Column: Be wary of political candidates endorsed by Open NY

A Throggs Neck resident at a recent rally protesting the development proposal for the Foodtown site on Bruckner Boulevard.
Photo Adrian Childress

There has been much chatter about a relatively new organization called Open New York. They have some unacceptable opinions regarding housing. June 2021 was the first time they endorsed candidates and candidates from our community received their endorsement. In order to receive their endorsement you must agree 100% on every question they ask. No room for negotiation.

As I read through the questions, I was stunned at the racist ideas put forth. In our community we all work together. I thought of how our community has come together to defeat the Bruckner upzoning. I am so proud of how every community came out to help. We joined hands.

People from every background and from every economic level worked together for a common purpose. Even Democrats and Republicans joined to lend us their support. This is how it should be and we should scream from the mountaintops that here, it will never change. We must fight all efforts to pit us against one another. Remember, united we stand, divided we fall.

The following are the questions you must agree with 100% to receive an endorsement from Open New York:
-Do you believe the city must adopt less restrictive zoning in the wealthiest, whitest neighborhoods in order to facilitate residential integration?  If yes, how would you encourage this as a council member?
-Open NY has proposed a rezoning of SoHo and NoHo, which if enacted would produce nearly 700 deeply affordable homes in the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods in the city, along with 2,800 market rate rentals. The affordable units are critical towards any goals of creating an equitable city, and the market rate units would reduce the number of affluent households driving up rents in gentrifying neighborhoods. Do you support a mixed-income housing focused rezoning of SoHo and NoHo along the lines of what Open NY has proposed?
-Rezonings have historically been focused on working class, POC neighborhoods, offering those neighborhoods long overdue investments, which they should have received, as an incentive to accommodate the city’s growth. Meanwhile, wealthy neighborhoods have been allowed to refuse housing growth and maintain their amenities and receive a lion’s share of government investment and attention. Open NY believes this dynamic must change, with rezoning of SoHo and NoHo as a first step in the right direction, and intends to propose and support rezonings and other policy proposals that would change this dynamic. Would you join a caucus that both works to rezone wealthy neighborhoods (that have infrastructure and amenities) for higher density, mixed-income housing; invest in lower-income neighborhoods to fund deeply affordable housing and infrastructure improvements? Would you support legislation that would further these goals?
-One of the major impediments to creating affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods is member deference, a city council norm in which council members defer to the opinion of the local member, rather than voting by their own values on the rezoning in question. Would you vote for a rezoning that would create new mixed-income housing in a wealthy, high opportunity neighborhood over the objections of the local member?
-The saga of temporary shelter in the Lucerne Hotel — and other shelter hotels — has highlighted the ability of well-heeled New Yorkers to oppose the siting of the most needy in their neighborhoods. Would you support homeless shelters, temporary or permanent, being sited in your district regardless of neighbors objections?
-Would you support legislative changes that encourage the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units, both citywide and in your district?
-Would you support legislative changes that would bring basement apartments into legal regulation?
– Would you support legislative changes that encourage the conversion of hotels into permanent housing?
-Would you support ending parking minimums for new housing citywide?
-Do you pledge not to support a downzoning in your district?
-Would you support eliminating single-family zoning citywide? This means eliminating regulations that make it illegal to build even two or three family homes)

Well, there you have it. I want you to mull this ridiculousness over. Pick out the false statements. Meditate over how unhealthy these mandates would make our city.

Having this information, I hope you will ask every candidate if they have been endorsed by Open NY. If you agree that Open NY’s policies will hurt our city then please consider pulling your support from any candidate endorsed by them unless they rescind the endorsement they received.

We will be discussing some of these issues at our next meeting. Please join us on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church on Hollywood and Baisley avenues.

We have asked some candidates to join us so that you will be able to hear their platforms and in doing so cast an educated vote in November. We have also asked the new pastor of the First Lutheran Church, Dawn Morello, to join us.

We hope to see you at our next meeting.  Bring your neighbors with you.

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