October 7, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Councilwoman Gale Brewer easily won the Democratic nomination for Manhattan Borough President on September 10, besting her three opponents by a wide margin. She’s represented the Upper West Side on the City Council since 2002 and said she’s humbled by the prospect of representing all of Manhattan when voters again go to the polls next month. Watch Video
Affordable housing has been an important topic for Councilwoman Brewer and will continue to be as the city’s next Manhattan BP. Affordable housing continues to be out of reach for many ordinary New Yorkers because more and more units are fetching free market rates. Councilwoman Brewer said it won’t be easy to preserve and expand affordable housing for different reasons.
“One of the reasons affordable housing is such a challenge in Manhattan because there’s a scarcity of land, but we have people coming from all over the world who are willing to pay very high prices for an apartment. That’s a bad combination for affordable housing,” said Councilwoman Brewer.
One way to keep affordable housing available for most New Yorkers is preserving the already-existing affordable housing stock.
“We obviously have to preserve what we have. But whenever there is new construction we have to really try to get mandatory inclusionary zoning, which is a very controversial topic, and at the same time figure out if there is any available land left in Manhattan that we have to make sure that it’s built with affordable in mind,” Councilwoman Brewer said.
(Councilman Brad Lander released a report in August recommending that the inclusionary zoning program be converted from voluntary to guaranteed or mandatory because many developers have not voluntarily built affordable housing.)
In her 40 years of public service, Ms. Brewer has seen all kinds of schemes by landlords, developers and investors to kick out low- to moderate-income New Yorkers in order to command higher rents.
For example, she’s witnessed owners of a five-story brownstone notifying the tenants that he or she wants to use the building for personal use and unless the tenants are seniors living in a rent-controlled apartment they’ll most likely have to move. Or the owner rents an apartment above a senior citizen to someone who purposely makes a lot of noise, prompting the senior to leave.
“I’ve seen everything. There are a million different tactics. Unfortunately a lot of the schemes have to be addressed in Albany,” said Councilwoman Brewer.
Councilwoman Brewer has passed approximately 120 bills during her tenure on the council. When asked which one she feels most proud of and has had the greatest impact on city politics and policy, she points to three—the recently enacted paid sick leave legislation, local food sourcing legislation and the Open Data Law, which requires every single city agency post all of its databases online in an open data format via a single web portal.
Councilwoman Brewer sits on the council’s Technology Committee and has plans to make government even more transparent as Manhattan’s BP using technology.
“If I can webcast the whole world I would because I want the public to know what government is doing.”
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