The Brooklyn Ink sent the same set of questions to each of the city’s 10 mayoral candidates during the spring. Republican candidate John Catsimatides agreed to an interview and Democratic candidate Bill Thompson replied to our questionnaire in May. Former city councilman Sal Albanese recently sent us his answers to our questions and we share them with our readers here.
How can New York City better prepare for the next storm?
Hurricane Sandy goes to the core of why I am running for mayor. The city’s government has been notoriously reactive. It did not do enough before the storm to help protect neighborhoods, and it has not done enough after to help people back on their feet. To this day, libraries and community centers in places like Coney Island are still not open for business. As mayor, I will revamp our emergency response plan so that the city has boots on the ground to provide leadership and clarity immediately after a disaster. I want all options on the table for protecting the city – restoring natural barriers, creating rock jetties and dunes on the coastline, building new sea walls, and more. I will also develop an evacuation plan that accounts for public housing residents, senior citizens, and disabled New Yorkers, who were virtually abandoned after Hurricane Sandy.
How do you plan to help small business recover after Hurricane Sandy?
Small businesses were facing a major crisis before the storm hit. As mayor, I’m going to work with state and federal officials to offer a grant program to help small businesses rebuild in a way that is sustainable and resilient. Most importantly, the city needs to stop treating small businesses like piggy banks. Fines are meant to protect consumers, not simply generate revenue. Fining small businesses into oblivion hurts communities more than it helps. I’ll retool the New York City Economic Development Council to be more small business friendly, culturally competent, and focused on small business growth.
How do you plan to meet the talent demands of Brooklyn’s growing tech industry?
Every time I talk to a young tech entrepreneur, they want three things from the city: less red tape, more affordable housing, and talented New Yorkers to take the jobs they’re offering. As tech starts to play a central role in the economy of all five boroughs, the city needs to adapt or risk losing talent to other parts of the country. As mayor, I will:
• Offer financial incentives for STEM educators [a coalition of teachers and professionals advocating for better math, science, and technology teaching in schools] to teach in NYC public schools and introduce computer coding languages as a high school requirement.
• Work with CUNY to create training programs so that new graduates have the skills they need to work in the tech sector.
• Fight to extend broadband access to every home and business in the city.
• Charge a Deputy Mayor for Technology with uniting tech policy across city agencies.
• Drag city agencies into the 21 century with online licensing and permitting that will reduce wait time for new businesses.
• Expand affordable housing by establishing a 70/30 formula for new developments. That means that 70% of apartments built by developers could be market-rate, but at least 30% must be affordable for low-income families. Currently, the city only requires 20% to be affordable. I will also embrace starter apartments in neighborhoods like Williamsburg as a way for young entrepreneurs to get a foothold in an expensive city.
Sequestration has affected the city’s budget this year. If you’re elected as mayor and the city budget faces similar pressures, where and what would you cut?
New York City has a whopping $70 billion budget, which has grown year after year. Within that budget is a ridiculous amount of waste and corruption that has kept us from delivering high-quality services to New Yorkers. I’m not accepting contributions from lobbyists, developers, and people who do business from the city, because I want to put taxpayers first. A mayor who isn’t indebted to special interests has the leverage to root out corruption and waste. Unlike my opponents, I also have a plan that allows us to do more with less. Working with labor, I plan to modernize and professionalize our pension and supplemental healthcare systems. Our pension investment system is a clunker. If it performed as well as Toronto’s, and it should, pensioners would earn more while allowing the city to contribute almost $4 billion less. The same goes for our supplemental healthcare system, which is split up into fiefdoms. That weakens our ability to negotiate lower prices. I also have a fair tolling plan that will raise $1 billion, 2/3rds of which would be invested in mass transit and 1/3 of which would go toward maintaining our roads and bridges. By building a smarter investment system, establishing fair tolls, and reducing waste and corruption, we can free up billions of dollars to invest in education, job creation, public safety, and transportation.
During Mayor Bloomberg’s time in office, the number of homeless people sleeping each night in city shelters has gone up by 61 percent to more than 50,000 people, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Nearly two-thirds of families re-enter shelters. What is your plan to reduce these numbers?
The biggest challenges facing New York City are affordability and a political class too indebted to special interests to do anything about it. That is why I am not accepting contributions from special interests or developers. If we focused on building a fairer a society, with better schools, better-paying jobs, better access to healthcare, and more affordable housing, we could stop the cycle of homelessness for a lot of folks. But we have to act right now to help people afford a place to stay. I have a four-pronged approach:
• Expand the living wage law to apply to more sectors and fight for an even higher minimum wage at the state level.
• Move from the current 80/20 ratio for new developments to 70% market rate, 30% affordable. That means that 70% of apartments built by developers could be market-rate, but at least 30% must be affordable for low-income families. Currently, the city only requires 20% to be affordable.
• Base our “affordable” definition on the realities of neighborhood residents, so that new units are actually affordable!
• Direct NYCHA to repair and un-warehouse thousands of apartments currently off the market.
What do you propose to do keep public transportation costs from going up?
I want to be the Mass Transit Mayor. Through fair tolling, I plan to add tolls to bridges with multiple mass transit options and reduce tolls on bridges with limited mass transit options. This will ensure that every borough pays its fair share while giving drivers in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island some much-needed relief from burdensome tolls. It will also raise $1 billion, 2/3rds of which I will devote to mass transit and keeping the fair affordable. But we can’t do this alone. I plan to organize Mayors for Mass Transit, modeled on Bloomberg’s gun control initiative. I will rally mayors across the country to pressure Congress to invest in mass transit and infrastructure.
Given that Mayor Bloomberg has been known to be bike friendly, many are concerned that the new mayor may not be. How do you envision bike lane expansion and outdoor space changing in Brooklyn if you are elected?
I’m a big fan of the recent street redesigns. They have made streets safer, given New Yorkers more transportation options, and helped reduce congestion. As mayor, I plan to expand protected bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, crack down on dangerous speeding, and bring CitiBike to every borough.
What is your position or plans for educational vouchers for the city’s parochial schools?
As a former school teacher, students will always come first for me. With more than 1.1 million students in city schools, the public education system will be my top priority. I think that the city should continue providing some support services and special programming for parochial schools, but I do not believe in vouchers.
The Department of Education has just announced the closure of more schools, phasing out of others–and the co-location of many schools within the building of others. Do you believe this is a pathway to a better educational system for the city? Why or why not?
Under Bloomberg’s tenure, co-locations, especially of charter schools, have often created a sense of segregation and resentment between students. That isn’t healthy for anybody. School closings, meanwhile, have traumatized communities and done nothing to improve student performance. Instead of being a first step in turning schools around, closings should be a last resort. Co-locations and closings should only happen with community consensus and approval, especially from parents and teachers.
Ten percent of hospitals located in Brooklyn have closed or are about to. What is the future of healthcare in Brooklyn and how will you, as mayor, ensure that the people of Brooklyn have adequate hospital access?
We should be opening hospitals, not closing them! Since this campaign began, I have been fighting to keep Long Island College Hospital, the most recent to face closure, open for business. In April, I called for a moratorium on hospital closings citywide. After SUNY diverted ambulances from LICH in June, I called on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate SUNY’s drastic actions. The future of healthcare citywide should be one of expanded services in every borough, an end to hospital closures, and the establishment of pediatric wellness centers in low-income communities, where medical professionals, teachers, and parents work together to keep our youngest kids healthy and prepare them for school.
What is your opinion on the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and if elected, how do you plan to address concerns surrounding it?
In the United States of America, no one should be stopped in violation of the Constitution. While I think we have to keep stop and frisk to ensure that police have the tools they need to keep communities safe, I think it needs to be reformed. As mayor, I will implement a rigorous training program for recruits and officers to ensure that they understand what constitutes a legal stop. I will also hire 3,800 more officers and assign them to patrol, where they can get to know community members and focus on real troublemakers. I’ll push for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana, which is being used as a pretext to stop and arrest otherwise law-abiding people.
Nets or Knicks? Mets or Yankees? Jets or Giants?
Nets, Yankees, and Giants!
What is your favorite spot in Brooklyn and why?
Shore Road Park in Bay Ridge. You can’t beat those views of the harbor and the skyline.
Why Brooklyn? (What’s special/unique about Brooklyn, what do you love about Brooklyn?)
Since my family immigrated from Italy when I was eight years old, Brooklyn has been my home. I represented it for 15 years on the City Council. I raised my two daughters here. It has some of the best food and most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. But I think we have to get away from this idea that one or two boroughs matter more than the others. We may be five boroughs, but we have one common future. I truly believe that, and I tell people it no matter where I’m campaigning.