I believe government must be in the business of solving problems - especially big problems that have a profound effect on people’s lives.
Not only should we expect all levels of government to recognize that climate change is the existential challenge of our lifetime requiring immediate action, that housing and healthcare are fundamental human rights, and that all of our work must be grounded in equity - for Black lives, women, undocumented neighbors, LGBTQ New Yorkers; all those who have been historically systemically ignored - but we must also collaborate to turn these understandings into improving the lived experiences of Brooklynites.
These are my values. I am a reformer; I believe in deepening transparency, accountability, integrity and effectiveness in our political system. I believe government should work for all of us. I aspire to bring bold ideas and concrete plans to the work and to prioritize collaboration, communication, and coalition building. This is how we can get big things done and deliver results for our community. Together, we can make the 33rd District a model for Brooklyn, New York City, and beyond!
When it comes to the climate crisis, our leaders have waited so long and mitigated so little that moderation will fail us. We live in a waterfront district that could be deluged when the next big storm hits. We must act.
That’s why I’ve put forth a plan to transform the 33rd into the first carbon neutral district in New York. Here’s how:
To end our dependence on fossil fuels and reach carbon neutrality in our district, we need a holistic and highly localized approach. Our 53 bold, new initiatives build on climate policies already in place and target the largest sources of emissions in the city and our district: buildings, transportation, electricity, and waste. By empowering and incentivizing residents to act urgently to reduce emissions in each of these sectors, we can end our dependence on fossil fuels. With the right mix of new policies and financing, we can help both our planet and our communities in cost-effective ways. This vision for a carbon neutral 33rd District is informed by overarching principles:
To save our neighborhoods, our city, and our planet, we will need the city, state, and federal governments to enact bold Green New Deals that reimagine our policies across the board. The initiatives in this plan are guided by core objectives, including the elimination of fossil fuel infrastructure with a 100% renewable energy electric grid. and create tens of thousands of good green jobs. To achieve these objectives we must reconsider our approaches to vehicular traffic, waste disposal, zoning and development, and more.
While we aggressively push the federal and state governments for critical action and hold corporations accountable, we can and must act closer to home.
Our neighborhoods are where the vision and values of the Green New Deal become a reality. If elected, the 33rd Council Office will serve as an organizing home to reach our goal of carbon neutrality and we will have a dedicated climate justice staff member. We will help people make changes in their own lives, mobilize their neighbors, and advocate for legislation that provides more government assistance and action. We will encourage those among our neighbors with more resources to invest more, and work together to ensure that low-income and BIPOC residents — who are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis — experience the positive effects of these policies.
1. Electrify and retrofit our buildings
Our plan details how we will facilitate electrification and retrofits of our neighborhood building stock - the largest source of emissions -including helping at least 1,000 building owners access PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) funding, expanding the Climate Mobilization Act, eliminating gas hook ups in new construction, and incentivizing shifts to an all-electric building stock.
2. Prioritize efficiency upgrades for NYCHA residents
Any climate change and resiliency agenda must place the most historically marginalized among us at the forefront, as the impacts of the climate crisis are most keenly felt by these communities - including the 12,000 NYCHA residents in the 33rd. Under our plan, we will eliminate gas from all NYCHA buildings, use public procurement to install efficient appliances, and pass local legislation to ensure NYCHA retrofits generate good green-jobs for NYCHA residents.
3. Expand tax incentives and ease regulatory approvals to install solar on all viable rooftops
To make the expansion of solar energy onto every viable roof in the 33rd as simple as possible, we can expand city and state tax credits, streamline the permitting process, modify the Fire Code, and provide all landlords and homeowners with a Solar Installation Kit to ensure they can easily and efficiently access available resources.
4. Legalize and incentivize the use of in-home battery energy-storage systems
To increase battery storage in the district, we should legalize the use of in-home lithium ion batteries, streamline the permitting & approval process, and canvass the district to encourage all building owners to install batteries.
5. Provide low cost financing to encourage mass utilization of electric heat pumps
We should require heat pump installations to be fully covered by new and existing financing programs, convene experts to identify barriers and propose legislative reforms to facilitate take-up, and prioritize City-owned buildings for installation to help grow the market.
6. Make the Brooklyn Navy Yard a home for clean-energy industry and Green Jobs
To place the Brooklyn Navy Yard at the center of our green transformation, we should commit all available Navy Yard sites to supporting offshore wind operations, create a wind-power training program for public housing and local residents, and utilize every available rooftop for solar installation.
7. Mandate composting and recycling to reach Zero Waste
We must restore funding for citywide composting, so every resident of the 33rd can put their compost out for curbside pickup, and we must explore incentive-based systems to increase recycling and composting participation rates.
8. Encourage participation in voluntary renewable programs
Under our plan, the 33rd Council Office would launch an organizing campaign encouraging all residents to participate in appropriate, affordable voluntary programs to help make our district carbon neutral.
9. Accelerate New York City government’s transition to zero-emissions
Our plan has proposals to target emissions from City-owned buildings, reduce the size of the City fleet, and prioritize schools for efficient appliances and solar installation.
10. Reimagine our transportation network
To reduce dependence on gas guzzling cars and discourage personal car ownership, we must expand mass transit options, enhance pedestrian spaces, improve bicycle safety and affordable access to e-bikes, and increase availability of electric vehicle charging stations.
Our community has stepped up to fight environmental injustice time and again. We hope to bring this energy and focus to realizing carbon neutrality in the 33rd, so that we can start making the changes needed to protect our neighborhoods.
More than a quarter of the tenants in our district pay a majority of their income in rent. Every year it gets harder and harder for folks to afford to live in our neighborhoods. We need to tackle the affordability crisis by taking power from real estate and giving it to tenants in order to generate the truly affordable housing we so desperately need.
Across the city, rents for apartments and commercial storefronts have gone up and up and up for as long as anyone can remember. We have a glut of luxury apartments but little truly affordable housing, just as we have too many empty storefronts, but too few convenient laundromats or grocery stores.
COVID has exacerbated these crises and laid bare how broken the real estate market is. There has been a significant increase in vacant rental apartments available in Brooklyn relative to pre-pandemic. If the housing market wasn't broken, the supply surplus would cause rents to drop significantly, but residential rents have only shifted modestly. Similarly, small businesses are closing at bewildering rates. In Greenpoint and Williamsburg alone, nearly 100 businesses have shuttered their storefronts. Ironically, COVID has presented us with a rare opportunity, which we must not squander, to reform the real estate market. We can spur commercial entrepreneurs and we can rebalance the housing mix and have a huge impact on affordability. The market won’t just fix itself; we need thoughtful and sophisticated carrots and sticks to reframe our city for everyone’s advantage.
We will require that all landlords, whether of residential units or commercial storefronts, register vacant property with the Department of Finance immediately upon posting a unit for rent. State Senator Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher have agreed, at my request, to sponsor state legislation that would require that, once a residential unit has been empty for an extended period of time, the rent would automatically reduce to the federally determined Fair Market Rent (currently $1,801 for a one-bedroom in Brooklyn). This policy action should gradually move the rental market down, putting apartments in reach for more working families. and enabling New Yorkers who are low-income or experiencing homelessness to use a housing voucher to actually cover rent.
For commercial storefronts, I propose that if a space is vacant for an extended period of time, the publicly listed rent would be reduced by 10% with subsequent reductions for sustained vacancies.
In my plan to Lower NYC Rent, I lay out a concrete vision for how we can recalibrate the outsize influence of the real estate industry and make sure Brooklyn is the equitably diverse place we aspire to be.
District 33 is home to seven NYCHA developments housing approximately 12,000 of our neighbors. The current conditions in these developments represent a serious threat to the health, safety, and well-being of residents. From the persistent pernicious presence of lead paint, to the widespread public health issues relating to mold, rats, and waste management, and the frequent outages of boilers and elevators, we cannot understate the fierce urgency of bold action. While there is no magic bullet, we must immediately address these deplorable conditions. Tenants deserve so much better.
The already outdated $32 billion dollar physical needs assessment across the NYCHA portfolio is both daunting in its scale and speaks to the disgraceful disinvestment that has occurred in NYCHA over decades. My priority as the Council Member is to realize significant improvements in the conditions of the seven NYCHA developments in the 33rd District. Furthermore, I will speak out tirelessly and advocate specifically for the City, State, and Federal Governments to step up in dramatic ways to not only invest in NYCHA, but streamline the bureaucratic structures and regulatory frameworks that have slowed NYCHA down for too long. Every level of government, most of all Washington, must make addressing the conditions in NYCHA a key part of our recovery.
I am profoundly honored to have the support of each of the NYCHA tenant association presidents from the seven developments located in the 33rd Council District and, if elected, I will prioritize addressing the living conditions of these constituents.
I believe we need to revamp a broken ULURP process that rezones properties or neighborhoods without considering the infrastructure needs of our communities. Council Members have significant influence over land use and development decisions and I will use that power to include the communities impacted by new development in the decision making process and I will fight to ensure that people in every neighborhood in our district are able to afford new housing built. Increases in density must come with significant investments in public infrastructure and services. I will not support a rezoning that does not thoughtfully address the effects on transportation capacity, school seats, parks, and healthcare services.
To this end, I strongly support comprehensive community planning processes that consider the full range of impacts caused by ULURP.
Our objective as policymakers must be to end homelessness. In one of the wealthiest cities in the world nothing less is acceptable. During my time in City government, I worked on opening dozens of homeless shelters and supportive housing developments. I was targeted by anti-shelter opponents with protests at my home and harassed in the press and on social media, but it only strengthened my resolve to do whatever I can to help every New Yorker experiencing homelessness have a permanent affordable home.
The homelessness crisis is one of the biggest failures of our government - at every level - and demands new ideas and solutions. We need to increase the value of vouchers to move people out of shelter and into permanent housing. I am excited that the largest new supportive housing development in New York City will be in DUMBO, but we need many more developments like it where formerly homeless individuals can access deeply affordable housing with onsite services. We need to expand homeless set aside requirements to ensure more housing is made available for the formerly homeless in new development. And we need to pursue a mass conversion of properties devalued and underutilized as a result of the pandemic into deeply affordable developments, such as limited service hotels.
Every district in our city must play an active role in providing transitional housing, such as traditional shelters, safe havens, and permanent housing opportunities for people experienced homelessness.
Small businesses are not just the backbone of our City’s economy — they’re also the hearts of our neighborhoods. So it is extremely troubling that these engines of vitality are currently experiencing economic devastation. Many thousands of small businesses have filed for bankruptcy since the onset of the pandemic and thousands more may still close.
I have a plan to revitalize our commercial corridors - to protect our small businesses and bring life back into our neighborhoods - and if elected, I’ll fight tooth and nail to get it done.
More than 100 small businesses have closed in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. In Brooklyn Heights we have nearly three dozen vacancies. When I was growing up, Montague was the center of our community — where neighbors could spend time at not one but two bookstores, pick up great prepared meals at Only the Best, and get delicious rugelach at Sinclair’s Bakery. These shops are all long gone.
Local small businesses connect neighbors, provide jobs, and allow us to invest in our neighborhoods rather than in Amazon. As Council Member, I want to be our district’s best cheerleader – helping lead aggressive business attraction efforts and pounding the pavement, in partnership with local stakeholders and neighbors, to identify the businesses we love and persuade them to come to Montague Street and Smith Street and Manhattan Avenue.
We need to develop new policy tools, a mixture of carrots and sticks, to fully activate our vacant storefronts citywide. We should create a new small business loan fund through the City’s Economic Development Corporation, specifically to uplift entrepreneurs who are women and people of color, to lease empty storefronts. As someone who has worked for a decade in New York City government, I know that it is both feasible and critical for government to respond to the COVID shutdown by streamlining the application, approval, and permitting processes to help small businesses swiftly open their doors — and to guide new entrepreneurs through the process. If elected, I want my office to host workshops and serve as an education and resource hub to help small businesses quickly and easily navigate the city’s bureaucracy.
However, we know that the increase in storefront vacancies happened before COVID. To get at the root challenge we will not only need new tax policy that will incentivize the activation of our commercial storefronts and generate pop up stores and temporary uses to bring our neighborhoods back, but we also will need to impose new tax penalties on landlords who are keeping their storefronts vacant in the hope of securing a high paying (chain) tenant.
I’ve spent my career in the government and nonprofit sectors working to advance opportunities for all New Yorkers to access quality employment and to have the benefits and the security they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives. I formerly served as the Executive Director of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, which is comprised of 200 community colleges, union training funds and community based organizations that provide job training and job placement services to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year.
Nationally, a union worker makes 22% more each week than a nonunion counterpart. While we are, of course, a union town, less than 1 in 6 private sector workers in New York City are members of a union. Being a member of a union is more than just better wages. It is decent healthcare. It is a pension to be able to retire. And we have especially appreciated during this pandemic, it is greater safety on the job.
If I am elected, I would pursue every possible avenue to expand the ranks of organized labor and to hold bad employers accountable who are short changing their workers. I would use my bully pulpit to show up at rallies and picket lines and put active pressure on the employers. I would demand the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection and other relevant city and state agencies pursue every possible enforcement tool at their disposal. You can count on me as a committed, strategic partner to help make sure we are successful at expanding the number of union families in New York City.
Below are some proposals I am keen to advocate for in consultation with labor leaders, workers, and small businesses:
2020 bore witness to the largest and most diverse national protests for racial equity and Black Lives Matter in U.S. history, led by Black and Brown Americans who are demanding a better future for our nation. Each one of us must take up this responsibility. Government must respond by instituting reforms that address systemic racism. Most critical is that we reimagine our approaches to public safety.
We ask cops to respond to every issue under the sun. That’s wrong and it’s what we must address - by reallocating resources from the police to those trained to defuse specific tension-filled situations. When a family member has a severe mental health episode and help is needed to deescalate the situation, you should be able to call someone for help who will not bring a gun into your home. When a New Yorker wants to get support for a neighbor, they should be able to call an expertly trained professional to respond in real time.
We have more cops in our schools than the entire City of Baltimore has patrolling their streets. It doesn't make sense, and it doesn’t serve the needs of our students. We need social workers and guidance counselors in our schools rather than cops.
I support the creation of a new public safety agency made up of social workers, mental health professionals, and credible messengers trained in the community centered Crisis Management System (Cure Violence) model, all of whom must follow anti-racist principles and be experts in deescalation. Our goal is to defuse every situation, prevent violence, and get New Yorkers the help they need. Creating a new Public safety agency requires the reallocation of a share of the NYPD’s $6 billion budget to this new approach.
The Council has broad legislative authority to remove cops from schools, social services, homeless shelters, traffic enforcement, and elections. We should use this authority to demilitarize many of these environments. The combination of a reimagined approach to policing, one that includes new disciplinary processes and true accountability for police officer misconduct, and new approaches to achieving public safety, will make our city both safer and more respectful of our residents. The Council needs to use its legislative, oversight, and budgetary authority to transform policing and achieve a safer city for our communities.
When we take a holistic view of public safety we have to look beyond policing to consider our judicial and incarceration systems. We need to prioritize investments in alternatives to incarceration, diversion programs and supervised release, and ensure their utilization by the Courts to end mass incarceration once and for all in New York City. As we continue to reduce the incarcerated population in New York City we should redirect funds to address the lack of services, housing, and economic opportunity available to people who are leaving incarceration or have been formerly incarcerated. By funding effective neighborhood-based organizations doing this work, we will reduce the footprint of the criminal legal system while building up infrastructure at the community level.
New Yorkers always depend on our parks - but never more than during this pandemic. The conditions and maintenance of our parks have been inadequate for decades. Our Parks Department needs to be properly funded to better maintain our parks and to build much needed new green space. Not only will I advocate for additional Parks funding, but in land use negotiations, I will use every opportunity to push for amenities, including open space.
Our community has grown more than any other Council District in New York City over the past decade. Neighborhood rezonings came with commitments for three new parks that have been stuck in bureaucratic limbo for over a decade. Our promised parks should have opened years ago on Box Street in Northern Greenpoint, at Bushwick Inlet Park in Williamsburg, and on Willoughby in Downtown Brooklyn. If elected, I will work together with community activists to do whatever it takes to get our promised parks immediately built.
Across our neighborhoods, we must invest more in our parks to maintain their quality. In addition to dramatically increasing City funding for parks to at least 1% of the City budget, I will also help organize and support Friends groups composed of neighbors who are committed to our green spaces. When the Parks Department and the community are working together, we can provide the green spaces that Brooklynites deserve.
I am proud to have helped successfully advocate for Open Streets, including Outdoor Dining, as part of the City’s response to the constraints of COVID. I want to help return our streets to our residents by making many of the pandemic-inspired changes permanent.
We need to expand and invest in every type of transit, not only to serve people, increase safety, and diminish pollution, but also to discourage the use of personal cars. No one wants to live in a New York City clogged by traffic. To prevent that future, we need to make it easier and more attractive to choose other transportation options. I believe that a compelling transportation agenda includes more pedestrian space, a comprehensive citywide bicycle network, dedicated busways, more frequent G train service, expanded micro-mobility options, free buses, and more.
The 33rd District has grown tremendously over the past two decades. While we are a transit rich district, we need deeper investments and more efficient mass transit to meet the transportation needs of our growing community. I am an avid cyclist, having biked over 3,000 miles on CitiBike, and I will fight for a truly protected network of bicycle lanes that will facilitate safe cycling.
As a born and bred New Yorker, I understood early on that NYC’s road and rail system is the foundation of our economy and identity. However, our bridges and our subways are over a century old and hanging by a proverbial thread. The Federal Government has committed to investing in our infrastructure, and I’ll be fighting to make sure that funding makes it to Brooklyn’s 33rd Council District.
And of course, we must Stop the Chop and end the proliferation of tourist and personal transportation helicopters hanging out above our neighborhoods. They clog our skies with noise and air pollution, benefitting the few at the expense of the many. The City owned heliports should be limited to essential travel. And we need greater oversight of the NYPD’s use on helicopters to ensure they are better neighbors.
Education is the investment we make collectively in our future. Underfunded, segregated, and pedagogically inadequate schools fail not only students and families but fail our community. We truly need every school to deliver an excellent education to every student, which means that we must have great principals and teachers working in quality environments and able to support children and families academically, socially, and emotionally.
While we have many excellent elementary schools across our district, we must continue to expand high quality middle and high school options. To advance equity and improve the caliber of all schools, I would advocate to eliminate exclusionary policies. For example, we should end the practice of four year olds taking a standardized exam to determine entry to gifted and talented programs. I believe many admissions screens at middle and high schools are exclusionary and enhance segregation and we should swiftly eliminate admissions screens based on geography, lateness, and attendance. Public schools are for the public and admissions processes should be open and inclusive.
We should also repeal the admissions process at specialized high schools, which only considers the score on the SHSAT exam to determine entry into specialized high schools. No admissions process should be based on a single exam. Our most prestigious high schools should reflect the diversity of our City, but less than 1% of incoming first year students at Stuyvesant this year are Black. There’s no excuse for that kind of segregation.
We need to pursue district by district integration plans that advance equity across every school in every school district. I will help champion localized integration and equity planning grants that strive for every elementary and middle school to not only be excellent schools, but also reflect the diversity of the district, incorporate anti-racist principles, culturally responsive education, a more diverse teaching corps, and reformed discilplinary practices.
This has been an incredibly challenging year for our students, parents, and school communities. The Mayor and Chancellor must immediately release their plan for five day per week in person learning with after school programs for all students at every grade level beginning this fall. In addition, we need to prepare now to offer supplemental educational and emotional supports for students who have fallen behind or experienced trauma over the past year.
No one is illegal. All documented and undocumented immigrants deserve comprehensive protections. Our status as a sanctuary city is central to who we are as New Yorkers. I spent the first 16 months of the de Blasio administration working full time to design and implement the IDNYC program to ensure that every New Yorker, regardless of immigration status, has access to this government-issued photo identification and the myriad protections and benefits that come with it.
If I am elected to the City Council, my door will be open to all. Our city has absorbed waves of immigrants over the centuries and we must continue to be both welcoming and protective of those who land here and choose to make New York their home.
Even as the vaccine becomes more widely available, we need to take measures to support our neighbors who are struggling to get by. We will need similarly bold action to sustain our economy. We must continue food distribution efforts and do everything we can to prevent mass evictions by Canceling Rent owed by people unable to pay due to the crisis. But we also need to seize this moment to ensure we recover with justice. From repurposing newly available space, to providing training for people who are out of work, to strengthening our public health infrastructure so that we are prepared for the next outbreak, to providing supplemental educational opportunities for students, to building out the universal broadband network that people need to function from home - we must dream bigger than a return to normalcy.
I believe that, if I am elected, my time, energy, and resources should disproportionately be dedicated to the people in our community who are struggling the most. A range of policy proposals will be released over the course of the campaign, but the overarching objective is simple: to make the 33rd Council District a beacon for progressive government that can be emulated across our borough, city, and beyond.
Special interests have held too much power in our city for far too long, including real estate developers, fossil fuel companies, registered NYC lobbyists, corporate PACs, and law enforcement unions. I will not accept donations from these entities and will work to diminish their influence. This is a people powered campaign. No special interests or big donors are influencing this campaign. We are capping all contributions at $250 per person.