Questions for Manhattan Borough President Candidates
Hoylman and Kallos Hold Forth on Five World Trade Center Plan, Homeless Shelters, and Impact Fees
State Senator member (and Borough President aspirant) Brad Hoylman
City Council member (and Borough President hopeful) Ben Kallos
Tomorrow (Tuesday, June 22) is the last day of voting for a broad slate of City offices, including Manhattan Borough President. Among the candidates vying to succeed the term-limited Gale Brewer are Brad Hoylman, who has represented the 27th State Senate District (covering larger parts of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Midtown) since 2013, and Ben Kallos, who has represented the Fifth City Council District (stretching from the East 50s to the East 90, along the waterfront of the East River) since 2014. The Broadsheet asked Mr. Hoylman and Mr. Kallos to address issues of concern to Lower Manhattan residents. Their responses follow.
(Editor’s Note: Video of a two-hour forum featuring all the Manhattan Borough President candidates, hosted by Battery Park City for Black Lives Matter, can be found online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj_BqfdAkh0)
Broadsheet: The plan for a residential tower at Five World Trade Center calls for a 900-foot tower containing 1,325 rental apartments, of which 330 (or approximately 25 percent) will be affordable. Do you feel this is an adequate allocation of affordable units, on a project that will effectively be subsidized by using publicly owned land?
Hoylman: I would like to see significantly more affordable units. We need more housing affordability than the 20 to 30 percent that’s being proposed, and deeper than the 120 percent of area median income that’s currently on the table. It’s important to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis in New York, and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that we’re building as many affordable homes as we can.
Kallos: New York City is facing an affordable housing crisis. Yet, at the same time, Manhattan’s apartment vacancy rate rose in April, 2021 to 11.6 percent, up from 2.42 percent one year ago. Conventional wisdom would say that if there is a high vacancy rate, then rents would drop. Although Manhattan’s rents have dropped to a decade low average of $2,700 per month, we still have a shortage of affordable housing at the lower end of the spectrum. We cannot continue to allow real estate developers to print money by building more luxury apartments while costing the City billions in lost tax revenue due to the huge tax breaks the City offers for these so-called affordable apartments. As Borough President, I will oppose the building of City subsidized ultra tall buildings that do not offer at least 50 percent affordable housing, with at least a third capped at 60 percent of the area median income.
Broadsheet: The de Blasio administration stirred controversy during the pandemic by converting several Lower Manhattan hotels for use as temporary/emergency homeless shelters. It now wants to make at least one (possibly more than one) of these conversions permanent. Do you support or oppose this plan? More broadly, do you feel that Lower Manhattan (which has far fewer homeless shelters than, for example, the Upper West Side) needs to shoulder more of this burden?
Hoylman: We need to move away from congregate housing and shelters and toward real supportive housing to solve our homelessness crisis. I’d like to see supportive housing built in every neighborhood, or empty office buildings—like those in my district in Midtown—converted into supportive housing with wraparound services.
Kallos: It made sense to use vacant hotels to safely house our City’s homeless residents during the pandemic. I welcomed one of these conversions in my district at the Bentley Hotel. We have to realize that 18,000 children woke up in a homeless shelter this morning together with 17,000 parents. These 35,000 family members from 10,000 families are the vast majority of the homeless in our City. Although using vacant hotels made sense during the pandemic, as we emerge and begin to reopen, we need more permanent solutions for this problem. I’ve proposed using tens of thousands of vacant apartments to house every homeless family, to immediately put an end to homeless families as we know it. As Manhattan Borough President, I will work to make this plan a reality. We need to work with every community to ensure that we are all carrying our fair share. Too often, new shelter facilities are put in immigrant and communities of color. We have to do better. This is why I co-founded the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) with Borough President Gale Brewer and Senator Liz Krueger. Together, we’ve opened supportive housing for formerly homeless women and children across the street from where I live and recently secured a positive resolution from Manhattan Community Board 8 for a new 80-bed safe-haven shelter a block or two away from where I live. I hope to expand this ETHOS (with a name change, of course) borough-wide, so that we can have real input from the communities and ensure we are solving the problem of homelessness in an equitable manner.
Broadsheet: Are you willing to commit to a carve-out for residents living within the toll zone who will be trapped by congestion pricing—as is already done for all other residents living within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel and the Rockaways)?
Hoylman: I am committed to advocating for a carve-out from congestion pricing for residents who live within the zone. Manhattanites should not be penalized for living within the zone.
Kallos: Yes, I am committed to a carveout for residents inside the toll zones in Manhattan. While others are afraid to take a stance on congestion pricing, I have been a strong supporter of it. I do not own a car, and I believe we need fewer cars in Manhattan, period. When I first ran for City Council, the New York Times endorsed me, citing my support for congestion pricing. I supported the current congestion pricing plan that passed in 2019 and I believe we can go further by tolling all entry points to the City, which would remove cars from the streets during heavy traffic hours. New Yorkers get stuck in traffic every day. Car traffic, bus traffic, even somehow subway traffic. I wrote in an op-ed in the New York Daily News supporting congestion pricing and daring to go further with a bigger bolder idea. Every day, 4.4 million vehicles travel through New York City, but only 717,000 vehicles travel through Manhattan’s Central Business District daily. Instead of thinking really big, we’ve spent more than a decade fighting over a small sliver of the problem. Congestion in New York City is not caused by City residents driving into Manhattan, in part because only 1.4 million New York City households own a car. The picture is clear: The vast majority of vehicles in traffic on any given day are from outside the City. The time is now for New York to finally implement congestion pricing. As Borough President I will take an honest look at our traffic and address the whole problem by expanding the congestion zone to all of New York City. The revenues from such a plan could build a true 21st-century public transit system, so that everyone can actually have a decent commute to and from working in the big city.
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)?
Hoylman: Yes, I am supportive of impact fees. I also believe there are tools beyond impact fees that get community facilities built.
Kallos: Yes, I am supportive of impact fees to help fund local infrastructure. As a Council Member, I negotiated directly with developers looking to build in my district for community benefits in return for height. We were able to get space for more school seats, senior congregate space, and community space. As Borough President, I will continue to negotiate for benefits borough-wide, and will support any measure to charge impact fees as long as we limit the benefits to the borough and ideally, the local community board district.
Broadsheet: Throughout Manhattan, middle-class cooperative and condominium are being driven from their homes by relentlessly rising real estate taxes. This is impelled by the disparity between Class 1 and Class 2 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?
Hoylman: Through my advocacy at the State level for a pied-a-terre tax on high-end second and third homes, I’ve come to appreciate the many deficiencies in the City’s property tax system. Ultimately, I believe that a comprehensive overhaul of New York’s property taxes is necessary. I would support a revenue-neutral reform that limits tax increases on middle-class co-op and condominium owners in a manner identical to Class 1 homes by ensuring that higher-end luxury condos and co-op owners are paying their fair share.
Kallos: Tax policy requires that similar properties be treated the same. However, New York State Law requires that Class 2 properties be assessed as if they were rental properties. The law requires tax assessors to assign values to condos based on the rents of nearby apartments. Some Class 2 property owners face effective tax rates that are 4 to 5 times higher than those of Class 1 property owners. As Borough President, I will do everything in my power to bring equity to this arcane property tax system. That includes going to Albany and lobbying for a change in the law that forces these unfair property value assessments. Further, I will work with the new administration and the new City Council to implement limits for Class 2 homes, while keeping existing rates and protections for Class 1 homes.
Strengthen the whole body from warm-up to cool-down with a variety of fun exercises. The instructor will lead you in aerobics, balance and coordination exercises, as well as strength training. Come join for a fun workout in the fresh air! Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: weights, water bottle, hand towel, etc. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free Battery Park City Authority
Despite the advances of modern technology, nature still has many efficient and effective tools from its millions of years of evolution. Some of the most sophisticated new materials take inspiration from the natural design of the world, from buildings constructed like termite colonies to passively cool their interiors to water filters built from the proteins in human kidneys. Scientists are turning to nature even on the nanoscale, where the sophistication of natural technology still offers potential for functional materials. This webinar will feature two researchers designing new nanomaterials based on structures found in nature in order to accomplish a diverse range of tasks, from harvesting energy to filtering viruses from air. $10
Trinity Church online concert. During trying times, music stills our souls and provides a healing grace. Throughout the season of Lent, Comfort at One will present performances that are inspired by the Gandhi quote: “In the midst of darkness, light persists.” These concerts include improvisations by Julian Wachner, light-inspired Bach cantatas, our 2014 Lenten “Lamentatio” series featuring NOVUS NY and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, new performances from the Trinity Youth Chorus and St. Paul’s Chapel Choir, and new virtual content on Fridays from our extended family of artists. Free
Skyscraper Museum webinar. Historian and waterfront planner and activist Ann L. Buttenwieser is The Floating Pool Lady. As parks protector Adrian Benepe writes in the description of Buttenwieser’s new book, “Never mind Molly Brown of RMS Titanic fame—meet the unsinkable Ann L. Buttenwieser! In The Floating Pool Lady, Buttenwieser recounts, with the energy of a suspense novel, her visionary quest to bring to New York City the first floating swimming pool in more than seventy-five years.” From dusty archives in the historic Battery Maritime Building to high-stakes community board meetings, to tense negotiations in the Louisiana shipyard, Ann Buttenwieser describes the quixotic story that led to a floating pool tying up to a pier at Barretto Point Park in the Bronx. Free
1) Lower Manhattan Quarterly Resiliency Update (including Fidi/Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan and plans for proposed in-water resiliency infrastructure) – Presentation by:
Mayor’s Office of Resiliency
• NYC Economic Development Corporation
• NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
• Battery Park City Authority
EYES TO THE SKY
June 14 – 27, 2021
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.
City Council Hopeful Jenny Low on Mass Transit, Congestion Pricing, and Tax Reform
Seeking election to the City Council must seem natural for Jenny Low, who has helped manage that body for years, as part of the staff of Council Speaker Corey Johnson. After emigrating to America at age 12, Ms. Low attended New York City public schools, and graduated from Yale University. The first Asian-American elected as a Democratic Party District Leader (a post she has held since 1995, representing Chinatown), Ms. Low is also the vice chair of the New York State Democratic Committee. The Broadsheet asked her to address a range of issues that are on the minds of Lower Manhattan residents. Click here for Ms. Low’s replies.
‘I Will Hold Developers Accountable’
City Council Hopeful Susan Lee Reflects on Land Use, Affordability, and Public Safety
Susan Lee and her family moved to New York from Hong Kong when she was six years old. Growing up in a working class section of the Lower East Side, she and her brother were two of just four Asian-American students in their elementary school. Ms. Lee inherited from her parents a strong belief in the power of education, which led her to Brooklyn Tech, Barnard College, and graduate school at New York University. She has worked extensively in the non-profit sector, including for Covenant House International (where she fought sex trafficking), on the boards of Nomi Network and MercyFirst (where she has worked to end modern-day slavery). Her campaign for City Council prioritizes affordable housing, aid to small businesses, crime reduction, and support fo education and environmental resiliency. The Broadsheet asked her to share insights across a spectrum of topics that concern Lower Manhattan residents. Here are Ms. Lee’s replies.
‘The Jail Proposal Is Being Rushed Through’
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. Click here for Ms. Damplo’s replies.
‘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…
‘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.
River to River Festival Is Back:
Don’t Miss These 5 Acts
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.
Photo courtesy of Damon Davis
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.