Rafael Espinal - Livable City
1. What would be your top priority as NYC Public Advocate?
My first priority would be establishing offices and staff in all parts of New York City, so it's easy for people to come to the Public Advocate's office to raise issues and get them addressed. It will be the first time the Public Advocate has had offices throughout the city.
2. How did you choose your party name?
New York City has become a lot less livable. People, my own friends, have packed up and moved to other cities. Working class families are getting pushed out of their neighborhoods. It's time to make New York a better place to live. A livable city is about making sure every New Yorker can live with dignity and enjoy quality of life. A livable city means clean air to breathe. It means it's easy and safe to get around whether you catch the bus or train, drive a car, walk or ride a bike. A livable city means a warm, safe, affordable home for everyone. We shouldn't have to advocate for the basics of cleaner streets, functioning transportation systems, and safer communities - these should just be normal things.
3. What do you love about living in New York City?
The nightlife and the people. Our city is full of amazing and fascinating people from right here, and from around the world. I love meeting new people with interesting stories. And I love the creativity of the city and its people.
4. What's your least favorite thing about living in New York City?
How unlivable it's become. New York is becoming a harder and harder place to live. When my parents arrived here they were able to get good union jobs, buy a home, and provide for their family with free healthcare. I look at young families today and the dream of home ownership is achievable, no matter how hard they work. New Yorkers work some of the longest hours in the country, but the system is stacked against them and it's too hard to get ahead.
5. What was your biggest challenge in school?
I was shy, especially around girls! That shyness is still a part of me. I guess I push through it as an elected official because I realize that it takes courage to approach an elected official to hear problems or issues, so I respect people who do approach me.
6. How do we fix public transit?
We need a game-changing plan for investment in public transportation. If we stopped the $11 billion of tax rebates that Wall Street currently gets, we could pump that money into the MTA (and NYCHA). Within a few years, our subway system would once again be the essential infrastructure that underpins New York's economic success, reduces the city's traffic congestion, and lowers dangerous carbon emissions. This would raise the money needed ten times faster than congestion pricing or using the revenue from marijuana legalization, which should be invested back into jobs and investment in the communities who have been unfairly targeted by drug law reform.
7. If you could have dinner with any celebrity dead or alive, who would it be & why?
I'd love to have dinner with Lou Reed. He's such an amazing part of this city's history. I want to hear all his stories.
8. What needs to be done to improve conditions at NYCHA complexes?
One thing that doesn't need to be done is to put it in the hands of a federal monitor, whose job would be to look for reasons why problems are too hard to fix, instead of seeking out opportunities to fix them. Most urgently, NYCHA needs money. If we stopped refunding Wall Street traders the Stock Transfer Tax they already pay, we could raise billions of dollars to fix NYCHA immediately. Once those essential repairs and maintenance are taken care of, I'd like to see NYCHA buildings upgraded to use clean energy. We can employ NYCHA residents to install solar panels and other energy efficiency technologies in their own buildings.
9. Can you cook? What's your specialty?
I love to be in the kitchen, when I have time. Especially if it's making pizza, my favorite comfort food. I would eat it every day if I could, and I almost do to be honest. I make my own dough. I even have a small wood-fire oven in the yard. Even in the winter in the snow, it doesn't stop me.
10. What inspired you to get involved in politics?
I'm a born and raised New Yorker, from one of the most disinvested communities in East New York, Brooklyn. But I was lucky: my parents were union workers, were able to save and buy a house, the same house where I live today. Making it against the odds fueled my desire to get involved in the political process and be able to give back to my community by running for office.
11. What's your favorite movie? TV show? App?
Movie: Lost in Translation. I love the story of rethinking who you are when you're traveling and in an unfamiliar place. TV: Mad Men, because of its portrayal of our city's history. App: Instagram. It's great to connect with people over amazing images and pictures.
12. Any hidden talents?
It's not hidden now, but my pizza pie slinging skills. People are always surprised when they find out that I set up a wood-fire oven in my backyard.