2021 PLATFORM

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed and intensified long-existing issues in our community - an increasingly underfunded hospital system, struggling small businesses, an unstable housing market, and an inequitable education system. These issues require real solutions, rather than the legislative band-aids usually applied.  District 40 needs a champion who has the knowledge and ability to get to work on day one. Kenya has spent 14 years working at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Her passion for serving her community and experience as a public servant across all government levels makes her the ideal candidate to tackle these complex problems.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT

 

The next city councilmember must be an active resource of information, collaboration, and partnership for the community. The council member should arm the district with the educational and empowerment tools to hold their elected leaders accountable and effectively voice their wants, needs, and objections to the policies and practices that directly impact their lives. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Create “Civics 101” learning opportunities to enrich the community’s knowledge of the political and government processes. 

  • Use the human and economic resources of the district to find solutions to the problems in our community first, then leverage government resources.

  • Increase and refine participatory budgeting and governing opportunities. 

  • Create greater access to the City Council office by hosting community events and regular forums where community members are engaged in the governing process.

  • Strengthen our community boards.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

 

The Coronavirus pandemic has created a domino effect of economic hardships within our community. With a growing $5.6 billion deficit, our city’s government has to make some hard budgeting choices. This includes cutting important social services for New Yorkers in need, reducing funding to nonprofits that work effectively on the ground, and cuts to critical educational programming. Many of our small and medium businesses, especially MWBEs, the backbone of our community’s economy, will close without additional support from the government. We will need innovative ways to ensure our community is economically and environmentally sustainable. To achieve this, we must generate job opportunities for district residents that are stable, safe, and pay a living wage.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Create community partnerships that organize residents to socially and economically invest in the district. 

  • Maximize commercial activity within the community, ensuring the dollar is circulating multiple times within our district. 

  • Prioritize funding, accessibility, and capital projects for enhanced skills training and apprenticeship programs for jobs in growing industries and jobs of the future. 

  • Employ an anti-austerity plan that roots out waste, fraud and financial mismanagement within City agencies and contractors before cutting life-saving social services. 

  • Mitigate agency liability and eliminate duplication (especially as it relates to contractors).

  • Create measures that reform the City’s contracting and procurement processes. 

  • Address the unequal and unfair tax and fines structure that has helped to widen the wealth gap in the City. 

  • Reform the process for nonprofit contracting and implement mechanisms that provide greater technical assistance to nonprofits.

  • Reduce the wage gap and cost of living.

  • Address student loan debt.

  • Expand free and affordable child care, summer camp and afterschool programs.

  • Support the Mom’s (Parent) Marshall Plan.

ACCESSIBLE EBT/SNAP 

 

SNAP and Public Assistance provide critical lifelines for low-wage working families, low-income seniors and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes, and other individuals and households with low incomes in NYC. As Councilmember, I am committed to expanding access and increasing benefits so that vulnerable New Yorkers have a safety net that can help stabilize their families during periods of greatest need. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Fight for more cash assistance and other public assistance to the EBT card per month to supplement benefit allotments that haven’t been raised in decades. 

  • Advocate for all Supermarkets/ Food Outlets/ Farmers Markets to offer discounts for individuals paying with EBT cards.

  • Push for NYC businesses, such as retail outlets, to accept the EBT card for purchases. 

  • Introduce legislation that would allow EBT cardholders and up to four family members to enter all city cultural institutions for free. Private cultural institutions will be asked to offer free entry, or alternatively to offer a max of $3 for up to four family members.

SUPPORTING OUR SMALL BUSINESSES

 

The government shutdown due to COVID has forced small businesses to adjust in unprecedented ways.  Many businesses have already closed. Others are trying to stay above water and operating on a week-to-week basis. As we begin the COVID recovery effort, it is key to the survival of NYC that we prioritize small businesses, the drivers of our economy.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Increase access to prime and subcontracting opportunities by placing MWBE, small & local business goals on every City contract. 

  • Facilitate flexible grants and loans for reopening expenses, such as cleaning supplies, PPE, and testing assistance.

  • Work with Small Business Services (SBS) to expand marketing and promotion assistance for reopening.

  • Create and fund opportunities that provide one-on-one support to help navigate grants, loans, and contracts.

  • Resume City-funded construction projects and fight to ensure City-approved projects procure from local businesses and hire local contractors and workers from the community. 

  • Work to stabilize commercial rent to prevent massive small business closure. That includes addressing property tax transfer payments.

  • Explore opportunities to leverage open streets and sidewalk programs for a wider variety of businesses. 

  • Reform enforcement procedures to protect businesses from excess and unnecessary inspections and fines. 

  • Fight for stimulus dollars to provide rent forgiveness for small businesses that closed due to the pandemic.

  • Create more community partnership opportunities that focus on supporting the small businesses across the district. 

  • Make the Business Improvement District (BID)  structure more accessible to commercial corridors. 

  • Address disparities in the awarding and distribution of MWBE discretionary opportunities and prime contracts. 

  • Invest more resources into small business creation and incubation.

  • Create a small business resource list for the district. 

HOUSING JUSTICE

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further destabilized the housing market, exacerbating existing issues: increased foreclosures, deed theft, and mortgage fraud, overdevelopment, and cost of living increases. Thousands of New Yorkers face eviction as a result of the public health and economic crises. They need assistance and advocacy from their elected leaders. I believe that housing is a human right, and want to ensure that the people of the community are empowered to decide the type of development that takes place in our neighborhoods and how to best protect renters. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Work to stabilize and protect the existing housing stock in the community, as well as ensure that the district has primary access to new affordable and low-income units. 

  • Advocate for additional property tax and rent relief for tenants and small homeowners to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

  • Redefine affordable housing, and advocate for more low-income rentals and affordable homeownership opportunities. Prioritize mission-driven and non-profit developers for residential projects. 

  • Advocate for legislation to create a tenants’ bill of rights to ensure renters are empowered against all forms of harassment. 

  • Create harsher penalties for falsifying city documents and implement fail-safe mechanisms to catch these documents before they are approved. 

  • Advance legislation to abolish the city’s tax lien sales.

  • Create a “cease and desist” zone in District 40 to prevent harassment by aggressive real estate speculators.

  • Fight housing scams like deed theft, mortgage fraud, and new forms of tenant harassment. 

  • Create and protect affordable senior housing.

  • Reform the Uniform Land Use Reform Procedure (ULURP) process and provide the means for communities to have more substantial input in the approval process for development projects. 

  • Fight to reform the city’s broken and unequal property tax assessment system. 

  • Advocate for creative solutions to protect and preserve public housing.

EDUCATION EQUITY

 

As a mother of school-aged children, I know firsthand the challenges that come with educating our district’s youngsters. Public schools in district 17 and 18 have historically been underserved and underfunded. For far too long, our schools had to do the best they can with what they have, but our children and schools deserve better. I believe that the community and schools can work together to create systems to properly address the achievement gaps facing the youth in the district. The next council member should be a resource to parents and young people within the district, from birth to college or trade school.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Work with the schools and community to adequately fund and expand quality enrichment and after-school programs. 

  • Advocate and create ways for the district's schools to be given proper funding and investment for mental health resources, professional development, cultural programming, and building improvements.

  • Increase students’ access to counseling and other mental and behavioral health services that specifically address trauma and promote healing.

  • Expand Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math (STEAM) education from daycare to high school. I will also encourage all schools to offer civic education classes. 

  • Invest in Adult Education and re-entry programs and give adults more access to continuing education resources. 

  • Work with state and federal partners to reform the curriculum to a child-centered learning model and the quality of education within our schools. Additionally, work with the state to fight for Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) funding. 

  • Fight for and implement quality universal daycare. 

  • Take police out of schools and dismantle areas that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline.

  • Support more English as a Second Language (ESL) and civic classes for immigrant populations.  

  • Provide City workers with greater access to daycare and child care options. 

HEALTHCARE FOR ALL

 

Everyone deserves access to quality and affordable healthcare. The U.S. is the only developed nation without universal health coverage. Our current healthcare system is old, expensive, and still discriminates against vulnerable people. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Work with health professionals and community residents to fight for truly equitable distribution of care. 

  • Press for smart solutions that simplify our system, and fully fund it, and expand non-employer-based healthcare coverage. 

  • Support passage of the NY Health Act.

  • Improve worker safety protections, and monitor the One-Brooklyn Health transformation.

  • Work with health care professionals to address the systemic racism that affects the equitable distribution of health care. 

  • Listen to the people in our community who are affected by these issues to develop a plan to revolutionize our healthcare system. 

  • Work to increase access to PPE and vaccines, expand frontline worker compensation, improve our emergency preparedness for healthcare so the chaos of COVID never happens again. 

  • Work hand-in-hand with healthcare professionals and their respective unions to create greater worker safety protections and protocols.

  • Expand front-line worker compensatory standards for their sacrifices during the pandemic and support practical efforts to reduce Central Brooklyn’s health disparities.

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES 

 

COVID-19 has shown us if we are not prepared for a crisis, it will hurt our community in unimaginable ways. Climate change is a public health crisis and a threat to the future of our community.  We must work to create a healthy and sustainable district. As we imagine the future of our community, I want to think about ways that we can improve its economy, health, and housing,through an environmental justice lens. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Expand the legislative gains of the Council’s commitment to a local Green New Deal. 

  • Push to transition to a “Green Economy” by bringing sustainable jobs and programs that provide education and training on climate crisis and collaborate with the district on district-specific solutions.

  • Construct a neighborhood resiliency plan that protects our neighborhood in case of a climate emergency, including natural disaster, heatwaves, and more. 

  • Provide homeowners with information and workshops on Federal, State, and City subsidies for environmental upgrades. 

  • Activate vacant lots with communities serving green spaces such as community gardens, farmers markets, and passive open space.

  • Increase urban farming opportunities to address local food insecurity and to teach the community how to grow their own food. 

  • Support climate justice education programs for both children and adults.

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

 

Every young person deserves the tools they need to be successful and engaged, to be the positive change they want to see in the world.  Understanding history and tradition as well as law and policy is key to creating a better future. The youth must be given the opportunity to explore their interests and process their feelings about the ever-changing world we live in. I believe that young people should be a part of the conversation that shapes their future. I understand that they are an important part of the global community and that they have the tools to advocate for an equitable society.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Create a “District 40 Youth Corps,” composed of young people who advise on policy and programming and help to solve many of the district’s issues. 

  • Create the District 40 Internship/Mentorship program, linking young people with the business corridors professionals in the district. 

  • Engage young people of color who have been harmed by violence to better understand their needs, the barriers they encounter, how to access care, and establish a sense of safety in their environment.

  • Create opportunities for youth to gather data to frame the problems as they see them, and provide spaces for education and dialogue on issues, context, and policies that affect their communities as an empowering experience that supports youth development and multigenerational connections.

PUBLIC SAFETY 

 

Community safety is a public health issue, and I want to work with community members to define the problems and the solutions. Communities cannot thrive or enjoy good health unless they are safe. The COVID-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 exemplified the structural racism embedded in our State’s criminal legal system. Violence and fear of violence increase the risk of poor health outcomes and stunts community growth. Our community has been oppressed by policies like “Stop and Frisk,” Broken Windows policing, and recently, the enforcement of social distancing. It is time to root out the underlying causes of violence and create solutions to end oppression.

As Councilmember, I will:

  • Demilitarize the NYPD and limit the scope of the police department so they are not responding to circumstances they are not equipped to handle. 

  • Redirect law enforcement resources into the community to fund social services, alternatives to policing, restorative justice programs, education and job training, and community-based organizations that have proven to protect and restore our communities. 

  • Radically reform police response to non-violent issues and non-emergency calls. Build on successful models nationwide to deploy more social workers and trained mental health professionals as first responders. 

  • Increase funding for leadership development and mental health support for survivors of violence so they can represent the community, and serve on advisory committees that improve program design, operations, and service delivery.

  • Work with community members to proactively engage in public safety decision-making processes, articulate a common vision, and navigate institutions to advance community goals.

  • Work across sectors to implement positive behavioral support systems and restorative practices. Emphasize coordination with schools and collaboration with other community partners.

  • Train “violence interrupters” to address conflicts and build peace. Train street outreach workers to support people in making positive life changes.

  • Station volunteers along common routes to school to watch over blocks and key transportation hubs. These volunteers can protect students from harassment and other types of violence, and deter gang activity in the hours before and after school. 

  • Reforming the contracting and procurement process for non-profits

FIGHTING FOOD INSECURITY

 

Food insecurity is a societal problem that robs children of the nutrients they need to succeed in school and exposes adults to a host of diet-related illnesses including obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. The high cost of living in New York causes and worsens food insecurity in many households. Too many of our friends and neighbors go hungry in our resource-rich City. Ensuring that every New Yorker has enough healthy, nutritious food to eat will be one of my top priorities on City Council.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Create partnerships to support food pantries and meal delivery services for district residents. 

  • Provide tax credits and other incentives to encourage the addition of grocery stores and supermarkets in food deserts. 

  • Incentivize grocery stores and smaller neighborhood retail outlets with tax credits to stock fresh fruits and vegetables. 

  • Incentivize businesses to donate unused fresh produce to those who are in need and centralize the process to limit food waste.  

  • Expand community gardens and offer agriculture and nutrition classes to empower residents to collaboratively grow food in common spaces. 

TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

 

Transportation and infrastructure connect our community to the world, powering our economic growth and development. They connect workers to their jobs, children to school and create opportunities for business and trade within the district. They also protect us from the impact of climate change and extreme weather events and provide good-paying jobs in building and maintenance.  Our district needs significant transportation and infrastructure investment to strengthen the community in the present and to secure a better more sustainable future for our children.

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Reform the City’s capital construction process to increase transparency and efficiency

  • Explore activation of Bay Ridge freight rail line for passenger transit 

  • Incorporate climate justice principles into capital design and construction projects

  • Increase efficient and greener transportation to reduce harmful emissions. 

  • Advocate to expand and improve Access-A-Ride and similar transportation options. 

  • Repair street curbs and add new ones

  • Work with State colleagues to reduce public transportation fares for low-income people. 

PRESERVING ARTS & CULTURE

 

Arts and Culture are essential for everyone. They preserve and strengthen a strong community's sense of place, help forge a personal identity, and nurture individual and collective creativity and growth. Art and culture provide opportunities for learning, entertainment, leisure, personal growth, and improving communication amongst diverse groups like District 40’s vibrant community.

As Councilmember, I will: 

  • Invest in strategic partnerships to preserve and promote the unique Caribbean diasporic culture of the district. 

  • Fight for increased arts and culture funding and programming to be poured into low-income areas within the district. 

  • Create a network to connect artists, cultural workers, and associated community groups and organizations

  • Build an arts and culture center in District 40 on available public land

  • Beautify our community by investing in the visual aspects (such as murals, art walks, rotating exhibitions)

  • Create community-led arts and culture enrichment programming for District 40 schools.

  • Activate more public spaces for performing arts  (like expanding existing plazas)

  • Support the history of District 40 and remembering those forgotten (through monuments and festivals) 

  • Organize more arts and culture programs and performances (like music) for children

  • Establish a District 40 Arts and Culture Council

  • Release an arts and culture resource guide to assist local individuals and groups

  • Simplify nonprofits access to funding and complicated grant requirements

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

 

As lead staffer on the Congressional Black Caucus’ Immigration Task Force, I worked on the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, where I ensured that it represented the issues of Black immigrants. As Councilmember, I will continue that fight and support my federal partners in government as they work to finally pass a progressive, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform bill that provides a pathway to citizenship and full self-determination. 

As Councilmember, I will:

 

  • Limit ICE’s reach in New York City. 

  • Work with local Congressmembers to protect immigrant communities throughout our country.

  • Allow Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), who may have committed low-level, nonviolent crimes protection against deportation and access to maintaining their legal status. 

  • Contract with immigrant and multilingual community members, as well as non-profits to translate City information. 

  • Allocate money for organizations in District 40 to provide mental health resources for immigrants who are domestic violence and sexual assault victims. 

  • Help facilitate information on citizen applications and more. 

  • Stand with Congressional colleagues working to extend the U-Visa parameters and streamline the process at the local level. 

DISABILITY JUSTICE

 

New Yorkers with disabilities are valued residents who must have access to information, training and resources to ensure their equal and full participation in all aspects of society and development. They are our friends, family members and neighbors, many of whom face challenges that able-bodied people may not comprehend. I will work to promote compassion and understanding of the obstacles that New Yorkers with disabilities must overcome. She is committed to providing this community with equal opportunities for work, play, health, and success. 

  • Fight for greater access to housing, food delivery, and transportation.

  • Back NYC ID cards that include a “Person with Disability” or “PWD” identification.

  • Champion subsidies for low-income persons with disabilities to pay for improvements to their homes. 

  • Advocate for Community Development Block Grant-type (CDBG) of funding support for organizations and developers to remove architectural barriers from the homes of New York City residents who have disabilities. 

  • Expand Health insurance outreach and enrollment programs to ensure that people with disabilities have access to programs such as GetCoveredNYC. 

  • Push for disabled visitors to have free entry or pay as you wish entry to all 34 Cultural Institutions, plus free admission for the caregiver.

  • Support discounted entry and memberships to all private cultural institutions/businesses (caregiver free). And, clear any conspicuous posting, promotion and marketing of those policies at all boxes offices, websites and included in any promotional and outreach campaigns. 

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

 

Marijuana Regulation In New York State must be equitable, science/evidence-based, health-centered, and restorative. Marijuana prohibition has been ineffective in its stated goal of stopping or curbing marijuana use across the state, fueling the growth of an illicit industry and disproportionately impacting communities of color because of unequal enforcement instead. It is time to radically rethink our laws governing adult use.  

As Councilmember, I will

  • Support the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) which will legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana, establishing a regulatory framework rooted in economic and racial justice and equity. 

  • Supporting a licensing structure that provides support for small businesses and family-scale farmers, encouraging entrepreneurial efforts in small towns and rural areas, as well as disproportionately impacted communities. 

  •  Advocate for State-run and municipal-run small business incubator programs providing direct support to small-scale/social equity marijuana license holders through legal services, education, small business training, compliance assistance, and funding in the form of grants or low- or zero-interest loans.  

  • Fight for regulated and fully funded social equity programs that offer priority licensing for individuals and communities impacted by prohibition, including people living in neighborhoods with high arrests/racial disparities, people with a conviction, and people with an income lower than 80% of their state’s median income.

  • Advocate for co-op and microbusiness craft licenses that allow small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing. 

  • Push for entry points into the industry for social equity applicants that are not as capital intensive such as social consumption (also called on-site consumption) and delivery licenses.