Platform

Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community. ~Anthony Burgess

The 35th City Council District literally has it all! From public housing to luxury condominiums, from large scale franchises to small Mom & Pop storefront businesses, from public schools to charter schools, from a sports arena to public parks, from a world class hospital to specialized medical clinics, from major cultural institutions to emerging art spaces, plus twelve world class institutions of higher learning, the 35th is a study of contrast and cultural crossings. This District is also experiencing one of the most rapid demographic changes in the country.

Bringing diverse entities in the 35th District together to create win-win partnerships has always been my strength and I have over 15 years of experience in making this happen. The infrastructure for success is here and it is up to us to put all of the elements together to create a whole community that will benefit the Borough of Brooklyn!

We’re all in this together! While it is critical that legislation, resources and technical assistance strongly support this platform, it is also equally important for all of us in our community to contribute towards our own growth and betterment. As I continue to meet more and more of you in the 35th District each day, this platform will expand and grow to reflect and better address your needs.

Given my background as a cultural leader, I have seen first hand how the power of the arts can contribute to the revitalization of communities and the creation of jobs to improving the academic achievement of students and expanding the life expectancy of our senior community. This platform will have the arts at its core with every major component of the platform intersecting with the arts! This is an out-of-the-box platform and I believe a new approach is critical to achieving new results because we have tried everything else! My platform is based on three major elements that I am most passionate about:

Investing in Economic Development

The 35th Council District has a critical role in creating jobs not only in the District but also for the entire Borough. The City has made a major financial investment in the 35th Council District and it is clear that this investment did not always happen in a way that was organic, thoughtful or inclusive. However, it is now in the best interest of our community to embrace what has been created here and discover how we can make this investment work for the entire Borough. We must also make sure that future development plans are made with community involvement from planning to execution to daily operations — no more of the ol’ bait and switch games. It is critical to work towards creating Community Benefit Agreements that are legally binding with commitments of funding for housing, jobs, schools, etc., held in escrow accounts while the project is being developed.

In order to create jobs, sustain local businesses and attract visitors to the 35th District there are several key areas where I will focus my attention:

  • Expanding and developing Arts and Cultural Tourism
    Cultural Tourism is the economic engine of the 35th District and needs to be recognized and supported as such. The twenty-one major cultural organizations of Downtown Brooklyn alone reported combined operating budgets of $74.6 million and served over 2.7 million people in 2010. I will work towards increasing and stabilizing City, State and Federal government dollars as well as foundation, corporate and private dollars to make long term sustainable investments into the several world-class institutions and hundreds of mid-sized and small cultural institutions in the District. This would yield:
  • A significant increase in the amount of local and international visitors,
  • The creation of thousands of meaningful jobs,
  • Support of local businesses,
  • Critical educational resources for seniors, students and families and
  • Opportunities to create important community exchanges. One solution to securing these resources is the NYC’s 1% for Culture Campaign. The campaign will generate private and public support for an increase in the city’s financial commitment to the nonprofit cultural community, including artists of all disciplines, to a full one percent of the municipal expense budget.
  • Leveraging Sports and Entertainment Dollars
    With over 18,000 seats at the Barclay’s Arena for sports and entertainment related activities, it is critical that as the success of the Arena increases that the local community is given access to meaningful jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities and resources for local not-for-profits. I will encourage local vendors, contractors, athletes, entertainers, etc., to learn about and contribute to the local not-for-profit organizations. In addition, I look forward to creating a responsible business, safety and traffic plan that will constantly evolve to ensure that attendees of the Arena patronize and support the local businesses in a way that safely enhances the community.
  • Creating Healthy Small Business & Franchise Mix
    Brooklyn is what it is today because of the strength of its entrepreneurs and the small businesses that they create. Between 2003 and 2009, the number of businesses in the District grew by 12.4% and job growth in the area has outperformed the rest of the City. Large-scale franchises and development fulfill a certain need in the economy. However, it is imperative that we preserve local businesses, which give added character and flavor to the District and attracts tourists and locals alike. I will encourage the continuance and stability of local business growth by:
    • Hosting and sponsoring “Buy Local” campaigns to support small businesses’ ability to compete with the large scale marketing budgets of department stores and franchises.
    • Working towards creating tax breaks for landlords that give affordable long-term leases to businesses
    • Ensuring that business owners are made aware of programs that give them access to capital and technical assistance.
    • Encouraging developers and franchises to support local not-for-profit organizations and businesses.
    • Supporting and expanding the work of our Business Improvement Districts (BID’s) — which have contributed greatly towards the improvement of facades, storefronts, apartment units, and streetscape improvements — through leveraging private and public dollars.
  • Energizing and activating Public Spaces, Parks, and Plazas
    From the historical Prospect Park to the new Putnam Avenue Triangle Plaza there are many opportunities to attract locals and tourists alike to the 35th District for cultural and neighborhood exchanges in a relaxed informal environment. With the changing demographics of the 35th District it is imperative that we discover ways for the community “to get to know one another” and to maintain the friendly and supportive community environment that the 35th District is known for. I support cultural, health, arts and family-focused events in our public spaces that compliment and enhance the existing community and respect the level of tranquility that residents expect and deserve. I will work with the Department of Transportation, Parks Department and the Department of Cultural Affairs to utilize public spaces as a way to create live experiences that will attract tourists and locals alike to stimulate the local economy.
  • Strengthening Women and Minority Owned Businesses
    In order for local women and minority-owned businesses to be successful into the future, it is critical that we continue to support, strengthen and hold accountable the city and state agencies that assist them in accessing the federal procurement market so that they can compete in the American economy. It is important that we provide support for government contractors, access to capital, management and technical assistance, and export assistance—just to name a few. We can accomplish this goal by building community-based small businesses, which in turn revitalizes neighborhoods, creates jobs, and encourages economic growth.
  • Public Safety
    There is a tremendous amount of growth taking place in the 35th Council District and with the development of the Arena and the expansion of the Atlantic Mall it is critical that we work with the officers of the 71st, 77th, 78th, 79th, 84th, 88th and PSA3 Precincts to keep our neighborhoods safe and welcoming. In addition, with an increase of new residents and visitors, I am going to work towards making sure that we have adequate resources, additional officers and increased cameras in our area. Working with law enforcement and citizen groups, we can make sure that all of us feel safe on the streets and in our homes. In addition, our cultural institutions should serve as orientation spaces for new officers so that they can gain a greater understanding of the culture of the communities that they will be serving.
  • Technology, Film and Television
    High Tech businesses have recognized the District as an ideal place for this new sector. The Brooklyn Tech Triangle is home to more than 500 firms related to the technology industry and the Brooklyn Navy Yard is home to Steiner Studios, the largest film and television complex outside of Hollywood. I will work towards preparing our students in the 35th District to have the skill set needed for these new careers and making sure that the local community has first access to these high paying jobs and educational opportunities.
  • Affordable Housing
    Under Construction

Strengthening Not-for-Profits and Service Employees

Strong, stable and thriving not-for-profit organizations and service employees are the marker of a truly healthy community. The important services they bring to a community are invaluable. They are ultimately the “village” it takes to raise a child and care for our seniors and so it is imperative that we invest resources publically, privately and individually to sustain our not-for-profits and service employees in this challenging economic time.

  • Cultural organizations
    Brooklyn’s cultural organizations not only provide world-class performances and exhibitions but they also provide invaluable educational opportunities that prepare our young people to be well-rounded individuals with a global perspective. I will work to financially strengthen and stabilize our cultural institutions so that they can focus on achieving their mission.
  • Community Centers
    Young people are in great need for spaces to develop their talents and channel much of the frustrations that they encounter on a day-to-day basis into productive, creative outcomes. I will continue the work of Councilmember Letitia James to make certain that the Bedford Armory and the Crown Heights Armory are developed into world class community centers that will offer services ranging from sports and culture to SAT prep and job readiness.
  • Senior Centers and Services
    The way in which we respect and care for our senior community is a direct indication of the well being of our community. It is imperative that we honor those that have paved the way for our development as a community by giving them the security and resources that they have worked for and deserve. I don’t want to just keep senior centers open, I want our centers to provide dynamic intergenerational activities, comprehensive case management services, specialized health, fitness and wellness classes, financial workshops, support groups and other essential topics related to seniors. Our seniors have a wealth of knowledge to share with our young people and I will work to have seniors speak to our elementary, middle and high school students on a regular basis. I will also work to have regular senior events at our cultural institutions.
  • Day Care and Youth Services
    Youth programming is perhaps the most important aspect of my platform. In the last couple of years, out-of-school time (OST) slots have been slashed from approximately 85,000 to about 27,000. Under the current administration, every year contracted child-care slots, family care slots, child-care vouchers and Beacon programs are on the chopping block. There is a real connection between the decrease of youth services and the increase in youth violence and I will work towards ensuring that Day Care Centers and Youth Services are sufficiently supported and given all of the resources, technical assistance and support from governmental agencies needed to provide our youth with all of the opportunities that they will need to become contributing members of our society. I will also work to supplement universal pre-kindergarten programs for four year olds so that they enter first grade ahead of the curve.
  • Hospitals & Medical Clinics
    In recent years we have seen an alarming trend in the closing of hospitals and medical centers that were already serving an over populated community. It is my goal to work towards strengthening the resources that are needed to not only keep our medical facilities open but also to ensure that they can provide the necessary services that we need in our time of need.
  • Food Pantry
    As one Bed-Stuy resident puts it, “I have seen less produce, less food, less funding, less everything, but more people”. Seventy-five thousand New Yorkers were pushed into poverty from 2009 to 2010 as the city’s poor population jumped to 20.1 percent. Nearly one-fifth of the city’s residents are now on food stamps. Especially during this challenging economic time, access to decent healthy quality food is an American right and the City’s commitment to our food banks should remain unwavering. I will work with the City government and organizations such as City Harvest, Trader Joe’s and the Food Bank and our local Churches to make sure that everyone in our District in need has access to free healthy food. I also will work to increase volunteerism at our local food banks and will work District-wide to support the creation of Kickstarter campaigns organized to bring additional resources into our community.
  • Green Initiatives
    Green Initiatives are critical to sustaining our community and teaching the next generation how to “get it right”. I look forward to working with the Parks Department to expand their grant program that supports green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales and rainwater harvesting. I will also work with the City to increase the new solar panel projects. Green gardens and green markets are important to our community and it is critical for our community to have access to fresh real food.
  • Re-Entry Programs
    By strengthening the services of our not-for-profit community we will work towards ending the prison pipeline that has ruined the lives of so many of our young people. As the great abolitionist Fredrick Douglass once stated, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. I will work towards utilizing the incredible resources that this District has to offer to build strong children, while simultaneously providing the resources and services that individuals re-entering our community need. We need to remove the barriers that serve as restraints to achieving full employment and adequate permanent housing. Moreover, many individuals that are re-entering our communities need mental health practitioners to assist with the transition. Cultural institutions should be empowered to create preventative arts programs as well as provide cultural programs within New York City’s Correctional facilities. Re-Entry programs should also require formally incarcerated individuals to visit and establish relationships with cultural institutions.

Service Employees
Our service employees range from health care workers and police officers to janitors and teachers. It is critical that we work to protect the employees and the unions that represent them in a way that compliments Federal, State and City budgets. Our unions stand up for working families and fight to guarantee workers' rights on the job. It is critical that we fight for issues ranging from paid sick leave to better health care.

Reforming Education

We are now living in a global world and it is imperative that our future generations are equipped with the appropriate tools to contribute towards making the world a more equitable, sustainable and healthy place for all mankind. This goal can’t be achieved by “teaching to the test”. It is critical that we reform our educational system to give our young people a greater global history and present so that they can create a better future. Our schools are so segregated on so many levels within this District that it is critical that we unite our public, private, charter and parochial schools and create pathways and bridges to our twelve institutions of higher learning. Our schools need smaller classroom sizes and effective teachers need to be rewarded for quality work that is not only based on “the test”. We can strengthen our schools in the following ways:

  • Strengthen our College Town
    It is my goal to work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to create a college town environment in Downtown Brooklyn that engages faculty and students through programs, events, and shared facilities. With more college students enrolled in our 35th District than all of Cambridge, Massachusetts it is critical that we make our District more accessible, welcoming and inviting to the over 57,000 students that attend our institutions of higher learning.
  • Mandatory College Tours
    Every middle and high school student will attend a college tour of the major colleges and Universities in the District prior to graduating so that they can properly prepare for the experience. In addition, I will work towards having junior and senior high school students attend courses within our institutions of higher learning.
  • Tuition Reduction for Brooklyn Students
    Students within the 35th District should also have reduced and or free admission to the Universities within the Borough provided that they graduate with a 3.5 grade average in addition to a well rounded application that includes internships, volunteer experiences and letters of recommendation.
  • Giving our Students a National/International Experience
    We send our young people to fight in wars at the age of 18 in countries that they have never heard about in their educational career. It is my goal for every child to have had a national experience and eventually an international experience before graduating from high school. We are living in a global world and it is imperative that our students have a global perspective and knowledge base of the history and culture of people from all over the world. I will work towards having every young person graduate with a passport and voter registration card.
  • Expanded Afterschool Programming Focused On Arts, Culture, Sports, Technology and Entrepreneurship
    There are many incredible people in our 35th District that have created organizations and programs ranging from football teams and karate classes to dance and art classes. These programs are what makes our young people extraordinary and inspires them to do well academically. I will fight hard for the resources to continue to provide these programs on the City level and I will also leverage private dollars to make sure that these programs not only survive but also thrive. I will fight to preserve the Cultural Afterschool Adventures Program funding created by Councilman Dominic Recchia, Jr.
  • Increased funding for Summer Youth Employment and Internships
    In 2012 the Department of Youth and Community Development received over 130,000 applications for less than 26,000 positions for Summer Youth Employment. I will fight to restore funding for our Summer Youth Programs while simultaneously working with the cultural, small business, technology development and hospitality sectors, etc., to create programs to give high school students employment, internship or volunteer and apprenticeship opportunities. While many businesses can’t afford to pay young people prevailing wages, the experience that many young people receive through internship and volunteer opportunities is invaluable.
  • Investing in Career Days and Teaching Life Skills
    The majority of our schools offer a career day once a year. My goal would be to increase the amount of career days to at least six to eight a year so that young people could make better informed decisions about their career path and come away with practical knowledge and life skills that they can utilize such as starting a business, investing in the stock market, buying a home, calculating interest rates, running for public office, etc.
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