How a Clergy Council Could Improve Community Relations with Law Enforcement

From Apr. 2018

The shooting of Saheed Vassell a few blocks from my campaign headquarters in Crown Heights shows we still have a ways to go in the effort to bring community policing to NYC. While an investigation is still underway, one thing we do know is that members of the community knew Vassell - and knew he had a history of mental illness. 

Had there been an opportunity for those who knew him to be involved in the response to Vassell's behavior, we might have seen a different outcome. That is why I'm calling for the creation of a Clergy Council to work with the 71st Precinct. Bringing our faith leaders together, following the blueprint of similar Councils in the 67th and 77th precincts, could help prevent tragedies like the death of Saheed Vassell moving forward.

My plan for a Clergy Council in Crown Heights:

Start a dialogue: Each precinct faces their own set of problems - be it hate crimes, homelessness, or other factors that bring down the community. A Clergy Council is uniquely positioned to start a dialogue with people in the community and provide guidance on the best strategies and tactics to address the issues keeping people awake at night.

Provide an outlet: Convening power across local faith leaders gives people in the neighborhood an outlet to air grievances and take part in providing solutions. A Clergy Council gives people an alternative resource to calling the police in cases that don't necessarily merit a police response.

Act as trusted liaisons: A Clergy Council with close ties to members of the community can help foster personal connections with local police officers. Additionally, a Clergy Council that understands the needs of the community can provide the precinct with expertise and information to help prioritize matters that pose an immediate threat, while mitigating issues that don't require as high a level of force.

We have an amazing resource in the form of strong, trusted faith leaders who understand the issues facing our community. Providing a direct path for officers in the 71st Precinct to tap into this vast knowledge of the neighborhood can only lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.

Improving Representation of Brooklyn's Immigrant Community

From Apr. 2018

Right now, Donald Trump is attacking immigrants, tearing families apart through heartless ICE raids, and taking away critical refugee status that many Caribbean families depend on. It's not enough to have a Congressmember who says she cares about the immigrant community if she doesn't actually do anything to fix these problems.

As your next Congressmember, I'll stand up to the bigotry of Donald Trump and Washington Republicans to deliver for  families with a four-point plan of action that will actually make a difference.

My four point plan:

Neighbor Status: Right now, many people living Caribbean countries can't visit a family member in Crown Heights without going through a lengthy visa process. That's ridiculous. Caribbean resident should have visa-free access to the US, faster visa processing, and better US Visa pre-clearance.

Refugee Protection: Donald Trump recently ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens from Haiti who came here following their deadly earthquake, then insulted these families further by describing their country as "a sh*thole." I will demand the restoring of TPS protections for Haitians and others, as well as fight for a path to citizenship for all refugees and undocumented immigrants.

Free Immigration Clinics: Many families in our community are worried they'll be torn apart by Trump's sweeping ICE raids. If elected, I will hold free immigration law clinics to help residents anonymously get critical information about what they can do to reunify families and remain in our community.

Improved Community Services: My office will be a place where residents can access the services and support they need. I will have bilingual staff available, and I will hold constituent service events in every neighborhood to protect the rights and opportunities of residents. 

Improving Educational Opportunities in Central Brooklyn

From Mar. 2018

During my time as a leadership fellow at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, I worked to create a support network to improve the educational and social outcomes of low-income families in Central Brooklyn. I saw firsthand how kids in Central Brooklyn are being denied the same quality education as other students across the city.

We need stronger leadership from our elected officials to give our children the best education possible. We need a representative who can fight for our public schools and stand up to the Department of Education for fair funding. We need real investments in better school facilities, technology, innovative educational programs, and science and math education. We can't let Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos stand in the schoolhouse doors to deny our kids the educational opportunities they deserve.

My three Point "Action for Better Schools" Plan:

1. Improve school buildings by addressing infrastructure concerns

From outdated buildings, to lead in drinking water, to a lack of modern technology, our schools don't provide kids with the safe and comfortable learning environment they need. Less than a year ago, it was discovered that the water at schools in Central Brooklyn was contaminated with lead, with PS 289 in Crown Heights having lead levels higher than Flint, Michigan. That is completely unacceptable, and we must ensure schools have the funding to make repairs needed to keep students safe and healthy.

2. Demand accountability and innovation to give kids the educational opportunities they deserve

Across Central Brooklyn, the quality of education available to our children lags behind many other parts of New York City. Public schools need additional funding and support to reach proficiency in math and reading; innovations in charter schools should be more carefully studied to see if they can improve traditional public schools; we need to reinvest in vocational education for kids who do not plan to go to college; and all schools - charters and traditional public schools - must be held to higher standards of education quality.

3. Increase access to resources

As a Congressmember, I would support programs and grant initiatives that make STEM classes, classroom technology, and music and fine arts resources more accessible to all students. By giving students the tools to explore their passions, they will become more well-rounded and learn to love learning.

Our students are relying on us, the adults, to guide them in the right direction and give them the tools to succeed, but until we improve our schools, we are failing them. Our current Representative has stood by as schools in Central Brooklyn have struggled to meet the needs of the community and are in desperate need of support. As your next Representative, I will work hard to bring funding and resources back to Brooklyn so we can get our schools back on track.

Five Point Community-First Affordable Housing Plan

From Mar. 2018

We see it every day. Our neighbors are forced out by high rents and bad landlords; new developments come in with no room for local families; NYCHA homes are decaying to the point of being unsafe. We need a Congressmember who supports plans to create low-equity housing cooperatives, fix NYCHA, develop community land trusts, and stop allowing homes to be turned into investment profit-centers for wealthy non-residents.  These are proven ways to slow the spread of gentrification and preserve affordable housing in our communities.

We need to protect against gentrification and displacement, and improve affordable housing in Central Brooklyn.

My five point Community-First Affordable Housing Plan:

1. Create low-equity housing cooperatives

Low-equity cooperatives are similar to traditional co-ops, but buying into the low income co-op is subject to income restrictions and strictly limited resale values. This gives local families the chance to own a stake in their community, stabilizes neighborhoods, preserves housing affordability, and ensures that residents benefit from the neighborhood's growth instead of being displaced by it. Additionally, low-equity cooperatives are smart public investments. Research done by Washington D.C.'s Tenant Purchase Assistance Program found that it can be 60 times cheaper to help a tenant purchase a unit as part of a low-equity cooperative than it would be for U.S. Section 8 vouchers to pay that unit's rent for 5 years.

2. Re-invest in NYCHA housing

Years of federal funding cuts have led to widespread and well-documented problems in NYCHA housing. With 80% of NYCHA families losing heat and hot water in the worst part of the winter and dealing with mold, neglect, and repairs that go undone for years, public housing is at a breaking point. This district needs a Congressmember who does more to secure federal funding so NYCHA families have the safe housing they deserve.

3. Develop community land trusts

Community land trusts are non-profits that acquire land for the sole purpose of developing affordable housing or other public assets that benefit local residents and preserve the character of our neighborhoods. Because community land trusts are not motivated by profit, they have no incentive to gentrify or develop luxury housing. As Congressmember, I will play a leadership role is supporting and organizing CLTs in areas most at risk of gentrification to ensure that the voice of the community is heard and represented in all new developments.

4. Create tax incentives to encourage local workforce development

The only way to ensure the community benefits from new development is to guarantee that incomes rise with housing prices. Developers and entrepreneurs who bring business into Central Brooklyn must be encouraged to hire locally, offering quality careers to residents in exchange for tax abatements.

5. Stop allowing homes to be turned into profit-centers for wealthy non-residents

Over the past decade, wealthy investors from outside the district, including a growing number of foreign speculators, have made our housing crisis worse by buying up apartments and leaving them vacant unless they can get luxury rental prices. This makes housing more expensive for everyone and distorts New York City's housing market by diverting land and development away from low- and middle-income housing. We need to establish federal regulations that require buyers in high-density zip codes to disclose their identity so we can curb market-distorting speculation.

Housing is a human right. We are in dire need of affordable housing, and it's time our leaders start supporting new, creative solutions to address this crisis. Middle-class and working families are critical parts of our community, and our leaders cannot continue to stand by as they are priced out of our neighborhoods. My plan will create opportunities for residents to take ownership of the community and support smart development that will help make our neighborhoods stronger.

We Need Action on Bail Reform Now

From Feb. 2018

We need action on the recently introduced Bail Fairness Act of 2018, which would reform bail by ending cash bail for misdemeanors. As your Representative, I will fight to end needless incarceration that primarily harms low income and minority communities.

Bail is only one of the ways that our criminal justice system is broken, but it's one we can fix. Day after day, countless young people - convicted of no crime - sit in jail cells only because they can't afford bail. That's wrong. We know the tragedy of Kalief Browder; we see it continuing every day. And the only way it changes is with a new Congressmember who fights for our community, demands action, and gets things done.

The Bail Fairness Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives last month. It aims to encourage states to end cash bail for misdemeanors and create avenues for misdemeanor charges to be dropped, such as completing a mental health diversion program, a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program, a community program, or a different program that is age and crime appropriate.

Bail reform is gaining momentum across the country. Several states, including New Jersey, Kentucky, and Alaska, have recently ended cash bail for misdemeanors. Within New York City, Manhattan and Brooklyn are the only boroughs that are no longer seeking bail in misdemeanor cases.

Here in Brooklyn, some of our leaders get it, and I'm glad that our District Attorney no longer requests cash bail in these cases. But in Congress, Yvette Clarke has been absent on this issue; she hasn't said anything, done anything, or even co-sponsored the bill. As the next Congressmember for this District, I'm not going to stay silent or wait around. I will work every day to improve the lives of everyone who calls this district home.