New York must urgently put an emphasis on building permanently affordable housing that puts vulnerable communities first.
We are at an urgent moment in the city’s growth. More people are leaving the city than moving here, largely due to the cost of housing. I have lived here my entire life, and I have never seen the housing crisis as urgent as it is now and the city is significantly hurting its ability to attract and retain people. This impact is felt exponentially more by our seniors and lower income residents. We need action now.
The next Mayor and members of the City Council should begin with community planning first: get input from communities before drafting a housing plan. Feedback from residents will help us avoid making costly and painful mistakes. Specifically we must build housing for people at the actual incomes of communities, all city assets prioritize new housing for seniors and low income residents, and any new projects on NYCHA land be 100% permanently affordable.
If we are going to be a 21st century city, we must have a 21st century transportation network built on transportation alternatives, affordability, and sustainability.
The 1 train is the spine that services most of our communities in the 7th District. It is overused, overcrowded, and dangerous, but it does not have to be that way. We could utilize the Amtrak lines under Riverside Park to put a station at 125th Street and 12th Avenue, it would reduce stress on the line. We need to invest in the workhorses of our community: local buses. Rather than further service cutbacks, we should expand the only public transportation in NYC that is 100% ADA compliant and use technology to improve the flow of service.
We have the opportunity to become a leader among the largest cities in the world for having a socially, economically, and environmentally fair public transportation system. The MTA needs a plan that is both affordable and more broadly available to the neediest New Yorkers.
Our public schools represent the future of our city, but it is vastly uneven, and unfair. We can fix that.
When it comes to the needs of schools across District 7, New York must be focused on the varied needs of each community. First and foremost, the quality of education in the richest city in the world should not depend on your neighborhood or income level. Equity in education is paramount to the future of our city and improving income inequality, higher education levels, and local economic success.
Our goal should be to do everything we can to help teachers, students, and parents alike achieve a high quality educational experience. Things like smaller class sizes, better technology, expanded second language instruction, increased teacher pay, and programs that include surrounding neighborhoods are vital to creating a community investment in our schools.
New York needs a more restorative criminal justice system, rather than a retributive one that causes undue hardship on everyday New Yorkers and stresses our justice infrastructure.
Under the current District Attorney, opportunities for restorative treatment - alternatives to incarceration, restoration of certain rights, and the clearing of personal records have been poorly conducted. We have made strides in bail reform, we are still far too focused on punitive measures for low-level violations rather than focusing on wealthy lawbreakers and white collar crime which has a far greater impact on all New Yorkers.
There is plenty we can do to change the culture of our criminal justice system including eliminating unnecessary fees, divesting from private, for-profit prisons, ending the lifetime felony ban on jury duty, closing Rikers, and much more. While most of the criminal justice laws are governed by the state, we can all be advocates for the changes we need.
The business of New York has always been small businesses who invest in our communities.
Around 200,000 businesses operate in NYC. 98% have less than 100 employees and 89% have less than 20. In order to grow our local economies, New York needs to encourage further small business development while assisting and protecting small businesses instead of providing incentives to just big business. Most small businesses are facing similar issues to individual New Yorkers: rising rents, job automation, and the threat of economic recession.
We must work to disincentivize leaving retail spaces vacant for landlords, provide low interest loans to established retail tenants that are pillars of our communities, and encourage further investment in minority and women-owned businesses. Our economy has the ability to thrive despite outside economic threats if we invest in our communities.