Tuesday, May 7, 2013

LOCAL2013: Mayoral Forum in Brooklyn

The following are raw notes from Monday Night's mayoral forum at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope. It's a lot of info, but I bolded the things that stuck out to me.

  • John Liu
    • Question 1: Felony charges for his campaign staff. Response: basically, that he's been investigated for four years (wiretapped for eighteen months), and no other candidate has gone through this scrutiny. If anyone else had gone through this, they would have "errors of omission" as well.
    • Question 2: Barclay Center. It's a great facility, but "the promise was no where near met." His policy is that hew wants to end all subsidy for job creation or for affordable housing.
    • Question 3: Is there anything he'd credit to Bloomberg? The smoking ban. But the soda tax goes too far. Too much top-down leadership: schools opened and closed "as a business decision" and education system is over testing.
    • Question 4: Prospect Park Bike Lane: Liu says it's not popular. "Popular isn't about what the polls say… it should have had more process" than just being approved by the Community board
  • Bill Thompson
    • Question 1: Prospect Park Bike Lane: Needed an approval process "broader than the community board."
    • Question 2: Would you impose bike lanes? "Leadership isn't forcing things on people, it's about consulting them." Education as well: need an education system that listens to parents.
    • Question 3: Barclays Center. "I supported the proposal… but it was supposed to be something more. There were supposed to be jobs, there was supposed to be affordable housing." Said that there should be penalties against 'anyone' who goes back on promises; fell short of saying he'd penalize Rattner. Also said that large-scale developments should have multiple developers.
    • Question 4: Is the EPA Cleanup of Gowanus Canal better or worse for the community? Cleaning Gowanus is more important than developing the neighborhood.
    • Question 5: School Selection process. Supports mayoral control of the school systems, but the mayor has abused the privilege. Processes aren't transparent, need to return to community value for schools. Testing has robbed schools of so much, school closings are not policies.
    • Question 6: Is it right that District 2 can exclude students? I didn't catch his answer
    • Question 7: Library Closings? Against.
    • Question 8: Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing? Yes, and it should be mandatory
    • Question 9: Other set-asides? Yes, a "smart growth" model. And NYCHA should not be allowed to dump city land for luxury housing; needs to be used for affordable housing/middle income housing.
    • Question 10: Brooklyn's greatest transportation need? Fix the subways, add more buses. Bring back the commuter tax, and weight based registration fees. Would bring $1.7 billion into MTA
    • Question 11: Bus lanes? Yes, he would impose them top-down, but only on large streets like Flatbush and Nostrand
  • George McDonald
    • Question 1: Are you happy with how Barclay has turned out? 
      • "Yes, once the affordable housing is built."
      • "That hasn't happened yet"
      • "It will within the first six months of the next mayor's term."
      • "What if they aren't built in the next six months?"
      • "They'd have to."
      • "… But what if they aren't?"
      • "In a civilized society, we go to court."
      • "If you had the chance to build it again?"
      • "I would, for all the affordable housing that will be built there…once it's built."
    • Also supports micro-housing, and 421G to allow commercial buildings to switch to housing. "We need housing across the city."
    • And we need jobs. He'll make jobs. He did that at the Doe fund. (Audience members shouted 'how?!' and he didn't answer).
    • Need to train people who come out of prison
    • NYC public employees need to pay into their pension funds, like every other public employee (audience members shouted that he was lying). Wouldn't resign their contract if they didn't.
    • Question 2: Prospect Park Bike Lane — would you have supported it if you were mayor?
      • "But I'm not."
      • "… But if you were."
      • "But I'm not."
      • "… But you want to be, right?"
      • "Well yes, but I wasn't."
    • Question 3: Transportation needs for Brooklyn: Mayoral control over MTA and Port Authority.
      • "Is it going to happen?"
      • "I don't know, but I'm going to fight like hell for it."
    • Also wandered a bit about how politicians need to stop making promises before they look at the budget.
    • Question 4: Expand subways or expand buses? Likes buses because they're built in New York, think some new subway lines (e.g. The 7 train) are a good idea.
    • Question 5: About his failed lawsuit against the campaign finance board. Wants to use the State fundraising limits, rather than the city, if you don't participate in the matching fund. 
      • Moderator: "So you think the state is less corrupt than the city?"
      • "The state is like a slow moving crime wave.
      • "So why would you follow them?"
      • He cut off the conversation at this point with a humorous anecdote where a mobster says he's "too honest" and then later a business person says he's "too honest."
  • Sal Albanese
    • Question 1: Barclays? Not accepting developer money. Clamp down, force penalties and clawbacks on bad developers
    • Question 2: Park development? Never give up an inch of parkland. "My summer vacation was JJ Byrne Park." Parks are important to communities
    • Question 3: Priorities for transit? Fair tolls (Based on access to mass transit), Select Bus Service up to 20 routes, more bike lanes, mayoral control over MTA. Objects to an MTA run by "political appointees who don't even have metro cards." Would raise $1 billion; $750 million to transit, $250 to lowering fairs. "Bloomberg hasn't paid any attention… no comment on the 10% fare hike"
    • Question 4: Prospect Park Bike Lane: Yes, it seems like there was enough community input. Also wants a bike lane over the Verranzano Bridge.
    • Question 5: Mayoral Control of Schools: In favor if it: "I want control to repair what was broken."
    • Question 6: Is it good that property values have doubled in Park Slope? Yes, but we need more affordable housing. (He paid $50/mo in rent when he was growing up in Slope)
  • John Catsimatidis
    • Question 1: Transit? Wants "transit-oriented development. It solves "the problem of congestion pricing"
      • Moderator: "Is congestion pricing a 'problem'?"
      • Don't penalize people who want to drive "God Bless them if they want to drive" -- "I'm from Harlem and I had a dream" to drive a GTO car. "Don't tell Americans that they should not dream — we should build more efficient cars, not restrict Americans from their dreams." "I teach children in Harlem and I teach them that it's good to succeed — don't hate success, don't promote failure."
    • Question 2: Does social good outweigh need? His answer drew the example of the sanitation plant Quinn wants to build on the UES. "When you touch something that has germs, you get germs. When you smell something, you know what that literally is? It's something touching your lungs. And you want to know what Christine Quinn called it? Social Justice."
    • Question 3: You don't believe in global warming? "I tell the truth."
    • Question 4: Protection against future storms? "You can't build wooden shacks on the beach and expect to survive a storm." Quoted a Greek Saying, "Never build palaces near the sand." "Don't put your equipment in the basement." "Build more solid buildings."
    • Question 5: Education? High school graduates should donate more money to their schools. Also: the education system is built to give every kid an academic education: stop teaching calculus to kids, it makes them feel ashamed when they fail and the give up and drop out. Vocational schools instead.
  • Christine Quinn
    • Question 1: 4th Avenue Rezoning, success or not? "In some ways" -- it made affordable housing a part of the conversation, even though they failed to get the affordable housing on 4th ave.
    • Question 2: Expand inclusionary zoning? "It's a question of how far can we go?" but she wants to be "as aggressive as possible." She's not sure mandatory inclusionary zoning is legal "but wants to consider it." Favors permanent affordable housing over increasing the ratio. Willing to consider a property tax cap, but the state bill that REBNY proposed was far too generous to developers. Against the sale of NYCHA land for luxury condos.
    • Question 3: Barclays? Should have not been a state project, which bypassed ULURP. Took credit for killing the West Side Stadium by driving it into ULURP even though it wasn't required. Thinks every large development on public land should go through ULURP. On Barclays itself, too soon to judge if it's successful.
    • Question 4: Pilot programs to drive up parking costs? Not necessarily. Cars happen when mass transit options don't exist. Heavily favors expanding the ferry system to all five boroughs. East River Ferry was the first public transit up after Sandy. Also, breaks away from the "spoke and wheel" model of the MTA subway system. Also, more select bus services — 10 routes would be a good start. Favors dedicated bus lanes in some areas
    • Question 5: Road space is hotly contested? Focus on making streets safe for young and old.
    • Question 6: Industrial zoning? Expand industrial and manufacturing — she grew jobs in Brooklyn Navy Hards during the recession, and kept the money recirculating internally through tax breaks. Subdivided factories to allow more jobs to grow, and wants to bring manufacturing back to manufacturing zones that are lying dormant. (Would she support the same for "cultural zones"?)
    • Question 7: Department of Education: Too much testing, and definitely need to stop "field testing" where students are pulled out of class to be test subjects for Pearson and other education. Need to move toward portfolio assessment. We're the only city with only one standardized test — has an impact on racial/gender diversity
    • Question 8: School selection: process is stressful, confused, and unclear.
    • Question 9 Are you too mean, and too close to business?
      • "I'm tough. I'm push. And I'm too loud."
      • Audience member: "That’s for damn sure."
      • "Thank you, sir."
      • Characterizes herself as uncompromising, willing to fight for the New Yorkers that work so hard in the city. "I want this city t one the tech capital. I want it t one the literacy capital, to have the schools with the best scores. I want this school to have the most CUNY graduates working in tech."
    • Very proud of her record in City Council — most pro-tenant laws of any city council. You can now sue harassing landlords. New York's carbon footprint will be reduced by the carbon footprint of Oakland. (not sure what that means but that sounds great in an ad)
    • Question 10: Sandy? We need infrastructure, hardening the city. Man-made barriers, blue belt and oyster beds. Schumer is bringing the Army Corps of Engineer to study, Cuomo is buying up land on river-front to bring in blue belt. No more overhead power lines, need gas redundancy. Punish bad players in the oil industry (Mobile, Exxon) who didn't help in recovery, and reward the good players (Hess gave free gas). Building resiliency committee.
    • Question 11: What do you want people to say when you leave office? "I want people to say that I emptied my tank for NYC."
  • Bill de Blasio
    • Question 1: Barclays? Good for Brooklyn, but not worth it until the affordable housing arrives.
    • Question 2: Was oversight in place? The Community Benefit Agreement was the strongest in the city, but should have been supported by the government. City should lock out all development from developers who did not honor the promises. Not enough infrastructure planning (water, sewage) to support. Most concerned about affordable housing and income disparity.
    • Question 3: 4th Avenue Rezoning? Not enough affordable housing, and not enough give-back to schools. Los an opportunity to down-zone, and to put in an inclusionary zone. Wants mandatory inclusionary zoning. Formula can start with 80/20, maybe should be 70/30, but maybe there are other community needs e.g. Schools that we need to demand too. "Affordable housing is the one given" but other needs include schools, open spaces, etc.
    • Question 4: Did Bloomberg do enough for affordable housing. Added 165,000 over 12 years, but lost almost as much. Too much of it is at the high end of low income, smaller apartments than normal. Wants 200,000/10 years, including preserving the stock. Wants to leverage the $1 billion pension fund investments to fund this. Concerned about vacant plots — wants to make it easier to bring land on the market.
    • Question 5: School selection process? Needs to be simplified. Also wants a tax on people making over $1 million to pay for universal pre-K.
    • Question 6: Can District 2 prioritize local students? Maybe, but the issue is that other schools aren't meeting District 2. Needs to make sure that the best schools don't misrepresent the city.
    • Question 7: Double in housing prices in Park Slope? Need more affordable housing, "Local version of Keynesianism." Wants to stop the abuse of small businesses.
    • Question 8: Transit needs? The deepest needs are furthest out, like Canarsie. MTA should be accountable to the mayor. Payroll tax needs to be defended.
    • Question 9: Prospect Park West Bike Lane? In the end it worked, was better than the sidewalk. "Needed a deeper kind of control than the community board." Community boards are a part of the puzzle, but not everything.

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