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It’s time for a UBI for New Yorkers

BY ALETA LaFARGUE | In under two years, the policy of UBI (universal basic income) has gone from a fringe idea to one of the most popular solutions to weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. And for good reason: Seventy percent of New Yorkers lost employment income, and employment in Manhattan plunged by almost 20 percent.

Despite the desire of some ideologues to fully reopen the economy, the fact of the matter is many jobs cannot be performed safely now, a reality that may continue into 2022. Even then, many people will only be able to return to work if others have sufficient disposable income to demand enough goods and services.

Unfortunately, many New Yorkers cannot and should not be expected to work, and will have to hunker down for the foreseeable future. In order to endure this economic tumult, they will need cash assistance to put food on the table and pay their bills during the pandemic. A UBI of at least $1,000 per household will help keep New Yorkers’ lives stable in a time of profound economic uncertainty.  If it proves successful, we should then extend UBI beyond the lockdown.

I know some of you may be rolling your eyes at the prospect of a new “entitlement,” but a UBI provides the massive potential to help alleviate poverty in New York City.  Everyone is paid the same, across socioeconomic status, race and gender, providing a path to equality. It will also help afford people a cushion for the future, when many jobs may become obsolete due to automation.  Lower-income New Yorkers will not have to work themselves to the bone just to make ends meet.

Make no mistake, $1,000 is not very much money in our city, which is why most will spend it on essentials like food, rent and healthcare, immediately reinserting capital into our economy, and later, revenues into our city’s depleted coffers. If anything, most New Yorkers will quickly realize how little this amount of money can actually pay for, ultimately providing motivation to work even harder!

Moreover, a direct cash transfer is one of the most cost-efficient methods to provide relief and help combat poverty. We will save money that would go toward massive bureaucratic analysis to determine who is “worthy” of aid. People can determine for themselves whether they need, say, money for food versus rent versus utilities. The cost can also be offset by spending less on specific existing programs.

Yes, I am aware that we cannot just print money at will, and funding for UBI will have to come from somewhere.  That is why I propose funding UBI with a pied-à-terre tax, which would raise property taxes on residences in the city that are not people’s primary homes. This is a very fair tax, since only those who can afford a second home in our city will incur the expense. If someone is economically able to have a New York City apartment as their second (or third or fourth) home, then they can manage to pay more in taxes. Besides, widespread parking of these often empty units inflates real-estate prices and rents for the rest of us, while the absentee owners are contributing little to our local economy.

Granted, this plan will not come easy. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that, like so many decisions in our city, the road to passing a pied-à-terre tax runs through Albany.  However, the Democratic majorities in both chambers, combined with changing political winds nationwide, make today perhaps the most opportune time yet to enact UBI.

This pandemic has been one of the most devastating experiences too many of us have ever faced. Yet, with great challenge comes great opportunity. We have an extraordinary occasion upon which to ensure all New Yorkers can meet their basic needs not just now, but for many years to come.

As your councilwoman, I will do everything in my power to make that happen.

LaFargue is a candidate for City Council District 3 (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen) and president of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association.

9 Comments

  1. savenycjobs savenycjobs January 31, 2021

    It is remarkable that candidates claiming to be concerned about the dire state of families facing lost income never offer a solution to stop the closing of small businesses and save jobs. Why doesn’t she realize every small business in her district was in jeopardy of closing years prior to the virus and jobs were being lost every month? Where was the concern then? Where was the call to action walking by empty stores on every block? Is it only during an election year or virus crisis that candidates become concerned? You can support giving every worker $2K a week but if they have no job to go back to, they have no future. Is there no candidate with enough awareness and compassion to demand a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the only real lifeline to save our businesses?

    • Sam Winn Sam Winn February 1, 2021

      First, she’s not in office. This is her first year running for City Council. So that argument should be taken up with the councilman currently in office, Corey Johnson, as well as his chief of staff, Erik Bottcher, who is also running. This problem has long haunted our district and we must hold them accountable – not make baseless.

      • Sam Winn Sam Winn February 1, 2021

        …baseless claims about people running to actually help our small businesses.

    • Aleta LaFargue Aleta LaFargue February 1, 2021

      One of the many reasons I entered this race was to support the small businesses I saw suffering needlessly because of greed and because of the failure to pass the Small Businesses Survival Act. My father owns two restaurants in the district which have closed their doors due to covid regulations along with 41% of other black-owned restaurants. He’s 78 years old and after a lifetime as a bartender, came together with a few friends and opened a place of their own 15 years ago. How wonderful that after living hand to mouth our whole lives, he might be able to live the end of his with some dignity. But unfortunately now he is living off Social Security and with and no other steady income, he is unable to move from his 4-flight walk-up. Having several health issues affecting his ability to walk or navigate stairs, he is stuck. So to answer your question, I’ve been here the whole time and I entered this race for exactly the reasons you state. I’m sorry I didn’t have the power to help more before, but hopefully you’ll give me the chance to in June.

  2. Fred G. Fred G. February 1, 2021

    Perhaps Ms. LaFargue can explain why she’s part of the racist group Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Action Committee that — with the help of Corey Johnson and Erik Bottcher – moved homeless from the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood into other neighborhoods. They moved the homeless from the Washington-Jefferson Hotel on West 51st Street to the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side, where a similar racist group from the UWS tried to push the homeless to yet another shelter in Murray Hill and, later, to the Financial District.

    Much of this was covered in the press. That Johnson/Bottcher moved these homeless is a matter of record, and LaFargue is on the organizing committee that made it all happen. https://www.nycfornyc.com/about

    Last I heard they were still trying to move the homeless from a hotel shelter on 10th Ave.

    And before that they were pushing — allegedly with Erik Bottcher’s help — to have the homeless use a back entrance to a hotel shelter on West 42nd Street — because the main entrance was next to a restaurant run by Dominick Costa, one of LaFargue’s partners with the HKNAC. This is similar to the “poor doors” seen in 421(a) or 80/20 buildings; those who had the “affordable” subsidized units were required to use a back door instead of a building’s more pompous main entrance. So-called progressive politicians beat their chests protesting this practice. Now, some are insisting the homeless go back to the separate entrances. Is this any different from Jim Crow?

    LaFargue’s group has the same attitude as the UWS group … they don’t like having to look at people without homes, those who might not be well-dressed, or whose manners may not fit in with polite society.

    How can LaFargue argue for Universal Basic Income if she and her group won’t allow the most destitute among us to have just a little dignity?

    • Bryan McElroy Bryan McElroy February 1, 2021

      Racist? Are you aware that she’s black? Did you also consider that assuming all homeless people are black or brown may in and of itself be racist?

    • Bill Walker Bill Walker February 1, 2021

      So not wanting your children to see people all over the neighborhood masturbating and shooting up is somehow racist? I also wasn’t aware all homeless people were people of color.

      Just maybe regular, hard-working people are concerned with safety. Even if we were to wrongly assume they were all people of color, just maybe throwing a bunch of them into hotels with no mental health or drug services is the racist thing to do. You folks never have lasting solutions, do you? You just comment all day.

      That said, treating people like cattle is a bad solution, just as letting people defecate and urinate all over the street with impunity is as well. Wake up.

  3. Marisa Redanty Marisa Redanty February 4, 2021

    Dear Sir

    My name is Marisa Redanty (District Leader of AD 75 Part B Hell’s Kitchen) and I am a co-founder of The Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood ACTION Committee. We are not the same organization as the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Coalition, which is the group to which you refer. Regrettably, in the comment, you link nycfornyc.com, which is part of HKNAC (A-for Action). We were formed in June of 2020. The HKNC was formed sometime in August.

    We have no involvement with the HKNC, though I know many of the members and Ms. LaFargue is a member of both organizations. Please, if possible, remove the link from your comment and replace it with the correct reference.

    To remind: The HKNAC (Action Committee) was responsible for the incredibly successful HK Takeout Challenge, which awarded grants to small struggling restaurants in HK and gave prizes to those residents who listed the most takeout orders/purchases from small businesses in HK. Over 950 people participated.

    Thanks so much.

    Marisa Redanty

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