Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, June 23, voters in the Democratic primary will effectively decide the race for the State Assembly seat representing the 65th District in Lower Manhattan, which stretches from the Battery to Vesey Street on the West Side and traces a jagged line between Broadway and the East River, topping out just above Houston Street, on the East Side.
There are two major candidates vying for the Democratic nomination: incumbent Yuh-Line Niou, and aspirant Grace Lee. The Broadsheet asked both candidates to answer the same five questions. Ms. Lee’s responses are appended below. Ms. Niou’s will appear in this space on Monday.
Broadsheet: What specific goals do you hope to accomplish — or at least help to advance — during the next two years in the Assembly?
Grace Lee: Today, we face a public health and economic crisis beyond anything we have ever seen. As a New Yorker and Lower Manhattan resident, I’ve lived through multiple crises in our city — 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and Superstorm Sandy. I’ve raised my family here, I built a successful small business here and I’ve led the charge against greedy developers and corporate interests.
For the next two years, our response to the worst public health and economic crisis in American history will be a focus for all in government. I look at it in three parts: Reform, Recovery, and Relief.
Reform — We need to reform our health standards to return to work and pass the New York Health Act.
Recovery — We must invest in programs that will return people to the labor market and provide strong incentives to do so. This means funding for the NYC Medical Reserve Corps and infrastructure investment to rebuild our bridges, tunnels, and roads. It also means funding to renovate and build new schools to host smaller classroom sizes, and funding for new teachers and support staff.
Relief — Housing relief is necessary so that we don’t watch this public health crisis turn into a homelessness crisis. We need adequately funded small business recovery programs so that our local businesses don’t permanently shut their doors, only to be replaced by big-box retailers or corporate food chains. Universal Basic Income can help ensure we never see another 40 million Americans lose their jobs and livelihoods.
We must dramatically rethink our economy and how our society treats its most vulnerable.
Broadsheet: In your view, what are the three most important issues facing Lower Manhattan in the immediate future?
Ms. Lee: Recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 hit Assembly District 65 first: retail foot traffic in Chinatown plunged by over 50 percent in February from January, purely due to anti-Asian xenophobia surrounding the virus.
The data collected over the last few months clearly shows that lower-income communities, and especially black and brown communities, have suffered most during the pandemic.
I will continue to fight for additional funding for the New York City Housing Authority’s capital improvement projects and to increase affordable housing for our most vulnerable citizens. Everyone deserves their shot at their own American dream — but that can’t be achieved if families are constantly worrying about their housing security.
Climate action and environmental justice are imperative. We need a plan for climate resiliency that ensures community input, and we must find a way to build the necessary sea wall project without disturbing the current quality of life for residents in Lower Manhattan. We need more efforts to improve the ‘green’ quality of life in Lower Manhattan. Chinatown and the Lower East Side have the lowest rates of green space per-capita among all neighborhoods in New York City. We must protect the green space that we currently have, as well as work to reclaim additional space for playgrounds and parks in the future.
Broadsheet: What are the three most serious dangers facing this community?
Ms. Lee: Lower Manhattan is a community in crisis. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and dwindling affordable housing were threatening to push working families out of the neighborhoods they’ve called home for generations. Now our locally owned small businesses face potential economic ruin if real relief doesn’t reach them urgently. We need a path to economic recovery, climate resiliency, and housing security, or our community will become increasingly disaffected and displaced.
Broadsheet: What aspect of the Lower Manhattan community (and the 65th Assembly District in particular) presents the greatest challenge to leading or governing effectively?
Ms. Lee: The 65th District is a diverse patchwork of some of our city’s most vibrant communities. Notably, it includes some of Manhattan’s highest-income ZIP codes right next door to some of its poorest.
No one should live in poverty; and the American dream of upward mobility needs to be restored. Income inequality is at an all-time high, and Assembly District 65 is a living testament to this rising income inequality: households in Battery Park and the Financial District make upwards of $140,000 per year, while households in Chinatown and the Lower East Side make just under $45,000 per year.
Lower Manhattan needs a leader who can build a coalition and understand our communities’ distinct needs, while putting an end to the stark wealth inequality it’s been home to for far too long.
Broadsheet: How do you see politics on the local level in Lower Manhattan intersecting with, and connecting to, priorities at the regional and national levels?
Ms. Lee: Like communities across our country, Lower Manhattan is suffering from years of neglect from national and state government. Year over year, our public housing has been underfunded, our public schools have been underfunded, and our elected leaders at every level have failed to take responsibility.
With a historic progressive majority, New York State has the opportunity to set the standard for the nation in life-changing policy. By creating a progressive tax structure that ensures the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share, reimagining our criminal justice and policing systems, and guaranteeing health care for all, we can lead by example and build a better New York for all in the process.
Race and Class ( The BroadsheetDAILY, June 18)
To the editor:
There are so many ways I know and cherish Pat Moore: artist, Community Board Member, 9/11 survivor but I had never known she was a black cop’s daughter. Her comments and perspective are truly meaningful and eye-opening.
But then, I’ve never known Pat to speak without saying something that wasn’t worth paying attention to. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your story. We all need to listen. And learn.
Race and Class
A Lower Manhattan Community Leader Considers How Much Has Changed and How Much Still Needs To Change
“I’m a lot older than many of the young people now protesting in the streets,” reflects Pat Moore, 67, who chairs the Quality of Life Committee on Community Board 1. “And my father, who died last January, was a police officer at a time when there were very few black men on the NYPD. So I have a slightly more complicated perspective about all this.”
“I was born in 1953, and my family is from Louisiana,” she recalls, “so I’m old enough to remember traveling to the South as a little girl, and sitting at the back of the bus, or visiting the public pool, where nobody who looked like me was allowed to go in.”
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After Officers Are Accidentally Sickened at Downtown Shake Shack, Police Unions Allege Deliberate Poisoning
Three NYPD officers were hospitalized on Monday evening, after ingesting what they believed was a toxic substance at the Shake Shack within the Fulton Transit Center in Lower Manhattan.
At approximately 8:30 pm, the officers (whose names have not been released) were taking a meal break at the popular burger emporium when they noticed a strange taste and smell coming from the milk shakes they had ordered.
Local Leaders Urge Heightened Federal Response to September 11 Mental Health Issues
Community Board 1 (CB1) is urging federal lawmakers to expand benefits offered by the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to include more robust help for survivors of the terrorist attacks who are grappling with mental health issues.
‘A Fraudulent Scheme to Evade the Rent Stabilization Laws’
FiDi Renters Seek Recompense for Years of Rent Overcharges; U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Tenants’ Victory
More Financial District tenants are going to court to demand restitution from years of illegally high rent, on the heels of a 2019 ruling by New York State’s highest court, which found that as many as 5,000 Lower Manhattan apartments had been illegally deprived of rent stabilization benefits.
The most recent suit was filed on behalf of tenants at 90 Washington Street, a 397-unit rental building located between Rector and Joseph P. Ward Streets. This filing follows similar legal actions on behalf of tenants at 63-67 Wall Street, Ten Hanover Square, 50 Murray Street, 90 West Street, and 53 Park Place.
Every day is Sun day for the month of June, when the Sun is up for 15 hours plus a few minutes most days and darkness prevails, most days, for a few minutes less than 9 hours. The longest days of the year occur as Earth reaches the point in its orbit when the North Pole is tilted closest to the Sun, known as the summer solstice. This year, astronomers calculate that the solstice occurs on Saturday, June 20 at 5:44pm. According to my pencil on paper figuring from Starry Night* data, which is offered to a tenth of a second, day length at our location on Friday the 19this 3 seconds shorter than on the solstice and on the 20th day length is 2 seconds longer than on Sunday the 21st.
Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of opera’s greatest singers.
Artist & poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths reads from her forthcoming book Seeing the Body (W. W. Norton, 2020) from her home in New York. Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a multi-media artist, poet, and writer. She received the MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and is the recipient of numerous fellowships including Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Kimbilio, Cave Canem Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, and Yaddo. Noon. Free.
Jeh Johnson, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2013–2017), will discuss his perspectives on crisis management in extreme circumstances and the role intelligence plays in the nation’s ability to respond to homeland security threats, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. As the former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense (2009–2012), Johnson will also reflect on creating the legal framework for counterterrorism missions, including the 2011 Abbottabad compound raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Live Q&A. Free. 12:30pm.
CB1 Wants to Claim Part of the Pike for Cyclists
Community Board 1 is calling upon City and State transportation officials to close—at least temporarily—the lane of Route 9A (also know as the West Side Highway) that adjoins the Hudson River Park, between Chambers and Canal Streets, to enable continued social distancing, as New York scales back quarantine measures in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus outbreak.
The plan would use concrete barriers to bar traffic from the westernmost lane of the eight-lane highway, for a half-mile stretch of the waterfront boulevard, in order to allow users of the Hudson River Park additional room for biking, jogging, and walking.
City Pushes Plan to Move Iconic Sculpture Away from Bowling Green
The City’s Public Design Commission is slated to consider on Monday a controversial plan that would move Charging Bull—the the iconic Arturo Di Modica bronze sculpture that has been snarling and pawing the ground just north of Bowling Green since 1989—to a new location in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Several local leaders are concerned that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing this plan while ignoring community objections. To read more…
Honorable WilliamWall Opens for Business
The Honorable William Wall will open today June 18.
1945 – Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese politician (Nobel)
1947 – Salman Rushdie, Pak, novelist (Midnight’s Children, Satanic Verses)
1978 – Garfield the Cat, animated character “Big fat hairy deal”
1867 – Maximilian I of the Mexican Empire is executed by firing squad in Querétaro, Querétaro at 34
1953 – Ethel Rosenberg, executed at Sing Sing, in 5 tries
1953 – Julius Rosenberg, NYC, first US civilian executed for espionage at 37
2013 – James Gandolfini, American actor, dies from a heart attack at 51
Previously Published Downtown News
CB1 Endorses Push to Expand VCF Coverage to Pandemic Illness
Community Board 1 (CB1) has signed on to a campaign that aims to expand the eligibility criteria of the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) to include illnesses related to the outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus.