NYC Comptroller Answers Questions From the Spring Creek Sun

Headshot - 2A MESSAGE FROM COMPTROLLER SCOTT M. STRINGER:

I am looking forward to meeting with residents of Starrett City/Spring Creek Towers at a Town Hall on Wednesday, February 11. Please join me to discuss the future of our City – and what our office is doing to ensure shared prosperity and economic growth. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas and concerns about Starrett City/Spring Creek Towers.

Q. How is a residential community, like Spring Creek Towers, included in Comptroller Stringer’s agenda?

A. Protecting Spring Creek Towers and other middle class communities is a top priority for my office. As the income inequality gap increases across New York City, we need policies that promote real economic opportunity for all New Yorkers. And that means fighting to preserve affordable housing. Our City has lost over 150,000 rent regulated units since 1994, and we can’t let this precious resource disappear in Starrett City or any other community. The families who put down roots here must be able to continue to raise their families here.

Q: Are there any affordable housing reforms you are advocating for?

A. I began my career as a MitchellLama housing activist-I know firsthand how dire our affordable housing crisis is. As Manhattan Borough President, when MitchellLamas were at risk, I advocated for protecting these bastions of middle class housing, just like the residents of Starrett City did when they fought and won critical affordability protections in 2007 and 2008. In my first year as Comptroller, I’ve been laser-focused on housing issues in our City. In April, I issued a report which showed that since 2000, the City has lost more than 400,000 apartments that rent for less than $1,000. In December, my office released the first of several top to bottom audits of New York City’s Housing Authority which found the troubled agency had left nearly $700 million in federal funds on the table that could have been invested in lighting and other improvements. In the coming days, I’ll be going up to Albany to fight for pro-tenant rent regulations that help preserve our City’s affordable housing. Our City has achieved a model for affordable housing in the past – our Mitchell-Lama residences are a great example of this. This initiative, and others like it, built the middle class and propelled our City into the 21st Century. I am confident that this generation can find ways to preserve the fabric of our communities so that our children, and many generations that follow, can live and raise families in this great city.

Q: What initiatives has the Comptroller taken in protecting and increasing the overall value of the City’s pension funds?

A. Thanks to continued strength in the stock market, the Pension Funds returned 17.4 percent in FY 2014, well above our 7 percent target. To ensure that we continue to get the best returns possible, I’ve implemented a major ethics reform of our funds, now valued at more than $160 billion. We’ve banned placement agents-those middlemen who got paid big bucks for doing little work. We’ve also hired new risk and compliance officers, so we’re better prepared for the economy’s ups and downs. We’re also focused on corporate governance – to spur the companies we invest in to adopt environmental and diversity policies that promote long-term growth. I recently launched The Boardroom Accountability Projecta national effort to ensure that companies are led by independent and accountable directors who place long-term growth ahead of short-term profit.

Q. How does the Comptroller plan on creating more economic opportunities for residents of East New York?

A. As the City’s Chief Fiscal Officer, I am always looking for ways to push government to do better. To improve economic opportunity, we have to look not just at next year’s budget, but at the City’s finances years down the road. One place we can start improving economy opportunity is by raising our city’s minimum wage. That’s a concrete step, but we shouldn’t just stop there: our dreams-for our children and our city-are much more ambitious. Our economy has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Thousands of jobs that used to be a ticket to the middle class have all but disappeared.

CrownHeights-housing rally (2)What’s replacing them is a new high-tech economy that’s remaking our city – and so many others around the world. It used to be that people climbing the ladder had their eyes on the big corner office. But today, the symbol of success is changing: it’s running your own start-up, with a group of young people gathered around a table with laptops. The economy they’re building is creating good, entrylevel jobs: the coders, the programmers — paying $70,000 a year – enough to help a family start climbing that ladder to the middle class. But business owners tell me all the time that our kids coming out of our schools too often lack the skills to fill these jobs. That is unacceptable – we need to give these students the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education that prepares them to compete in the global economy. Earlier this year, I released a report showing that 28 percent of New York City schools lacked a full-time certified arts teacher – and most of these were in South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

Arts education has long been recognized by experts around the world as having a tremendously positive influence on children in terms of both academic attainment and future employment. Working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we were able to get an additional $23 million put into the budget that put more than 100 teachers in our schools. We also need to do more to support small businesses in our City. While New York City is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other city, more than 90 percent of our businesses have fewer than 20 employees. This year I’ll be forming a “Red Tape Commission” of small business owners and regulatory experts to identify-and break down-the bureaucratic roadblocks that discourage innovation and slow down growth. This will be cochaired by Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance and Michael Lambert with the New York City and BedStuy BID Associations.

Q. In the past you have helped community boards play a critical role in land use. Are you working on any land use issues within Community Board 5?

A. East New York is at the center of the City’s plans to build more affordable housing. While CB 5 holds immense potential for growth, we must ensure that any development includes a community-based planning process in which the needs of the residents are taken into account. That also means preparing our schools and infrastructure for what may be a significant increase in population and making sure that our sewage and transportation systems are not degraded by overuse. Local schools must also be equipped to handle increased student populations. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a Town Hall meeting at Brooklyn Sports Club (1540 Van Siclen Ave) on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 6:30 PM.