Picking the right Mayor for New York City

By Parveen Chopra
Editor, The South Asian Times
Fellow, CCM NYC Elections Reporting

The South Asian Times solicited the views of prominent members of the Indian American community on the mayoral election: What are the key issues, post-Covid, for New York City with primaries a month away on June 22? Which of the dozen candidates are frontrunners? How important is the South Asian vote and what do they look for in the leader vying for the second toughest job — after POTUS — in the nation? 

Be a proud American, demand Speaker Peter F. Vallone’s ‘Safe Streets-Safe City’

–Ravi Batra

Eminent Attorney, Chair, National Advisory Council for South Asian Affairs

New York City earned the reputation of “a City that never sleeps” as well as “the Greatest City in the world.” Leaving insomnia aside, as everyone today has been so afflicted in one measure or another, it’s the “Greatest City” that I love and care about keeping. Every mayor that went before had a hand in helping to earn that title – either by moving it forward or backwards on one policy issue or another. We are an amalgam of all things – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. New York is the greatest city because New Yorkers make it so. And it will fall upon primary voters next month if New York can continue to be the Greatest.

Notable mayors include LaGuardia, Wagner, Lindsey, Koch, Dinkins, Guiliani, Bloomberg and of course, the forerunner to Bernie Sanders, the Charles Dickens of politics who identified at the earliest time that the American Dream had become too tough to dream by many an American – I speak of my friend Bill de Blasio – who was going to offset the benefits of the Dream without succeeding in it. Of course, Donald Trump won in 2016 for the same reason, albeit, from the other side: to keep the Dream alive.

We are at a crossroad in America. We are in a phase I call the “American Spring” – a la the Arab Spring born in Tunisia. The Arab Spring brought the conservative Muslim Brotherhood to ascension. The American Spring has brought both sides of De Blasio’s “Tale of Two Cities” to square off, the other side being championed by Trump. January 6th was an insurrection for most of us; but for the true believers of that side, it was the price of patriotism. It matters not a whit if you disagree, as I do and Liz Cheney does.  While Mayor Bill de Blasio is not Marx reincarnated, as he is focused on achieving actual results, but “Progressives” today are un-categorized Marxists, and in Bernie Sanders’ case, a self-professed Socialist.

Voters will ultimately decide – with the racism-free Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court having a direction-changing effect – where we in America end up as in the next 12-20 years. As for New York City, since it’s the second most important job in America after POTUS’, our mayors like to engage with federal policy as a matter of personal privilege. Still, as Rudy, with all his facets, proved by cleaning up Times Square by knocking out crime with a heavy police hand, public safety is the only fertile soil from which our greatness emanates.

It’s not lofty goals and billions spent that makes us great. It’s public safety as Job No. 1 — achieved Constitutionally.

From Andrew Yang (making every New Yorker a non-racist by the mere fact that Yang is among the top contenders – proving all the apologists of, and for, America wrong) to Eric Adams to Scott Stringer to Maya Wiley to Kathryn Garcia to Ray McGuire to Curtis Sliwa – listen to them try to win you over. Forget whom you like.

Vote for the person who will make – all of us – safe, and more importantly, feel safe. To all the folks who wish to defund the police – tell them they are entitled to their opinion, but you will ignore them as they have run no city and created no public safety.

For a few bad cops we will not trade in our  ‘Safe Streets – Safe City’ – a term and governmental policy created by then NYC Speaker (1986-2001) Peter F. Vallone, our dear family friend, and a policy I was happy to support become law – as we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Greeks said it simply: “Order is beauty; Beauty is order.” So, we need “Order.”

If we don’t feel safe, we are destined to ruin our kids’ and grandkids’ future, while inviting the old tough gun-happy Wild West to move east and have every New Yorker try to get a conceal-carry gun license or never leave home out of fear. The Streets belong to all law-abiding folks, not criminals.

It’s time to be an adult. Our nation is sharply split on the efficacy of the American Dream – aka meritocracy. The American Dream beat the USSR, and Russia isn’t communist anymore. CCP’s China isn’t communist anymore either, but a centrally-managed and centrally-owned capitalist.

No one before was perfect. Surely, none of the  Naysayers today have any concept of perfection or realization of their imperfection-based arrogance as they cancel “he,” “she,” “dad,” “mother,” “Columbus,” “George Washington,” “Thomas Jefferson,” and the most incredible cancelation of “Abraham Lincoln” – who fought a civil war to redeem and remedy our Original Sin of slavery –  and even bequeath to all democracies the world over a recipe to stand the test of time and petty self-engorging politicians: a Government “of, by and (most difficult of all) for the people.”

Honor our past, learn from our mistakes, and help create a “more perfect union.” Be a proud American. We are imperfect, but less so than any in history, thanks to our structural American Exceptionalism. 

Ravi Batra’s law office is in Manhattan.

Next Mayor’s task – Economic recovery and safety of citizens

–George Abraham

Vice Chairman,

Indian Overseas Congress, USA

Another mayoral and City Council elections are around the corner. The Democratic and Republican primaries are to be held on June 22. The candidates are busy campaigning to convince the voters how suited their credentials are to serve the community better.

There are so many issues that warrant the candidates’ attention. However, I would like to point out two that are of paramount importance to the City’s well-being. First one, of course, is the economic revival of the City. New York, in recent times, has never seen the level of financial devastation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. While walking through Midtown, I have witnessed business after business that is closed; major hotels are boarded up. The ‘rent’ sign is a common sight on so many storefronts. Many of the specialty stores appeared to have emptied out.  Some of the iconic restaurants have permanently shuttered.

As someone who has worked all my life in Manhattan, I felt an emptiness walking through mostly deserted streets. New York is supposed to be the City that never sleeps! It is the political, financial, and cultural capital of the world. I am certain that the next administration will have a huge challenge ahead of them, which is to revive New York’s economy and reinvigorate new life into it. As billions of dollars are allocated by the federal government for the states and cities, I genuinely hope that NYC would give tax breaks and rebates to small businesses so that they could come back. The administration may also need to convince the real estate moguls of the City to go easy on rent increases as the businesses try to reestablish. As the pandemic eases, it is equally important to encourage people to come out of their safe havens and shop at the local stores rather than totally relying on online shopping. The brick-and-mortar business is essential to our traditional way of life and vital to a healthier social life.

Secondly, the City needs to provide safety and  security to its inhabitants. As someone who has lived here from the late ’60s, I have witnessed the worst of city life in my early days. The crime was so rampant in those days across the city. Times Square in Manhattan was a dangerous place to walk through, with drug addicts and prostitutes lining up the streets and with porno shops and adult movie theaters becoming an epicenter of the sex industry. There were neighborhoods in Harlem and South Bronx that reminded one of Dresden’s equivalent images after allied bombings. Personally, I got mugged and physically assaulted twice and robbed at gunpoint at another time. Morningside Park near Columbia University, where I lived, was a killing field and people would not venture out there after dark. However, New York has come a long way from there, and there is no doubt that the NYPD played a significant role in making this City more safe and secure under the Giuliani administration. I agree that we need to have police reforms. Still, defunding the police and laws such as cash bail reform would be counterproductive and will put the lives and properties of innocent citizens in danger. As new immigrants, safety and security are of great importance to the Asian Indian community. I hope the new administration will not sacrifice its citizenry’s protection and well-being at the altar of political expediency.

George Abraham is a resident of Jamaica Estates, Queens.

It will be a close race between Eric Adams and Scott Stringer 

–Ashook Ramsaran

President, Indian Diaspora Council International

NYC has endured much devastation and disruption during Covid-19 pandemic, and we need a true leader with qualities of hard work, determination and cohesive engagement to get us back to a level of normalcy; a leader who is experienced, who cares and can be trusted to lead this great city.

Yes, I watched the first mayoral debate last week and was  impressed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and progressive candidate Ms Maya Wiley. They had clear positions and articulated well their respective experiences and plans for improving New York City.

The frontrunners in my view are Eric Adams, Scott Stringer and Andrew Yang. I believe it would be a close race between Adams and  Stringer. Because of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), Stringer may win because of the sheer number of  second choice votes he could receive. Yang is a momentary flash and would not be among the top 3.

The primary issues for the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities are: Social justice, economic justice, health care needs, children and working parents, crime & incarceration and police reform,

The South Asian and Caribbean votes can be a substantial factor in the primary and general elections. In fact, the major contenders are wooing the two groups.

As for NYC Council, I am supporting several candidates: Adrienne Adams (Incumbent, Dist 28), Felicia Singh (Dist 32), Dimple Willabus (Dist 46) and Harpreet Toor (Dist 23).

 

Several South Asian candidates ran for NYC earlier this year but were defeated as they competed against each other and split the votes.

Ashook Ramsaran lives in Fresh Meadows, Queens

 New slate of officials must work together to get City back on track 

–Dev Viswanath, Esq

Principal Attorney, The Banad Law

with offices in Manhattan, Queens and India

New York City’s economic recovery is a top issue for me. So initially  I was impressed by Andrew Yang’s vision on the issue. I believed he was the right candidate for Mayor for a post-Covid city and his rhetoric on most social issues was welcome. However, that has been tarnished by his recent comment siding with  Israel in the Gaza conflict. I was disappointed.  So now we will see how the frontrunners progress.  Yang is still hanging in there, but Eric Adams has taken the lead. And while the polls have shown some lag, Scott Stringer stands a strong chance of winning the race.

Like me, the South Asian community is first concerned about the economy, reviving NYC’s businesses and real estate. Quality of life and safety are big concerns as well. Immigrant rights are also important. While we may be in solidarity with many ethnic minorities who have been victimized by police brutality, as a voting bloc our community is appreciative and deferential to the NYPD, and not in favor of defunding the police.

The South Asian vote matters 100% in this Mayor election. With Asians representing almost 13% (as per 2010 census) of the total city residents, and in a  borough like Queens, South Asians account for 60% of the entire Asian population. The community also has a significant amount of disposable income to support their key candidates.

I think at the local level,  there is a disjunct between South Asian immigrants and the rest of the population. So, they are looked at as too polarizing for helping only their group, or they are too removed from their own community to garner the unified bloc support. Also, South Asians are a terribly diverse group of people from different religions, skin shades, socio-economic and linguistic backgrounds. They are hard to rally into one powerful bloc. This has led to several South Asian/Indian American candidates standing from the same NYC district and losing because the vote fractures. Yet, I do foresee a South Asian descent Councilmember this year from Queens. There are new, well-established and qualified individuals who recognize the importance of community support without alienating others   who are just as important.

We need to make sure that the next round of elected officials understand the importance of getting NYC back on its feet and on track after the devastation of Covid-19. And we need to make sure that our elected officials can work with each other and not always fight and disagree, because real progress only comes from officials working together.  I am proud that Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar has introduced a bill to establish Diwali as a state holiday, and I applaud her approach to get others as co-sponsors for the bill. It is necessary to be a legislator for ALL THE PEOPLE while recognizing the importance of specifics that are important to constituent groups. As the South Asian and Hindu communities grow in New York, recognition of Diwali along with Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, and Lunar New Year is proof that our community is making its mark in the City.

Dev is a resident of Hollis Hills in Queens (Dist 23 for NYC Council that has 4 South Asian candidates this time)

We need a Mayor who does the right thing for his people

–Tirlok Malik

New York Emmy nominated filmmaker, restaurateur, Happy Life Yoga  speaker

Recent times have shown us that political power play is not healthy for the people when it’s not practised for the well-being of its citizens. It has created a lot of restlessness in the world and in our city of New York as well.

I do not know who will be the right mayor or leaders for NYC. I only pray the elected ones do the right thing as they take oath to serve the people.

I do not trust campaign speeches and pre-poll promises, they can be misleading. In today’s times campaigns are managed as an image projection.

So my comment is and I pray to the universe, “Please help us to choose the right candidate as Mayor for this great city New York: a leader who does the right thing for its people; where everyone  has food, shelter, healthcare, education, justice, safety and happiness and peace of mind. I know it may be wishful thinking on my part,  but it can happen.

I love New York, the greatest city in the world and my home.

 Tirlok Malik is a proud Manhattanite.

 

 

Images courtesy of . and (Photos provided)

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