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If I was mayor… how one New Yorker would shake things up

HEIDI BURKHART

With over 17-years of experience in New York City real estate, I am proud to say that I have been able to preserve over $2 billion in affordable housing units through my company.

I created a completely self-funded “giving-forward” company, SaxonHart, which works with battered women, the underprivileged, and the homeless in New York City. I also spend time mentoring ‘at-risk’ youth. In addition, I created an anti-cancer interactive marketing campaign called “Blank:Cancer”.

I believe my professional background and my roots in our community qualify me to run for Mayor of New York City.

If I were Mayor, I would address a number of issues from the start in order to make New York City a leading example of effective and prosperous bipartisan leadership. Instead of faulting either side for their social or fiscal standpoints, we should focus on the strengths of each to find common ground for success.

I would start by targeting key issues like affordable housing, education, jobs, taxes and the environment, all while keeping equality at the forefront.

• Environment. While I am particularly encouraged by our progress toward curbing plastic use, we need to do more by cutting it off ‘cold turkey’. There needs to be a deadline by which all plastic must be eliminated in NYC so that all parties have time to transition.

NYC sets the pace for many other cities; we saw it when indoor cigarette smoking was banned. Plastic bags can take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to decompose, and plastic bottles can take up to 450 years.

Another study shows that some plastics may never break down. We need to lead by example in our environmental efforts and not fall woefully behind other cities and countries.

• Education. Why do we not teach economics in school? What happened to the basics? I mentor many youths and seeing their lack of awareness of basic economics is mindblowing. Being able to understand a basic supply versus demand graph or understanding how taxes work are essential when we reach adulthood. Yet we are not even teaching what the word ‘fiscal’ means, let alone fiscal policies. We need to do better.

• Taxes. I would reduce taxes considerably across the board to make NYC the first home to both high net-worth and low-income families. There’s no reason people should need to claim Florida as their first home because our taxes keep them away. Maybe the answer is charging tourists an entry fee to NYC. Maybe there should be an additional nightly fee of $5 on hotel stays.

In any case, I would work on making NYC a more affordable place to live and the preferred home to all income levels. We could have a more vibrant economy and larger circulation of the dollar if more people claimed NYC as their home.

• Jobs. In order to increase job opportunities, we need to attract more businesses that are recession-proof, such as Amazon. I would happily give them tax breaks and tax credits to “X” amount, as I believe it would bring more profit to all.

• Affordable Housing. We need to shift our focus to include the middle and moderateincome housing issue. I

f we do not create a system where people can work up and out of affordable housing, we will have a bottleneck and a system set up for failure.

We put too much emphasis on creating low-income housing where the income threshold is so low that most New Yorkers who need it do not qualify.

Creating more true middle-income housing would create stepping stones for the low-income population to eventually grow out of affordable housing and live in market-rate housing.

Another affordable housing issue I want to address is term limits on affordable housing units.

I feel we do our community a disservice by not having term limits. Sure, there will be exceptions to this rule, such as the elderly, government workers, teachers, firefighters, nurses, and members of the police force, but so many smart and talented people are worried about making more money in fear that they will be overqualified for their unit’s requirements and get kicked out.

This system stunts people’s growth. We need to set term limits so people are incentivized to move up and out, even if it be 10 to 15 years.

There are so many other facets I would want to work on including social injustice, education, job training for veterans, nutrition and healthcare, but there is only so much you can do in such a short time.

A term of four years is a short order. I would work on these issues first because as New Yorkers, we need to set an example for the rest of the country and the world.

The diversity here is a beautiful thing and it’s what makes us New Yorkers.

Unity. Compassion. Prosperity. We need to embrace these things and work together to create a better New York for all.

Heidi Burkhart, president Dane Real Estate

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