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, lifelong resident
Office: City Council District 1
Current Occupation: Full-time candidate
Why are you seeking this office?
I am running for City Council because when my parents immigrated here, it was to give me an opportunity. I had the opportunity to receive a public school education and to grow up in a diverse immigrant community, while my father was able to own a bodega and my family could live in an apartment that was rent stabilized. I grew up with a strong love for my neighborhood, and this has always stayed with me. However the opportunities I was given as a lifelong Lower East Sider are diminishing. The affordable housing that is built is not truly affordable for the community it is meant to serve. There are two public schools in the Village and Lower East Side that were promised to the community, but not a single brick has been laid. Landlord harassment and overdevelopment are forcing small businesses to close, and pricing long-term residents out of their homes.
The people of Lower Manhattan are powerful community activists, and I have fought alongside them to improve tenants rights, increase fair wages, defend our open space, and empower our disenfranchised communities. There are community-based solutions like The Chinatown Working Group plan, and programs like Participatory Budgeting, that would give residents the opportunity to have a voice in land use and budgeting. However we have not had one Town Hall meeting since the incumbent came into office 8 years ago. Residents are deprived of the opportunity to express their concerns or resolve their problems.
I am honored to be running for City Council because this race has given me an opportunity to give back to the community that made me who I am today. As I knock on doors I hear the need for a fresh face with an old story. My immigrant family’s journey is similar to many Lower East Siders, but the transparency, engagement, and commitment that I will bring to this office will be new.
What are your professional qualifications for this position?
One of the most meaningful experiences of my professional career was helping previously incarcerated people start their own businesses. I personally mentored 3 people who otherwise would not have been given an opportunity to start over. From financial planning to carrying yourself with confidence, these men and women started from nothing but through their commitment to bettering themselves and their community became successful businesses.
Seeing opportunity where others may not, bringing the voiceless into the conversation, and improving financial literacy against all odds are important skills that I will bring to the City Council.
I was able to help these people develop business plans because I was given the opportunity to work at IBM’s Retirement Fund. I learned how to manage a budget and make long-term decisions. These are integral to a City Councilmember’s responsibilities because policies must be proactive instead of reactive. I will be equipped to anticipate the investments needed to strengthen our District for generations to come.
Top Legislative Priority: What is the first piece of legislation that you would introduce if elected?:
My top legislative priority is passing campaign finance reform. Since the Real Estate Board of New York invested $250,000 in the incumbent’s re-election campaign in 2013, we have seen developments rise from the Lower East Side to Tribeca. Our elected officials should be accountable to those that voted for them, not those that financed their election. My campaign has not accepted any money from developers, and is transparent in disclosing our contributions and expenditures through charts that are publicly available. I will work to close loopholes surrounding campaign finance that allow those that do business with the City to contribute to campaigns they have a vested interest in. I will work to severely limit the influence of special interest super PACs, and increase the City’s matching funds program to level the playing field for grassroots campaigns like my own.
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 lack of engagement with the community lies at the center of the other critical issues in the District. Small businesses are being priced out, overdevelopment is rampant, and tenants are being forced from their homes. None of the activists or victims at the forefront of these issues have a platform to communicate with their representative in City Hall. We have not had a Town Hall meeting in 8 years, but our Councilmember’s absence goes beyond this crucial fact. I am the only candidate that attended every EIS meeting to discuss the community’s concerns with the waterfront developments. Our Councilperson said that these meetings were supposed to be active discussions between the residents and the developers, but she did not show up to moderate this discussion. I stood with my neighbors when they declared that the meetings were not fair to the community, while our Councilperson left out the back door. I will host regular Town Hall meetings so that every issue, whether it relates to a single person, a building, a block, or the entire District, has a platform. I have received the endorsements of those who have been fighting for open space, for waterfront resiliency, for tenant protections, because they know that I will act on the problems that are presented to me. I will implement community-based zoning and participatory budgeting so that those that live here shape my policy, and not special interests.
Education: Long Island University, Brooklyn – BA in Global Studies
Downtown Independent Democrats
Village Independent Democrats
Small Business Congress
League of Independent Theaters
Local 28 – Sheet Metal Workers
Affiliated Organizations: Member, Downtown Independent Democrats
Financial Statement: Campaign Finance Board
Video Statement/NYC Votes