The 4th Council District is a wonderful place to call home, a set of communities rich in culture, history, and civic engagement. It’s southern limit is 14th Street and the oasis of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village – “A Park Runs Through It,” – where tenants have fought to protect the community’s affordability for generations. Moving northward, the 4th District also includes Waterside Plaza; Tudor City, where residents in 1986 stood in front of a bullzdozer to protect their community’s open space; Turtle Bay; Sutton Place; sections of Midtown, including the West 50s, where residents live at the heart of Manhattan’s business district; and the Upper East Side where I live that includes Carnegie Hill and a portion of Lenox Hill.
As your City Council Member, my first priority will be to make progress on the issues that are most important to you. These include affordability, in one of the most expensive areas of Manhattan, neighborhood quality of life, public transportation, and East Side schools.
I will also take on a series of citywide matters, many of which are important to East Side, and consistent with community needs. These include education policy, an area of deep professional expertise; protecting immigrant New Yorkers, also an area where I have professional experience; developing strategies to support senior citizen New Yorkers, and working root out political corruption in New York City, concentrating on transparency and lobbying.
I also pledge to run a highly responsive constituent services operation. I know that no level of elected office is meant to work more closely with you than the Council, and I promise your questions, concerns and requests will be handled with the utmost urgency.
And finally, I will stand up for New York City at every turn, whether the threat is from Albany or Washington, DC.
AFFORDABILITY, INCLUDING HOUSING
We live in an amazing city, but with the high cost of rent and tenants’ rights at risk, many families lack the stability needed to fully engage in their communities and invest in their future. We must make sure that housing is affordable. (Click here to watch a video of Vanessa in Stuyvesant Town talking about continuing the fight to keep New York affordable.) New York City must:
- Preserve current affordable housing stocks, including rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units, to the full extent provided by current law.
- Support the creation of additional affordable housing stocks by working with non-profit and other developers who will make affordable housing a priority.
- Repeal Urstadt. Work with our City’s representatives in State Government to repeal the Urstadt Law and restore New York City’s home rule.
QUALITY OF LIFE
We’ve got some major quality of life challenges in the 4th Council District. The Lexington Avenue Subway line is the most crowded in New York, and East Side Access will make it worse. The Second Avenue Subway is open – at long last – but many local businesses have not recovered. We rank dead-last among Council districts when it comes to park space per resident.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, RELIABILITY AND ACCESSIBILTY
When I was a teacher, one of my students used a wheelchair and spent three hours each day commuting from home to school because there are so few accessible schools near subway stations with elevators. (Click here to watch a video of Vanessa at the 86th Street subway station talking about the lack of elevator service on the MTA.) New York should not turn its back on people with disabilities, seniors with mobility issues, or parents with strollers. New York City must:
- Demand that the City's contribution to the MTA capital plan includes funds earmarked to update the more than 75% of subway stations that currently do not have elevators so they are accessible to everyone.
- Ensure the Metropolitan Transit Authority immediately lists elevator outages on their website and makes intercom announcements in stations.
- Follow through on the City Housing Authority’s 20-year old plan to make thousands of apartments fully wheelchair accessible.
- Prioritize the installation of pedestrian ramps and the maintenance and repair of the existing ramps. Install pedestrian countdown timers at dangerous intersections in the city.
As a former New York City public school teacher, I know our youngest New Yorkers are bright, energetic, and full of promise. Our education system should do everything it can to give all students the opportunities they deserve to reach their full potential. As Council Member, I will work to:Expand school enrichment programs, such as art, music, or coding, to increase engagement and cultivate critical skills.
- Support the Lunch4Learning program to provide free and healthy school lunch for all.
- Prioritize Special Education services for both students with special needs and gifted and talented students so that New York City is in compliance with federal law. (Click here to watch a video of Vanessa at MS167 talking about how the city is failing public school students who are eligible to receive special education services.)
- Extend the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline programs to include 6th– 12th grades.
- Increase training for educators in non-exclusionary discipline methods, such as through the Positive Learning Collaborative, to decrease suspensions that only leave at-risk students further behind.
- Increase Teacher's Choice funding, which reimburses teachers for a portion of what they spend out of pocket on classroom supplies.
- Make mayoral control permanent. There is widespread agreement that mayoral control is good for New York City’s schools. And yet every year or two, this policy is used for political leverage in Albany. The state legislature should make mayoral control permanent, with robust community engagement measures put in place. I believe the Mayor should be able to make long-term decisions when it comes to NYC schools. And it will be my job as Council Member to hold the Mayor accountable for those decisions.
By 2040, seniors will make up 1 in 5 people. The needs of this fast-growing population warrant robust initiatives to make sure that New Yorkers remain healthy, active, and engaged with their communities as they age.
- Involve older adults in the policy planning process about their own health and social services.
- Increase access to mental health services for isolated seniors by supporting tele-health video-counseling.
- Invest in job training, technology training, and placement for seniors through “age-smart employment” practices to value and retain older workers.
- Expand access, availability, and information about city parks and recreation resources for older adults.
- Strengthen and broaden systems to detect financial fraud and abuse.
As a diplomat, I learned firsthand the importance of a strong legal framework to protect immigrants. With the Trump Administration’s attack on immigrants, this matter is more urgent than it has been in generations. To protect our immigrant neighbors, New York City must:
- Put forth legislation that protects an immigrant’s right to an attorney to represent them in deportation proceedings.
- Maintain New York City’s status as a sanctuary city and encourage Corporation Counsel to use legal channels to challenge any attempts by the federal government to defund programs because of this status.
- Refuse to release records from NYPD, Department of Education, and IDNYC, and protect information related to a person’s immigration status.
ARTS AND CULTURE
New York City, and District 4 in particular, is home to many iconic cultural and historical institutions, as well as a hub for entertainment and nightlife. As a strong advocate for the arts, and after decades of working in the theater industry, I believe strongly that the creative work and livelihood of artists must be respected and protected. New York City must:
- Repeal the racist and homophobic Cabaret Law, which currently bans dancing at any food and beverage venue that doesn't have an expensive and difficult-to-obtain Cabaret License.
- Ensure the membership body of the newly-established Office of Nightlife is appointed fairly and represents a diverse group of industry professionals.
- Ensure artists, musicians, and actors receive fair pay for their work through the establishment of grant awards guidelines from the Office of Media and Entertainment.
- Protect casting directors' right to organize and demand the Broadway League recognize this right.
Women's rights are human rights and women's access to reproductive healthcare should be the rule, not the exception. (Click here to watch a video of Vanessa talking about important women's issues.)
- NYC students should have access to comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual health education so that they can make healthy decisions.
- All women in New York, regardless of income, race, or ethnicity, should have access to reproductive health care.
- Maternal mortality should not be dependent on zip code or race and ethnicity.