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Adriano Espaillat's Responses to our Issue Questionnaire
State Senate - Dist. 31 - Uptown & west side of Manhattan
2014 DFNYC State Candidate Questionnaire
1. Money in NY Politics / Fair Elections (McCutcheon v. FEC)
This year, Albany gave us a budget that failed to reform the role of big money in New York politics. The sky-high campaign contribution limits weren't lowered, disclosure of outside special interest spending wasn't strengthened, and public campaign financing was limited to the 2014 comptroller race. Responsibility for administering the public financing "pilot" falls to the state Board of Elections, which is regarded as dysfunctional, ineffective and underfunded.
a. Would you support a change to full public financing of campaigns, similar to the Clean Money Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Connecticut and Maine?
Yes. I have been an outspoken advocate for campaign finance reform that includes a matching funds system and eliminates the “multiple LLC” loophole that has empowered the real estate industry at tenants’ and the general public’s expense.
b. What is your opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision of McCutcheon v. FEC and its potential impact on NY campaigns?
The McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission verdict is a major setback for reducing the influence of money in politics; I strongly support measures to undo this perversion of the democratic system.
2. Tenant Protection & Cost of Housing / Home Rule (Rent Issue) / Real Estate Development
Do you support rent stabilization and rent control laws? What will you do to crack down on landlords that break the law? Do you support a repeal vacancy decontrol and, more generally, a repeal of the Urstadt Law, so that New York City – and not Albany – can enact its own housing laws?
The 31st Senate District has more rent-stabilized units than any other district in New York City – I am proud to have the endorsement of Tenants PAC and committed safeguarding and expanding the emergency tenant protection act that has ensured affordable more than 2 million New Yorkers. I proudly support the repeal of both vacancy decontrol and the Urstadt Law; after it was revealed that 421-a tax breaks had been awarded to luxury developments targeted towards billionaires, I was the first elected official to call for their repeal.
Select news clips from my record on housing issues:
Espaillat Led the Charge for Repealing Tax Breaks Given to Luxury Housing for Billionaires. “A group of state lawmakers wants to undo legislation passed this year that singled out five luxury housing developments in Manhattan for property tax breaks. “Espaillat and Brad Hoylman, along with 10 other pols, sent Gov. Cuomo a letter Wednesday asking him to help repeal the controversial provision. Writing, “It is critical that we correct this outrageous symbol of waste and special interest privilege.” One of the five projects is One57, a 90-story luxury tower on W. 57th St. that reportedly sold two penthouses for $90 million each. [Daily News, 07/24/2013]
Espaillat Named “Democratic Pointman” to Renew Rent Laws in 2011. “Uptown state Sen. Adriano Espaillat is technically a freshman, but he has become the Democratic pointman in Albany's tug-of-war over rent regulations. The regs, which shelter more than 1 million apartments in the city from full market-rate rents, expire June 14…On the strength of his prior 14 years in the Assembly, Espaillat was tapped as the ranking minority Democrat on the Senate Housing Committee. And he's chief sponsor of the same tenant-friendly omnibus rent regulations bill passed three days ago by the Democratic Assembly.” [Daily News, 04/14/2011]
Espaillat Intervened on Behalf of Tenants Facing Unfair Rent Hikes. “State investigators are probing an uptown real estate mogul for hiking tenants’ rent — by double digits rates — sparking a fierce housing battle in Washington Heights. Residents reported their woes to state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights), who then contacted the state agency. ‘I’m excited that the state housing agency will be taking action in the near future,’ said Espaillat, who noted that 19 families were affected by the rent hike.” [NY Daily News, 1/15/14]
Espaillat Stood Up for Foreign-Born Tenants Facing Harassment and Intimidation. “A battle cry to mobilize uptown tenants against a disgusting rat problem has ignited a potential court fight to protect foreign-born residents from what they say are bullying tactics on the part of the landlord. Espaillat and Councilman Mark Levine fired off letters Monday to the state Tenant Protection Unit and federal Department of Housing and Urban Development asking the agencies to probe the allegations. “We cannot allow this discrimination to be tolerated,” the officials said. [Daily News,04/29/2014]
3. Universal Pre-K & After-School
Generally, we at DFNYC are pleased that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to come together and compromise on a bill for universal pre-kindergarten. While it calls for $300 million in funding for universal pre-K programs the final budget, many of us feel that the funding stream is not sustainable and the budget was unfair to many towns outside of New York City. Would you support state legislation allowing Mayor de Blasio to change the funding stream by raising marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents of the City in order to ensure the long-term viability of the programs?
Yes, I strongly supported legislation creating a permanent UPK revenue stream by taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers, and will continue to do so. The $300 million we were able to secure this year was an incredible victory, but we must ensure this funding continues, and also allocate the companion afterschool funding the Mayor called.
4. Teacher Evaluation
New York elected officials--through laws, regulations, and negotiation of union contracts-- have sought to enact meaningful evaluation of public school teachers. What is your opinion of using the following factors in evaluation of public school teachers?
a) Improvement in student test scores
b) Professional observations by other teachers
c) Student surveys
d) Whether the teacher has an advanced degree
e) Classroom observations of the teacher by principals or other education professionals
f) Principals’ unannounced observations of teachers.
I have strong reservations over the use of test scores for assessment purposes that do not take into account student composition, including English Language Learners, and student requiring Individual Learning Plans. Doing so encourages schools to game the system, and focus on securing preferred students instead of ensuring all students’ needs are addressed.
In particular, I have continually cited the disproportionally small enrollment ELLs in New York City charter schools as a problem that must be addressed; have stated that until this enrollment gap is closed, their effectiveness cannot be fairly measured.
I support a variety of assessment methods – but I strongly value peer assessment, and the evaluations performed by professional educators. I am proud to have the support of the United Federation of Teachers in this campaign, and I will continue to work with them to fight for appropriate assessment standards that do not penalize teachers for taking on the challenge of providing an urban education in difficult circumstances.
5. Mayoral Control of NYC Schools
Albany granted former Mayor Bloomberg's request for mayoral control of the schools in 2002. In 2009, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature voted to renew mayoral control until June 30th of 2015 (less than a year from now). The 2009 changes included requiring the DOE to keep parents better informed of what is happening in the schools, as well as more transparency in approval of large contracts. Mayor Bill de Blasio is the first NYC mayor to have mayoral control after Bloomberg and has indicated he will have a Department of Education that is different in many ways than Mayor Bloomberg.
When mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal next June, it seems likely that it will be renewed, but with significant changes.
a. Do you favor:
• Letting mayoral control expire and going back to a pre-2002 system,
• Renewing mayoral control as is,
• Changing to a hybrid system, where power would be shared by the mayor and a school board, or
• Renewing it, but with significant changes to the current system.
I am committed to using the Mayoral Control reauthorization process to increase parental and community stakeholder power. This includes expanding the role of district CEC and individual School Leadership Teams, particularly on portfolio planning and zoning issues where parents have struggled to obtain accurate growth projections from DOE.
6. Implementation of Common Core Standards.
The NYS Board of Regents recently gave New York public schools five more years to fully implement tougher academic standards known as the Common Core. Supporters have argued that the new high standards – which are internationally benchmarked – will ensure that students in the South Bronx will have the same expectations as students on the Upper East Side, and that all students in New York and across the country are college and career ready at age 18. Critics, however – which include a growing movement of principals, teachers and parents that are on the front lines of education every day - point to problems such as a huge amount of disorganization in the implementation in NY (lack of materials and training), concerns about teaching to the test, and the arbitrariness of using Common Core-based test scores to measure student, school and teacher performance.
a. Do you favor continued support of Common Core standards in New York?
b. Do you support the Common Core curriculum that has been developed in New York?
c. What will you do – or have you done – to assist parents, teachers, and others in the education community that have raised concerns about Common Core?
Common Core’s implementation has been disastrous on many fronts: from poor-quality Spanish language materials, to inadequate community outreach and explanation, to the insufficient training that was provided to teachers and educators. I have supported a moratorium on the use of Common Core assessments unlike our community is satisfied it has been given proper resources for this transition. I have specifically raised the quality of non-English language materials issue with SED.
More broadly, I was a staunch supporter of the successful push to reign in the rising and excessive amount of standardized testing that New York kids are subjected to, which interrupts classroom learning, by banning testing in grades kindergarten through second grade.
7. Taxes: City Wage Tax, FTT and general principles.
New York City’s budget depends in large part on the city wage tax, which is only paid by residents, not everyone who works in NYC.
8. Minimum Wage / Living Wage
New York State's recent minimum wage increased to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the old state rate. It's the first of three incremental boosts that were approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo . The minimum for most workers will increase at the end of 2014 to $8.75 an hour and to $9 an hour a year after that. The minimums for workers in the restaurant industry who get tips may remain $5 an hour, with employers able to raise the maximum tip credits to $3 an hour the first year, $3.75 the second and $4 after that. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and legislative leaders quickly shot down a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to let New York City set its own minimum wage. Advocates for New York’s working poor were disappointed, saying the minimum wage should be $15 an hour and include workers who get tips. We at DFNYC feel no one should ever endure the kind of economic humiliation that comes with working a full-time job and making a less-than-living wage. Do you support State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s bill to raise the minimum wage for many low-paid workers, calling for a $15-an-hour “fair wage” for employees of McDonald’s and Walmart and other businesses with yearly sales of $50 million or more?
Yes. I have been a leader within the Democratic Conference in the fight for minimum wage, and was the first to introduce legislation permitting New York City to set its own minimum wage. It is essential that this be indexed to inflation, so its purchasing power does not erode over time.
9. Real Estate Development / Reform of Scaffold Law.
a. We live in a city where livability is a major issue for the vast majority of its residents. There has been a major upswing in development of late, particularly in areas such as Brooklyn and now the Bronx. Residents are constantly getting displaced despite pledges to protect them from such treatment. For example, Bruce Ratner did not live up to his promise to provide affordable housing and aid to residents and small businesses displaced by the Barclay’s Center. What would you propose to ensure that big businesses and developers are able to achieve success at the hands of the rest of New Yorkers?
I support the push towards an 80/20 development model; closing a variety of loopholes that developers have used to shirk their responsibilities. This year, I proposed an Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) reform plan to shift public subsidies away from big box stores and developments like East River Plaza (in East Harlem, a Bruce Ratner project) towards local small businesses and employers paying good wages and benefits.
I opposed the West Side Stadium project in Manhattan. In contrast, my opponent strongly supported it when he was in the City Council.
b. Much has been made of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to build or restore 200,000 additional units of affordable housing in New York City. However, another issue that has not received nearly enough attention has been the lack of sustainability in New York City. What would you propose to ensure more green buildings are built and greater energy efficiency is met in existing structures?
A critical way to achieve energy efficiency is through transit-oriented development, to ensure that development occurs near public transportation; and expanding transit options in areas within rising population density. I support a concentrated push for this across the state. I have also pushed to maintain and expand weatherization subsidies, particularly for low-income households and neighborhoods.
c. Another issue in New York City is a lack of sunlight caused by the amount of tall buildings.
Would you support changes to zoning laws for thinner, smaller, greener structures being built?
Existing laws regulating “sliver buildings” prevent blighted conditions that existed throughout New York’s history and blocked low-income homes from sufficient light exposure. The limitations against conditions like this are sensible.
d. What is your opinion of NY Labor Law 240, otherwise known as the Scaffold Law? Contractors, property owners and insurers argue that the law is antiquated and prejudicial against contractors and property owners, and essentially absolves employees of responsibility for their own accidents, leading to huge settlements. The payouts, they contend, have in turn led to skyrocketing insurance premiums that are hampering construction and the state’s economic growth. But a counter-lobby of unions, workers’ advocates and trial lawyers argue that the law is essential to ensuring the safety of workers in some of the world’s most dangerous jobs, particularly those employed by shoddy contracting firms that cut corners to save money. The law, they say, holds developers and contractors accountable for keeping job sites safe.
I do not support amending the Scaffold Law; viable support for this issue does not currently exist within the legislature.
10. Albany Corruption
Albany has been the center of corruption scandals in recent years, during which more than a dozen New York assemblymen and senators have been charged with corruption or convicted. What measures, in your opinion, are necessary to ensure that Albany’s culture of corruption does not continue?
Enacting sweeping campaign finance reform is a critical step for eliminating corruption reducing the influence of special interests in Albany. I have also supported making the NYS Legislature a full time job, as I interpret it to be, to eliminate conflicts of interest.
11. Legalization of Marijuana.
Do you support passing legislation allowing the use of marijuana in New York State for medicinal purposes? Recreational? Both?
I have supported and voted for medical marijuana legislation this year; I continue to support marijuana decriminalization.
12. Police Militarization
Eric Garner, a 40-year old African American man from Staten Island died suspiciously while in N.Y.P.D. custody. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Entire mosques in New York and New Jersey were labelled as "terrorist" organizations by an N.Y.P.D. special surveillance unit, as reported by the AP in the fall of 2013. (Mayor de Blasio shut down that unit in April.)
a. What strategies have you taken, or would you take, to deal with the problems of racism and increased militarization of local police?
I have been a persistent critic of counterproductive policing tactics primarily used under the previous mayoral administration, that violated civil liberties, including stop and frisk and the unrestricted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities. I started my career as a NYPD Precinct Community Council Chair, and I have consistently forged working partnerships between Upper Manhattan communities and the NYPD, through effective collaboration on local issues and sought consensus whenever possible.
b. Would you be in favor of using the budget process to ensure that police are peace keepers, as opposed to a quasi-military force (i.e. by limiting local, state and federal budget appropriations for additional weapons)?
Yes. Our Police Department must be given all the resources it needs to be successful, and ensure the well being of its officers. But this does not require the use decommissioned military equipment; I would support using the legislative and budget process to codify this protection.
13. Vision Zero
Are you in agreement with the Mayor that the state legislature should allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction?
Yes, and I began sponsoring legislation in 2013 to grant New York City permanent home rule over speed and red light camera governance, so the city does not need state approval for basic lifesaving measures.
I was an early supporter of Vision Zero, and have been endorsed by StreetsPAC in this campaign.
Are you in agreement with the three elements at the center of the Mayor de Blasio’s plan - reducing the citywide speed limit and increasing the number of cameras to catch drivers who speed or ignore red lights?
Yes, I have been a co-sponsor these initiatives, including the 2013 bill creating the speed camera pilot program, and this year’s successful push to reduce the city speed limit.
The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has been exploring initiatives to help further the Mayor’s goal of zero pedestrian deaths, such as installing black box recording devices to record driver behavior in TLC-licensed vehicles, forming an enforcement squad with speed guns to enforce speed limits, installing new technology in cabs that could limit vehicle speeds, warn of an impending crash, sound an alarm if the driver speeds and even reduce the fare or shut the meter if the driver is traveling too fast. However, as studies have shown, the crash rate as a result of taxis and livery cabs is actually lower than those of other vehicles. What do you think is most necessary to ensure vehicle safety on the roads and highways?
I support an “all hands on deck” approach to reducing the disproportionately high rates of traffic violence in Upper Manhattan and the West Side. I have proposed and supported slow zones, pedestrian plazas, street redesigns, speed cameras. And I believe that new regulations require enforcement to be successful; ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
14. Lightening Round:
Please provide a yes or no answer to the following questions. If you can’t provide a simple yes or no, please provide a brief explanation. (25 words total – all 4 questions.)
These are the responses from Adriano Espaillat, incumbent State Senator in the 31st District. To read the responses of his opponent, former City Councilmember Robert Jackson, click here.