I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for months. Honestly, there were sooooo many reasons why I think you should vote for Bill Thompson for Mayor of NYC. Many of those reasons are emotional/reactionary and yet still valid.
What’s been interesting about this race is that many New Yorkers don’t feel the same way. Everyone I’ve asked say they don’t know who Thompson is and that they have no real reasons to vote against Bloomberg. MostÂ newspapers gave lukewarm endorsements to the candidates with the exception of Gawker who made a very passionate plea for voters NOT to vote for Bloomberg.
Below are issues that readers and people in Harlem that I’ve come across are concerned with. I’ve tried to highlight the information so that when you do go to the polls, you’ll be able to vote according to the issues that matter to you. The topics discussed include:
- Financial Assistance/Relief for Small Businesses
- Resolution to the current housing crisis in NYC
- Creation of Employment Opportunities
- Minority and Women Owned Businesses Contracts
- Reversal of the negative effects of gentrification (Affordable Housing)
- Can Bloomberg’s promises be believed?
- NYPD and Racial Profiling
- The Truth about Bill Thompson’s Tenure at the Board of Education
Small Businesses in Crisis: Bailouts for Wall Street But Not 125th Street — Harlem businesses as well as small businesses around NYC are in crisis due to the bad economy. The problem has reached crisis proportions and Bloomberg has to take some of the responsibility since he has not offered assistance on the same scale as he has done for larger businesses.
- According to MomAndPopNYC, small businesses currently experiencing record bankruptcies and foreclosures in the NYC
- Lloyd Williams of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce describes a bleak small business landscape above 96th Street with a 37% store vacancy rate in Harlem. “One shuttered store after another along 125th Street means only one thing: Harlem is being hit hard by the recession. Many businesses have packed up for good, others moved to more viable locations.
- “We [Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce] have already documented over 638 businesses that are absolutely closed, shuttered, doors locked,” said Williams. “That, of course does not take into consideration all of the businesses on the second, third, and fourth floor that we cannot photograph.” [Full Article]
Housing Crisis With Bloomberg as Mayor — According to Bill Thompson’s campaign, there has been an 9% increase in homelessness since Bloomberg has been in office. Rents have gone up 31%, property taxes went up 87% and water rates went up 98%. So, whether you rent or own, you have faced serious issues as with keeping a roof over your head. Many New Yorkers couldn’t survive and ultimately left the city. In fact, 151,000 Middle Class New Yorkers left NYC in 2006 alone.
While many can’t afford housing, tens of thousands of luxury apartments sit vacant and Bloomberg has done nothing to make these apartments more affordable or at least provide shelter for the homeless.
Under Bloomberg There Were Record Evictions in Harlem and a Denial of City Services — Virtually everyone is experiencing some form of economic difficulty including those who thought they were secure in their middle class abodes. Here in Harlem, unofficial reports indicate hundreds of tenants from Lenox Terrace, Delano Village/Savoy Parks, and the Riverton are seeking one shot deals at the Human Resource Administration to avoid eviction only to be denied. Unable to pay rents of over $2,000 hundreds of Black and Latino tenants have been forced out of the former state subsidized affordable Mitchell Lama building of 1,192 units at 3333 Broadway situated at the northern tip of Columbia University’s 18 acres expansion. [Full Story]
Broke Promise to Increase City Contracts with Minorities — Bloomberg did not keep his promise to increase NYC contracts for the Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) program.
Adverse Effects of Gentrification Around Harlem and Around NYC — I’m sure you have noticed the significant changes in neighborhoods all around NYC, especially Harlem. From long time neighborhood businesses now closed to unfinished/abandoned construction projects, the plan to make positive changes to NYC has has faltered during the Bloomberg administration. During recent years, the character of many neighborhoods has literally destroyed what once was leaving behind much more to be desired.
[125th Street Rezoning] “People talk about gentrification, but this would be Katrina-fication done by a swipe of a pen rather than a hurricane,” says Craig Schley, the head of Vote People, a group recently formed to oppose the plan. “This would change the culture, class, and race in one sweeping motion.” Members of the Coalition to Save Harlem, another group formed in response to the city’s plan, worry that the rezoning will rapidly price out small-business owners and residents alike. In fact, the city’s own environmental-impact study predicts that the rezoning would displace 500 residents and 71 businessesâ€”figures that the affected community boards say is an underestimate. [Full Story]
Bloomberg Brought/Paid For Union Endorsements Which Will Reduce Services for All New Yorkers — NYC’s economic conditions will worsen due to decisions made by Bloomberg. According to the New York Times, “Bloomberg gave us eight years of bully pulpit on the city’s need for pension reform, but let himself be bullied by the labor barons. City contributions to pensions leaped from $1.4 billion to $6.3 billion. Paying the bill for Mike’s union alliances will cost New Yorkers thousands of layoffs and diminished services in the third term.”
Under Bloomberg, the NYC Budget was increased, employee salaries and benefits went up, and NYC debt increased — The Independent Budget Office states:
- NYC’s budget went from $41 billion to a $59.5 billion projected total for the current fiscal year
- Salaries and benefits for city workers went from $22.8 billion to $35.9 billion
- Pension, health, and other benefits grew from $5.7 billion to $13.4 billion
- The full-time workforce went from 247,681 to 274,696
- Debt rose from $43 billion to $60 billion
Bloomberg Has Brought Support and Votes Through His Business Allies — According to the Village Voice, Bloomberg is proud of his self-financed campaigns, often celebrating the fact that he takes no contributions from anyone. But the evidence is mountingâ€”with 33 of Bloomberg LP’s top 124 customers having business with the cityâ€”that we may be getting the quid without the quo. The mayor’s friends and prime-time business supporters appear to be reaping the same rewards as those big donors used to get, only minus the donations, and the circle of insiders that openly rallied to him during the term limits debate is, by and large, the same group that is prospering from his discretionary decisions. The New York City Partnership, co-chaired now by Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein and Rupert Murdoch, has become Bloomberg’s modern version of an oldline political club.
Racial Profiling by NYPD Has Grown Exponentially With Bloomberg as Mayor — NYC is not a crime free city. All New Yorkers want to feel safe and on some level appreciates the NYPD for what they do most of the time. However, their Stop and Frisk policies are straight racist and the stats prove it. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union:
- The NYPD stopped, questioned and/or frisked over 508,540 people in 2006, an increase from just 97,296 in 2002.
- Only 10 percent of stops led to summonses or arrests. The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers questioned and frisked by the NYPD were engaged in no criminal wrongdoing.
- 89 percent of those stopped in 2006 were people of color. 55 percent of the stops were of black people â€“ more than double their percentage of the population â€“ and 30 percent were of Latinos.
- Stops of whites, who number about 3.6 million according to recent census estimates, amounted to only 2.6 percent of the white population. By contrast, stops of blacks, who number about 2.2 million people, represented 21.1 percent of the entire black population.
- Residents of Brownsville’s 73rd Precinct and Harlem’s 28th Precinct had a 30 to 36 percent chance of being stopped and questioned by police in 2006. Citywide, the average was about 6 percent.
- Drug surveys routinely indicate that a higher percentage of whites smoke pot than blacks or Latinos, but African-Americans have consistently accounted for about 52 percent of low-level marijuana arrests over the past decade, even though they’re only about 26 percent of the city’s population. Latinos, at 27 percent of the total population, account for 31 percent of the arrests. Whites are 36 percent of the population but account for only 15 percent of pot arrests. [Full Article]
Fuzzy Math Regarding School Success Under Bloomberg and the Real Story on Thompson as Board of Education President — Yes, when Bloomberg came into office NYC’s schools were in crisis. However, he did not wave a magic wand make decisions that made the problems go away. The foundation for change had been laid before he was elected. Bloomberg hopped on the wave that had already been made and took advantage of new rules to make change in NYC schools. The real facts are listed below.
- Thompson paved the way for the reforms that Bloomberg takes credit for.
- Thompson was one vote out of seven. He did not control the Board of Education
- Mayoral control of the schools did not become law until 2002, when Albany passed it during Bloomberg’s first term, making comparison tricky.
- Under Thompson’s term, the board ended principal tenure, as well as local school boards’ power to hire them.
- The board also ordered summer school for failing students, who were held back if they didn’t comply. It was the city’s first attempt to end social promotion.
- Bill Thompson used political skill and commitment to lay a foundation for much of what Bloomberg takes credit for – increased accountability, rising student achievement.
- Click here to read a detailed article on the Board of Education Control issue.
Finally, last year (September 2008) I read something on Jack and Jill Politics that I could really identify with. Van Jones made the statement below:
Earlier this year, the home mortgage crisis may have resulted in the biggest erasure of Black wealth since our enslavement. Think about that: billions of dollars in Black wealth was accumulated painstakingly over generations. And some unGodly percentage was wiped out in six months.
In other words: the same six months that saw the rise of Obama saw the collapse of a large section of the Black middle class. The mortgage implosion was a quiet Katrina that left Black folks, from coast to coast, drowning on dry land.
The part of the statement that made it’s most impact on me was the part about the the Black middle class being wiped out. The people he’s talking about, many of them are New Yorkers. Over the last couple of years I’ve known and read about middle class New Yorkers, many Black and Latino but clearly not all, who have become homeless, moved in with family/friends, and lost jobs because of the current economic crisis with NO SUPPORT FROM THE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION.
It’s as if his solution to everything is bring in big businesses, cut deals with them and the economy will be better because they’ll provide jobs. And, when they don’t hold up their end of the deal and blatantly refuse to provide services to New Yorkers, he is silent.The reality is that small businesses and the middle class have a large impact on NYC. NYC needs a mayor who is going to focus on supporting the people who really stimulate the economy.
One last thing before I go, I’d like to remind you of the most heinous action by Bloomberg, the hijacking of democracy with the repeal of term limits.
April Davis, Publisher of AroundHarlem.com