Monday, August 11, 2008

Manhattan Needs a Borough President

The NY Post says that we don't need a Borough President. Please allow me to tell you why they are wrong.

Protecting Our Homes and Strengthening Our Neighborhoods

We need a Borough President to stand with those who have made Manhattan (particularly Upper Manhattan) such an increasingly popular place to live. Manhattan is the most important county in the world. The world comes here to solve its political problems at the UN. The world comes here to perform on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. Manhattan is the capital of the arts and the capital of culture for the world. Manhattan is the capital of the capital markets, commerce, and international trade. But, for so many of us, it is, first and foremost, the place where we live, the place where we have lived for so many years, and the place we want to continue to call, "home".

During many difficult years, Manhattanites, including many of modest means, built their neighborhoods into the types of locations that now attract the most privileged and powerful individuals from all over the world. As the privileged and the powerful seek to make their homes in portions of Manhattan that had not attracted such people until recently, many people of modest means are put at risk of losing their homes.

A Borough President can use the considerable power of that office to influence the path of real estate development in Manhattan and ensure that neighborhoods are maintained. New affordable housing can be demanded as part of development projects, and existing examples of high quality affordable housing can be protected from gentrification. Nearly every development project in Manhattan ends up facing scrutiny by the office of the Borough President. When the Borough President makes strengthening our neighborhoods his or her priority goal, the developers will work to strengthen neighborhoods in order to streamline their path to development and profit. The Borough President needs to have the right instincts for working with for-profit developers in order to trade their opportunity to generate a meaningful profit for the opportunity for our neighborhoods to remain whole and for our neighbors to be able to enjoy the benefits of development (e.g., improved governmental and private sector services, increased entertainment and dining options) rather than becoming victims of development.

Looking Out for The Interests of the Borough

Whether it is the World Trade Center site, the MTA Rail Yards, waterfront projects, or Upper Manhattan development for big-box retail, the people of the Borough of Manhattan should have a say in the outcome of the project. We live here. At the World Trade Center site, the Governor of New Jersey can block plans that are agreed by representatives of NYC and NY State. New Jersey's residents get a voice at the table. We need to ensure that the voice of those who live in Manhattan is heard. Manhattan is a county (New York County), and it is important that our county be represented by an executive in the public sector who puts our interests first. Beyond land use and housing, the Borough President's voice on health, education, job creation and a host of other key issues speaks loudly and clearly for all Manhattanites. The NY Post would like to silence that voice in order to have fewer places to turn when their allies seek to overcome the will of the people of Manhattan. They don't want an advocate for the people to interfere with any plans that they create to gain power or to obtain profit. We need to ensure that we have a strengthened Borough Presidency to stand against those who work against the interests of the residents of our great Borough.

Ensuring that City Services are Delivered

As the chair of the Borough Services Cabinet, the Borough President works to make city services more responsive to community needs. He or she meets monthly with those who are responsible for delivering services to Manhattan's residents and ensure that progress is being made to improve delivery and prevent service delivery problems.

Appointing Qualified Individuals to Boards and Commissions

Under the Charter, the Borough President appoints individuals to the following:

  • A member of the City Planning Commission A member of the Economic Development Corporation Board
  • A parent to the Public Education Panel and two members to the New York City Community and City-Wide Education Council
  • 600 members of Manhattan's 12 Community Boards; half on nominations from City Council members
  • Three members to sit on the Hudson River Park Trust Board Members to advisory boards of Manhattan's municipal health facilities
  • Thirty-five additional municipal advisory and tasks forces

Other important roles of the Borough President:

  • Sits on the New York City Off-Track Betting Site Selection Board when the board is considering matters pertinent to OTB locations within the borough
  • Serves as a Trustee to the New York City Employee's Retirement System

How should the Borough Presidency Be Expanded?

In order to look after the interests of the people of Manhattan, the Borough President should have the power to appoint:

  • Members to the Board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
  • Some of the members of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Board
  • Some of the members of the NYC Economic Development Corporation Board
  • Special ambassadors to represent the interests of the people of Manhattan to the Empire State Development Corporation

The NY Post Is Very Wrong

We need the Borough Presidency to remain in place and to be strengthened. Perhaps the other NYC newspapers will advocate for the people of Manhattan to have their voice heard as the NY Post attempts to silence our voices.

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