(Voter Guide) Jorge Vasquez – City Council District 2
This candidate statement is part of The Lo-Down’s 2017 Voter Guide. To view the main page and to learn about other candidates on the ballot in New York City’s Sept. 12 Democratic Primary, please click here.
Residence: Lower East Side right now with my beautiful mother, I was born and raised here, and only left to pursue education elsewhere; planning to stay in the community with my fiance.
Office: City Council District 2
Occupation: Full-time candidate; previously a public interest attorney
Why are you seeking this office?
I was born and raised in NYCHA houses, with a supportive single mother, right here in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, right around the corner from my campaign office and where I live. I was a veteran of the NYC public school system, and truly relied on the community resources this District took for granted to get where I am today. I pursued a law degree and, further, an LLM, to understand how to best help people. I, then, returned to my roots to work on behalf of the NYC Government prosecuting human rights violations, and I am a public interest attorney by trade.
I have spent my entire adult life dedicating my efforts to helping those who needed the help. My doors were open to those who required legal services but couldn’t afford it, and I have since been more than happy to provide pro-bono legal advice to anyone that sincerely needed it (including multiple other candidates within this very race). I was a high school guidance counselor, and understand the gravity of problems within our public schools and the emotional impact it has on our students. In similar fashion, I try to make people’s lives easier now by making sure they understand what resources are currently available to them, and what laws fall in their favor.
Unfortunately, more and more have we seen our legislature create laws that are grandiose in goals, but haven’t been matched with the legal competence to assure they are actionable and have oversight. I currently cannot refer my constituency to resources that could’ve helped me as a kid, simply because they no longer exist. I cannot properly guide an abused tenant or anyone with a major issue through the legal process they deserve, because the infrastructure is so broken. As your next City Council Member I intend to work on fixing the minutia in these existing laws to make them enforceable, rejecting the influence of parasitic developers ruining the historical integrity of the LES, East Village, and above, and, finally, creating the laws necessary to make us a progressively proactive City, rather than one with thousands (if not millions) of silent sufferers.
We’ve run what I can proudly say is a truly transparent, grassroots, campaign. Our office may be the size of a closet, but we understood the most important thing was walking the streets and shaking hands with anyone we could and LISTEN to their grievances. Quality of life is what we are all looking for, and this District has been faced with candidate baton-passing for two decades, which has only alienated entire parts of the District, but even more disappointingly, has allowed our community to become a one-bedroom, empty storefront, chain-store haven, where families cannot expect to plant their roots (for totally legitimate reasons). I’ve spent my life seeking out those to help, but I am humbly asking for your vote on Sep. 12th to give these folks a place they know they can find me.
What are your professional qualifications for this position?
Nobody mistakes me on the street as a lawyer, but I’ve spent years as a guidance counselor, a public interest attorney protecting and litigating for tenants facing abusive landlords & providing pro-bono work to those in need. I am the most educated candidate in the field, and my experience with the law, and developing the law, gives me a clear understanding of how legislation MUST be written to avoid falling through. I have a J.D. and an LLM, and, most importantly, came back to the District to pursue work here. I know I couldn’t have gotten where I am without the District, so I intend to continue helping others who deserve the same opportunities I was awarded.
Top Legislative Priority: What is the first piece of legislation that you would introduce if elected?
The first piece of legislation I would introduce is the Small Business Job Survival Act. The SBJSA has been stuck in committee for almost three full decades now, which is unacceptable. We need to clarify the misconceptions behind this bill, and see what arguments come to the floor. Immigrant business owners are abused, frequently, by landlords who hike up rent prices and keep storefronts empty. This MUST change to preserve our history, character, and increase the safety of our streets. More eyes and ears must exist in order to keep our streets safe. It’s no surprise sexual violence within the District has increased by triple digit percentages.
The first piece I would write would be a bill creating a registration system for landlords, with an accountability mechanism that could actually enforce the laws we have on the books. Without an enforcement mechanism, our landlords can hold tenants hostage and avoid providing them basic services required by the City and outlined in their leasing agreements. The bill would also regulate “bad” tenant registries that gets circulated to landlords, which list “problematic” tenants who in many cases were only problematic due to abusive landlords not doing their jobs. There’s no way to fix these problems without a registry of landlords so we know who to hold accountable, and a problem reporting registry that works and is well advertised within the City.
In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue faced by the people who live on the Lower East Side? How would you deal with this issue as an elected official?
The loss of affordable housing, and I certainly don’t believe this is limited to the Lower East Side. What most elected officials do not seem to understand is the interconnected nature of the problems we see to the survival of small businesses. As storefronts remain empty, there are less jobs for the community, and in turn less people can afford to live in the area. As retailers move in, the price of goods go up and the cost of living follows. As cost of living increases, RENT increases. So, in short, we must deal with developers in a more transparent way. Whether that be utilizing the Cooper Union community land trust model, or demanding that residents are aware of development and have a say regarding what they want in return. I intend on furthering community dialogue. The LES doesn’t need more gardens, we need more affordable housing. We need incentives promoting HDFCs, not regulations dismantling them. We need someone who is willing to sit at the table and assure development favors our small business owners and our affordable housing stock, and I hope I’ve proven this to be the case by not accepting any real estate money, or indirect money from other politicians who are supported by real estate developers. I owe no favors.
University of Albany – B.A.
University of Albany – M.A.
Seton Hall University – School of Law J.D.
Temple University – Beasley School of Law L.L.M. in Trial and Advocacy
Key Endorsements: Small Business Congress of NYC. We adamantly opposed political endorsements during the campaign. Perpetuating the idea of politics as usual is hugely disadvantageous to the City and the District.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Hispanic National Bar Association
Metropolitan Black Bar Association
Financial Statement: Campaign Finance Board
Video Statement: NYC Votes