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Coronavirus Recovery Plan

We need to come to grips with the devastating reality of how our City and State Governments are actually doing nothing to save our jobs and small businesses. It broke my heart to see a Los Angeles restaurant owner become emotional over the prospect of financial losses due to uncompensated business closures. Two-thirds of restaurants in New York State could close by the end of January, according to a CNN report. Collectively, an estimated 520,000 jobs from small businesses have been lost in New York City due to the pandemic, according to a trade group’s report. Recent reports estimate that 1 out of 8 Americans face going hungry, with many resorting to petty shoplifting in order to put meals on the table. In our District, the disparities in our economy

long ago made the waiting lines to the Holy Apostles soup kitchen the longest in the City. The time is now to create a new stream of revenue for the City, as it faces financial calamity. Because of how much Albany unfairly controls our City Government, our local lawmakers must be prepared to pressure Albany for permission, in necessary, to raise City taxes on large corporations, which have offices in the City.

The new corporate tax

To pay for rent vouchers and other recovery proposals, I have announced support for a 1% sure charge on corporate income taxes of companies with operations in New York City with at least 1,000 employees. Since 1% is essentially a rounding error, this is a reasonable tax that is not punitive on individuals, which would create the funds needed to house our neighbors and other progressive, Government policies. The activist group I was formerly affiliated with, Fight For NYCHA, estimated that this 1% tax could raise $10 billion a year from just the Top 25 corporations. If enacted, this tax could plug the City Budget’s hole — and pay for my jobs and recovery plan.

Saving small businesses

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), one of the most vetted pieces of legislation to come before the City Council, is necessary for the survival of small businesses. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, small businesses had been in a crisis, with over 1,200 businesses closing each month, taking 8,000 jobs with them. I’m told half of these businesses were immigrant-owned. The SBJSA would have given all small businesses in the City a long term lease renewal at an affordable rent. This would have been the solution to the crisis of closings and job loss. Instead, City Council did everything it could to stop the SBJSA from moving. If elected, I would reintroduce the original version of the SBJSA, urge my fellow Council members to co sponsor the bill with me, and fight to get it a full-floor vote.

The jobs we could save

With up to 1 million New Yorkers unemployed, we can address half of this unemployment loss under my small business and jobs recovery plan by saving the 520,000 small business jobs that have been lost. We would need to target rent vouchers to those, who are unemployed, and to the small businesses in need of economic assistance on the condition that they must rehire their employees. If we keep individuals housed in their homes and small businesses in their spaces with rent vouchers until the economy fully reopens next year, then we can likely recover half of the lost jobs in our City. This would allow people to return to their small business jobs by beginning to provide compensation so that small businesses can survive these business closures. This plan allows people to at least make ends meet whilst waiting for the pandemic to end — which is the least we can do.

Housing, zoning, and land use

Ending homelessness with permanent housing

The core goal of my campaign is to strengthen the social safety net. As a result, one of my main proposals is providing permanent housing to people living in shelter hotels in our District. With the abundance of vacant space in our District, this could be the historic moment we could solve the homeless crisis. My plan calls for converting empty hotels and buildings into SRO’s with supporting services, so people can transition to permanent apartments.

Reforming ULURP

I support a reform of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP Process) that would give communities final say in matters on land use. Right now, communities are able to participate in a limited basis (and only in an advisory capacity) in a Community Board determination that is non-binding. Instead, I advocate that the ULURP Process should end with a binding vote at the Community Board level, where the residents have final say about land use decisions in their neighborhoods. How that will look like will take robust public input, which I will welcome.

A public commission can investigate the NYPD

With many still frustrated with the lack of reform in the New York Police Department, I believe it’s time to create an independent public commission to investigate the NYPD. There are many ways to do this. As a candidate for the City Council, one method would be for the next Speaker to use their power and discretion to appoint a commission chair. This model was used by then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to recommend the closure of the jails on Rikers Island. If elected, I would withhold my vote for a Speaker unless the Speaker candidate made a public promise to appoint a commission chair to investigate the NYPD.

With the Council’s support, we would confer onto the public commission the power of issuing subpoenas, compelling public testimony, and deputizing prosecutors to bring their own cases. A public commission with these powers would have teeth to hold the police to account, unlike alternatives, like an elected Civilian Complaint Review Board, which would only have jurisdiction over limited areas in an advisory capacity.

We find ourselves at this juncture because, for decades now, the NYPD have violated our Constitutional rights during every major social or protest movement, going back to the Mattachine Society in the 1960s, the Black Panthers in the 1970s, and many more since then. In Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term, several police officers were charged or implicated with crimes related to the selling of gun licenses. Recently, an exposé in Pro Publica revealed the NYPD were engaged in the “collars for dollars” scam to inflate their overtime pay by targeting innocent sex workers, who are low income people of color and rely on sex work to survive. At the same time, there is no functional way to hold the NYPD to account for brutality and homicide, which have gone unprosecuted for decades.

Create a new Public Safety Agency to take police out of non-life threatening emergency response

One important mandate that we can give the public commission is to institutionalize responsibilities that will remain within the NYPD after we create my proposed, new Public Safety Agency. If elected, I will introduce legislation to create a Public Safety Agency. An aspect of the public commission could deal with the demilitarization of the force, while anticipating a new agency that can respond to non-emergency 911 calls, for example.

Real reform

This new Public Safety Agency would be staffed with mental health professionals and social workers, who have an expertise in handling non-life threatening situations and people in distress. In addition, the public commission could investigate and enforce new policies that would prevent the NYPD from engaging in data collection and other unauthorized creation or uses of databases, which would violate due process rights and that would serve as biases against communities and groups protected against discrimination under Federal civil rights laws.

Fight Austerity by Increasing SNAP’s EBT Card for Our Disabled Neighbors

If elected, I would advocate for all supermarkets, food outlets and farmers markets to offer a specific discount at the checkout register when the SNAP program’s EBT card is presented as payment. 

Although the federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, (which operate the program), I would also explore how the city could have greater ‘home rule’ that would give local government the ability to raise more funds for this necessary and vital program, which has been shown to have significant effects on on reducing the poverty rate and child hunger.

In addition, I would also advocate that the EBT card be expanded so that it not only covers food, but also basic necessities like clothes, school supplies, etc., which would also be at a discount. Moreover, like Boston and Chicago, I would similarly introduce legislation that would allow EBT card holders and four family members to enter all city cultural institutions for free. Private cultural institutions will be asked to offer free entry, or alternatively to offer a max of three dollars per family unit of four.