For far too long, the realities of living in NYC has meant two very different things, like Charles Dickens “tale of two cities” come to real life. While an elite few are able to live lavishly within the extreme cost of living, far too many others are living paycheck to paycheck, praying that the landlord doesn’t decide this is the month rent goes up. 

For too long, politicians have said they care about income inequality, gentrification, skyrocketing cost of living, and a lack of basic public transportation for so many. Yet here we are. Every year, our communities face the same realities, and every year politicians say they are working on it, yet nothing changes. When COVID hit NYC the hardest, it was working people, including those in our black and brown communities, who were disproportionately affected the most, losing loved ones, closing businesses, and somehow still holding the economy together.

That is why as NYC’s mayor, my economic plan will start with our working-class communities. Working people need an increased minimum wage, expanded unionization, salary and rent protections, access to public transportation, expanded affordable housing options, subsidies for local businesses, community-driven development, and the basic dignity and respect they deserve as the backbone of our amazing city. It is time that NYC finally has a mayor that stands with working people.

The current administration has failed NYCHA and its residents. It has failed to gather the necessary resources to repair and maintain some of the only truly affordable housing in NYC, and people are suffering as a direct result. It is time we prioritize repairing, maintaining, and protecting our city’s public housing. Ensuring the living conditions of every NYCHA resident is improved will be a top priority on day one of a Wright administration.

On the public housing front, the current administration has failed in its plan to raise funds for capital repairs for new infill projects that create mixed-income housing. This stalled process has hurt working class New Yorkers.

The Wright Administration will prioritize the  advancement of infill projects. We’ll also ensure NYCHA is on track with all lead testing and removal, as well as boiler and elevator repairs. These are basic decencies no New Yorker should be expected to be without.

Transit and Infrastructure

The operation of NYC public transportation should be managed by NYC, not Albany. Decision-makers upstate are too far removed from the realities facing working-class people on a daily basis in our city. We have completely under-serviced train lines, buses that never come as scheduled, and entire communities cut off from public transportation. This is a system that millions depend on every day. It is no longer acceptable to wait for Albany to decide how NYC public transportation should operate.

We need a joint revenue and cost-sharing partnership with NY state that leaves the day-to-day operation of all NYC public transportation to the people of NYC. New projects, maintenance priority, and prices should be controlled and set by the city to best serve NYC residents. This includes the creation of a comprehensive subsidized public transport program that ensures everyone has equal access to basic transportation

Homelessness, Housing and NYCHA

In 2019, the current mayor announced a new five-year plan to end chronic street homelessness that includes opening 1,000 new “safe haven” beds, converting 1,000 privately-owned housing units into new permanent housing. This is a start, but there needs to be more action to secure housing for those that are in dire need.

Housing is a human right. It is that simple. When you consider it through a lens of what is right and what is wrong, the solutions become clear. NYC absolutely needs a comprehensive system of housing for those who are currently unhoused. We need to think out of the box, using re-zoning laws to expand usable land for the explicit purpose of creating new affordable housing. We can take thousands of empty lots and abandoned buildings scattered throughout the city and convert them into subsidized communities for rehabilitation and job placement (as done with tiny homes in cities like Seattle). We need to expand public housing projects on the city-wide level and increase mandates for affordable housing integration in all new residential construction. With that, we also must think beyond the city and work with our amazing Congressional delegation to fight for the repeal of the Faircloth Amendment that prevents the expansion of federal dollars flowing into new public housing projects. Housing is a human right and it is time we have leadership that fights to protect the people of NYC.

Policing and Criminal Justice

The relationship with the Police and reforms on criminal justice is one of the issues where both previous and current administrations have not only disappointed, but embarrassed New York City residents. Though past and present mayors have come to power indicating they would take a more sweeping approach to reform the NYPD, the speed of change has been more akin to baby-steps, with tragic brutality incidents forcing acceptance of increased accountability and oversight of the department.

In 2020, the mayor’s office and the NYPD were expected to finally show evidence for their claims that the mayor’s neighborhood policing program is as effective as often claimed. The year is at its end and no viable claims have been offered to date. The Mayor will also likely have to continue to justify his support for the MTA’s planned addition of 500 new MTA police officers, many of whom are meant to patrol the subways and buses in conjunction with the NYPD in a plan that currently exacerbates the issue.

There has also been criticism of the Mayor’s choice in appointing a commissioner of the NYPD. For the third time, the current administration has not even considered promoting a person of color to lead the NYPD,  despite numerous  individuals with the appropriate rank and experience to at least merit consideration. This administration, and any traditional administration that follows, will continue this trend of ensuring leadership doesn’t reflect the reality.

2020 has tested the current administration on the law enforcement front, a test that they have failed. Those tests include whether the city could reverse the 2019 increases in murders and hate crimes, as well as pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, all while implementing additional promised reforms to bring police and community closer together, hold NYPD officers accountable for breaches of public trust, overhauling the Special Victims Division, and more. As the year comes to an end, it is clear from news accounts, protests against police brutality and the everyday experiences of the average New Yorker that this administration has failed. New Yorkers know that “more of the same” just isn’t going to cut it.

For me, the mayor’s role in making the NYPD accountable and reforming policing in our city starts with the appointment of a police commissioner and leadership team that reflects the look and feel of the city’s residents. Time and time again, we have seen how the legacy of broken glass policing overwhelmingly targets our Black and Brown communities. These are the communities whose voices need to be elevated when discussing police reform, and need to be represented in every step of the process. I will only appoint a commissioner who supports:

  • City-wide police retraining to focus on de-escalation
  • Demilitarization of regularly uniformed officers
  • The creation of a mental health response organization that is separate from the NYPD
  • Reducing the overwhelming police presence in our schools
  • A reallocation of the bloated budget to community resources, mental health services, and education
  • The empowering of the CCRB in an effort to hold officers who breach the public trust accountable

Police accountability is only one half of the equation. My own experiences with the justice system has been well documented, and it has given me a deep understanding of the need for change. We must stop criminalizing poverty by ending the cash bail system, eliminating court processing fees, decriminalizing low-level non-violent drug offenses, and developing a broad community-driven coalition of ideas, strategies, and policies to end mass incarceration in our city.  We must focus on restorative solutions to build a truly just system.

Then, and only then, can we truly have justice.

School Desegregation

It is inexcusable that  New York City schools remain the most segregated in the country. This horrific issue has flumuxed numerous administrations from both sides of the aisle. The current mayor and his two school chancellors have proposed a series of fairly tepid, incremental initial reforms likely to come up short.

The current administration did impanel the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), which released two sets of recommendations, with the administration adopting most of the more-mild-set first. The second set, full of more impactful proposals (including many related to the city’s admissions policies and gifted & talented programming) was released in August of 2019. To date, the current administration has yet to take any significant steps,, saying only that there would be an extensive public conversation to come in order to engage parents and other stakeholders in crafting reforms.

The administration separately proposed scrapping the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), which determines admission at the eight “elite” high schools in the city. But that requires action by the state, where the proposal has not been warmly received. In other words, this proposal was all-talk and no-action, which may be for the best, as many locally elected officials and parent groups have complained that his proposal pits minorities against each other and will not have the intended effect.

The Mayor later announced he was backing off of his proposal, which included a new system for more diversified admittance to the specialized schools(where Black and Latino students are severely underrepresented). He said he would come up with something new this year. The new proposal hasn’t happened, but  these challenges have remained, and the city’s next mayor needs to be ready to finally take NYC schools into a brighter future.

Budgeting and Property Taxes

Handed a two-billion-dollar surplus by Mayor Bloomberg, the city’s budget has now rapidly expanded under the current administration, with projected spending hitting $94.3 billion for the current fiscal year, according to the latest budget modification released in November. That is a whopping $21.6 billion more than the last budget modification under Mayor Bloomberg.

The city’s Office of Management and Budget predicts that spending will break the $100 billion mark within the next two fiscal years, a number that has fiscal watchdogs sounding the alarms. The city’s current leadership has not prioritized ensuring savings and reserves increase at the same rate.

While the Council has called for more savings, it has also pushed the Mayor’s office to provide more funding for its own priorities, sometimes in the hundreds of millions. The new mayor will have to contend with numerous attempts by the Governor to shift costs to the city, as he has been allowed to do in the past.

There is also a real risk to the city budget from rising costs at three major entities – the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), NYC Health+Hospitals, (which are city-run and supported by a mix of funding), and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is effectively state-run, but with some city input via board seats and city funding. The current administration has failed to curtail spending at these entities, and it’ll take a fresh group to give them the attention and reform they desperately require.

Another issue that will have a major impact on the city budget in 2021 is a potential push for property tax reform, which the current administration has promised for years. Any changes to the antiquated and unequal property tax system will have to be revenue neutral for the city, which relies on property taxes for tens of billions of dollars annually to fund the city budget.

The Budget isn’t the sexiest of issues, but it’s absolutely one of the most important. For too long, party-line officials have failed to recognize the importance of building a budget that works for working people. As Mayor, my priorities will be dedicated towards ensuring the economics of the city are working towards the people who make it run.