Op-ed | Together, we can strike a balance for New York’s future

New York City, NYC, USA
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Seven Midtown Business Improvement Districts have joined forces to collectively advocate for our city and state’s future. We urge our government officials to work together to create a safer and more equitable New York for all, with vibrant, 24-hour districts that create jobs and new housing.

New Yorkers want to be safe. In a recent Siena poll, 92% of respondents cited public safety as a top priority. Most agree that our criminal justice system needed reform, but also that the 2019 Albany legislation meant to fix it led to some key unintended consequences. Repeat offenders responsible for a large percentage of crime easily evade consequences and continue to commit crimes. Furthermore, burdensome, and often insurmountable discovery requirements result in prosecutors dismissing charges and denying justice for the victims of crimes.

Mayor Adams, Commissioner Sewell, and the NYPD have done an excellent job halting the increase in crime over the last year, but the fact remains that overall crime in New York City has increased. Noting that crime may have also risen in other large cities is an excuse for not making New York as safe as it can and should be. New York City, working with Albany, was a leader in criminal justice reform in the 1990’s. We must lead now in offering service and support to those in need while also addressing repeat offenders.

The deaths of Michelle Alyssa Go and Maria Acevedo at the hands of two individuals with untreated severe mental illness were very public examples of a broken mental health system. Each day there are countless examples of individuals in crisis wandering our streets unable to care for themselves, and according to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan, every 16 hours someone dies from suicide in New York City. Law Enforcement and Rikers Island have been our default solutions and that is not acceptable.

We need to treat proactively, humanely, and effectively those suffering from severe mental illness, and also, preserve the right of all New Yorkers to enjoy our public sidewalks, parks, and pedestrian plazas.

The pandemic has transformed the way we work. To compete, New York City must adapt. For our central business districts to remain vibrant, we need to diversify our buildings and their uses and create balance. A severe housing shortage, alongside a shift away from a five-day work week, poses an opportunity to solve two challenges we face and create more successful 24-hour neighborhoods. Every effort should be made to encourage, facilitate, and subsidize building conversions.

Now is the time for New Yorkers to come together and restore balance. The state budget process is where policies and priorities are set for the next year. Governor Hochul has it right in her budget, and we need the State Legislature to come together and join her. For that to happen, they need to hear from you.

We need YOUR VOICE to urge our elected officials in Albany to support the Governor’s public safety, mental health, and housing initiatives.

Visit A Safer Midtown to let the leaders of the New York Assembly and Senate know you support Governor Hochul’s priorities. If we work together we can create a safer, more competitive, and more equitable New York for all.

The Midtown BID Coalition is made up of Matt Bauer (Madison Avenue Business Improvement District), Robert J. Benfatto (Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance), Barbara Blair (Garment District Alliance), Marie Boster (Fifth Avenue Association), Rob Byrnes (East Midtown Partnership), Alfred C. Cerullo, III (Grand Central Partnership) and Tom Harris (Times Square Alliance).