By Tamim Alhourani
About 40 New Yorkers have joined the race to succeed Mayor Bill De Blasio in the upcoming mayoral elections. Candidates range from total newcomers to long-serving politicians and councilmembers. As we approach the June 22 primaries, it is imperative that we assess the viability of each candidate’s mayoral bid not solely based on past political experience or party affiliation, but also on the city’s current social and economic needs. Which candidate is most likely to address the most pressing issues of the city?
Annually, New York City produces over 14 million tons of waste. This comes as no surprise. New York is not only the biggest city in America, but it’s also America’s densest, which causes it to rely on a complex network of waste management processes that is comprised of both private and public institutions. In fact, it is widely recognized as the world’s most wasteful city. Thus, efforts at combating climate change on a federal level – or even globally – can only prove successful if the country’s biggest megalopolises ramp up their own local waste reduction schemes.
Multiple candidates have vowed to prioritize mitigating the impact of climate change in New York by reducing waste. Shaun Donovan, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and director of the Office of Management and Budget under the Obama administration, pledged that his administration would have “laser focus on achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century” should he get elected. Kathryn Garcia, sanitation commissioner under De Blasio, is also focused on “making New York City a green oasis”. She’s proposed unique yet overdue solutions to basic environmental issues, with the most notable being her stance on electronic waste. Garcia is a fierce supporter of implementing a curbside electronic waste disposal program, which would expand New Yorkers’ access to safe electronic disposal locations following the 2015 ban on discarding electronics in the trash. In addition, Garcia is looking to combat the pandemic-backed decline in recycling by expanding composting in the city, possibly by making it mandatory for all residents – an idea that’s been floating around for some time among city councilmembers.
Unlike Donovan, Garcia’s climate change-prioritizing agenda is coupled with past accreditations in pollution alleviation efforts. For instance, she is behind major reforms to the city’s sanitation system, including the long awaited commercial waste zoning program, which is set to put an end to the “chaotic” nature of the inefficient private waste-carting industry, and ultimately boost sanitation. She even led the city’s widely successful attempts at waning child exposure to lead paint. At the very least, Garcia’s conservationist background places her alliance with the environmentalist community on a more solid footing.
Although it’s been a growing issue for decades now, New York’s housing affordability crisis especially came to light in recent months due to the pandemic. Mayoral candidate and city comptroller, Scott Stringer, is arguably the most determined on fixing the housing crisis. “No more unaffordable affordable housing,” said Stringer at his campaign launch. Announcing his housing plan, Stringer was determined to set himself apart from De Blasio, who is yet to bear fruit on his attempts at making housing in the city more affordable. Stringer has been a steadfast advocate for a “fundamental shift in the city’s approach” to the housing crisis, as current laws incentivize landlords to keep some units vacant, limiting supply and driving the price up. The candidate seems to be eyeing up-zoning as a method to attain his goals of desegregating the housing system, where larger buildings are built in wealthier neighborhoods, paving the way for fairer and more affordable housing. However, specific details regarding the Stringer housing plan remain unclear.
NYPD – Community Relations
Over the course of 2020, various events throughout the country involving law enforcement and its role in racial discrimination have come to strain the NYPD’s relationship with city residents. Taking into account rising crime rates, safety concerns are now at an all-time high. Therefore, many candidates have centered their attention on law enforcement reform. Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams boasts a dynamic resume and is known for his play on former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s “Drill, baby, drill” line: “Build, baby, build”. In fact, Adams spent 22 years at the NYPD and is the cofounder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a group dedicated to combating police brutality from within the force. Therefore, it is safe to say that Adams is already on top of this issue.
Similar to Adams, Senior vice-president of social justice, Maya Wiley, is a keen advocate for law enforcement reform. Wiley is the former chair of the Civilian Complaint Review board, where claims of misconduct against NYPD officers are investigated and addressed. She is also a former civil rights attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and is heavily aware of the consequences of the lack of both reform and community reconciliation. Curbed New York even referred to combating systemic racism and police brutality as Wiley’s “bread and butter”.
While the city has progressed immensely over the last 50 years, there is room for more strides to be made, particularly when it comes to climate change, housing, and law enforcement. This isn’t to say that the above mentioned issues are the city’s only pressing problems. There is room for improvement in other aspects as well. To match that, there are also other viable individuals committed to serving New Yorkers running for this year’s election, including former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and vice chair of Citigroup Ray McGuire. Ultimately, New York City’s next mayor has to bring real change. What that change actually means might just boil down to the candidate that the city elects.