Editor’s Note: On Tuesday (September 12), the Democratic primary will effectively decide who will represent Lower Manhattan in the City Council for the coming four years. (Although the general election is in November, the heavily “blue” landscape of Lower Manhattan usually makes the nomination of the Democratic party tantamount to winning the wider contest, and most often relegates the actual election to the status of a formality.) The Broadsheet has asked each of the leading Democratic candidates the same series of ten questions, hoping to give readers a basis for comparison. Their answers appear below. (A fourth candidate, Dashia Imperiale, did not reply to the Broadsheet’s request.)
On Tuesday (September 12), the Democratic primary will effectively decide who will represent Lower Manhattan in the City Council for the coming four years. (Although the general election is in November, the heavily “blue” landscape of Lower Manhattan usually makes the nomination of the Democratic party tantamount to winning the wider contest, and most often relegates the actual election to the status of a formality.)
The Broadsheet has asked each of the Democratic candidates Margaret Chin, Aaron Foldenauer, Dashia Imperiale and Christopher Marte, the same series of ten questions, hoping to give readers a basis for comparison. See other candidates’ responses in coming issues of the BroadsheetDAILY.
Ten Questions for Margaret Chin
Priorities Include Affordable Housing, Quality of Life, and Storm Resiliency — Plus a Seat at the Table for Lower Manhattan Residents
Margaret Chin, the incumbent City Council member, is a former member of Community Board 1, and a resident of the Financial District. Her career in public service includes founding organizations such as Asian Americans for Equality, and teaching for more than a decade at LaGuardia Community College’s Division of Adult and Continuing Education, where she specialized in helping adult immigrants get a college education. In 2009, she became the first Asian-American woman ever elected to the New York City Council. Her answers appear below.
Broadsheet: If you could accomplish only one major goal in your term as a City Council member, what would that be?
Margaret Chin: If I had to pick just one goal, it would be to preserve and create even more affordable housing units. Especially in a place as expensive as Battery Park City, preserving affordable units must be a priority at places like Gateway Plaza, and across my Council District.
Broadsheet: What do you view as the most urgent, individual priorities facing each of the following Lower Manhattan communities — Battery Park City, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport, and Tribeca?
Ms. Chin: For Battery Park City, it is preserving housing that is affordable so that working families and seniors — the pioneers of this City neighborhood — can stay in the wonderful place they helped build.
For the Financial District, it is ensuring the safety of pedestrians on our increasingly congested sidewalks and streets.
For the Seaport, it is preserving the character and the history of this maritime neighborhood.
For Tribeca, it is [mitigating the effects of] hugely disruptive infrastructure projects on Chambers Street and now Worth Street that are negatively impacting the quality of life of residents.
Broadsheet: What is your plan for making progress on these issues?
Ms. Chin: As ground leases come closer to expiring, I will use my experience as a successful fighter for affordable housing preservation to ensure that Battery Park City renters and owners are able to stay in the neighborhood they helped build. Additionally, I will continue my work to expand access to the Rent Freeze Programs [the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption] to cover more seniors and disabled New Yorkers.
In FiDi, I joined members of our community and other elected officials to secure a comprehensive Department of Transportation pedestrian safety study — with the goal of identifying immediately implementable changes to protect residents, workers and visitors of all ages.
In the Seaport, I will continue to partner with the Borough President to support the South Street Seaport Museum, which is the cultural anchor of this historic district. I was proud to help fund the rehabilitation of the lightship Ambrose, and pledge to continue to do more.
In Tribeca, the Chambers and Worth Street reconstruction projects are proof of the need for better and more effective coordination between City agencies. As someone who helped lead the Worth Street Reconstruction Task Force with Senator Squadron, I pledge to continue this group’s important work, now that he has left the State Senate.
Broadsheet: In your view, what are the three biggest issues or challenges facing Lower Manhattan as a whole?
Ms. Chin: This is an increasingly residential district that is still being treated by City Hall as a commercial district. We need to end the no-questions-asked practice of granting After Hours Variances for construction work that takes place overnight and early in the morning.
Hurricane Harvey, and now Irma, are reminders of how vulnerable Lower Manhattan still is to flooding. We need to ensure that the BPCA’s resiliency plan is incorporated with the rest of Lower Manhattan, and we need to ensure that resiliency measures are fully funded for our entire coastline. Only then can we get to the urgent process of implementing these measures.
As a strong ally of the Democracy for Battery Park City effort, I know we still have a long way to go in the fight to get Battery Park City residents the representation they deserve on the Battery Park City Authority board. With so many decisions being made without community input — on South End Avenue and Wagner Park, just to name two — having full-time residents on the Authority’s board has never been more important.
Broadsheet: What is your plan for making progress on these issues?
Ms. Chin: When it came to tenant harassment by construction, I successfully pushed forward legislation to reform the Department of Buildings by increasing penalties and changing the bad practice of self-certification that hurt residents. With an increasing number of After Hours Variances harassing Lower Manhattan residents, I will embark on another effort to reform the Department of Buildings to curb the issuance of these variances, which hurt people and disrupt their quality of life.
As Councilwoman, I fought to secure $275 million in state and federal resiliency funding for Lower Manhattan. But much more needs to be done. As a member of the Council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, I will fight keep this vital Committee intact in the next Council session. I will also continue to lead the effort to secure full funding for the entire coastline in Lower Manhattan so that this essential work can begin as soon as possible.
I continue to support efforts to ensure true community representation on the Battery Park City Authority board. And my first call to whoever becomes our next State Senator will be about how we can push this important effort forward. Additionally, I will continue to vigorously support the existence of a Battery Park City Committee at Community Board 1.
Broadsheet: What is your biggest reservation or objection about the process of governance in New York City, and within the City Council?
Ms. Chin: One of my biggest reservations about governance in the City Council happens when legislation, such as the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, has an overwhelming amount of support, but fails to reach the floor of the City Council for a vote. That is why any candidate for Speaker seeking my support would have to agree to allow this important piece of legislation to be heard in committee and moved forward.
Broadsheet: What about the status quo of City politics or government will you embrace and seek to continue?
Ms. Chin: Our status as a Sanctuary City must be maintained — especially in light of Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program. Otherwise, I am not satisfied with the status quo when it comes to resiliency funding, lack of true community representation on the Battery Park City Authority board, and the City Administration’s response to many quality of life issues.
Broadsheet: How will you strike a balance between trying to implement reform, versus participating in the prevailing culture in order to get things done?
Ms. Chin: I believe everyone — advocates, elected officials, and members of the general public — need to be at the table when decisions are made that affect our communities. As Councilwoman, I will continue to push for increased community participation in decision-making so that all voices are heard — including those who are pushing for reforms from the outside, and those working hard to effect change within existing institutions.
Broadsheet: What aspect of your own, personal history of leadership are you proudest of?
Ms. Chin: I am proud to represent the community that I grew up in. As someone who lived in Little Italy alongside Chinese and Italian seniors, I am proud of my work to secure more than $22 million in permanent, additional funding for elder New Yorkers from every community in our City. As a parent and former teacher, I am proud to have opened three new schools for our community, including one to be built at Trinity Place. And as someone who believes Lower Manhattan shouldn’t just be for the super-rich, I am proud of my record of preserving and creating hundreds of units of affordable housing for working families and seniors.
Broadsheet: Why should Lower Manhattan voters cast their ballot for you? What is unique or compelling about your candidacy?
Ms. Chin: In a time when there is so much uncertainty in politics, the people of Lower Manhattan have always known where I stand on the issues. In this race, I offer decades of experience of getting results. From the beginning of my re-election campaign, I have asked voters to look at my record and make their own decision about who is the best candidate to tackle issues of affordability, caring for a growing number of seniors, and providing more opportunities for our young people. I am confident that my record will prevail over empty promises.