With the primary election coming to an end, Democrat Art Chang has been running for mayor and has been overlooked as a candidate. The newspaper decided to sit-down with him to see what he has planned for New York City.
Chang was born in Jim-Crow Atlanta and raised in an all white district in Ohio where he realized how different he is. This inspired his move to New York City, where he presently resides in Brooklyn. “I’ve always kind of been open to changing myself, I came from a domestic violence household,” Chang told the paper in a recent interview. “And one thing that is true about people who grew up in violent families is that it’s a cycle, it happens generation after generation.”
“So if you want to break it, you actually have to start with yourself to change. You have to recognize what it is and you have to set a different vision for who you want to be.”
With this mindset, Chang has done many things for New York such as being a co-creator of NYC Votes to improve transparency in the government which is where those famous “I Voted” stickers come from. He is also the creator of Casebook, the first web-based software platform for child welfare. As well as building Queens West in Long Island City and was one of only two waterfront developments to not lose power during Hurricane Sandy.
“I did Casebook and NYC votes, not as an employee of the government,” said Chang. “And if you can make those changes from the outside, imagine what I could do from the inside. I’ll be the leader actually making the decisions about how we actually do these things in the city.”
The biggest personality that Chang expressed is adaptability especially for small businesses. “Internet technology is one of the best ways of having resilience because the stores that I know who actually have online presences before the pandemic, flipped over to ecommerce,” said Chang. “Even if they were selling baked goods, they flipped ecommerce on because they were able to do things like DoorDash and things like that.”
Chang noticed that many small businesses were “Cash Only” and were unable to adapt during the pandemic. He proposes working with the NYC tech industry to create an NYC delivery app as well as create a user-friendly online and mobile service to enable all retailers to post their openings and closings.
Not only were small businesses unable to adapt to the new reality that the pandemic infringed upon them, but the inability to pay rent and support themselves was another problem. However, that’s another problem Chang has a solution for.
“The city controls property taxes and they can do something that’s called forbearance and eliminate the penalties that people pay on property taxes for landlords who are willing to pass advantage through to their tenants because what we want to do is we want to keep people in their homes, right, and small businesses in their stores,” Chang said. “And that’s the primary thing, because it costs us so much more as a society, if we let people become homeless and let stores go out of business.”
In regards to housing, Chang will address the problems with NYCHA by converting NYCHA to some form of tenant ownership, whether that’s social ownership, limited cooperatives, or other structures that can give tenants more control and allow for debt financing to fund the essential repairs.
Chang will commit to meeting the demands of fixing the multilayered problems of NYCHA, with full data review, the use of green materials and green building methods. Such as initiating data-driven programs to make maintenance issues transparent and make maintenance accountable by giving NYCHA residents first right to new low-income housing as a way to incentivize vacancies to make repairs more efficient.
Public safety is one of the issues that has been debated long and hard by other mayoral candidates such as Eric Adams and Andrew Yang in this race. “Cutting the budget is not going to change the NYPD,” said Chang. “I can guarantee you that. Unless you actually change the city’s charter, it will do absolutely zero.”
Chang plans to cut $1.3 billion from the police department’s budget to demilitarize the NYPD, and focus on communities in crisis. The idea starts with re-framing the use of CompStat to be used to signal where we have potential community distress and to direct intensive and coordinated responses from the different components of government that would decrease that community’s pain and lead to healthier communities.
“If you want to actually change the NYPD, you have to get the state legislature to remove the sole disciplinary powers of the police commissioner and only the legislature can do that with the governor,” Chang elaborated. “And then you have to have real accountability which can only happen through the city charter.”
Along with cutting the budget, Chang proposes the creation of two new offices, an Office of Police Accountability that will allow for increased accountability and enforcement of independent review. The second office will be an Office of Police Discipline that will control the release of data to promote transparency and accountability.
Chang told our paper that one of his first acts as Mayor would be to pause every project to have a citywide discussion with constituents and local leaders. “I’m not going to have this patchwork, piecemeal, non-democratic approach that doesn’t have equity and justice at its core,” said Chang. “Where are we putting low income housing? Or how are we greening our transportation and our buildings? Where are we putting in parks?”
With Chang’s experience in transforming and adapting to the changes around him, he will reframe what it means to be resilient. “If I can be the person to bring that thinking into government, then we can do all these kinds of things and that goes for systemic change, coupled with the system’s thinking.”
“I believe that I can change the city tremendously across all these different avenues by changing the design of the city and changing all of our governance structures.”