The Hackshaw Platform
THIS IS THE FINAL DRAFT OF CANDIDATE ROCK HACKSHAW’S PLATFORM FOR REAL SOLUTIONS IN THE 40th COUNCILMANIC DISTRICT IN BROOKLYN: ROCK HACKSHAW BELIEVES THAT AS ELECTED OFFICIALS GO, “WE CAN DO BETTER.”
Too many candidates for the New York City Council tend to focus their campaigns on issues of the district in which they are running; this is a bit too narrow for my liking. As a council member I believe that you are one of 51 members charged with helping the mayor and council speaker run this city, and as such you should always take a macro approach to problem solving and public policy. Accenting only those issues relating to your district -and isolating the potential solutions without sensitivity to the overall impact on the city- is myopic at best; keeping a narrow-minded focus on issues pertinent mainly to your district, and becoming demagogic when the issues are of the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) variety is exactly what we don’t need in the council. The problems facing us cannot be solved in isolation. We need team players; elected officials with the ability to think creatively, and the willingness to be open-minded. We need people who are both developed and experienced. We need people who have shown independence during their tenures in politics and community activism.
Take for example the need for more funding sources and larger funding streams for our city’s coffers, for too many years we have allowed billions of dollars from NYC residents to flow up and down the New Jersey and Connecticut turnpikes, on their way to the casinos. And yet, whenever someone sensible would suggest building a casino in one of the boroughs -and far from the residential areas- there is always pushback: meanwhile the dollar-drain goes on each day.
We are over-taxed in this city and it is time to make some hard choices. We have to reverse the trends of “tax and spend”. We have to consider those at the bottom of the totem pole; how are they surviving? We need new blood in the city council; it is time for a new crop of leaders.
A candidate's platform should be a reflection of the candidate’s views, values, positions, ideas and the like. It should be a peek into the mind of any person seeking public office. It should be a standard for all potential candidates: give the voter a sense of who you are; and be willing to debate the platform on every corner of the district (and city). Thus I see a platform as an essential part of a political run.
It has been suggested that some of my opponents have already started stealing parts of my platform (since my preliminary draft); that’s fine. If ideas originating from me and my team can be used to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, then I will turn a blind eye as they pilfer.
My platform is not just about the 40th council district. Sure, I would like to see a large financial institution (like a major commercial bank) set up shop on Cortelyou Road; and sure we need city intervention in order to do something that would alleviate the lack of parking spaces on most streets in this district (and the attendant tickets which come with this expensive issue); and sure we don’t need another homeless shelter, or another half-way house, or another drug rehab set up: our district has more than its citywide share; and we definitely need to fix the problem of overcrowding in the schools of this district; and so on and so on. And yet you get the sense that this city itself (separate from this and other individual districts) is slowly becoming too expensive for ordinary folks. Is New York slowly becoming an enclave for only the wealthy? Or will public policy be more sensitive to how expensive it is to live here? And what about renters? Don’t they deserve some kind of permanent assistance?
As much as I am against the lax application of eminent domain laws, I don’t oppose proposed development in a knee-jerk way. Can’t we find a balance between the needs of developers and those of the everyday people? Can’t we (for example) build an overhead carriageway from the bottom of the Manhattan Bridge -traveling express above Flatbush Avenue- to say Grand Army Plaza; or even to Empire Boulevard and points further south and east? Won’t this smother some of the traffic concerns of those opposing the Atlantic Yards project? Is this even feasible? I know it will take federal monies, but the point is this: it is time for new ideas pertinent to community development.
I am running for the council because I know we can do better than we have been doing lately. As elected officials, we are supposed to come up with the solutions to solve (or resolve) the many issues we face. We either construct the policy solutions or encourage/facilitate their creation/implementation. In my estimation too may electeds have fallen down on that job; so I offer myself to the voters of this district: we can do better.
The following is a list of some of the problems facing the 40th Councilmanic District, and includes some of my proposals for community development:
The 40th Councilmanic District extends roughly from Empire Blvd. in the North, to Avenue H, Beverley Road, and Church Avenue in the South; and from Albany Avenue in the East, to Coney Island Avenue in the West. Some of the residential communities it includes are Lefferts Gardens, Kensington, Crown Heights South, Wingate Park Area, Ditmas Park, Midwood North and Flatbush North.
2. BASIC SERVICES:
HOSPITALS: The district includes the following: Kings County,
SUNY Downstate Health Science Center, Kings Brook Jewish
and Kingsborough Psychiatric.
SCHOOLS: There are nine Elementary Schools, three Middle Schools
and two high schools.
COMMUNITY BOARDS: 8, 9, 14 and 17.
POLICE PRECINCTS serving the district include the 67th, 70th, and 71st.
III. THE ISSUES:
1. The General Needs of Our Children
A 2006 CSS study found that around 48% of all blacks in New York City are chronically jobless. Over 60 percent of the African American youths in the city of New York are unemployed. Statistics indicate that about one-third of the population in the district consist of youngsters below the age of 18 years. FBI statistics reveal that most crimes are committed by young people between the hours of 3 pm to 6 pm -during the interval between the end of the school day and the time when parents return home from work. We need to establish vocational and recreational facilities that can attract the attention of young people, while providing them with basic services and areas for skill development.
Unfortunately there has been a chronic shortage of vocational and recreational facilities in the district, which could cater to the needs of the “at risk” youth population, and this explains why this district sends a high number of its youth to incarceration facilities all across the state. At least 33% of the black youths in this district have had at least one run in with law enforcement and the judicial system. In general, only around 26% of the young black males here graduate from high school. And given that blacks make up two-thirds of this district we need to address this immediately.
We also need to establish programs geared toward helping parents and care-givers improve their parenting and care-providing skills. These programs should emphasize pre-natal and post-natal parenting classes.
1. The establishment of an African & Caribbean Cultural Center that will serve the community by housing, archiving, documenting and showcasing the contributions that West Indians, Caribbean-Americans, Hispanics and Africans have made to the overall list of accomplishments in the history, arts, business, sports, culture, politics, et al.
2. The establishment of a stadium to primarily dedicated to cricket, soccer, netball and other popular Caribbean-American sports. This is not to take away from the popularity of indigenous US sports, but such a facility will alleviate the repeated annual search for playing fields in neighborhoods that do not even welcome the sports of Caribbean-Americans. More than half the residents of this district are either Caribbean born, or are of Caribbean descent.
3. The establishment of more Beacon School type programs to provide educational training to young people in the district.
4. The establishment of job training centers to provide vocational training.
5. The establishment of community centers to provide recreational and cultural facilities: as stressed earlier.
6. The establishment of closer relationships between the young people in the district and the entrepreneurs in the commercial areas. This could be achieved by expanding and/or enhancing any existing mentoring programs; and also by creating inter-generational interaction programs.
7. The hiring of grant proposal writers by the city, to assist not-for-profit organizations (churches and other community organizations) in applying for available grant money from foundations, in order to fund programs that constructively engage our youths. Such programs may be housed in public libraries (which should have extended hours, especially since we do not have a community center in the 40th District), churches, and other available space. These programs may include: After-school Homework Helpers; Conflict Resolution & Negotiation Training; Athletics; and other recreational activities, for example chess: which develops character and enhances thinking abilities. As a former professional chess player, I can help to develop chess programs in all the schools in this district: programs geared towards helping students develop their attention, concentration and critical-thinking skills.
8. We need to develop programs that encourage and support more civic participation by the residents of this district, in the everyday politics of the area. We need to aid in the creation and expansion of more block associations, tenants associations and community/neighborhood development groups. This will also address some of our crime issues right away.
9. We need to give more support to spouses and children of those who are unfortunately incarcerated for law-breaking. These folks are already burdened, and they have few support systems to help them cope and deal with the ancillary issues these situations breed. We are seeing patterns where generation after generation of certain family members spend long periods imprisoned. It’s a revolving door; it’s also a seemingly non-ending vicious cycle for some families. It is time for government intervention in a positive way. It cannot only be about bails and jails. We can do better here. We can’t just incarcerate our way to a solution, we must also educate.
10. We need to introduce to the district some type of media-vehicle whereby residents can have a “clearinghouse” (or information disseminating-agent) which can update them on community events on a daily or weekly basis. We need to have people in this district become more familiar with each other, through higher levels of civic participation/ interaction. We have to become better neighbors and friends, and lesser strangers and adversaries. It will help us deal with crime and other issues easier. For the most part this district has a transient flavor to it in too many pockets. It is true that the homeowners are much more rooted (and vested), but non-homeowners have to contribute to the community’s overall development as well.
2. A Perpetually Failing Educational System
The public schools in this district have some of the lowest scores in the entire state of New York, and one of the lowest graduation rates too. The schools are old and overcrowded, the class sizes are huge, there are several uncertified teachers in our schools, and the certification curriculum/training fails to equip our teachers with effective disciplinary/class-control techniques.
1. The construction of more public schools in the district. If we are to utilize “eminent domain” then this is a good reason.
2. Reduction in the number of students in each class.
3. More trained and qualified teachers in our schools.
4. Better pay for teachers at all levels.
5. More education enrichment programs in the schools.
6. Inclusion of quality course-work that covers effective class control/disciplining techniques, and revision of regulations that engender and promote more respect for the authority of teachers in and outside the classroom.
7. Taking a look at the curriculum and making some serious adjustments in terms of what is taught to the students. We need to emphasize multi-cultural and ethnic-sensitive pedagogy in a district as racially, ethnically, nationalistically and culturally diverse as this one.
8. I have many more ideas for reforming our education system but that will entail an education-specific platform (to be later developed). One specific idea is for the breaking down of the DOE into 5 specific borough boards, with each Borough President responsible for the education of his/her borough -at least from kindergarten through junior high school.
9. We need to aggressively recruit more black and Hispanic male teachers/ principals/administrators into the public school system. The lack of male role models is hurting these populations, since too many blacks and Hispanics are growing up suffering the effects of the missing father syndrome. Over two-thirds of all black kids are born out of wedlock; and in the Hispanic community it is over 40 percent. Many of our social ills/issues can be found germinating in these stats. It’s a reality that needs addressing in more ways than one.
10. We need more chess in the schools programs (as already stated).
11. We need more courses that deal with logic and philosophy.
12. We need more music, civic, cultural, conflict-resolution and social-skills enhancing classes and programs; either in the day time or in after-school hours/programs. We must take a long hard look at the curriculum.
3. Public Safety & Quality of Life Issues
This district has one of the highest incidents of violent crime in this state of New York, and simultaneously has one of the highest rates of police brutality in the city of New York. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain whom the community fears most - the violent criminal or the brutal cop. The community is victimized by both the existence of both predatory criminals and bad police officers who often needlessly harass and criminalize our youths in particular, and the public in general. Recent statistics show that the number of complaints of police misconduct has risen in the last four years. And although I am very respectful of the important role police officers play in maintaining law and order, I still believe that the Civilian Complaint Review Board should be given more sweeping powers in terms of dealing with renegade cops.
There is also a need for our community to take steps to engender and cultivate more pride and value in the cleanliness and beautification of our neighborhoods. We the citizens of this district have to become much more vested in our community in many different ways.
1. A greater community input in the assignment of police officers to local precincts.
2. A greater input of minority officers at all levels of command in the district.
3. The creation of sensitivity training for police officers assigned to precincts in the district.
4. The creation of a community policing protocol for police officers assigned to precincts in the district.
5. City Council revision of the regulations governing the procedures for the handling of police misconduct complaints, in terms of transparency, impartial investigation and prosecution, remedy/punishment and outcome.
6. There is a need for tougher penalties for littering and failing to clean-up after dogs and other pets.
7. The establishment of common sense criteria that will promote fair and healthy practices in terms of the erection and maintenance of Department of Sanitation facilities, and alleviate the unequal distribution of needed sanitation resources in black neighborhoods.
8. Investigate and alleviate the disproportionate enforcement of parking and noise nuisance regulations (especially around the cultural West Indian Labor Day celebrations) in black neighborhoods.
9. A need for more parking facilities in this district. Government should intervene in this area to help alleviate this shortage.
10. Increase the number of members a community board can contain in order to accomplish greater citizen participation. It shouldn’t only be the politicians who appoint members to these boards. There are other ways to do this.
4. The Housing Problem
The area has one of the fastest growing populations in the city and a limited supply of affordable housing. Thus we have a district with a high rate of transience. The present housing stock consist of dilapidated multiple dwellings in urgent need of repair. There is an urgent demand/need for affordable housing. The term affordable must be clarified to fit the practical considerations of the millions of ordinary people in this district/city. The Sly Stone’s “everyday people” are hurting in the area of housing. Homeless shelters are again overflowing. The “ordinary people” that John Legend sings about need help in this area. This problem needs some hard analysis.
1. Renovation and rehabilitation (consistent with new technologies that can withstand level 4 hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters) of old housing stock by HPD and other governmental entities.
2. Prioritizing the creation of more affordable housing units by federal, state, city and local agencies/entities.
3. The creation of more federal and city housing vouchers for low income residents and senior citizens.
4. Establishing a permanent renter’s rebate in the tax code (at all three levels of government). Governments need to be more sensitive to renters. They are as entitled to tax breaks as any homeowner. The idea that some people are paying more than two-thirds of their gross income in rent, should be viewed as obscene in these hard times. Rents in New York are too damn high, and as much as I understand that market forces contribute to this, I still feel that government can step in to offer some relief to renters. We need a long hard public discussion on this issue.
5. As with education, I do have more proposals in this area that would necessitate a specific housing platform (to be developed).
6. NYCHA and HPD should be thoroughly scrutinized because of their past practices of warehousing vacant apartments. Many persons and/or entities have benefited from this policy; we need to know why.
5. A Failing Healthcare System
This area contains one of the largest concentrations of the medically uninsured population in the State of New York, and at the same time, it has one of the largest hospital complexes in the United States -Kings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate Health Science Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Hospital, and Kingsborough Psychiatric Center. The question is how to convert this complex into a medical facility that would cater to the needs of the medically underserved, with the highest standards of health care anywhere in the country/world.
1. To downsize Kings County Hospital and to convert it into a series of primary care facilities that would provide basic outpatient services, to the residents of the community.
2. To create a series of freestanding out-patient clinics that would deal with some of the chronic healthcare challenges in the district - HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Breast and Prostate Cancer, Asthma, Obesity, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Hypertension. Do the electeds of this area understand that we have one of the highest HIV infection rates in the country right here?
3. To establish a “burn-unit” in Brooklyn. We have the largest population of any borough but we don’t have a functioning burn unit at any Brooklyn hospital. If there is a major fire here, we will have to air-lift burn victims to other boroughs (or to Long Island and/or beyond).
4. To lobby the federal and state governments to provide a universal healthcare system similar to the Massachusetts model. This system should provide healthcare to all American residents regardless of employment or immigration status, or ability to pay. HEALTHCARE MUST BE MADE AVAILABLE AS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE.
6. The Senior Citizen Dilemma
The district has one of the largest concentrations of elderly in this city, many of whom do not have any form of insurance coverage; as well as an increasing number of our elderly who are being moved away from their children and their homes (where they can impart values and heritage) to costly facilities, thus minimizing inter-generational interaction and leading to the demise of the more sustainable extended family.
1. The creation of more neighborhood Senior Care Centers, wherein the elderly will be cared for during daytime hours and returned home each day, as opposed to being carted off to a faraway, isolated, and expensive facility.
2. More meals on wheels programs for the home-bound elderly that live alone.
3. The creation of more publicly funded senior citizens centers for the elderly.
4. The conversion of the Susan Smith McKinney Rehab Center at SUNY Downstate into an Assisted Living Facility for the elderly.
7. Need for More Support of Small Businesses & Living-Wage Jobs
This district has four of the largest commercial thoroughfares in the borough of Brooklyn: (i) Flatbush Avenue, (ii) Nostrand Avenue, (iii) Church Avenue, and (iv) Empire Boulevard. However, the commercial strips in these areas have been negatively impacted by the opening of large shopping malls in the area; for example: Kings Plaza in Marine Park, Gateway Plaza in East New York, The Fulton Mall, and the Atlantic Terminal in Downtown Brooklyn. We need a comprehensive city-wide plan to revitalize the commercial strips in Central Brooklyn. This of course will result in better paying jobs for our youths and the public in general.
1. To work with civic associations (e.g. various Chambers of Commerce or Merchants Associations) in the area and with the city’s Department of Business Services to establish four new business improvement districts (BID’s): such as the Empire Boulevard BID, the Flatbush Avenue BID, the Nostrand Avenue BID, and the Church Avenue BID.
2. To work with the two CUNY colleges in the area, Brooklyn College and Medgar Evers, to develop a business development curriculum to instruct entrepreneurs and young people in the district on the fundamentals of preparing business plans, incorporating businesses, preparing business accounts, filing income tax returns, and etcetera.
3. To establish resource programs, to develop the entrepreneurial talent of young people in the area, and to incorporate the young people in the business sector (see mentoring programs earlier mentioned).
4. To develop innovative marketing and advertising programs that revitalize the commercial sector and persuade community residents to patronize neighborhood businesses.
5. To fight for tax incentives to help small businesses provide health insurance and childcare benefits for employees.
6. To pressure the Brooklyn Borough president to make less political hires and more sensible hires: like economists who can help plan the ongoing economic- development strategies for the borough; researchers and policy-analysts who are employed specifically to keep an eye on our development plans/ideas; and staffers who aren’t just political payoffs to party bosses, supporters, selfish greedy developers and the like.
8. The Rights of Immigrants
The United States has been and continues to be a land of immigrants, with New York City being a major nesting place for the mostly beneficial cosmopolitan character of this nation. We cannot allow certain politicians to criminalize and deprive innocent immigrants, regardless of race or creed to suffer the effects of unconstitutional roll-backs of civil liberties and rights in our dear land. As such, in view of the Patriot Act and other attempts to criminalize and demoralize the many hardworking immigrants who now call New York home, we insist on reasonable, charitable and guaranteed due process under the law for all immigrants.
1. To fight for the assertion and maintenance of the right for immigrants to be
able to obtain a driver’s license.
2. To give immigrants the right to access NYC human services (health, housing,
and food programs), as long as they meet the income bracket criteria in place for applicants.
3. To ensure that the regulations in place to ensure that immigrants are
competently advised of the implications of accepting a lesser charge by pleading guilty (sometimes done even for crimes not committed because of the inability to afford a private attorney, or a lack of confidence in our over-extended public legal defense system).
4. To insist that our representatives in the U.S. Congress fight for amnesty for
hardworking immigrants, once they have met reasonable standards for regularization. It is the humane thing to do. Constructive residency and no criminal record should be the threshold for amnesty. Protection of the wellbeing of affected U.S. citizens, and potential for, or proof of rehabilitation, should be determining factors whenever deportation of a caregiver is being considered. And yet, despite my positions here, I still think that any sovereign nation must and should control its borders if it intends to remain sovereign. We can balance both needs here; the need for homeland security, and the human needs of those in limbo who have been here living in the shadows.
9. The right to rehabilitation/anti-recidivism programs for our ex-offenders.
Everyday, thousands of ex-offenders enter our communities to face the hard task
of re-assimilating into society; they need our help, support and encouragement.
If we are serious about anti-recidivism we must establish these programs now.
11. Other issues in general. It is time for the city council to take a long hard look at how monies are allocated in the city budget. If you annually examine the lists of capital projects being funded, I am sure you will find that some districts generally get more monies allocated to them than other districts. This isn’t fair; so let’s examine the “methodology” used to award monies if only for reasons of transparency. We don’t want people to complain that things are being done based on race, nationalism, religion or ethnicity.
In principle, I am against “eminent domain” except for the very narrow areas
where the public good can be easily and readily ascertained; and yet it can be used for as a tool or agent of positive change. I oppose any tolls being placed on East River bridge crossings. It will become a logistical nightmare. The potential environmental issues haven’t been thrashed out as yet. I also oppose “congestion pricing” as a way of dealing with the traffic congestion problem in the city. NYC is already one of the most taxed cities in the nation; we must draw the line somewhere. However, I do believe we should look at getting more funding streams for the city’s coffers, and as such I suggest that we impose higher commuter type-fees on those who come into our city to make a living, while spending most of their earnings outside the city -in their respective home communities.
I am for term limits being imposed on all elected officials (federal, state and city/local). I believe that once term limits have been passed by referendum they should only be overturned by the same vehicle (plebiscite).
I support the designation of some of the district’s housing for “historical landmark” status. This will help in the preservation of architectural standouts. It will also help preserve the aesthetics of the community.
I am not (in principle) opposed to a homeless shelter in the district, but I believe that studies should have been done before said construction, to ascertain the impact of such edifices on the quality of life of the indigenous residents. They should also be done to determine whether or not this district has had an inordinate burden, when it comes to construction of half-way homes, rehab-centers, homeless shelters, group-homes, correctional facilities, waste transfer-stations and the like. It appears that some districts take the big hits when these projects are proposed -when compared to other districts.
I believe we can refocus our waterfront development to move away (somewhat) from the commercialized emphasis, to one where the accent can also include the further development of cultural, recreational and artistic expression. We can develop our city waterfronts as local tourism enclaves; this can enhance the quality of life opportunities for many of our citizens.
Another issue that needs tackling is the racial, ethnic, nationalistic and gender disparities in the awarding of city contracts (amongst other things): presently over 80% of all city contracts go to firms owned and/or headed up by white males. Given the diversity of this great city, it is time to make those numbers more reflective of the city’s diverse population. The same number holds when you look at the upper-echelon jobs within city government; white males dominate the top spots on the salary ladder. We have to commit ourselves to inclusion and empowerment for all our people(s). We have to aggressively pursue policies that enhance the economic development-potential of all our citizens and not that of just one or two racial, religious, ethnic or nationalistic groups; and we definitely need to put an end to gender discrimination like yesterday.
This aspect also needs to include a look at how we (as a city) deal with gay, lesbian, and transgender issues. This city reflects the human rainbow of diversity, we should embrace it not ignore it. All humans are entitled to equal opportunities in terms of addressing their food, shelter and clothing needs. All humans need to be given equal opportunities in terms of jobs, job security, health (mental and physical) needs -and also in terms of their preventative medicine needs. An aggressive drug-affordability program is needed for those who suffer chronic, or long-term and/or permanent ailments/handicaps/physical and/or mental hardships or challenges. As I have said before: we can do better.
My position on same-sex marriage is still evolving. At present I am neither for nor against changing the traditional definition of marriage to allow for same sex couples. I used to be totally against changing it, but I at this point I am forced to reconsider my previous stance. I do have some strong concerns about the rights and protections of those who choose to enter into to a variety of unconventional relationships (not just same-sex): they should all be protected under the law -especially when it relates to property and other basic rights. Suggestions for “civil-union” types of arrangements -though well meant- seem to not be to the liking of those directly involved in this issue. This remains a ticklish issue for me, given my island background and upbringing. I am still working on this issue and I am open to hearing from all concerned.
Finally; even though I am running for seat in the city council and not for one in the state legislature, let me emphatically state that I do believe there is a need for legislative reform on the state level also. Too much power is concentrated in too few hands on all three levels of government. Maximum leaders tend to hurt us in the long run.
And by the way, the state legislature makes many mistakes that the city pays for in both the short and the long term; for example: the state legislature should take away mayoral control of education in NYC. There is no tangible proof that the quality of the services being delivered in this area has been improved significantly enough to warrant a continuation of mayoral control. We should find a better way to deal with the educational needs of our city instead of letting one man (plus his hand-picked minion/Chancellor) assume to be Gods in this area. The state should also stop short-changing the city when it comes to funding viable long-term projects. NYC is the straw that stirs the state’s drink (regards to Reggie Jackson), and this fact should be recognized and respected.
In the area of public transportation, the MTA board should be revamped to include more women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc. Fares should be always kept to a minimum. A project like the second avenue subway line in Manhattan should have been completed long ago. I could go on and on like the Energizer bunny, but I will rest here a bit for now. STAY TUNED-IN FOLKS.
************ Do note that there are many other issues facing this district, but for the sake of brevity (to some extent), I have chosen to only focus on these for the time being. Thanks for your indulgence. **************
I must acknowledge the help of Mr. Gerry Hopkins in putting this platform together. Gerry is a well known community activist/attorney who works hard within media to aid in community development and political action. I appreciate his endorsement for this position. I am humbled by his support.
Again: stay tuned-in folks.
Post new comment