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Podcast: We Talk To Jimmy Van Bramer About 2020; The Candidates Looking to Replace Him; and His Potential Run for Queens BP

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer outside Little Chef Little Café, located at 5-43 48th Ave. in Long Island City, speaking in support of small businesses on Nov. 13 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Jan. 6, 2021 By Christian Murray

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer released his 2020 annual report Tuesday.

We talk to Van Bramer in a podcast about the report, as well as his potential run for Queens Borough President.

The council member discusses the challenges his constituents have faced following the outbreak of COVID-19 and what he has done to help the unemployed, struggling business owners, those facing food insecurity and people in need of healthcare.

Van Bramer said that his office served nearly 5,700 constituents in 2020, more than any other year.

We also discuss his opposition to the 2021 city budget; his condemnation of the NYPD; high-profile rezonings—including the Flushing and Long Island City waterfront proposals–as well as Phipps Houses in Sunnyside; and his thoughts on the long list of city council candidates looking to replace him.

Van Bramer also discusses the status of the park upgrades in the district, such as the completion of the $6.3 million Queensbridge Park House in 2020; the $3.2 million revamp of Hart Playground in Woodside that was recently completed; and the 2020 groundbreaking on the $1.8 million overhaul of Doughboy Plaza in Woodside.

Van Bramer discusses the success of the Open Restaurant program and why he believes it should be permanent as well his thoughts on the DOT’s Open Streets program.

He also talks about legislation he sponsored that will allow cultural institutions to have ticketed events on designated Open Streets.

Podcast Highlights

  • 1) Overview of his 2020 Annual Report

2) Discussion about the 2021 budget and why Van Bramer voted against it (15:15)

3) Van Bramer’s views on the NYPD and his relationship with the local police precincts (18:20)

4) A discussion about rezonings, as well as the Long Island City waterfront (24:00)

5) Amazon and jobs (37:00)

6) His views on the Phipps Houses rezoning proposal in Sunnyside (42:00)

7) Status of park construction projects in the 26th Council District—including Hart Playground, Lt. Michael Davidson Park , Queensbridge Park, L/CPL Thomas P. Noonan Jr. Playground in Sunnyside (47:30)

8) DOT’s Open Streets program (54:00)

9) The protected bicycle lane network and the Queensboro Bridge outer roadway—(59:00)

10) The candidates running to replace Van Bramer (1:05:40)

11) Van Bramer and his likely run for Queens Borough President (1:12:45)

For Van Bramer’s 2020 report click here.

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Thank you for trying to press the Council Member on what he would allow at the Annabel Basin site, it’s still unclear what the vision is. If they don’t allow the developers to build anything the developers want on the private land then the land will just sit vacant, become a warehouse, or the city would have to buy it and pay to put a park there. Why should the City spend valuable tax resources to build a park when they can get the developers to pay for part of it? I don’t see how preventing the development will do anything to raise the incomes of lower income New Yorkers, it will just reduce the overall number of jobs and raise CO2 emissions by pushing sprawl. Where does the Council Member want the people who could have lived in these new buildings to live? Does he want them to compete for existing apartments in the area and push up rents? Land costs are only a fraction (20%) of the costs of housing, even if the City owns the land it would require large City subsidies to building 100% subsidized housing. We need a realistic plan for the waterfront otherwise it will remain in its current state for decades, who benefits from that? If the city wants to build a community center there is tons of space for that in the area, there’s no reason it has to be on that specific lot. The Cost to the city is the same if they buy new land for a community center and sell current land, versus just building on currently owned land. We need a clear theory of change from policy makers, clear realistic steps about how certain actions will lead to results. Maybe it will make people like the Council Member happier to prevent developers from making money, but we need them to articulate clearly how that will help anyone else. The rental income will either flow to the new developments or to higher rent for existing housing, either way the rent will go to a landlord. We know that when a City doesn’t build enough housing rents go up, so maybe preventing development will hurt some specific developers bottom line but we’ll all be paying for that with higher rents. There’s more than enough under developed land (taxi parking lots) in LIC to build a lot of both market rate and subsidized housing, we don’t have to make a tradeoff. The limiting factor for building subsidized housing isn’t land, if we loosen zoning there is more than enough land, the limit is funding. As a City we can attack the housing shortage from multiple fronts, more market rate housing to reduce demand for existing units, more subsidized housing construction to create new affordable units, and more rental vouchers. Limiting market rate housing construction does nothing to further the second two goals, it does nothing to “decommidify housing”, it only means more competition and higher prices for existing units on the private market. We can allow new “luxury” housing to be built or we’ll see existing housing demand luxury prices, that is the realistic choice policy makers face in NYC, the same choice faced by policy makers in any city in the world. There are no shortcuts, no magical solutions, the housing crisis can’t be solved by wishing it away or making it less visible with shorter buildings. Politicians like to complain about the new $3,500 one bedroom with a gym, but what about the 100 year old townhouse for $2 million?


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