Brooklyn can be a challenging place to live, especially if you’re older.
Rents are rising. Traffic is getting worse. The trains and buses don’t run like they used to — or they don’t run at all.
As I campaign for State Senate, I think often about how I can try to make the lives of people in my district a little bit better. What policies can I champion? What can I directly do?
On Monday, the Bay Ridge Eagle reported on my campaign’s senior citizens platform, and I’m happy to share it in full here. At the core of it, I think, is my belief that we have to make living here more affordable. Healthcare costs and housing costs are out of control, even predatory. We have to stand up to the pharmaceutical and real estate industries. Our politicians simply have to do more.
Below, you’ll find my platform. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or think I overlooked any issues.
A “New Deal” for Senior Housing
We have a senior housing crisis in Brooklyn and across New York City. The average citizen aged 62 or older waits seven years upon applying for housing, according to a recent report from the nonprofit advocacy group LiveOn NY. Waiting lists are sometimes so crowded that buildings close them entirely. Seniors are left with few options aside from remaining in apartments they can’t pay for any longer. About 200,000 elderly New Yorkers are actually on these waiting lists — and that is unconscionable.
As Brooklyn’s senior population continues to boom, City Hall must do more to allow senior housing, instead of luxury condos, to be built in rezoned areas and on city-owned property. Concessions to greedy real estate developers must end. More importantly, the State has a role to play — we must drastically increase the amount of funding for senior housing. While the Governor recently announced a $2.5 billion plan to build 110,000 units of affordable housing, that is just not be enough to adequately serve seniors. We need more than double that much funding to create a New Deal for senior housing — one that keep seniors living productive, healthy lives right here in Brooklyn. In addition to battling for new funding for senior housing throughout the 22nd Senate District, I will fight to ensure the Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights is turned into senior housing.
Freeze Rents on Rent-Controlled Apartments
Many rent-controlled tenants are senior citizens. Right now, these tenants are being threatened with a drastic increase in their rent — potentially leading to eviction — as part of the State’s plan for a 7 percent rent hike. Right now, New York State Homes and Community Renewal — the state agency that oversees housing — does not consider a tenant’s income before moving forward with such increases.
We must pass legislation to ensure incomes are factored into any decision made about rent hikes on rent-controlled apartments. If a senior citizen is living solely on a fixed income, sudden increases do not make sense — they are capricious and cruel. Since Brooklyn faces a severe shortage of affordable housing and senior housing, and developers are only incentivized to make profits at the expense of everyone else, an indefinite rent freeze on rent-controlled apartments is absolutely necessary.
Bring a Community Center to Bay Ridge and Elsewhere
Social isolation for seniors is an under-discussed but very real problem — and they deserve every opportunity to meet people, make friends, and enjoy intellectual stimulation. Without access to a well-programmed community center, seniors can grow lonelier, less active, and less healthy. We need more community centers across our district — and we need those centers to offer high-quality programming and activities that specifically serve and support seniors.
Bay Ridge lacks a full-service community center — and we must change that. It is well within our power to do this and there many different ways through which we can pursue it. One of the best options is to establish a community land trust on city-owned land in the neighborhood and work together to build the community center we need. If needed, I will also work to secure state funding to build a community center.
Make Transportation Accessible for All
Seniors and people with disabilities are unfairly denied access to our subway system every day — and that is because the MTA has refused to provide elevators at the vast majority of subway stations, especially in Southern Brooklyn. State Senator Marty Golden has been particularly weak on this issue and has failed to take any action to compel the MTA to make our subways accessible to everyone.
I will change that by holding the MTA accountable for its past failures and convening hearings and audits that expose problems and force the agency to do the right thing. We must finally make our subway stations accessible. Additionally, we must upgrade our city buses and improve service to ensure they actually show up and get our residents where they need to be. (I outlined my plan for buses in a recently released transportation platform.)
We know too that Access-a-Ride continues to fail our seniors, showing up late or not coming at all. It is in desperate need of reform. We need more data on the actual quality of service, a complaint process that is transparent, and on-demand service — in 2017, it is ridiculous that seniors must book a ride a day in advance.
Stand Up to Big Pharma and Control Prescription Drug Costs
I know firsthand how ineffective and immoral our healthcare system can be. My father, a senior and Type 1 diabetic, relies on insulin to survive, and saw the price skyrocket last year for no reason other than the greed of big pharmaceutical companies. Part of the problem here is that Republicans on the federal level do not allow the government negotiate Medicare drug prices. We need Medicare for All to guarantee healthcare access for all, and to control the costs of prescription drugs.
A statewide single-payer system in New York, which can only become a reality once Senator Golden’s Republican party is out of power, would lower the cost of drugs for our seniors. With a Medicare for All system in place, New York’s negotiating position would be increased dramatically. Drug companies would no longer have such leverage over one of the largest and most influential states in America. And predatory insurance companies would no longer be able to reap such lavish profits off the medical needs of our seniors.
One in four older adults living at home is nutritionally at-risk, which is a significant factor in half of all senior hospital admissions and readmissions. Part of the broader problem is that seniors are dramatically unenrolled in SNAP benefits. Politicians must do more to educate eligible seniors about their right to SNAP and decrease stigma. I will make battling senior hunger a priority when he is elected, because no one should have to make the everyday choice between buying food, medication, or paying rent.