Gotham Gazette Thu, 29 Oct 2020 09:00:15 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Cynthia Nixon Should Avoid De Blasio’s Sham Progressivism Mayor de Blasio

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office))

It is impressive that Mayor de Blasio has succeeded in wrapping himself in the progressive mantle despite the reality of his record. While his rhetoric stakes claim to that mantle, his record fails to merit the honor. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words -- or should, at least.

Perhaps it is additionally important now to scrutinize that record since it is commonly understood that Governor Andrew Cuomo's well-publicized challenger from the left, Cynthia Nixon, will campaign very much in the spirit of de Blasio's first mayoral run in 2013, which she intensely supported.

His policing policies alone, involving starkly racially-biased "broken windows" tactics, undercut the political identity that he seeks and that many journalists grant him. These practices target people of color daily for petty infractions that have been virtually decriminalized in white areas.

Relevant facts include: 85 to 95% of NYPD misdemeanor arrests involve New Yorkers of color, including 91% of marijuana possession arrests -- despite research findings that white people use and sell the drug in equal or greater proportions to African-Americans and Latinos -- and 91.5% of fare-beating arrests, which is the third most common NYPD arrest. About 95% of NYPD juvenile arrests involve black and brown youth. About 90% of persons confined on Rikers Island are African-American and Latino, and they are there for two main reasons: they're too poor to afford bail and an NYPD officer has arrested them.

A major area where de Blasio has failed to meet the needs of disadvantaged New Yorkers -- supposedly a key part of his base -- is our city's dual, related crises: homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. Again, facts: over 63,000 people live in our homeless shelters, an increase of about 13,000 since de Blasio took office; over 90% of our homeless families are African-American or Latino; and research shows that lack of affordable housing is the primary cause of homelessness.

De Blasio's most recent proposal regarding homelessness, made last year, entails opening 90 new shelters over the next five years with the modest goal of reducing the number of homeless people by 2,500. Possibly trying to trick us into thinking that the plan would have a significant effect, he called it "Turning the Tide on Homelessness." More like "Flying the White Flag of Surrender."

In 2014 de Blasio unveiled a plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units. He touts its success as a major progressive achievement of his first term. Yet even the city's own numbers show that the plan has not resulted in providing truly affordable housing for New Yorkers who need it most. The de Blasio administration has stated that the city has nearly 1 million households earning less than $42,000 per year, and we know that New York has only 425,000 units that these households can afford. Despite this shortfall, 80% of the so-called affordable units created in de Blasio's plan will be unaffordable for these low-income households.

A central problem is that de Blasio's plan artificially inflates what's considered "affordable," measuring a household’s eligibility by an Area Median Income (AMI) that includes all five boroughs and comparatively wealthy counties outside of the city: Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland. This card trick masquerading as fair practice opens the door for developers to build housing that ends up displacing families it supposedly serves.

On other liberal litmus test issues, de Blasio grades an “F.” He's failed to dismiss, as he has the power to, any of the officers whose reckless conduct contributed directly to Eric Garner's death; refused to include in the city budget money to support reduced or free subway and bus fares for poor New Yorkers -- instead, his police department arrests them; substantially ducked pressure to diversify our public schools, the country's third most segregated system; in response to credible charges that his administration engaged regularly in "pay-to-play" transactions benefitting major donors, promised to publish a list of wealthy contributors who received no government favors, then failed to do so; despite loud outcry by public defender groups, refused to provide legal representation to immigrant New Yorkers facing deportation convicted of felonies no matter how long ago.

De Blasio's record also exposes his tenuous relationship with facts. He's publicly repeated that the NYPD has ended most marijuana possession arrests, when last year it made 17,880. He claimed in donor appeals during last year's mayoral race that "special interests have spent $13 million to stop us." According to The New York Times, that figure includes $5.8 million that Uber spent in 2015 lobbying to beat back his attempt to limit the number of its cars on the roads. He claims New York as a "sanctuary city" despite his "broken windows" policing putting undocumented New Yorkers at risk of deportation daily.

De Blasio often states that he is the first Democrat elected New York City mayor in 20 years. It's a disingenuous point -- his predecessor Mike Bloomberg was a life-long Democrat who switched party affiliation to run for mayor in 2001 and who supported many standard liberal positions, such as on abortion, gay rights, gun control, and immigration. Even the notoriously law-and-order mayor from the ‘90s, Rudy Giuliani, backed most of those stances, too.

As the truth sets in, more New Yorkers see past the mayor's liberal rhetoric and recognize what his record reveals, that he is a mainstream, opportunistic politician. Cynthia Nixon, who's had an impressive early run out of the gate, confronts an important political call. To maintain her credibility as a progressive alternative to the governor, she must put some distance between herself and her old friend de Blasio.

For example, she must call for an end to biased and abusive "broken windows" policing and for dismissing the officers involved in the Eric Garner incident. She must promote free or reduced public transit fares for low-income New Yorkers and an aggressive plan to desegregate our public schools. She must call out and take on big real estate and propose an affordable housing plan that provides units that people living in poor communities can actually afford.

Finally, Nixon cannot lay a blanket charge of corruption just on Cuomo when evidence of  "pay-to-play" governance has clearly tarnished the de Blasio administration. Taking such steps will increase her standing as an outspoken progressive with broad appeal for the voters likely to cast ballots in the Democratic primary in September. in addition to being strategic politically, it has the advantage of being the right thing to do.

Bob Gangi is the director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). On Twitter @GangiFromPROP.

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Cynthia Nixon Should Avoid De Blasio’s Sham Progressivism Thu, 29 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Five Democrats Will Be On The Mayoral Ballot, But Only Two Will Debate c8ske5txoaa5ql4.jpg large

Mayoral candidate Robert Gangi (photo:@GangiForMayor)

The first official debate in the Democratic mayoral primary is set for Wednesday, August 23, where Mayor Bill de Blasio will face former City Council Member Sal Albanese. But three more Democrats, all of whom will be on the September 12 ballot, failed to qualify for the debate and are crying foul that the Campaign Finance Board’s eligibility criteria are excluding them from participation.

For candidates to qualify for the first of two official CFB primary debates, they must have raised and spent at least $174,225, which is 2.5 percent of the $6,969,000 primary expenditure limit.

For the second “leading contenders” debate, for Democrats on September 6, a candidate must meet the fundraising and expenditure threshold as well as one of three additional criteria. These include an endorsement from a citywide, statewide or federal elected official who represents the area covered by the election; or an endorsement from a organization with 250 members; or “significant media exposure” in the 12 months before the election, defined in this case as 12 appearances in print, television, digital, or other local media.

Only de Blasio and Albanese have met the criteria for both primary debates. As of the latest filing, for mid-August, de Blasio has raised $4.8 million and spent $2.4 million, and recently received a public funds matching payment of $2.5 million, giving him $4.9 million in cash on hand. Albanese has raised just over $191,000 and spent $185,000, leaving just over $5,000 in his campaign account as of the filing. He has not yet qualified for matching funds.

Candidates who participate in the CFB’s public matching funds program must appear in the debates if they qualify. For non-participants, inclusion in the debates is not guaranteed, the debate sponsors can choose to invite them.

The three other Democratic candidates on the ballot -- attorney Richard Bashner, police reform advocate Robert Gangi, and tech entrepreneur Michael Tolkin -- did not meet the threshold for the first primary debate. Both Bashner and Gangi have struggled to raise the necessary funds; Tolkin is the sole candidate of the bunch to not participate in the public funds program and would need to be invited on to the debate stage by sponsors.

Bashner, Gangi, and Tolkin are all protesting the CFB requirements and the fact that they will be on the outside looking in when de Blasio and Albanese face off. Even Albanese has criticized the requirements, which he barely met after a furious spending spree, and made an argument for a different threshold.

In the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary, the debate thresholds were far lower: candidates had to raise and spend $50,000 but they also had to have received 2 percent in either a Quinnipiac University Poll or Marist Poll. Those thresholds were changed late last year through legislation passed by the City Council -- sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee -- and signed by de Blasio that increased the debate standards to the current 2.5 percent of the expenditure limit, as well as disqualifying loans or outstanding liabilities as counting towards that expenditure.

The bill was based on one of 14 recommendations by the CFB in its 2013 post-election report, which pointed out that debate thresholds had remained unchanged since 2005 while expenditure limits had increased more than 20 percent. “An increased standard, tied to the expenditure limit, is a better objective indicator of viability,” the report stated, recommending the increase.

Bashner has taken particular issue with the bill, insisting that it was a conflict for Mayor de Blasio to sign it into law since it has largely benefited him. The Brooklyn-based attorney and community board member has raised about $118,785 and spent $104,000, but $50,000 in contributions were a personal loan he made to his campaign.

In a letter to the CFB on Monday, Bashner called the bill that changed the debate law the “Incumbent Protection Act” and called on the board to allow all the mayor’s challengers to participate in the debates. At the very least, he argued, those who have met the 2013 threshold of $50,000 should be included. “Voters deserve the opportunity to hear where each of these challengers stands on the critical issues facing our city,” he wrote. “To silence the voices of these candidates is to impede democracy.”

Council Member Kallos defended the legislation, saying the CFB’s recommendation to increase the threshold was a “reasonable” one. “The piece that I found to be important was that candidates had to actually be spending money towards winning an election and that loans and liabilities wouldn’t count,” he said in a phone interview, insisting that the effect was two-fold. “Wealthy people couldn’t just write themselves a loan that they intended to pay back fully,” to get into the debates. “It also just changes it from a situation where people could loan and spend money that was illusory as opposed to raising and spending actual dollars.”

At one point, it did seem that de Blasio would commit to an open debate with his opponents. He initially seemed reluctant, insisting in a July interview on NY1, “We’re going to follow the CFB rules.” None of his opponents had qualified for the debates by then. The mayor then changed his position, saying in an August 3 tweet, “Regardless of CFB requirements, I'll be on a debate stage before the Sept 12th primary.”

Albanese criticized the mayor’s flip-flop, saying de Blasio issued the statement “when he saw that I was gonna blow past the threshold.” “I don’t find that to be a good government position, it was more of a political, expedient position,” he added.

It’s unclear if the mayor will end up debating all the candidates on the ballot. "Under Mayor de Blasio crime is at record lows, jobs are at record highs, and New York City is building affordable housing at a record pace. We are happy for any opportunity to talk about the Mayor’s record and we look forward to debating whoever the CFB and debate sponsors decide to include,” said Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for de Blasio's campaign, in an email.

Gangi and Tolkin have directed their ire more towards the CFB, taking turns to condemn the debate requirements and the board itself.

"The CFB's decision is a disgrace,” Tolkin said in a statement Tuesday. “It is reflective of a system virtually designed to keep non-politicians out of the election process. We are studying this decision closely and considering a range of options; however, it is clear that a comprehensive review of the CFB’s decision-making process is long overdue.”

Tolkin has taken a peculiar approach to his campaign finances, showing almost $8 million in personal in-kind contributions to his campaign, which are also counted as expenditures. But the CFB determined that those did not qualify him for the debate. Nevertheless, Tolkin challenged de Blasio to participate in three additional debates before the primary with all the Democratic candidates. “Mayor de Blasio’s unwillingness to participate in debates with the full slate of candidates is an obstruction to a fair and transparent primary process - one that he was afforded as a candidate in 2013,” he said.

For Gangi, campaign fundraising has been an even bigger challenge. He has raised only about $88,000 and spent just over $75,000. But, like Bashner, he lent his campaign a significant sum, $74,000, which would not count towards the contribution limit for the debates.

In a campaign statement on Tuesday, Gangi said the financial thresholds “are inherently unfair and undemocratic” by favoring wealthy candidates and incumbents with access to deep-pocketed donors. He was particularly incensed that he had been excluded after the CFB had issued public funds to de Blasio’s campaign partly based on a de Blasio campaign “statement of need” that pointed to Gangi as one of the mayor’s main competitors. “On what basis does the CFB then decide that de Blasio does not have to debate me?” he wondered.

“If my campaign is part of the rationale for granting the Mayor an extra [$2.5] million in tax payer [sic] matching funds, then it should have sufficient standing to earn a seat at the debate table,” he added.

CFB spokesperson Matt Sollars said in an email that the new thresholds were adopted in advance so all candidates would be aware of them. “City law sets objective, nonpartisan criteria for eligibility to participate in the citywide debates,” he said. “These criteria ensure that voters get a robust debate among candidates who have demonstrated public support.”

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Five Democrats Will Be On The Mayoral Ballot, But Only Two Will Debate Wed, 16 Aug 2017 02:11:01 +0000
Democratic Challengers Fire Away at De Blasio. Is Anybody Listening?  albanese club crop

Mayoral candidate Sal Albanese (photo: @SalAlbaneseNYC)

Mayor Bill de Blasio won the mayoralty in 2013 on a progressive platform deriding the “Tale of Two Cities” that had developed in New York. He identified an unsustainable level of income inequality and biased police department, and promised an activist government focused on creating more opportunity for all. In some respects, de Blasio has followed through. But the mayor has also dealt with criticism from various corners on what have been deemed the failures of his administration.

As de Blasio seeks a second term this year, the Democratic incumbent is facing some vocal critics, especially the candidates seeking to replace him.

When two law enforcement investigations into behavior of the mayor and his associates resulted in no charges, several Democratic heavyweights considering a mayoral run -- headlined by Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. -- decided not to challenge de Blasio.

Now, with two months before the primary, the mayor faces two main Democratic challengers, former City Council Member Sal Albanese and police reform activist Bob Gangi. While de Blasio is a heavy favorite come September 12, neither Albanese nor Gangi is pulling any punches as they attack the mayor and try to see their respective campaigns lift off.

Both challengers recently discussed at length their candidacies and de Blasio’s record on the Max and Murphy podcast, a joint effort between Gotham Gazette and City Limits. (De Blasio has an open invitation to join the podcast and his campaign team has said they would get back to Gotham Gazette about the possibility. Republican Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl, both mayoral candidates, are booked for upcoming podcasts.)

Gangi has never run for office before, but is no stranger to city politics and policy, having spent his career in activism. While his campaign is motivated by the issue of policing and criminal justice reform, on which he calls de Blasio a moderate, he has expanded to address other issues, like affordable housing and transportation equity. Albanese, meanwhile, is more of a seasoned politician, though he has not held elected office in many years. He unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 1997 and 2013. Albanese is known as an independent-minded reformer who doesn’t easily fit an ideological label, while Gangi flanks de Blasio’s left on almost every issue.

“I’m to the left of Gangi on political reform,” Albanese said on the podcast, where he explained his number one issue is campaign finance reform. “He never talks about it...maybe on “law and order” issues, I’d be considered a moderate, I guess, because I don’t spend 24/7 beating up our uniformed forces.” Albanese has been vocal deriding de Blasio on the mayor’s fundraising practices, his overall ethics and management, and his lack of support for the NYPD.

Albanese’s number one policy proposal is “democracy vouchers,” a type of campaign finance reform in which a fixed sum of money is granted to each citizen to donate to political candidates. The goal, Albanese explains, is to totally remove private money from elections. Albanese also supports non-partisan elections and calls for pension system reform, to streamline management of the city’s sizeable public pensions.

Albanese is also talking a lot about the subways, seizing on the city’s transit woes and saying he wants to be “the mass transit mayor.” Albanese frequently tweets pictures of the subway car he’s riding in to contrast himself with de Blasio, who takes the subway infrequently and has weathered criticism for taking an SUV from Gracie Mansion to his gym in Park Slope on many weekday mornings. Albanese believes that, despite control of the MTA being largely in the hands of the governor, the city can still play a bigger role in fixing its transit issues; he has pledged to add $1 billion in city money to the MTA capital plan, in order to fix the subway’s ailing signals, among other things.

Other proposals by the Albanese campaign include new Mitchell Lama development in place of the mayor’s proposal to build 90 new homeless shelters, a tax on real estate purchased by foreign individuals and corporations as investments rather than residences, and consolidating “programs like Head Start and pre-K under a single city agency.”

Gangi’s defining campaign issue is criminal justice reform, and he is highly critical of de Blasio’s failure to comprehensively reform NYPD practices, especially so-called broken windows policing, which relies on intensive enforcement of low-level offenses in the effort to prevent major crimes. Gangi points to bias in law enforcement, citing data that shows while stop-and-frisks or arrests for certain offenses may be down, racial disparities remain, with people of color stopped or arrested far more often than white people.

He has also called for the dismissal of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s 2014 death and is currently on desk duty after he was not indicted. There is a federal inquiry into the incident that is ongoing. Gangi has called for the NYPD budget to be slashed, to establish an independent agency to investigate police abuse, and for transferring traffic enforcement from the NYPD to another city agency.

On the podcast, Gangi said that when the mayor was elected in 2013, he was hopeful that policing and criminal justice reform would be achieved, based on de Blasio’s campaign rhetoric. When de Blasio appointed Bill Bratton, an architect of the broken windows policing model, to again serve as police commissioner, Gangi wanted to “give him a chance,” against the wishes of his compatriots in the police reform community.

“Bratton, as you guys know, was Mr. Broken Windows. And, a group formed right away, New Yorkers Against Bratton, and I disagree with that strategy,” Gangi said. But, Gangi explained, he quickly found that de Blasio and Bratton were not what they advertised themselves as. Gangi maintains that the NYPD practices “quota-driven policing,” which the department has fervently denied many times.

Aside from criminal justice reform, Gangi has also made smaller class sizes, which he says improve student and teacher performance, a central plank of his campaign. He has also called for immediately increasing the minimum wage in the city to $15, which it is scheduled to reach by 2019; free subway and bus fares for low-income New Yorkers, to be paid for by “jettisoning” de Blasio’s BQX streetcar plan; establishing a “New York City Land Bank”; ensuring a right to counsel for undocumented immigrants; and prohibiting ICE from being in the vicinity of city buildings.

While Albanese comes from a different camp on policing, there are several issues where de Blasio’s two main Democratic challengers agree, such as providing free tuition at CUNY and using a revised local median income to make determinations for affordable housing.

Above all else, it seems, the two find common ground on their mutual distaste for the mayor. Both believe that he is not the progressive that he says he is, or even a progressive at all.

“He claims to be a progressive, he wears that mantle easily,” Gangi said. “Most of the press keep calling him progressive, and he’s not progressive.” He called universal pre-kindergarten and rent freezes for rent-stabilized apartments the only two progressive things the mayor has done, criticizing his non-committal stance on providing reduced transit fares as “regressive.” He also criticized the mayor’s Rikers Island jails closure plan, and the plan to build new jails in the boroughs, as insufficient; on his website, Gangi proposes closing Rikers within one year of the start of his administration. Gangi believes the city can reduce the incarcerated population much more quickly by moving away from broken windows policing.

Albanese believes that one can claim to be a progressive all they want, but the mayoralty is not really about political philosophy or grand rhetoric, but about management of city government and services; in other words: being the pothole mayor.

“He talks a good game,” Albanese said of de Blasio on the podcast. “‘I’m a progressive, we want to address income inequality.’ But at the end of the day, it’s about putting your resources in the right place and executing, and he’s failed dismally on that.” He cited the mayor’s failure on the Build It Back Sandy recovery program, which he referred to as “Build It Broke,” a name used by NY1 television, as a prime example of the mayor’s managerial failure, unfavorably comparing him to his predecessor Michael Bloomberg. “Bloomberg, whatever his other flaws were, he was a manager. He hired top flight talent, and he held people accountable. I mean, Build It Back, he didn’t do a good job there, but he was a manager. And, [de Blasio] just does not execute.”

Albanese has criticized the mayor for management failures related to a wide variety of city agencies and services, including the school system and Department of Correction. He’s said the mayor has been ineffective because he is too focused on his own political brand, taking too many trips outside the city and attempting to influence national politics.

While Gangi and Albanese both have policy platforms of their own and sharp critiques of the mayor’s record, they have each struggled to gain media attention and to raise money, though Albanese has raised significantly more than Gangi. The next campaign finance filing, due by July 17, will tell a lot more about the challengers’ viability in running a strong campaign over the coming months. They must each also hit certain thresholds to qualify for a city-sanctioned primary debate against de Blasio, of which there can be up to two.

As of the latest Campaign Finance Board filing date on May 15, Albanese had raised $82,838 and had $76,918 on hand to spend. Gangi had raised $51,404, including $45,000 in loans from himself, and had $47,491 cash on hand.

The most recent Quinnipiac poll on the mayor’s race, in May, did not include any questions about either Gangi or Albanese, which Albanese criticized.

In a statement to Gotham Gazette, the de Blasio campaign touted the mayor’s record, but declined to comment directly about either or both of the mayor’s main Democratic challengers.

“Mayor de Blasio expanded Pre-K for every 4 year-old and will do the same for every 3 year-old.  Crime is at record lows, jobs are at a record high, New York City is building affordable housing at a record pace, and rents were frozen for more than 2 million tenants. That is the Mayor’s record, and it is one that New Yorkers are rallying around.”

The lack of comment on Albanese and Gangi comes in contrast to statements put out by the de Blasio campaign about the presumptive Republican nominee, Nicole Malliotakis, an Assembly member from Staten Island. The de Blasio campaign has attempted to tie Malliotakis to Republican President Donald Trump, and criticized her positions on a variety of issues. The campaign appears to be ignoring Gangi and Albanese, however. De Blasio is popular among fellow Democrats and Democratic elected officials, and has widespread support from labor unions, which typically help drive turnout in city elections.

The two Democratic candidates acknowledge the tough road facing them, but both are forging ahead. Albanese has also secured the Reform Party ballot line, so he will be on the November mayoral ballot no matter the outcome of the Democratic primary.

“My bigger concern, and I’ll get to the concern about damaging de Blasio,” Gangi said on the podcast when asked if he had any qualms about potentially hurting the incumbent in a general election, “is that we don’t get a sufficient lift off for our campaign so that people could say ‘well look, you know, Gangi made this effort, he had some people behind him, and clearly there are not enough New Yorkers who care about these issues, who want to eliminate racism from the police department, who want to provide decent housing for homeless people and poor people, who want to provide better education, free fares on the subways and the buses.’”

Albanese acknowledges the very uphill primary battle but claims that he has a path to victory. He says that low turnout would be his death knell, but that the mayor has “paper thin” support throughout the city.

“There’s a lot of, as I said, negative feedback around Bill de Blasio,” Albanese said. “And if there’s an option, people will gravitate to that option. As long as you present a decent option.”

[Listen to episodes of the Max & Murphy podcast, including those with Gangi and Albanese, here]

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Democratic Challengers Fire Away at De Blasio. Is Anybody Listening? Wed, 12 Jul 2017 20:21:44 +0000
The Max & Murphy Podcast max murphy art final alt 01

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

"Max & Murphy" is a podcast hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits that began in 2016 as a brief discussion on the latest in housing policy but quickly expanded to lengthier discussions of a wide variety of political and policy issues, including interviews with candidates for office, elected and appointed government officials, advocates and other experts. In 2017 the show was an important stop for candidates for top city offices and in 2018 for candidates for state offices. Also in 2018, the podcast was picked up by WBAI radio, where the show initially airs on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. Portions or full episodes of the show are then posted to the podcast streams, and to the Gotham Gazette and City Limits websites. 

Find episodes through the links below, or find "Max & Murphy" wherever you get your podcasts: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. Find it and please rate and subscribe!

Have feedback? Find us on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy.

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The Coronavirus Crisis & Vulnerable Children, with Jennifer March The Coronavirus Crisis & Vulnerable Children, with Jennifer March - March 18, 2020
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ste levin wbai400 The City Council's Plan to Reduce Homelessness, with Council Member Stephen Levin - February 12, 2020
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wbai loree 400 Mayoral Candidate Loree Sutton - February 5, 2020
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econ wbai 400 How the City's Economy is WorkingHow the City's Economy is Working - January 29, 2020
How the City is Addressing a Rise in Hate Crimes, with Deborah Lauter How the City is Addressing a Rise in Hate Crimes, with Deborah Lauter - January 22, 2020
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wbai115 400px The Bushwick Rezoning Hits an Impasse, with City Council Member Antonio Reynoso - January 15, 2020
wbai115t 400px Taking Stock of City Housing Policies, with NYU Furman Center's Matthew Murphy - January 15, 2020
jan wbai krueger400 Cuomo's State of the State & What's Next, with Senator Liz Krueger - January 8, 2020
spk co jo 0101 2020 Vision - Previewing the Year Ahead in New York Politics - January 1, 2020
The Top 10 Stories of 2019 in New York Politics The Top 10 Stories of 2019 in New York Politics - December 25, 2019
Advocates Question NYPD's Gang Policing Advocates Question NYPD's Gang Policing - December 18, 2019
State Campaign Finance Reform Takes Shape, with Challenge to Minor Parties - with Jay Jacobs & Jessica Wisneski State Campaign Finance Reform Takes Shape, with Challenge to Minor Parties, with Jay Jacobs & Jessica Wisneski - December 4, 2019
Debating Major Criminal Justice Reforms Taking Effect in January Debating Major Criminal Justice Reforms Taking Effect in January - November 27, 2019
comptroller scott stringer wbai 400 Comptroller Scott Stringer — November 20, 2019
christine quinn 400px Christine Quinn on Homelessness, Making Government Work, & Her Future — November 13, 2019
Analyzing the 2019 Election Results Analyzing the 2019 Election Results — November 6, 2019
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rb sl podcast400 Breaking Down the Consequential Questions on Your Ballot — October 24, 2019
Public Adocate Jumaane Williams, Joseph Borelli, and Devin Balkind The Candidates for Public Advocate — October 21, 2019
hunters point 400 Post-Presidential Campaign, De Blasio Faces Final 2+ Years as Mayor - with Errol Louis, David Jones & Sally Goldenberg — October 2, 2019
The Future of Fusion Voting in New York The Future of Fusion Voting in New York — September 25, 2019
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The City's Fight Against Homelessness, with Commissioner Steve Banks The City's Fight Against Homelessness, with Commissioner Steve Banks — September 18, 2019
police wbai b400 NYPD Counterterrorism Chief John Miller on the Anniversary of 9/11 — September 11, 2019
may bdb ps 400 wbai Recommendations from the Mayor's School Diversity Task Force & What Comes Next - with task force member Matt Gonzales & City Council Member Mark Treyger — September 4, 2019
ccrb eric garner wbai 400 How the CCRB Prosecuted the Eric Garner Case — August 28, 2019
The 30th Anniversary of David Dinkins' Election as Mayor The 30th Anniversary of David Dinkins' Election as Mayor — August 21, 2019
joe borelli wbai400 The Future of the Republican Party in New York, with City Council Member Joe Borelli — August 14, 2019
gov cuomo tour wbai 400px Reentry Programming, State Prison and Parole Policy - with Liz Gaynes of Osborne Association— August 7, 2019
Senator Michael Gianaris Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris on Gun Control, Queens Politics & More — August 7, 2019
Planning for the City's Future with Brad Lander Planning for the City's Future — July 31, 2019
A 'Mass Shooting' in Brownsville & the Community Response, with Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel A 'Mass Shooting' in Brownsville & the Community Response, with Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel — July 31, 2019
Council Member Donovan Richards City Council Public Safety Chair on NYPD Accountability - with Council Member Donovan Richards — July 24, 2019
Council Member Justin Brannan Examining the City's Resiliency Planning & Emergency Preparedness - with Council Member Justin Brannan — July 24, 2019
162 replace rikers City Plan to Replace Rikers Island Jails Moves Ahead — July 17, 2019
163 spker cojo Transit Organizing & the Future of the MTA — July 17, 2019
eric officers councilcall400 The Police Reform Movement is Focused on NYPD Officer Accountability — July 10, 2019
the Queens District Attorney Primary Heads to Recount The Queens District Attorney Primary Heads to Recount — July 10, 2019
mryie krueger wbai 400px State Senators Liz Krueger & Zellnor Myrie on the Year in Albany — June 26, 2019
caban katz 400 Analyzing Queens District Attorney Primary Results — June 26, 2019
qns da 400 Breaking Down the Queens District Attorney Race — June 19, 2019
climate landmark 400px Landmark Climate Legislation in Albany — June 19, 2019
bbp eric adams wbai 400 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — June 12, 2019
gov cuomo albany mxm wbai Dissecting Dynamics in Albany — June 12, 2019
mayors vz redesign1 Is Vision Zero Stalled? — June 5, 2019
Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA — May 29, 2019
NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia — May 29, 2019
cm carlos menacha 2 wbai 400 Pressing Immigration Issues, with City Council Member Carlos Menchaca — May 7, 2019
mayor bdb gop tax ph 400 Should De Blasio Run for President? — May 7, 2019
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — May 1, 2019
may b d blasio first ferry The 2019 City Charter Commission Narrows Its Focus - with Commission Chair Gail Benjamin & Carol Kellermann — April 24, 2019
Senator Jessica Ramos on the Adopted State Budget & Upcoming Albany Agenda Senator Jessica Ramos on the Adopted State Budget & Upcoming Albany Agenda — April 17, 2019
The City Council Takes on Climate Change, with Council Member Costa Constantinides The City Council Takes on Climate Change, with Council Member Costa Constantinides — April 17, 2019
lead emil cohen City Council Speaker Corey JohnsonCity Council Speaker Corey Johnson — April 10, 2019
cuomo 400 2 State Budget Takeaways — April 3, 2019
mckee ricci 400 The Debate Over Rent Regulations — April 3, 2019
ruben diaz jr 400 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — March 27, 2019
elena conte 400 Should the City Develop a Comprehensive Plan? with Elena Conte of Pratt Center — March 27, 2019
nassau county executive laura curran 400 Concerns About Marijuana Legalization, with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran — March 20, 2019
assemblymember richard gottfried 400 Getting to Yes on Marijuana Legalization, with Assemblymember Richard Gottfried — March 20, 2019
tina luongo 400 The Push for Criminal Justice Reform, with Tina Luongo of Legal Aid Society— March 13, 2019
tom dinapoli 400 Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on the State Budget — March 13, 2019
dav carlucci senate400 State Senator David Carlucci — March 6, 2019
speaker co jo 400px Should the City Run the Subways? — March 6, 2019
reb katz 400px De Blasio's Presidential Ambition & the 2020 Democratic Field — February 27, 2019
pa jwilliams400 Public Advocate-Elect Jumaane Williams — February 27, 2019
yd rod 400px Public Advocate Candidate Ydanis Rodriguez — February 20, 2019
ju williams 400px Public Advocate Candidate Jumaane Williams — February 20, 2019
rita pasarell wbai 400 A Hearing on Sexual Harassment in Albany — February 13, 2019
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito Public Advocate Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito — February 13, 2019
The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel — February 7, 2019
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi State Senator Alessandra Biaggi — February 7, 2019
jrich 400px Public Advocate Candidate Jared Rich — January 30, 2019
byee 400px Public Advocate Candidate Ben Yee — January 30, 2019
Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst — January 23, 2019
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim — January 23, 2019
dawn smalls 400 Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls — January 16, 2019
danny odonnell 400b Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell — January 16, 2019
michael blake 400px Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake — January 16, 2019
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich — January 9, 2019
Gov Andrew Cuomo 2019 agenda 100 days Should Andrew Cuomo Run for President? — January 02, 2019
rafael espinal 1 2 wbai 400 Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal — January 02, 2019
mxm logo 400px Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019 — Decemeber 26, 2019
wbai 12 19 kathy hochul 400 Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on 2019 Priorities — Decemeber 19, 2018
wbai 12 19 scott stringer 400 Comptroller Scott Stringer — Decemeber 19, 2018
Gustavo Rivera and Bill Hammond Will Single-Payer Health Care Come to New York? — Decemeber 12, 2018
wbai hirsh jw 400b De Blasio Finishes Year 5 & The Push for 'Fair Elections for New York' — Decemeber 5, 2018
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Max & Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing & the MTA in 2019 Congestion Pricing & the MTA in 2019 — November 21, 2018
latrice walker wbai 400 Bail Reform with Assemblymember Latrice Walker — November 14, 2018
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Analyzing 2018 Election Results & Looking Ahead to 2019, with Alyssa Katz of The Daily News Analyzing 2018 Election Results & Looking Ahead to 2019, with Alyssa Katz of The Daily News — November 7, 2018
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tom dinapoli 400 Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — October 3, 2018
john trichter 130 Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller — October 3, 2018
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rebecca katz 400 Primary Post-Mortem with Top Cynthia Nixon Strategist — September 19, 2018
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myrie hamilton 400 Central Brooklyn Senate Primary Tests IDC Awareness (with Zellnor Myrie and Senator Jesse Hamilton) — August 15, 2018
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(with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrats (with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) — August 8, 2018
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marisol alcantara robert jackson state 400 Manhattan State Senate Rematch Centered on Breakaway Democrats — August 1, 2018
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tish james 400px Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary — July 18, 2018
zephyr teachout 400 Attorney General Candidate Zephyr Teachout — July 9, 2018
rosenthal holtzman pod 400 The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws — June 25, 2018
gelinas 477 A New Era at The MTA? with Nicole Gelinas — June 21, 2018
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul — June 14, 2018
fortune society reps for 400 Criminal Justice Reform in New York — June 5, 2018
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — June 1, 2018
mxm logo 400px State Party Conventions & Nominations — May 25, 2018
pod steph miner 400 163 Stephanie Miner — May 15, 2018
joe borelli podcast map 400 City Council Member Joe Borelli — May 7, 2018
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Stanley fritz citizen action 400px Political Purity Tests in New York — April 25, 2018
susan lerner cc ny 400px Reforming Special Elections & More in Albany — April 17, 2018
suing nycha 400 Suing NYCHA — April 10, 2018
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Chirlane McCray First Lady Chirlane McCray — March 26, 2018
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ramos jackson podcast IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos — February 26, 2018
Jumaane Williams Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams — February 23, 2018
feb14 podcast Analyzing De Blasio's State of the City Address — February 14, 2018
Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany — January 30, 2018
bdb mayor hearing 400px De Blasio's 2nd Term Focus on Education — January 30, 2018
alex matthiessen move ny 400 Congestion Pricing with Alex Matthiessen of Move New York — January 22, 2018
ritchie torres 400px City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role — January 17, 2018
rivera brannan 400x167 New City Council Members Justin Brannan & Carlina Rivera — January 10, 2018
bdb400px Big Political News to Start 2018 — January 3, 2018
melissa mark viverito alatriste podium400 City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — December 15, 2017
eric koch 400 Eric Koch, former City Council communications director — December 15, 2017
Shola Olayote NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye — December 7, 2017
liz crowley podcast 400 City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley — December 5, 2017
bill de blasio 2nd term 400px Previewing de Blasio's 2nd term — November 27, 2017
bdb voting sign in 400 Analyzing the 2017 Election Results — November 9, 2017
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mayoral candidates 400 Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate — November 3, 2017
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debate stage400 Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate — October 11, 2017
tish james400 Public Advocate Letitia James — October 2, 2017
Michel faulkner Comptroller candidate Michel Faulkner — September 29, 2017
jcpolanco 400 Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco — September 18, 2017
gifford miller city council 400px Gifford Miller, former Speaker of the City Council and mayoral candidate — September 11, 2017
brigid bergin and ben max400px Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio — September 5, 2017
Joseph Viteritti De Blasio Author Joseph Viteritti — August 30, 2017
Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach — August 28, 2017
azi paybarah tv 400px167px Azi Paybarah — August 17, 2017
Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell — August 15, 2017
max murphy katz fullington res The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists — July 31, 2017
bo dietl Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl — July 24, 2017
nicole malliotakis Republican Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotaki — July 13, 2017
eric phillips Eric Phillips, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio — July 5, 2017
sal albanese Democratic Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese — June 26, 2017
paul massey 

Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey — June 19, 2017 (note: Paul Massey dropped out of the mayoral race on June 28, though the episode is still worth listening to)

bob gangi Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi — June 12, 2017
mxm logo 400px Election Season is Here! — June 1, 2017

A variety of earlier episodes of the Max & Murphy Podcast, through the archive, often focused on New York housing policy and politics — see all episodes from the start February 12, 2016 to May 25, 2017

The Max & Murphy Podcast Sun, 25 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
We Need a New Urban Agenda CUNY graduation

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

Make no mistake, our great city has a racial caste system that continues to plague us. It is time that we craft and execute a comprehensive and coherent progressive urban agenda.

I have not been able to find such an agenda from any leader or institution, not from Barack Obama or even Bernie Sanders. It's as if an urban agenda, since the long ago days of JFK and LBJ and our nation's anti-poverty programs and civil rights movement, has gone out of political fashion.

In the current vacuum, my team and I have begun crafting an urban agenda, with the immediate purpose of promoting racial, social, and economic justice for all New Yorkers.

A work in progress, it consists for now of these fundamental policy reforms:

*Ending, not tweaking or adjusting, the blatantly racist and deeply inhumane quota-driven "broken windows" policing practices that target poor New Yorkers of color -- sometimes via false arrests or bogus summonses -- for engaging in infractions that officers virtually ignore in white communities.

*As recently proposed by the blue-ribbon Lippmann Commission (and rejected publicly by Mayor de Blasio), decriminalizing four minor offenses: marijuana possession; sex work; fare evasion; and gravity knife possession.

*Closing the jails on Rikers Island by the end of 2018 and housing the city's reduced inmate population in existing borough facilities.

*Instituting small classes and integrated student bodies for the 1.1 million children attending our city public schools.

*Providing homes, not just shelters, for 60,000 homeless New Yorkers, over one-third of whom are children.

*Providing truly affordable housing units for low-income households so they can live in their neighborhoods or a neighborhood of their choosing. Work primarily with experienced and proven community-based housing groups to achieve this, including creating suitable entities like community land trusts and removing big real estate from the equation.

*Instead of arresting New Yorkers for fare evasion as is the NYPD's frequent practice -- at the rate of over 70 such arrests per day -- providing free fares for low-income people who need to use public transportation to get to work, job interviews, school, medical appointments, child care providers, and elsewhere.

*Taking a chapter from our nation's New Deal history book, institute at the city's Parks Department, its housing agencies, and other appropriate entities a public works project program that provides living wage jobs and valuable work experience to unemployed New Yorkers, whose assigned tasks will focus on repairing the city's decaying infrastructure.

*Providing free tuition at CUNY colleges for New Yorkers from low- and middle-income families.

Skeptics may call this urban agenda impractical or too far-reaching, but it is animated by the spirit behind the saying that Robert Kennedy borrowed from George Bernard Shaw and used often in his 1968 presidential bid: "Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others see things that never were and ask why not."

While recognizing the good that these reforms would achieve, other doubters may question where we'd find the money to pay for them. For starters, we point to these potential savings: the $275 million and the $1.1 billion that Mayor de Blasio has included in his recent budget proposals to build a new police academy and to design new jails. Plus, our police and criminal justice reforms would lead to significant reductions in the approximately $10 billion per year that the the city spends on its law enforcement system.

This new urban agenda, which we’ll continue to develop, would enrich the quality of life for all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable and heretofore discriminated groups. Given how much progress it would make toward creating a truly just, safe, inclusive, and affordable city for all New Yorkers, the question is not ‘how can you do it’, but ‘how can you not?’

Bob Gangi is a Democratic candidate for Mayor and former executive director of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP).

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email

We Need a New Urban Agenda Thu, 15 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
With Subways in Crisis, It’s Showtime for Mayoral Candidates Cuomo subway train

(photo: The Governor's Office)

Standing near a City Hall subway stop, Staten Island Assembly member and GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis railed against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the city’s transit system and its state-controlled operator, the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

At a podium set up just outside a 4 and 5 train entrance -- the same station that the mayor and his family emerged from for his inauguration on January 1, 2014 -- Malliotakis said last Friday that de Blasio has been ineffective and pledged that if she is elected mayor, she’ll provide additional city investment into the ailing system.

“The mayor cannot keep pointing fingers, he needs to take responsibility for the subway system that runs through his city,” she said, as puzzled straphangers emerged from the stairs behind her.

The issue of what to do about the city’s beleaguered public transportation system has quickly become a central question before the September primaries and November mayoral election. With cascading delays and the looming closure of the L train just as the subway’s ridership has ballooned to over 5.6 million commuters on an average weekday, the transit system’s troubles are threatening to devolve into a full-blown crisis, and Malliotakis isn’t the only mayoral candidate pouncing on the issue.

On Monday morning, former City Council member and Democratic candidate Sal Albanese echoed Malliotakis as he stood outside the midtown offices of Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was there to hand-deliver a letter to Cuomo’s staff – the governor was in Albany – in which he pledged to immediately increase the city’s MTA capital funding to $1 billion annually if elected mayor, and to work with the governor. “We can’t take the position that this service is basically a ping-pong ball between the mayor and the governor,” he said, alluding the icy relationship between de Blasio and Cuomo.

Paul Massey, a millionaire real-estate executive and political novice who is seeking the Republican nomination, seems to want to regain his footing after having stumbled somewhat over the transit issue at a mid-May press conference in front of City Hall, where he was critical of the mayor and alluded to “a lot of problems in our mass transit system,” but didn’t give any specific ideas for fixes when asked for details.

A spokesperson for Massey said that the campaign will roll out a “comprehensive plan next week” and outlined some of the plan’s main points: additional funding for the MTA is necessary, but any increase in the city’s contribution would be “conditional on the city taking back control of our transit system, including additional NYC representation on the MTA board.” This would likely entail a change to the MTA’s charter, which would have to be approved by the state legislature.

In addition, Massey’s campaign said it will unveil plans for “immediate system-wide upgrade of subway signals and switches,” “a ground-up overhaul of city traffic management policies,” and “transformative infrastructure investment in all five boroughs.” Massey mentioned some of the looming platform when he campaigned Monday evening outside a subway stop on the Upper East Side.

The idea of conditional increased funding was also put forward by activist and Democratic hopeful Robert Gangi, who said in a phone call that he would “communicate that [the city] is prepared to increase its investment but at the same time get some understandings and some commitments about where the money should go,” including the purchase of “a significant amount of new buses and subway cars.” He did not have a specific number for funding increases, but said he would study the issue.

Gangi’s main transportation plank is less about infrastructure and more about socioeconomics: he backs the “fair fares” plan to provide free access to public transportation, including subways and buses, to low income New Yorkers. He claims he would pay for it in part by cancelling other transportation proposals, such as the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar announced last year by the mayor.

Public transportation is fundamental to the largest city in the country and its elected leaders. But the issue is taking on new urgency just as the city’s political calendar heats up.

“This is a bread-and-butter issue, this is not some esoteric issue. This is what drives the city’s economy,” said Albanese, expressing a sentiment echoed in some way by every candidate Gotham Gazette spoke to (along with Albanese, Gangi, Massey, and Malliotakis, there are a handful of other mayoral candidates).

Similarly, none of those four candidates thought that the equipment powering the 665 mainline miles of subway tracks is adequate, with the system’s archaic ‘block’ signaling system receiving outsize scorn. “Much of the equipment for the subway was installed pre-World War II,” said Malliotakis, who compared the city’s subway unfavorably to that of other cities around the world, including Paris, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Vancouver, and London.

London’s transportation system’s signal improvements were also invoked by Albanese, who argued that they showed a modern metropolis could make necessary upgrades provided a political will. He pledged to take the subway regularly as mayor, saying “I understand that sometimes you have to take the SUV, even a helicopter once in a blue moon, but I will use transit.” In a jab at the current mayor, he added that Mayor Michael “Bloomberg, talk about billionaires, actually got on the train himself on a regular basis.”

Mayor de Blasio is not a frequent subway rider, and, with the system in crisis, he’s dismissed recent calls to take the train more often as a way of both leading by example in using public transportation and a way to understand what his constituents are dealing with. (De Blasio quietly took a subway ride uptown on Wednesday afternoon, his first subway trip since mid-April.)

The subway situation may be a vulnerability for de Blasio in this campaign, especially given that many New Yorkers reflexively blame the Mayor, not knowing that the MTA is much more the Governor’s responsibility. De Blasio’s famously frosty relationship with Cuomo has manifested in finger-pointing and a lack of dialogue on the city’s transit, and de Blasio has taken flak for a workout routine that involves taking two SUVs from his official home on the Upper East Side to a gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, his longtime neighborhood. The issue would have likely blown over if the mayor didn’t then jab at critics, arguing that using public transit instead would amount to “cheap symbolism” in the fight against climate change.

As the nightmare commutes and bad headlines mount, de Blasio has laid the blame with Cuomo and the MTA, routinely prefacing responses to subway crises with reminders that the MTA is “state-run.” Nonetheless, he has faced increasing attacks from rivals, as well as questions from members of the public and reporters about what he’s doing to address commuter issues and whether he’s being a forceful enough advocate for his constituents.

Currently, New York City has committed to providing $2.5 billion, or 9 percent, of the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital program, which funds improvements to the transportation system. That number was the endpoint of a contentious public fight between the mayor and the governor, who sided with the MTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in accusing the city of neglecting its responsibilities after an original commitment of $657 million. The state has committed $8.3 billion, or 28 percent.

Critics and budget hawks have complained that no funding sources have yet been identified for these commitments, which kick in after the MTA, which has pledged $11.8 billion – collected from fares, loans, and other sources – has used up all other funding.

The governor directly appoints six out of 14 voting MTA board members and names the Chair, effectively controlling the agency; the mayor recommends four board members. Despite that, Malliotakis argued that de Blasio couldn’t pass the buck on transportation, since “aside from keeping us safe, it is the number one issue,” and accused his appointed members of not challenging “the status quo.”

At an unrelated press conference on June 5, the mayor was asked if the city’s congestion could be fixed without the addition of subway lines. “We need to first think about the things we can do right now,” he said, including ferry service, select bus service – “very, very productive” – and light rail, touting his BQX project. He did say that if reelected, he would start looking into the possibility of adding lines, saying “I’m going to be spending real time in the second term trying to figure out our physical reality for the future.”

In an email, a spokesperson for the mayor’s reelection campaign touted the $2.5 billion MTA capital plan contribution “to support new buses, subway cars, signal and station improvements, while introducing a citywide ferry system, and expanding bike lanes and CitiBike. That’s a transit record we are happy to compare with anyone."

by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

With Subways in Crisis, It’s Showtime for Mayoral Candidates Wed, 14 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

Max & Murphy is a podcast focused on New York City politics and policy hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Past episodes of the podcast can be found here and can be dowloaded from iTunes and other podcast networks. The podcast began with a focus on housing in early 2016, but has expanded into other areas, now turning to the 2017 city elections, especially the race for Mayor.

For the June 12 episode of Max & Murphy, we began a series of interviews with mayoral candidates. Bob Gangi, a Democratic candidate for Mayor running to incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio's left, was our guest. Gangi, a lifelong New Yorker and longtime police reform activist, is focusing his campaign on "social, racial, and economic justice." He says de Blasio is not a true progressive -- that, in fact, the mayor "damages progressives" because he is as moderate as he is but claims the mantle of progressivism -- and Gangi promises to push the city far to the left if elected.

bob gangi 1Gangi is a first-time political candidate concerned with gaining traction -- our interview took place three months before September's primary and the campaign has yet to take off. But, Gangi is hoping that his message will resonate with New Yorkers disappointed that de Blasio has not lived up to the lofty expectations many had for him when the current mayor was elected in 2013.

(Along with Gangi, de Blasio's most serious primary competition is from former City Council Member Sal Albanese, who we'll be inviting onto the podcast soon. We'll also be talking with Republican mayoral candidates Paul Massey and Nicole Malliotakis in the coming weeks. See the full list of 2017 candidates for all offices here.)

Listen to our interview with Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Gangi through SoundCloud below. Let us know what you think: we're on Twitter @jarrettmurphy & @tweetBenMax. Gangi is on Twitter @GangiForMayor. (There is also a lightly edited transcript of the interview available below the SoundCloud embed.)

June 12th, 2017

Ben Max: What’s your elevator pitch for your candidacy?

Robert Gangi: We’re a campaign that’s promoting social, racial, and economic justice for all New Yorkers across a range of issues: policing, public schools, public transportation, homelessness, affordable housing. We’re running in part because de Blasio has failed to deliver on his promises from his 2013 campaign to address these issues effectively. To rewrite the tale of two cities narrative. He’s failed in those efforts, he’s failed as a progressive, and we’re challenging him and we’re putting forward a series of proposed reforms that we think are meaningful and far reaching.

Jarrett Murphy: Are you trying to win or influence the race?

RG: Both, I mean we know that we’re clearly underdogs. We’re longshots given lack of resources in particular. And, so we definitely want to send a message, we definitely want to push the debate to the left for want of a better term. We want to make it more politically acceptable to discuss very specifically and substantively which steps the city has to take to address social and racial and economic inequities in the city. De Blasio has failed to do that. And we want to win. Again, recognizing that we’re underdogs, but all the world loves an underdog.

BM: Give us your thinking on if winning is goal, what are main steps to take/what has to happen for you to have that shot.

RG: It’s a good question. You know, I’m not sure. I mean clearly we have to achieve lift-off. We have to sort of breakthrough more to I think the mainstream media. We have to get our name to be more in our -- the issues -- more alive and well on social media. And we are putting forward...
*phone rings*
JM: Could be the mayor conceding...
RG: The very fact that you guys are here interviewing me was probably the thing that put him over the edge, right? Sorry about that. So, that’s our challenge, and we have a variety of strategies to pursue it. A friend of mine who was helping me petition on Saturday said ‘you have to have a big rally. You have to get a famous celebrity to perform and then you speak to this rally.’ So I said if we advertised Beyonce and Springsteen, and then at the last minute said they couldn’t make it, do you think we could get away with that? So -- but we are reaching out to famous people, famous journalists, who we think support our agenda, or likely to support our agenda, and just see if they would pick up the cause.

JM: First run for elected office....
RG: Yup.
JM: Tell us about your career before this. What’s the Bob Gangi story?
RG: Well, I -- born and raised in Brooklyn, and moved to Manhattan after I graduated college. I went to college in Manhattan, I went to Columbia. So, I’m a lifelong New Yorker. Care deeply about my city. I was politicized by a number of things in my life. A lot of it was the politics of the 60s, because that’s when I came of age. Recognized the terrible inequities in our country regarding race and poverty. And like a lot of young people in the 60s, made a decision to devote, to the extent that we could, our life and careers to those issues. Also personally, my old man had multiple sclerosis all my life, and I think in ways that I wasn’t conscious of at the time, since I couldn’t help him, you know I couldn’t do anything to stop the progress of the disease, I think that instilled in me, again unconsciously, a strong desire to fix things and make things better for people. And, I’ve worked -- my two jobs previous to running for office was -- one at the Correctional Association of New York, a prison reform organization. So I became very familiar with the problems with the criminal justice system and the deep, deep injustices that are inflicted on mainly low income people of color by our sentencing policies and police policies and imprisonment policies. And then for the last six years before declaring for mayor, I ran an organization called PROP, the Police Reform Organizing Project, that aimed at exposing and ending abusive and discriminatory policing. And when de Blasio won in 2013, we at PROP, my organization, were very hopeful. We were encouraged. And, it’s sorta interesting for me to look back on that history because when he appointed Bratton, a number of people said ‘de Blasio is going down the road that all mainstream politicians do. You make promises, you’re not gonna follow through’ because Bratton, as you guys know, was Mr. Broken Windows. And, a group formed right away, New Yorkers Against Bratton, and I disagree with that strategy. I’m very friendly with Joe [something], who’s a key activist and one of the people behind the New Yorkers Against Bratton, and I said ‘you gotta give him a chance. You gotta see what they’re gonna do. There’s gonna be a lot of political pressure on them to change things.’ So, they did reduce the use of stop and frisk, but what they didn’t do was change the fundamental approach of law enforcement in New York City. It’s broken windows. It targets every day low income people of color. I used to say, in our view, the policing in New York City is racist, I don’t say [unclear] is just racist. There’s no denying it. The numbers show it, people’s experience show it. So by June of the first year, we had been completely disenchanted with their policing policies. We knew what they were gonna do politically, and de Blasio continues to do it during the campaign. ‘Well we reduced the use of stop and frisk, what are you complaining about?’ So the driving issue for me initially was policing, because it does -- it inflicts a trauma on individuals and it inflicts a trauma on a community. And part of the painful recognition when you think about it and study it is, while broken windows as a philosophy of policing is new, and it creates this overlay over intellectual defense for the kind of policing that goes on, policing in New York and across the country has always been racist. The police department was established in 1845, and one of its purposes was to contain two unruly populations: recent Irish immigrants, and freed black people, because New York State abolished slavery in 1827.

JM: BDB’s poll numbers among blacks and Latinos are quite strong. Maybe not quite as strong as four years ago, but still strong. Given that those communities are affected by problems you’re talking about, why do you think he still runs so strongly at least in the polls...?

RG: That’s another good question. The -- I think there are a number of factors. One is that he has a black family. I think that, to use a term that has fallen into disrepute, that trumps a lot of things. And, I think the other thing is that, and this is, I’m being speculative, the other thing is, in my experience working with black and Latino people in New York City, and I have for virtually all of my career in one way or another, they -- there’s a resignation, I think it’s changing, to the way the police treat them. When I was at the Correctional Association, I was part of a campaign promoting the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, it was called the Drop the Rock campaign. And we’d have these wonderful meetings, 30-40 people, and at least some of the people were African-American, Latino people. And occasionally the meeting would go off agenda and we’d start talking about policing issues. And everybody had a story about what cops did to them, their children and their families. And the sense you had was, there is no possibility that will ever change, it’s just this is part of our life, we have to figure it out, we have to adjust to it, we have to -- the famous anecdote that de Blasio got in trouble for, we have to talk to our children, particularly to our boys and our young men about how to avoid problems with the police. But they had hope they could change the Rockefeller Drug Laws. And that’s part of the reason that the organizing was effective, because the people we engaged believed that they could be effectively politically. So, you know that whole thing when Obama was talking about hope. It resonated with me, because I think it is meaningful. People have hope, and then they’re gonna be more likely to be mobilized and organized. [Unclear] policing issues in New York City, I think that probably, and again, this is speculative, a lot of people in our inner cities don’t blame de Blasio for what happens day to day. We of course -- they should blame him, because he runs the police department. Broken windows and the quota system could be ended literally on day 1, you direct the police department to stop it. It’s what the cops did themselves when they went on that work slowdown at the end of 2014 and 2015. They stopped abiding by the quota system and they stopped engaging in broken windows policing. Arrests dropped by 66%, summonses dropped by 90%, and crime went down. And I think a large reason why the cops did it was not only their anger at de Blasio, it was, they prefer that. I mean, broken windows policing and the quota system is not popular among police officers.

BM: You mention reduction in S+F, a lot of that was dropping quickly at end of Bloomberg admin, in part b/c of BDB (lawsuits and marches and such)
RG: And one high level retired police official said, it was the cops themselves getting it. You know, seeing the handwriting on the wall that this was discredited practice...

BM: Had built to point where it was no longer sustainable. So there’s that piece. If mayor or one of his people was here, and he has numerous times, it’s not just reduction of S+F. Community/neighborhood policing, reducing penalties on low level offenses. He has litany of half dozen things that he says show that he’s a reformer. Lot of what we’re talking about in this campaign, from yourself and others unhappy with mayor from left, is difference b/w being reformer with incremental steps versus sort of a revolutionary, and that’s what it seems like, I don’t want to label you but what’s the difference?
RG: Well there’s a couple of things. One of the things that’s striking in the article in the Observer today about de Blasio being criticized from the left, he again is making the claim apparently that we have ended marijuana possession arrests. And it’s just not true. Last year, the cops arrested over 18,000 people for marijuana possession. The first three months of this year, there were over 5,000 arrests for the sale or possession of small amounts of marijuana. So, one of his claims is just flatly untrue, and the reason we’re still critical after these incremental steps, one is, the drop in stop and frisk is real and substantive. And as far as it goes, that’s a good thing. Many of the other things are meaningless. Cops don’t necessarily follow them, they don’t really change in terms of what the impact is on people on the ground. The main reason we continue to be severely critical, this too, one is that he’s hypocritical. He’s claiming that he has significantly changed things, and he hasn’t. Law enforcement in New York City continues to target low income people of color every day. PROP, my old organization, still does court monitoring work and they did court monitoring in Manhattan Criminal Court last Wednesday. I wanted to go, I wasn’t able to go because of some campaign activities. And the young woman who went, it was an intern for PROP, reported 19 out of the 20 cases are people of color. The arrests: suspended license, petty larceny, marijuana possession. Same old crap. And the reason we so aggressively criticize these practices is not technical -- it’s not because they’re illegal, they are, I think, often or unconstitutional -- is they hurt people. And when you say well, as obviously de Blasio does, and people defend him, ‘well we’ve reduced this to a certain degree,’ you’re still hurting people. You’re harming people every day, and you’re harming people who are vulnerable, who are virtually politically powerless. And it is inexcusable, and it’s our -- excuse me -- f***ing city that you are doing this in. And running as a progressive who cares about justice for those very constituencies. And we know, Ben, to, a little bit to take issue with the word revolutionary, we don’t think it’s revolutionary. If you stop broken windows policing, which you could do literally on day 1, that’s, to me, that’s a fundamental reform but it’s manageable, it’s doable, and the police department could carry it out. And it would make a significant different in the day to day lives of the constituencies that de Blasio claims he cares about and that we should all care about. Another issue, to take a jump into another issue area, is public education. So, we knew at my campaign that we couldn’t just be a one issue campaign. Not only because it’s not sufficient to galvanize the people, but we wanted to address other issues where we saw similar problems in terms of social and racial inequities. And in the public school system, it’s clear. What the research shows that more often than not, the schools that are attended mainly by black and Latino students are gonna be more dilapidated, have younger teachers, and less services than schools attended by middle class white kids. We also learned, I learned, because I spoke to some experts, that there is one factor that all the research shows and common sense tells you can change the outcome, academic outcomes, not only for middle class children or children who come from families with resources, but low income children of color. Small class size. So we’re putting forward that one of our priorities will be a very aggressive campaign to have small classes in all public schools. And that would provide, and again, there’s a Mack Truck load of research that documents this, that would provide for significant improvements, significantly better lives for the students who now go to those schools.

JM: You’re not one issue, you also mention free MetroCards, infrastructure plan, small class sizes. Well that costs some money, so cliche question, it’s good one, how are you gonna pay for all that?
RG: Right, I have two answers, or three. One is shut up...
RG: Sometimes I even include a vulgarity in that. Two answers. One is, and again, I came of age politically in the 60s, and I was a big fan of Robert Kennedy. And in his last campaign in ‘68, before he was killed, he would frequently, I think it was actually part of a stump speech. It was a George Bernard Shaw quote, something along the lines of ‘some people see things’

JM: As they are, and ask why...
RG: ‘And ask why, other people see things that never were and ask why not.’ And that is a political sort of point of view and spirit that animates our campaign. And so part of my answer is, to that question, and I’ll get more specific in terms of money, is given what we know how much small class size would improve the lives of people across the city and not just low income people of color, although that would be the main group that benefits, but it would benefit everybody in the city. How do we not do it? And then the other question is, we will significantly reduce some of the expenditures that de Blasio and the city has allocated to other things. As you guys know, in this year’s budget, there’s $1.1 billion to design new jails. We’re not gonna build new jails. We can close Rikers without building new jails. There’s $2.5 billion for the trolley or the train connecting the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts. There’s $275 million to build a new police academy. We would take all of those things out of the budget. We would significantly reduce the resources now allocated for law enforcement, starting with policing. Once you end broken windows policing and quotas [unclear word] broken windows policing, that is the law enforcement practice carried out by the majority of police officers. And we think not only is it ineffective, we think it’s abus- -- not think, it is abusive and discriminatory. So, we plan to significantly reduce the resources and personnel for policing. And that would lead to less resources needed across the board. Defense, prosecution, jails. The closing of Rikers and the reduction of the jail population would save hundreds of millions of dollars on its own. And the reason we think we can close Rikers in a year is the, and you guys probably know this, about 70% of the people on Rikers are pre-trial detainees. 90% of them have not even been charged, are not even charged with predatory, dangerous crimes. The sentenced inmates are all charged with very low level, or convicted of very low level offenses. A significant portion of the Rikers population could be removed from the jails without any risk to public safety.
BM: Bail reform?
RG: Well not only bail reform, no no.
BM: Just not arresting in the first place.
RG: Yeah, first of all, not arresting. Also, it’s interesting if you’re following the Brooklyn DA race, how many Brooklyn DA candidates talking about ending broken windows and promoting bail reform. Well, the DAs have a choice not to propose bail. And the current DA is not doing that. We sit in the Brooklyn courts. And he could end broken -- he could end prosecution of broken windows policing tomorrow, just by telling his assistant DAs ‘somebody comes in here on one of these low level charges, we’re not gonna prosecute. We’re gonna come up with some other way to respond to these problems.’ Another thing, you mentioned, Jarrett, the, where, really exposes de Blasio’s claim to be progressive. He’s refused to support even reduced fare for low income people in the city. You know some cockamamie rationale.
BM: This is the Fair Fares MetroCard campaign.
RG: Yeah, yeah, right. And it’s really a head scratcher why he doesn’t, because it would be politically advantageous, plus it would be a good thing. So, in effect though, what the city policy is, is since fare evasion is the second most common arrest, marijuana possession is the fourth most common arrest, is the city punishes people who are jumping the turnstile or are attempting to jump the turnstile. And no one could have a productive life in New York City, it’s not even an exaggerative statement, unless you can use the subways and the buses in New York City. So by punishing people who are jumping the turnstile -- primarily because they’re too poor, they’re not jumping the turnstile for the thrill of it -- and instead you arrest them or you summons them, you are basically applying a regressive practice that criminalizes poverty to a group of people where another policy is available to enable them to take the subways and take the police and law enforcement out of their lives. And that’s why we’re promoting free fare for low income people. And also, 92%, this is their own numbers, 92% of the people that the NYPD arrests for fare evasion, [unclear] the last two or three years, have been New Yorkers of color. So it’s another racist practice.

BM: As Jarrett was like “where’s the money come from” and you answered, you had some ideas about moving some budget money around. My Q is a bit larger than that.
RG: The other thing is to galvanize the city around it. Nobody as far as I can see, no mainstream politician says ‘we can take a major step to fix the problem with the public schools by having small classes in every school.’ And I think that some of our positions are controversial amongst the broader public. Some of our position around policing would be controversial. I don’t think small class size would be controversial. People might worry about, well where’s the money gonna come from, people’ll say ‘yeah, small class sizes would really work.’
BM: You find almost no one who would be against that.
RG: Yeah, right, right.
BM: Some people say it doesn’t actually matter as much as quality of teacher. We can get to that another time
RG: No, no, I agree, quality of teacher is very important. It’s just, from a systemic point of view in terms of a solution, guaranteeing quality teachers in every class is more of a difficult challenge. But reducing the size of the class is in my view manageable and would improve our [unclear].

BM: Would you be prepared to run this city, to run a city that has an $85B budget, that has sprawling bureaucracy and these agencies. For whatever faults of BDB, the public advocate’s office is obviously very small, but he had governmental trajectory w/ city council, PA, familiarity w/ all inner working of gov. Maybe that didn’t translate into great management as many of his critics would say, but are you prepared to be mayor?
RG: Yes. It’s actually a question people ask me, ‘do you really want to be mayor?’
BM: Well that’s different, that’s actually very different.
RG: But I want to, and I’m prepared to, because it’s very important for these things to happen. And if I became mayor, we would make progress toward all these things. And I understand the question, you know, I ran an organization 15-20 people, the Correctional Association. But my judgment about leadership and even management doesn’t go to how often you’ve done it before, but goes to temperament and judgment about people. The key thing that I did well at the Correctional Association, and it took me a while, I was there for 29 years, was hire good people, and people not only who were very talented and very energetic and politically committed, but people who were team players and would cooperate and collaborate with other people. That was like a requirement. And so I would apply some of that sensibility and judgment to my work as mayor, and also the, I think we all know, it’s not anything we’ve emphasized in our campaign, I mean de Blasio is roundly criticized for his management style. I’ve talked -- I mean, the press has written stories about it. I’ve talked to a number of people who’ve worked in city government who left very frustrated because it’d take way too long to make a decision, and there were memos going back and forth from the agency people to the political people, and their criticism was the political people often trumped the agency people and what the agency people wanted -- wanted to do. And we would not be bogged down by things like that.

BM: Mayor, as you’ve acknowledged, is kind of a lock for reelection. He’s very heavily favored in primary. Are you worried about sort of hurting him in the primary and giving general election opponent, maybe your campaign takes off, but is that a concern you have?

RG: You know, I’ve thought about that. My bigger concern, and I’ll get to the concern about damaging de Blasio, is that we don’t get a sufficient lift off for our campaign so that people could say ‘well look, you know, Gangi made this effort, he had some people behind him, and clearly there are not enough New Yorkers who care about these issues, who want to eliminate racism from the police department, who want to provide decent housing for homeless people and poor people, who want to provide better education, free fares on the subways and the buses.’ Some concern about hurting de Blasio, and for me it’s a mix. And, it’s clearly become a stronger negative view since I declared and since de Blasio has in effect become my political opponent, is he damages progressives. He claims to be a progressive, he wears that mantle easily. Most of the press keep calling him progressive, and he’s not progressive. The two progressive things that he has done since he’s been mayor is the universal pre-K, and as you guys probably know, if you ever ask anybody why you’re endorsing or supporting de Blasio, that’s what they say. They forget, often, because I’ve been in debates at the clubs where a surrogate for him is talking, they forget the other thing that he’s done that I think has been a good thing is keep the rents down for people in rent stabilized apartments. That’s it. On issues like reduced fare for low income people, he takes what I consider to be a regressive position, because he’s not supporting it. This issue now where he’s at odds with Melissa Mark-Viverito where he has the nerve to say we’re not gonna defend people because they were convicted of a felony and could’ve been, who knows, five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, they did their time, and he’s saying we don’t wanna provide lawyers for them? That is a regressive position. He doesn’t have any serious position promoting diversity in the public schools. As you guys probably know, we came out with a plan last week; he won’t even have a press conference about it, and neither did Carmen Farina have a press conference about it. He supports and promotes racist policing. His affordable housing plan, and they keep claiming that he’s provided affordable housing, once you, again, look behind the rhetoric and see what actually they’ve delivered on, most of the housing units that they’re building in low income communities are not gonna be affordable for the people who live in those communities. He’s not a true progressive. And he damages, in my judgment, the progressive movement and the principle that we could have progressive policies based on social and racial and economic justice that could galvanize a broad public. He has not attempted to do that. He is essentially a mainstream, opportunistic politician. So, I am not as upset or concerned about the possibility that we could do such significant damage to him that he may not win reelection against whoever the Republican is, but the -- in part, it’s time will tell. Time will tell whether he moves more aggressively to be a true progressive, or how regressive and Trumpian whoever the Republican candidate is.

JM: Time will indeed tell, we have three more months, thank you.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:38:16 +0000
The Issues Likely to Dominate The 2017 Mayoral Race de blasio children schools

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

Candidates running for mayor have begun to gather signatures to get on the ballot, bringing election season into full swing. Mayor Bill de Blasio is in a relatively comfortable position and polls show that he is likely to sail to reelection, but it is still relatively early, with September primary and November general elections on the horizon. Anything can happen in a political campaign.

As the mayor prepares to spend the next six months asking New Yorkers to give him another four years, he will also have to defend his first term record and set out a vision for a second term. As is often the case with incumbents, the election will largely be a referendum on de Blasio’s mayoralty.

Much of the focus of campaigns can be on polls, endorsements, and fundraising numbers, all of which have some importance. But the issues matter the most, and while there are some topics that will always be essential to a New York City mayoral election -- schools and public safety, to name two -- the particular candidates and context of an election also determine the major issues dominating the political discourse.

Sometimes, the issues can be different as things shift from primaries to the general election. Other times, it’s simply the frame of the conversation. For example, de Blasio will have to fend off criticism from his left in the primary, then from his right in the general, assuming he wins in September -- as Republicans say de Blasio is soft on crime, his opponents on the left argue his policing policies are too harsh. “That’s politics,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. “Welcome to the profession. You can’t win.”

There can always be something unforeseen that takes center stage, a crisis or scandal of some kind, a singular event that demands significant attention.

Experts and political observers say that on a few issues, de Blasio finds his record largely unassailable, while on others he is vulnerable. How the race shapes up will depend on how challengers highlight those issues, and which concerns are likely to resonate with the electorate. Several other candidates vying to be Mayor have begun to define their campaigns on certain issues, while others are always key to the mayoral discussion.

The Democratic Primary
In the Democratic primary, de Blasio faces a slew of candidates but only two of them, former City Council Member Sal Albanese and police reform activist Robert Gangi, seem to be raising funds to run competitive campaigns. While they’ve both been eclipsed by de Blasio’s fundraising -- the mayor has millions in his reelection account while both Gangi and Albanese have yet to break $100,000 -- the two challengers are mounting issue-focused campaigns, hoping to gain traction by criticizing the mayor from the left, perhaps appealing to some of de Blasio’s progressive supporters who are displeased by the mayor’s record.

Albanese and Gangi are also critical of the mayor not from a political philosophy, but regarding management and ethics, two aspects of de Blasio’s record that he will have to answer to throughout the campaign, including during the primary and, if he moves on, the general.

Gangi, a veteran activist, has based his campaign largely on criticizing the mayor’s record on police reform, saying that de Blasio has not gone far enough in reforming the NYPD and its practices. Although crime has continued to drop to historic lows under de Blasio and stop-and-frisk has been significantly curtailed, the NYPD continues to employ “Broken Windows” policing with de Blasio’s blessing, targeting low-level offenders to prevent more serious crimes. It is a practice that Gangi says he would abolish, pointing to racial disparities in arrest and summons data.

The mayor has also been questioned when it comes to officer accountability. Of particular focus is Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. Pantaleo is still on the force, though on modified duty. De Blasio has said the NYPD is awaiting the end of a federal inquiry into Garner’s death and that the department is ready to take disciplinary measures if no federal civil rights charges are brought. The incident is part of a larger trend where de Blasio has agreed to shield the disciplinary records of police officers, citing state law as a barrier.

Gangi has stressed that the NYPD’s use of broken windows is abusive and discriminatory against communities of color, and has vowed to end it. He also says the NYPD uses quotas in policing, which the department has consistently denied, and proposes decriminalizing fare evasion, marijuana possession, sex work, and gravity knife possession. Gangi’s points on NYPD accountability and transparency, and de Blasio’s policing record, are symbolic of a not small group of activists who are unhappy with the mayor’s police reforms.

“I don’t think that’s gonna resonate,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, of criticism of the mayor’s police reform record. “[De Blasio] has certain constraints governing...He can only do so much and the purists are gonna say he’s never doing enough. The perfectionists, the people who are committed to certain policy positions are never gonna be happy.” It’s an argument de Blasio has made while pointing to the policies he has put in place, including neighborhood policing, retraining of the entire NYPD force in de-escalation techniques, and a body camera program that has just launched in pilot.

A pack of issues that Gangi has been vocal about is reducing school overcrowding and class sizes, promoting desegregation of schools, and hiring more teachers. Education is always a mayoral campaign issue. While de Blasio has touted higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates, higher standardized test scores, and a wide-reaching “equity and excellence” agenda that seeks to foster more opportunity and progress across all city schools, there are still many schools that show shockingly poor results. While de Blasio has infused significant funds into his Renewal Schools program and attempted to make the most struggling schools into community schools that have wraparound services, the Renewal program has shown lackluster results. Class sizes and school overcrowding continue to plague many schools.

Sal Albanese, a former school teacher and elected official, has also made education reform one of his top agenda items and has proposed a number of improvements to the schools system. Among them, consolidating early childhood education programs under one agency to reduce fiscal waste and increase access, creating more early childhood programs, ensuring wage parity for early educators, improving teacher recruitment and training, and enhancing accountability for principals while affording them increased authority.

Albanese has also pledged to expand community policing -- a citywide expansion is already underway in phases with most precincts already covered under the new Neighborhood Coordinating Officers (NCO) program -- and has vowed a more equitable distribution of resources and personnel to precincts. Albanese, who also ran in the 1997 and 2013 Democratic primaries for Mayor, regularly says that morale in the NYPD is terrible and that as Mayor he would improve it dramatically.

Albanese has also been a fervent critic of de Blasio’s relationship with special interests, particularly the real estate industry, and has called the mayor’s a “corrupt and incompetent administration.” He cites numerous conflicts of interest, including through de Blasio’s now-shuttered Campaign for One New York, a political nonprofit that accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and was a focus of a federal investigation, for which the mayor and his associates were not brought up on charges.

Albanese also criticizes the city’s public campaign finance system, which is seen as a model by many. He proposes reforming the system and establishing “democracy vouchers” that would be given to voters who can then use those vouchers to make campaign contributions to the candidate of their choice, fully eliminating private money from the process and giving each voter the same financial influence in campaigns.

On his campaign website as of June 6, Albanese features briefly outlined plans on mass transit, housing, animal care, public safety, political reform, and education.

One major question hanging over the Democratic primary is whether there will be any formal debates, which can be an important way for candidates to get their messages out, raise key issues, and criticize the frontrunner. The Campaign Finance Board will run two primetime, televised debates in the primary if the candidates meet the thresholds, which are different for the first and the second. The first debate requires candidates to raise and spend at least $174,225 and can also include additional criteria such as a minimum polling average.

Dr. Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University, decried a lack of a competition on the Democratic side. Saying “it doesn’t really seem like there’s gonna be a robust Democratic primary,” Greer lamented that de Blasio may not “be tested” on four issues she believes many New Yorkers, especially in the mayor’s base, are thinking about: “affordable housing, homelessness, Rikers and all the things that come underneath Rikers, and transportation.”

Greer points out that without a competitive primary challenge, “we’re sort of leaving the mayor to rest on what I think is a pretty legitimate record, but at the same time there’s no one to push him to do and say more... And while I do think that de Blasio deserves a second term, I would like to see a competitive primary where he articulates not just what he’s done but a new vision for the next four years which, I don’t really know if we’ve heard that just yet.”

The Republican Primary
On the Republican side, the race is shaping up as a head-to-head battle between Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and real estate executive Paul Massey. The two candidates have taken largely similar policy positions, though Massey is running as more of a centrist, “non-political” manager who calls himself “independent-minded,” and Malliotakis is running as a more traditional Republican, even more conservative than many New York City members of the GOP. Tellingly, Malliotakis has the Conservative Party endorsement while Massey has the Independence Party endorsement.

Neither candidate has defined themselves on any issue or set of issues. Massey has been closer, painting himself as a seasoned executive who would run the city with ideas from “across the political spectrum” a la Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Both GOP candidates criticize de Blasio on a wide variety of topics, a list that seems to grow by the day. They have regularly taken on the mayor’s approach to public safety, especially for reducing penalties for certain low-level nonviolent offenses, and generally raising the spectre of worsening quality of life in the city.

Both have condemned the city’s homelessness crisis and de Blasio’s management of it. They point to the mayor’s proclivity for spending more money to get what they call meager results. Education has been a top priority, both calling for more school choice and better management of “failing” schools.

Where they differ is on certain social issues -- Malliotakis is generally more conservative than Massey and voted against same-sex marriage in 2011 in the Assembly. Malliotakis also opposes New York’s “sanctuary city” status while Massey has called for the policy to remain as it is, pointing to the need for new federal immigration policy.

Massey has begun releasing policy papers, including on education and public safety, while Malliotakis, who joined the race much more recently, has promised more detail in her policy plans.

“Malliotakis and Massey, they haven’t made an impact,” Muzzio said of the Republican field thus far, in an assertion supported by recent poll numbers. “Now the Republicans are gonna say that, ‘[de Blasio’s] a wildly spending liberal, he’s giving the store away.’ You know, typical Republican critique of a Democrat.” Muzzio is correct, especially given that the mayor and City Council just announced a new budget agreement that again raises city spending. Both leading GOP candidates released statements criticizing the mayor for continuing to grow the city budget, throwing good money after bad, they say.

Their critique of the mayor’s policing policy is also typical of the ideological right, said Muzzio. “Those people that are committed ideologically to stop-and-frisk and Broken Windows aren’t happy with him,” he said. “And they’re predicting gloom and doom. It hasn’t happened yet and it might not happen but they’re still gonna charge him with softness on crime.” Both candidates point to specific areas where crime is up, whether through de Blasio’s term or one year to another. They also point to a mostly vague sense that the city is slipping backward.

Greer believes the Republican candidates will have to establish where they stand vis-a-vis their party’s top elected official, President Donald Trump. “They’re just gonna have to figure out how close or far away they’re going to position themselves to Trump,” she said. It’s a certainty that de Blaiso, if a winner in his primary, will seek to paint his general election GOP opponent with a Trump brush.

Massey has repeatedly said he does not want the mayoral election to be a referendum on Trump, which he believes would play into the mayor’s hands as he uses the president as a foil. Malliotakis is a vocal Trump supporter and voted for him after supporting Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential primary. Massey has said he wrote in Michael Bloomberg for president in November.

Greer points out that Republican arguments about rising crime are often based in “falsehoods” and says that the mismanagement critique of de Blasio may not stick, given some of his successes, like universal pre-kindergarten, and that people respond to pocketbook and kitchen table issues.

“I think the Republicans will be jockeying to figure out their messaging as far as whether or not they’re going to double down and support the president or try and distance themselves, to try to look a little bit more moderate,” Greer said. This may take a different shape in the primary than the general election.

Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, doesn’t believe that the Republicans will be able to make crime an issue in the general election. “I think with the crime issue, it’s hard for the Republican candidate to make a case that de blasio isn’t doing a good job on crime,” she said. “I think people feel generally safe, I think certainly compared to 15 years ago or longer than that.”

Although Gelinas said that public safety would be an important issue in the debates, she doubted it would gain traction. “There’s always lots to criticize any mayor about policing, there’s always examples of police incompetence and corruption, there’s always crimes,” she said. “But can [Republicans] make this into a systemic crisis?...on the one hand crime hasn’t soared, on the other hand although there’s always problems of police brutality and so forth, nobody can make the case that it’s systemically gotten any worse under de Blasio and it’s probably gotten better with the number of stop-question-and-frisks having gone down. So I don’t think that’ll get very far.”

Gelinas said the top three issues, on both sides of the aisle, “are always jobs, education and housing.”

She pointed out that retail job growth, which recovered faster than most of the country after the recession, is slowing with a national trend, but wouldn’t be a serious issue before the September primary or the November general election. On housing, she said candidates have yet to express concrete proposals that go beyond the mayor’s stated goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. For Massey, housing has been a particular priority and he is pitching his decades of experience in the real estate industry as necessary to solve it. Massey ran a commercial sales business that took a neighborhood by neighborhood approach at a very opportune time in the city’s renaissance.

Gelinas did say that de Blasio has not been responsible with the budget and would face criticism for it. Spending under the mayor has increased by about 20 percent since Mayor Bloomberg’s last budget, with the mayor and City Council agreeing on an $85.2 billion budget just last week. It’s one of the main Republican critiques, including by Malliotakis who has called de Blasio the “tax-and-spend” mayor.

“But it’s hard to get voters to pay attention to that when there’s not a budget crisis,” said Gelinas. “I mean Bloomberg was elected partly because of 9/11 and people thought the city is going to have a huge budget crisis and we need this business person to address it. And it’s hard to see anyone thinking that anytime before September or November.”

On issues of quality of life, such as traffic congestion, noise and illegal construction work, Gelinas said de Blasio is vulnerable. “It’s still hard to marshall a critical mass of voters on these issues partly because people get so used to it,” she said.

The General Crisis
What should be the main issue in the election, Gelinas said, is transit infrastructure, “because elections sometimes are driven by crises. “The last time it was the perception of the inequality crisis, the elections before that, ‘Would the city recover after 9/11?’ Before that the crime crisis and the budget crisis.”

De Blasio is already dealing with the inequality crisis, she said, by implementing and expanding measures such as universal pre-kindergarten. But there seems to be no plan for the ever-worsening transit, particularly the city’s subway system. “This is affecting everybody’s quality of life,” she added. “If you go to work, if you go to school, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re poor, middle class or wealthier. It does hit the poor and middle classes the hardest. Because if you’re wealthy you have other options of getting around but most everybody else is stuck on the mass transit system that isn’t serving them well anymore.”

The mayor has been at pains to emphasize that the MTA, which serves the most commuters in the city and hence draws the most ire, is controlled by a state authority and Governor Andrew Cuomo, his longtime political rival. In doing so, the mayor has also laid the transit issues at the governor’s feet, washing his hands of the problems and hence the responsibility, though he is not completely without any. The city contributes billions to the MTA capital plan, and the mayor appoints members to the MTA board. While his power is nowhere near the governor’s, many fault de Blasio for being too quick to ignore the subway woes, saying that he should be talking about it constantly, riding the subways more, and working with the governor and MTA for solutions.

And, over the budget season, City Council members and transit advocates pressed the mayor to fund the “Fair Fares” proposal to provide discounted MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers and he repeatedly refused to do so.

“The mayor obviously doesn’t control the MTA but he does make a capital contribution to the MTA,” Gelinas pointed out. “Should the city be making a bigger contribution to build a better signal system? Also the city does manage all of the street level transportation and that’s not being managed very well either. It doesn’t seem like the mayor walks around, understands what’s going on on the streets...I think it’s good that the mayor did the ferries but even the ferries are being overwhelmed [initially] which show you how much demand there is for transportation that’s not being met.”

De Blasio often highlights his transportation agenda of a new ferry network, expanded Citi Bike service, and the looking Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, light-rail streetcar.

Greer agreed that transportation in the city is in crisis, and that the mayor must take some responsibility for it, even if it’s not under his purview. “Transportation affects so many New Yorkers across class lines,” she said. “There’s a sense of frustration because the mayor and the governor can’t ever agree on anything and get along.”

Poor New Yorkers in particular, she said, are looking to de Blasio to relieve them of this particular financial burden. “To me this is a relatively low-hanging fruit issue,” Greer said, “where he could distance himself from the governor, he could be a champion for the poor...So I think the frustration is that de Blasio’s by far the most progressive of everyone who’s running, by far the one who cares the most about poor people in New York of all the candidates. So for him to ignore the issue in the way he has is frustrating and I think should be one of the primary issues moving forward. It’s just difficult because there’s no foil for him that helps push it.”

Of all those seeking to unseat de Blasio, Albanese has taken the most interest in the subways, riding them daily and tweeting pictures and comments. He’s said he plans to be “the transit mayor.” He blames de Blasio for not being vocal enough on the issue, while others have pointed out that de Blasio’s bad relationship with Gov. Cuomo is hurting the city on a variety of fronts.

It is to be seen whether Albanese can galvanize activists and regular New Yorkers who are frustrated by public transit to oppose de Blasio and support his candidacy. The same goes for Gangi and the issues he’s focused on, like police reform, and the Republican candidates, Malliotakis and Massey, who are still working to define their candidacies as other than anti-de Blasio.

“You used the term ‘race,’” said Muzzio, of Baruch, when asked about the key issues in the mayoral race. “There is no race either in the Democratic primary or the general election. So the issues will probably be understated, they won’t be widely publicized because of the nature of the competition.”

Muzzio said de Blasio is likely to talk about his accomplishments including implementing universal pre-kindergarten, lowering crime and creating affordable housing. “He’s gonna push all the issues that surround equality,” Muzzio added. “Opponents are going to hit him for more stylistic and political reasons, you know his questionable ethics, his chronic lateness, his arrogance, et cetera.”

As de Blasio’s campaign gathers momentum, a few of his priorities have become clear. He has already pledged a renewed effort to tackle the city’s affordability crisis, chiefly through a housing plan already underway and a new jobs plan announced in his State of the City earlier this year. Although the mayor has been slow to reveal an actual plan to create 100,000 “good-paying” jobs over the next ten years, it is likely to be a talking point that candidates on both sides of the aisle will address.

Another pressing issue, one that de Blasio was late to, is the closure of the Rikers Island jail complex. After facing significant political pressure from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others, and years of consistent advocacy by criminal justice reform activists, the mayor announced his intention to close Rikers jails in ten years. However, his administration has not created a blueprint for accomplishing that goal and nor has he provided sufficient clarity on how he would achieve the alternative of setting up community jails across four boroughs (He’s already promised that no new facility would be sited on Staten Island). Still, the mayor is already touting his Rikers decision on the campaign trail.

Other issues may also be forced upon the race by developments at the national level, including President Trump’s recent announcement of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Accord on tackling climate change. De Blasio signed an executive order Friday for the city to voluntarily adhere to the accord’s benchmarks, not a stretch given the city’s prior commitments to larger environmental protection goals, but which thrust climate change into the city political discussion.

A variety of other topics will at least be touched on during the mayoral campaign, such as the city’s public housing authority, NYCHA, and public hospital system, both of which are in financial crisis, and de Blasio’s plans to rezone up to 15 neighborhoods as part of his affordable housing plan. It's clear, though, that the discussion will almost always center around de Blasio, his record and his character.

The race could also potentially be affected by the wild card candidacy of Bo Dietl, a private detective and retired NYPD officer. A brash Trumpian character, Dietl has invited controversy with his off-the-cuff, and off-color, remarks. He initially sought to run as a Democrat against de Blasio in the primary, and then attempted to get on the Republican ticket after making a mistake in his party registration. That effort failed as well when Republican county leaders refused to allow him to run on their party line (he’s still attempting to join one of the primaries, but may continue on as an independent, influencing the general election campaign). Dietl has raised most of the same issues as Massey and Malliotakis, with a focus on public safety, and has wealthy donors willing to back him, giving him the chance to play a somewhat disruptive role in the race.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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The Issues Likely to Dominate The 2017 Mayoral Race Tue, 06 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The May Mayoral Money Race de blasio ferry wave

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

Candidates in the running for Mayor in this year’s municipal elections filed their latest fundraising and expenditure reports with the New York City Campaign Finance Board on Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic incumbent, leads the pack with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account, while those seeking to unseat him -- Democrats, Republicans, and others alike -- lag behind in terms of cash-on-hand. Those other candidates have shown varied levels of success in fundraising, and have approached spending their money differently as well. Several mayoral candidates have their eyes on the threshold for achieving public matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board and the raise and spend bar for eligibility in the city-sanctioned primary debates.

With just four months till the September primary, candidates have begun to step up their fundraising efforts in order to pose a strong challenge to a mayor who is enjoying relatively comfortable polling numbers and is now able forge ahead with fundraising for the general election, having hit the maximum he can spend on the primary, with anticipated public matching funds.

De Blasio posted a $669,174 fundraising haul in the last two months and spent about $384,646. (The CFB requires campaign disclosure reports every two months in an election year.) He has raised $4.3 million and spent $1.8 million in total, leaving him with roughly $2.6 million in cash on hand. De Blasio has also consistently touted his participation in the CFB’s public matching funds program, which matches qualifying small dollar contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio. The mayor’s latest numbers, combined with matching funds, put him over the threshold for the amount he can spend in the primary -- the limit is $6.96 million for mayoral candidates for each the primary and general -- and de Blasio can now begin to fund-raise for the general election.

“Our campaign’s focus on grassroots, small-dollar donors has powered us to more than 11,000 contributions, and we are now fully funded for a Primary campaign,” said Elana Leopold, finance director for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement. “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime is at record lows, jobs are at record highs, and the City is building affordable housing at a record rate. New Yorkers want to keep that progress going, and that is why so many people from all five boroughs are supporting our campaign.”

At least four other candidates are running in the Democratic primary, but none has shown significant fundraising prowess. Two of the candidates are relatively known quantities - Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and a mayoral candidate in the 2013 race; and Bob Gangi, a veteran police reform advocate. Both Albanese and Gangi are vocal critics of the mayor -- with Albanese focused on the mayor’s ethics and management, and Gangi focused on the mayor’s policing policies as well as affordable housing and other programs.

Albanese has raised $82,838 so far -- $26,852 in the last filing period -- and spent $5,920 in total. Gangi has raised $6,404 for his campaign and personally loaned himself another $45,000. Having spent about $4,000, he has $47,491 in his campaign account. The two other contenders, retired FDNY lieutenant Kevin Coenen and entrepreneur Colin Slattery, have barely made a mark in fundraising.

On the Republican side, the candidate closest to de Blasio in fundraising is Paul Massey, a real estate executive who recently moved from Larchmont, Westchester to the city to run for mayor. Massey, who ran a commercial property sales business throughout the city and is also spending a lot of his own money on his campaign, raised $555,786 the last two months, but spent $1.3 million in the same time.

Massey has raised $3.03 million since the start of the race, and has personally loaned his campaign about $2.7 million, of which he’s repaid $1.1 million. But his runaway spending, totalling $3.7 million, has left him $607,963 in campaign funds. A moderate, Massey has promised to incorporate ideas from across the political spectrum and has the backing of the Independence Party. He’s vowed raise and contribute enough of his own money so that his campaign will never want for funds, but he is also spending at an unmatched clip, with the primary several months off and things just heating up.

“I am pleased with how our fundraising is going. I am the only candidate not using taxpayer funds, and I am not beholden to special interests,” Massey said in an email blast.

The only other seemingly viable Republican candidate, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, just recently entered the race and began to fund-raise. Within the three weeks that she’s been running leading up to the recent filing deadline, she raised $94,624 and spent just $570. She also owes $12,000 to a marketing and polling firm. But Malliotakis is also a participant in the public funds program, meaning she will have to raise far less than Massey and still be able to be competitive. As the Staten Island Advance recently reported, Malliotakis used to bash the matching funds program as a misuse of taxpayer money.

Malliotakis has some name recognition and a base of support as an elected official. She also has a record of serving in public office, though it is unclear how much her legislative record will help her. She is decidedly more conservative than Massey, which could help her in the Republican primary but make her less viable in a general election. Fundraising, political ideology, general election viability, and other factors are being considered as Republican and Conservative county parties make their endorsements.

In an email touting her fundraising numbers, Malliotakis was confident she would meet the thresholds for the public funds program. “While I am extremely happy with our results and the potential they show, I am also well aware that we have a lot of catching up to do to match the stockpile of ‘pay-to-play’ donations in Bill de Blasio’s campaign coffers,” she said. “While he’ll continue to be funded by the special interests and the business as usual crowd, my campaign will remain focused on donations from hard-working New Yorkers who share the core belief that Bill de Blasio and his progressive policies are progressively bad for New York.”

Businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a California native, moved to New York in April to run for mayor as a Republican. De La Fuente previously ran a longshot presidential campaign as a Democrat. He has raised $40,240, lent himself another $250,000 and spent about $2,000. He has $265,700 in cash on hand. Darren Aquino, an actor and disability rights activist, is also running on the Republican line but has raised no more than $1,800 since the start of the race, spending a little more than half that amount.

A number of independent candidates have also joined the race, most prominent among them being Richard “Bo” Dietl, a private detective and former NYPD officer with a brash Trumpian temperament. Dietl first sought to run in the Democratic primary but made an error on his registration, forcing him to run as an independent. He also attempted to get a waiver from Republican County leaders to run on the Republican line but ran afoul of the party after making apparently racist remarks about First Lady Chirlane McCray at a GOP candidate forum in Manhattan. Dietl raised $169,850 over this last filing and spent $150,818. He has raised $580,058 overall and spent $227,276, leaving $346,782 at his disposal.

Eight other independents are running for mayor as well, but most have little or no money to their name. The exception is Michael Tolkin, a millennial candidate who lent his campaign about $100,000 and raised about $2,000. He has about $15,000 left to use, however, after spending about $54,000 and owing another $32,000 for consulting fees and campaign literature.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The May Mayoral Money Race Tue, 16 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Closing Rikers: Good Politics, Bad Policy de blasio rikers ponte officer

Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)

Mayor de Blasio's announcement that the city intends to close Rikers Island jails in 10 years has met a mainly celebratory response, even from seasoned criminal justice reformers. We advise that they, after years of good work in exposing the debilitating and sometimes brutal conditions in the Rikers jails, take a deep breath and apply a critical eye.

The mayor's broad plan seems at least in part based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and will include replacing the facilities on Rikers with small jails built in different parts of the city. The Lippman Commission pegged the estimated cost at $10.6 billion, with annual cost savings then to follow. De Blasio, who has strayed away from details so far, is simply promising the outcome of closed jail complexes on Rikers and at least a couple of new jails elsewhere.

While de Blasio may see this move as good politics in an election year when he wants to shore up his liberal base, it is bad policy. Here's why:

*The 10-year goal -- far off in any context, but in politics, a lifetime -- is hardly a serious aspirational target, especially when de Blasio, even if he wins re-election, will have been out of office for years by the time Rikers would be slated for closure. The next mayor will face the large bulk of the untoward financial or bureaucratic or political consequences of the proposal.

*Any plan to close Rikers that includes the construction of new jails is a substantive mistake. Based on the recent history of municipal capital projects here in New York, we can expect that it will take longer to construct the new jails than currently thought and that it will cost even more than than the $10.6 billion projected.

*There's no reason even to be certain that conditions of confinement will improve significantly since the new facilities will operate with the same correction officers and jail culture that, in effect, contribute directly to the deplorable environment on Rikers today. Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, whose suicide after being locked up on Rikers for three years without a trial helped spur the movement to shutter the the jails there, said: "It wasn't the walls or the conditions at Rikers that killed Kalief. It was the human beings behind the walls that abused and ultimately drove him to commit suicide."

*If city leaders choose to, they could take meaningful steps to reduce our incarcerated population even more significantly than planned, close Rikers without building new jails and house the remaining incarcerated population in the city's other existing jails.

*The most direct way of reducing the incarcerated population is by addressing the front end of the problem, namely by cutting down the number of people the city locks up in the first place for no good public safety or justice purpose. But that would mean directing the NYPD to abandon "broken windows" policing, which is the single most significant public practice factor driving the unnecessary confinement of people on Rikers, people who are not dangerous or predatory or even criminal. We know, however, that the mayor -- and his political allies -- have embraced such tactics, so there's no possibility that he'll take this critical step.

Replacing Rikers with new jails sited in different neighborhoods around the city will do next to nothing to end the abusive and discriminatory practices of our criminal justice system. The NYPD will continue to arrest and district attorneys will continue to prosecute the same people, mainly low-income New Yorkers of color, and, in effect, continue to lock up the most politically vulnerable people in our city even when all they have done is engage in innocuous activities that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white neighborhoods.

De Blasio pulled off a similar policy flim-flam when he, along with former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, oversaw a dramatic drop in the NYPD's use of the discredited stop-and-frisk tactic. Problem is that, under the leadership of these two men, the NYPD did not change its fundamental approach to law enforcement, namely abusive and discriminatory "broken windows" policing.

Moreover, the city could make much better use of $10.6 billion than to construct more jails. For example, research, to say nothing of common sense, tells us that small class size improves the academic outcomes for all students across racial and class lines, yet the city has no plans to promote smaller classes in our public schools, probably because of funding and space considerations.

Policymakers could also allocate the funds toward one of the Big Apple's most urgent needs, building and providing new housing that is truly affordable for our city's most low-income households. Unlike new jails, such measures would make significant progress toward improving the lives and well-being of the New Yorkers residing in the communities most often targeted by the city's policing and incarceration policies.

Robert Gangi is the Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, or PROP, and a Democratic candidate for Mayor. On Twitter @PROPNYC.

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Closing Rikers: Good Politics, Bad Policy Thu, 06 Apr 2017 04:00:00 +0000