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2009 New York City Questionnaire

Introduction
New York City elected officials have a role to play in making the City a more just and equitable
place to live. Our New York City agenda defines our position on a broad array of issues.
Candidates should use this agenda as a guide for introducing and fighting for legislation that will
enhance the quality of life for the men and women of the City who work hard every day to
support themselves and their families.

We believe it is important for elected officials to be pro-active and use their visibility to advance
progressive responses to the most pressing issues facing working, middle class, and poor New
York City residents. In challenging economic times, we need City representatives who will speak
up for bold progressive reforms. It is important that you answer every question.

NYC Priorities

1. City-Supported Equitable Development: New York City should never support


redevelopment initiatives that subsidize low-wage work or the loss of affordable housing and
public space. The City should use all available development tools—Requests for Proposals
(RFP’s) to developers; rezoning existing City-owned land or newly acquired land (through
the ULURP process, or the accelerated UDAAP process); and any related tax abatements,
subsidies, or City contracts—to create a new development paradigm in New York.

Will you base your approval of any individual projects and commit to supporting a
comprehensive resolution to ensure redevelopment plans meet the following conditions:

A. Create Good Jobs by:

1. Requiring that all City RFP’s mandate that developers and contractors for large-scale
development projects have a history of compliance with wage, health, safety, and
environmental standards?

2. Requiring that as a condition of receiving City RFPs, use of City-owned land, or


incentives through the City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), including the
Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP), businesses must pay
prevailing or living wages for every trade and position created in large-scale
redevelopment projects?

3. Supporting the establishment of a comprehensive first-source hiring and training plan,


run by the City and job training and placement programs, for large-scale development
projects that sets aside at least 30% of permanent jobs for residents below the
community’s median income at start up and maintains the 30% threshold following
job vacancies?

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B. Create and Preserve Affordable Housing by:

1. Rezoning City-owned land within the redevelopment area so that at least 80% is set
aside as affordable through the ULURP and/or UDAAP process, like the
Greenpoint/Williamsburg agreement?

2. Ensuring that existing Mitchell-Lama, Section 8, and rent-regulated housing units in


the redevelopment area are preserved through the IZ preservation program or direct
public action?

3. Designating at least half of housing units created as affordable for low-income


families within any redevelopment or major rezoning area?

C. Create or Improve Community Assets by:

1. Ensuring new schools, supermarkets, small businesses, recreational areas, and


transportation investments are included in redevelopment plans if deemed necessary?

2. Withholding your support if specific plans to include these things are not included in
the redevelopment plan?

D. Will you start enacting this new economic development paradigm by publicly supporting
the inclusion of all of these standards in the Coney Island redevelopment plan?

2. Make the NYC Personal Income Tax (PIT) More Progressive: As the City faces a growing
budget deficit, the NYC PIT system should be made permanently more progressive by adding
new income brackets and new rates at the high end, as was done temporarily from 2003-2005
in a less severe economic recession. City PIT reform would raise approximately $1 billion of
new City revenue to protect working- and middle-class families from service cuts and
regressive tax increases.

Will you support City legislation and advocate for the State to approve the following
restructuring, as first introduced by Speaker Christine Quinn, which will only impact 4% of
City tax filers?

City Taxable Income Tax Rate Proposed New Tax Rate Estimated Change in
Tax Payment per
household
$21,600 or less 2.907% 0% $321 in savings
Over $21,600 3.534% 0% $321 in savings
Over $45,000 3.591% 3.591% No Change
Over $90,000 3.648% 3.648% No change
Over $297,000 3.648% 4.25% $374 increase
Over $532,000 3.648% 4.45% $5,571 increase
Over $1.2 million 3.648% 4.65% $19,066 increase

3. Good Food/Good Jobs: The NYC Department of City Planning estimates that three million
New Yorker’s live in “food deserts”—areas with an insufficient number of full-service

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supermarkets that provide quality food (including fresh produce, meat and dairy) at
reasonable prices. Battered by escalating rents and encroaching development projects,
remaining supermarkets that provide good food and jobs are in constant danger of closing. In
addition to neighborhood health benefits, supermarkets produce economic benefits: an
average 30,000 sq. ft. store provides 100-200 jobs, each grocery worker generates $2,800 in
taxes, and the City could potentially recapture over $1 billion in grocery spending lost to
suburbs (enough to support more than 100 new neighborhood grocery stores and
supermarkets).

To create more Good Food and Good Jobs in New York’s neighborhoods, will you commit to
using the tools below to help create 25 new supermarkets in designated “food deserts” in the
next 4 years by:

1. Ensuring that RFP’s for any large-scale redevelopment project in a designated “food
deserts” include provisions for a supermarket?

2. Instructing EDC to identify and target RFP’s to develop supermarkets at smaller sites
(approximately 30,000 sq. ft.) in designated “food deserts”?

3. Supporting the use of an appropriate package of financing tools to facilitate the


development of supermarkets in these underserved areas?

4. Increasing Permanent Affordable Housing: New York should act to increase the
availability of affordable housing and make sure all affordable housing units developed in the
future are protected permanently.

To increase the availability of affordable housing, will you support City legislation to:

1. Enact “mandatory inclusionary zoning” standards changing zoning laws to ensure all
new housing projects on privately owned land meet the following affordability
standards:
• 10% of units affordable as bare minimum for any project over 10 units?
• 20% of units as affordable for any project to get the 421-a tax break?
• 30% of units as affordable for any project to get an additional density bonus?

To ensure all new housing created with any use of City subsidies, City-owned land, or City
tax abatements remains permanently affordable, will you support:

2. Requiring that all developers receiving City development assistance of any kind enter
into a contract to maintain permanent affordability of affordable units developed
(rental and ownership), as opposed to current agreements that expire at the end of the
financing period and create an “expiring use” crisis (like the one we have today with
Mitchell-Lama)?

5. Improving Public Transportation: Affordable, efficient, and reliable transit systems are
necessary to maintain the vitality and competitiveness of New York City. Policymakers must
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adequately fund transportation, improve the accountability of the Metropolitan Transit
Authority (MTA) and push for cheaper, doable public transportation expansions.

A. Financing the MTA: As a result of inadequate State and City financing, reliance on MTA
debt and increasing debt service has created pressure to cut services and raise fares. Will
you support dedicating broad based revenues for the MTA’s capital and operating budget,
which will provide financial stability and keep fares low?

B. Make the MTA More Accountable. Financing and budget decisions remain largely
hidden from public view and MTA board members face little accountability for their
decisions. To make the MTA more transparent and accountable, will you support State
legislation that creates a “fiduciary responsibility” for MTA board members and an
independent budget office (much like the Independent Budget Office in New York City)
that can enforce fiduciary duty and review the actions of the MTA?

C. Expanded Public Transportation through Bus Rapid Transit: Due to a mass


transportation system that leaves many City neighborhoods without access to fast, reliable
service, today 750,000 New Yorkers travel over an hour to work (with two thirds of them
on their way to jobs that pay less than $35,000). Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) dedicates lanes
on existing streets and coordinates traffic lights to provide high-speed bus service to
underserved neighborhoods—a far cheaper and quicker alternative to building new
subway lines. Will you support the following actions to expand the City’s BRT network:

2. Calling on NYDOT to increase dedicated lane space, create the necessary bus stops,
and plan for other capital improvements necessary to BRT expansion?

3. Passing a resolution in support of State legislation to install enforcement cameras on


City streets?

6. Small Business Protection: Lack of regulation of the commercial real estate market has left
New York’s 200,000 small business owners with no rights in the lease renewal process.
Real-estate speculators that leveraged great amounts of debt to buy commercial properties are
now dramatically increasing rents for small business owners—including supermarkets, non-
profit and arts organizations, and small manufacturers—putting a growing number of them
and their employees out of business.

Two recent surveys by the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce of over 1,200 small business
owners in the City found that between 50%-60% were at risk to close, with 70%-80% giving
the primary reason as “high rents.” It should be noted that almost half of small businesses are
minority or immigrant owned, so job losses resulting from dramatic rent increases will hit
communities of color the hardest.

To protect these organizations, will you support the “Small Business Survival Act”,
legislation currently in City Council (Int 0847), to:

1. Regulate the process of lease renewals for commercial tenants with less than 100
employees by requiring small businesses and landlords to submit to third party

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binding arbitration to determine increases if a fair rent cannot be agreed upon by both
parties?

To encourage the growth of small businesses and fair work conditions for their employees,
will you support:

2. Requiring that RFP’s for large-scale developments set aside space for small
businesses that maintain living wage standards?

7. Green Jobs/Good Jobs: Proposed legislation by Mayor Bloomberg and the NY City Council
would require landlords of residential and commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet to
conduct and file audits with the City every ten years and undertake retrofits if the cost of
such measures can be recouped within five years, penalized by license loss and fines. This
proposal should be used as an opportunity to model how public policy that aims to “green”
New York City should create good jobs and ensure that retrofits don’t negatively impact
housing affordability.

Will you support adding or amending language in this legislation to include:

1. A requirement that all audits be conducted by a certified multi-family building


analyst, or a certified energy specialist with a stationary engineer license or a
refrigeration system operating engineer license issued by the City of New York?

2. The use of Best Value/Responsible contracting language that prioritizes the use of
contractors for City-owned buildings under retrofit mandates, or buildings under
retrofit mandates that also receive City subsidies based on the following standards:

• Participation in Department of Labor recognized apprenticeship programs?

• Committing to hire a significant percentage of workers from distressed


communities?

3. Protections for rent-regulated and non-rent-regulated tenants as a result of retrofits


performed, including support for State legislation and conditioning the receipt of any
City benefits on the following:

• For rent-regulated tenants, exempt energy efficiency upgrades (improvements that


pay for themselves with energy savings and additionally save owners on operating
costs) from Major Capital Improvements (MCI) rent increases?

• For all residential owners, ensure that J-51 tax abatements are available for all
green upgrades and require that landlords accept them?

• For non-regulated tenants, that no rent increases may be imposed as a result of


energy efficiency work that saves owners on energy costs?

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• For all tenants, that retrofit work cannot be used to gather information about
tenants’ use of apartments, nor to displace tenants from apartments?

8. Expand the Safety Net: As the economic crisis worsens, the most vulnerable New Yorkers
are increasingly reliant on the public safety net. To ensure the interests of low-income New
Yorkers are protected, will you:

A. Fight for Paid Sick Days for all New Yorkers: The majority of working poor in New
York—65% of poor workers and 45% of near poor—do not have a single day of paid
sick time. The City should pass a local ordinance guaranteeing a minimum number of
paid sick days each year, like San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. have done. Will you
support City legislation that:

1. Requires all employers within the boundaries of the City, except Federal, State and City
workers, or workers employed by City contractors, to provide a minimum number of
paid sick days for their employees?

B. Expand Early Learning and Child Care for Working Families: In the City, quality
child care options are beyond reach for most working families. Child care expenditures
now often exceed those for rent and mortgage. The problems are most severe for families
with infants and toddlers. Currently thousands of families are on the waiting list for child
care subsidies. Quality is uneven and families have great difficulty in knowing what
options are available. To meet this challenge will you support the following City
actions:

1. Use federal funds to expand free Pre-K options in early childhood programs in the
community, increase the number of schools with full day Pre-K options and open up
Pre-K classrooms for three year olds?

2. Invest in strengthening the early childhood workforce by targeting the use of federal
funds and additional City funds to increase training and compensation of individuals
caring for children in early care and learning settings?

As a specific first step, would you work to:

• Ensure that the Administration for Children’s Services pays the new 2007 wage
rate set for New York child care providers by state law and funding for this pay
increase is included in the 2010 City budget? Currently, the average annual wage
for City providers is below the poverty line for a family of four and the City is the
only jurisdiction in the State that still pays the lower 2005 rates.

C. Food Stamps: The number of New Yorkers relying on food stamps has grown by 15%
over the past year. Do you support:

1. Reversing the current City policy that blocks able-bodied adults without dependents
from receiving food stamps if they are not participating in workfare programs?

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9. City Schools: Despite significant progress and a greatly increased school budget, City
schools still suffer from severe overcrowding, low graduation rates (especially for low-
income and minority children) and unacceptable educational disparities. As recent school
“reforms” make clear, the Mayor seeks to retain unchecked centralized control, and to rapidly
expand the number of charter schools, as part of a plan to privatize the public school system.

A. The Panel for Education Policy (PEP). Under current law, the Mayor appoints both the
Schools Chancellor and the majority of members of the PEP (Board of Education), whom
he can remove at will. No elected official or elected body has any authority over any
aspect of the school system – neither the City Council, nor local boards, nor the City
Comptroller or the Public Advocate.

To ensure democratic checks and balances, do you agree that:

a) The Mayor should retain the right to appoint some PEP members, with a majority
to be appointed by other elected officials? For example, the Mayor could appoint
five members, with one member each appointed by the Borough Presidents (in
consultation with elected parent leaders), the Public Advocate, the City
Comptroller and the City Council President.

b) The PEP must have power to comment on the DOE’s operating and capital
budgets, approve major school policies, and review the Chancellor’s
implementation of those budgets and policies?

c) PEP membership criteria should be revised to ensure that the PEP includes
parents, students and representatives of community-based organizations?

B. Transparency Unlike other City agencies, the DOE does not have to submit to the same
levels of transparency when awarding contracts, evaluating performance, or analyzing
how funds are spent. To ensure the public knows what is working, what is not and why,
will you support making the DOE more transparent by:

a) Empowering an independent body (like the IBO) with the authority and necessary
resources to audit all aspects of school performance and finances?

b) Mandating that all DOE contracts be open to a competitive bidding process like
all other City agencies?

c) Clarifying the law to make the DOE’s finances completely open and available to
the City Comptroller for financial oversight and auditing purposes?

C. Increase parent, student and community input in school decisions. Centralized


control over the school system has largely frozen out the voices of parents, students and
communities from school policy decisions at the local and district levels. To improve
parent, student and community input, will you support:

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a) Strengthening School Leadership Teams (SLT) by requiring that school budgets
are developed in consultation with SLTs and SLTs are authorized to interview and
make recommendations for candidates for principal and assistant principal?

b) That before the opening, closing, or re-siting of any school in a community school
district (including charter schools):

• The public be given adequate notice for the Community Education Council
(CEC) to hold a public hearing and vote?

• The PEP has final approval power in a public vote?

10. Public Banking: The economic decline has many causes, but certainly the heart of the
problem was the deregulation of the financial system and the resulting recklessness of banks
and other financial institutions. This produced phony profits that enriched a few people
beyond their wildest dreams, but also contributed to the losses now being borne by
homeowners, laid-off workers, and taxpayers. As a result of the federal bailouts, the gains
are privatized, but the losses still go to the taxpayers. This has produced a growing demand
for at least temporary nationalization of failing banks, and then a forced decentralization of
the financial sector on the view that if it’s “too big too fail, then it’s too big to exist.” In this
context, would you support:

A. The creation of a public municipal bank in New York City that would focus not on
creating outrageous compensation for its executives, but rather providing careful credit to
individual and business borrowers, as well as providing average citizens with confidence
that they are putting their money in a safe place that does not try to fleece them with
hidden fees?

11. Democratic Reform

A. Non-Partisan Elections: Every few years the notion of “non-partisan” City elections is
raised in public debates by people who argue that it will somehow make politics better if
we do away with political parties and primaries. Most political scientists disagree,
likening the notion of non-partisan elections to competition between “Teams Without
Uniforms.” As a political party, we favor partisan elections as a way for people of like-
mind to come together to select their standard-bearer. A recent charter amendment to
establish non-partisan elections was defeated by an overwhelming margin in 2003. To
protect partisan elections, will you oppose any “non-partisan” election legislation in the
future?

B. Fusion Voting: Once legal everywhere, New York is today one of only a handful of
states that still permits “fusion” voting. Also called cross-endorsement, this is the rule
that permits minor parties to avoid the “spoiler” or “wasted vote” dilemmas that
otherwise force them into irrelevancy or worse. Will you assist us in advancing efforts to
re-legalize fusion in other states?

C. Public Financing of Elections: New York City has a model system of campaign finance.
Are you participating in the public financing system? Will you assist us in establishing
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such a system at the state level, as legislation in Albany is likely to be considered this
year?

Other NYC Issues

A. Land Use and Economic Development

1. Do you support “industrial employment district” zoning provisions that better protect
and promote manufacturing jobs by requiring special permits for hotels, big-box
stores, and large-footprint office buildings in designated manufacturing zones?

2. When the City has a proprietary interest in a project, it can protect it by requiring that
the developer and/or operator sign an agreement with the appropriate labor union that
insures there will be no labor disruptions that would disrupt the City's revenue from
the project. Will you work with the WFP, its affiliates, and the Administration to
make sure that labor peace requirements are employed when they will protect the
City's proprietary interest?

B. Affordable Housing

1. Do you support state legislation to repeal vacancy decontrol?

2. Do you support state legislation to repeal the Urstadt law, which prevents New York
City from strengthening its rent regulation laws?

3. Do you support ramped up eviction protection programs, such as increased rent


arrears grants and legal services, in order to maintain housing stability?

4. Do you support the rent freeze for one million rent stabilized apartments to be voted
on the by the Rent Guidelines Board in June?

D. Regulation of Hotel Development. Building a hotel in certain commercial and


manufacturing areas of New York City is typically “as of right”, requiring little more than
paying a fee for a building permit. The ease with which a hotel can be developed in the
City is potentially detrimental to many communities. Since hotels are open all hours of
the day, there is a potential for such problems as vehicular and pedestrian congestion and
placing a great burden local services. In most cases, there is no opportunity for the
community or its representatives to determine whether a hotel will be a positive addition
to a neighborhood.

To ensure that hotel developments are well-sited and planned, will you support:

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1. Amending the New York City zoning resolution to require special permits for hotels
so that hotel development can be addressed on a case-by-case basis via the City's
ULURP process?

E. Immigration

1. Do you support Intro 859 to improve language access at pharmacies in New York City
by mandating that they translate important medication information and provide free
communication assistance to limited-English-proficient patients?

2. To ensure the success of the Language Access Executive Order signed into law last
year, which established a uniform policy and standards for translation and
interpretation services for City agencies, will you support adequate funding for this
initiative and convene public hearings to monitor progress?

3. Do you support the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative which funds immigration and
worker legal services and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes?

4. Do you also support additional federal stimulus funds to be used for low-wage
immigrant worker programs, including ESL, adult literacy, job training, health and
safety training and worker legal services?

5. Do you support the continuation and expansion of the English Language Learner
(ELL) Incentive Grants program funded by DOE and City Council and
comprehensive policy and accountability measures to address the ELL drop-out
crisis?

F. Civil Rights

1. Would you introduce or support a resolution in favor of State legislation to approve


same sex marriages?

G. Cross Harbor Tunnel: New York is alone among major American metropolitan areas in
being totally dependent on trucks to deliver goods from outside the region. A Draft
Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Rail Administration and the Federal
Highway Administration has shown that the Cross Harbor Tunnel will bring crucial
economic, health, environmental and national security benefits to New York. The Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey is now advancing and leading the development
project.

1. Do you support this initiative?

H. Small Business and Independent Workers

1. Will you work to implement unemployment insurance for freelance workers?

I. Brooklyn Bridge Park: The Brooklyn Bridge Park project, encompassing 85 acres of
land on 1.3 miles of publicly-owned waterfront, aims to revitalize and redevelop a
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deteriorated area into public recreational space. However, the project has been stalled
due to a conflict over the use of dedicated State and City funds, and the inclusion of
private luxury housing within the park’s boundaries to generate PILOTS that would
contribute to the park’s maintenance. Community residents argue that housing within the
park privatizes the park, obstructs recreational use and enjoyment, is unfeasible in
current market conditions, and is a bad precedent for a public park built on public land
with public funds.

To ensure that the Brooklyn Bridge Park is developed in a way that most benefits the
entire community:

1. Do you support developing the Park ONLY in a way that excludes additional
housing?

2. To produce sufficient revenue to support park maintenance and operations, do you


support a Park Increment Recapture (PIRC), which would direct a small percentage
of any property tax revenue increases in a 0.4 mile radius of the park towards the
park’s operating budget?

J. Homeless Shelters

1. Require that all shelters that receive city contracts through the Homeless Services
Agency be prohibited from referring homeless individuals to illegally converted
boarding houses with overcrowding and dangerous living conditions?

K. Support for Labor: Unions are necessary to counterbalance the power of employers and
defend the interests of workers. The right to join a union is fundamental to a free society.
The Working Families Party expects candidates receiving its endorsement to support
unions in their efforts to organize workers and win fair contracts. It is not enough to
support the right to a union in the abstract; WFP candidates must be prepared to
publicly support unions in conflicts with employers.

1. Would you pledge to use the visibility of your position to publicly support union
organizing drives, contract campaigns and strikes?

2. What have you done in the past that demonstrates a record of commitment to those
struggles?

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