By Sam Bojarski | Sam@haitiantimes.com
Over the winter months, Haiti’s constitutional crisis has blanketed the airwaves on Radio Soleil, the radio station popular with the Haitian diaspora in New York City. But Ricot Dupuy, the station’s manager, said that will change over the spring as the city’s June 22 primary elections approach, given the importance of the mayoral race to the Haitian community.
“The policy priorities established by the mayor have a tremendous and immediate impact upon their lives, they will want to participate,” Dupuy said, of Haitian-American voters. “I would want to hear what the candidates have to say about their stance on non-citizens voting in New York elections.”
New York City’s mayoral race features more than 20 candidates. In the weeks leading up to the June primary, The Haitian Times will publish profiles of the leading candidates, along with coverage of the issues at stake for the community. For Haitian New Yorkers, these issues include recovering from the deadly coronavirus pandemic after many of them felt a toll exacerbated by crowded living conditions and a lack of affordable housing.
This year’s mayoral candidates have articulated plans to address these issues, reform law enforcement and ensure integration of the city’s immigrant communities, as top priorities to address. Some have said expanding some of Mayor Bill deBlasio’s initiatives, like the 2015 IDNYC program that gave all city residents access to an identification card, can help immigrants.
For the undocumented in particular, having identification can diminish their fear when dealing with police, Dupuy said. During the next administration, Dupuy said he hopes more institutions, including banks, start accepting the IDNYC card.
Compared to previous mayoral administrations, de Blasio has opened a larger share of new affordable housing to extremely low-income renters ‒ or those earning less than 30% of the area median income. That’s according to The New School research university.
But it hasn’t been enough to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis. More than 29% of all renters and 78% of extremely low income renters spend more than half their income on housing, according to a 2020 study by The New School.
“You have not only social issues but you also have economic issues [in] our community,” said Dr. Pierre Exuma, a physician and entrepreneur in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood.
“Especially here in Brooklyn, one of the most recent [isses] is housing,” Exuma also said. “There is very little that is done in terms of supporting the community.”
Holding Creole-language town halls, Exuma said, could help the next mayoral administration improve communication with the Haitian community, on issues ranging from affordable housing to law enforcement.
Exuma said there is much room for improvement, when it comes to the mayor’s communication with the Haitian community.
“We [would] know what the community needs from us and what we need from the community,” Exuma said, on the importance of strong communication. “We could find the right balance, in order to be part of the community, to be more integrated.”
The leading candidates
One early public opinion poll, conducted March 4-6 by PIX11, NewsNation and Emerson College, showed former Democratic presidential contender and entrepreneur Andrew Yang in the lead as the first choice for 32% of people surveyed. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (19%), former counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley (9%), city Comptroller Scott Stringer (6%) and former sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia (5%) trailed Yang. No other candidate received more than 5% approval.
While he wasn’t a leading candidate in the PIX11 poll, former banking executive Ray McGuire, is among the leading fundraisers, raising over $5 million for his campaign thus far. McGuire also finished first in a recent poll by Crain’s Business. With his business acumen, McGuire has touted himself as the candidate who can handle New York City’s post-pandemic budget, also pushing for job creation and wage subsidies at small businesses.
While other candidates cannot be discounted, The Haitian Times took a look at the proposals from this year’s frontrunners, in the early stages of the race:
Andrew Yang, entrepreneur
Public health and COVID recovery: One of Yang’s signature proposals is to invest in New Yorkers left behind during the pandemic, with an annual basic income of $2,000 for 500,000 low-income city residents. He has also pledged, via his website, to ensure that members of New York City’s hardest-hit communities have a vaccination site within walking distance.
Affordable housing: Yang has proposed turning hotels and unused office buildings into affordable apartments, by providing grants to building owners who agree to these conversions. On his website, he said City Hall can prioritize the acquisition of land via community land trusts, allowing neighborhoods to have more control over development plans.
Immigrants and integration: On his campaign website, Yang has pledged to expand and grow the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which provides legal representation in immigration proceedings. He will also push for real-time language translation, through an NYC App, for those accessing city services.
Law enforcement: A Yang administration would name a civilian NYPD commissioner. Yang has also called for the use of technology and data to prevent and deter violent crime.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president
Public health and COVID recovery: On his website, Adams has proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $5 million per year, to fund testing and vaccination programs. He has also published a plan to provide universal broadband access, allowing more New Yorkers to access telehealth services and making remote learning easier.
Affordable housing: As opposed to adding apartments in lower-income areas, Adams has advocated for building affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods and allowing lower-income New Yorkers to move in. This would be done by eliminating the community preference rule that gives community board residents first dibs on half of all new government-subsidized units.
Immigrants and integration: Adams supports allowing all immigrants with work authorization to vote in city elections. To serve non-English speaking students, he has pledged to create a professional development program to ensure public school educators are culturally responsive.
Law enforcement: Adams has proposed expanding NYPD recruitment efforts in minority neighborhoods. He will also seek to outsource administrative and clerical tasks to less expensive civilian workers, and invest the savings in crime reduction initiatives.
Maya Wiley, attorney and activist
Public health and COVID recovery: Wiley’s Universal Community Care model would divert $300 million from law enforcement, toward an annual stipend that supplements the wages of primary caregivers. She supports a universal health insurance mandate for all residents. She has also proposed a massive $10 billion capital spending program for job creation, stimulating the post-COVID economy.
Affordable housing: To expand the affordable housing stock, Wiley has suggested utilizing properties vacated during the pandemic. She supports housing development by nonprofits, including community land trusts. Her anti-eviction plan also includes $251 million in federal stimulus dollars for rent relief to small landlords, which could keep tenants in their homes.
Immigrants and integration: Wiley has proposed that all city services and information be provided in an applicant’s native language. She also supports the right of all city residents to vote, regardless of immigration status.
Law enforcement: A former chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) under de Blasio, Wiley supports diverting money from the $6 billion police budget, into a participatory justice fund that could offer job training and gun violence prevention resources.
Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller
Public health and COVID recovery: Stringer will push for a comprehensive vaccination program in every neighborhood, to ensure racial equity. He has also pledged to expand emergency stockpiles of heath care equipment and prioritize construction of primary care facilities in underserved neighborhoods.
Affordable housing: Stringer’s “universal affordable housing” program would replace de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) which only applies to development in rezoned areas. Stringer’s plan would set aside 25% of units in most new developments for affordable housing, capping rents so those making an average of 60% of area median income (AMI) would pay less than 30% of their income on rent. Sixty percent of AMI comes out to $58,000 for a family of three.
Immigrants and integration: Stringer backs universal legal services for immigrants in the city and seeks to expand existing language-access efforts at city agencies. He also supports allowing all city residents, regardless of status, to vote.
Law enforcement: Expanding the CCRB and eliminating police commissioner review of complaints is a key part of Stringer’s law enforcement plans. He has also called for a stronger auditing of NYPD data and surveillance, as well as barring officers guilty of major offenses from serving in the police force.
Kathryn Garcia, former New York City sanitation commissioner
Public health and COVID recovery: To vaccinate New Yorkers, Garcia has proposed opening vaccine sites at every Department of Education building. Activating these plans would depend on how well the rollout goes throughout the rest of 2021. Drawing on her experience as de Blasio’s emergency food czar last year, Garcia has also proposed developing the infrastructure to provide nutritious meals in underserved neighborhoods.
Affordable housing: Investing in the creation of 50,000 “deeply affordable” units, available to those making less than 50% AMI, is a key piece of Garcia’s platform. She has also stressed comprehensive rezoning for affordable housing, focusing on neighborhoods with a multitude of transit and job options.
Immigrants and integration: Garcia has voiced support for making New York a sanctuary city, shielding immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. She has also stressed the need for more investment in English-language programs for bilingual students.
Law enforcement: Garcia’s police reform plans involve revamping training to focus on conflict mediation and implicit bias education. She also supports using mental health and domestic violence professionals to help officers respond to certain 9-1-1 calls.