By MARGARET S. CHIN | When I think about progress, I think about the ways that our community can become better — and how we can improve our lives, the lives of our children and those of our neighbors.
Over the past year, I have been proud to support a host of programs, progressive legislation, and development opportunities to improve the lives of the residents of Lower Manhattan, and of all New Yorkers.
As a member of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, I helped pass our city’s first “Living Wage Law;” participated in the campaign to end the abuse of Stop, Question and Frisk; and I am working to bring paid sick days legislation to New York. In the year ahead, I will continue to work alongside my colleagues to pass the Community Safety Act to ensure that the law is applied equally to all — no matter the color of your skin — and to enhance accountability with the New York City Police Department.
I will also work to build support in our small business sector for paid sick days for workers. Recently, I joined a coalition of Make the Road members and the Working Families Party to support a deli worker named Emilio Palaguachi who was fired after he got the flu.
Mr. Palaguachi was fired from his job at Superior Deli, at 280 Henry St. near Grand St., on the Lower East Side after he asked for a day off to go to the doctor. Mr. Palaguachi is the father of four children, and now he is unemployed. We must challenge the notion that middle- and low-income workers are easily replaced and are not entitled to the considerations — like paid sick time — that higher-income workers generally receive.
In this economy, it is also important that we work to remove barriers to employment and end discrimination based on credit history. That is why I am a proud supporter of the N.Y.C. Campaign to Stop Employment Credit Checks. I have heard too many stories about employers that have used an individual’s credit history to deny jobs and promotions or to terminate employment. Not only does this practice disparately impact communities of color, but it makes it difficult for anyone who has taken on debt — for example, to go to school or to pay their medical bill — to find a job.
In our drive to create a more sustainable and affordable city, it is imperative that we address climate change and stop the loss of affordable housing in our city. Recently, I attended a forum at Greenwich House’s Center on the Square Senior Center to discuss emergency preparedness with seniors in Greenwich Village. In order to make sure no senior is ever stranded in his or her own home — without access to food, water or medicine — I have submitted legislation to create a voluntary registry for vulnerable residents living in multifamily homes in New York City. This would allow elected officials, community-based organizations and programs like Meals on Wheels, to better assist those who cannot evacuate by stairs in an emergency.
In addition, I am participating in the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, which will work to develop plans for city agencies to implement, based on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and in response to long-term climate change. These plans could include things like solar panels for traffic signals, so that they do not shut down when electricity is lost; better hurricane and evacuation training for CERT teams (Community Emergency Response Teams); mobile phone-charging stations; and more timely mandatory evacuation orders.
Last year, we suffered a huge blow when the state’s Court of Appeals refused an appeal by the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association of a lower court’s decision that allows landlords at former Mitchell-Lama developments to retroactively withdraw from the J-51 program by repaying the benefits they have received.
In light of this decision, in the year ahead, the fight to expand and protect affordable housing will be even more important. I am proud to have secured 500 units of permanently affordable housing at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area site, as well as a commitment from the Bloomberg administration to build affordable housing in Community Board 2, on a vacant lot next to 21 Spring St. As your councilmember, the development of more affordable housing and creating opportunities for working families and seniors remains my utmost priority.
I hope that I can count on your support in the year ahead, and I encourage you to learn more about the important progressive campaigns in our city by following @NYCProgressives on Twitter. As always, I am proud to represent the diverse neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan and thankful for the support of so many partners — old and new — who make this the best place to live, work and visit.
Chin is city councilmember for the First District