Mark Levine: I’m Running For The Manhattan Borough Presidency To Bring Manhattan Back Stronger

Mark Levine, a candidate for the Manhattan Borough Presidency

Photos: Facebook\Twitter

In the following op-ed, written by Mark Levine, a candidate for the Manhattan Borough Presidency, he outlines why he thinks voters should elect him the next Manhattan Borough President.

New York City is coming back.

I’m running to be the next Manhattan Borough President because I believe we can recover stronger, more just, and equitable Manhattan than we were before, where our public health system supports everyone, residents have a safe roof over their heads, small businesses thrive, we fully embrace a green economy, and every child receives a high-quality education. I know that the better Manhattan we imagine can be a reality; I’ve taken on these inequities throughout my professional career, and I’m ready to continue doing so as the next Manhattan Borough President.

At the start of my career, I taught bilingual math and science at Junior High School 149 in the South Bronx. I then went on to found the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union which offered affordable banking services and personal loans to people often overlooked by large corporate banks in the Washington Heights-Inwood area. Since its opening, the credit union has made $25 million in small loans to low-income families and small businesses in Northern Manhattan.

In 2013, I was elected to the New York City Council, proudly representing District 7. I was first appointed Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, where I secured tens of millions of dollars for local greenspaces and anchor parks. For the last three years, I have served as the Chair of the Committee on Health.

I’ve always viewed my role as a councilmember as a coalition builder: someone who takes the necessary time to learn about issues impacting the daily lives of the people I represent and makes decisions not out of political convenience, but for the good of the district and our city.

That’s how I created hundreds of deeply affordable housing units in District 7 while preserving 115 historic buildings in Morningside Heights. In 2017, the City Council passed my first in the nation legislation, mandating legal representation for tenants facing eviction in housing court or NYCHA administrative hearings; while the original law was intended to be implemented in five years, I fought for a full-phase in by June 1st of this year, broadening eligibility across all zip codes as we face an impending eviction crisis.

As an elected representative, I always put the safety and dignity of my constituents first.

This is the same approach I took as Chair of the Council’s Health Committee when the first positive COVID-19 cases in NYC were documented. While other elected officials played politics in the media, I immediately reached out to experts and used my platform to share science and fact-based information as quickly as possible. I passed legislation to require the City to create a centralized website for scheduling vaccine appointments, I’ve led hearings holding the City accountable for inequitable distribution of vaccine centers, and I’ve pushed the City to release data so that we could truly understand the inequitable impacts of the pandemic.

As Manhattan and our city began to heal and New Yorkers received the vaccine, I knew we needed to combat vaccine hesitancy. I released a roadmap to jumpstart New York City vaccination rates and outlined ways to ensure our classrooms are as safe as possible before schools fully reopen in the fall.

I take our recovery from the pandemic–and the multipronged crisis that came with it–very seriously. As Borough President, you can expect me to continue my work as a Council Member working with community leaders, experts, and advocates across Manhattan centering on an equitable recovery in my first years in office. Specifically, I’ll appoint a Deputy Borough President, designated as the COVID-19 recovery czar, to develop and advance policy based on our lived experiences across the borough.

Together, we will:

  • Advance health equity: We must reinvigorate funding for public hospitals and prevent the closure of any more hospitals. More so, we need to expand NYC Care–a program that offers primary medical care access at low or no cost to those who don’t qualify for can’t afford health insurance– to nonprofit clinics rooted in communities. I will also work with our Department of Health to ensure physicians and other healthcare workers are trained to combat racial bias in medical care.
  • Support small business: Our government should be a partner, not a hindrance, to small businesses reopening their doors post-pandemic. We must reduce the burdens of fines and fees, and streamline duplicative and unnecessary application processes and red tape. This includes providing real support for minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs).
  • Bring back the arts: With Manhattan’s devastated economy and high unemployment, we need to restore New York City’s place as the cultural capital of the world. We can accomplish this by committing 1% of our city’s budget to the Department of Cultural Affairs, and help performance spaces and producers shoulder the costs of operating at below full capacity. Capital resources should be made available for theaters and venues that need to retrofit HVAC systems to meet health standards, and City Council should create flexibility in grants to be used for operating expenses so long as grantees commit to collective bargaining agreements and provide fair pay for performers.
  • Bring people into the workforce: I’m proud to have the support of New York City’s biggest labor unions, including DC37, 32BJ, New York State Nurses Association, and Transportation Workers Union Local 100. Everyone deserves access to good union jobs and job training that prepares New Yorkers for the economy of the future. This also means we need to strengthen pipelines from high school and higher education to union jobs in the green economy; fully funding the New Deal for CUNY is one critical way we can support workers and prepare our future workforce.
  • Reducing the reliance on private cars: It’s far past the time we imagine Manhattan streets that are safer and greener. We must increase the number of protected bike lanes throughout the borough and make our buses free–permanently. Installing bus signal priority will not only make public transportation faster and reliable, it will encourage Manhattanites to take advantage of it more often, thereby reducing congestion on the roads. I will also work to create a sustainable package delivery system in the borough that takes delivery vans and trucks off the streets that frequently use bike lanes, bus lanes, and sidewalk space to unload and sort packages.
  • Build community boards that truly represent our communities: Too often, community boards also don’t reflect the diversity of the communities they are supposed to represent. As Borough President, I have the responsibility of making one thousand appointments, including to our community boards. When making these appointments, I will prioritize recruiting new members that have diverse experiences and expertise. We need racial and ethnic diversity and more representation by individuals with disabilities, teenagers, NYCHA residents, small business owners, cyclists, bus riders, pedestrians––a true representation of our city.
  • Prepare for future climate change impacts: As Borough President, I’ll use the office’s position in the land use and zoning process to prioritize hardening our infrastructure and protecting our waterfront in rezonings. This will be especially important in communities of color, which are often most vulnerable to sea-level rise and poor air quality. I will also push the City to conduct a comprehensive citywide plan for long-term resiliency.

There is still so much to be done if Manhattan is going to come back stronger and more equitable on the other side of this pandemic.

I’m ready to take on this endeavor as the next Manhattan Borough President. Let’s imagine a better Manhattan–together.

Mark Levine is a current candidate for Manhattan Borough President. Learn more about his campaign here.

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