NYCHA Privatization + NYC-DSA Public Advocate Forum on Tuesday

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Local News:

  • The de Blasio administration plans to convert as many as 62,000 NYCHA apartments to Section 8 housing, creating public-private partnerships to fund repairs, and is apparently considering selling air rights at some NYCHA sites to private developers.

  • Deputy Mayor and former Goldman Sachs executive Alicia Glen defended the Amazon deal and its process. Meanwhile, CityLights in Long Island City, the largest affordable co-op in Queens, is facing a property tax increase that threatens to displace longtime residents. The co-op claims the City has refused to negotiate its bill while it simultaneously offers concessions to Amazon in the same neighborhood.

  • 32BJ SEIU announced their support for the Amazon HQ2 deal, giving the Governor and Mayor major union backing.

  • After two years of refusing to negotiate with a graduate student union, Columbia University has announced it is open to bargaining with the union. The move comes two weeks before a strike deadline set by the graduate students.

  • Following Mayor de Blasio’s controversial firing of Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters, the departed Peters released an 11-page letter rebutting the Mayor’s reasoning for the termination.

  • The State Department of Education has issued guidelines that may lead to mild secular studies reforms in private religious schools, and specifically Yeshivas, around New York.


  • State Senator Marty Golden (District 22, Southern Brooklyn) has finally conceded to Senator-elect Andrew Gounardes.

  • According to the NYC Board of Elections, most of the problems on Election Day stemmed from perforations on the ballots. In order to conform to a State law requiring that all ballots be perforated, the City had to use a type of ballot that had never been used before.

  • State Senator Jose Peralta (District 13, Queens), a former IDC member who was preparing to vacate his seat after losing to Jessica Ramos in September’s primary, died suddenly at age 47.

  • Council Member and Public Advocate candidate Jumaane Williams appeared at an AIPAC conference in NYC last week.

In-Depth: The Public Advocate Special Election + FORUM THIS TUESDAY 11/27

The Position

The position of Public Advocate was established as part of the 1989 New York City Charter Revision and the first Public Advocate, Mark Green, was elected in 1993. It is one of three Citywide public officials in New York City, along with Mayor and Comptroller. The Public Advocate serves four year terms coinciding with the terms of the Mayor, Comptroller, and City Council members, and like those positions is limited to two terms.

The role is envisioned as a City ombudsman, serving as a watchdog for the public and providing oversight of City agencies. The Public Advocate has few formal duties; it has some power regarding over appointments to commissions, and can introduce and sponsor City Council legislation, but it cannot vote in the chamber. Perhaps due to the position’s largely ceremonial powers, there have been periodic proposals to either strengthen its duties or abolish the office entirely.

In practice, the Public Advocate’s main role has been to drive policy conversations forward, usually in tandem with advocates and organized people who are working on an issue, either by releasing policy reports or through other mechanisms, such as the Worst Landlord List (started under Bill de Blasio, and continued under Tish James). Perhaps due to the position’s prominent bully pulpit, three of the four Public Advocates have used the position to run for higher office: Mark Green ran failed campaigns for Mayor in 2001 and State Attorney General in 2006; Bill de Blasio ran successfully for Mayor in 2013; and Tish James, the current Public Advocate, was elected State AG earlier this fall.

The Election

James’ election means that she will have to vacate the position, causing a special election to fill that vacancy. By law, the Mayor has to announce the election within three days of the vacancy (which will occur no later than January 1), and the election has to happen within 45 days of his announcement. Therefore, the election has not yet been announced, but it will be held no later than mid-February. The winner of the special election will serve until a regularly scheduled primary and general election is held later in 2019, but given what turnout is likely to be in ‘19, it is likely that whoever wins in February will be the favorite for the fall election.

There are no primaries for the citywide special election, and no official party labels. All candidates need to acquire 3,750 valid petition signatures within 12 days of the Mayor’s proclamation to be on the ballot, under whatever “party label” they want. There are no runoffs in Citywide special elections, so whomever wins a simple plurality will win the special election. With at least seven candidates having already announced, and more rumored to be considering a run, the field will be highly fragmented, meaning that a candidate could land as little as 15-20% of the vote and win the election.

As the first citywide special election since the 1989 City Charter Revision, when the current rules governing citywide elections were implemented, the turnout is almost impossible to predict. On the one hand, this election follows one of the highest turnout cycles in recent New York City history, and one of the candidates from that election, Jumaane Williams, will likely be on the ballot again. On the other hand, it’s a special election in February with a very tight turnaround for a relatively powerless position that few New Yorkers fully understand.

The Forum

This Tuesday, the NYC-DSA Citywide Electoral Working Group is hosting a Public Advocate Candidate Forum for DSA members to hear from potential candidates and discuss the value of getting involved in the Public Advocate election. To RSVP to the forum, click here.

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