City Council campaigns launch while the BQX streetcar faces resistance.
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DSA Electoral News is a weekly news roundup of NYC politics from socialist perspective.

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New this week: March 6th, 2017

Local News

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new plan to address the homelessness crisis by building 90 new shelters--but the plan is projected to reduce the homeless population, currently at a record-high 60,000, by only 2,500 over the next five years. The depth of the crisis is driving support for Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s plan to dramatically increase rent subsidies to low-income families, which the city comptroller has estimated would reduce homelessness among families with children by 80 percent.

  • Developer of Bedford-Union Armory announces partnership with local nonprofit and establishment of an Affordable Housing Fund, but doesn't budge on the affordability levels of the project itself. Not a big win from a socialist perspective - mere concessions designed to put our concerns at ease without actually solving the problem.

  • A victory for organized labor this weekend with the Sims recycling workers voting to form a union in a surprise last-minute referendum after months of retaliation from above.

  • NYPD officers wish they could deport more people than NYC’s sanctuary status allows them. A reminder that the NYPD’s allegiance lie with Trump. In an attempt to provide some oversight over the department, Councilors Daniel Garodnick of the 4th and Vanessa Gibson of the 16th districts are proposing a bill to monitor NYPD surveillance. Gibson also has a bill to increase NYPD sensitivity training with Helen Rosenthal of the 6th and Laurie Cumbo of the 35th districts.

  • Backlash against the Independent Democratic Caucus, a rogue group of state senate Democrats who caucus with the Republican majority, continues to grow in the wake of Jose Peralta’s decision to join the caucus, with protests against fellow IDC member Tony Avella this week. (Learn about the IDC here.)

Upcoming Elections

  • When Harlem state senator Bill Perkins won his special election to replace Inez Dickens on the City Council in February, his state senate seat opened up. Governor Andrew Cuomo set a special election to fill the seat on May 23. A Harlem real estate developer, Brian Benjamin, is attempting to position himself as front-runner to fill the seat, but former assemblyman Keith Wright, fresh off a losing bid for Congress, is also likely to run.

  • Make the Road Action (MRA), a group that represents about 20,000 members of Latino and working class communities in NYC, is endorsing four progressive City Council candidates in districts 2 and 8 (Manhattan), 13 (Bronx) and 41 (Brooklyn).

  • District 34’s Antonio Reynoso (who just launched his reelection campaign) argues that communities should be more involved with land use efforts earlier in the process.

  • Reverend El-Yateem’s campaign for the 43rd district, whose incumbent, Vincent Gentile, is term-limited, receives international attention and grassroots support. He would be the first Arab-American on the NYC City Council.

  • Alicka Samuel launched her campaign to fill City Councilmember Darlene Mealy’s seat representing the 41st district, which includes parts of Brownsville and Bed-Stuy. Mealy is barred from running by term limits.

  • DSA Member Jabari Brisport launched a campaign for Councilmember Laurie Cumbo's seat in the 35th District which includes Fort Greene and part of Crown Heights. Watch him here delivering a speech at a rally against the Bedford-Union Armory development.

In-Depth: BQX Streetcar

     The BQX, a streetcar running from Sunset Park to Astoria running along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, was proposed in early 2016 by Mayor de Blasio. While the State ultimately controls the MTA and makes most substantive decisions regarding the City's subway and commuter rail infrastructure, de Blasio publicly advertises this project as a way for the City to reinvent its transit system and exercise self-determination. The concept for this streetcar was largely cooked up by a consortium of real estate developers, and its $2.5B price tag is planned to be paid for via "value capture and creation" where rising property values along the route would ostensibly generate enough new property tax revenue to cover the costs of construction. The project continues to move forward in the face of public opposition, although many crucial details including its exact route remain unclear, and construction is several years off even without any delays.

     Publicly stated opposition is multifaceted, but one of the most compelling arguments against the plan (made here by Jacobin's Samuel Stein) highlights a cynical and dangerous precedent that justifies any new transit investment, regardless of actual transportation need, with inflating property values. It has also been reported that the waterfront developers responsible for the project's initial concept coordinated a lobbying campaign to sway City Hall to pick up the proposal, and that they continue to be closely involved with the City in the early stages of BQX planning. All signs point to the developers hijacking major aspects of city policy to make a handsome profit.

     Why This Matters: Many city policies that are designed to improve New Yorkers' quality of life (i.e. better parks, cleaner streets, safer streets, better schools, etc) inevitably lead to a rise in property values and displacement due to the destructive way that capitalism commodifies standard of living and real estate. This is a contradiction that planners and administrators in city government face daily, particularly under a mayor that touts housing affordability and tenant protection as one of his main platforms. However, the BQX is one of the most explicit abuses of this contradiction, in that it is blatantly designed to inflate property values in order to simply exist. To emphasize: if somehow property values don't rise to cover the $2.5B cost of construction, the City will have a massive hole in its budget to fill --- meaning the streetcar's mere existence locks the City into wholeheartedly cheerleading rapid gentrification in order to support a completed and functional transit line. This is a lose-lose for nearly everyone except for the real estate oligarchs that designed the plan. This project provides openings for DSA to do both anti-gentrification organizing with communities in the path of this proposed streetcar, as well as to help educate the public about what would actually constitute smart and needed transit investment. In the face of continuing decay of our existing subway system and a looming L train shutdown, this kind of education is crucial. Furthermore, the mayor continues to support this project while refusing to fund a discounted Metrocard for low-income New Yorkers that would cost only a fraction of it, highlighting the stark inequities inherent in this kind of de facto for-profit transportation policy.

Meanwhile in South Fulton, GA and Richmond, CA

     The DSA has endorsed a candidate in Georgia. khalid kamau (whose name is lower-cased in the Yoruba African tradition) is running for South Fulton City Council after a career as a community activist fighting for #BlackLives Matter and the #FightFor15. He was also a Bernie delegate to last year's DNC. His platform focuses on reducing crime without incarceration, affordable housing, and equitable economic development.

     Khalid’s slogan is “New Vision for a New City,” and he means that literally: South Fulton has only existed for four months. The people of unincorporated Fulton County voted last November to form their own city government, and this month it will elect its first mayor and city council. More than 60 people have qualified to run for city council, so it's unclear how lessons from that race would translate to NY City Council races, but with such a scattered field, DSA stands to make a big impact.

     The primary election is on March 21st and early voting is already happening. Even from NYC, we can show our support on Twitter (he has only 317 followers as of this writing) or by donating -- he’s asking for 27 dollar donations in the style of Bernie.


     Out in Richmond, California, the Richmond Progressive Alliance recently won a majority of the city council seats. Formed in 2003, the RPA is a coalition of progressive voices fighting against corporate control in a city previously dominated by Chevron and the Big Oil Democrats it funded. They recently won a contentious fight for rent control against a well-funded opposition. Previously, they helped defeat plans to build a casino on the waterfront, and passed a measure to raise taxes on Chevron’s local refinery.

     Richmond is a blue-collar city located outside of Berkeley, but it is not a college town. It is 80% nonwhite, and Chevron is the city’s largest employer. The RPA’s ability to fuse disparate movements and win elections—it has won 10 of the 16 races it entered—with a diverse set of candidates can serve as a model for the DSA to work within existing communities and organizations for tangible policy goals.

Nominate a Candidate

NYC DSA is still looking for candidates to run for the City Council in the 2017 election. If you know someone who could be a good candidate, or if you yourself are interested in running, please let us know.


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