Current New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer now has his sights on becoming the city’s next mayor armed with an economic approach to “bringing the city back.”
Announcing his candidacy for mayor in September, the 60-year-old served in the New York Assembly representing District 67, which includes parts of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen, from 1993 to 2005. Stringer then served as Manhattan Borough president from 2006 to 2013.
A Washington Heights native, Stringer got his political start in the mid-1970s under the late Percy Sutton, who was Manhattan Borough president. Sutton named him to the Community Planning Board when Stringer was just 16 years old. Nearly 45 years later, Stringer hopes to be the next mayor of the nation’s largest city.
In a recent interview, Stringer said a tremendous challenge is ahead to bring the city back from COVID-19, and his economic experience is what’s needed.
“We need someone who has the vision and the skills to turn this economy back on,” he said. “The one thing I know is we can’t open up the economy the same way we closed it. We’re going to have to look at where the COVID virus has ravaged communities, especially communities of color. We have to think about a different way of budgeting [and] investing in our neighborhoods.”
Stringer’s plans include helping small businesses reopen. According to Stringer, more than 2,800 small businesses have closed in the city with 520,000 jobs gone.
“We need to help small businesses reopen and stay open and bring them back to the streets,” he said. “My small business plan is to provide tax relief for businesses struggling to reopen. We have to create tax incentives to draw businesses to the hollowed-out corridors because even pre-COVID, we had 11 million square feet of vacant retail space. Now, it’s up to 16 million square feet. The backbone of bringing back the economy is investing in all of our small businesses.”
Aside from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stringer knows firsthand the emotional damage it’s done. He lost his mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas, from complications from the virus in April. When speaking to a doctor, he understood how the pandemic is impacting communities of color.
“The doctor made it clear that communities of color in the Bronx, Brooklyn and so many places, there are people in their 40s and 50s who are dying,” Stringer said. “There’s no shortcut to getting rid of the virus. We need an everyday plan that speaks to social distancing and education. I experienced loss first hand and I want to protect the most vulnerable in our society. We have to prepare for an equitable distribution of the vaccine.”
The pandemic has caused a riff in public schools with many of them closing and reopening. Stringer is the father of two young sons, ages seven and nine, in public school and he says remote learning has been a challenge for his family. He believes there should be a plan of certainty to put parents’ minds at ease. He doesn’t believe Mayor Bill de Blasio has been consistent.
“I worry about the families that don’t have remote learning devices and kids who don’t have access to the internet,” he said. “It’s been disgraceful how slow the DOE has been in getting those kids the resources they need. We have to create an education system and we have to ensure that every child has the same resources to learn and prosper. That’s just not true in New York City right now. Depending on the zip code you live in is the education you receive.”
Over the summer, protests over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought the issue of police-community relations to the forefront. Stringer says as he wants to stop over-policing and hold the NYPD accountable. He plans to appoint a reform-minded police commissioner and give CCRB the authority to make decisions.
“As mayor, I will take action that honors Black lives by recognizing that a gun and a badge is not the solution to most issues,” he said. “I will narrow the scope of the NYPD’s responsibility so they can focus on serious crime while investing city dollars in our communities. We need a 21st century policing strategy.”
The city is currently dealing with a housing crisis and a homeless crisis, which is about to get worse post-COVID when eviction moratoriums expire. According to Stringer, the number of people in city shelters is 60% higher than it was a decade ago. He says too much has been done about the symptoms of homelessness rather than the underlying causes.
“I have a plan that would create housing that’s affordable for working families and New Yorkers on the brink,” Stringer said. “We need universal affordable housing. I would have thoughtful up-zonings with greater affordability requirements and leverage city capital dollars to build low and extremely low affordable housing. We need a massive universal affordable housing plan because 572,000 people are one step away from homelessness.”
As for NYCHA, Stringer says he’s done 19 audits on public housing and knows about the mismanagement in the agency.
“I know the problems of NYCHA because I’ve been fighting for NYCHA residents, not just as comptroller but as an assemblyman, as borough president for 30 years,” he said. “It’s been a lonely battle but we need to bring NYCHA the resources that I hope we can get now that Biden’s president. We need a federal response from HUD. I want to bring the management of NYCHA into City Hall so the mayor is held accountable to help the 400,000 residents. I have the experience and the knowledge of the issues facing NYCHA.”
In Stringer’s latest move as he presses forward with his campaign, he released a report giving the city a “C” grade when it came to awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses. He touted his office’s own increased spending with minority- and women-owned businesses from 13% to approximately 50% over the last seven years. Stringer wants to use a similar approach to every city agency.
He’s received over 20 endorsements so far, mostly from politicians, including Assemblyman Al Taylor, State Sen. Robert Jackson and Congressmember-elect Jamaal Bowman. Stringer has also received one union endorsement from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.