We can choose our future
Our children's educational development has been compromised. Schools and youth programs were already underfunded. Families in Harlem are at risk of eviction right now. The local economy shutdown has food pantry lines longer than ever. Violent crime is on the rise. This does not have to remain our reality. We can choose a great future, now. If elected, my legislative priorities will be:
Jobs and economy: Providing a lifeline to locally-owned small businesses, investing in innovative workforce development bootcamps and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs
Fighting to keep Harlem a mixed-income neighborhood and fighting for residents struggling to make ends meet
Funding our neighborhood schools, parks and trash pickup plan
While you can read through specific proposals below, over the course of this campaign I will seek constant feedback from as many residents as possible to co-develop a highly responsive agenda for Harlem. Together, we move forward.
While it’s my hope that a vaccine will be created and distributed by the time a new Council member takes office in January 2022, we must continue to take strong action in the meantime to save lives, livelihoods and thousands of people from eviction and hunger. I’ve cried with close friends who’ve lost aunts and uncles due to the virus and I’ve seen the lines a hundred people long outside the food pantry at 116th and Lenox.
JOBS & THE ECONOMY
I will prioritize fairly re-growing our local economy and building support for workers’ rights, small business prosperity, hiring Black people, community controlled land development, increasing technology infrastructure and digital literacy, progressive taxation, new business incubation, workforce development and Black entrepreneurship. I know the pain of Black New Yorkers who’ve been rejected by Midtown company after company despite their Baruch College business degrees. I was raised by United Auto Worker (UAW) union members and I’ve belonged to a union myself. I have family members who’ve resorted to the fast money of the streets.
YOUTH OPPORTUNITIES & EDUCATION
I will focus on increasing educational opportunities and youth development programs by working to secure funding for more career and technical education (CTE) and partnering with existing mentorship programs to expand and impact more lives. On the block I grew up on, more kids went on to jail than to college.
ANTI-BLACK SYSTEMIC RACISM
I will recognize the unique experiences of Black New Yorkers with anti-Black systemic racism and advocate for public policies specifically uplifting Black people to counter the historic policies rooted in systemic racism that specifically excluded Black people from all that New York City has had to offer. Public policies created our mess and can play a powerful role in creating the sustainable peace we all want - it’s the right thing to do.
SUBSTANCE USE & VIOLENCE
Everyday I will passionately highlight that violence in our community is a public health issue rooted in decades of negligent public policy. My own mother got clean from crack cocaine one year before she became pregnant with me. I have family sitting in prison cells right now due to gun violence. Substance use and violence in our community are real life issues for me and I will fight to increase funding to anti-violence and substance use treatment community based organizations.
I will work to have the Sanitation Department return to Harlem the 223 litter baskets taken away from our community and call for an interdisciplinary community taskforce to study the social psychology of littering, with recommendations issued. I live across the street from St Nicholas Park and I love our block parties and barbeques.
HELPING THE HOUSELESS
In Scripture God said to Moses, “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him and he shall live with you.” This is a moral issue to me and I will not criminalize those failed by a society that can demonstrate more compassion. The absence of affordable housing is the root cause of the houselessness crisis in this City. I will stand with every effort to make more housing units available and seek to increase the number of compassionate individuals engaging in direct outreach on 125th street.
I will support legislation to reform and expand mandatory inclusionary housing beyond 20% affordable. I’ll fight tooth and nail for a community-driven approach to land development (ULURP). Moreover, I’ll vote to expand Right to Counsel for all tenants in NYC who seek representation. As a child, there were many times I came home from school to eviction notices on my front door. I remember the trauma of that housing insecurity like it was yesterday.
POLICING & THE COURTS
I will vote to reallocate portions of the NYPD budget to anti-violence community based organizations, mental health services and the Department of Education. I’ll seek to build a coalition to encourage the Manhattan DA to implement court reforms. I’ll vote to legalize marijuana, close Rikers and vote no on budgets to build new jails. So many people that I grew up with are behind bars right now that I think about it everyday - it could have been me.
I will seek to expand the participatory budgeting program. I will host monthly town halls open to the public. I will be the most accessible and responsive Council member that this neighborhood has ever had. I’ve spent a lot of time working full time in the software technology business, taking products to market to help other businesses grow. In my career, success has been 100% dependent on effectively understanding and responding to the needs of potential customers. The practice of active listening and incessantly gathering feedback is the only way I have operated and I will take it to City Hall.
I will build support to fund a universal childcare program for children under 3 and introduce legislation to strengthen paid sick, maternity and paternity leave. I was raised by my grandmother and grandfather while my mother worked but Grandma and Grandad should have the option to enjoy retirement without the responsibility of raising kids all over again (unless they want to, I love them).
I will prioritize combating environmental degradation - the greatest existential threat to humanity - and build support for a funded plan that moves NYC to zero CO2 emissions by the year 2030. It is disappointing that it took the shutdown imposed due to the COVID-19 global emergency to make NYC air cleaner and more breathable. I believe a clean environment and human life can co-exist, but 2020 was a warning that human life is extremely vulnerable on this planet.
HEALTH & HEALTHCARE
My mother died from lung cancer in 2017 at the age of 56, I was 26 years old and I think about her everyday. In 2011, both her sister and brother died from cancer at the age of 55 and 60 respectively. I still cry often for these losses and have firsthand experience with the disastrous health outcomes in our community. I will seek funding to make therapy sessions available to District residents.
SENIORS & ACCESSIBILITY
I will partner with community based organizations to strengthen and resource existing programs to combat senior loneliness. I will advocate for the installation of subway elevators in every District station. My brother was born with cerebral palsy and has never walked a day in his life, he’s 57 years old and my father is 85 years old and now lives by himself after my brother moved to a care facility focused on supporting individuals with severe epilepsy. Though I’m 29, my immediate family is an up close view of the realities of senior isolation and living with physical disabilities.
I will support the creation of more dedicated bike lanes and municipal control of the MTA system. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, I took the subway everyday to work. It goes without saying that service had become unreliable and not on par with the quality of comparable cities such as Tokyo and London. Moving forward, subway delays can no longer regularly make us one-hour late to morning meetings.
What would Harlem be today without Little Burkina Faso? Without the Senegalese, Malian, Ivorian, Yemeni and Guinean communities? Without Dominicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans and so many more. These communities are crucial to Harlem’s Black cultural identity, in all the Diasporic diversity. We’re in a time that is normalizing misguided anti-immigration policy at the highest levels of American government and NYC leaders need to work overtime to demonstrate a model for recovery.
I will defend support for LGBTQIA individuals and support increased funding to the NYC Commission on Human Rights. My high school best friend contemplated suicide rather than come out as gay for fear of being disowned by our Black community. I’m a straight, cisgendered male and he was even afraid to tell me.