Our City, Our Vote: It’s time to give lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who are permanent residents of NYC the right to vote in our local elections. There are more than one million lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) in New York City - immigrants who have permanently made the U.S. and NYC their home, but might not yet be citizens - or might be taking too great of a risk to become citizens, based on where they are originally from. The overwhelming majority of these New Yorkers - our friends, neighbors, family members, colleagues - work, pay taxes, send their kids to our public schools, utilize and contribute to all our city services, and yet, they have absolutely no say in how the City makes critical decisions about their lives and those of their families. It’s no surprise, then, that their inability to vote for their Council Member, Mayor, and other local positions results in their extensive and unique housing, healthcare, and educational needs not being met. This must change immediately.
Fully funded legal services, including ActionNYC and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. Every New Yorker should have the right to counsel before any court of law: civil, housing, criminal - and, yes, immigration. The City’s average annual expenditure on NYFIUP, which provides representation in immigration court, is $16 million, and it is $7 million on ActionNYC, which provides free immigration legal services - amounts that could be doubled overnight by reallocating just 1.5 day’s worth of the NYPD’s operating budget. This is how we invest in communities, not criminalization.
Fully funded Adult Literacy Programs. We must end the annual budget dance regarding Adult Literacy Programs, which are the foundation of social, civic, cultural, and political empowerment for thousands of New Yorkers. Once again, the lack of funding here is a reflection of a misalignment of our priorities. We must baseline this funding at a minimum of $12 million annually (less than one day’s worth of the NYPD’s budget), and increase it based on need.
Interpretation Cooperative and a Public “Language Bank.” There’s no reason any New Yorker should ever be blocked from accessing City services, from schools, to hospitals, to social services, and more, because they might not have a mastery of English. The City must establish and fund an interpretation cooperative that seamlessly enables access to all services that immigrants will need.
Prioritize Dual Language Learners. One of the greatest failures of the DOE during the pandemic - failing to communicate comprehensively, effectively, and on time with immigrant families - was just a snapshot of a much larger and systemic problem within our public school system. In order for all of our kids and families to be truly and equitably served, the City must fund formal partnerships between trusted, culturally and linguistically relevant organizations and local schools to ensure that all language and cultural needs are being met and that school administrators and teachers alike are integrating their students needs, and not allowing a lack of proficiency in English to stymie progress.
Housing is a human right, and yet for too long, we've allowed developer greed instead of human need to dictate the housing that gets built in NYC. We must work directly with tenant organizers, housing activists, and those New Yorkers in greatest need to understand the full scope of the challenges, so that we can, together, begin to solve our housing crisis. We must do all that we can on the City level to work towards the goals of social housing, which can only be truly accomplished with significant congressional action. We must:
There is no greater existential threat to New York City than climate change. Immediately and aggressively cracking down on our emissions, strengthening our shorelines with “green” and “gray” infrastructure, significantly expanding open space, and ending our over-reliance on cars that’s killing us both physically and through pollution aren’t just important; they’re prerequisites to our future.
NYC’s BIPOC and immigrant communities that suffer from the greatest economic marginalization, police brutality, and lack of access to services and opportunity are unsurprisingly and shamefully the very same on the front lines of our current and future climate crises, with our waste transfer stations, our power plants, and our most heavily truck-trafficked areas all located in these communities. Addressing our climate emergency is therefore central to achieving racial and economic justice for all New Yorkers.
We need to use every tool in our toolbox -- the City’s budget, the Council’s legislative power, publicly funding local organizing, and constant, vociferous advocacy in Albany and in Washington to tackle our climate emergency head on.
Since 2014 NYC has spent $1.3 billion to pay for police misconduct claims. That’s not a functional policing system and the result is discrimination and death for far too many black and brown New Yorkers. We can keep people safe and reinvest in education, and civic engagement so that we can work to dismantle systemic racism, fight poverty, and build power. To ensure the safety of our communities, we must:
In schools, DIVEST from our criminalization:
And INVEST in our care:
Fully fund and implement restorative practices at all schools by 2022.
Fully fund and increase school support staff, including guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, restorative justice coordinators, and academic and social support staff.
Establish a system-wide mental health continuum and increase funding for mental health supports for all students.
Ensure all students have access to 1) Culturally responsive education, 2) high-quality and comprehensive selection of sports, arts, and elective courses, and 3) college access supports including Student Success Centers.
So as to ensure that EBT/SNAP recipients are able to access as many opportunities as possible, we must:
Advocate in Congress to increase monthly SNAP benefit amounts so no New Yorker has to go hungry before their benefits replenish
Advocate for discounted rates for SNAP recipients at green markets of all types in NYC
Advocate for free entry at cultural institutions for all SNAP recipients
To address food scarcity we must:
Reforming the Uniform Land Use Review Process
As it stands, the ULURP process means that almost all major development and zoning decisions are made on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis, which does not allow for decision-making based on the city’s housing needs as a whole. Further, the current process makes it such that developers and the mayoral administration get to pre-negotiate deals before the community has a say -- it's like they've finished the first course before communities have even looked at the menu. This has led to an environment where developers and profit, not people and need, are given outrageous leverage in our land use process, and the results are clear: a city that is more segregated and gentrified, with mass displacement and economic instability. Some specific key changes that must be included in ULURP reform include:
With a comprehensive plan, we would be able to focus on creating deeply and permanently affordable housing, and add schools, hospitals, and green space for working people.
The comprehensive plan must put people and their true needs at the heart so that it is clear what type of asset needs to be created to solve which problem for whom. Our land use process must be driven by solving actual challenges faced by the people of the city, not driven by the goal to simply build the next shiny new building for profit.
Our land use process must also redress the legacy of racist redlining by ending exclusionary zoning.
This includes: increasing deeply and permanently affordable density in areas that are well served by mass transit and not existing LMI and non-white neighborhoods; ending single family zoning; and legalizing accessory dwelling units and basement apartments.
Finally, when it comes to actually housing people in new units of affordable housing, we must make sure that we are not leaving it up to people to figure out the convoluted system for applying for that housing. We do that by co-governing-- investing in community resources that pay tenant organizers and housing advocates to work with BIPOC and immigrants.
The philosophical/intellectual basis of fighting for social justice is undoing harm and preventing harm and violence. These tenets permeate through all aspects of life, including, of course, to animals. Aspects of animal justice also intersect with addressing climate change and achieving climate justice for marginalized communities. We know by now that efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will not be met without drastic changes in human diets and curbing the consumption of meat. As a champion for animal rights, I will advocate for:
Create a dedicated Sub-committee for Students with Disabilities in the City Council
Sponsor legislation to codify an aspirational employment target for people with disabilities in all NYC governmental agencies.
Combat Sub Minimum Wage for people with Disabilities by ensuring employers abide by local minimum wage laws.
Modernize AAR reservations by creating a mobile application for users and expand AAR operations to enable same day reservations.
Expand ADA accessibility by installing elevators and escalators across all NYC Subways and repair any existing ones that no longer function.
Expand Access to Cultural Institutions by sponsoring legislation that requires no cost entry or deeply reduced prices for people with disabilities.