City Council Contender Susan Damplo on Taxes, Affordability, and Governance
Attorney and activist Susan Damplo points with pride to the fact that she is not a career politician. As a young girl, she supported Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential run, and was then elected president of her fifth-grade class, which makes her current campaign for the City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan Ms. Damplo’s second bid for elective office. But she is no stranger to government, having clerked for multiple judges, served as a State administrative law judge, and worked on the staff of the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she focused on civil rights. As a Downtown resident for more than a decade, Ms. Damplo is making issues such as quality of life, social justice, police reform, and federally funded childcare the centerpieces of her campaign. The Broadsheet asked her to share insights on a variety of topics that affect Lower Manhattan residents. Here are Ms. Damplo’s replies.
Broadsheet: What is your position on the proposed jail that the de Blasio administration wants to build in Lower Manhattan?
Ms. Damplo: The families in our district who have loved ones in detention need to be able to visit and support them. With Rikers Island closing, these families need an accessible place to have these connections. That said, the current White Street jail proposal is problematic. It is too expensive and oversized for the need, and it is being rushed through by the current administration in its final days. It should be postponed until the new administration and new City Council can make an informed decision.
Broadsheet: Do you believe residents living within the toll zone that will be created by congestion pricing deserve a discount—as is already done for all other residents trapped within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel, the Rockaways)?
Ms. Damplo: I support a carve-out for residents living within the toll zone. Congestion pricing is environmentally prudent. There is already precedent for similar toll zones throughout the City. If elected as City Council member for District 1, I will work with our State partners to ensure that all residents in congestion pricing toll zone benefit in the carve-out across the board.
Broadsheet: The City derives enormous financial benefit from selling government-owned property in Lower Manhattan to developers, but returns little or none of this windfall to the local community. Will you commit to sharing revenue from such deals in the future, by directing a portion of these funds to projects identified and prioritized by Lower Manhattan community leaders?
Ms. Damplo: I don’t support selling government-owned properties in Lower Manhattan to developers. We have an affordable housing crisis in this City, based on decades of neglect. Forty-three percent of New Yorkers need affordable housing, but the City has, at most, been setting aside 10 to 20 percent of new construction, relying on commercial developers to solve this problem. The City is perpetuating and exacerbating the housing crisis based on this failure of leadership. The math does not add up. When I am in City Council, I will ask the hard questions—like, ‘does it have to be this way?’ Sensible people know better. I respect and look forward to working with local residents and community organizations to address housing and other social safety issues.
Broadsheet: Nearly every major fast-growing city and suburb in the United States (apart from New York) has implemented “impact fees,” which charge developers a levy for the additional burden their projects will place on local infrastructure. These funds are then earmarked to build schools, libraries, community centers, cultural facilities, etc., within the specific communities where the development is taking place. Will you support such a proposal, along with a guarantee that these funds will be spent locally (and not City-wide)?
Ms. Damplo: I support the idea of impact fees and investing these revenues in communities affected by development projects. These fees, applied locally, would help improve and expand cultural and educational opportunities for the residents of Lower Manhattan, who have been underserved in these and other important areas.
Broadsheet: The de Blasio administration has lavished more than $100 million in subsidies on its NYC Ferry Service. The latest iteration of this plan is to create a new route connecting Staten Island to Battery Park City to Midtown, which will compete with the existing (and free) Staten Island Ferry, and, some fear, will overburden Battery Park City’s ferry terminal. What is your position on this project?
Ms. Damplo: I support ferry service as part of increased public transit. The pandemic has further shown that outdoor transportation can contribute to promoting public health. If Battery Park City’s ferry terminal is at capacity, we need to consider other options—for example, expansion of the existing terminal, if possible, or creating ones at other locations. We must do this in combination with increased bus services, subway services and bike lanes.
Broadsheet: Each year, dozens of middle-class retirees are forced to leave Battery Park City, because their fixed incomes cannot keep up with the spiraling cost of living here. Will you commit to creating a “naturally occurring retirement community” (NORC) in Battery Park City, and modify the financial requirements so that middle-class retirees (rather than only those living below the poverty line) can remain here?
Ms. Damplo: Chronological age is an inexact proxy for those experiencing limited or fixed income streams. For example, one might have a fixed income as a disability beneficiary. I would need more information about modifications. I completely support increasing affordable housing in Lower Manhattan and pledge to work with residents, community organizations and public officials to optimize the number of units available here.
Broadsheet: A similar dilemma confronts middle-class young adults who grew up in this community and recently graduated from college. Many would like to return and begin families here, but the relentlessly escalating structural costs make this prohibitive. Are you willing to study a new housing model (in effect, a NORC-in-reverse) that would enable young people to live here, and give preference to those who grew up here?
Ms. Damplo: I completely support increasing affordable housing for those in need. Preferences to those who lived in the neighborhood previously are problematic. This City has long suffered the cancer of racial segregation. I would not support any restrictions on mobility.
Broadsheet: The City has an option to acquire the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), while assuming all of its assets and liabilities, for $1. Would you be willing to eliminate this uncertainty by waiving (finally and permanently) the City’s $1 option?
Ms. Damplo: I am not inclined to waive any option for our City without more information regarding this difficult and complex matter.
Broadsheet: The BPCA cites its financial obligations to the City as the reason for refusing to make concessions to property owners on ground rent and payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Will you commit to demanding that the BPCA agree to an immediate freeze in these payments, followed by a schedule of reductions in the years ahead?
Ms. Damplo: As a community mediator, I have extensive experience in conflict resolution and dispute management. I would recommend that both sides return to the table to negotiate these issues. I would need more information to opine regarding specific rents and payments in lieu of taxes.
Broadsheet: Another strain in the BPCA’s relationship with the community is the fact that the Authority’s land lease with residents, and the City’s master lease with the BPCA, both end in 2069, at which time all residents are slated to be evicted, and homeowners will have their property confiscated. This looming deadline is already undermining property values, while also making it difficult to obtain mortgages and buy or sell apartments. Will you commit to extending for another 99 years the master lease under which the BPCA occupies land owned by the City, and demanding that the BPCA similarly extend for 99 years the land leases by which buildings in the community occupy their individual plots?
Ms. Damplo: The BPCA model is dysfunctional, as exemplified by the quandary raised through these leases. Since I don’t support the BPCA model, any extension, in my view, would only perpetuate the problem. New York State and New York City should negotiate the transfer of ownership and work with the community to fund that purchase. The State is too remote from the community residents to be responsive to their needs.
Broadsheet: Even the minority of BPCA board members who happen to be residents of the community are appointed, rather than elected—in spite of the fact that this agency makes decisions profoundly affecting the lives of residents. This is in sharp contrast to a comparable community, Roosevelt Island, where the entire board of the authority that manages the community consists of residents, elected by the community. Will you avoid a repetition of this policy, by making a commitment that—when and if the Seaport City project is built—the board of the authority that manages it will consist entirely of Lower Manhattan residents?
Ms. Damplo: I believe community developments should be overseen and managed by members of the community in which the development is located. I agree that the Roosevelt Island model is superior to the BPCA one.
Broadsheet: The Lower Manhattan community felt shortchanged by the 421g program, which created enormous financial benefits for real estate developers who converted Downtown commercial buildings to residential use, but created none of the affordable housing that was promised to local residents in exchange. As Downtown faces the prospect of another wave of conversions (of hotels and office buildings) into apartments, will you commit to iron-clad guarantees of housing that is deeply and permanently affordable and economically integrated, in exchange for any benefits to developers?
Ms. Damplo: New York City has lacked the political will to solve its affordable housing crisis. Forty three percent of New Yorkers need affordable housing. Rather than stepping up and building affordable housing on public land, the City is outsourcing the problem to for-profit developers. That is only perpetuating the problem. These entities do not have the incentive to create affordable housing. Instead, they produce luxury housing that includes a small percentage of affordable units. As your advocate in City Council, I will work with members to ensure that your tax dollars are invested in affordable housing that is permanent and constructed on City-owned land.
Broadsheet: Throughout Manhattan, middle-class cooperative and condominium owners are being driven from their homes by relentlessly rising real estate taxes. This is impelled by the disparity between Class 1 (single-family) and Class 2 (apartment) homes, because the latter have no protection against tax increases, while the former are subject to strict limits. Will you commit to implementing tax-hike limits for Class 2 homes identical to those for Class 1 homes, while not modifying or reducing the protections on Class 1 homes?
Ms. Damplo: I support progressive taxation. Residents should not be taxed differently depending on their building size or number of units.
Violent Offender and Fugitive Convicted of Threatening to Kill Congressman
An Iowa man is going to prison for threatening to kill Jerry Nadler, who represents Lower Manhattan in Congress. Federal prosecutors in Iowa (who have jurisdiction, because that is the location from which the threat was made) have announced that Kenneth Brown, aged 57, has been sentenced to 15 months of imprisonment, plus an additional subsequent three years of supervised release, arising from a 2019 phone call he placed to Mr. Nadler’s office in Washington. During this call, Mr. Brown spoke with a member of Mr. Nadler’s staff and said, “I will find someone to assassinate that piece of sh*t you work for. Jerry Nadler is going to be assassinated.” To read more…
Why is Chinese food so seldom considered “haute cuisine?” Supermarket shelves are stacked with dozens of award-winning extra virgin olive oils, so where are the high-end, artisanal Chinese sauces? A new Chinese slow food movement—driven by next-gen foodies—is celebrating quality ingredients and traditional techniques, as young entrepreneurs are producing their own premium soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and chili crisp. Join the world’s top artisanal soy sauce maker in Taiwan, a Hong Kong-born New York restaurateur, and a Shanghai-based food entrepreneur as they explore the rise of a new back-to-roots movement in Chinese cuisine. Free
Milky Way of summer stars with streaming fireflies
As evening twilight deepens, a cosmos of blinking earthly stars attracts and mesmerizes stargazers in areas a distance from street and house lights. Fireflies are connecting our joy in the celestial with breathtaking wonder close around us. In the dark, over gardens, parks, backyards and countryside meadows and forests, our attention is lured away from the starry heavens by undulating streams of countless fireflies flashing. Floating, glowing ribbons of curved light drop from the treetops and move above the ground.
Unaware of time, I find myself alternately looking up to my favorite summer constellations, then stealing time to lower my eyes to the pulsating world of lightening bugs in the landscape all around me. Close above the west-northwest skyline, planet Venus makes a brief appearance at dusk today and is visible until nightfall by next week.
‘A Few Affordable Units in Fancy Developments Are Not The Answer’
City Council Hopeful Maud Maron Hold Forth on Ferries, Congestion Pricing, and Housing
Attorney Maud Maron is a veteran public defender, who also serves as an elected member of the Community Education Council that gives parents a voice in the governance of public schools in District Two, which includes Lower Manhattan. Ms. Maron Maud has served on the board of Greenwich Village Little League, and was a member of Community Board 2 for five years. The Broadsheet asked her to reflect on a series of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents. Here are Ms. Maron’s answers.
‘We Can’t Create Governance Structures That Box Out Residents’
City Council Candidate Christopher Marte Outlines His Priorities
Christopher Marte grew up on the Lower East Side, where his father owned a bodega. From a young age, he began building a record as a community activist, culminating in a City Council run in 2017, which he lost by only a few hundred votes. Since then, Mr. Marte has played a leading role on local issues such as opposition to the de Blasio administration’s plan for a large new prison facility in Lower Manhattan, and support for affordable housing. The Broadsheet asked him to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents.
‘There Are Fundamental Issues That Need To Be Addressed’
City Council Candidate Gigi Li Talks about What She Hopes to Accomplish in Office
Gigi Li is one of the candidates seeking the City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan is, which is currently held by Margaret Chin (who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection). Ms. Li was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States as a small child. In 2009, she was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Board 3, on the Lower East Side, where she became the first Asian-American to be elected to serve as a community board chair (anywhere in New York City) in 2012. Since 2019, Ms. Li has served as chief of staff to Ms. Chin. The Broadsheet asked her to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents. To read more…
River to River Festival Is Back:
Don’t Miss These 5 Acts
Photo courtesy of Damon Davis
As we come out of covid, it’s clear the city’s thriving cultural scene is on its way back — and Lower Manhattan’s leading the way.
In May, the Downtown Alliance teamed up with En Garde Arts and + The Tankto present Downtown Live, a multi-weekend festival stocked with live performances ranging from music to theater to spoken poetry. The revival of Downtown’s cultural scene continues into June, with the return of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival.
The festival, which runs June 10–June 27, joins the explosion of post-vaccine outdoor events and art exhibits that are set to take over the city this summer. Here are five acts you won’t want to miss, and visit lmcc.net/river-to-river-festival for the full schedule.
Processions with Miguel Gutierrez, Okwui Okpokwasili and The Illustrious Blacks
(June 20, 25)
Artist Okwui Okpokwasili is following up her recent piece on the High Line called “On the way, undone” with another processional performance, which means you get to participate in the art. Okpokwasili’s performance will happen at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City on June 20, followed by processions led by choreographer Gutierrez and musical duo the Illustrious Blacks will also conduct processions on June 13 and June 25.
Kamau Ware, Land of the Blacks (June 10-27)
Black history scholar and co-found of Black Gotham Experience Kamau Ware is writing an original piece on “Land of the Blacks,” 28 Black-owned farmsteads that once covered a swath of Lower Manhattan. It will debut on the River to River website.
Womxn in Windows (June 15-27)
Womxn in Windows is a multi-part video installation installed in Windows across the Seaport District. They’ll focus on the confluence of culture and society in an exploration of the multi-faceted female identity, created by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Mariana Valencia, Futurity (June 25-27)
Choreographer and performer Mariana Valencia brings a 2021 version of Futurity, a dance performance that will transmit the queer stories of elders in Greenwich Village from the 1960s to the present.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.