Candidates for NYC mayor and other posts continued to publish big ideas for the city’s problems, including hunger, transit, gun violence and a pitch for universal childcare for kids as young as one.
Policy Shop is a weekly look at some of the policy proposals being advanced by candidates in the city’s 2021 elections:
Scott’s six-minute solution
Is that a distant subway headlight reflecting off the rails near the mouth of the tunnel, or have I been standing on this platform so long that the natural aging process is beginning to affect my vision? We’ve all asked ourselves that question, just as we have stood several yards into a lane of traffic and on our tip-toes in hopes of glimpsing the bus finally lumbering toward your stop.
As part of a sweeping plan for transit, mayoral candidate Scott Stringer is promising to “invest in rapid, around the clock transit service so trains and buses arrive at least every 6 minutes, all day every day.” The “NYC in 6” plan will “ensure that New Yorkers never wait more than 6 minutes for the next ride, even if they’re traveling outside of rush hour.”
He also vows to widen sidewalks and pedestrianize streets, create hundreds of miles of truly-protected and separated bike lanes, upgrade the bus network and “rationalize on-street parking in New York City.” Stringer also believes we should “make 41 commuter [rail] stations across the 5 boroughs accessible with the swipe of a Metrocard,” “convert obsolete highways into community green spaces” and build out “a five-borough greenway and bike superhighway.”
It’s remarkable to see a transportation plan that doesn’t even mention the word “cars,” which is how, before COVID-19, a million New Yorkers got to work each day (versus 1.7 million on public transit). Car-culture is clearly not compatible with the city of the future; a quicker ride to work might get a lot more drivers out from behind the wheel.
Once a food czar …
Before quitting to run for mayor, Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia also oversaw the effort to provide meals to New Yorkers whom COVID-19 exposed to the risk of malnutrition. Her food plan, released last week, includes suggestions for improving the crisis food system, like expanding the city’s emergency food program to provide fresh and “culturally appropriate” eats. It also aims for the lofty goal of getting 100 percent of people who are eligible for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits signed up for them, and promises to make enrolling in those and other benefit programs easier. Moreover, she pledges to “support New Yorkers who are not eligible for SNAP with voucher programs that provide choice and dignity.”
The Garcia plan further promises to assist restaurants (capping third-party app commissions, streamlining licensing and making outdoor dining permanent, among other things), invest in developing grocery stores and pantries in underserved neighborhoods, and grow urban agriculture.
Interestingly, despite her background as a food czar, Garcia doesn’t call for one—instead advocating for “a dedicated, interdisciplinary food team.” Perhaps we’re reaching the point where our desire for policy coordination no longer requires paying homage to the Romanoffs, and we can retire the c-word.
Donovan on crime
Through Feb. 7, New York City had seen one more murder in 2021 than it had over the same period in 2020, overall felony crime down by nearly a quarter and a 28 percent increase in shootings. The weekend’s subway stabbings contributed to that muddled picture of where crime stands as the city approaches the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 disaster. How to address crime and, at the same time, the flaws in the NYPD is something every mayoral candidate will have to talk about, and candidate Shaun Donovan’s plan covers some typical ground and some innovative territory.
As many candidates around the city have, he calls for establishing “a non-police mental health first responder system,” removing police from schools, investing in community-based anti-violence programs like Cure Violence, and abiding by Civilian Complaint Review Board disciplinary recommendations. But Donovan’s plan also repeatedly emphasizes the importance of housing resources in preventing crime, resisting recidivism and healing communities harmed by both criminal violence and over-policing. He also says he’ll “consent to the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the police department’s practices with respect to public protests” and will “be transparent about the use of surveillance technologies.”
Like at least the previous two mayors, Donovan promises to “target the out-of-state” gun pipeline. With U.S. gun manufacturers pumping out upwards of 6 million new weapons each year, at least 3 million guns coming in through imports, and 79 percent of traced crime guns in New York coming from other states, it is less a pipeline than a tide—important to talk about, but pretty hard to stop.
Good night, moon. Hello, childcare for one-year-olds.
A first-time candidate with little money to spend, Art Chang isn’t getting invited to many mayoral forum or debate stages, but he did come out with two ambitious policy proposals over the past week. One focuses on saving small businesses, and calls for extending the commercial eviction moratorium through March 2022, securing mortgage forbearance so as to cancel rent debt, creating a municipal delivery app, working to reduce credit-card processing fees and establishing universal broadband (an idea many candidates have mentioned, which makes one wish we’d listened to Andrew Rasiej back in 2005).
Another proposes universal, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. childcare beginning at age one, which Chang says would create jobs, free mothers to “work, study, care for elders and those with physical challenges, or simply relax for a moment,” and allow kids to “start from a more level playing field.” The Chang proposal would essentially complete the cradle-to-kindergarten bridge that Mayor de Blasio began building with the UPK and 3-K programs. While there is no question that many families struggle to afford childcare, and that the quality of childcare is very important, there remain questions about the impact of early childcare on kids.
A capital idea
The old saw is that there’s no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the garbage. Is there a progressive way to pave streets or repair bridges? Comptroller candidate Brad Lander indicates there is. Citing “haphazard planning, weak project management, ballooning costs, poor coordination between agencies, and too little transparency,” Lander argues the city’s capital budget generates less bang than 10 billion bucks ought to bring the city.
Of course, as comptroller, Lander could have less direct say on capital spending than he does as a Councilmember with discretionary capital money to spend and a vote on the city’s overall capital budget. But he sees a way for the comptroller’s power to make a big difference: through a dedicated audit team focusing on waste within the system, using oversight of the contracts process to prioritize green infrastructure, improving payments systems to help MWBE firms and working to create green bonds to underwrite environmental improvements.
He also calls for aligning capital spending to a long-term, comprehensive city plan—but also expanding the use of participatory budgeting, in which residents direct a share of capital spending in each district. It would be interesting to see where hyperlocal public sentiment and the long-term plan overlap, and where they move in different directions.