The current income limit of $29,000 to qualify for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) is much too low. Ken will fight to raise this number to protect seniors from the bite of inflation by pegging the SCRIE income eligibility limit to increases in the prices of everyday goods, as measured by the CPI. Seniors on the UWS should not be worried about being forced out of their homes because of a loss of SCRIE.
Small businesses are the fabric of our community and make the Upper West Side the world-class neighborhood it is. Ken will have a dedicated staff member devoted to helping small businesses; whether that’s assistance navigating the labyrinth of city agencies or helping to fight unwarranted fines. Ken also supports the creation of a grace period during which non-health related violations can be remedied without the a letter grade or fine being issued. Ken will work to reform the Small Business Services to set the agency on a course to better meet the needs of its core constituency. He will also work with the agency to develop an online “dashboard” for small business owners where they can easily view what permits they have, need and the status of applications.
Our budget is a reflection of our values. Ken will fight to ensure that we increase our budget to the Arts and to our Parks. Ken will advocate to devote one percent of our budget to supporting the arts while also providing one percent of our budget to the Parks Department. Such a budget allocation is an investment in the future of our city and the environment. This funding increase can be used to create more partnerships between our world-class cultural institutions and our public schools, which will provide a much needed boost in their cultural offerings.
Housing is one of the most important issues facing our community. Ken believes we have to preserve the existing stock of affordable housing units, but we also have to pursue a Mitchell Lama plan for the 21st Century that provides housing options for the middle class. Moreover, our Co-Op and Condo owners across the neighborhood are being squeezed every year with increased taxes, water bills and other fees. Ken would work to alleviate this very serious strain on families that own their apartments. Lastly, when it comes to our public housing, Ken wants to revamp the management of NYCHA and rebuild it as an agency that is pro-active and responsive to residents.
Ken has, and continues to be a staunch advocate for the tourism and hospitality industry, as it’s expected to yield almost $70 billion in economic activity for our city by 2015. However, we cannot rest on the success of the past decade. Ken will work with NYC & Company to build a ‘Visit the UWS’ program to support our local small businesses and attractions. Additionally, Ken will advocate that we make investments in our infrastructure, especially our airports and Penn Station, to ensure NYC is a welcoming and accessible city.
Our sidewalks are a mess. They are filled with scaffolding that stays in place too long, unused newspaper bins, proliferation of vendors and cracked pavement. Ken wants to evaluate sidewalk congestion in a comprehensive way. That requires looking at our Scaffolding Laws to ensure scaffolds are not up longer than is required. Ken strives to create a more livable streetscape, adding more benches, trees, lighting, bike parking, and flood mitigation devices like bioswales that have proven hugely successful on Columbus Avenue.
We are fortunate that NYC is the safest big city in the country but there is a lot that the new City Council will have to address when it comes to oversight. Stop & Frisk as we know it must end, surveillance of New Yorkers based on religion is unacceptable, and the fact that we pay out almost half a billion dollars to settle lawsuits against the NYPD is unconscionable. Ken would seek to provide greater oversight of the NYPD, but he will also work to ensure that our hardworking law enforcement officials have the resources they need and are not burdened by gotcha politics. Even though crime is down, Ken believes that we should not continue cutting the number of cops on our streets.
The successful Citi Bike Share program should be brought to the Upper West Side. Ken supports the expansion of Bike Share and the creation of more protected bike lanes for residents. This means investigating options to create dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes in Riverside Park as well. The Department of Transportation has done a tremendous job in correcting past errors with its community outreach, and Ken wants to ensure that our residents and businesses are continuously heard and properly consulted in the future.
Ken believes that our city must aspire to reduce the growing digital divide by providing equal and free Wi-Fi access to all of our residents in the coming years. Ken will start this process by working with the private sector to provide free Wi-Fi at NYCHA buildings.
We need to rethink our relationship with cars. Ken would advocate for a more equitable, market-driven congestion-pricing plan that discourages single rider cars from entering Manhattan and provides a dedicated revenue stream for public transit upgrades. Part of the impact Ken hopes to achieve is a reduction of traffic by large trucks that use the UWS as a pathway through the city. Ken believes it is also worth exploring a pilot program for residential parking permits for West Siders and nighttime delivery. Lastly, we need to add more traffic cameras and explore the creation of an Upper West Side “Slow Zone” similar to that in Downtown Brooklyn.
Ken wants to bring Select Bus Service to the Upper West Side as well as bus digital countdown timers so residents know how long they have to wait. He also wants to bring Metrocard vending machines to the street level so that seniors and persons with disabilities do not have to walk downstairs into a Subway station just to get a Metrocard that they will use for the bus. Lastly, we need to explore the creation of a Hudson River Ferry, modeled after the hugely successful East River Ferry with access points along with entire West Side to alleviate overcrowding of our buses and subways.
Climate change is a reality that the City Council will have to address. Although City Council cannot stop climate change independently, Ken believes that it can legislate common-sense actions to make sure that New York City is prepared to deal with stronger storms and abnormal weather. Some of these measures include: studying adaptive strategies to flooding and non-flooding climatic changes; including climate change in environmental impact statements for development projects; removing toxic materials stored in flood zones; establishing protocols for the orderly evacuation of hospital patients during a major storm; and incorporating sustainable building designs that mitigate the impact of potential power outages on building occupants. Lastly, we need to reimagine our streetscape so that the concrete on our streets is more porous, elevate subway grates and add bioswales. Ken will also work to implement the bold plan Mayor Bloomberg created in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
We have remarkable buildings on the UWS, but many of them are older and require retrofitting to become more energy efficient. Ken believes the City Council needs to help provide greater financing mechanisms for these buildings to encourage energy conservation, white roofing, and conversion to alternative energy sources. This is another opportunity to create true public-private partnerships with our financial institutions to allow for access to capital for our apartment houses to finance such retrofitting. Ken knows that the fastest and most effective way to address climate change and protect the environment is to reduce energy consumption.
As someone who has helped run a business, Ken understands the impact that leveraging buying power can have on cutting input costs and raising revenue. Whether it is through a commitment to make all city-owned vehicles energy efficient or purchase healthier food for students, the city can move the marketplace in a way that complements our broader values and objectives. Additionally, Ken believes that to boost innovation we must streamline the convoluted procurement process, which will lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. In turn the city can use the influx of new technologies and products to improve government service and efficiency. Lastly, Ken will bring our local small businesses together on a regular basis to discuss ways to utilize potential collective buying power and improve business conditions.
As was done with the Theater District zoning, Ken would propose creating a zone on the Upper West Side to allow our non-profits and religious institutions to sell air rights to developers within a designated area. Such a sale would be coupled with a requirement that the developer either contribute to a “Community Fund” that can use the revenue for capital improvements around the neighborhood, providing dedicated educational, cultural or community space in their property, or set aside a percentage of units for permanent affordable housing. Ken thinks this plan would give the community greater influence in the development of the West Side, which would transform the process into an opportunity for the community at large to profit, and not just developers.
Ken thinks parents should know what kind of food and physical activities are being offered at schools as they decide where to send their children. This grading system should be based on aspects of health and wellness in school, including whether mandatory breakfast is being offered, whether the lunch program creates menus that are healthier, the presence of vending machines containing junk food and what kind of outdoor space and physical activity is available.
We are fortunate to have amazing access to the Hudson River in our district and Ken would seek to increase opportunities for residents to enjoy our waterfront. Ken will advocate for the residents of the Boat Basin to ensure their voices are heard with regard to their needs. The UWS should have expanded ferry service and greater public access to the waterfront. Such investments will not only improve quality of life but also support our ecosystem.
The Mayor has done a great job bringing high tech companies to our city, but we need to do more to prepare a future workforce for these job opportunities. Ken recognizes the need for computer science to be offered in middle school for New York City students. Additionally, Ken would advocate for an expanded curriculum for students that takes pressure off teaching to the test and puts a focus on a well-rounded education. Instead of just pushing for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Ken would advocate that the Arts be given equal emphasis and transition to a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) focused approach. There is great potential on the UWS to increase the level of collaboration between our cultural institutions and our local schools.
Ken believes we must continue to make our gun laws stricter, advocate for micro-stamping of bullets, and evaluate options to divest pension dollars from companies that sell guns. Additionally, we must ensure that we provide our young people with more opportunities for after-school programs to proactively deter them from potentially getting involved with gangs or pursuing criminal activity.
Ken will be an advocate for students in all schools on the Upper West Side, whether they attend religious, private, district or charter schools. Ken wants to ensure that parents on the UWS have the best choices for their students. Moreover, Ken believes we need real equity when it comes to access to High School for West Side students. While the Upper East Side has several dedicated High Schools for local students, the Upper West Side does not, and Ken would advocate for the creation of one. This is an important step in also addressing the overcrowding of our schools due to over development and poor planning over the past decade.
New York has had real victories in equal rights legislation for the LGBT community, but Ken knows there is still a lot that must be addressed to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal rights. Ken will continue to advocate for passage of GENDA at the state level, baseline funding for programs that support homeless and runaway youth, and work to improve relations with the LGBT community and the NYPD.
The UWS has led the charge to raise awareness of the dangers that fracking poses to our entire state. There are too many unknowns about the dangers involved with fracking to allow it to move forward in NY State. Ken will fight to ensure there is real accountability and transparency in the discussions related to expanded natural gas exploration. Additionally, Ken will be committed to capitalizing on alternative sources of energy to build a more sustainable city for our future.
The current Administration has not properly addressed the growing homelessness crisis in our city. Ken believes we cannot ignore this problem any longer, nor can the next administration pursue a plan that provides no-bid contracts to vendors that provide shelter with no transparency or accountability. Ken will seek to address homelessness in a comprehensive way while also working to address the food crisis in our city. Ken wants to ensure that the 1 in 5 New Yorkers who go hungry each day have access to food pantries and services. Lastly, it is important that the Hunts Point Food Market also be given aid to renovate and support local growers from New York State.
Ken knows the Upper West Side has always been a community that supports and advocates for greater care and protection for animals. This requires us to ensure that dogs have greater access to water in our parks, that our dog runs are kept in good condition, and that tenants who own animals are not prevented from keeping their pets when they move.
Ken has made it clear that meeting and connecting with his neighbors throughout the Upper West Side would be a mainstay of his campaign, and he would continue this philosophy if elected. Ken has worked to make himself accessible to West Siders by subway stations and grocery stores to hear directly from them about the issues they care about. If elected, Ken will continue to work outside and have mobile office hours to make it easier for residents to share their issues or concerns with him. Additionally, he will run a robust and responsive Council office that seeks the inclusion and involvement of the entire community.