The Newsletter That Never Sleeps- Edition #1, 4/22/21
A dive into the Mayoral candidates, some new early voting information, and a look into a battle between climate activists and developers on Staten Island- Live from New York! It’s…
THE NEWSLETTER THAT NEVER SLEEPS
- Your weekly five borough briefing -
This is the first edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps, from April 22nd, 2021. Any new subscribers will gain immediate access to this edition to get a feel of the newsletter as well as beginner info on the Mayoral Election.
Hello! Welcome to the first edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps, your one stop shop for the New York City Mayoral Election, COVID-19 recovery, and any NYC news you may have missed this week.
Despite being the media center of the United States, there’s a lot of local news that impacts the daily lives of New Yorkers that goes unnoticed, and local elections (especially primaries) are decided by an extremely small slice of the population- TNTNS is here to make sure you stay informed and don’t miss a thing.
For the next eight weeks (probably longer, which we’ll get to in a second), more than a dozen New Yorkers will be jockeying for their parties’ nomination for the Mayoral race. As such, the Mayoral Election will be the primary focus of the newsletter for the first few weeks, while we also highlight some important down ballot races and local propositions.
Among other items, there’ll also be a COVID update, including vaccination numbers, cases and hospitalizations as reported by the New York Times, as well as any new information on school re-openings, curfew changes and any fun spats between De Blasio and Cuomo.
But, for the time being- let’s meet our candidates!
THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
Given that 68% of registered voters in New York City are Democrats, whoever wins the Democratic Primary is a near shoe-in to win the November General Election. There will be twelve candidates on the ballot, unless any candidates decided to withdraw before the deadline to alter the ballot. There are eight candidates who regularly appear in public polling in addition to four other candidates who qualified for the ballot. Here are the main eight competitors:
ERIC ADAMS, Brooklyn Borough President
Eric Adam’s odyssey to the Mayor’s office is an odd one, including “infiltrating” the ranks of the NYPD at the behest of his preacher, a failed run for Congress supported by Louis Farrakhan, multiple party affiliation changes, demanding a pay raise on his first day of work in the New York State Senate, and a very strange video instructing parents on how to find drugs and contraband in their house. His eclectic backstory aside, Adams is a very serious contender for Gracie Mansion. Adams jumped in the race early, assuming the primary would come down to a showdown between himself and City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Adams has positioned himself as a moderate with a long resume that includes his humble beginnings as a patrol officer, and eventually Captain, for the NYPD.
In his view, his vociferous defense of underserved Black communities in Brooklyn as well as his credentials as a police officer is enough to build a winning coalition of Black voters and moderate White voters. It’s working out pretty well so far, as he’s come second in nearly every poll of the race, behind Andrew Yang. After Yang’s entrance into the race, Adams has staked out a leading position in a crowded moderate field, promising transformational police reform and social justice while not rocking the boat too much as to scare off moderate voters. Adams boasts the majority of institutional support that has been thus far doled out, as the NYC Democratic establishment seeks to coalesce around an experienced insider candidate who can take on Andrew Yang.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Doc himself, Dwight Gooden! The Mets (and Yankees, I guess) legend was an early sign-on to Adams’ campaign,
SHAUN DONOVAN, former HUD and OMB Director under Obama Administration
After getting his start in NYC’s affordable housing nonprofit circuit, Shaun Donovan went on to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development before joining the Obama-Biden Administration in 2008 as Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Shaun’s racked up a lot of executive experience at the executive level since leaving New York, and he’s heavily leaning on those credentials to appeal to voters. His PAC, which is currently under investigation because of his father’s involvement in the PAC’s financial transactions, have put out a litany of TV ads showing Donovan with the former President, emphasizing that Shaun was Obama’s trusted go-to guy for disaster and budget management.
Donovan is a wonk’s wonk, and received some light ribbing during the release of “The Plan”, his 200 page mayoral manifesto explaining his policy proposals and vision for New York City. He’s proposed a mix of detailed moderate and progressive policies and has an impressive resume, but Donovan has had a difficult time finding his footing in the race. He often polls in the bottom half of the pack and doesn’t fare much better in a ranked choice voting simulation. He’s proposed policies in nearly every field that the average NYC Democrat can get on board with: a $500 million annual investment in community based safety programs to avoid police violence, home repair for seniors and improving data analysis (Shaun Donovan really likes to talk about data analysis). He’s sort of trying to appeal to every kind of voter at once- but, to misquote an often misquoted figure of speech, a jack of all trades is a master of none.
Most Interesting Endorsement: U.S. Senator from Colorado, John Hickenlooper. This is only interesting insofar as it makes me curious as to why Mr. Hickenlooper thought the opinion of a Colorado Senator would hold any sway in New York City. That being said, there may be some parallels between Shaun Donovan’s mayoral campaign and Hickenlooper’s 2020 presidential run.
KATHRYN GARCIA, former Department of Sanitation Commissioner
Another disaster management candidate, Kathryn Garcia cut her teeth running the city’s Sanitation Department as well as serving as the Food Czar during the worst of the pandemic in early 2020. She’s positioned herself as a pragmatist who is uniquely qualified to save New York City after the de Blasio administration badly botched COVID recovery, and, more importantly in a ranked choice voting contest, hasn’t really given anyone a reason to dislike her.
Garcia is slightly more popular as a second choice candidate than a first choice candidate, as her management skills, get-it-done work ethic and her (purposefully?) ambiguous political positioning make her a palatable candidate to voters who just want a competent Mayor. Unfortunately for Garcia, a few other candidates are also employing that exact tactic, leaving Garcia trailing most other candidates in polling.
Interestingly enough, she does poll a bit better with Spanish speaking voters, according to a poll from Univision, as does does Diane Morales, which could be chalked up to Garcia’s recognizably Hispanic last name. However, Garcia is actually white, and was adopted by a white family as an infant, later marrying a man named Jerry Garcia. Sources are unclear as to whether it’s that Jerry Garcia.
Most Interesting Endorsement: I mean… was she actually married to Jerry Garcia?
RAY MCGUIRE, former CitiGroup executive
Ray McGuire has a robust campaign and advertising strata, with TV and internet ads appearing all over NYC as the former CitiGroup exec brings in celebrity endorsements from Spike Lee to Nas. This is odd, though, since McGuire doesn’t seem to have much of a grassroots base, and doesn’t usually poll among the leading contenders of the race. Rather, he is sitting on very large sum of campaign contributions, mostly sent from colleagues on Wall Street.
McGuire was reportedly egged on to join the Mayor’s race by those in the business community who didn’t see a candidate who could revive New York’s business sector and stop the city’s capital flight in search of lower taxes and affordable rent. That being said, McGuire is not solely the big business candidate- his campaign ads and literature have almost exclusively focused on racial justice and making the city a safer place for families of color, as well as creating easier avenues to attain the prosperity he’s enjoyed as a financial executive. His campaign website and policy proposals, draw heavily from his experience growing up in poverty living in Dayton, Ohio, and the social tribulations that people of color face in neighborhoods failed by their governments. His executive experience, clean-cut and professional presentation and commitment to social justice as a key factor in reinvigorating New York City has drawn in a number of supporters and large donors.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Samuel L. Jackson, who for some reason has not been hired to narrate McGuire’s ads, is part of a slate of celebrities who’ve endorse Ray’s campaign.
DIANNE MORALES, nonprofit leader
One of several candidates with no prior governmental experience, Diane Morales’ campaign is a strange one to report on. Of all the progressives in the field, she is by far the most left-leaning, unabashedly calling to defund the police and universal housing for all New Yorkers. Her unique position as the true lefty in the race has made her hugely popular online, where engaged young people have coalesced around her campaign, often adopting her (very cool) purple to orange color scheme on their profiles.
However, the polls tell a much different story- Morales has the lowest name recognition in the race, with under a quarter of registered voters saying they’re aware of her. She often places last in polling of the eight major candidates, though recent polls have seen her crawl up from the low single digits into the mid single digits, which isn’t earth shattering, but it does show her gaining some momentum. She’s a popular second or third choice with Stringer and Wiley voters, who likely agree with her policies but may not see her as a viable candidate. Should the leading progressives in the race, Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley, fail to bring together the progressive caucus, Morales will have a lane to bring together the most energized activist wing of the NYC Democratic party.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Lovingly, everyone with a Rose Emoji in their Twitter handle
SCOTT STRINGER, New York City Comptroller
A Mayoral run has long been in the plans for NYC’s main money guy; he and Adams jumped into the race around the same time, and Stringer hoped that his progressive credentials and citywide name recognition would propel him to the front of the pack. So far, it hasn’t exactly worked out as Stringer planned; while he does have some considerable support, particularly among Jewish voters and a base in the Upper East Side, Stringer has struggled to coalesce the progressive vote as voters flirt with Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales. He’s currently polling in the low double digits, close to or just behind Adams and a good distance behind Yang.
Stringer does boast the lion’s share of labor endorsements, including the United Federation of Teachers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. As a career politician, String has been able to position himself as a progressive with the executive experience and institutional ties to bring in the fiery, young left-leaning base of voters as well as moderate voters looking for a candidate who won’t lead a full-on revolution to burn down the system. Stringer does propose a progressive agenda, including advocating for a statewide Medicare for All Program and establishing a Tenant’s Bill of Rights to crack down on bad landlords- but Stringer has a pragmatic streak that runs in tandem with, and informs the limits of, his progressive politics; he opposes the city purchasing the MTA, stating that he’s done the math and that the money isn’t there, and opposes mandatory vaccinations for public workers on logistical grounds.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Scarlett Johansen was an early endorser of Scott Stringer. Scott Stringer was the only Mayoral candidate who saw Under the Skin.
MAYA WILEY, Civil Rights Attorney and former counsel to Mayor de Blasio
An alumna of the de Blasio Administration, Maya Wiley is running on a platform to right the wrongs of her former boss. Having served as chair of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board and spent several years with the NAACP and ACLU, Wiley’s vision of the future of New York is based on social justice and top-down institutional reform. Central to her program is her New Deal New York program, which Wiley described as a “Work Program Administration-style infrastructure, stimulus and jobs program” necessary for New York to bounce back from the pandemic. New Deal New York does closely resemble a micro-version of FDR’s WPA, promising to reignite the city’s cultural and arts centers, fix public infrastructure and jump start small businesses with good paying jobs. Wiley also has proposed a Universal Community Care program, offering more money and job protection to home caretakers.
Wiley’s politics, much like Scott Stringer’s, largely fall in line with boilerplate progressive ideals, which NYC progressives believe de Blasio campaigned on but failed to properly enact. That Wiley has directly worked for de Blasio, though, is a double edged sword; she can claim to have first hand knowledge of where exactly de Blasio went wrong, but any voter hearing about Wiley for the first time, upon hearing her bio, will make an immediate association with her and the de Blasio administration.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Chris Evans, who, along with Sam Jackson’s endorsement of Ray McGuire, implies that the Marvel Civil War has a real life analogue in New York City politics.
ANDREW YANG, former Presidential Candidate and Entrepreneur
Remember the free money guy from the presidential race last year? He’s back, and he’s running to be your Mayor! Andrew Yang’s entrance into the Democratic Primary threw the NYC establishment’s feng shui askew; as a candidate with national name recognition and a non-traditional approach to politics, Yang pulls support from every spectrum of the Democratic voter pool. In most polls, he leads in every demographic, but pulls his support largely from young White people, who tend to vote for more progressive candidates, Latino voters, who rarely vote as a coalesced bloc but really seem to like Andrew Yang, and men in general, who usually skew a bit more moderate than women. As he siphons votes from pretty much everybody, Andrew Yang is getting used to New York City; he’s received more than a bit of flack for leaving the city during the pandemic, and has made a number of rookie mistakes as he campaigns around the city (such as mistaking a grocery store for a bodega). He’s also gotten into some trouble for knocking the UFT and coming out in support of building more charter schools as well as proposing to crack down on unlicensed street vendors.
Many of Yang’s policies from his 2020 presidential run have made it into his mayoral agenda, although some of his landmark proposals, such as Universal Basic Income, have been somewhat watered down. Instead of giving everyone $1,000 a month, his mayoral agenda proposes a stimulus averaging $2,000 a year to those living below the poverty line. He’s proposed the creation of a New York City People’s Bank in tandem with his UBI program, which would in turn work with IDNYC to provide everyone receiving UBI money with a valid state ID.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Time Square’s own Naked Cowboy, who was most recently in the spotlight for participating in the Capitol Riot on January 6th.
In addition to the eight candidates who regularly appear in public polling, environmental advocate Aaron Foldenauer, co-founder of NYC Votes Art Chang, rapper and activist Paperboy Love Prince and executive producer of ABC’s “For Life” Isaac Wright, Jr. have also qualified for the ballot.
THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY
Only two candidates qualified for the Republican Primary ballot. Though New York City hasn’t elected a Republican Mayor since 2005 (before Michael Bloomberg’s one of many party affiliation changes) offering oneself as the sacrificial lamb to lose badly to the Democratic candidate for Mayor has recently served as a useful stepping stone to ingrain Republican candidates into a more well-connected world of business and politics. Bill de Blasio’s token Republican opposition in 2017, Nicole Malliotakis, is now a U.S. Representative for Staten Island and Bay Ridge, and Joe Lhota, de Blasio’s 2013 opponent, serves as the Chief of Staff for NYU Langone Medical Center, one of New York’s premiere hospitals.
FERNANDO MATEO, Founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers
Given that his website offers literally zero policy or proposals (although it does offer his bio in six languages, which is a nice feature that more candidates should use), and that he usually polls several dozen points behind the only other Republican in the race, Fernando Mateo may not be a very serious candidate for Mayor. However, some in the GOP institution seem to think otherwise; Mateo has gotten endorsements from the official Bronx, Queens and Manhattan GOP headquarters, which means that some in the GOP are probably thinking twice before openly endorsing Sliwa. Given that neither men are likely to win the General Election, the GOP is probably fine with either candidate winning the Primary.
Most Interesting Endorsement: The daughter of NYC business magnate and GOP donor John Catsimatidis, Andrea Catsimatidis!
CURTIS SLIWA, Founder of the Guardian Angels
Widely seen as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Curtis Sliwa is a fixture of New York City, for better or for worse. After founding the Magnificent 13, a vigilante group who would perform citizen’s arrests on the subway, Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels in 1979, which now has over a dozen chapters across the world. The Guardian Angels have a controversial and confusing history, as many New Yorkers, including former Governor Mario Cuomo, have praised the group for providing justice for New Yorkers when the police would not. On the other hand, the group has been accused of staging crimes for publicity, attacking protestors, and all of the general anxiety that comes with a uniformed vigilante group patrolling the subways in impoverished neighborhoods.
Sliwa only has three priorities on his campaign website- Refund the Police, Property Tax Reform and “Right to Business”. It’s a pretty standard conservative platform that somehow champions small government while also promising to expand the police presence throughout the city. Cognitive dissonance aside, Sliwa is running on a platform likely to bring in conservative voters offended by recent calls to defund the police and angry with the de Blasio and Cuomo administrations for extending lockdowns and strangling small businesses, but is unlikely to bring enough voters into the fold to win the General Election. Still, it would be cool to have a Mayor who nearly got got by John Gotti.
Most Interesting Endorsement: Father of the Manhattan GOP Chair Andrea Catsimatidis, John Catsimatidis!
WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? — VOTER INFO
The Board of Election has begun to mail out Fast Pass Tags (those little plastic tags you got in the mail for the Presidential Election) to registered voters, which will allow for no-contact check-in for in-person voting. Each tag also includes your voting site and when early voting opens in your precinct.
Election Day for the Democratic and Republican Primaries is still June 22nd, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change- early, in person voting was recently announced for the week before the election, running from June 12–20, though that may vary by precinct and your early voting site may not be the same as your Election Day voting site. Thankfully, all of this info is available on your Fast Pass Tag!
Councilmember and former mayoral candidate Carlos Menchaca (District 38) endorsed Andrew Yang on April 20th, to the surprise and chagrin of progressives. Menchaca dropped out of the race in late March after a quarter of poor fundraising and hardly registering in polling- nonetheless, the endorsement of a former rival is a nice thing to have in a close race. The Yang campaign probably hopes that having the young, left-leaning Menchaca vouching for Andrew Yang will quell some hesitancy from progressive voters.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-6) endorsed Ray McGuire for Mayor on April 16th. Meeks is a powerful House Democrat, chairing the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is the first member of Congress from New York to vouch for McGuire, who, until now, has boasted mostly celebrity endorsements.
The United Federation of Teachers endorsed Scott Stringer for Mayor on April 19th. A longtime ally of public sector unions and public school teachers, Stringer’s campaign considered this a necessary endorsement. However, the UFT’s record is spotty at best- the teachers’ union has not endorsed a winning candidate for Mayor since 1989, when the UFT endorsed David Dinkins.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-7) endorsed Brad Lander for City Comptroller on April 17th. Lander, a progressive running to fill the seat soon to be left vacant by Scott Stringer, is a progressive fighting an uphill battle against a crowded field of candidates that includes City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang endorsed Kathryn Garcia… sort of. He told the New York Daily News on April 21st that he would be ranking Garcia as his second choice on his ballot, telling the editorial board that the city is long overdue for a woman mayor.
While I don’t question Yang’s admiration for Garcia, endorsing a female candidate polling near last place is probably a clever tactic for the dominating Yang campaign to come off as magnanimous while combatting the “bro culture” stereotype rivals such as Maya Wiley have slapped on to Yang’s campaign, all while giving some visibility to a campaign that probably doesn’t pose much of a threat to Yang in the long run.
Before RCV Allocation:
Andrew Yang: 22%
Eric Adams: 13%
Scott Stringer: 11%
Maya Wiley: 7%
Ray McGuire: 6%
Shaun Donovan: 6%
Dianne Morales: 5%
Kathryn Garcia: 4%
A new poll from IPSOS and NY1 mostly shows a familiar story and a steady race, with Andrew Yang leading the pack with somewhere from a fifth to a quarter of decided voters, and Adams and Stringer standing as the only other two candidates polling in double digits.
The only deviation from the norm in the IPSOS/NY1 poll comes into play deep into the ranked choice process- most polls predict that in the final rounds, the race will come down to Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. This is the first poll to find a final matchup between Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer. Yang wins in both cases, and this is only one poll, but it may be an indicator that Stringer’s recent slew of endorsements have propped up Stringer as a popular 2nd or 3rd choice to voters. The poll found Stringer as the leading the 2nd choice pick, another first.
A fun, interactive quiz courtesy of The City that matches you with major mayoral candidates based upon your policy preferences and stances on local issues.
The Times provides a look inside Scott Stringer’s long hunt for his campaign’s white whale- the UFT endorsement.
The embattled WFP, after narrowly maintaining their ballot access in 2020, looks to claw back some clout in the Mayor’s race.
Newly Reported Cases (4/8–4/22): 2,678 avg. daily cases (-26%)
Newly Reported Hospitalizations: 2,646 avg. daily hospitalizations (-16%)
As of Monday, April 20th, businesses and restaurants are allowed to stay open until midnight- an hour later than the Governor’s previous curfew. Catering events may stay open until 1 AM. Indoor capacity at restaurants and bars are still capped at 50% capacity, and alcoholic beverages must be served with food.
In addition to bars and restaurants, movie theaters are opening up to 33% capacity and museums and zoos to 50% capacity. Large indoor arenas will be open to 25% capacity by May 19th.
After the FDA halted the production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week, citing connections to a series of rare blood clotting disorders in women who had received the vaccine, vaccination rates have slowed considerably across the country, from an average of 3.3 million daily doses last week to 3 million this week. However, vaccination rates in New York City, and New York at large, seem to be steady, as the state and city governments have large backlogs of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Brooklyn: 21% of citizens fully vaccinated
The Bronx: 21% of citizens fully vaccinated
Manhattan: 33% of citizens fully vaccinated
Staten Island: 27% of citizens fully vaccinated
Queens: 27% of citizens fully vaccinated
As of April 20th, 2021, courtesy of the New York Times
WHAT IS RANKED CHOICE VOTING?
For the first time in New York City’s history, voters will choose the next mayor through ranked choice voting. The process has already been put into use in a few special elections, including the City Council race in District 31, though there’s been little public education as to how voters use the ranked choice voting system and how to implement the new voting process as a political strategy.
Ranked choice voting works how it sounds- instead of choosing one candidate on the ballot, voters will be able to rank up to five preferred candidates. You rank your top choice first, your second choice second, etc. Ranking more than one candidate is completely optional and you don’t need to fill all five choices out; your ballot will be considered valid if you rank anywhere from one to five candidates.
How does this work in the vote counting process?
It’s a bit complicated in a race with twelve candidates on the ballot and a ballot count that will likely include several dozen write-ins, but the procedure is pretty simple. After all the ballots are counted, if no candidate gets a majority of the votes (50% or more), a new round of counting starts and the candidate who was ranked 1st on the least amount of ballots is eliminated from the next round. Any ballots ranking that eliminated candidate first will be examined for any second choices, and those second choices are apportioned as first choice rankings to those candidates in the second round. The process goes on until someone gets 50% of the vote.
Let’s say it’s a four-way race between Andrew Yang, Maya Wiley, Scott Stringer and Eric Adams. If I fill out my ballot ranking Wiley first, Stringer second, Adams third and Yang fourth, my initial ballot counts towards Maya Wiley. After the ballots are counted, if Wiley has the least amount of ballots ranking her first, she’s eliminated from the count. In the next round of counting, my vote will go to Scott Stringer. If no one has a majority after a third round of counting and Stringer has the least first ranked votes, my vote then goes to Adams in the third round. In a two way race, one of the candidates will get 50%, and the primary is decided.
So how do you use ranked choice voting strategically?
Ranked choice voting offers you an avenue to make sure your vote counts deep into the counting process, and if you have a specific agenda you want to see enacted, you can strategically prepare your ballot to strengthen the chances of seeing that agenda carried out. For example, if you feel strongly about how additional funding for the NYCHA should be used in the next few years, you could rank five candidates who match your stance and see that your vote will count for at least five rounds of tallying. This individual tactic could also be employed on a larger scale by a special interest group to rack up ballots ranking only candidates that fit their agenda.
On the other hand, if there’s a candidate you really don’t like, you could rank the five candidates you feel would have the best chance head-to-head against them, which gives your ballot up to five chances to count towards defeating someone you don’t want to see in office.
In a lopsided race like the Democratic primary, where Andrew Yang has nearly double the support of his strongest opponents, accumulating a large sum of ballots ranked with five candidates who aren’t Andrew Yang may be the only way for someone other than Yang to win, if current polling trends hold.
How long does the ranked choice voting process take to resolve? Though the tallying system is completed with the help of computers, depending on how many rounds are necessary for one candidate to break 50%, the process could take a few weeks. In smaller races with fewer candidates, the results of the RCV process were known within a one to two week margin. However, if NYC’s past record of tallying votes is any indication, voters could be waiting a long time to hear the final verdict on their party’s primary.
ON THE GROUND- Mariner’s Harbor, Staten Island
The Graniteville Wetlands, situated on the northwestern shore of Staten Island, is largely visible on the Staten Island Expressway headed towards the Goethals Bridge, and separates the neighborhoods of Graniteville and Old Place- more importantly, it separates several low-income neighborhoods on Staten Island’s North Shore from flooding and the worst effects of harsh and inclement weather, particularly during Hurricane Sandy.
For years, private development on northwestern Staten Island, largely covered by marshes and wetlands, has been a primary concern for environmental and poverty activists on the Island, who watched on in fury as Amazon recently erected a massive fulfillment center in the middle of the wildlife. Now the fight between residents and developers is flaring up once again as a giant BJ’s Wholesale department store, along with an 800 car parking lot, is in the beginning stages of development in the Wetlands.
Though BJ’s was initially denied a contract to buy the land in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the City Planning Commission approved a special permit allowing BJ’s to build on the property. The legality of all this is a little murky; a climate law passed by New York State requires a thorough investigation into the effects that land development would have on vulnerable and impoverished neighborhoods- and the neighborhoods surrounding the Wetlands would certainly qualify- however, because the contract was granted before the specificities of the investigative qualifications could be outlined, BJ’s seems exempt from these regulations.
The Staten Island branch of the Democratic Socialists of America claim that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation failed to correctly classify the 28.3 acre development site as wetlands, which would ostensibly qualify the area for environmental protection. The SI DSA has been regularly protesting the development (including a robust Twitter campaign with, admittedly, very good memes) and is planning a march at the Graniteville Wetlands on Saturday, April 24th. The SI DSA is also urging Staten Islanders to fill out the Mayor’s Environmental Justice Report, which will raise awareness in City Hall over Richmond County’s climate concerns over private development.
Residents and activists have been vocal about protecting what’s left of the Wetlands that not only protects vulnerable neighborhoods from widespread flooding, but is home to indigenous wildlife not found elsewhere in the city. Staten Island officials, including outgoing Borough President James Oddo, have offered platitudes to concerned residents, but have ultimately sided with the developers, who argue that the new BJ’s will bring in 200 jobs and strengthen the local economy.
Given that BJ’s is a member’s only store, it’s a little unclear just who in the local economy this development is meant for.
Thanks for reading this edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps. If you have any feedback, leads, stories, or just want to reach out, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @kieranian_ on Twitter.