Issues and Platform

West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club

Policy and Priorities for 2017

Draft Proposal by Aries Dela Cruz, Ch air of the Select Committee on Platform

Last Updated at the WHPDC July 29th General Membership Meeting



  • Principles – Affordable, safe, and habitable housing is a fundamental human right.
  • Section 8 – The federal government should fully fund Section 8 vouchers so that all families who qualify for Section 8 receive vouchers, eliminating waiting lists.
  • Mitchell-Lama – The Mitchell-Lama program successfully provided for hundreds of thousands of high-quality affordable housing in New York City. However, loopholes in the program allowed landlords to pay off mortgages and remove the units from the program once rising rents made it lucrative to do so. We call on our State Legislature to amend the law governing Mitchell-Lama so that all units exiting the program become rent-stabilized, not just units built before 1974. Furthermore, we call on HPD, the Mayor, and the City Council to use the State Private Housing Finance Law Article XI to “recapture” former Mitchell-Lama units by offering incentives to landlords to remain in the program.
  • Affordable Rents – New York City for many years preserved a large portfolio of affordable housing through the country’s best rent regulations. However, these rent regulations have been eroded by lawmakers in Albany, leading to paths for landlords to harass rent stabilized tenants out of their apartments and convert said apartments to market-rate units. We call for the full repeal of vacancy decontrol and luxury decontrol, which would remove the incentives for landlords to remove rent stabilized tenants in the hopes of raising the rent high enough to remove the unit from rent stabilization. Additionally, the City and State must force landlords receiving tax breaks such as J-51 credits to re-register their units for rent stabilization and pay back any rental overcharges to comply with the 2009 and 2011 Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Properties rulings. Finally, landlords should not be able to revoke preferential rents given to a tenant, and laws much be changed to ensure that tenants do not have their rent raised dramatically simply because they originally received a preferential rent.
  • HDFCs - West Harlem contains a large number of HDFCs, an important path for affordable housing ownership. Proposed rules should be drafted with input from shareholders, and the city should take ideas from shareholders and community stakeholders seriously. We oppose any one-size-fits-all approach with regards to all HDFCs because of their different histories and fiscal conditions. West Harlem Dems members are involved in this ongoing issue, conducting forums and raising the plight of HDFCs with our elected and public officials by testifying at hearings and privately and publicly urging our leaders to stand with HDFC tenants on this issue. We oppose the City’s efforts to foreclose on HDFCs and give them to developers through the Third Party Transfer program.
  • Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) Program/ANCP (Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program) – West Harlem Dems call upon our elected officials to uphold the promises made to the participants of the tenant interim lease program, and to take imrk mediate steps to protect participants from the kinds of abuses by Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) that were uncovered by the findings of Norman Siegel’s report “BROKEN PROMISE: New York City's Tenant Interim Lease Program And Those Left Behind.” As our president Barry Weinberg has testified at City Council, the transformation of the Tenant Interim Lease Program “will saddle the tenants of the remaining TIL buildings waiting to be co-op owners with unsustainable debt burdens. It is a version of the home loans problems that plagued Wall Street in miniature."
  • NYCHA – NYCHA currently faces a $17 billion capital deficit. New York City, New York State and the Federal government have a responsibility to close that gap. We are opposed to any privatization of NYCHA properties because they could go down a path that will lead to diminished stakes in public housing for the City of New York, including private development on open spaces in NYCHA through infill.
  • City-Owned Vacant Land – Since the 1980s, public-private partnerships to develop vacant City-owned land have resulted in an immense increase in market rate housing units and gentrification that pushes out community residents that held neighborhoods together through the most difficult times in our City’s history. When the people of the City own the land, it should not go to developments that are 80% or even 50% market-rate housing that benefits a private landlord. We demand that the City begin directly developing affordably housing and other buildings for the public good on City-owned vacant or under-utilized land to fully capture the value of such a limited resource.
  • Homelessness – We want safe and well-run transitional and supportive housing in West Harlem. Our local organizations like Broadway Housing and the Fortune Society are the best models for our neighborhood and the rest of New York City. We can do more to keep families already in homes who are at risk for homelessness. That is why we support Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support legislation. This bill would help families receiving public assistance by bridging the gap between rent subsidies they receive from the state and fair-market rents. While it currently costs $44,000/year to shelter a homeless family of four, Assemblyman Hevesi’s bill would only cost $11,000/year for the same family.



  • Charter Schools - West Harlem children deserve a high-quality and fully-funded public education. We are concerned that public funds are diverted to charter schools at the expense of public schools. Given the troubling evidence that charter schools routinely push out =academically challenging students through suspensions and expulsions and informal methods, we do not believe that they are truly public schools because they do not have to take all students, regardless of ability or background. Unless charter schools receive the same level of oversight, protections of civil rights, and provide the same level of transparency and accountability that we require of our public schools, our club supports a moratorium on charter schools and oppose lifting the caps on the number of charter schools.
  • Public Schools – Many parents in West Harlem Dems have children that attend schools in the neighborhood that are poorly equipped to prepare them for adulthood and higher education because they are unfunded. Our city and our state must do more to ensure that our children and teachers have the resources they need. The state must fully fund New York City public schools under the formula set out by Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State.
  • Higher Education - CUNY and SUNY should receive adequate funding to lower their tuition and make these public institutions truly affordable while providing an opportunity for a world-class education to all New Yorkers. The Excelsior Program is a first step, but we must ensure that burdensome restrictions are not a barrier to a quality public education.


State Legislature

  • Oppose the Independent Democratic Conference – West Harlem Dems oppose the Independent Democratic Conference in Albany, a group of rogue State Senators who were elected on the Democratic ballot line who empower the Republicans by refusing to vote for Democratic leadership. Any candidate who is currently a member of the IDC or has been determined to be a potential member of the IDC (as determined by our executive board, in consultation with the Senate Democratic Conference Leader and the Democratic Conference Chair), shall be barred from addressing the membership in any capacity and we will refuse to carry their petitions or consider them for endorsement.


Social Services

  • Children’s Services - A number of West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club members are current or former employees of public and nonprofit social services agencies. We have seen repeated indications of the current overburdening of case workers with high caseloads that mean children like our own Zymere Perkins fall through the cracks and tragically lose their lives. The City must hire more caseworkers to reduce the already-burdensome caseloads of child services workers, to increase their salaries, and to provide meaningful opportunities for career advancement. Our club also calls for increased resources for Family Courts, including the number of Family Court judges.
  • Access-A-Ride – An audit by the City Comptroller found that 31,000 Access-a-Ride passengers were stranded in 2015 and that 73% of the time riders reported incorrect pick-up times. These ongoing failures strand thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities, seniors, and those who are unable to take mass transit. Not only does this waste hundreds of thousands of dollars, it also causes harm and distress to our neighborhood’s most vulnerable, including members of the West Harlem Dems. Governor Cuomo and the MTA have a moral responsibility to take action after years of mismanagement and neglect of this program. We as a state and as a city have to get serious about fixing Access-a-Ride and bringing it into the 21st Century.


Policing, Criminal Justice, and Corrections

  • Right to Know Act - We are proud to be one of the first Democratic Clubs to support the Right to Know Act bills that would require officers to identify themselves with a business card and explain why someone was stopped in non-emergency situations, and we remain committed to seeing this bill out of committee into a full vote in the City Council. We demand that Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito demonstrate courage by allowing this bill, which has a majority of cosponsors, to be voted on.
  • Rikers Island - Every New Yorker should be outraged at the existence of Rikers Island, a complex of 7,000 inmates. We join Democratic State Senate candidate Brian Benjamin in calling for the closure of Rikers Island within 3 years. Benjamin has said he will support a bill that will aim to do just that.
  • Bail Reform – We support the creation of bail funds by the City and non-profits to allow indigent people accused of crimes do not sit in jail and lose their jobs, housing, and childcare arrangements while they wait for a trial to determine their innocence or guilt. Furthermore, we call for reform of cash bail levels permitted to judges, so that bail is assessed on the accused’s ability to pay, similar to the practices of former State Supreme Court Judge Bruce Wright. The tragedy of Kalief Browder, who was held in Riker’s Island for three years awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a backpack, clearly violates his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, and serves as an indictment of the entire system.
  • Gun Safety – Guns are a problem for our communities and we are on the front lines fighting for common-sense gun policies to reduce gun violence and to save lives. We support the expansion and strengthening of background checks such as at gun shows and on the internet, and to close loopholes in our existing laws. We support keeping assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines off the streets. We support classifying gun trafficking as a Federal crime to cut down on illegal gun dealers. We support the removal of guns in situations of domestic violence and from those convicted of misdemeanor crimes related to domestic violence.
  • Private Prison Divestment – Private prisons have higher rates of security and safety incidents per capita than public institutions. Private industries should not be able to profit at the expense of immigrants and communities of color. We support the end of the use of any city investment funds in the private prison industry.



  • Reproductive Justice West Harlem Dems supports the rights of individuals to make reproductive choices and that the constitutional protections in Roe v. Wade should be written into state law. We also support bills aimed that requiring insurance companies to cover FDA-approved contraception without copays.
  • Equal Pay - West Harlem Dems support fair pay reforms, including eliminating wage gaps at the state and city government level, and with regards to state and city contracts.



  • LGBT Center - West Harlem has a thriving LGBT/SGL population and it is important that our elected officials and government provide services and protection to this vulnerable community. Our club members are proud to serve on Community Board 9’s LGBT Task Force and on the board of Harlem Pride. We are also proud to be the writers of the LGBT platform for many uptown elected officials and candidates. We join these organizations and leaders in calling for fully funding an Uptown or Harlem Community Pride Center.
  • GENDA – GENDA is a bill that would include gender identity and expression in the state’s human rights law. We support GENDA’s passage in Albany, which is currently being blocked with the cooperation of the Independent Democratic Conference. It has been passed seven times in the Assembly but continues to fail at the Senate level. Albany has the responsibility to ensure that transgender New Yorkers are not treated like second-class citizens.
  • Policing – We are calling for officers in the 26th and 30th Precinct to be trained in transgender issues by transgender New Yorkers. We are also calling for the creation of LGBT unit for West Harlem, preferably staffed by members of the LGBT community. Officers in this unit shall be given training by nationally known training programs from federal to state level agencies.
  • Curriculum – Our public schools must provide an accounting of the LGBT community’s contribution to history. With this document, we are proud to be the first Democratic Club to call for the inclusion of LGBT activists like Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson, as well as the history of the Stonewall riots and the AIDS activism movement in our public education curriculum.
  • Employment Non-Discrimination - The LGBT/SGL community’s main Federal priority is the passage of a Federal law that explicitly bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


Economic Justice

  • Fair Work Week – Workers should be protected from abusive scheduling practices, have access to full-time status and hours, be able to form organizations, and to request flexible scheduling.
  • Consumer Protections – High speed internet is a basic utility through which people find jobs, receive communications from government and generally conduct their lives. The City must use its power in negotiating franchise agreements to ensure that all New Yorkers are protected from utility monopolies including internet providers and have affordable and fair access to these utilities.
  • Unions – Unions are a fundamental component of achieving a just society in which workers have safe working environments, fair wages, and are not exploited. We support laws like the former Employee Free Choice Act that protect employees interested in unionizing from illegal retaliation by employers. We support the rights and efforts of graduate students, fast food workers, and other historically non-unionized workers to organize. We demand that public works projects truly pay prevailing wages and that data be published for every project to ensure that this is the case.



  • Right to Counsel - All immigrants at-risk for deportation or detention must be provided with legal assistance and counsel by an attorney if they are arrested or detained.
  • DREAM ACT – The DREAM ACT must be enacted in New York State to provide a path to affordable education future employment and opportunity for immigrant New Yorkers.
  • Protections for Immigrant Whistleblowers – Laws must be passed to protect workers who blow the whistle on employers for wage and labor violations, regardless of their immigration status. We must also increase the penalties for employers who abuse immigrant workers.
  • Judicial Diversity - Our judiciary is entrusted to safeguard our democracy and provide justice to our community. Yet only 60% of Latino and 50% of Black voters in New York State trust our state’s judges to be fair and impartial, as compared to 76% of white voters. Since more cases are decided by judges instead of juries, it is critical that our judiciary reflects the population it serves. Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye has observed “a diverse bench gives the public a belief that they are included in the justice system.” The New York State Bar association has warned that the demographics of New York are changing and the judiciary “must keep pace or risk undermining the public’s confidence in our justice system and respect for the rule of law.” Thus, where our club has formal and informal channels in which to provide input, such as judicial conventions, we will work towards improving diversity on the bench.



  • Judicial Diversity - Our judiciary is entrusted to safeguard our democracy and provide justice to our community. Yet only 60% of Latino and 50% of Black voters in New York State trust our state’s judges to be fair and impartial, as compared to 76% of white voters. Since more cases are decided by judges instead of juries, it is critical that our judiciary reflects the population it serves. Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye has observed “a diverse bench gives the public a belief that they are included in the justice system.” The New York State Bar association has warned that the demographics of New York are changing and the judiciary “must keep pace or risk undermining the public’s confidence in our justice system and respect for the rule of law.” Thus, where our club has formal and informal channels in which to provide input, such as judicial conventions, we will work towards improving diversity on the bench.



  • Oppose AHCA - We oppose any GOP attempts to roll back Obamacare and will participate in efforts to thwart this misguided approach that puts profits and tax breaks of the wealthy few over the health of millions of Americans. New York State and New York City must do more on behalf of its citizens to ensure that we receive access to the healthcare that we need.
  • Medicare-for-All - Every man, woman and child in West Harlem should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. Our healthcare system should work for everyone in West Harlem, and we need a system that prioritizes the health of our families and not insurance companies. We support the principles of the movement to establish Medicare-for-All or a similar public program.


Climate and Environment

  • Climate Justice - Our club members are active in the climate justice movement and we work with partners like WE ACT to mobilize our community and neighbors, most recently with the People’s Climate March in 2016 and 2017. We have circulated petitions in our community calling on Mayor de Blasio to use 100% renewable energy in the near future, and we support the development of good solar and wind jobs in New York State, provided that subsidies go to companies require them to pay good wages and protect their workers.
  • Asthma-Free Housing Act - Our club fully supports the passage of the Asthma-Free Housing Act. The proposed legislation requires landlords to annually inspect and correct indoor allergen hazards, including mold, pests, and underlying symptoms that may cause these conditions, such as water leaks and pest entryways (holes and cracks). The city must do more to protect tenants with respiratory conditions and reduce preventable asthma, which burdens and impacts low-income families the most. Passing this bill and enforcing it is one concrete step towards that goal.
  • Environmental Justice – West Harlem bears more than its fair share of polluting and environmentally harmful sites, such as the West Side Highway, two MTA bus depots, and a large water treatment plant. Methods must be found to mitigate the harmful impacts from these sites. Additionally the City and State must do more to increase green spaces and communities access to and education about green spaces by providing resources to community gardens, city parks and playgrounds, and state parks. Additionally, our schools must develop programs for students to become involved in recycling, gardening, planting of trees, and beautifying our community to develop both environmental awareness and a feeling of investment in their community.



  • Reforming our voting system – Our club supports automatic voter registration, online voter registration, as well as Election Day registration, registering and voting on the same day. We also support pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • Early Voting – We should have no-excuse absentee voting and early voting in New York State.


Arts and Culture

  • West Harlem Cultural Center – We support the creation of a physical space in West Harlem operated by a local non-profit to advance the artistic and economic development of local artists and cultural organizations while deepening the connection of all West Harlem residents to the area’s local arts, culture, and history.
  • Early Voting – We support the preservation and creation of affordable studio and workshop spaces for artists in the community.