The Bronx Times asked some of our local representatives to name one issue that will be a priority for them in 2015, and tell us how they plan to address it in the coming year.
Here’s what they said:
Senator Jeff Klein
“One key priority of mine is to create good paying jobs,” said Klein.
He will do that by continuing his Bronx HIRE program, which matches Bronxites, including veterans and victims of domestic violence, with employers.
He also plans to introduce a ‘New Deal for New York’ program to the legislature, which would create jobs through infrastructure improvements.
Senator Gustavo Rivera
“There are many issues that will be a priority for our community in 2015, but preserving and expanding rent-regulation laws will be critical for me and the residents I represent. The 33rd Senate District is home to more than 68,000 rent-regulated units, making it one of the areas with the highest concentration of rent-regulated apartments in New York City.
If we do not renew and expand these laws, the Bronxites that rent these apartments will be in danger of being priced out of their homes, further exasperating our housing crisis. I have been working with fellow elected officials and advocacy organizations to fight against policies in the legislature, like vacancy decontrol, that put our affordable housing stock at risk.”
Assemblyman Mike Benedetto
“My number one priority in the 2015 year will be to help make the lives of our military veterans better here in New York State. Those that have served and put their lives on the line for our country must be treated well upon their return to civilian life.
The main bill that I am working on would create ‘Veteran Villages’ (which would be established in unused and refurbished state buildings and use economic development funds to support their development and operation) to help recently discharged military personnel to rejoin society and deal with many of the problems that they face, such as, job training and interview skills, mental health issues and homelessness.”
Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj
“My main issue is economic growth and job recreation. It is the single most important necessity for a family to survive.
I plan to address this issue by helping to create a better environment for economic growth by working with small businesses to create an environment that would allow them to flourish and bring growth that will lead to hiring local residents.”
Assemblyman Luis SepÃºlveda
“Looking forward to the 2015 legislative session I hope to make progress in reforming our criminal justice system as well as increasing funding for education in New York.
I will continue to work on passing a number of bills with my colleagues in Albany to strengthen relationships between communities and members of the police department. I will also work on ensuring a sufficient amount is allocated to education during budget negotiations.”
Councilman James Vacca
“In 2015, I want to focus on getting middle class New Yorkers more tax relief. Given that the city is experiencing a budget surplus and real estate assessments are expected to rise, there is an opportunity to help the bottom-line of families across the five boroughs, especially in the Bronx.
We can seize the opportunity to help homeowners and renters by first developing legislation to bring back the $400 property tax rebate that had been in place in previous years.
Secondly, I will advocate for an increase in the qualifying income for the Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption and the Disability Rent Increase Exemption programs, so that these important abatements can be made available to more households.”
Councilman Ritchie Torres
“Creating and preserving affordable housing will be a top priority in 2015. Affordable, livable housing is a crucial component to creating a safe, healthy, and vibrant city.
“But we’re facing a housing crisis: public housing, the most effective homelessness prevention program we have, is in disrepair due to years of disinvestment at every level of government; the city’s affordable housing stock is dwindling; and residents across the city struggle to hold negligent landlords accountable.
“This year, I will fight hard for reinvestment in public housing, I will advocate for stronger housing code enforcement policies, and I will support the rights of tenants to organize for better, more livable housing conditions.”
Councilman Andy King
“Community engagement is one of my top priorities in 2015. It’s important for families and organizations to become actively involved in decisions that affect our communities.
“Taking the community empowerment approach, based on a 12-point plan which I will discuss on January 25 at my State of the District Address, community development values will be put into action by involving residents in my district in the issues that affect their lives based on education, housing, employment, citizenship, affection, respect and brotherly and sisterly love. Let’s unite our community. And remember, ‘People pay attention to people who participate.’”