During a Carib News’ virtual Board Meeting on Friday May 28, 2021, current City Councilmember Vanessa Gibson made her case for why she is the best person to be the Bronx Borough President. Gibson shared why she is the best choice.
Here is what she shared:
It’s truly been an honor to be an elected official for such a time as this, every day that I wake up, I thank God for life and the blessing to be an elected official because I truly know that many are called, but few are chosen.
I truly believe that I’ve been chosen for such a time as this. I pride myself on supporting affordable housing access to public education, quality health care, economic development. Investments in our children and families and seniors and veterans protecting our small businesses, supporting our MWBE firms and making sure they have access and opportunity to city contracts, and making sure that they are a part of the process to build and sustain our great borough and great city.
And also making sure we build economic wealth empower. In our communities, communities of color, Caribbean-American, West Indian, African-American, Latino communities that have long been ignored and all been shortchanged and marginalized. And if we are ever reminded of the pain of our people, we can look at COVID-19 and the impact that it has had on our community over a year ago, when this global pandemic hit our country, we didn’t know what it was.
We had to rethink the way we did work, everything when remotely stores shut down. And now a year later, as we rebuilding, we have the vaccine, we’re trying to get back to normalcy. We know that we’ll never be the same again, but I am reminded that COVID had a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color and immigrant new Yorkers.
And that is the fabric of our communities and who we all are. And so I recognize that struggle. I have been out on the ground during the pandemic. Whether there were cameras or not giving out PPE, giving out face masks and hand sanitizers and food and groceries, food boxes. People often ask me, you know, like you lost so much weight, Vanessa.
I have always been an elected official that shows up all the time, not just election time. And I truly believe that the Bronx is ready for new leadership.
The Bronx has never elected a candidate who looks like us, a female and an African-American. And yes, I understand the politics of it. But aside from my gender and my race, my qualifications and my work ethic, and my record of accomplishments, the millions of dollars I have poured into our schools, parks, playgrounds, cultural institutions, I represent the Bronx Museum of the Arts. I represent Yankee stadium in my district. And I’ve been able to infuse millions of dollars into our schools and our parks and playgrounds, and built new housing. And it’s truly been an honor, but it needed to be done. I did a Neighborhood Rezoning Plan in 2017 that will create thousands of units of new housing.
About $50 million in parks, $60 million in DLT work. And we’ve been able to transform our neighborhoods, but not with displacement in mind, but keeping residents in their homes, particularly our elders and seniors.
I’ve supported a number of bills at the city council, like the right to council legislation.
I led that provides free legal representation for families facing eviction in housing court today. Also supporting homeowners, knowing that they have struggled to, because many of their tenants have lost their income as well. So we’ve not just talked the talk, we’ve walked the walk and we’ve demonstrated to all of our residents that we always show up in good times and bad times.
And I tried to be very creative in our approach – meeting residents where they are. So we’ve done, you know, the build, the block meetings… Some are at the subway office hours. We’ve talked to people. We did participatory budgeting at the city council. We would set aside a million dollars of capital for residents to come up with ideas on how they want to spend that million dollars.
I’m also the co-chair of the City Council Women’s Caucus with my co-chair is Councilmember Farah Louis, my sister from Brooklyn. She and I are the coaches of the Women’s Caucus. There were only 14 women, so we focus a lot on issues around reproductive healthcare and maternal mortality and morbidity because we know that black and Latino women are more likely to die during childbirth because of disparate healthcare. So we need to focus on access to quality healthcare equity in our healthcare system, and healthcare justice so that women get doulas and midwives just like every other woman does in this City. So the women’s caucus has been working very aggressively on that. I just passed the bill yesterday related to doulas and midwives, and I look forward to more work.
I’m also one of the deputy leaders in the City Council. I am also a member of the budget and negotiating team, part of the circle that formulates our budget and our priorities as a City Council.
I am in the room with speaker Cory Johnson, making sure that our Borough is protected. And as I looked to the office of Bronx Borough President, one of the most important functions of the BP’s office as all of you know, is land use…applications, the construction, the infrastructure of the Borough of the Bronx, making sure that we invest in our infrastructure.
We also provide sustainability and green jobs and I’m very proud to have worked with Ruben Diaz Jr. on a number of both projects. And I will see them to fruition…the construction of four Metro-North stations; the renovation of the Sheridan Expressway; the universal HipHop museum; the renovation of Orchard Beach; which is going to be transformative; the first-ever Bronx children’s museum; a lot of housing in the south Bronx; the old Spofford site that many may remember; West Farms; the Harlem River Yards Project; a lot of projects like Fordham landing that are already underway; he construction of the new YMCA and Eden wall in the Northeast Bronx.
A lot of these projects have already started and I will make sure that they aren’t finished, but I also want to make sure that we put our footprint in the future of the Bronx, so we have to focus on resiliency projects. We have a lot of waterfront with potential opportunities for development. We need to deal with accessibility for people with disabilities. We need to make sure people in the Bronx can get around because many of them live in transit deserts and they just simply can’t get around, so we need the additional bus service. The Metro-North stations will be beneficial, but also I think about the impact of jobs. And I don’t say any job, I mean, sustainable jobs that provide prevailing wage and union wages so that people can live and have a pathway to the middle class.
That’s what I want and will achieve as Borough President. I will make sure that the office is diverse in terms of staff, both at the executive level and expanding on many of the advisory boards that the BP’s office has today. There’s an African Advisory Council. We want to make sure that the Caribbean-American community is well-represented as well as all the other communities that we represent in the Bronx, from the Bangladeshi to the Yemeni, to the Garifuna community, from Honduras and Ecuador, the Latino community, the Muslim and West African community.
Well, we work very closely with, we want to make sure that the office is reflective of diversity, the community board appointments that we will make to all 12 CBs. We want to ensure we get the most qualified candidates that bring different levels of the profession. So as a Councilmember, now I make recommendations on the community boards.
We want to make sure we will continue that as bar present. We also want to have a good working relationship with labor, with the teamsters, with the laborers, the masons, the operating engineers, the electricians, the plumbers, the painters. And we’re grateful to have a partnership with them today, but we want to have an advisory board so they can consult with us on all of the land use and applications that come to the Office of Bronx President.
I want to make sure that the land use process is more engaging at the community level, not just the community board, but generally other stakeholders that have an interest in the future of the Bronx. We have a lot that we want to do, but the number one issue for me is jobs and economic development. We have to get Bronx sides back to work.
We have to deal with food insecurity because many of the food pantry soup kitchen lines are longer than ever before. And people have struggled with access to basic necessities.
We have to deal with small businesses. We want to give our businesses grants and not loans. We want to provide the technical assistance so that you have access in the Bronx – the PPP loans, we’ve got less than 10%. Shameful, many of those loans and grants went to Manhattan and other places. And that’s unfortunate because the need is great in the Bronx. So we have to support more MWBE firms. We have to make sure that they’re certified and they get access to compete on all of these RFPs that you see coming down from agencies like HPD.
We want to also focus on the industrial business zones, the IBCs, which we have a number of them. We want to work with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and all of our business improvement districts from Port Morris to 161st Street to Jerome, Gunhill to Tremont, to all of the ones that we have been working with today because we know businesses have very unique needs.
I have a bill in the council that I hope to pass before I leave, that will provide relief for businesses that have been subjected to tickets and fines by multiple city agencies during the pandemic. So it’s not an amnesty program, but it will be a reduction. And when inspectors go out, instead of giving a ticket on that first infraction, they would give you the warning to let you know what the infraction is and give you time to cure it…because businesses have been subjected to tickets because of improper signage or the way you place your recyclables and barbecue.
And these fines are enormous and no one can foot the bill when you have to pay for staff and payroll and everything else. And so I recognize the challenges of our small businesses and our entrepreneurs.
I’m also a big fan of worker cooperatives and community land trust because I do believe we have to focus more on ownership opportunities. A lot of our businesses don’t own their buildings. They don’t own their properties, and many of them are subjected to high rents that we sometimes can’t control because we don’t have safe bonds in the commercial industry as we do in retail.
And we want to get to that. So we’ve been talking about rent stabilization in some form in the commercial industry.
I definitely want to focus on school-based health centers because unfortunately, the Bronx is the unhealthiest county in the state number 62 of all 62 counties. So we have to focus on affordable and low-cost healthcare.