OTBKB Asks: 5 Questions for Bill de Blasio

July 3, 2013

by Matthew A. Taub

Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate for NYC Mayor, sat down with Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’s Matthew A. Taub for a few questions.

Bill de Blasio is currently New York City Public Advocate. A graduate of NYU, he also studied at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His first political job was in David Dinkin’s administration. He then moved on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, working as Regional Director under then-Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo. In 2000, Di Blasio managed Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. From 2002-2008, he served as New York City Council member for the 39th district, which includes Park Slope, Sunset Park, Boro Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Red Hook, and Kensington. That seat is now held by Brad Lander.

MAT: With Christine Quinn in Chelsea, Anthony Weiner having moved to Gramercy Park and Bill Thompson de-camping to Harlem several years ago, you’re one of the few remaining “outer-borough” democratic mayoral contenders in this race. How does your history and commitment to the borough impact and influence you?

DE BLASIO: The idea that every kind of person can make a life for themselves and their family is supposed to define New York. But over the past 12 years of Bloomberg, we have seen New York become a tale of two cities. We’re living in a reality where the focus of the city’s resources and development has turned disproportionally to lower Manhattan. My experiences in Brooklyn as a resident, a City Council Member and Public Advocate have shaped my vision for what kind of mayor this city needs. As mayor, I’ll spend every waking moment fighting to bring opportunity to every New Yorker, whether that be through expanded affordable housing, police reform, or an economic strategy that brings jobs to all five boroughs.

MAT: How does your position on the City Council’s recent modifications to the stop-and-frisk program differ from your fellow candidates, and how, if at all, has your family, influenced this position?

DE BLASIO:  The overuse of stop and frisk is putting our officers, our children, and our neighborhoods at risk.

I am the only candidate who believes we need an independent Inspector General and a strong racial-profiling bill. I encourage the City Council to stand strong against Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to subvert the democratic process and intimidate people into changing their vote. Weak-kneed reactions to the Mayor’s mistakes will only guarantee the next four years are like the last 12.

 As Mayor, what plans do you have to hold developers to a commitment to affordable housing? To what extent are you hampered by actions like this in the legislature in Albany, and in what ways can you (and the city) still prevail?

DE BLASIO: I have a detailed, comprehensive plan to create or preserve nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. We must end giveaways for big developers and enact mandatory inclusionary zoning, so that when neighborhoods are rezoned, which tremendously increases property values, developers are required to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income families in return. These efforts should create 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade.

Another example in my plan is to encourage development on vacant properties by eliminating a tax loophole that incentivizes real estate speculators to leave lots vacant. By applying the same tax rate to big, vacant lots that we do to commercial properties, we would spur a wave of affordable housing construction and create more tax revenue to fund the creation of 4,000 new affordable housing units.

As far as Albany is concerned, we need to take control locally of rent stabilization laws, which help keep rent under control for millions of New Yorkers.

MAT: In contrast to the breaks begot by developers, you claim small businesses are feeling the squeeze. How are small businesses targeted, fined, and harassed in ways that make it difficult for them to conduct operations, and what reforms do you propose?

DE BLASIO: As Public Advocate, I issued two reports documenting, for the first time, the incredible burden on small businesses from the rapid rise in fines. After suing the city to obtain never-before seen data, I discovered that, starting in 2010, City Hall implemented an unannounced revenue-driven enforcement campaign, which has led to a dramatic increase in inspections and nuisance fines on small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs, to plug gaps in the city’s budget.

I’ve proposed a five-point plan for small business fine enforcement, based on public safety and not the need to pad the city’s budget. First, we need to eliminate outdated and abused regulations using a Regulatory Review Panel that includes small business owners. We also need to increase small business owner’s understanding of these rules, so the first time they learn about them, isn’t when they get fined. We also need to create a tiered classification system for fines, so that business owners aren’t punished unnecessarily harshly, and enable business owners to contest violations online, or by phone or mail, so they don’t have to take time off of work. And, finally, to ensure this abuse doesn’t happen again, we need to require each City agency to report the amount of revenue raised through fines, and we need to create a group of Red Tape Cutters, whose responsibility it is to track trends in the City’s enforcement of business regulations and collect input on ways government can help businesses add jobs.

MAT: Rather than hiding or concealing your motives, your campaign is quite candid in asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a bit more in taxes to support certain programs. What are the additional programs you propose, and what is your message to wealthy New Yorkers as to why they should be willing to accept such an increase?

DE BLASIO: The logic is pretty simple actually: as one city, we rise and fall together. While nearly 400,000 millionaires call New York home, almost half of our neighbors live at or near the poverty line. Our middle class isn’t just shrinking; it’s in danger of vanishing altogether. This income inequality affects everyone through rises in incidents of crimes, a decrease in affordable services, and quality public schools. Addressing the crisis of income inequality isn’t a small task. And if we are to thrive as a city, we’re going to need the help of every citizen. That’s why I’ve asked the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a little more in taxes so we can fund universal pre-kindergarten and after-school for New York’s children. This is essential for our city’s future.

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