayor’s office will set an example by cutting its own spending by 13%, de Blasio said. “We want people to see we're tightening our belt. We expect every city agency to tighten their belt,” he said. Overall, the efforts will account for $3.6 billion in reductions between fiscal years 2021 and 2022, he said.</p> <p>The mayor also plans to reduce the city’s workforce, though he has no current plans to carry out mass layoffs that he had warned about for much of last year, he said. Instead, de Blasio said the city will reduce headcount by about 5,000 workers by through attrition, mandating that for most agencies, they can only make new hires for one position for every three vacancies, saving $349 million through fiscal year 2022. The city has already cut the workforce by 7,000 since January 2020, he said. Additional savings will come from the city pension system – $430 million this fiscal year and $300 million next fiscal year, the mayor outlined, through measures to more immediately use pension investment gains and reduce the expected rate of return on the pension funds so there is less strain on the city budget to make up the difference.</p> <p>Another $1 billion is meant to come from unspecified labor savings.</p> <p>There was some good news for the city on Thursday. In total, the city has spent $5.9 billion on the response to the pandemic, of which $1.3 billion had not been covered so far by reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But just prior to the mayor’s presentation, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, soon to be the Senate majority leader, announced that the incoming Biden administration had agreed that FEMA would fully cover emergency costs for New York and provide another $2 billion to the state and city.</p> <p>About $1 billion of that, de Blasio said, is owed to the city alone and would help prevent cuts that he had planned for the budget. De Blasio said the city will no longer have to cut $150 million for Fair Student Funding to schools in the next fiscal year and will not have to delay the expansion of free pre-school for three-year-olds, which would have meant a $44 million cut.</p> <p>There remains, however, the risk that the state’s own fiscal woes will end up harming the city. Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly cited a $15 billion deficit for the state, without taking into account the second round of fiscal stimulus delivered in December. Without additional federal aid to fill the state’s budget hole, Cuomo has warned that he will have to cut $8 billion in aid to localities, with a $4 billion hit to New York City.</p> <p>“This is the hidden danger here, massive potential state cuts that we have to be ready to guard against, and we need that stimulus in particular to help us do it,” de Blasio said Thursday. Even pre-pandemic, Cuomo has often sought to cut funding to the city or offload costs for shared entities like CUNY, Medicaid, and the MTA. The city’s fiscal picture has been far stronger than the state’s for a number of years. De Blasio and allies have beaten back some of those attempts but not others.<br /> <br />As de Blasio estimated Thursday, the second stimulus package included $4 billion to fund K-12 schools in New York State, and the city expects $2.3 billion from that sum. But, because the language of the legislation was not clear, the mayor is worried that the state could choose to cut from other areas, a process called supplanting. “We've already spent a huge amount of money to get schools back open and to support remote learning and to support free devices for kids who needed them,” he said. “We deserve this federal funding to make us whole and to help us move forward and we need to fight for it.”</p> <p>Instead, he urged the state to increase taxes on the rich, noting that 120 billionaires in New York have seen their net worth increase by $77 billion even as working and middle class families have suffered. “If you want to avoid cutting the vital services that cities and counties and towns provide to their people, here's a solution,” de Blasio said. “Tax the wealthy. The wealthy of New York State have never been taxed at the level they should. They have not paid their fair share.”</p> <p>To fight the pandemic, the city has budgeted about $200 million for the vaccination and test and trace programs in FY22 (which could be reimbursed by the federal government). “What matters most, well, unquestionably defeating covid, that's what matters most. We are throwing in the kitchen sink to put covid in the rearview mirror,” de Blasio said, noting that those costs will likely grow.</p> <p>Other spending the mayor outlined Thursday includes $62 million in the current fiscal year for the Learning Bridges child care program for students in ‘hybrid’ learning, expansion of WiFi in homeless shelters at a cost of $14 million in the current fiscal and $3 million in the next fiscal year, $52 million in the current fiscal for food relief, $35 million in the next fiscal to fund social and emotional learning programs, $10 million in extra funding in each of the current and next fiscal years to bolster the 311 city helpline, and $132 million in the next fiscal year to restore 70,000 Summer Youth Employment Program slots, though advocates have called for many more.</p> <p>The mayor also announced measures that will be music to the ears of homeowners. He said the administration has reached an agreement with the New York City Council to reform the city’s tax lien sales process to save homeowners struggling during this pandemic from hardship while also maintaining $1 billion in revenue for the city. He said the Council will vote on the reforms later this month.</p> <p>Additionally, he said again that “there's no way in hell” he will raise property tax rates. “That would be wrong, it would be counterproductive, it would hurt so many homeowners and everyday New Yorkers who are struggling through the covid crisis,” he said. Noting that property tax assessments are still set to increase because of state law, he said the city will create a new rebate, using federal stimulus funds, for owners of 1-3 family homes with a market value of less than $500,000. The rebate will affect 293,000 families, he estimated.</p> <p>The preliminary budget for next fiscal year also includes an increase in capital spending for infrastructure needs. The ten-year preliminary capital strategy is $118.8 billion with a major focus on affordable housing, Vision Zero projects, and climate change and resiliency construction.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Andrew Yang Announces Candidacy for New York City Mayor 2021-01-13T15:00:00+00:00 2021-01-13T15:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10068-andrew-yang-announces-2021-candidacy-new-york-city-mayor Samar Khurshid & Ben Max samarkhurshid@gmail.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48609993976_4c1daa8547_c.jpg" alt="Andrew Yang prez trail Iowa" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Andrew Yang on the presidential campaign trail (photo:&nbsp;Gage Skidmore)</p> <hr /> <p>Entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced that he is officially running for Mayor of New York City on Wednesday in a campaign video posted online. Yang followed the launch with a Thursday morning press conference in Upper Manhattan, after which he was slated to attend events in three other boroughs.</p> <p>“New York City always felt like the center of the universe,” Yang says in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjgGCIF1PLI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the video</a>, which was directed by famed Hollywood filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Yang appears with his wife, Evelyn, and two young children, interspersed with shots of him speaking with everyday New Yorkers, eating a slice of pizza, riding a skateboard, and playing a piano on the Coney Island boardwalk. Yang grew up in upstate New York, where he owns a home, and has lived in the city for 24 years, he says. “I came of age, fell in love, and became a father here,” he says of the city.</p> <p>Yang is joining a crowded and diverse field of Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination to replace the term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio. The primary -- likely to determine the city’s next mayor given Democrats’ massive voter enrollment advantage -- will feature two important firsts: it is happening in June and will feature ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Yang is running as an outsider candidate and has the advantage of broad name recognition, a large social media following, and the likely ability to raise massive amounts of funding for his campaign, as he displayed during his aborted presidential run. In the lead up to making it official Yang has all but acknowledged his plan to seek the mayoralty and created a lot of strong feelings about his run: excitement among supporters, trepidation among competitors, and many questions from the news media and other interested parties.</p> <p>He’s also had some bad initial headlines as he teased his mayoral bid. <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaign-confidential/kathryn-garcia-doesnt-really-do-politics.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State reported</a> that he hasn’t voted in the past four mayoral elections. Then <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2021/01/08/andrew-yang-left-new-york-as-covid-surged-now-he-wants-to-be-mayor-1353859" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York found</a> that he was among the wealthier New Yorkers who fled the city during the pandemic, temporarily relocating to his second home upstate. His defense of the move, in an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/nyregion/andrew-yang-mayor-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with the New York Times</a>, prompted widespread criticism that he was out of touch with the majority of working New Yorkers. “We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?” he said. He later <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/nyregion/andrew-yang-manhattan-apartment-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">explained</a> that he made the move to help one of his sons, who is autistic.</p> <p>Yang is attempting to quickly amend any negative initial impressions by relying on his significant base of supporters, his exuberant personality, and his signature universal basic income (UBI) proposal – which earned him popularity during the presidential race as he talked about lifting people out of poverty and combatting changes in the economy – but tailored for New York City. He will pitch the updated version of the idea, which he notes has been championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the past, in an announcement at Morningside Heights Park in Manhattan on Thursday morning, according to the campaign. Yang is also launching his campaign with several other eye-catching ideas: city control of the subways,&nbsp;a pledge to "name a civilian Commissioner of the NYPD," new specialized high schools with a revamped admissions process, and more.</p> <p>Yang’s UBI proposal, which he called the Freedom Dividend in the presidential campaign, originally entailed giving every American adult $1,000 each month with no strings attached. Running for mayor, he has tweaked that idea and is proposing to spend $1 billion annually to give the 500,000 New Yorkers who most need it an average of $2,000 and up to $5,000 each year. Undocumented immigrants and those with past criminal convictions would qualify, his proposal says.</p> <p>In his launch, Yang also advanced a proposal for a “people’s bank,” which will automatically enroll those who receive the universal basic income. In the campaign video, newly-inaugurated U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres from the Bronx praised the proposal. “Your advocacy for universal basic income is so critical,” Torres said in conversation with Yang. “The surest way to end poverty is to put money in people's pockets. It’s that simple.” At the Thursday press conference, Yang revealed that Torres is serving as the co-chair of his campaign along with Martin Luther King III.</p> <p>Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim, a progressive who strongly advocates for raising taxes on the wealthy and a larger social safety net, is also seen in the video with Yang. Kim is one leader of the city’s large Asian population that Yang, who is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, may be able to excite about his mayoral campaign. The city has never elected an Asian person as mayor.</p> <p>Yang will have a lot of work to do to catch up to the rest of the Democratic field, some of whom have been angling for City Hall for years, have far more experience with municipal government, have millions of dollars in the bank, and have been working in communities across the city during the emergency of the pandemic and years prior. They include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, military veteran and entrepreneur Zach Iscol, and others.</p> <p>But Yang is likely to roll out many ideas for the future of the city and have the strengths to make up any ground on campaign funding and familiarity with voters. The question will be whether he can convince enough of them to choose him to lead the city in the next phases of its recovery. That conversation will include Yang’s resume, which includes his presidential bid, but also his work in start-ups, nonprofits, and leading a Manhattan test prep company where he found financial success. Other Yang ventures have sputtered, but he has found a large following talking about the struggles of everyday people, those struggling to find work and pay the bills, and those leery of a future economy more dependent on automation.</p> <p>Though his launch video is brief, Yang did touch on a series of issues that are likely to be central to the mayoral race. He is seen with Kim at a restaurant, discussing the plight of small businesses that have shuttered because of the coronavirus, and pledged to help bring the local economy back. He spoke with two Black New Yorkers about the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which prompted months of protests in the city and reinvigorated police reform movement last year. He stressed the need for high-speed internet across the city, a lack of which has been one of the main obstacles to remote learning as schools closed during the pandemic. His wife prompts him to pursue smaller class sizes in part by hiring more teachers. Yang said he wants to "take back control of our subway," seemingly a reference to altering the structure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state-run entity. He even joked about saving the Knicks.</p> <p>On his initial campaign website, Yang has several policy-focused pages with mostly broad language, promising detailed plans in the coming weeks, but some do offer specific proposals and his "relief for our small businesses" <a href="https://www.yangforny.com/policies/relief-for-our-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">page</a> has a number of planks, including passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which has, in different iterations, been in the City Council for decades and would in its current form mandate new lease renewal terms to help protect small businesses. Yang also has a number of <a href="https://www.yangforny.com/policies/reopening-stronger-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener">education-focused proposals</a>, including&nbsp;"at least two specialized schools in each borough and holistic admissions to specialized schools, combining students’ SHSAT performance with other forms of evaluation - grades, interviews, essays, and more."</p> <p>Yang's first full day as a mayoral candidate will be full: he's scheduled to appear on The Breakfast Club radio program in the morning, followed by the launch event in Morningside Park, then a visit to a Bronx food distribution center, lunch with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a walking tour of Brownsville, Brooklyn with Assemblymember Latrice Walker, an interview on NY1's Inside City Hall with host Errol Louis, and finally a virtual town hall with New Yorkers.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>This article has been updated several times since it's publication with additional information about Yang's campaign launch.</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/48609993976_4c1daa8547_c.jpg" alt="Andrew Yang prez trail Iowa" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Andrew Yang on the presidential campaign trail (photo:&nbsp;Gage Skidmore)</p> <hr /> <p>Entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced that he is officially running for Mayor of New York City on Wednesday in a campaign video posted online. Yang followed the launch with a Thursday morning press conference in Upper Manhattan, after which he was slated to attend events in three other boroughs.</p> <p>“New York City always felt like the center of the universe,” Yang says in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjgGCIF1PLI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the video</a>, which was directed by famed Hollywood filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Yang appears with his wife, Evelyn, and two young children, interspersed with shots of him speaking with everyday New Yorkers, eating a slice of pizza, riding a skateboard, and playing a piano on the Coney Island boardwalk. Yang grew up in upstate New York, where he owns a home, and has lived in the city for 24 years, he says. “I came of age, fell in love, and became a father here,” he says of the city.</p> <p>Yang is joining a crowded and diverse field of Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination to replace the term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio. The primary -- likely to determine the city’s next mayor given Democrats’ massive voter enrollment advantage -- will feature two important firsts: it is happening in June and will feature ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Yang is running as an outsider candidate and has the advantage of broad name recognition, a large social media following, and the likely ability to raise massive amounts of funding for his campaign, as he displayed during his aborted presidential run. In the lead up to making it official Yang has all but acknowledged his plan to seek the mayoralty and created a lot of strong feelings about his run: excitement among supporters, trepidation among competitors, and many questions from the news media and other interested parties.</p> <p>He’s also had some bad initial headlines as he teased his mayoral bid. <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaign-confidential/kathryn-garcia-doesnt-really-do-politics.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State reported</a> that he hasn’t voted in the past four mayoral elections. Then <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2021/01/08/andrew-yang-left-new-york-as-covid-surged-now-he-wants-to-be-mayor-1353859" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York found</a> that he was among the wealthier New Yorkers who fled the city during the pandemic, temporarily relocating to his second home upstate. His defense of the move, in an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/nyregion/andrew-yang-mayor-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">interview with the New York Times</a>, prompted widespread criticism that he was out of touch with the majority of working New Yorkers. “We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?” he said. He later <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/nyregion/andrew-yang-manhattan-apartment-new-york.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">explained</a> that he made the move to help one of his sons, who is autistic.</p> <p>Yang is attempting to quickly amend any negative initial impressions by relying on his significant base of supporters, his exuberant personality, and his signature universal basic income (UBI) proposal – which earned him popularity during the presidential race as he talked about lifting people out of poverty and combatting changes in the economy – but tailored for New York City. He will pitch the updated version of the idea, which he notes has been championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in the past, in an announcement at Morningside Heights Park in Manhattan on Thursday morning, according to the campaign. Yang is also launching his campaign with several other eye-catching ideas: city control of the subways,&nbsp;a pledge to "name a civilian Commissioner of the NYPD," new specialized high schools with a revamped admissions process, and more.</p> <p>Yang’s UBI proposal, which he called the Freedom Dividend in the presidential campaign, originally entailed giving every American adult $1,000 each month with no strings attached. Running for mayor, he has tweaked that idea and is proposing to spend $1 billion annually to give the 500,000 New Yorkers who most need it an average of $2,000 and up to $5,000 each year. Undocumented immigrants and those with past criminal convictions would qualify, his proposal says.</p> <p>In his launch, Yang also advanced a proposal for a “people’s bank,” which will automatically enroll those who receive the universal basic income. In the campaign video, newly-inaugurated U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres from the Bronx praised the proposal. “Your advocacy for universal basic income is so critical,” Torres said in conversation with Yang. “The surest way to end poverty is to put money in people's pockets. It’s that simple.” At the Thursday press conference, Yang revealed that Torres is serving as the co-chair of his campaign along with Martin Luther King III.</p> <p>Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim, a progressive who strongly advocates for raising taxes on the wealthy and a larger social safety net, is also seen in the video with Yang. Kim is one leader of the city’s large Asian population that Yang, who is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, may be able to excite about his mayoral campaign. The city has never elected an Asian person as mayor.</p> <p>Yang will have a lot of work to do to catch up to the rest of the Democratic field, some of whom have been angling for City Hall for years, have far more experience with municipal government, have millions of dollars in the bank, and have been working in communities across the city during the emergency of the pandemic and years prior. They include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former veterans services commissioner Loree Sutton, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, military veteran and entrepreneur Zach Iscol, and others.</p> <p>But Yang is likely to roll out many ideas for the future of the city and have the strengths to make up any ground on campaign funding and familiarity with voters. The question will be whether he can convince enough of them to choose him to lead the city in the next phases of its recovery. That conversation will include Yang’s resume, which includes his presidential bid, but also his work in start-ups, nonprofits, and leading a Manhattan test prep company where he found financial success. Other Yang ventures have sputtered, but he has found a large following talking about the struggles of everyday people, those struggling to find work and pay the bills, and those leery of a future economy more dependent on automation.</p> <p>Though his launch video is brief, Yang did touch on a series of issues that are likely to be central to the mayoral race. He is seen with Kim at a restaurant, discussing the plight of small businesses that have shuttered because of the coronavirus, and pledged to help bring the local economy back. He spoke with two Black New Yorkers about the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which prompted months of protests in the city and reinvigorated police reform movement last year. He stressed the need for high-speed internet across the city, a lack of which has been one of the main obstacles to remote learning as schools closed during the pandemic. His wife prompts him to pursue smaller class sizes in part by hiring more teachers. Yang said he wants to "take back control of our subway," seemingly a reference to altering the structure of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state-run entity. He even joked about saving the Knicks.</p> <p>On his initial campaign website, Yang has several policy-focused pages with mostly broad language, promising detailed plans in the coming weeks, but some do offer specific proposals and his "relief for our small businesses" <a href="https://www.yangforny.com/policies/relief-for-our-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">page</a> has a number of planks, including passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which has, in different iterations, been in the City Council for decades and would in its current form mandate new lease renewal terms to help protect small businesses. Yang also has a number of <a href="https://www.yangforny.com/policies/reopening-stronger-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener">education-focused proposals</a>, including&nbsp;"at least two specialized schools in each borough and holistic admissions to specialized schools, combining students’ SHSAT performance with other forms of evaluation - grades, interviews, essays, and more."</p> <p>Yang's first full day as a mayoral candidate will be full: he's scheduled to appear on The Breakfast Club radio program in the morning, followed by the launch event in Morningside Park, then a visit to a Bronx food distribution center, lunch with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a walking tour of Brownsville, Brooklyn with Assemblymember Latrice Walker, an interview on NY1's Inside City Hall with host Errol Louis, and finally a virtual town hall with New Yorkers.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p>This article has been updated several times since it's publication with additional information about Yang's campaign launch.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Brad Lander on His Run for New York City Comptroller 2021-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10051-max-murphy-podcast-brad-lander-nyc-comptroller-bid Gotham Gazette bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/2-cmplander.jpg" alt="2 cmplander" width="600" height="409" /></p> <p>Brad Lander (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 6, 2021 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brad Lander on His Run for New York City Comptroller<br /></strong></p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander joined the show to discuss his run for New York City Comptroller in the 2021 election.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/965125099&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-268-brad-lander-on-his-run-for-new-york-city-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 268 Brad Lander On His Run For New York City Comptroller">Episode 268 Brad Lander On His Run For New York City Comptroller</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2020/podcast20/2-cmplander.jpg" alt="2 cmplander" width="600" height="409" /></p> <p>Brad Lander (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 6, 2021 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Brad Lander on His Run for New York City Comptroller<br /></strong></p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander joined the show to discuss his run for New York City Comptroller in the 2021 election.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/965125099&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc; line-break: anywhere; word-break: normal; overflow: hidden; white-space: nowrap; text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif; font-weight: 100;"><a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Max &amp; Murphy">Max &amp; Murphy</a> · <a href="https://soundcloud.com/gotham-gazette-max-murphy/episode-268-brad-lander-on-his-run-for-new-york-city-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" title="Episode 268 Brad Lander On His Run For New York City Comptroller">Episode 268 Brad Lander On His Run For New York City Comptroller</a></div> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Video Brief: Policing and the 2021 Election 2021-01-13T05:00:00+00:00 2021-01-13T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10061-2021-election-video-brief-policing-crime Ben Max bmax@gothamgazette.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/1mx-vid.jpg" alt="1mx vid" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with NYPD Commissioner Shea and officers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the 2021 New York City elections unfold, voters will want to hear from candidates for Mayor, City Council, and other offices on a wide variety of issues. In this video brief, hosts Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits reset the discussion on policing and other aspects of the criminal justice system, and how it may factor into this year's races:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5YzDUm1LtKQ" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2021/1mx-vid.jpg" alt="1mx vid" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with NYPD Commissioner Shea and officers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As the 2021 New York City elections unfold, voters will want to hear from candidates for Mayor, City Council, and other offices on a wide variety of issues. In this video brief, hosts Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits reset the discussion on policing and other aspects of the criminal justice system, and how it may factor into this year's races:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5YzDUm1LtKQ" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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