Together, we can build power and create the change we seek. We can hold our city government accountable to our needs. We can define the future of New York City and make it work for everyone. This is the kind of change that I have been fighting for whether it is in the courtroom or in the streets, and with your help – I’ll bring this fight to City Hall.
“It is the role of government to ensure that every human being has an affordable, dignified, and permanent place to live.”
Rents are skyrocketing because of gentrification. Tenants, especially low-income people of color, are being displaced from neighborhoods they have called home for so long due to discriminatory rezonings. In Queens, many tenants live in overcrowded housing that endangers their health and well-being during this pandemic. Small homeowners, often immigrants, are struggling to make mortgage payments and are at imminent risk of foreclosure.
It is the role of government to ensure that every human being has an affordable, dignified, and permanent place to live. We must commit to permanently rehousing homeless New Yorkers and providing social housing for all New Yorkers. There cannot be any more neighborhood rezonings for unaffordable housing through developer-friendly land use processes. We must protect tenants in their homes and small homeowners who cannot pay their mortgages.
We must commit to permanently rehousing homeless New Yorkers and providing social housing for all New Yorkers.
- Fight to ensure that New York State cancels rent for tenants and mortgage payments for small homeowners due to the COVID19 crisis, and places a true moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures for at least one year after the public health crisis ends.
- Enact the NY Homes Guarantee.
- Invest heavily in repairing and improving public housing (NYCHA) where hundreds of thousands of NYC residents live. Instead of privatizing NYCHA, the City and State must fully fund repairs, removal of lead paint and other hazardous conditions.
- Stop reliance on a broken shelter system and instead permanently rehouse homeless New Yorkers in the countless vacant units that developers are holding onto for profit. NYC must address the glaring lack of supportive housing, establish comprehensive voucher programs, and aggressively combat widespread source of income discrimination (discrimination against tenants with vouchers or other public benefits).
- Prevent landlords from warehousing rent-regulated apartments by tracking the number of vacant units in the city and imposing monetary penalties for landlords who engage in this abhorrent practice. Warehousing causes displacement, takes affordable housing off the market when it is badly needed, and erodes tenant protections.
- Enact legislation that allows tenants the right to purchase a building that their landlord intends to sell, or that is subject to foreclosure or demolition, allowing it to be turned into tenant-owned, democratically-controlled, and permanently affordable cooperatives.
- Ensure, through subsidies and government action, that abandoned, tax-delinquent/mortgage-delinquent properties are converted to limited equity cooperatives and/or community land trusts.
- Invest greatly, through funding and public land, in the creation of community land trusts as a vehicle for permanent affordability and the prevention of displacement.
- Expand senior housing across the city for the LGBTQIA+ community. Advocate for affordable housing opportunities for the trans community in particular.
Stop rezoning communities for unaffordable housing through land use processes that prioritize developer interests over community voices.
- Place a moratorium on all luxury rezonings and development in NYC. The city’s rezoning process must be completely redone to account for residential segregation.
- Require the City of New York to study first whether a proposed rezoning affirmatively furthers fair housing or perpetuates segregation before it can be approved.
- Establish a tenant anti-harassment task force in Elmhurst to: 1) combat the unchecked luxury development that is harming our historic neighborhood; and 2) connect tenants with organizing and legal resources to defend their housing rights.
- It is critical that the incredibly historic properties in Elmhurst are landmarked so they are protected from the grave threat of luxury developers. These properties include the African American Burial Ground and the Janta Home.
- Repeal the developer-friendly/community-exclusionary Uniform Land Use Process (ULURP) to approve land use decisions (such as rezonings) in NYC.
- Design a community-rooted, comprehensive land use process that stops displacement and remedies racial and environmental disparities in urban planning.
Protect tenants in their homes and small homeowners who cannot pay their mortgages.
- Implement citywide the BASE campaign to legalize and protect basement apartments in NYC, turning them into safe, affordable, and rent-regulated housing.
- Expand and fully fund the Right to Counsel program in NYC. This program should fund free, comprehensive legal representation for tenants and tenant organizing services.
- Ensure that city agencies enforce the housing and tenant anti-harassment laws against bad landlords. The City needs to collect fines from the countless violations that these landlords are responsible for, yet never pay. The culture of the City that allows landlords to see breaking the law as a cost of doing business must end.
Community Safety & Justice
Community Safety & Justice
“So-called reform efforts do not address the racism and violence underlying the criminal institutions of our society, or keep New York’s communities safe. Instead, we must divest from policing and decarcerate our society.”
We must completely dismantle the Jim Crow system of policing and incarceration in our city. As Michelle Alexander has so powerfully explained, our criminal injustice system locks up and locks out of society countless Black and Brown people. Its entire history is predicated on the subjugation and devastation of Black lives. So-called reform efforts do not address the racism and violence underlying the criminal institutions of our society, or keep New York’s communities safe. Instead, we must divest from policing and decarcerate our society. We must end the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting not punishing or policing students. Then we must invest significantly in the communities that have been policed and prosecuted under this abhorrent system for decades. This is how to truly keep communities safe and promote wellness and accountability.
We must defund and decarcerate.
- Defund the NYPD and Department of Corrections each year and redirect those divested funds to communities of color that have been overpoliced and denied public resources for decades.
- End solitary confinement in NYC. The City’s refusal to incarcerate trans inmates based on their gender identity is an extremely damaging policy, resulting in their solitary confinement.
- Ensure Rikers Island closes and that no new jails are built. We can do so by:
- Ending pretrial detention for all those eligible for pretrial release. Every incarcerated individual must be given a bail review hearing.
- Fighting to truly end cash bail in New York State and, in the meantime, providing public funding for community bail funds to use at their discretion.
- Explore the creation of a bail voucher program as a public benefit, preventing the for-profit bail bond industry from exploiting those who cannot afford bail.
- Ensuring funding parity between District Attorneys’ Offices and local public defender offices (there is at least a $50 million difference).
- Remove police officers from all social services and child care agencies, such as HRA, ACS, the MTA, and NYCHA.
- Bring the NYPD under civilian control. This means creating and empowering an elected Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), and holding officers accountable who do not comply with CCRB process. The Police Commissioner must be required to accept the disciplinary findings of that Board and the outcomes of administrative trials.
- Following the state repeal of Article 50-A, which shielded police disciplinary records from public view, immediately terminate any officers that have a serious disciplinary history.
End the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting not punishing or policing students.
- Police-free Schools: Remove police officers from all schools and instead use the $450 million to hire more social workers, counselors, and therapists trained in restorative justice and trauma-informed practices as well as conflict mediation.
- With the guidance of mental health professionals, educators, youth, and parents, the DOE must implement in all schools a restorative justice model for creating a safe, accountable, and supportive learning environment. End the reliance on harsh punitive measures like suspensions and expulsions, which criminalize Black and brown students.
- Remove metal detectors from schools, which make students feel unsafe and policed.
We must invest significantly in the communities that have been policed and prosecuted under this abhorrent system for decades.
- NYC must use the money divested from the NYPD to invest in low-income communities by providing mental health services, training social workers, instituting community education around conflict resolution, increasing funding for public benefits and repairs to public housing, and building transformative justice community centers for our youth.
- Significantly increase funding for the work of violence interrupters on the ground who know their communities and streets best and support their tactics around outreach, de-escalation, intervention, and anti-gun violence work.
- End the criminalization of the homeless. Create a citywide rapid-response system of mental health professionals, medics, and crisis workers, independent of the NYPD, who can be called to intervene and humanely, non-violently help those in need of assistance.
- End broken windows policing and employ a harm-reduction approach that provides community-based treatment and services for drug addiction, decriminalizes sex work, and ensures that vulnerable individuals, especially transgender women of color are not harassed by police and forced into the criminal system through loitering-related offenses.
“We as a city have an obligation to defend immigrant New Yorkers and resist all efforts by the federal government to co-opt our infrastructure to feed the deportation machine.”
We as a city have an obligation to defend immigrant New Yorkers and resist all efforts by the federal government to co-opt our infrastructure to feed the deportation machine. While we advocate for the abolition of ICE, the end of immigration detention, and a moratorium on deportations on the federal level, we must ensure that our city is truly a sanctuary.
Key to protecting immigrants from deportation is disentangling our criminal and policing systems from immigration enforcement. This is critical in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. While we fight to keep ICE out of our communities, we must also develop robust support systems for immigrant families, their health, and well-being. Immigrants in Western Queens were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and we must redirect resources to support workers and families.
Expand the detainer law to forbid the NYPD and Department of Corrections (DOC) from cooperating with ICE requests.
- Absolutely forbid the NYPD and DOC from handing over noncitizen New Yorkers to ICE in all cases. Eliminate exceptions and loopholes that allow ICE to use NY courts and jails, as well as the NYPD, to find and arrest non-citizens.
- Require far greater transparency around NYPD and DOC implementation of the detainer law and processing of detainer requests. There is no mechanism of accountability.
Fully fund comprehensive legal services for immigrants.
- Expand the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project to fund deportation defense for all detained immigrant New Yorkers facing deportation proceedings regardless of criminal history, and fund creative litigation strategies to take on federal immigration authorities.
- Develop a pilot program for immigration public defenders for non-detained immigrants.
- Increase funding for comprehensive immigration legal services, particularly in the Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian immigrant communities.
- Expand know-your-rights programming, especially in light of the increase in the use of home raids and ruses by ICE, using in person, virtual, and digital materials as well as robust public campaigns. These efforts should be led by grassroots organizations based in immigrant communities.
The City must stop supporting ICE in any form and defend communities instead.
- Expand the right to vote in city elections to everyone regardless of citizenship.
- Forbid assistance of any kind from NYPD to ICE – information, equipment, backup officers, uniforms, tactical advice.
- Prohibit all city agencies and officials from sharing information with federal immigration authorities and require them to develop affirmative sanctuary plans and policies.
- Agencies like ACS, the Human Rights Commission, and district attorneys, should be affirmatively seeking out ways to offer protection to non-citizens, from certifying U visas to supporting other applications for status or defenses to deportation. City officials must support their constituents in fighting immigration enforcement.
- Create a citywide cash fund for undocumented workers. There are no government funds to help immigrant workers and their families. Fight for the #ExcludedWorkers and #MakeBillionairesPay legislation on the state level. Taxing the ultra-wealthy is a vital measure to fund the state/city resources badly needed for excluded immigrant workers.
Improve language access and interpretation services in NYC government.
- In Queens and throughout the city, we need a robust framework for ensuring all non-English speakers can access their rights under city policies to resources, services, and information in their language. Interpretation services must be linguistically and culturally accessible.
- Hire and fairly compensate community-based interpreters and translators to provide language access in all city offices, and advocate for the same in the courts as well.
- Focus on indigenous languages and languages of limited diffusion in the neighborhoods with demonstrated need.
“Every child in New York City deserves an outstanding education. We must integrate the public school system to provide a solid foundation for learning to all students and families.”
Every child in New York City deserves an outstanding education. However, our public schools are segregated, underfunded, and failing families. New York has systematically underfunded public education in violation of court orders. We must integrate the public school system to provide a solid foundation for learning to all students and families.
It begins with fully funding our public schools. Additionally, education needs to be focused on the “whole child” in a positive, supportive learning environment with restorative justice practices. All students should be able to see themselves in the materials they learn. That requires meaningful implementation of Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education and expanded bilingual education. Our future depends entirely on how we invest in and treat our youth.
Fully fund our public schools and ensure education is focused on the whole child.
- The DOE must adopt a public health approach to education. We must center students, teachers, and staff in decision-making. Schools need sufficient PPE and testing, proper indoor ventilation, guaranteed outdoor class space, and sufficient nurses and social workers on staff to support families.
- Every student in NYC must have guaranteed access to remote learning technology. Students with special needs, those who are homeless, and Multilingual Learners, must be prioritized in the methods of instruction and allocation of resources.
- Meaningfully implement restorative justice and healing-centered practices in all schools. End the reliance on suspensions and expulsions, which have enormous racial impacts. Fight to pass the Solutions Not Suspensions Act at the state level.
- Police-free schools: Remove police officers from schools and use the $450 million to hire social workers, counselors, and therapists trained in trauma-informed practices and conflict mediation. Remove metal detectors and end all contracts with law enforcement.
- School districts, such as District 30 here in Queens, must develop an integration plan to address entrenched segregation at every level of education.
- Schools, especially in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, are severely overcrowded. Class sizes must be reduced, ensuring adequate classroom space within all schools.
- Invest in a much broader approach to education, including STEM courses (especially for young girls), civics, and the arts, instead of teaching for high-stakes testing.
- Ensure that school evaluations for students with potential learning disabilities are much more comprehensive and happen far earlier in a child’s education.
- Expand the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program (currently piloted in District 30) to ensure that every child in public school, regardless of immigration or economic status, will have a financial asset for college or career training starting from Kindergarten.
- Ensure that NYC schools receive the state Foundation Aid required by law.
- Invest in community schools, which serve as a neighborhood hub providing a full array of social and public health services for families, especially in poor communities.
- Build a community center in Jackson Heights. The need for such a community space is great and long overdue.
Expand bilingual education, centering Multilingual Learners in inclusive programs.
- The DOE must commit far more comprehensively to bilingual education across all schools, fostering bilingualism and biliteracy among public school students.
- It is critical that bilingual education center Multilingual Learners and students of color. Every Multilingual Learner should be guaranteed a seat if they choose in a bilingual program, with proportionate home language vs. English instruction.
- Within District 30 and 24 (Jackson Heights/Elmhurst), we need far more bilingual programs that reflect the extraordinary linguistic diversity of our families.
- Ensure that not only teachers, but also administrators and principals all receive adequate training and certification in bilingual education and methods of instruction.
Comprehensively and meaningfully implement Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CRSE) across the NYC public school system.
- NYC DOE must invest far more in CRSE as a critical pedagogical component in all NYC schools. Students must be able to see themselves in an inclusive curriculum.
- The DOE must also create accountability structures at the superintendent and principal level to ensure that CRSE is meaningfully implemented and is an administrative priority.
- Fight to end the bullying of LGBTQIA+ youth in our schools. As required by law, every public middle and high school in NYC must also establish and fund a Gender & Sexuality Alliance. The City must develop a truly LGBTQIA+-inclusive intersectional curriculum that is intersectional and centers LGBTQIA+ advocacy.
- Schools also need to engage families as partners in a child’s education, recognizing that a family’s cultural and social background are central components of student learning.
Small Business Relief
Small Business Relief
“We must create a comprehensive set of programs that will meaningfully help small businesses survive COVID as well as protect them for the long term.”
Small businesses were suffering well before this pandemic, which has now devastated them. Across NYC, almost 3,000 closed during the first four months of the COVID-19 outbreak. In Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, we have watched our small businesses, overwhelmingly immigrant-owned, that form the fabric of our neighborhood, struggle to make it. For years, commercial rents have been rising at alarming rates. Small businesses have fought to keep up, while navigating a terrain with few lease protections (if they have a lease) and fighting harassment by ruthless commercial landlords. Now, because of COVID, business owners cannot pay rent and many storefronts sit vacant. Government resources have been lacking or impossible to secure. For many immigrant businesses, the bureaucratic and language barriers to even access these resources were too great, significantly impacting communities of color.
We must create a comprehensive set of programs that will meaningfully help small businesses survive COVID as well as protect them for the long term.
We must create a comprehensive set of programs that will meaningfully help small businesses survive COVID as well as protect them for the long term.
- Cancel commercial rent obligations due to COVID and place a moratorium on all eviction cases for at least one year after the public health crisis ends.
- Establish commercial rent stabilization in NYC in a manner that resembles residential rent stabilization: a system that ensures that all small businesses and manufacturing spaces have a right to a renewal lease, protecting the many stores, especially immigrant-owned, that do not have a lease; regulates rents and any rent increases; adopts a good-cause eviction standard; and prohibits predatory harassment and overcharge tactics by landlords.
- Create a city emergency relief fund that is much more flexible than the federal payroll protection program in terms of what expenses it can help cover, and waive “loss of income” eligibility requirements for city-administered grant/loan programs.
- Implement a vacancy tax on commercial landlords that warehouse their properties and prevent small businesses from renting them. Commercial landlords are currently rewarded for vacancies with large tax breaks, forcing vital small businesses to accept grossly unfair lease terms or close. A vacancy tax will deter this practice, help keep commercial rents affordable, and enable small business owners to pursue a lease or renewal lease with a landlord that otherwise refuses to engage in negotiations.
- Advocate for more government resources and programs to support, sustain, and expand minority-owned, women-owned, and LGBTQIA+-owned businesses in our city.
- Expand the Commercial Lease Assistance Program into a comprehensive legal services and counseling program for small businesses, providing legal representation during lease negotiations and renewals, as well as helping businesses navigate the immensely bureaucratic relief/loan/grant programs at every level of government.
“City government needs to urgently support the many frontline workers who have been entirely excluded from any of the ongoing relief programs.”
Our essential workers — delivery and grocery store workers, cab drivers, and transit workers — are struggling. They are sacrificing so much but aren’t paid nearly enough. Gig and freelance workers have no labor protections or benefits. Street vendors have always been overpoliced and are especially vulnerable right now. It is appalling that our undocumented workers across all industries are receiving no public resources at any level of government to help them. This situation is simply untenable. City government has failed us and must do far more to address the systemic economic injustices that this pandemic has simply exacerbated.
City government needs to urgently support the many frontline workers who have been entirely excluded from any of the ongoing relief programs. In the face of a Supreme Court extremely hostile to labor, we as a city need to do much more to protect and expand union membership, strengthen labor rights, and build worker power.
City government must urgently support the many essential and frontline workers who have been entirely excluded from any of the ongoing relief programs.
- Create a citywide cash fund for undocumented workers. Fight for the #ExcludedWorkers legislation on the state level, a campaign led by Make the Road NY and a large coalition of organizations. Undocumented workers have been our essential workers during the COVID crisis, and have always been essential to our city. Yet there are no government funds available at any level to help immigrant workers and their families with rent, food, unemployment relief, and other basic needs, especially for single undocumented women who are the heads of their households.
- Fight for the passage of Intro 1116, a legislative effort led by the Street Vendor Project. Intro 1116 would lift the caps on the number of permits given to street vendors each year, protecting far more from the police harassment they experience right now. Especially during this pandemic, street vendors, who are working so hard to survive and feed their families, must be protected from law enforcement and agency crackdowns.
- Fight for the #MakeBillionairesPay state legislation. Taxing the ultra-wealthy is a vital measure to fund the government resources needed for our excluded immigrant workers.
- Advocate for the reclassification of gig workers, such as for hire drivers and delivery workers, as employees. Fight at the state level to amend NYS labor law to adopt the “ABC” test for independent contractors, which would re-classify gig workers statewide. Their current misclassification has had serious repercussions, denying health and wage benefits and paid sick leave to gig workers. Support the ongoing efforts at the city level in the meantime to extend paid sick leave to gig workers and expand this project to include additional employee benefits as well, such as paid family leave.
- Fight to decriminalize sex work at the state level. Sex work is work. Decriminlization helps protect the basic civil rights and safety of sex workers, including many in our trans community. It will also direct more resources to combating sex trafficking and protecting victims.
- Establish a COVID19 emergency relief fund for immigrant workers, gig workers, street vendors, freelancers, and small business employees. Join the fight in Albany to provide hazard pay to all frontline workers.
Protect and expand union membership and strengthen worker protections.
- Unions are a critical tool for building worker power. Advocate for legislation to strengthen and protect union organizing efforts, especially for companies that contract with the city.
- Fully support the efforts of City Council staff to unionize and attain voluntary recognition. Fight for paid internships within the City Council.
- App-based drivers must be deemed employees under the law and allowed to unionize and collectively bargain for workplace protections.
- Strengthen civil rights and reporting protections to combat employment discrimination and harassment in the City Council and throughout city government.
- All workers must have paid time off including vacation, sick, and family/parental leave. Parental leave must be inclusive of all types of parenting and families.
For Hire Vehicles
For Hire Vehicles
“As gig workers, app-based drivers are denied basic employee benefits and protections by ride-share companies that simply exploit their labor. It is simply urgent that city and state government take aggressive action to protect our FHV drivers, many who live in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and throughout Queens.”
For Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers in this city are suffering tremendously. As gig workers, app-based drivers are denied basic employee benefits and protections by ride-share companies that simply exploit their labor. Misclassified as independent contractors, these drivers do not have any ability to collectively bargain or form a union. They do not receive health benefits, overtime protections, or paid sick leave. During the pandemic, it was extremely difficult for drivers to receive unemployment benefits from the state to which they are legally entitled.
It is simply urgent that city and state government take aggressive action to protect our FHV drivers, many who live in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and throughout Queens.
- App-based drivers must be deemed employees under the law and allowed to unionize and collectively bargain for workplace protections. I will join the fight at the state level to amend NYS labor law to adopt the “ABC” test for independent contractors, which would re-classify gig workers as employees.
- A health and pension plan for FHV drivers, funded by a small surcharge on each app-based ride, must be established immediately.
- The City Council nominates 5 members to the Taxi & Limousine Commission, one from each borough. In a district that boasts one of the highest number of FHV drivers as residents, I will follow the leadership of FHV advocacy groups and drivers to identify and nominate to the Commission an active driver from Queens. Despite all of the grave problems directly impacting them, FHV drivers have shockingly never had representation on the City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission.
- It is the responsibility of the City of New York to solve the medallion crisis of its own creation and help the innocent drivers who have suffered tremendously. The debt forgiveness plan by the NY Taxi Workers Alliance must be enacted.
“American society is fundamentally not structured to support families, especially parents of young children. Here in NYC, the pandemic revealed just how many burdens are placed on parents when it comes to child-rearing. But that burden isn’t shared equally at all.”
American society is fundamentally not structured to support families, especially parents of young children. In New York City, the pandemic further exposed the enormous weight of the burdens placed on parents. But these burdens aren’t shared equally. When city agencies fail to support families, it is poor parents of color who suffer the most, and working mothers the most acutely. These devastating inequities reveal themselves well before a child is born.
In New York, because of structural racism, the maternal mortality rate for Black women is 8 times higher than for white women, which is far higher than even the nationwide figures on racial disparity in maternal health outcomes. Child care is simply unaffordable for most, while child care workers are deeply underpaid and unprotected. The current child welfare system perpetuates the same systems of racial control that exist within our criminal system by separating Black and brown children from their parents. These are crises of birth, reproductive, and family justice which require immediate action on the local level.
We must radically restructure and invest in universal child care and early education.
- Establish universal high-quality child care for infants and toddlers under the age of 3, with city government partnering with communities to create a local child-care network of center-based care, family daycare, and informal in-home care. Support stay-at-home parents as well, enabling all parents to benefit from such a program.
- Expedite the process for creating community-based childcare centers, especially those on public land, prioritizing low-income neighborhoods that often lack child care services.
- Create pay parity between early education teachers across the public school/Pre-K settings. Provide funding programs to assist infant/toddler teachers to attain the necessary educational and certification requirements. Eliminate the severe backlog and delays in the hiring process of daycare teachers.
Divest from a child welfare system that tears apart families and instead reinvest in communities and support the dignity of families.
- In New York, more than 94% of reports to the Administration for Child Services (ACS) are made against parents of color, devastating Black families. We must create and fund systems of support for families and communities harmed by this system, from cash or food subsidies; to health care access; legal counsel; and radical doula services. These are the ways to truly support family safety and integrity.
- Fight to end the mandatory reporting of parents to ACS by the growing list of public institutions that engage in this practice. Reporting that is mandatory is extremely reflexive and leads to racially-biased surveillance, ensnaring so many families of color.
- Stop the medically unnecessary, unconsented drug testing of women during delivery and the communication of those results by the hospital to ACS.
- Advocate for a Miranda-style right for parents under investigation by child welfare authorities. Support parent defense organizations that provide legal representation and social work for parents from the outset of an ACS investigation.
- Follow the lead of grassroots organizations on the frontlines of these efforts in vulnerable neighborhoods. Support their work and the resources and services they provide, instead of the services coming from government agencies like ACS.
Adopt an evidence-based and community-based approach to maternal care in order to combat the severe racial disparities in outcomes.
- Expand the availability and accessibility of community-based doula programs in vulnerable communities. These programs are rooted in the neighborhoods they serve and approach maternal care in an intersectional way, addressing intergenerational trauma and medical racism, and providing culturally accessible services.
- Advocate to greatly expand the state Medicaid pilot program for doula services, which should ultimately be universal, and ensure that doulas are justly compensated.
- Invest as a city in perinatal services for birthing people. During COVID19, it is critical that city agencies work with hospitals to expand access to telehealth perinatal care.
- Increase access to midwifery services, especially in public hospitals and communities of color. NYC must expand the number of freestanding, midwifery-led birthing centers.
- Support community health clinics providing gynecological services, contraceptive care, abortion services, and maternal care, especially for the uninsured. Every New Yorker must have access to contraceptive and abortion services regardless of ability to pay.
- Track the data on maternal deaths across NYC hospitals as well as the racial disparities. Hospitals must provide rigorous anti-racism and implicit bias training for staff.
“The historic Queens Pride parade demonstrates how much progress we have made in the fight for equality. Yet we have so much more work to do.”
Jackson Heights is the birthplace of the Queens LGBTQIA+ movement, sparked by the organizing around the Children of the Rainbow curriculum and the brutal hate-crime murder of Julio Rivera in the PS 69 schoolyard. The historic Queens Pride parade demonstrates how much progress we have made in the fight for equality. Yet we have so much more work to do. Trans women of color are routinely victims of hate crimes, mistreatment, and discrimination, including by the NYPD and other official agencies. LGBTQIA+ youth are bullied in school. And our government agencies have yet to fully recognize non-binary and intersex people in records.
We must fight to end discrimnation against trans people in every aspect of society. Our schools need to be safe and nurturing spaces for our LGBTQIA+ youth. We must expand housing and community resources for LGBTQIA+ seniors and homeless youth. Our advocacy needs to be intersectional because every issue of societal inequality is also an LGBTQIA+ issue.
Fight to end discrimination against trans people in every aspect of society.
- Eliminate the NYPD Vice Squad and repeal the Walking While Trans Ban, both of which trap many trans women of color in a cycle of discriminatory arrests and incarceration.
- Fight to decriminalize sex work at the state level. This will help protect the civil rights and safety of sex workers, including many in our trans community. It will also direct more governmental resources to combating sex trafficking and protecting victims.
- Fight for job set-asides for trans people in government, providing training for any necessary civil service exams or employment-based licensing requirements.
- Support the efforts of trans advocacy groups, right here in Jackson Heights, that fight to eliminate the discriminatory barriers that the trans community faces in our city.
- Fight for the passage of Intro 1748-2019, requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to make parents of intersex babies aware of the medically unnecessary procedures that force a binary designation on an infant.
Ensure that our public schools are a safe, supportive, and nurturing space for our LGBTQIA+ youth.
- Fight to end the bullying of LGBTQIA+ youth. The DOE must provide resources for mental health, wellness, and suicide prevention programs for LGBTQIA+ students, as well as anti-bias and anti-bullying trainings for school staff, students, and administrators.
- As required by law, every public middle and high school in NYC must establish and fund a Gender & Sexuality Alliance. This is one of the most effective ways to combat bullying and ensure LGBTQIA+ students are visible.
- The City must develop a truly LGBTQIA+-inclusive curriculum. It is essential that the curriculum is intersectional with material that centers LGBTQIA+ advocacy, so that students see themselves in their education. I will also advocate at the state level for comprehensive sex education in our schools.
Increase housing opportunities and community resources for LGBTQIA+ seniors and homeless youth.
- Expand senior housing across the city for the LGBTQIA+ community. Advocate for affordable housing opportunities for the trans community in particular.
- Restore and increase funding for job training programs for LGBTQIA+ homeless youth. Collaborate closely with community-based organizations in Queens that provide a safe space, counseling, and resources for LGBTQIA+ youth.
- Ensure that city agencies are, as required by law, disaggregating data regarding LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking government services.
- Support and promote awareness about the vital services in Queens for our LGBTQIA+ community, from the borough’s senior center in Jackson Heights to comprehensive programs for individuals with HIV/AIDS, health care services, and legal resources.
“We must take swift and decisive action to become a sustainable and resilient city. Rapid climate change threatens our coastlines and low-income communities of color in particular.”
We must take swift and decisive action to become a sustainable and resilient city. Rapid climate change threatens our coastlines and low-income communities of color in particular. Aging buildings and traffic congestion are two of the biggest sources of pollution in our city, with grave consequences for our health and the environment. More fundamentally, as the current pandemic has shown, in NYC, environmental justice is a matter of racial justice. NYC cannot afford to rely any longer on fossil fuel infrastructure. These issues demand bold solutions.
By 2030, NYC needs to be a fully renewable city. Low-income communities of color, which have suffered from decades of environmental racism and discriminatory urban planning practices, must be centered in this work. Widely accessible public transportation, bike lanes and bike access, and open green space are essential for reducing our dependence on greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles.
We need a Green New Deal for NYC. By 2030, we must be a fully renewable city.
- End the reliance on fossil fuels in our public infrastructure. New city projects must be based on renewable energy sources.
- We need publicly-owned and democratically-controlled power in NYC. Private utility companies consistently place their corporate profits over the public interest.
- Fight for Renewable Rikers. Making it a central source for green and clean technology is the only sensible replacement for the notorious jail complex once closed.
- Require landlords to invest in comprehensive green upgrades without passing the cost to tenants. Ensure all new buildings in NYC are carbon neutral under the building code.
- Fortify our coastlines and prohibit luxury real estate waterfront development.
- Restore and expand the organics waste collection program in NYC. Collaborate with city food programs using sustainable agricultural practices and supporting urban farms.
Low-income communities of color must be centered in a sustainable NYC.
- A Green New Deal for NYC must create unionized, green jobs in neighborhoods harmed by a long history of environmental racism and discriminatory urban planning policies, direct contributors to serious public health issues.
- Prioritize our most vulnerable communities in all City disaster preparedness efforts.
- Advocate for the creation of a Public Bank, an institution serving low-income communities of color that have suffered from decades of predatory lending by private banks. A public bank can help not only finance renewable initiatives, but also support community credit unions, and greatly expand financial/credit access for worker co-ops, housing co-ops, community land trusts and minority-owned businesses.
- Greatly increase fresh produce access and city food programs for neighborhoods that are fresh food deserts.
Invest far more in green and accessible public transit. Create open space in communities that need it most.
- Build more transit corridors in low-income neighborhoods with high density but little mass transit access now. Public transportation should ultimately be free for all.
- Clean and high quality public transportation is essential. We must fully fund and modernize our subway system, making stations far more accessible and expanding service to communities that have none now. We need municipal control of our trains.
- Significantly expand busways and express bus lanes across NYC, particularly in congested areas. Refurbish all public buses with energy-efficient technology.
- Expand open streets, parks, and pedestrian plazas across the city, prioritizing neighborhoods that do not have them. Establish a network of interconnected and protected bike lanes in Queens and expand bike access to underserved communities.
“If we are to survive the environmental challenges ahead for NYC, city government must prioritize mass transit and make it far more accessible.”
Perpetually delayed trains. Buses stuck in traffic jams that extend for blocks at a stretch. Appallingly inaccessible subway stations. The list goes on and on, of the many different ways that our city’s public transportation system is failing us. In fact, many neighborhoods remain vast transit deserts, while the police routinely arrest those who can’t afford a Metrocard. If we are to survive the environmental challenges ahead for NYC, city government must prioritize mass transit and make it far more accessible.
We have to prioritize our mass transit and make it accessible.
- Build more transit corridors in low-income neighborhoods with high density but little mass transit access now, especially for essential workers.
- Significantly expand busways and express bus lanes across NYC, particularly in congested areas with dangerous traffic patterns. Northern Boulevard is a prime example.
- Expanded bus access is essential for our communities, not redesigns that eliminate routes as the MTA wrongly proposed for Jackson Heights and all of Western Queens.
- We must have municipal control of the subways. This is the most effective way to eliminate bureaucratic decision-making over our trains, address lengthy delays in repairs and upgrades, as well as focus on equipping our subway system with the most modernized and environmentally sustainable technology–an urgent issue.
- Re-fund and expand the Fair Fares program to make transportation free for, at the very least, the low-income, students, and seniors. Public transportation should ultimately be free for all.
- We have to fight at the state level for much more funding for our trains, to make stations far more accessible for those with disabilities, parents of young children, workers, and others, and to expand service to communities that have none now.
“It is urgent that we completely re-envision our city’s streets and who they are for. We must make them much safer through traffic measures, expanded and permanent open streets, and significant street redesign.”
It is urgent that we completely re-envision our city’s streets and who they are for. We must make them much safer through traffic measures, expanded and permanent open streets, and significant street redesign.
Our streets simply aren’t designed with people and pedestrian safety in mind. The rate of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in this city is alarming, and car crashes remain one of the leading causes of injury-related death for children and seniors. Here in Queens, Northern Boulevard is the new “Boulevard of Death,” having taken the dishonor from Queens Boulevard. COVID-19 has only underscored the gravity of this situation. For immigrant communities in particular, the need for open streets is great, especially during a public health crisis. Even where the City has instituted open street programs throughout the pandemic, it’s largely been done in ways that deepen existing inequities in access to public space.
We must make our streets safer for all through thoughtful and well-executed traffic measures, expanded and permanent open streets, and significant street redesign.
- Greatly increase the use of speed cameras not only around schools but at intersections throughout NYC. Implement more traffic calming measures like road diets, wider medians, and wider crosswalks.
- Expand the 34th Avenue open street in Jackson Heights, Queens to neighboring communities in great need and, through a community visioning process, make it permanent. 34th Avenue should be the model for open streets citywide. Relying on community feedback, we should create networks of open streets throughout Queens that would allow for interconnected bike lanes and walkways.
- #FixNorthernBoulevard by collaborating with Make Queens Safer and Transportation Alternatives, the groups leading this longtime effort. Northern Boulevard must be transformed into a far safer pedestrian-friendly street from the dangerous highway it is now. This can be achieved through a comprehensive set of measures, including lead pedestrian interval signals, safer crosswalks, a dedicated busway, protected bike lanes, and much more green space instead of road space.
- Establish a network of interconnected and protected bike lanes in Queens. We must address the bike lane “dead-ends” in Queens, and create safe bike and pedestrian extensions from 34th Ave to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Ensure safe bike and pedestrian routes to schools and parks.
- Expand open space efforts to support public schools. Especially during COVID, allowing our neighborhood public schools to use surrounding streets for classroom space is critical. Many schools, especially in our communities, do not have properly ventilated indoor classroom space, posing health risks to teachers and children.
Open Space Equity
OPen Space Equity
“Public health and the rapidly growing environmental crisis demand that we increase and make far more equitable public open space in NYC, focusing on park-starved neighborhoods first.”
A sustainable city must center its people, parks, and public spaces over cars. NYC lags far behind the rest of the world in creating sustainable, mindful, and enriching public space. The poorest neighborhoods in our city still have the least amount of green space, a direct contributor to environmental injustice. In fact, across NYC, Jackson Heights and Elmhust rank towards the very bottom when it comes to open space. Even where there are public spaces like plazas, it’s the ones in Times Square or Flatiron that receive the most resources, at the expense of immigrant neighborhoods for which such spaces are essential.
Public health and the rapidly growing environmental crisis demand that we increase and make far more equitable public open space in NYC, focusing on park-starved neighborhoods first.
Increase and make far more equitable public open space in NYC, focusing on park-starved neighborhoods first.
- Protect community open spaces from luxury development, car dealerships, and other such inappropriate intrusions that reduce parkland. In communities like Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, the creation of parks and plazas is often the product of long community struggles.
- The ongoing story of Travers Park and the Koeppel car dealership on Northern Boulevard, a community organizing effort that Shekar has been intimately involved in, captures this very issue. By eminent domain or otherwise, the City must take back the street space occupied by the Koeppel car dealership and return it to the Travers Park space that our community was promised.
- Create a community center in Jackson Heights. The need for such a community space is great and long overdue.
- Explore the creation of pedestrian plazas in low-income neighborhoods across NYC, an important tool to both create community open space as well as improve pedestrian safety. The advocacy work around Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, a community effort that Shekar has helped lead for years, is a powerful example of what public space means for immigrant communities.
- Expand and increase funding for NYC’s plaza equity programs, ensuring that city government commits the public resources and programs to maintain plazas in communities that do not have the resources to do so.
- Address similar serious inequities in park space in NYC. Build more parks in city neighborhoods that do not have any and allocate far more city funds and services to do so. The difference in public attention and resources devoted to Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Central Park, for example, is striking.
“Voting is a fundamental right. Voter protection has always been a matter of racial justice. We must do everything we can to make voting and registering to vote as easy and accessible as possible.”
Voting is a fundamental right. But as the presidential elections just showed, New York has never treated it that way. Over the last four years alone, the incompetence at the Board of Elections has led to thousands of voters receiving incorrect ballots, extremely delayed ballots, or being purged from the polls entirely. While a sign of high energy and turnout, long lines at the early voting sites mean that we do not have nearly enough early voting sites or dates. And even when you cast your vote, the number of technicalities that can result in your ballot being rejected are endless. These problems disenfranchise so many, but especially poor communities of color. Voter protection has always been a matter of racial justice. We must do everything we can to make voting and registering to vote as easy and accessible as possible.
- Greatly expand the number of early voting sites in NYC. Many public institutions can serve this role. New Yorkers should never have to wait in long lines or travel far to vote.
- Advocate at the state level for no-fault absentee voting, automatic voter registration, and to amend the voting laws so they do not disqualify absentee ballots for minor defects.
- The Board of Elections (BOE) must be held accountable to competently administer elections during a pandemic or natural disaster. This extends to counting and processing results promptly after voting closes. Vendors to assist with elections must be selected through a competitive, demanding, and nonpartisan bidding process.
- The City Council must establish a thorough review process for Board of Elections (BOE) appointments to ensure accountability to the people and not special interests or parties. The hiring process within the BOE should also be far more rigorous.
- Advocate to ensure that there are fully accessible interpretation services at every poll site in NYC and via hotline for absentee voters. Language access is severely lacking in our electoral process, disenfranchising so many voters.
- Fund comprehensive voter education and registration efforts within all NYC high schools. Student participation in our political process is essential and must be made easy.
- Work closely with civic organizations around educational programming to ensure that voters are aware of what candidates and proposals are on the ballot each election cycle, where to vote, how to fill out a ballot (particularly given the shift to rank choice voting), and how to fill out an absentee ballot. This is particularly true for races where little information is available to voters, yet the stakes are so high, such as judicial elections.
- Expand the right to vote in city elections to everyone regardless of citizenship.
- Fight at the state level to restore voting rights to those with felony convictions. Their disenfranchisement is another example of Jim Crow-era practices to suppress voting rights. Support education efforts for incarcerated populations to help them access their right to vote.
- Collaborate with grassroots organizations in voter registration drives, especially in communities of color. Support and fund organizations focused on assisting with naturalization applications to pave the way to the franchise. City government must fully support these efforts and provide the resources for culturally and linguistically accessible outreach.
Public Health Justice
Public Health Justice
“We must make high-quality universal healthcare both a right and reality for all people. There is no other option that will bring equity and justice to a fundamentally flawed for-profit model of healthcare.”
Universal health care is essential for New York State, and our public hospital system is the most critical point of access for health care for our most vulnerable New Yorkers. Both of these issues must be the utmost priorities of NYC health care policy.
COVID has revealed, however, the extent to which our city has fostered two systems of health care based on race and wealth. Communities like ours were the epicenter of the pandemic. Yet, as the glaring racial disparities in vaccine distribution make clear, the inequities in health care are deeply entrenched problems. It is simply unacceptable that more public dollars went to private institutions during this pandemic than to safety net hospitals like Elmhurst. From COVID testing and vaccine access, to fundamental cost of care issues, as well as worker protections, we need to radically change our city government’s approach to public health to truly address the underlying social determinants creating such disparities in care.
- Ensure COVID testing and vaccines are widely accessible and prioritized for the most vulnerable communities.
- COVID testing must be universally accessible with results disclosed as rapidly as possible. This requires comprehensive collaboration with community organizations, food pantries, schools, faith-based organizations, community clinics, and other local partners to ensure widespread availability. Invest in pop-up and mobile testing sites.
- Leverage the same COVID testing infrastructure for vaccine distribution. Vastly expand the availability of COVID vaccine appointments by partnering with networks of community-based organizations, social services providers, community clinics, and public housing projects. Low-income communities of color must be the first priority in the ongoing rollout, which is far from the case right now.
- Greatly simplify, centralize, and make language-accessible the process for making vaccine appointments. The glaring lack of government attention to these issues has resulted in serious racial disparities in vaccine distribution.
- Expand home health care access for testing and vaccine distribution for vulnerable populations, especially seniors.
- Establish uniform patient care standards including mandatory PPE standards and infection control protocols.
- Disaggregate data to better understand the actual harm of COVID on immigrant populations, especially Asian communities.
Fight for single payer health care in NYS. Allocate public funds for public hospitals, not private institutions.
- Fight for the New York Health Act. Oppose any closures of public hospitals in our city and invest in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
- Public hospitals must be fully funded. Significantly expand city funding for Elmhurst Hospital and other Health & Hospitals sites, which have now rolled out NYC Care and provide primary care access for uninsured and undocumented residents
- Institute a citywide moratorium on hospital closures. No public health care institutions can close.
- Establish minimum staffing ratio requirements in health care institutions, including social workers, patient navigators, and benefits enrollers.
- Ensure that health care workers and community members have much greater input and decision-making power in regulatory and budgetary decisions regarding our hospitals.
- Advocate to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for public safety net hospitals like Elmhurst, eliminating the gross disparities in fees for services compared to private hospitals.
- Impose taxes or fines on any academic medical systems that offer segregated care based on insurance status.
- Fight to require that private hospitals and clinics accept Medicaid or uninsured community members, instead of turning them away.
- Expand data transparency efforts regarding spending, outcomes, and lawsuits in public and private hospital institutions. Establish guidelines for more transparent billing procedures.
- Increase and improve translation and interpretation services in healthcare institutions.
Institute far greater protections for home health care workers.
- Strengthen labor rights for home health aides, doulas, and community health care workers, including full-time compensation and benefits, better working conditions, and protections to join unions.
- Greatly increase public investment in home health care workers to ensure they have access to adequate PPE, the influenza and COVID vaccines (as well as their patients), and better labor protections.
- Advocate to implement the NYC Care Campaign platform to far better protect domestic workers in NYC.
Protect and expand funding for the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
- Develop a public health corps.
- Expand the role of public health in responding to mental health and homeless outreach instead of relying on policing to do so.
- Invest far more in DOHMH, addressing the serious budget inequities and disparities as compared to the NYPD
Supporting the Arts
Supporting the Arts
“We need to come together and fight to save our arts and artists to ensure New York remains the thriving metropolis it has always been for arts and culture.”
The arts are a fundamental part of what makes our city so extraordinary – from the glittering stages of Broadway to the mariachis on the 7 train. But with skyrocketing residential and commercial rents on the one hand and the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic, our artists are fighting to survive. In addition, our children’s education in the arts is always the first thing on the chopping block. We need to come together and fight to save our arts and artists to ensure New York remains the thriving metropolis it has always been for arts and culture.
Commercial rent forgiveness for art spaces like stages, studios, and galleries
Public art in public spaces – a program for performance art in our parks and other public facilities
Education for the whole child – making sure that every student in every school has access to robust arts programs like music, performance, and visual arts.
“Our seniors, our elders, our nanas, abuelas, thathas, and yeyes. Across our cultures, they are precious to us. It is imperative that we act now to secure dignified housing and accessible services and care for our seniors.”
Our seniors, our elders, our nanas, abuelas, thathas, and yeyes. Across our cultures, they are precious to us. Yet for too long the city and state have failed to provide for and protect them — from affordable senior housing to community centers and accessible public transportation. Our city is critically short on housing benefits for seniors and services that are culturally and linguistically accessible. When it comes to this pandemic and rebuilding after it, seniors are one of our most vulnerable and at-risk populations. The vaccine rollout has left behind so many because of an extremely bureaucratic appointment process, lack of technological access, physical access, and language access — a problem greatly exacerbated by the glaring racial disparities. It is imperative that we act now to secure dignified housing and accessible services and care for our seniors.
Significant investment in senior housing across NYC, especially for immigrant and LGBTQIA+ seniors
Greatly increase the availability of free resources for assistance with housing benefit applications for seniors (i.e. SCRIE and DRIE) and with navigating the immensely bureaucratic government processes to receive such benefits
Expand the number of accessible senior centers, especially in immigrant communities here in Queens and for our borough’s South Asian communities in particular
Ensure far more language accessibility for all city services as well as the services of private health care providers
Vastly improve the Access-A-Ride services (including punctuality and wait times)
Fight to make our subway stations far more accessible for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and parents with young children
Ensure minimum safe staffing ratios at healthcare and elder care facilities
City Rapid Response for Vacated Tenants
City Rapid Response for Vacated Tenants
“When tenants are vacated from their homes, we need a plan for decisive and comprehensive action from NYC government to support tenants, prevent homelessness, and protect the community at risk of displacement.”
Over the course of my years as a lawyer for housing justice, I have unfortunately seen many vacate orders. This is when the City decides that a building is unsafe for living, and mandates that all the tenants immediately leave. It can happen in the case of fire — like at the 89th St. building in Jackson Heights recently — or when a landlord has rendered the building unlivable through property destruction or cutting off essential services like heat or hot water. I have seen cases of all of these things and fought alongside many tenants in the lengthy battle to ensure they return home.
When tenants are forcibly displaced from their homes because of vacate orders, it is a moment of crisis for their families and for their community. It is when help from the city is most urgently needed. You would think it is when city government would be most prepared to act quickly. Yet the City fails to meet this need. When tenants are vacated from their homes, we need a plan for decisive and comprehensive action from NYC government to support tenants, prevent homelessness, and protect the community at risk of displacement. NYC must:
Provide Local Temporary Housing
- Provide temporary housing for vacated tenants in their own communities, not elsewhere
Ensure Tenants Immediate Access to Their Homes
- Coordinate all agencies’ responses to ensure tenants can enter their homes right away to retrieve necessary belongings, protect documentation, and preserve evidence
Force Landlord Compliance to Make Timely Repairs & Guarantee Safety
- Create an HPD emergency program for vacate orders with full funding that immediately investigates, places hazardous violations, and timelines for repairs on a building, which the landlord must comply with in a strict manner or be subject to City-imposed liens, fines, and penalties.
Appoint Article 7A Administrator if Landlord Fails
- If the landlord fails to comply with the mandated and strict timeline for repairs, the City automatically appoints an Article 7A administrator (an approved nonprofit organization) to do the repairs with the full assistance and funding of city/state housing agencies.
- Consistent with Article 7A law, the administrator repairs, rehabilitates, and manages the building, while the landlord remains responsible for all liens, taxes, and fines. The landlord only gets the building back upon showing that they have a clear plan to ensure the hazardous conditions that provoked the vacate order do not return and that there will be no harassment of tenants.
Fund Language-Accessible Services for Tenants
- Fully fund comprehensive, multilingual, and accessible services for tenants in these urgent situations, from tenant organizing to anti-displacement legal resources as well social, immigration, and mental health services. Provide full transparency for tenants of the city response and efforts every step of the way until tenants are returned home.