On Tuesday, June 23, Queens voters will head to the polls to vote for the next Democratic nominee for borough president.
Following QNS’ virtual debate on June 11, voters posed questions to the five candidates – businessman Dao Yin, Councilman Donovan Richards, retired NYPD Sergeant Anthony Miranda, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
The candidates have responded your questions and we’ve published their answers below.
What sort of constituent outreach programs do you have planned as Queens borough president?
Dao Yin: Dao Yin will use the powers of the office of Queens borough president to the fullest extent possible. Queens is the most diverse county in the entire country. Dao Yin is a first-generation immigrant himself, and as a community activist in Queens for two decades, he has seen that many communities in Queens lack a voice. He will hold public hearings regularly and work to ensure that the voices of all communities are heard.
Donovan Richards: One of the main areas I hope to build out in the borough president’s office is an immigrant welcome center that will provide resources to new immigrants here in Queens. Assembly member Catalina Cruz has worked on this idea in the past and we’ve partnered on planning how to get it done. I would also like to increase outreach to our homeless so that we can find them permanent housing and employment.
Anthony Miranda: Explore opportunities to establish satellite field offices throughout the borough that create better access to services rendered through the office of the QBP. Revamp community boards and meeting processes. Real representative inclusion on each CB. Vet for conflicts of interests of those who serve on the boards. Standardize the process by which meetings are conducted so that they have three phases for community input: 1. At the beginning of each meeting 2. In the middle of each meeting 3. And at the end of the meeting.
Continue to use online digital and video conferencing methods to interact. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up new avenues of communication that afford more people the opportunity to participate in forums from the comfort and safety of their home.
Costa Constantinides: My first proposal in this campaign was to create a Department of Diversity and Outreach. The cornerstone of this proposal was to open satellite offices in key corners of the borough, with staff who speak the languages of the surrounding communities. We need to be in our neighborhoods, so we can empower them with city resources.
Elizabeth Crowley: Outreach programs for Queens residents is part of the very soul of the job of the Queens borough president. Regular residents want to feel and know they are part of our community. Marginalized residents may need extra help that only an accountable, democratic government can provide.
I want to reach out to our veterans. Nearly 59,000 veterans and their families call Queens home, more than any other borough. From economic struggles to mental health issues, many of these folks need services that others do not. I will propose a mobile constituent unit for veterans affairs in order to reach veterans across the borough, and I want to be in constant touch with veterans organizations to make sure they are getting the attention they need. I also want to address hate crimes — in Queens; there is no place for hate in our borough. My first act is to establish a task force that will proactively create open dialogues for our communities to work to stem the rise of racism and bigotry in our neighborhoods.
I will also create the Queens Health and Economic Council to bring together experts on planning and rebuilding our economy during and post-COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people throughout Queens have been thrown out of work due to the pandemic, and we need to make sure Queens is not only never again the epicenter of such a pandemic, we also need to bring our economy back on line.
What is your position on remote learning for children with special needs?
DY: Dao Yin is a parent himself, with two teenage children, Isabel and Derek. Dao Yin believes that the needs of each and every child are met, whether through remote or in-person learning, as appropriate under the circumstances.
Unfortunately, only 37 percent of our high school graduates are prepared for college. As the next borough president, Dao Yin will use his management skills to ensure that taxpayer money no longer goes to waste. He will also protect specialized schools and preserve the SHSAT. These schools allow low- and middle-income students throughout Queens to access high-quality education, and which they would not otherwise receive.
DR: Given the COVID-19 pandemic it is important that we keep our children safe through remote learning, and over the last few months I’ve helped my son through the remote learning process. But we also have to understand this method may not be effective in all cases. We should determine safe ways for children with special needs to receive instruction in person so that the social distancing we’ve implemented to stay safe does not negatively impact their education progress.
AM: Children with special needs should have the same access to education as all other children. Whether it is remote learning or proper accommodations in school buildings, we need to do everything we can to ensure children with special needs are not left behind in any conversations in moving the education system to the 21st century.
Remote learning has had both its challenges and its rewards. Remote learning can facilitate access and also provides extra support after hours. We need to support and explore those opportunities. We need to recognize that more is needed and look for alternative ways to fill the gaps.
CC: The COVID-19 crisis illustrates that we did not have a plan for remote learning, especially for special needs students. I think we first need to invest in District 75 schools, and build new ones where possible, and I can do that as borough president. Using my powers to advocate for special needs students in Queens students, I will push the Department of Education to develop and secure more resources for special needs students for when the next emergency or crisis shuts down our schools.
EC: Remote learning has put a terrible strain on families of children with special needs. Parents were forced to become educators, counselors, speech-therapists and physical therapists overnight, all while balancing their normal responsibilities as parents and providing for their families. There are thousands of Queens students who benefit from year-round special education services. It’s crucial to acknowledge that the shortcomings of remote learning affect special needs students more severely — many of whom have expressed immense difficulty with the loss of established routines, access to familiar social settings, and are at the greatest risk of regressing. In times like this, it is important to listen and honor the voices and concerns of the children and their parents. I plan to speak with parents and school boards to determine if and how to reopen schools for special needs children in a manner that is effective and safe. No student should have to fall behind in their schooling. Schools that reopen will have strict outlined measures in place, such as consistent and readily available testing and daily temperature checks.
How do you see ICE’s relationship with New York City?
DY: Dao Yin is a first-generation immigrant himself and knows how difficult it is to come to New York City and raise a family here. He will work to listen to everyone and unite leaders across Queens to keep our citizens safe. Dao Yin supports legitimate work of law enforcement while guarding the privacy of our residents and their ability to earn a living. Dao Yin also supports small businesses and the fact that they employ many of the immigrants that live and work in Queens.
DR: I believe that the NYPD should not be cooperating with ICE in our city. In 2018, as Chair of the Public Safety Committee I called out the NYPD in a hearing for their possible collaboration with the agency, and demanded they cease any should it exist.
AM: NYC is declared a Sanctuary City and we support this. To the extent that any immigration enforcement comes into our communities, we will stand with neighbors to keep them safe. We will not allow — and will stand against — any violation of the rules and regulations that allow immigration enforcement to enter our community spaces.
CC: ICE should leave NYC.
EC: Hate and xenophobia are ugly things and have no place in Queens, the world’s most diverse borough. Normal immigration policies regarding undocumented workers who commit crimes in America must be enforced, but we cannot allow ICE agents to harass ordinary people in our borough simply because an ICE agent thinks they can catch someone in America without the proper papers.
Do any of you support defunding the police or at least lowering their budget?
DY: Dao Yin is the only candidate in the race focusing on keeping all residents in Queens safe and standing up in support of our men and women in blue. He is firmly opposed to either defunding the police or lowering their budget. Instead, Dao Yin will increase the funding given to the NYPD and will collaborate with community leaders throughout Queens to promote trust and respect and ensure we can all live peacefully together.
Rather than focus on ill-conceived “reforms,” Dao Yin will focus on protecting the lives and property of our residents. He will not allow thieves, gangsters, and criminals to abuse our open, democratic society.
DR: I called for cuts to the NYPD’s budget in early May as we fought the COVID-19 pandemic and realized our budgeting shortfalls. I’ve also signed on to cutting one billion dollars from the budget so that we can focus on important social programs like Summer Youth Employment. We can decrease the budget and focus on other areas while still keeping our communities safe.
AM: Properly funding our social and community services support programs should be a priority. This funding will need to come from more than one institution. One major area for it to come from is existing government waste. The very elected officials who are running for office now have been complicit in the ways we have funded both the police department and the areas that suffer much government waste.
Having been Chief of Police for the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), I witnessed first hand the waste that is rampant and goes unchecked by our elected officials. For example, ACS has buildings that are barely staffed but are fully equipped with brand-new equipment. Not once did I witness an audit that fully disclosed the waste that went on in the agency.
Not too long ago, Blacks and Latinos had to sue to have an opportunity to become police officers. For the longest time we were pushed to other agencies such as transit or housing authority. Defunding the NYPD will limit the opportunities for our community to explore careers in the NYPD. This will negatively affect the opportunity to make the department more reflective of our diversity.
I have also been on the front lines to ensure our police department provides equitable service to all of our communities. What we need is accountability and transparency. Defunding doesn’t help our community achieve that goal.
It is important to understand how the NYPD budget ballooned to what it is now. The current NYPD is actually composed of five different agencies — four of which used to be separate departments and budgets that used to be run by minority leadership. The agencies were gutted, which subsequently disempowered the minority leadership. These agencies were comprised of:
■ NYC Transit Police
■ NYC Housing Authority Police Department
■ Elements of the City’s Department of Transportation
■ NYC Board of Education school safety agents
■ The NYPD Counter-Terrorism Bureau
Now we are looking at re-separating and creating mini-police institutions and systems with equal, if not greater, costs.
How did we get here? How did we end up with School Safety Officers as part of the police department? It was an effort to have the position seen as more professional. Children were in danger in schools. Parents and the community were looking for a layer of protection for the children from assaults, gang activity and shootings in our schools. This is what prompted the merger; the community and the families were the ones that demanded an extra layer of protection.
CC: We’ve spent more than 40 years using the police department as a Band-Aid for city problems as we stripped budgets away from the subways, schools and social services. I have said from the beginning of these demonstrations that I won’t support a budget that doesn’t reduce the NYPD significantly. But to be clear that money, hopefully up to $1 billion, should go into things like saving the Summer Youth Employment Program and building new community centers. We need counselors in schools — not cops. This militarization of our police force, which we use as a Swiss Army Knife, has to stop, so we can focus on community policing.
EC: Not defunding, all agencies have to cut in areas of waste, need to put more on community policing, etc. We are the midst of a serious budget crunch throughout our city, with the novel coronavirus wreaking havoc on our economy and government budgets at City Hall and in Albany. There ought to be no sacred cow in our budget spending — and, indeed, that includes the NYPD budget.
This is a topic because of police brutality that we have all seen happen nationally. The next Queens borough president will be involved in serious, long-overdue conversations about systemic racism and police reform. Black Lives Matter and we do need a justice system that recognizes this. We must implement policies that will emphasize community understanding and police de-escalation — and that’s only the beginning. But we must also find the people and the money to make sure that the police aren’t being called upon to do jobs they were never trained to do in the first place.
Will the candidates speak about their plans — with specificity – for increasing accessible and affordable housing in Queens?
DY: As the next Queens borough president, Dao Yin will appoint the right community board members and ensure that they are not bought and sold by the real estate industry.
Dao Yin will advocate for developing reasonably priced prefabricated buildings that will ensure real-estate developers can make a profit while charging reasonable rent prices. He will also eliminate all tax credits to luxury housing, which instead, should apply toward low- and middle-income housing.
DR: I know the difficulties in building affordable housing because I’ve brought thousands of new units to my district. It requires negotiations with developers to ensure that they are building truly affordable units and not ones that do little for those who need them. I’ll work with our communities and my colleagues in government to ensure that new developments take neighborhood AMI into account when building new housing so that we can effectively help those in need.
AM: A moratorium on all luxury development in Queens. Evaluate proposed projects based on the location they are looking to be built. Going forward, we need neighborhood specific impact studies that take into consideration affordability, feasibility, community needs, infrastructure and environmental effects. All projects will need to include in writing specific details of the size (i.e., studio/1BR/2BR/etc.), and cost of apartments or houses. How many units will be available and what criteria will be used to include people already in the neighborhood? When discussing “affordable,” the definition needs to expand to include criteria that applies to the current residents living in the immediate area at the time of the proposal.
CC: First, public land should be for public use. As I mentioned, I’m going to have the borough president’s land use team look at all public land in Queens to see where we can build true affordable housing. We’ve done that right here in my district, where we sadly have one of the highest waitlists for senior affordable housing. That’s why we identified an underused site on 31st Street, near Broadway, and secured the funds for a senior-appropriate affordable housing development that will yield up to 150 units. We need to take this approach borough-wide, using tools like community land trusts, to finally let the public decide what it should do with its own land — based on the needs of that community. I also plan to drive a hard bargain on private rezonings, like I did in the 2014 Astoria Cove rezoning. At the time it was the largest set-aside of affordable housing in city history, guaranteed that union labor would build it when construction begins, and secured investments in the nearby library and NYCHA senior center.
EC: Affordable housing is one of the issues that gets at the very heart of my campaign theme. The fact is, Queens has not received its fair share in relation to the other boroughs in the city. Name an issue, from transit to education to affordable housing, Queens has not received its fair share. Since the mayor’s Housing New York initiative program was launched, with the goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing, 121,919 units of affordable housing had been constructed or preserved by the end of 2019. However, only 9 percent of the units built were built in Queens. Under the previous mayor’s “New Housing Marketplace Plan,” of the 157,230 units of affordable housing created, only 11 percent of the affordable housing units were in Queens.
Queens needs a borough president who will fight for Queens’ fair share of funds like this.
What are your plans to combat the homelessness crisis?
DY: Dao Yin’s opponents have been members of the political establishment for years and have failed to address the chronic problem of homelessness in our city. Instead, Dao Yin’s opponents have treated the symptoms without addressing the root cause of the problem.
As a businessman, Dao Yin will bring creative leadership to Queens and ensure that we bring our economy back on track. Unfortunately, the political establishment has catered to special interests and failed to address the longstanding problems of homelessness in our city. Dao Yin’s plan to increase jobs and build more affordable housing will address this problem. Furthermore, Dao Yin continues to stand up against the City’s plans to build new homeless shelters in the wrong places.
DR: I’ll work to secure affordable housing, expand outreach, and work with other leaders on legislation to help homeless families. I also plan to expand the borough president’s housing division to provide better resources to deal with homelessness. You cannot just direct homeless people to shelters; you need to help them find employment and permanent housing, and I’ll do that through greater outreach and resources at Borough Hall.
AM: We have to ensure the availability of wrap-around services for families and individuals who are facing homelessness. We need to move away from warehousing our homeless in hotel rooms, toward actual residencies that families and individuals can move into. COVID-19 will be causing an increased crisis of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals and families becoming homeless. We must advocate for support programs and initiatives that create rent and mortgage payment freezes. Support programs that provide emergency relief to help people stay in their current homes, so long as the homes are safe and habitable.
CC: Along with my housing approach above, we need to take a holistic look at the what forces people to experience homelessness. Because sadly most of us are just one paycheck away from it. A bad bus route can lead to a lost job, so can the inability to access childcare. The city has failed to properly address mental health issues, and many of our veterans are sadly cast aside. That’s why I want to reform mass transit in Queens to create faster ways for people to get to and from work, close the opportunity gap with new investments in STEM curriculum, and bring 50,000 union green jobs to Queens over the next decade.
EC: The problem of homelessness is a result of an affordable-housing market crunch and not even in neighborhoods that used to be affordable can be considered affordable anymore. My biggest concerns with homelessness involve 1) the impact of the global pandemic on our vulnerable, homeless population; 2) the impact of NY public school closings citywide — again, the pandemic — on the homeless children who live in our borough; and 3) the impact of our recent dismal unemployment numbers on people struggling to make rent or pay their mortgage. I have already called for a temporary suspension on the collection of property taxes for struggling homeowners who have recently lost their jobs, but that is just one piece of this growing problem.
Clearly, with the pandemic and the economy creating the potential for a tragic explosion in the homeless population, we must do more, and we must do it better. I have put forward the QNS Plan for housing and transportation that would address our most pressing needs: affordable housing and transportation. By using smart development along our abandoned rail, we can create affordable housing and transit in areas that have been neglected. A major part of the homeless issue is our lack of affordable housing. I will also immediately start meeting with key players in government and the social service nonprofit sectors to determine the biggest issues in homelessness now, the most affected regions, and what resources we have at our disposal to do the most good. The next Queens borough president must be ready on Day One to be not just a leader but a crisis manager on some of the toughest issues people can face in a major city like New York.
What is your position on closing Rikers Island and building local prisons in various neighborhoods throughout the borough?
DY: Dao Yin is against closing Rikers Island and is opposed to building new jails in Queens. Not only would doing so be expensive, but also, closing Rikers would involve also placing jails in neighborhoods throughout the borough, thus disrupting the quality of life of the residents of Queens. New York City has allocated $8 to $9 billion for the proposed new jails. This money could be used for public health and other important priorities instead.
DR: I was proud to vote in favor of closing Rikers Island, which for decades has harmed thousands of New Yorkers. When building local jails we need to determine locations that do not negatively impact the surrounding communities. We must also be focusing on keeping nonviolent offenders out of our jails while investing in our communities and focusing on vocational training and education.
AM: The decision about closing Rikers was voted on and passed by our City Council. They voted that city jails will no longer be built nor stay on Rikers Island. We need to be looking for alternatives to incarceration and begin to fund programs that actually rehabilitate our prison population. Our current system breeds recidivism by never truly providing our incarcerated population with the proper tools to join mainstream society in productive ways.
We have to work toward preventing people from going into the criminal justice system. The system as it stands is being used to fund our city budget. They are generating billions of dollars on the backs of minority and poor communities. We need to move away from locking people up to finding ways to ameliorate our society. Folks should not feel as if they have little to no options and make decisions that result in them being thrown into the system.
For the few people that our society deems as threats, we have an existing state system that can be used. We should not be housing violent offenders here within the city.
CC: Rikers Island has been a stain on our city’s history and has needed to close for a long time. I was proud to vote for its closure last fall. We must now put our focus on creating a Renewable Rikers Island, which is how we start to get real justice for communities long marginalized by the criminal justice system. The same over-policed, under-invested communities brutalized by systemic racism live in the shadow of power plants, which were built there because surrounding communities were either black or brown. We have the ability to close those power plants and other dirty infrastructure in those communities by investing in renewable energy on a vacated Rikers Island.
EC: I played a key role in closing Rikers Island as I was the chairperson of the New York City Council committee that oversaw Rikers. Rikers had a lot of problems, from housing adolescents when it had no right to do so to using corrupt contractors that took advantage of inmates — Rikers had so many structural and human-rights problems that there was no way to salvage it. That said, I emphatically do not support the proposal that Rikers be replaced with “mega-jails” in all the boroughs throughout the city.
What are your priorities for public transit in the borough?
DY: The residents of Queens have the longest commutes in the entire city, and they bear the brunt of our crumbling transit system. To solve this issue, Dao Yin would increase the frequency of express buses from Queens to the city.
Furthermore, most of our subway lines are designed to get people to Manhattan. Instead, Dao Yin would work to connect Queens to Queens through light rail and additional bus lines. He will also fight to ensure that Queens gets its fair share of the budget from both the city and the state.
DR: We need to improve our bus system and come up with innovative ways to do so. For example, I’ve called for a busway in Jamaica, these are ideas that we must continue to cultivate. I also believe that bike shares are a smart, sustainable way to help people travel. Our pilot program in the Rockaways has been especially successful and I’d like to see more bike share programs expanded across the borough.
AM: I will create a position within the QBP office that will evaluate and create an overall plan for transportation services throughout Queens. We need a transportation plan that takes into account mainstream and alternative transportation methods. Any transportation plan needs to take into account potential environmental impact. We need to be building for longevity in our borough.
CC: Day One I’m pushing the city for more busways in Queens. These are proven to be a solution that yields almost immediate results for faster bus travel times, more reliable service and fewer incidents. But we must also take a holistic approach to our streets. We must make them safe for the cyclist and the pedestrian as they are for cars right now. We’ve done that in my district and I look forward to doing that for Queens.
And many Queens residents rely on the subway or LIRR, which rarely ever seem to run on time. I began the conversation around giving borough presidents a seat on the MTA board, something afforded to every county executive surrounding the city. Right now, there is no one there with the mandate to fight for Queens riders — to make sure things like the draft bus redesign actually reflects community needs. I was proud to see my colleagues in Albany introduce legislation after my call to make this a reality.
EC: I have put forward a “QNS Plan” to address the pressing issue of public transit in Queens, a plan that has already been thoroughly researched by the Department of Transportation. The problem is, Queen’s infrastructure fails to match its growing population and the needs of its people.
My QNS Plan will make use of existing railroads and freight lines to expand NYC transit services into areas of Queens that have long been neglected — a new, cost-effective train line stretching from Long Island City to 120th Street in Jamaica! The QNS would bring nine new transit stops to our borough. Repurposing these tracks will connect residents to new opportunities for work, schooling and affordable housing while advancing the Queen’s economy and reducing its carbon footprint. This plan would also reduce the congestion that has plagued our roads for decades. In the wake of COVID-19, we need a new train line so ridership on the 7, L, E, J, and Z trains can be alleviated as more people return to work.
I have also received the support of TWU Local 100, the union representing the city’s 43,000 transit workers. I am honored to have their endorsement and look forward to partnering with them to expand safe and efficient transportation to all our Queen’s residents.
What is your plan for bringing living wage jobs to Queens?
DY: As a community activist in Queens for two decades, Dao Yin has worked tirelessly to set up local and online-based businesses and bring jobs to his friends and neighbors in Queens. Dao Yin’s business experience has enabled him to balance budgets while improving the lives of his colleagues and still helping his businesses make a profit. Dao Yin will use his business and management skills to bring New York City back on track.
Dao Yin will increase jobs by working with large corporations which seek to invest in us. He will work to renegotiate better deals with Amazon and other corporations to bring jobs back to Queens.
DR: We have an amazing labor force here in Queens that every company should be attracted to. I’ll work to make sure that is recognized by employers so that we can attract them here to our borough. I’m proud of my work bringing Bartlett Dairy back here to Queens from New Jersey, along with 400 good paying, union jobs. I know what it takes to attract employers here, and I’ll work to continue bringing those jobs back here to Queens.
AM: Make sure that the Small Business Survival Act is passed. This will ensure that our small businesses have an opportunity to stabilize and grow so they can properly support local residents and employ local talent. We will actively seek public/private partnerships that will train individuals in Queens, so they can be employed and work in union jobs. Any efforts to work with larger corporations will need to have strict accountability on how said corporation will commit to paying living wages and support union efforts.
CC: The Climate Mobilization Act, which I led the passage of in the City Council last year, is expected to create 141,000 jobs over the next decade. There’s no reason a bulk of those shouldn’t go to Queens residents. These are crucial to my plans to create 50,000 union green jobs by 2030. They can be a long-term pathway to the middle class. We also plan to do that by investing in renewable energy, by solarizing every city building in Queens that can support panels. These are good jobs that last a career. And we can launch those careers by investing in Career and Technical Education at Queens high schools, so we can create a classroom-to-apprenticeship pipeline.
EC: As borough president, my first order of business would be to implement my proposed Queens Health and Economic Council to bring together top experts to rebuild our economy. Our community has suffered a deep economic hit in the past few months, so providing living wages for our residents is more important than ever. How can this borough get back on track in the most efficient way possible?
Another major, related order of business is simply to take stock of all of the potential and planned state and city budget cuts our borough may be facing given tightened tax-revenue streams: We are in triage, emergency mode now, and we must be realistic. What services might be cut? How will that affect us? If major social services are going to be cut, this hurts the working class even more. Queens must not get taken for a ride yet again by the other boroughs!
I have more union endorsements from working-class unions than any other candidate in this race. A former union member myself, I take seriously the fight for a living wage for all of our residents.
Even in a downturn like this, however, we must think creatively and pro-actively and not just defensively. My QNS mass-transit plan to expand on railways and connect our neighborhoods with the rest of Queens and beyond will protect and create thousands of transportation jobs and connect people to industries elsewhere, expanding their employment opportunities. It will also allow the much-needed opportunity for small businesses to develop in the surrounding neighborhoods. As a union member of District Council 9, I was an early advocate for better wages and benefits. I plan to continue this stance if elected president.
Manhattan and Brooklyn are seen as arts meccas, but as an artist myself, there are not enough resources or support in Queens. What are your stances on the arts and cultivating arts in Queens?
DY: The arts are an important part of the city and attract travelers all across the world to not only New York City but also to Queens. Dao Yin continues to support all forms of the arts and not only will support museums and other institutions in Queens but also will provide incentives to individual artists so as to ensure that Queens is a place where they wish to practice, perfect, and showcase their skills.
DR: There are amazing artists who call Queens home and our borough should recognize the talent that we have here. As borough president, I’d work with artist organizations like Queens Council on the Arts to increase programming and funding for artists across our borough. I’d also like to use Borough Hall as a place to display work by Queens artists and show the amazing work that they do.
AM: Research has shown that the arts promote an understanding and sharing of culture, in addition to promoting social skills that raises an awareness and respect for others. As Queens has been coined the most diverse place on the planet, we must capitalize on this and create our own mecca reflective of the diverse talent that currently exists. We will actively support arts endeavors as they benefit the communities in which we live. We will look to expand upon those efforts already here and are open to new ideas.
CC: Queens has been home to some of our country’s greatest artists. People flock from all over the world to visit P.S. 1. While we celebrate our existing arts by investing in and expanding our public institutions like the Queens Theatre, we must secure new performance spaces in our communities, which we badly need. Here in Astoria, I helped secure a new theater for western Queens’ Hellenic community as part of a recent rezoning.
EC: As someone whose passion for the arts influenced my education and early career moves, I share your desire to see the arts strengthened in Queens! Prior to being elected to office, I worked as a restorative painter for many of New York’s landmarks, such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall, and the Central Synagogue. I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact art can have on a person (myself) and a community (the patrons of the buildings I helped restore). First, we have to fight to keep the arts in our schools, at all levels. The borough should partner with private institutions to help find and nurture new artistic talent among our homegrown and immigrant populations. We have the resources, we have the pride, it’s just a matter of bringing everything together to bring more arts to the borough.
If you are elected Queens borough president, will you continue to support the work of the New York Community Airport Roundtable?
DY: La Guardia Airport and JFK Airport serve important roles in the day-to-day lives of the residents of Queens. Not only do they provide thousands of jobs, but they also are a hub for business and can be better utilized to bring additional high-paying jobs to Queens. Dao Yin supports the Roundtable’s efforts to makes sure that these airports continue to play a positive role in their communities.
Dao Yin also supports the proposed monorail to LaGuardia Airport. Not only is it a job creator, but also, he believes that Queens should be known as a center of excellence for residents, tourists and business travelers. He will work with community leaders, advocates and residents to improve our airports and hotels in a way that improves the lives of our citizens and attracts well-paying jobs to Queens from around the world.
DR: Yes, with two major airports in our district we need to make sure that the Port Authority is not taking actions that go against our communities. These roundtables give residents the opportunity to make their voices heard and we need to continue to have that open dialogue as we move forward.
AM: Yes. We must continue to havemeaningful dialogue between the airport administration and the residential communities. We need to work collaboratively with the airport management and Federal Aviation Administration in an effort to enhance and improve the quality of life of the local residents.
CC: Yes, my Council office is a proud member of the Roundtable and stays regularly active in its commitments to keep the skies over Queens as quiet as possible. As borough president, I’m going to continue to support this body’s work and guarantee we get real solutions from the FAA.
EC: Yes, because the New York Community Airport Roundtables were created as an effort to facilitate open conversations between the Queens communities surrounding JFK and LaGuardia. The roundtables are composed of the Port Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration, and, of course, representatives of surrounding communities. The purpose of these conversations is to find solutions that help reduce the noise impacts that the airports have on the communities near them.
Queens’ airports are crucial to our borough’s connection to the wider global community, but people who live in surrounding neighborhoods have rights and must have a say when changes to flight patterns negatively impact their way of life. I remain concerned that Queens residents face the brunt of airplane noise and will work closely with the activists and residents to promote quiet skies.
What will be your possible future plans for the Creedmoor Campus located in Glen Oaks?
DY: The Creedmoor Campus in Glen Oaks is valuable public land and must be used wisely for the public good. Queens faces a shortage of affordable housing, and thus, the Creedmoor Campus could be a good location for a mixed-used, and primarily residential, development and which includes park space open for all to enjoy. The property could also be used as a location for business and to bring back jobs to Queens.
Dao Yin is the only businessman in the race for Queens borough president is uniquely prepared to assume a leadership role to bring back jobs and more affordable housing to Queens. Dao Yin, if elected Queens Borough President, will use his business experience to negotiate with developers and businesses to find the best use for this property.
DR: The site presents us with a lot of opportunities and we should be looking at all available options such as new affordable housing, space for businesses, or as a healthcare center. But we need community involvement to determine what is best for that area as we move forward on discussions.
AM: Any future plans need to: Consider the needs of the community in terms of 1. Healthcare 2. Housing 3. Food access 4. Education 5. Transportation 6. Employment 7. Green space. Be consistent with the areas around it. Be evaluated based on infrastructure — existing or needed — that focuses on environmental and social impact.
I will work with the community to see what they would like to become of the space. We need affordable housing and we need healthcare. We also need green space. The community absolutely needs to be a part of the conversation.
CC: The borough president’s office should use its land use resources to look at the campus’ vacant land to leverage how it can be best used for the surrounding community. More healthcare space is one option we can explore. Another is using some of the land for renewable energy, so the surrounding middle-class co-ops have clean, affordable energy to power their homes. This is a great opportunity to rethink underused land for the benefit of the whole borough.
EC: The vacancies created by a diminished Creedmoor Campus has over the years been a source of a lot of tension within Glen Oaks. Past suggestions have been roundly rejected by the community because the developers who proposed ideas presented plans that were clearly out of character with the way that residents wanted their neighborhood to evolve. There are a lot of potential uses for that property — but before making any kinds of decisions I want to listen carefully to what the residents, the community board, and civic associations from the area have to say. Too often elected officials make decisions without adequate community input.
Millions of dollars have been spent on rain gardens, built after developers pave over grassy areas and create sewage issues. What would you do, as borough president, to fix this problem?
DY: Dao Yin cares deeply about our environment, and overdevelopment is a significant concern. This is why he believes in building more parks and open spaces for all residents of Queens to enjoy.
As the next Queens borough president, in reviewing land use applications, he will ensure that ample open space is allocated in any such applications. Furthermore, Dao Yin will require developers to use permeable surfaces to the extent possible so that water can percolate into the ground instead of overloading our aging sewer systems.
DR: I believe that if done right, rain gardens are an effective way to manage rainwater, but they must be done right. In Far Rockaway, they have been especially effective at improving drainage issues that have plagued our area for years. I believe that we should continue their use, but we have to evaluate their effectiveness in each neighborhood to determine their appropriateness.
AM: Prior to any new development we need environmental and infrastructure impact studies that take into account the effects on sewage and transportation. We need to know what sorts of strain will be placed on local resources. We need to ensure that all buildings are environmentally responsible. Bottomline, what we build today needs to take into account the impact it will have on the future.
CC: This is one of the cornerstones of our campaigns. First, we have to stop Big Real Estate’s grip on our borough before it creeps further into Queens. And when there are rezonings, we must make sure that investments go into the surrounding infrastructure and environment. That’s why I was against the Flushing Waterfront rezoning, which would have only worsened the surrounding area’s infrastructure as well as Flushing Creek. The borough president gets some $250 million of capital dollars over a four-year term, and I plan to invest that in environmental infrastructure like bioswales and sustainable playgrounds. A new playground we’re building here in Astoria, at P.S. 84, already has that infrastructure built in thanks to a partnership with the borough president’s office. When it’s done, the playground will absorb an estimated 650,000 gallons of stormwater every year.
EC: When considering approvals for any new development, we want to minimize the loss of grassy areas in Queens in the first place. We cannot pave over everything in the race to build; both the physical and mental health of Queens residents requires keeping Queens as green as possible. But rain gardens, or bioswales, are often placed not just by new properties but on sidewalks by older homes as well. They’re there to help relieve excess drainage for our aging infrastructure. The short answer is: Queens needs better infrastructure, including a better sewer system. But that costs billions we don’t have. I completely understand how, in the initial years of the program, rain gardens were built without any serious consideration for how the homeowners felt about getting one installed in front of their homes. A lot of homeowners complained that rain gardens were ugly, and they sometimes attracted litterers — the “gardens” became mini-landfills! But if we have to have these rain gardens, the city can do a lot more to help homeowners with options, such as providing better-looking ones, or ones that look like patches of lawn grass, or even ones hidden under permeable concrete.
FOR DAO YIN: Considering the public’s initial negative reaction to Amazon building their second HQ in LIC, how would you improve the deal to make it more beneficial for the communities in Queens?
DY: Dao Yin supports bringing jobs to Queens and will negotiate with Amazon and other corporations to attract well-paying jobs to Queens. The difficulty with the initial Amazon deal is that it lacked transparency and community input. Dao Yin believes that Queens has a lot to offer to businesses such as Amazon and that deals can be reached with businesses like Amazon to attract them to our borough without offering unnecessary incentives. As the only businessman in the race, Dao Yin is an experienced negotiator who will successfully attract businesses to Queens as the next borough president.
FOR DONOVAN RICHARDS: Donovan Richards, what specifically can you do to engage the community in large-scale development projects that often end up raising rental and home prices in the area?
DR: I’ve helped bring in thousands of units of truly affordable housing in my district, but it hasn’t been easy. We need to hold developers accountable and ensure that they are building affordable housing that benefits the community and not just market rate units that end up pushing long time residents out. As borough president I’ll listen to the community needs and ensure that new developments take those needs into account.
FOR ANTHONY MIRANDA: Anthony Miranda, how can you guarantee you are for police reform after being in the NYPD for so long — do you still have loyalty to them and how can you guarantee you are for the people?
AM: For over 30 years, I have been on the front lines fighting against police abuse. This is what fueled my passion to be politically active. I firmly believe that officers with abusive practices should be held accountable. My platform includes specific changes that I have advocated in the past — and will continue to advocate for — as QBP.
This question was posed specifically to me so I feel compelled to take the time to also answer the larger question here of my specific NYC and NYPD history.
Part of my struggle for most of my life has been to fight against discrimination, limiting labels, and pre-judgements that lead to mischaracterizations. The career of a police officer, when executed properly, is one of service and protection to the community they are sworn to serve.
While employed with the NYPD I joined forces with other officers of color to fight against discriminatory policies and practices. These policies and practices not onlyimpacted the officers of color, but their family, friends and communities as well.
So we are clear, African-Americans and Latinos had to sue for the right to even become police officers. We had to sue for the right to march in ethnic parades to represent our communities. We had to sue for the right to be promoted. We had to sue for the right to speak to the media about issues of public concern.
I, along with the National Latino Officers Association, filed one of the largest class action lawsuits of its time against the NYPD. THIS led to systemic changes in the police department.
We protested and stood with the families of Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Sean Bell and Eric Gardner (to name a few) when NONE of the electeds would. We were there when most others would not say anything let alone stand with them. We continue to stand with the families that have suffered the consequences of injustice.
I have led seminars, spoken at community events and protests, participated in the training of judges, educated people about their rights, and publicly exposed the discriminatory policies of the police department. On the other hand, I too recognize more is needed.
Because of the work I have been doing ALL ALONG and witnessing few if any electeds stand up and stay the course in the fight, I decided to run for office. I am running for QBP because politicians have failed to pass the laws and regulations that would protect us. I am glad some of them are joining us now, but they should have spoken up sooner in the four years, eight years, or for some of them a lifetime that they have been in office.
WE will continue to fight. We are not going to wait for one more person to become a victim before we do something.
FOR COSTA CONSTANTINIDES: Can you elaborate more on what a “green job” is and how it has been beneficial to the communities that have it?
A green job is typically in fields like renewable, geothermal or wind energy, as well as other environmental infrastructure. They are laying the foundation for infrastructure that does not pollute our planet, but instead makes it more sustainable. We see all over the country that this is where the new economy is heading. Our proposal for Rikers Island stands to create thousands of jobs in solar installation and other relevant fields, which I believe should go to the communities who need them most. These are good, middle-class jobs that pay a living wage so people can buy homes, raise a family, and retire with dignity.