By Jason Curtis Anderson
For the first time in the history of New York City, you will be voting for a congressional district that begins at 14th Street and ends at the tip of downtown Manhattan. As many New Yorkers know too well, it’s been a long couple of years since the beginning of COVID, and much of downtown still suffers from what can best be described as urban disorder. Whether it be the open-air drug use in Washington Square Park, or the chaos that is the West 4th subway station, downtown seems to have not quite yet awakened from the nightmares of 2020.
New York City needs leadership that truly understands the complexity of each of our neighborhoods and their various needs. Our residents need to once again feel safe, happy, and comfortable growing roots in their respective communities.
The suffering of downtown has carried on for far too long, and the people of downtown’s new district 10 deserve better.
The right congressional candidate will play a critical role in the city’s future, serving as the much-needed adult in the room when local levels of government fail to achieve their most basic duties. Federal oversight of government spending can be the key to everything from a much-needed new hospital to making sure our best homeless shelters have the support that they need. The homelessness crisis needs to be solved (not just warehoused), and if the city won’t make sure homeless nonprofits are doing their job, it must be done with federal oversight.
The need for common-sense leadership is now—yet unfortunately, not everyone understands the urgency of this moment. In a recent poll from NYC’s Board of Elections, only 21% of registered voters actually vote, which explains why most people don’t know the name of their local congressperson.
Former Mayor de Blasio is one of the many candidates who has thrown his hat into our local congressional race, and not many people seem excited about him getting back into politics. Whether you’re talking to a Democrat or a Republican, many New Yorkers believe de Blasio has done enough damage and we’d be better off with new leadership.
For many downtown residents it boils down to a single issue: de Blasio pushed for the closure of Rikers Island and insisted we build the largest jail the country has ever seen in Chinatown. An issue he pushed not for the betterment of the city as a whole, but so he could sell the land of Rikers Island and give a $10B contract to build four new prisons to a developer that supported his first Mayoral election. Expecting downtown to remain the financial capital of the world while now doubling as a mega-jail on top of the current public safety crisis is an idea so insane that it sounds more like a plot from a horror movie than a vision of a better city. Let’s hope voters remember this when it’s time to cast their ballots.
Another candidate for D10 is a newcomer to local politics who doesn’t come with all of the baggage and goes by the name of Brian Robinson. Brian is running as a common-sense Democrat who wants to see sanity restored to downtown politics.
Brian is a longtime resident of Tribeca, a small-business owner, and a fast-approaching public school parent who cares deeply about our city. His wife and daughter were recently followed into their building by a person with mental illness, and up to their apartment door despite repeated verbal attempts to stop him. It was only when he heard Brian’s voice, that he decided it was not worth it to continue the pursuit. Many in the city, with particular emphasis on recent incidents in Chinatown, have not been as lucky. Brian has therefore made it his mission to introduce federal legislation to assist with the increasingly problematic populations of of the untreated mentally ill that roam our city’s streets. Brian is also a champion of green space and will use federal funds to increase green space as downtown doesn’t have enough parks. The unnecessary decimation of the East River Park was personal to him, as we all know that our shared green spaces are not only a place for our children to play but serve as the backyards to the majority of New Yorkers.
Since the demolition of St Vincent’s Hospital, there is no hospital in between 14th Street and The Battery. If someone has a heart attack, every second could be the difference between life and death. Getting stuck in traffic trying to reach a hospital above 14th Street doesn’t have to factor into the life expectancy of downtown New Yorkers. Innumerable lives will be saved with expedient access to emergency services with a triage center and 24-hour medical care.
He values and sees the beauty in historic preservation and knows it is as important as green space. We need to emphasize there are many in government positions in NYC right now who aim to take these things away. And in the spirit of Jane Jacobs, people need to fight for common sense things because the people who run our city will not. Much of the public debate about zoning laws and historic preservation in NYC is often about how these things have ruined the city, but in many ways, they are actually what preserved it. Neighborhoods must be oriented to the way people live, not the other way around. If Robert Moses had had his way, the West Village would not be the West Village, and there would be a superhighway running through SOHO today.
2022 is a new era, which will require new ideas and new leadership. Brian’s approach to all subjects will be rooted in common sense, on a case-by-case basis, and always with the future of the city in mind—including Brian’s own daughter.
His plan will revitalize New York City, beginning with his focus on public safety. Personal safety is the bedrock upon which all human additional pursuits are built. With his vision for a compassionate, but sure-fire method of bringing oversight to the way mental illness is treated and the homeless are managed, everyone in NYC will be in a better place. We must put our more radical notions for criminal justice aside, for the common good of our communities, and for the betterment of the severely mentally ill. Brian’s vision distinguishes him from the recycled platitudes and dissonance we are so bombarded with in modern-day politics.