The people’s movement and the NYC mayoral campaign

BY:New York State Communist Party| June 18, 2021
The people’s movement and the NYC mayoral campaign


As New Yorkers prepare to vote for mayor and city council, it is necessary to examine the economic conditions of our working class. As our city rebuilds after a devastating health care pandemic that has also devastated the city economically, candidates promise a “comeback” of New York City, whether within the framework of the city as it was pre-pandemic or a new era for substantial or even systemic change. As socialists we need to advance the best of the demands being raised, as well as our own, and examine the balance of forces at this conjuncture for making real change.


New York: Still a tale of two cities

The city’s major industrial base — garment, leather, and printing — have packed up and moved overseas to cheaper labor markets. Today the largest employers are those that cater to city tourism — over 62 million tourists came to the city in 2019. Due to COVID-19, hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc. have closed, leaving our city with an unemployment rate of 11.4%, twice the average in our nation. In the South Bronx it is 24.5%. Not included in the unemployment numbers are those in the informal economy — including undocumented workers.

While the NYC working class saw our wealth drop dramatically during the pandemic, the 120 billionaires in New York State who hold $600 billion in wealth have seen their profits grow by $88 billion.

“New York has one of the most unequal distributions of income and wealth in the country,” reports the Center for Budget and Political Priorities. In 2018 25% of city Hispanics lived below the poverty line.

There were over 29,000 COVID-19 fatalities recorded. The victims have been disproportionately people of color. Black and Latinos accounted for 47% of fatalities but are only 33% of New Yorkers. At the same time, public hospitals, overwhelmed with COVID patients, are understaffed and face shortages of PPE.

Meanwhile the city’s housing crisis has exploded during this period. Even with a housing building boom, 80,000 people are reported to be homeless every night. What is hidden and not reported is how many families must double-up and triple-up to pool their resources and meet runaway rents.

The public housing program administered by New York City’s Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest in our nation, provides affordable housing for 400,000 low-income families. But the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), NYCHA’s landlord, has been disinvesting for decades. It has permitted infrastructure to decay, elevators to break down for lack of proper service, lead paint mitigation programs to be underfunded, and maintenance departments to be short staffed.

Clearly this is a policy whose endgame would be to dismantle the program. Instead of demanding HUD invest $50 billion in New York’s public housing, Mayor De Blasio has introduced a pro-corporate so-called Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD), inviting real estate investment and participation — in essence a backdoor to privatization.

Our public school system has been characterized as the most segregated in our nation. Although there is a national shortage of skilled mechanics, our vocational school programs have been mothballed; sports, music, and art programs have been gutted; and specialized high schools are unrepresentative of the city’s population. Fees to city colleges and universities, at one time free, are now unaffordable for working-class youth.

However, some credit goes to Mayor De Blasio who, despite Governor Cuomo’s resistance, successfully instituted public pre-K programs — enriching those children’s education while saving parents millions in costs for privately run childcare.

While De Blasio successfully ended the racist stop-and-frisk program, the NYPD continues with little accountability in regard to racist practices and conduct, as was witnessed by the Staten Island DA’s role in the trial around the police murder of Eric Garner, and the city’s whitewash of NYPD’s brutal treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors last summer.

While Wall Street is cashing in as never before during the pandemic, record millions are unemployed, and their paltry incomes have been reduced to starvation levels — exposing the naked predatory nature of corporate capitalism.


Fight-back trajectory

However, there are reasons to believe the balance of forces is shifting in favor of the people’s movement in New York State politics today.

The modern fight-back trajectory should be noted, beginning with the successful battles of the civil rights movement under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. At the same time, the turbulent anti–Vietnam War movement protests pushed our people’s consciences leftward.

The next milestone that raised the consciousness of our working class was the Occupy Wall Street movement, followed by the successful campaign and election of Barack Obama.

In our city this dramatic shift was reflected in the political defeat of right-wing corporate interests controlling the city for the last 20 years (Mayors Giuliani, Bloomberg) and the election of Mayor De Blasio in 2013. Also elected were scores of progressive city council people.

On the state level, this shift was registered in the successful campaign to defeat pro-Republican “Democratic” state senators, members of the so-called Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), enabling a new Democratic majority for the first time to pass sweeping and historic pro-tenant legislation in 2019.

The defeats of congressman Joseph Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a Queens congressional district and, more recently, Elliot Engel by Jamaal Bowman are further indications of this trend.

Is the people’s defeat of individual promoters of neoliberalism and the IDC the death knell of neoliberal politics in New York City and State? Or are these just momentary victories for the people’s movement?


The real Cuomo scandal

This shift has undoubtedly weakened the administration of Governor Cuomo and his long-time pro-corporate domination of New York State politics. If backed by Republicans and Democrats in the IDC, Cuomo would have weathered the storm he is facing today. In contrast to Cuomo’s ability to dismiss with little opposition the Moreland Commission (established to investigate allegations of corruption by Cuomo himself!), the present nursing home scandal has placed his administration on the ropes.

The scandal is not just a cover-up by the Cuomo administration about the number of seniors who died in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Cuomo, unbeknownst to legislators, in March 2020 added a clause in the state budget bill to protect corporate-owned nursing homes from liability if they undermine the care of their patients (this was repealed in April 2021). He also bypassed the state Health Department and handed over the distribution and vaccination to for-profit hospitals, prompting many leading doctors to resign from the department.

The open brazen murder of George Floyd by a white policeman traumatized our nation’s conscience. It evoked an unprecedented multi-racial multi-generational protest by 20 million in every corner of our nation as well as around the world. This set the stage and contributed to galvanizing voters to defeat Trump and reaction and elect Biden.

This was not simply a defeat of the Right. Biden and the Democratic leadership embraced and campaigned on a largely progressive program reflecting a dramatic shift to the Left.

While Biden’s stimulus package does not include several crucial several issues — $15 minimum wage and Medicare For All, in particular — it nevertheless will bring great relief to New Yorkers as well as to City Hall and Albany. Unlike previous stimulus packages, not a penny is slated for corporate interests.

New York City corporate leaders are not sitting idly by as the race for mayor heats up. The New York Times (3/10/21) reported how billionaire developer Stephen Ross is rallying alarmed fellow billionaires to elect a pro-business mayor and “hurt” “progressive-leaning” candidates whose platforms include “slashing the NYPD budget and raising taxes on the rich.” And who do they consider more palatable to corporate interests? “Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president; Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate; Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner; Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive; and Shaun Donovan, a former Obama administration cabinet member.”

However, there is a virtual split in the labor movement and within the progressive grassroots movement regarding the mayoralty race. District Council 37 (AFSCME, AFL-CIO), the public employees union, endorsed Eric Adams, while the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), as well as the Building Trades Council endorsed Scott Stringer. Since the sexual allegations against Stringer (which Stringer has vehemently denied), the Working Families Party (WFP) and other other progressives, including Congressman Jamaal Bowman, have withdrawn their endorsement. However, the United Federation of Teachers, representing 200,000 members, reaffirmed their support for Stringer, based on his record of support for teachers and students.

The New York Political Action Network, WFP, Sunshine Movement, and other progressive organizations have endorsed the two most progressive candidates, who are also women of color: Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales.

Regarding the new ranked choice voting system, progressives have suggested that, although voters can vote for up to five candidates, progressives should “bullet vote” for either two or no more than three of the candidates deemed most progressive.

There is no denial that progressive grassroots forces are stronger than ever before in our city. Despite the formidable power of Wall Street, there are now big opportunities to win the fight for jobs, health care, housing, and justice if the people’s movement builds on recent victories and continues to organize powerful campaigns in the streets and at the ballot box.

In NYC will we be able to unite and field a powerful campaign to deflect corporate interest as well as reaction in this coming mayoralty election and elect a progressive candidate? Or were recent people’s victories at the ballot box and in the streets just a flash in the plan?


The issues

Candidates must address the following issues vital to New Yorkers:


New York City must invest in affordable housing for low-income families as well as in new Mitchell-Lama cooperatives. (Comptroller candidate Brad Lander, among others, is highlighting this demand.)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) needs to invest $50 billion for the upgrade of infrastructure and proper maintenance of NYCHA buildings make the housing complexes safe and livable. We oppose any effort to privatize public housing such as the proposed RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) program.

We must protect millions of New Yorkers from skyrocketing, uncontrolled rents. (NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is calling for reinstating universal rent control and reserving all vacant land for construction of low-income housing.)

We demand an end to the discriminatory sales policies of market rate coops and condominiums.

New York City must discontinue its offers of millions of dollars in tax giveaways to developers, under bill 421A.

We oppose use of Mandatory Inclusion Zoning that favors corporate developers such as Amazon H2Q, Industry City, and the Penn Station real estate boondoggle being pushed by Gov. Cuomo.

We demand that the rent and mortgage default moratorium continue indefinitely during the COVID-19 pandemic and be coupled with debt forgiveness. Financial relief for small landlords.

New York City must establish rent control for small businesses.


Segregation in public school is greater than ever and must be addressed and remedied.

Transfer money from the bloated police budget to schools. Get NYPD out of the schools. End the school-to-prison pipeline.

The NYC Department of Education needs to re-open mothballed high school vocational programs. While there is a shortage of skilled workers, young people currently face a bleak future of unemployment (unemployment stood at 50% among youth of color before the pandemic).

Reinvesting in sports, arts, and music programs in schools is critical.

Admissions to specialized high schools is currently an unfair and discriminatory process and needs to be remedied.

New York City must reinstate tuition-free programs to its city colleges and universities, which was discontinued when open enrollment was instituted.

Scarce education money must be redirected from “private” charter schools in favor of our underfunded public schools.

We welcome New York State’s recent allocation of millions of dollars more to New York City schools in an effort to provide a fair share of funding.

Criminal justice

Instead of cutting funds for education and social services, the NYC Council should slash billions from the NYC Police Department.

Close Ryker’s Island. No new jail construction.

Make the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board truly independent from NYPD control, including subpoena, investigative, and disciplinary powers.

We must hold the police commissioner and precinct captains accountable for serious transgressions, criminality, and racial profiling by their officers as well as for violating protestors’ right to peacefully assemble.

We demand that New York City dismantle “goon squads,” end “kettling” tactics, and discontinue use of the chemical and military equipment that has been employed to attack and terrorize peaceful demonstrators.

New York City must continue and expand special mental health units that work with the police department to respond to mental health emergencies.

Environmental protection

We need to evaluate candidates’ proposals on how to reduce carbon emissions in our city and how to persuade New Yorkers to reduce the number of cars used in the city.

New York City should pledge to set aside jobs for young people that will be created by renewable energy programs.

Pass the NYS Climate and Community Investment Act, which would tax big corporate polluters and raise funds to help transition to a fossil-free, sustainable, and equitable economy.

Union jobs

We should examine candidates’ openness to limiting the city’s tax revenue to contractors that employ union labor.

We welcome the New York State HERO Act that requires employers to take workplace safety measures.

Taxing the rich

We welcome Albany’s tax-the-rich bills that will get the wealthiest New Yorkers and corporations to pay their fair share.

We support the New York Health and Essential Rights Act currently before the state legislature, which would take the profit out of NY’s health care system and make NY a single-payer state.

This report was prepared by the New York District, CPUSA.

Images: top, MET Council on Housing (Facebook);  Billionaires get richer, Housing Justice for All (Facebook); Occupy Wall Street, ACORN (CC BY-NC 2.0); Black Lives Matter rally in NYC, David Shankbone (Public Domain).



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