Candidates do Q&A with Cobble Hill Association
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, whose current district stretches from Bay Ridge to Marine Park, and former Councilmember (and former head of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission) David Yassky are running in the Democratic primary for state Senate in the redrawn District 26, which stretches from DUMBO to Fort Hamilton.
The district is currently represented by Democrat Brian Kavanagh, who won a special election in 2017 to replace retiring Democrat Daniel Squadron. Kavanagh will now run in a Manhattan- only district.
Election Day is Aug. 23, but early voting starts Aug. 13.
The Cobble Hill Association reached out to the candidates with questions about specific issues that may be relevant to local Brooklyn residents. These included questions about changes to the property tax system; the creation of a central authority to coordinate the transformation of the BQE; pedestrian safety; mayoral control of the schools; budget priorities; the climate crisis; and their proudest accomplishments.
The candidates’ complete answers can be found on the Cobble Hill Association website. Here is a summary that touches on some of their major points.
The candidates were asked about their views on the reforms proposed by the NYC Advisory Com- mission on Property Tax Reform and the coalition created by NYC Comptroller Brad Lander.
Both agreed that the current property tax system is unfair and outdated, but they had slightly different recommendations.
Gounardes wholeheartedly supports the idea of reform, but says “the devil is in the details,” and finds it difficult to make an assessment of the recommendations with so few details provided. That said, he feels
it is important to protect individuals who may be “property-rich and cash- poor,” including longtime brownstone owners who have seen their property values skyrocket despite no change in their personal income.
Yassky stressed inequities in the current system, saying that disparate valuation rules for 1 to 3-family homes and multiple dwellings often yield “absurd results.” For example, a co-op owner may pay more in property taxes than the owner of a nearby single- family home that is worth four times as much. While he agrees with the commission that property taxes should be proportional to property values, he points out that remedying the inequities will likely raise some people’s taxes.
The candidates were asked if they would try to push through stalled Assembly Bill A6304, which would establish a BQE authority to coordinate the reconstruction of the express- way between the various agencies and the city, state and federal government.
Gounardes says he sup- ports the intent of A6304, but with new administrations in Albany and City Hall and the consolidation of a single senate district representing roughly 11 miles of the BQE corridor, there is now an opportunity to ensure a comprehensive approach without creating a new authority. He said that when the state Senate lines were adopted, he
immediately began meeting with community stakeholders and experts. He’s learn- ed five things: That this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity; that the repairs on the triple cantilever should not serve to maintain the status quo; that a consensus plan on the cantilever must be devised as soon as possible to apply for federal grant money; there must be corridor-wide discussions with each of the affected communities; and that the impact of trucking, last mile-warehousing and the movement of freight must be considered.
Yassky comes out more strongly for the establishment of a BQE central authority. The two levels of government need to coordinate, he said. Yassky presented a four-point plan of action on the BQE.
• Upon taking office, he will convene a working group including the NYS Department of Transportation, Community Boards 2 and 6, state and city legislators representing DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, and possibly members of the BQET.
• Capital funding for the BQE transformation will be among his top priorities in the 2023-24 budget.
• He will introduce a companion bill to A6304 in the Senate and work with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon or her successor to get a hearing on the bill in each body.
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