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The Brooklyn Bridge: Brooklyn Paper: Opinion: Hope for Could, Should, Would


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This column is something of a time capsule as the earliest you’ll be reading it is Friday, Nov. 6, and I’m starting it on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day. 

Like millions across the city, I am nervous that, thanks to the electoral college and other quirks in our system, New York will be taken for granted. Unfortunately, the federal government may continue to throw us shade.

The previous sentence is when I stopped writing and started compulsively refreshing my browser and flipping between the boards and analysis of King & Kornacki. Since that time, the results have been up and down but overall, slowly, heading in a direction that secures democracy rather than autocracy and may provide a path for a New York recovery.

But it isn’t over until the orangeman squeals. Metaphorically I will be holding my breath until we escape the sty. If President Donald Trump wins, then “it’s over” for more than just the election. So I’m not going to waste your time and have you read as I wonder glumly about a city that would come to resemble the world of “Mad Max” or “Escape from New York”.

Instead, let’s look at one thing that a Biden Administration could and should do as part of a broader plan. We would be in a position to redefine “public” or “social” housing. Of course, the details are what’s most important, but in the simplest terms, it needs to be green with mixed incomes of all kinds while offering both rental and cooperative housing. 

Providing opportunities for ownership would be a powerful tool in eliminating poverty for people who now work without any prospect of developing equity. Think in terms of an expansive renewal of the Mitchell Lama program. This requires ending the cap on public housing units that were signed by President Clinton in 1998. It also requires people to see public housing as a potentially great tool for a better and more progressive city.

By “green,” it means not only building in energy-efficient ways, but also building in proximity to efficient means of mass transportation. The goal would be to have public transport that’s so good it makes it irrational to get about by car. I mean, who better to develop excellent train systems than a president who is famous for Amtrak ridership? It also means having mixed uses that allow for economic development for good jobs, and services such as childcare to be provided locally. A Brooklyn example would be a smart expansion of the Industrial Business Zones in tandem with any Gowanus rezoning.

Our federal government is lobbied to prop up and support success for all sorts of industries when they need help. This time we’ll cultivate housing security. When stocks crash, the federal reserve and usually slow senate are laser-focused. As we live through a housing crisis, millions are on the brink of eviction. We must help tenants while making sure the landlords who provide shelter aren’t bankrupted. Remember, too, owners are the source of income for maintenance employees, supers, and contractors and tax revenue s for the city.

Anyway, I will stop here and hope by the time you read this, the world knows former Vice President Biden as President-Elect Biden.

Mike Racioppo is the District Manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 and has been an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College.

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