PALM’s Focus: Housing and Health Insurance

By Penny Mintz

Now that the primary elections are over, Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan (PALM), a chapter of the statewide New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN), is once again focused on effecting grassroots change that matters to the residents of Lower Manhattan.

On August 17th, PALM held a meeting in Jackson Square—the first live meeting since COVID arrived. Mark Levine, the Democratic Party nominee for Manhattan borough president, joined us and spoke for an hour, mostly about the Delta variant and affordable housing. The takeaways, basically, were that vaccinations are critical, the current spike is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and the East River Park resilience plan and the Soho/Noho rezoning plan are done deals. People are still fighting against the East River Park and the rezoning plans. So, perhaps more can be done to alter those plans than the “small changes around the edges” that Levine predicts are possible.

Levine also said that once he is elected Manhattan borough president, PALM members and others will have to be vigilant in pressuring him to move forward on progressive housing solutions. When asked if Mitchell-Lama type projects could be built, he said that there aren’t many publicly owned sites in Manhattan that would be available for that type of residential middle-class housing, which had been built in the 1950s and 1960s.

MARK LEVINE, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CANDIDATE for Manhattan Borough President, joined PALM members at their August meeting in Jackson Square. Photo by Penny Mintz.

Right now, however, there is a site being developed at 5 World Trade Center on publicly owned land. The State has given over development of the land to two private real estate companies. They plan to put up a 900-foot-tall building with a total of 1,325 residential units; 75 percent of those units will be market-rate apartments, and 25 percent will be “affordable.” A group called Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5WTC is working to change that plan to 100 percent affordable apartments. They want preference given to 9/11 first responders and their survivors.

The other major issue on PALM’s August 17th agenda was passing the New York Health Act. NYPAN is making a concerted effort, in coordination with the Democratic Socialists of America and New York Health, to get the act past the goal posts in the next legislative session. To that end, NYPAN has created five working groups, and they seek participation from all interested people.

Labor Working Group is developing strategies and outreach materials to overcome lingering opposition to the NY Health Act among labor unions, particularly the large public-sector unions that wield significant influence over Democratic leadership and the legislative process. This group’s last meeting was on Tuesday, August 31st. To join, contact Jeff Mikkelson,

People2People Working Group is canvassing union groups and working with them to create materials for different regions of the state. It is also scheduling events and phone-banking to get the word out. Contact Naomi Zewde, to join this working group. The next meeting will be on September 2, 2021.

Electoral Working Group is in the process of power mapping every one of our state senators and finding the levers that will move them to pass the NY Health Act. The next Electoral meeting is on Wednesday, September 15th, at 7:00 p.m. To join, contact Ting Barrow,

Research Working Group looks for information to assist the Electoral Working Group with power mapping our senators, to create county tax savings numbers, and to help create forceful flyers. Their last meeting was on Sunday, August 29th. Contact Steven Cecchini,

Medical Professionals Working Group will work on building support among medical professionals. Their first meeting was on Thursday, August 19th. Contact Donald Gardner,

Phone Banking about the NY Health Act is being coordinated by Erl Kimmich, Phone banking is conducted every Sunday.

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