Two weeks ago, the Bronx News Network asked candidates in 33rd District senate race to answer, in writing, a number of questions which we hope will shed light on where they stand politically, their position on key issues in the community, and what they would do if elected.
In the coming days we're going to post their unedited answers on this blog, a few at a time. Part 1 was published Tuesday. We published Part 2 Wednesday and Part 3 Thursday. Today, we are focusing on housing and crime issues. On Monday, we will center the debate on hot button social issues and on what legislative issues the candidates would prioritize if elected.
There are four candidates in the race - Pedro Espada, Jr. (the incumbent), Daniel Padernacht, Gustavo Rivera, and Fernando Tirado - which is turning into one of the most watched in the city. Padernacht, Rivera, and Tirado got back to us with answers, but Espada didn't. In an e-mail, a staffer of his wrote: "Thank you for the survey, however we will not be participating at this time. The Senator's positions will be made available via other media, including his website and Facebook, at a later date."
I will work to preserve middle income Mitchell-Lama housing, one to three family homes that act as anchors in a neighborhood, and expand the affordable housing program.
I support fair share distribution of small supportive housing facilities of eight to ten persons that blend into the community as opposed to multi-unit high rise facilities that overshadow community life.
I support the increase of housing code enforcement to provide protection of tenants’ quality of life and to monitor the safety and maintenance of our housing.
Rent stabilization as an important protection for tenants in the 33rd Senate District. There are two main items in dealing with the vacancy decontrol topic:
1) the rate at which rent can be set after the apartment reaches $2,000; and
2) protections of tenants through rent stabilization laws.
Vacancy decontrol allows a landlord, when the rent reaches $2,000 upon a vacancy, to set the rent at any rate and vacancy decontrol no longer subjects the landlord to rent stabilization laws. Of the two items, the most important aspect of the vacancy decontrol issue in our district is the protections for tenants through rent stabilization. I believe in protections that allow residents to remain in their apartments through a mandatory renewal lease at a modest increase at each renewal point. However, I believe that rent stabilization laws need to address the so-called bad apples such as drug dealers that hide behind the rent stabilization laws.
I also support Senator Stewart-Cousins’ bill on adequate protections for former Mitchell-Lama & Section 8 Tenants, as well as the bill that provides rent relief for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.
I was glad to see the New York State Supreme Court rule that the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) exceeded their authority when they disproportionately raised the rent of tenants who have lived in their apartments for more than six years and whose rents are under $1,000 a month.
I do NOT support Espada’s so called “rent freeze” bill because it is a giveaway to landlords.
- I support repealing vacancy decontrol, or at the very least, raising the cap to a minimum of $3000 and peg future increases to the rate of inflation.
- Repealing of the Urstadt Law and returning rent regulation determination to the city with guidelines that protect small property owners from overregulation.
- Introduce legislation that provides the city and property owners with the enforcement tools needed to remove drug dealers and those engaged in criminal activity off their property. Reduce the percentage of costs from Major Capital Improvement (MCI) increases that can be passed onto tenants from 1/40th to 1/100th and prohibit any MCI increases for work that reduces the original living space for tenants.
- Modify affordable housing legislation so that new constructions incorporate a wider range of income qualifications rather than set limits that may negatively impact the working class.
- Support the creation of Affordable Housing Development Trust Funds that provide non-profit developers with low-interest start up capital to build or rehabilitate buildings that will provide affordable housing in distressed neighborhoods.
- Provide additional tax incentives to developers who develop inclusionary housing in distressed neighborhoods who agree to set aside additional units for those earning 50% of the Area Median Income through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
- Work with property owners to preserve existing Mitchell-Lama projects.
- Work with the banking industry to increase affordable homeownership programs in areas where homeownership is less than 35% and modify co-op housing laws to open up ownership opportunities to working and middle-class families.
- Support a cap on property tax increases of no more than 2% annually for the next 2 years.
QUESTION: What can you do as a state legislator to address drug dealing and other crime problems in the Bronx?
PADERNACHT: Provide funding and resources to prevention and enforcement. In addition, I would seek federal funding and resources. I would increase youth programming, especially after school programs, youth employment programs and work to keep libraries open.
RIVERA: We have to support the police in our community, while at the same time working to create better living conditions for all members of the community. Crime can be a symptom of high unemployment rates and low standards of living. As state senator, I will work to make sure that all members of the community have access to jobs that pay a living wage, quality education for their children, and affordable health care.
- I will support community based alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders that mandate community service, treatment, and monitoring or face stiffer sentences for non-compliance or repeat offenders.
- Support funding for increasing the number of Park Enforcement Personnel (PEP) in our parks to address quality of life issues that center around our parks and spill over into the community.
- Maintain funding for afterschool and mentorship programs, which serve as safe havens for our children to reduce the likelihood that they are not tempted by negative influences.
- Support legislation that will require court mandated GPS ankle bracelets on individuals charged with domestic violence and have violated orders of protection that would alert both the victim and the police if the offender comers within range of the victim.
- Work with businesses and residents to identify “high-risk” areas and provide resources and advocacy to address quality of life issues.