NY Assembly District 46 – Candidates on Issues – Part 2 of 5

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CONEY ISLAND –  To fill the gap as to where candidates stand on issues in the district, Bklyner brings you a series of region-specific Q&As from each candidate running in the 46th assembly district which includes Coney Island, Sea Gate and parts of Bay Ridge, Brighton Beach, Dyker Heights and Gravesend. This series hopes to bring awareness to problems in the district and help better inform constituents of the policies and practices of those seeking their votes. Part 1 can be found here.

If you have a question that’d you’d like to see answered through Bklyner’s forum, please reach out to Kadia Goba at kadia@bklyner.com.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Bklyner reporting is supported by our subscribers and:

Mathylde Frontus (Democrat)

Q: Currently, rent burden throughout the district is already teetering at just below 50 percent, according to New York City planning data. With major development occurring on the Coney Island side of the district, how will you ensure long-time residents are not displaced?
Mathylde Frontus (D): The displacement of long-time residents on Coney Island is not a far-away thing which may happen down the line. It’s actually happening now. A number of privately run buildings have been purchased by new owners who have increased the rent, making it impossible for families to remain in the community. As a 30-year resident of the community myself, I actually know families which have had to move because their rents went up and they were unable to pay the increase.  Multiple studies have found a link between the recent rezoning plans across New York City and the displacement of tenants. Much of the over-development and rent increases happening across Coney Island today can be tied to the 2009 rezoning plan which neglected to include much protection for long-term residents.  Protecting long-term residents from displacement requires a multi-pronged approach from the city, state and federal government. With the new leadership at HUD seeking to change the agency’s focus and helping of the poor, the leadership of our city and state government will be required to do more. That is why as a new  Assembly Member, I will make the protection of low to middle-income tenants in my district a priority. Specifically, I will:
 
1) Protect and expand rent-stabilized apartments.
2) Fight to ensure that newly constructed units include a minimum of 40% affordability with priority given to local residents. More importantly, I will advocate for the redefining of how affordability is calculated and introduce legislation requiring the use of census tract data which is more useful than the one-size-fits-all AMI which is still too high for low-income communities like Coney Island.
3) Advocate for the strengthening of the state’s housing policy which must protect vulnerable residents against the exploitation by landlords
4) Allocate additional state funds to HPD to create additional affordable home-ownership programs in my district which has tapered off over the last few years
 
Overall, I believe strongly that all levels of government must work in tandem and do more to protect the displacement of long-time residents from their community. Our laws and policies need to be updated to better prevent this type of treatment of families.
Q: How will your plan impact seniors as one half of the district, Bay Ridge, is considered a NORC and the other has a senior population nearly double the city’s average.
Mathylde Frontus (D): My plan will help seniors because I will ensure that funding for programs like The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) is not only preserved but increased.  All seniors above the 62 should have their rents stabilized and not have to face the burden of rising rents.
Q: Acknowledging the candidates haven’t held public office, what contributions or advocacy work qualifies you as a person the district should trust to handle rent hikes, senior housing, and gentrification-related displacement.
 
Mathylde Frontus (D): I believe that the advocacy work that I’ve done in my community and the leadership experience that I’ve garnered for the last 20 years qualifies me for this position and the responsibilities and challenges that will come with it. I have a long track record of coming up with solutions to problems in my community and creating programs and initiatives to fill in service gaps. Many people may now that I founded the Urban Neighborhood Services, Coney Island Coalition Against Violence and Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative.
Even as I write this, I recently convened the clergy in my community around the table to form a coalition which can address the social service needs of our neighborhood. Over the years, I’ve organized tenants around their housing needs, implemented a youth leadership program and college-bound project consisting of free SAT prep and college tours.  I have been at the service of the community and have proven that I care about the upliftment of the people and serving their needs.  As a 30+ year resident, I am invested in preventing the displacement of my fellow neighbors.
Q: What’s the name of the last senior center you’ve visited in the district?
Mathylde Frontus (D): JASA’s Coney Island Active Aging (CIAA) NORC Program
Q: Rent or own?
Mathylde Frontus (D): Own

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (Democrat)

Q: Currently, rent burden throughout the district is already teetering at just below 50 percent, according to New York City planning data. But with major development occurring on the Coney Island side of the district, how will you ensure long-time residents are not displaced?

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Housing costs and rent burden are serious issues throughout the 46th Assembly District, and far too many families and seniors can barely afford to live in the communities they helped build. I believe that development should meet the income levels of existing communities. In the Assembly, I will be a staunch advocate for creating and preserving affordable and senior housing; funding capital repairs for our existing, aging affordable housing stock; and services that help our many seniors age in place. I will work on the following initiatives:

  • I will work to change AMI (area median income) to be zip code-specific so that it more accurately reflects individual communities and neighborhoods, and does not lump Coney Island with Westchester and wealthy parts of Manhattan.
  • I will co-sponsor bills that protect rent-regulated housing and tenants from harassment from landlords.
  • I will also introduce legislation to create grants for Mitchell-Lama programs and create a capital funding stream for the repair of aging rental and co-op Mitchell-Lamas, to ensure that both affordability and livability are maintained, without the need for Major Capital Improvement increases.
  • I will fight in Albany for an expansion to the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA)’s forgivable no-interest Down Payment Assistance Loan for low and moderate-income home buyers. Homeownership has always been a pathway to the middle class, and we need to do more to make it accessible.
  • I will advocate to fully fund NYCHA’s capital needs. Systemic disinvestment has led to deteriorating conditions in many of our NYCHA buildings, and we need to reinvest in order to ensure that all residents have a clean, and safe home.
  • I will work to expand utility discount programs for seniors and low-income households.
  • I will advocate for changing Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) eligibility to be based on net income instead of gross income. Working at the City Council, I saw far too many cases of folks who were struggling, but whose gross income was a few dollars over the cutoff, and were denied benefits. Net income is a more accurate representation of people’s actual financial situation.
  • Many buildings in Coney Island have regulatory agreements that will expire in the next 10-15 years. I will work with building owners who have expiring regulatory agreements to make sure that the agreements are renewed in order to preserve affordable housing.
  • I will oppose future re-zonings that would result in displacement and do not contain an affordable component.

Q: How will your plan impact seniors as one half of the district is considered a NORC and the other has a senior population nearly double the city’s average.

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Our seniors deserve to be secure in their homes and I will work hard to ensure they are included in any housing-related bills and programs I advocate for in the Assembly. I will fight for a New York State Homes and Community Renewal financing program dedicated to building senior housing, similar to the NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)’s Senior Affordable Rental Apartments program.

Additionally, I will work for further increases to SCRIE/DRIE and Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE)/Disabled Homeowners’ Exemption (DHE). During my time working in the City Council, I secured the expansion of NORC funding in the City Council, and I will fight for an expansion at the state level because seniors need adequate services and resources to age in place comfortably.

Q: Acknowledging the candidates haven’t held public office, what contributions or advocacy work qualifies you as a person the district should trust to handle rent hikes, senior housing, and gentrification-related displacement.

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): During my time working in the City Council, I worked alongside Councilmember Treyger to address many of the housing issues in our community. As Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, I have direct legislative and budget experience, and I know how to advocate with agencies to secure policy change that helps the community.

I worked to secure (for the first time in Coney Island) funding under the Housing Preservation Initiative, which funds a grassroots neighborhood-based approach to affordable housing preservation. We fought hard for developers to take into account the actual incomes of people in the community (around 44% of AMI for Coney Island) when building new affordable developments, and this work emphasized the need for legislative change at the state level to address AMI.

I also was involved in negotiations to ensure that two proposed buildings in Coney Island were financed under the NYC Housing Preservation and Development’s Extremely Low and Low Income Affordability (ELLA) program, which mandates affordability that matches the needs of the community. I additionally fought and secured an expansion of HPD’s HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance program for first-time home buyers, because it’s crucial to give folks opportunities to build equity in the neighborhoods that they live in.

Constituent services was also a major part of my job, and this work also made me very familiar with many of the city and state’s housing resources. I cannot count the number of conversations I have had with residents who were frustrated by interminable waiting lists and opaque lottery systems for affordable housing.

I have fought throughout my career to support NYCHA families and worked closely with Tenant Association leaders. If elected, I will create a tenant leaders committee that will strengthen communication between residents and elected officials and will improve accountability. Following Hurricane Sandy, I worked to ensure that funding was allocated for repairs for NYCHA and other large residential developments, to facilitate recovery from one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory.

My record, my experience, and the trust that I have built with tenant leaders and constituents through direct service mean that I will be ready to hit the ground running in Albany to tackle the issues facing the 46th District.

Q: What’s the name of the last senior center you’ve visited in the district?

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Haber Houses Senior Center

Q: Rent or own?

Ethan Lustig-Elgrably (D): Rent

Steve Saperstein (Republican)

Q: Currently, rent burden throughout the district is already teetering at just below 50 percent, according to New York City planning data. But with major development occurring on the Coney Island side of the district, how will you ensure long-time residents are not displaced?

Steve Saperstein (R): Let’s think outside the box. Prospering neighborhoods are something that long-time residents, businesses, and community advocates can all agree on when it comes to jobs, building income and investing back into the district. The Real Estate boom in New York City is not going anywhere, so let’s not kid ourselves with cheesy lines and false promises.
If you’re a mega-developer building a huge development in the district; not only should we require mandatory housing but we should have them fund new schools, parks, and senior centers. Let’s look to research and bring key stakeholders together to preserve housing stock without the division.
The Rockefeller Foundation recently sponsored a study that says we should alter the Inclusionary Zoning scale income requirements to specific boroughs and neighborhoods off of the citywide scale. The Bronx has an average income of $35,000, which lowers the Brooklyn threshold and pushes out local viable residents who miss the cut off because they earn “too much money” and fail to qualify for affordable housing in new developments.
Q: How will your plan impact seniors as one half of the district, Bay Ridge, is considered a NORC and the other has a senior population nearly double the city’s average.
Steve Saperstein (R): Yes, this is what we call a common sense approach to government. For those renting in the district, I will advocate raising the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) requirements from the flat scale of $50,000 to a higher calculation that takes into account the specific realities with cost of living and inflation in Brooklyn.
Q: Acknowledging the candidates haven’t held public office, what contributions or advocacy work qualifies you as a person the district should trust to handle rent hikes, senior housing, and gentrification-related displacement.
Steve Saperstein (R): I am an independent, bi-partisan problem solver and voice that does not answer to anybody except the people. This is why my opponents fear me. I will shake things up and advocate for the community without fear of retribution by machine party bosses and establishment.
A perfect example of chronic mismanagement is how my opponents recently blamed the fact that a Coney Island community center in Surfside gardens was delayed due to “government bureaucracy and incompetence.” They ARE the government! NYCHA, senior housing and public housing stock are in the worst conditions ever. 1,000’s of kids are literally being poisoned by lead, nearly 70% of residents are without heat in the winter, and yet electeds try to fool residents to continue to vote along political party lines with false narratives.
My plea to residents in the district is: CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?  Vote for someone with common sense and who will fight for actual change with accountability only to you the people.
Q: What’s the name of the last senior center you’ve visited in the district?
Steve Saperstein (R): JASA senior citizen center in Luna Park.
Q: Rent or own?
Steve Saperstein (R): Rent

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