BY THE VILLAGE SUN | In early June, The Village Sun published several responses to a Q&A with Councilmember Carlina Rivera and challenger Allie Ryan, who are running against each other in the June 27 Democratic primary election for Council District 2, which stretches from the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side, through the East Village and Gramercy and up to Kips Bay and over to Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. You can find their responses in this article.
The two candidates initially both answered five questions. We gave them an additional batch of questions, for a total of 21. Ryan responded to all of these additional ones, but Rivera has yet to do so. We’ll publish Rivera’s responses if she sends them.
Here are Ryan’s answers:
The Village Sun: Is enough being done about the water situation at Jacob Riis Houses? Residents are still complaining about “bubbly water” and “bacteria in the water,” “brown water,” chemicals in the water, etc. If more should be done, then what exactly?
Allie Ryan: This is an emergency. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation found that the subsurface soil is contaminated and needs to be remediated. In fact, it was built on top of a 19th-century gas-processing plant. Who wants to run the water for 10 minutes before it is safe to drink or take a shower? Why wasn’t this fixed six years ago when my opponent became the councilmember?
Immediately residents should be offered alternative housing transfers in other nearby New York City Housing Authority housing developments. Free healthcare should be provided to residents who are experiencing health problems due to the contamination. Residents should be advised to remove their shoes before going into their homes. NYCHA should be legally required to disclose that there are water problems and subsurface soil contamination remediation to incoming tenants before they sign a lease.
Sun: East River Park from Fourth Street to Houston Sreet is due to be demolished in the fall for phase two of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project. If the area down to Montgomery Street isn’t opened back up by then, won’t this be a violation of the negotiated agreement that 42 percent of the park should remain open at any time during the construction? What should be done?
A.R.: Obviously, this violates the spirit and letter of the agreement. Mayor de Blasio and my opponent signed off on this and need to be held accountable. Now is the time to vote for a change. Let’s see if there is small print in the contract, so that we can see if the deadline can be enforced. I would take the monetary fines and penalties (if any?) and spend it throughout the district to get our parks ready for heavy use this summer!
Sun: Carlina supported the Soho/Noho rezoning. Do you feel the program is playing out well so far?
A.R.: The Soho/Noho and Seaport rezonings were a disgraceful act by the lame-duck Mayor de Blasio and my opponent against her own constituents. Little to almost no affordable housing will be built due to developer loopholes. The draconian “conversion fees” and fines that my opponent advocated and voted for were only a ruse to confiscate the homes of artists and families who made Soho and Noho into a thriving neighborhood and deliver them to the hands of Carlina’s and de Blasio’s real estate sponsors.
If not for the advocacy of the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho, an immediate veto from Mayor Adams and the staunch support of Councilmember Chris Marte, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Brian Kavanagh, thousands of elderly residents would be facing immediate displacement due to my opponent’s reckless acts.
I fully support the community lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Fairness in Soho and Noho and another filed by the Seaport Coalition, which fights the most hurtful parts of the rezoning.
Sun: What is your position on congestion pricing?
A.R.: Congestion pricing may help reduce pollution, improve street safety and help fund the transit system for much of Manhattan, but it has turned into a negative experience for those of us who live and breathe around the F.D.R Drive, because as a “free” zone, it will become a magnet for more traffic. One size does not fit all. There should be “carve-outs” for local residents. Why hasn’t my opponent fought for her constituents?
Sun: Do you support closing Rikers Island jail and building new borough-based jails, including one at the current site of The Tombs (the Manhattan Detention Complex)? Why or why not? If there is a better plan, then what is it?
A.R.: Yes, I do support closing Rikers Island jail, but I do not support building new borough-based jails. Residents in Queens and Lower Manhattan have filed lawsuits against the city to stop jails from being built in their neighborhoods. Someone excluded Staten Island from the borough-based jails plan. Mayor Adams needs to make personnel changes to reform the Department of Corrections. If Corrections is unable to clean up its act, the federal watchdog should take over Rikers. The four-borough jails plan will cost billions of dollars without addressing the societal problems that lead to criminal behavior, and it hasn’t even been designed to accommodate the number of inmates now housed in Rikers.
Sun: Should police and the Manhattan district attorney be doing more enforcement against shoplifting?
A.R.: Shoplifting is a symptom of larger issues, such as poverty, homelessness or substance-abuse disorders. Addressing these root causes through social services or community support programs might have a more long-term, beneficial impact. On the other hand my concern for our small businesses might support more enforcement for safety and security. It’s complicated because, while my neighbors and I worry about overpolicing and prefer a focus on community-led initiatives or restorative-justice practices, it is also clear to me that the open market for stolen goods available for sale on E. 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A needs to be shut down. Doesn’t my career politician opponent have any common sense?<
Sun: Do you oppose further New York University expansion in the Downtown area? Why or why not?
A.R.: Yes, I oppose N.Y.U. expansion in the Downtown area. Let them expand their campuses in Abu Dhabi or Shanghai instead. My neighbors are fighting to save the Morton Williams supermarket, which was part of the “N.Y.U. 2031” core plan. I join Community Board 2 in demanding that N.Y.U. allocate space at 181 Mercer St. (the Paulson Center) or a nearby location to the Morton Williams supermarket as part of its original commitment to the City Planning Commission and the community. Why didn’t my career political opponent and her mentor, former Councilmember Margaret Chin, work out a compromise with the School Construction Authority and N.Y.U. before this became a threat to our seniors, who really on Morton Williams for their needs?
Sun: Council District 2 includes two school districts. In recent years, a lot of students have been leaving the system. How do we bring students back into the public schools?
A.R.: The simple answer is that New York City’s cost of living is driving families out of the city.
My longer answer addresses students’ learning needs to help them recover from the pandemic. I support the Community Education Council for School District 2 (C.E.C. 2) Resolution No. 225, Resolution Prioritizing Student Academic Recovery in NYC Public Schools.
More federal funds need to be allocated to academic recovery.
The city’s Department of Education also needs to expand academic recovery initiatives, including remediation, acceleration and tutoring.
D.O.E. has to address the soaring chronic absenteeism (40 percent now and 27 percent pre-COVID) and bad behavior in schools. Combined, they create a school culture that does value not learning.
Sun: Do you support City Council Intro 31-B, which would make Open Restaurants permanent? What about the concerns of local Downtown residents who are fed up with the outdoor dining program?
A.R.: I will not support Intro 31-B unless it truly addresses the concerns of local residents — not the restaurant industry. Below 14th Street has the largest concentration of roadway restaurant shacks in the entire city. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution. A roadway restaurant shack in Queens in a commercial strip is nothing like the rows of side-to-side roadway dining shacks outside apartment bedroom windows in Greenwich Village.
Noise pollution, rat infestations, an increase in mosquitoes, difficulty walking down the sidewalk, difficulty bicycling in a bike lane, people partying in empty restaurant sheds in the wee hours of the morning, blight, obstructed street cleaning are all real, legitimate side effects of roadway dining shacks. Intro 31-B enables seasonal movable planters and tables and chairs to be set up and stored in the roadway. This seasonal setup continues the above problems and adds an element of danger for diners on the avenues. Plus, these seasonal elements can be stored in the roadway, which will continue to prevent the streets from being cleaned.
Sun: Is enough being done to control the rat population?
A.R.: No. Our new “rat czar” clearly states that, “Rats are a symptom of systemic issues, including sanitation, health, housing and economic justice… . New York may be famous for the Pizza Rat, but rats, and the conditions that help them thrive, will no longer be tolerated — no more dirty curbs, unmanaged spaces or brazen burrowing.” I would add that roadway dining has only exasperated this problem in my district. Streets need to resume being cleaned on a daily basis.
Sun: Is Council District 2 doing enough to help address the migrant crisis?
A.R.: In a dramatic turn of events, New York City’s Department of Homeless Services is ordering layoffs and cutbacks as part of City Hall-ordered budget cuts. The cuts are coming despite Mayor Adams repeatedly declaring that the city’s social safety net has been pushed to the breaking point by a surge of migrant arrivals and the ever-worsening housing shortage in the five boroughs.
I am aware that the old St. Brigid’s School is being used as a respite center to temporarily house 350 male and female migrants. Migrants must go to the Dry Dock Pool to shower. The old Police Academy gym in Gramercy has also been designated a respite center to temporarily accommodate 500 individuals (families with children). Stacie Joy of EVGrieve has shared that many local residents have donated items to add comfort to the asylum seekers.
In January 2022, NYCHA had 486 units deemed vacant and available for move-in, according to data provided by the authority. This month, that number is 3,593 — a 640 percent increase. Nearly 1,000 other units have been taken off the list of apartments considered rentable because they need such significant repairs.
The vacancy crisis, according to NYCHA, tenant lawyers and city officials, is caused by a range of factors, from more stringent rules for clearing apartments of lead and asbestos abatement, to dwindling staff resources and inefficient management. The result, critics say, is that families, senior residents and people in homeless shelters wait sometimes for upward of years to transfer to new homes. We can, and we must do better. Vote for a change.
Sun: Should there be a rent freeze — or even a rollback — for rent-regulated apartments?
A.R.: Yes, there should be a rent freeze on rent-regulated apartments.
Sun: What should be done about illegal smoke shops, if anything, including those selling weed but unlicensed to do so? Is the current level of enforcement against them effective?
A.R.: My answer is an emphatic No. “For nearly two years, we’ve seen a proliferation of storefronts across Manhattan selling unlicensed, unregulated and untaxed cannabis products. It’s time for the operation of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries to end,” District Attorney Bragg said. “Just as we don’t allow endless unlicensed bars and liquor stores to open on every corner, we cannot allow that for cannabis. It’s not safe to sell products that aren’t properly inspected and regulated for dosage, purity and contaminants. And it certainly isn’t fair to competing businesses. Advocates fought hard to put racial equity at the center of New York’s cannabis legalization regime. We want to give New York’s legal cannabis market a fair chance to thrive and give New Yorkers the security of knowing that a safe, orderly system is in place for cannabis dispensaries. Together, we can level the playing field for New York’s legal cannabis market and deliver on the promise of equity and fairness that legalization advocates fought so long and hard for.”
Sun: Do you support commercial rent control or the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA)? Which one is the better program and why?
A.R.: My opponent has hidden from small business owners the fact that she is a prime sponsor of the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act (commonly called “Intro 93”), a landlord-friendly bill that creates a Rent Guidelines Board for commercial rents, and which raises rents. Perpetually raising already-high rents (never lowering rents) will force the majority of small businesses to shutter when their lease expires. If this bill were to pass, it would maintain the status quo, with no rights to owners when their lease expired — no right to renew their lease nor negotiate any terms. This bill would force business owners to continue to pay the landlord’s property taxes. Landlords would continue the legal practice of issuing a 30-day notice of eviction when leases expire.
My opponent has the power to amend this bill to include the five best features of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill that she helped kill. These five critical features are:
1. The right to renew a 10-year lease
2. The right to equally negotiate fair lease terms that allow a small business to make a reasonable profit
3. An end to paying the landlord’s property taxes
4. A reduction of rents back to reasonable levels from the time before big banks and chains inflated the rents
5. And end of the 30-day eviction notice
If my opponent cannot add these amendments, then she should remove herself as a prime sponsor of Intro 93 (the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act).
Sun: Is enough funding being allocated for public libraries, which are really local community centers for all ages, from small kids to seniors?
A.R.: The NY Public Library needs additional funding because its branches are being used as neighborhood community centers for all ages. Currently, the NY Public Library is asking to restore a $36.2 million budget cut and we need a city councilmember who agrees with that.
Sun: You and your opponent both have had children later in life than many women, though of course this is a trend in recent decades. Has this changed your perspective on any issues, if at all?
A.R.: Yes. Having children has led me to use the local libraries and the local playgrounds. They have made me aware of how important the need is for public restrooms, as well as for privacy areas to nurse while out and about. As they get older, I have learned firsthand of the challenges facing our schools.