Our community is under siege and has been for quite some time. More and more of our neighbors are finding inequality and injustice in Central Brooklyn (NY-9), and good folks are being pushed out in droves.

In Washington, the ideals of our country are being torn to shreds by an administration bent on creating an America we don’t recognize.

Not only do we have to hold the line and defend our values, but we also have to explore new and daring approaches to the vast inequality and injustice plaguing our community.

We can no longer afford to be passive observers. It’s time for us to do the right thing and take back our future.
— Adem Bunkeddeko

Affordable Housing

We are in the midst of a housing crisis. Rent has gone up 20% or more in parts of Central Brooklyn, which has also suffered a net loss of over 5,000 rent stabilized apartments. [1] For middle-class and working families who are making between $30,000 and $80,000 a year, it’s becoming impossible to have a home to call their own.

Adem believes suitable housing is a right. To ease the rent burden and give families a future, Adem will fight for a program to combat our housing crisis:

Focus the Housing Market on Providing Sustainable Housing

  • Encourage state and local governments to levy vacancy taxes on unoccupied residential units in densely populated communities if no one lives in them for at least nine months out of the year. This will discourage foreign investors and domestic speculators from taking homes off the market and raising purchase and rental prices for everyone else by skewing demand against lower-cost housing.
  • Establish an authority within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that has the power to investigate the ownership and use of residential properties in highly populated ZIP codes, so state and local governments can police speculators who distort the market.

Protect Tenants

  • Renew the 2009 Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), which provides protections for tenants whose properties have been foreclosed on. Since the PTFA was allowed to expire in 2014, tenants have had to rely on the often weaker state-level protections against new owners who try to drive tenants out of the buildings they have purchased.

Make Investing in Housing a Priority, Not an Afterthought

  • Establish a 21st-century Mitchell-Lama Housing Program that commits federal dollars to the development and construction of high-quality affordable housing to rent and own. This program would provide direct subsidy through low-interest lending and tax abatements to encourage private developers to build fully affordable apartment buildings for low- and middle-income residents.
  • Increase federal funding for the New York City Housing Authority so the country’s largest public housing system can provide safe and adequate shelter to its 400,000 residents.

Keep Incomes at Pace with Living Costs

  • Invest federal dollars in programs to establish worker-owned small business cooperatives so that residents share in their neighborhood’s prosperity. 
  • Develop and strengthen workforce training programs so that residents can take advantage of jobs created by the development of affordable housing and other infrastructure investments that benefit growing neighborhoods. 
  • Adopt federal tax policies that encourage companies to share profits with employees.

Provide Brooklyn’s Working Families the Opportunity to Achieve Long-Term Housing Security  

  • Create a National Tenant Purchase Initiative (TPI) to help people achieve the security of home ownership at the lowest possible cost. TPI will provide funding and technical assistance to increase the availability of limited-equity cooperatives, which have successfully allowed low- and middle-income residents in high-cost cities such as Washington, D.C. to purchase ownership shares in their housing developments. Residents of these cooperatives gain many advantages, including:
    • Paying less for an ownership share than for the down-payment of a traditional co-op, since the low-equity cooperative eliminates landlord profit.
    • Protection from rapid rent increases and predatory landlords, because residents control how the building is run through an elected board of directors.
    • A stable economic asset, because the ownership share in the cooperative is a store of wealth over time.

Immigration reform

Families in the community are worried they'll be torn apart by President Trump's sweeping ICE raids. Adem knows these worries well: his father’s first stop in America after fleeing war-torn Uganda was an immigration and naturalization detention center. To fight back, Adem will strongly advocate for:

  • Pathway to citizenship for all refugees in the U.S.;
  • A stop to the current inhumane deportation regime and a elimination private detention centers; and
  • Reforming visa programs to encourage skilled individuals and students to make America their home.

Criminal justice reform

Growing up as an African-American male in the inner city of New York, Adem understands personally the challenge of reforming the criminal justice system.

Adem is determined to bring equity to a system that treats people differently based on where they fall across racial and socioeconomic lines. Adem will work to reduce America's prison population, which is both the world’s largest and composed disproportionately of low-income black and brown people. [4] He will propose to:

  • Reform the bail system so pretrial detention is based on flight risk, not wealth;
  • Legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana to get non-violent offenders out of prison system; and
  • Re-enfranchise the 3.1 million Americans unable to vote despite completing prison terms.

Jobs and economic empowerment

Adem knows the importance of finding a job that pays a decent wage. He’s been helping folks on the margins of society attain economic self-sufficiency his entire career. We’re most likely to afford to stay in our neighborhoods if we own a share of the wealth that's being created when new businesses or residential developments open. That's why Adem will advocate:

  • Funding to help establish worker-owned, cooperative small businesses in our community;
  • Adoption of tax policies that encourage companies to share profits with employees; and
  • New businesses and developments in our neighborhoods to hire locally.

Healthcare and Women's Health

America spends 250% more on healthcare than other rich countries do—even though Americans have a shorter life expectancy. [5,6] What's more, women's access to healthcare in America is under attack. Adem will:

  • Support Senator Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All bill, which will put us on the path to single-payer healthcare system that is cheaper, better, and more just than what we have today; and
  • Fight back against President Trump's assault on a woman's right to choose by restoring Title X and ending the Global Gag Rule.

Education

Growing up, Adem attended an underperforming public school. However, he was fortunate enough to earn a scholarship to attend prep school, an opportunity that opened many doors.

Not every child in Central Brooklyn has an opportunity of that kind. Instead, many continue to pay a high price for going to underachieving schools. In Crown Heights, less than half of all 4th graders are performing at grade level in Math and English Language Arts (ELA). [7] In Brownsville, less than a quarter of 4th graders are performing at grade level in the same subjects.[8]

We must do better. Just like every parent, Adem wants all of our children to go to great schools and does not believe a child’s ZIP code should determine the quality of his/her education.

To realize this vision, Adem will take a two-part approach. Adem will:

·      Provide federal support to scale up successful programs; and

·      Encourage the addition of high-quality schools.

Examples of successful programs include Small High Schools of Choice, a program here in New York City, and Career Academies, a nationwide model of vocational training for secondary schools. [9]

Adem will also support the addition of both public and charter schools, especially in communities that lack decent educational options. Some charters have not been effective, but the top performing ones have been able to improve the quality of education in general and bridge the socioeconomic and racial divide. However, charters must be held to the same standards as traditional schools and remain truly public institutions by working with students on both sides of the economic and racial divide.

In addition, Adem will advocate for the following ideas and work to secure federal funding to encourage states to pursue them:

  • Pre-K
    • Expanding early childhood education nationwide by providing federal matching funds to states that choose to replicate New York City's successful Universal Pre-K program;
  • K-12
    • Committing new federal funding to proven vocational “hollege” programs like Brooklyn’s P-TECH High School;
  • College and Beyond
    • Eliminating community college tuition; and
    • Eliminating tuition at in-state public institutions.

Ending school segregation

Over 60 years after Brown v. Board of Ed, New York City’s schools are still deeply segregated—indeed, they are among the most segregated in the nation. The most recent report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project found that almost half of public schools are “intensely segregated,” where non-white students make up 90% of the class. Nearly 1 school in 5 is even worse, with 99-100% of students either black or Latino.

To tackle segregation, Adem will fight for a new federal program, the “Race to Racial Fairness” School Desegregation Program, that includes two key pillars and is inspired by President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.This initiative will incentivize states to adopt policies to end de facto segregation. In particular, the Race to Racial Fairness Program will champion two ideas: 

  • Redraw school districts to diversify and integrate them

Under his program, school districts would be awarded supplementary federal funding for education expenses if they can demonstrate progress towards a student population that reflects diversity across communities. School districts could achieve the program’s requirements by experimenting with irregular school district shapes or collaborating with other districts to achieve integration not just within a district but across a region of districts.

  • Diversify the way schools measure achievement in admissions criteria

When Adem applied to Harvard Business School, they didn’t accept him based on one test score. He doesn't see why Stuyvesant or Brooklyn Tech should either. School districts should adopt multiple formal criteria instead of relying on one “make or break” exam, which tends to advantage students whose schools already have the resources to excel. These narrow admissions criteria perpetuate segregation and should be replaced.


Our caribbean friends and neighbors

Adem recently released his four-point plan for making sure Brooklyn's Caribbean community has active, energetic, and effective leadership fighting for its interests in Congress:

  • Neighbor Status: Caribbean residents should have visa-free access to the US, faster visa processing, and better US Visa pre-clearance.
  • Refugee Protection: Adem will demand the restoration of TPS protections for Haitians and others, as well as fight for a path to citizenship for all refugees and undocumented immigrants.
  • Free Immigration Clinics: Adem will hold free immigration law clinics to help residents anonymously get critical information about what they can do to reunify families and remain in our community.
  • Improved Community Services: If elected, Adem's office will be a place where Caribbean residents and all residents can access the services and support they need. He will have bilingual staff available, and he will hold constituent service events in every neighborhood to protect the rights and opportunities of Caribbean residents.

The environment

With Obama-era climate measures under attack by the Trump administration, the time has come to push for serious change. Adem will pressure the national Democratic party to:

  • Embrace a progressive carbon tax that incorporates the full environmental cost of products into their prices;
  • End the enormous subsidies provided to fossil fuel companies; and
  • Increase federal funding to help climate-threatened cities like New York construct mitigating infrastructure to help storm-threatened neighborhoods like Gerritsen Beacn and Sheepshead Bay.

gun control

Adem wants guns off of our streets. He will take all the steps currently available to Congress. He will submit legislation to:

  • Require a background check for 100% of gun sales so that those who are mentally ill or have been arrested for violent crimes (e.g., domestic abuse) cannot buy a gun;
  • Provide funding for the establishment of a national database of firearms because it’s shame that that doesn't already exist.

 


Infrastructure

Adem strongly supports federal funding to invest in new infrastructure, especially here in Central Brooklyn. A top priority would be increased spending to support the MTA’s Capital Program.

The leadership of the Democratic Party has called for $1 trillion of funding over 10 years. However, this can only be a start: the American Society of Civil Engineers has found that the 10-year funding shortfall is actually $2 trillion. [7]


Sources

1. Maxwell Austensen et al., "State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2016," NYU Furman Center, 2016.

2. Emily Badger, “When the Apartment Next Door is Owned by an Oligarch,” New York Times, July 21, 2017

3. Jack Y. Favilukis and Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, “Out-of-Town Home Buyers and City Welfare,” August 1, 2017

4. Leah Sakala, "Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity," Prison Policy Initiative, May 28, 2014.

5. Susan Brink, "What Country Spends The Most (And Least) On Health Care Per Person?," NPR, April 20, 2017.

6. Alice Chen, Emily Oster, and Heidi Williams, "Why Is Infant Mortality Higher in the United States Than in Europe?" American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 8, no. 2 (May 2016): 89-124.

7. Maxwell Austensen et al., "State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2016," NYU Furman Center, 2016.

8.Maxwell Austensen et al., "State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2016," NYU Furman Center, 2016.

9.Rodrigue, Edward, and Isabel V. Sawhill. “Creating opportunity for the forgotten Americans.” Brookings, Brookings, 22 Aug. 2017, www.brookings.edu/research/an-agenda-for-reducing-poverty-and-improving-opportunity-2/.

10. American Society of Civil Engineers, "2017 Infrastructure Report Card: Investment"