Bottom line, up front: I'm voting for Kathryn Garcia, second choice Andrew Yang, third choice Maya Wiley. (You get to list your choices - early voting starts Saturday.)
Background: NYC's primary election for mayor is June 22 and the Democratic primary is going to determine who takes over Gracie Mansion. The city Republican Party has shriveled so much that they're a nonfactor - they would rather kvetch than win. In any case, the Republican candidates are worthless. One's a carpetbagger who actually lives in the Westchester County suburbs, i.e., not in New York City; the other is a crank who thinks the subway needs vigilantes trained in karate.
There's a crowded Democratic field, but you get to rank your choices, so you get to pick who you like. Thus, Garcia, Yang, Wiley.
As I've written here a lot, NYC's two biggest problems are (1) it's too hard to get around, and (2) the rent is too damn high. Garcia's the only real person who takes these problems seriously, and she's the only person in the field who knows how to make the massive, sclerotic City bureaucracy move. Garcia was Di Blasio's sanitation commissioner, former COO of NYC Environmental Protection, and the former head of NYCHA. By all accounts she's done an excellent job at all of them.
SO WHAT'S HER PLAN?
- Allow more housing near jobs and mass transit. (40% of Manhattan's buildings, including the building I live in, are illegal to build today.) And they should allow more of that.
- Get new apartments approved and built faster. This means streamlining the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and City environmental review, and it means cleaning house at the NYC Department of Buildings. ULURP and environmental review are slow, expensive processes which are vulnerable to political meddling. And the Department of Buildings is infamous for retroactively cancelling permits that they already approved because some crank filed a bad faith lawsuit. This shit needs to end, and Garcia's the only one who shows any interest in fixing how the sausage gets made.
- Fix the NYC Housing Authority. The NYC Housing Authority is a massive source of cheap housing for New Yorkers, and it is a hot mess. Garcia was in charge of getting rid of lead paint in NYCHA after the lead paint scandal and she did a really solid job of it as interim head.
Basically, Garcia knows what needs to be fixed, and knows how to move the bureaucracy to fix it.
OKAY, I GET IT. GARCIA'S GOOD. BUT WHAT ARE MY ALTERNATIVES?
Glad you asked. They fall into two groups, the moderates and the left-wingers. I'll talk about the other moderates first.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn Boro President. Adams is an old-fashioned machine politician who thinks the answer to NYC's housing shortage is to tell people "go back to Iowa." As a transplant myself, I say "get the fuck outta here." Also, he's the kind of casually corrupt dickhead who parks his car in the middle of public plazas because he can. Oh, and he might actually live in New Jersey.
Andrew Yang, businessman. Yang's a clueless dilettante who knows nothing about how to run a government, and we already had eight years of that with Bill de Blasio. He's promised to hire Garcia as deputy mayor - but if that's the case, why not just vote for Garcia? Yang is my second choice because he's not actively bad, unlike Adams.
Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller. Stringer's plan for housing is to require new 20% of new apartment buildings to be rent-stabilized. They've done this for decades in California, and it's been a miserable failure. When San Francisco did this, it dramatically slowed down new housing construction. No thanks.
Dianne Morales, nonprofit executive. Instead of streamlining the bureaucracy and making things go faster, Morales wants more "participatory planning." This means more stupid public hearings where local cranks act like it's the Festivus Airing of Grievances. We already have this, and it sucks. (Also, apparently Morales is running as a progressive and firing her employees because they're trying to unionize. wtf?)
Maya Wiley, civil rights lawyer. Wiley wants to throw money at the problem and build "truly affordable housing". This is mealy-mouthed nonsense masquerading as a plan. If you don't reform the reasons why NYC is expensive - bad zoning, the city bureaucracy, an outdated building code - you're going to just throw money down a hole. Wiley means more of the same, but that's still better than Adams. Also, Wiley wants to build more bike lanes, which is generally a good thing.
Because of this, my candidate list is going to be:
- Kathryn Garcia, because she knows what needs to be fixed, and knows how to fix it.
- Andrew Yang, because he's not Adams.
- Maya Wiley, because she's also not Adams.
This is one of the few times I make a direct endorsement for or against a politician, but the choice is pretty clear.