The COVID-19 pandemic has left New York City in one of the most tumultuous crises in history. With proper leadership, we can emerge as a city that is stronger and more equitable than ever before. I am running for Comptroller to bring my leadership, experience, and expertise to the office to promote economic empowerment, job creation, affordable housing, inclusive growth, public safety, investment in our youth, public education, clean energy, financial literacy, public health, and empowerment of our public housing tenants. I will advance this agenda through targeted investment, comprehensive audits, advocating for funding, outreach programs, and the reviewing of contracts to ensure they make sense for all New Yorkers. If you join me on this journey I know in my heart that together we can weather the storm and come out on the other side stronger than ever!
New Yorkers are facing dire economic circumstances during the pandemic. From July 2019 through July 2020, our city lost over 700,000 jobs and the unemployment rate quintupled. One in five New Yorkers in the workforce is now unemployed, including one in four in the Bronx.
Our businesses are also suffering. As many as a third of our currently shuttered small businesses may never reopen. MWBEs are faring even worse: in a recent survey, 85% said they will be unable to operate for another six months.
The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program may have helped, but New York City was shortchanged: only 12% of eligible city businesses received a PPP loan, compared to 24% in North and South Dakota. New York City is the financial capital of the world, and we must do better to provide capital to our small businesses.
As comptroller, I will work with our financial institutions to open access to capital for our small businesses and MWBEs. This capital infusion will be carefully targeted and tailored based on the unique of our city’s many diverse communities, which will achieve with analyses of neighborhoods done in partnership with local stakeholders, including chambers of commerce.
I will also invest more of the city’s pension funds with MWBE asset managers, whose returns are almost identical to all others, and such capital will make its way into our city’s communities of color.
Having grown up in NYCHA housing, I know firsthand the hardships and difficulties so many New Yorkers face on a day-to-day basis.
Oppressively high rent remains one of the biggest issues facing New Yorkers. Based on the 2017 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey—the most recent available —almost 1.2 million households are rent burdened, constituting 56% of renter households. Of them, more than 700,000 are severely rent burdened.
Homelessness has also been a crisis in our city for decades, and it has only become progressively worse. From 2011 to 2019, the average number of people using shelters each year went from 37,811 to 61,654, representing a 67% increase. There are about another 3,600 homeless individuals not living in shelters, as well as a 20% increase in Subway homelessness from 2018 to 2019. Although our homeless are demonized as having brought it upon themselves as a result of drug use, many of them could not afford rent, have difficulties gaining employment, or left toxic home environments.
Regrettably, these disturbing trends continue despite spending on homelessness having more than doubled during the current mayoral administration. And our siting of homeless shelters has disproportionately burdened some neighborhoods, in violation of our city charter-mandated Fair Share criteria for siting facilities: The Bronx is home to 31.42% of the shelter population, compared to .26% in Staten Island.
As Comptroller, I will advocate for more affordable housing in our city. This should include an expansion of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program to create rent-regulated units in more developments. And this must be truly affordable, instead of units deemed “affordable” because someone with an annual income of $77,000 could afford it. I will also advocate for smarter spending on homeless services. This includes more spending on supportive housing and rental assistance. I will also create an Office of the Comptroller Oversight Committee comprised of public and private officials to ensure our City is offering adequate affordable housing units to those who need it.
I will also review homeless service providers contracted with the city to ensure they are engaging in best practices so that street homeless are willing to enter shelters. And when approving contracts for homeless facilities, I will enforce Fair Share criteria.
New York has abruptly plunged into one of the most tumultuous times many of us have experienced. The New York Times estimated that 420,000 New Yorkers left the city since the start of social distancing. Crime, although still low by historical standards, has jumped in some categories: murder, burglary, and grand larceny of automobiles all increased by double-digit percentages in 2020. Meanwhile, abuses by law enforcement nationwide has engendered frustration that culminated in protests and rioting. New Yorkers now recognize that strong-armed deterrence by the NYPD is not the solution. Instead, we must reallocate funding for law enforcement for programs that proactively prevent crime in communities that are currently overpoliced.
The city has faced other threats to our quality of life. Recent budget cuts are forcing the city to cut litter basket waste removal by 60%, and end graffiti removal on private property.
Turning around our recent crime wave will be critical to returning the city to a state of normalcy. As comptroller, I will oversee the city’s spending on public safety to ensure that we fund evidence-based programs that prevent New Yorkers from turning to crime, and not spending on policing. I will also oppose budget cuts that would reduce the cleanliness of our city. When we significantly and wisely invest in our communities in a way which provides real opportunity crime will decrease significantly.
My first introduction to public service came through youth development and as comptroller, I will fight to keep SYEP from being on the chopping block. I would also work with my colleagues to establish and fund a citywide universal afterschool program that focuses on education, life skills and future development. This will not only help keep our youth off the streets and in the classroom, but will help prepare them for future education and employment.
Investment in our youth, in jobs programs, after school programs, and mentoring opportunities, as well as increasing school based athletics, will be essential in ensuring a future that benefits all of our youth across our city.