District 9 Special Election: City Council Candidates Questionnaires

Community Voices Heard, the Historic Districts Council and Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association have partnered to tailor a brief questionnaire in lieu of a candidates’ forum which targets the pressing issues in the District 9 community to increase voters’ awareness and candidates’ transparency on these issues.

Instructions: Please answer each question on this form concerning development in your district. Your answers will be published online and leafleted prior to the District 9 election on February 14, 2017.

  1. The East Harlem Rezoning will have widespread effects in the community and will most probably increase development pressure in adjoining areas. What will you do as a Council member to mitigate the effects of the rezoning on Central Harlem?
  2. How will you help fight against gentrification of the area, and especially the displacement of longtime residents and businesses?

Cordell Cleare

As the City Council Member, I would seek to mitigate the effects of rezoning on Central Harlem by:

1.      Working with the Mayor’s office, HPD, developers and union reps to negotiate a percentage of units that reflect the income bands of low and moderate income residents within the district and mandate more income targeted housing from developers who get the opportunity to develop.

2.      Work with the State to build more housing in the district

3.      Advocate and preserve the history and culture of Central Harlem

Fight Gentrification of area, esp. displacement of residents and small businesses –

As the City Council Member, I plan to fight displacement of long term residents and small business by:

1.      Assign a staff member who would work with housing and small
business development.

2.      Continue to work with tenant/block associations, citywide housing
groups and coalitions to educate tenants about their rights to prevent
harassment and illegal evictions, esp info for tenants who sublet to
prevent high turnover of apts and inform tenants about succession rights

3.      Advocate for legislation on the state level to protect preferential
rent tenants

4.      Collaborate with legal aid services to dedicate time where they can
offer services to tenants from the district who can assist with eviction
proceedings and housing information

5.      Encourage tenants to testify at the Rent Guidelines Board

6.      Submit a bill request and work with CMs to create a sub-committee
on HDFC’s within City Council; (this would allow for more oversight and
accountability in this area)

7.      Work with not for profit organizations to ensure they are managing
their properties as well

8.      Support Intro 214 – a bill sponsored by CM Mark Levine that would
provide legal counsel for low-income eligible tenants who are subject to
eviction, ejectment or foreclosure proceedings

9.      Support Intro 477 – a bill sponsored by CM Inez

Todd Stevens

For the East Harlem Rezoning, while the flexibility of taller buildings in certain locations such as 125th and Lexington and 116th and Lexington in order to have more affordable housing is of great value, I’m concerned of and will fight for the value of light and the protection of each block’s quality of life.  Enabling higher buildings in specific locations of East Harlem will lessen the need to effect our coveted low-lying blocks in Central and East Harlem.

I have great concern to help long term residents continue residing in their homes. I see the greatest immediate need in helping HDFCs resolve their financial challenges and as a real estate broker with fifteen years experience, help every HDFC become entirely self-sustaining for many years to come. My doors will always be open to any tenant of whom feels mistreated by his/her landlord.  ‎I believe Harlem’s #1 challenge is that it needs to build more affordable housing. I would not let any large125th Street or large 116th Street retail structure be built without residential housing.  I also look forward to increasing our home ownership in Harlem. For our long term and short term businesses, I’ve had great concern for a commercial landlord’s ability to be deliquent toward productive, profitable and needed small businesses. For example, a commercial landlord’s mere insincerity is why we don’t have a store on Malcolm X Blvd to buy frozen yogurt. I look forward to protecting Harlem and it’s residents for many years to come.

 Larry Scott Blackmon

  1. As a council member, I will make sure to work with the community to have a community led vision for the rezoning that includes protections to maintain affordability based on incomes. It is critically important that the City listen to the voices of the people who reside in East Harlem on this matter and I will fight to ensure that the proper engagement is done.
  2. Again, as Council Member I will work to ensure that long time residents have as much involvement in the home procurement (be they ownership, rental, HDFC’s and others) process as possible before these properties hit the market. This includes constant communication with constituents, education, public forums and more.  In addition, under my leadership, we will find creative solutions to the problems that gentrification brings to communities.

Bill Perkins

  1. I will organize, demonstrate, advocate and do everything needed to stop it. This plan to rezone a swath of the neighborhood is not a plan that is affordable to the people who live here. Instead it is a plan to allow high-density development that will hasten gentrification and displace working-class families in the neighborhood.

Rather, we need to insist that they halt the rezoning and instead implement a plan that provides protection for low-income tenants, including families with children, in rent-stabilized units and forces landlords to follow the law so that tenants can stay in rent-stabilized homes. Aggressive protections for existing vulnerable residents will be critical in order to prevent displacement.

  1. We need to provide protection and representation for tenants, crackdown on abusive and greedy landlords and finally pass the Small Business Protection Act that provides relief and protection for our mom-and-pop stores that are being forced out and protects them from being unreasonably exploited by unscrupulous landlords caring only for record profits and not the fabric and character of our neighborhood.  The people and businesses that helped build this neighborhood must not be forced to move out of this neighborhood. I will stand with you to prevent it from happening.

Marvin Holland

  1. The East Harlem Rezoning will have widespread effects in the community and will most probably increase development pressure in adjoining areas. What will you do as a Council member to mitigate the effects of the rezoning on Central Harlem? I would vote no to rezoning until there is more community involvement, with an opportunity to scale back. A key requirement is an enforceable community agreement. Residents should be aware of any changes before they are made and every effort should be made to come to an agreement.

On a council level, I would introduce and push legislation requiring new development of housing not take place without being accompanied by the services necessary to sustain an influx of new residents, including supermarkets, transportation and increased sanitation measures.

  1. How will you help fight against gentrification of the area, and especially the displacement of longtime residents and businesses? As member of PA’LANTE Harlem’s board, I have been active in the fight against aggressive gentrification and displacement of Harlem residents for the past three to four years, and will continue to do so.

With regards to protecting businesses, I am endorsed by Councilman Robert Cornegy, Chair of the Committee on Small Business. I will continue to work with him as well as other council members on his recent bill to protect small businesses from harassment. I will work with members to reduce commercial rents for small businesses in order to increase local hiring. Last but not least, I would create a business ombudsman position in my office to provide support, marketing and assistance as well as to help navigate the city bureaucracy.

Athena Moore

  1. I do not support the East Harlem Rezoning plan in its current form. Any plan that is adopted must have the input and reflect the identified needs of the community. Over this past year, I’ve worked to encourage community engagement in the rezoning process through town hall meetings and working along side Community Board 11. I believe it is critical that any plan must reflect the needs and concerns of the residents living in the affected area. As City Councilwoman I will be a strong advocate for you and your East Harlem neighbors. I will hold public hearings, allocate budget resources and work in coalition with organizations like yours, the Mayor and my city council colleagues to preserve the character of the neighborhood, support small businesses and to protect affordable housing. To mitigate any negative effects from the rezoning plan, I would leverage my voice and vote as a city council member within the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) to ensure that any new development fully complies with all regulations and protects our community.  Working with the NYC Department of City Planning, I will ensure that a comprehensive environmental review is thoroughly completed factoring in quality of life issues and minimizing any impacts on transportation, sanitation, parking, and schools etc. Working with other city and state agencies, including the DEP, DOT, MTA, NYPD and others, I will advocate to minimize the effects of construction, noise, and public safety issues.  In addition, I would work to assure that development is contextual to preserve neighborhood historic architecture and character, and advocate for housing that is 100% affordable. I would oppose high towers and assure adequate air, light and density. As City councilwoman, I would also work to protect the East Harlem African Burial Ground that was discovered and ensure that the history and legacy of this sacred ground is preserved. I have already presented testimony and been actively working on this issue.

2. Over the past several years, I have worked as Director of the Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office delivering services, fighting to prevent displacement of residents and businesses, and advocating for East Harlem neighborhoods. I have worked closely as a liaison to the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, Community Board #11, Harlem Business Alliance, East Harlem Task Force with Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, and many housing and community advocates like Community Voices Heard. As city council woman, I will continue to be fierce advocate to address the issue of gentrification at every turn calling for equal access, inclusion and equity in contracting, and call for prioritization of local long residents in all housing and economic development opportunities. I would work to ensure that community benefit agreements are put in place so that proper investments, including prioritization of jobs for neighborhood residents and for minority women and business enterprises.

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