District 22 Candidate

Tiffany Cabán

Campaign Website: cabanforqueens.com

NYC Campaign Finance Board – funds raised.

Queens Post Questionnaire

What Office/District are you running for and why? I am running for City Council here in District 22 because this is where the work is – this is what the moment and my love for my neighbors demands. I want to see a wave of City Council Members who not only have the ability to propose  policies, but also intimately understand how the implementation of transformative policies will benefit their communities.

This moment demands political imagination. We don’t have time to wait. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our communities. But a crisis, by definition, is a turning point. It is an opportunity to bypass small incremental reform and achieve bold transformative change.

I am running to fight for our small businesses and establish a care economy that prioritizes our neighborhood’s working families over the wealthy and large corporations. TO champion green initiatives, like the Renewable Rikers plan, that will fight the climate crisis and create good union jobs. I am running to divest from the bloated police budget and fully fund the things that keep us safe and healthy: housing, healthcare and education.

But, we need to have the political will to get it done.

That’s why I want to serve in the Council. I will be unapologetically bold in my demands, and I will approach the work with radical transparency. Together, we will ensure our New York City’s future is determined by the working families that have made the city what it is.

How long have you lived or worked in the District and how active are you in the community right now? I was born and raised in Queens, spent the majority of my childhood in this district, and have lived here the past few years. I grew up in Richmond Hill, and spent my summers and weekends in this district because the rest of my family lived in Woodside. Astoria is, and has always been, my happy place.

Growing up, I loved playing in the Astoria Youth Baseball League, trips to Astoria pool, and back to school shopping on Steinway. As an adult, I love going to the park with my dogs, and my pre-pandemic weekend ritual of grabbing a coffee and browsing Astoria Bookshop.

This has always been a place where I feel safe to take risks,  reflect, experiment, and explore. It grounds me in who I am, how I’m meant to relate to the world, and the thing that really matters: community.

When I was a public defender I worked in this district, visiting Rikers Island often.  I represented clients who lived all over the city, including District 22.  As an advocate and activist for criminal legal reform, I’ve participated in actions, protests and advocacy around Rikers Island.

I’ve stood and organized with my community and small business owners against large corporations. I celebrate with my neighbors throughout the year, sharing joy and holidays with our community.

During the pandemic, I have tried to plug in wherever I can from helping with food distribution for those experiencing food insecurity to providing jail support for protestors who had been arrested.

What is your current or most recent occupation? For years, I worked as a public defender, representing Black, brown and low-income New Yorkers in a criminal legal system rooted in racism and the criminalization of poverty, mental illness and substance use disorder resulting in mass incarceration.

I am an organizer and activist. At the Working Families Party, I serve as a political organizer and senior strategist to recruit, train and elect progressive prosecutors around the country. Here on the city and state level, I provide policy support to progressive electeds, whip votes of elected officials on pending legislation, and help community based organizations run more targeted, effective issue-based campaigns.

What would you advocate for in terms of the future of Riker’s Island? I firmly believe that Rikers Island must be shut down. Rikers Island is the largest mental health provider in the State of New York. It has been our cruel answer to poverty, substance use, mental illness, and homelessness. Rikers is a living monument to the ways our City has failed the people who live here. It is the manifestation of what austerity gets us. It is the inevitable outcome when you starve Black, brown and low income communities of resources and throw police at every problem. It’s time to end these archaic practices.

Our current Council recently voted on the Renewable Rikers Act, the first step towards transitioning the island from a jail into a renewable energy facility.

In turning Rikers Island into a renewable energy facility, we will start repairing the harm done to Black and brown low income communities that have borne the brunt of both mass incarceration and the worst health outcomes in our city due to pollution. It would open the door to good, green union jobs for our community members as well as take the first step toward proactively fighting against the climate crisis that threatens our City and District 22.

The next Council is going to have to get that over the finish line, and I am eager to help lead that charge.

What were your thoughts on the rezoning proposal at 30-02 Newtown Avenue in Astoria? Every time a wealthy developer decides to build a massive structure of any kind (especially a mixed use proposal like this one), they are required to fill out an Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS).

A quick pass of this application tells a clear story. This project is one rooted in generating profit, rather than combatting the issues our communities are struggling with — especially housing. The EAS for this project includes a group of questions related to socio-economics.

The developers deny the inevitable displacement that would flow from this project. Anyone who has lived in Astoria can see the clear line from luxury developments to gentrification and displacement. With every new building being built by private real estate money, our low-income and working class neighbors see their neighborhood become less and less affordable.  The rent is too damn high.

We need union-built, 100% truly affordable and accessible development in our district.

Do you think the rezoning process (ULURP) is working? If not, how would you change it? ULURP is outdated, purely reactive, and heavily weighted toward developer interests. It needs to be reformed. The New York City land use process needs to be working class-led and focused on racial and environmental justice. The ULURP process is purely reactive and therefore heavily weighted toward developer interests.

A comprehensive planning process will ensure that all members of communities, not just corporate interests and developers, have the opportunity to proactively plan for their neighborhoods.

The land use planning process should be designed for, and overseen by, the people who live in the neighborhood. Approvals of individual rezoning applications should first and foremost consider whether or not the application furthers both the city and the community’s visions, and provides critically-needed deeply affordable housing, living wage jobs for residents in the neighborhood, public infrastructure to protect our coasts, accessible green and open spaces, and improvements to our transit systems.

Do you believe in member deference when it comes to rezoning? I am going to consistently vote on the side of working people and low income families. We’re going to make sure that we are in alignment with them, no matter what.

To that end, no, I do not support continuing member deference.

I was a vocal supporter of the people calling for the rejection of the Flushing Rezoning Plan. Our deference should be to the working people of our city and understanding that what is good for the most vulnerable of us is good for all of us collectively.

New York City is so interconnected. What you do in one neighborhood necessarily affects every other one. I want to make sure that we are always standing with working class families in our city and the people who are put on the margins, whether they are Black, brown, immigrant, queer, the elderly, gig or domestic workers.

The folks who typically haven’t had the same protections and opportunities that more privileged folks had, are the people we need to be looking out for when we talk about these rezonings. We have to make sure that we aren’t allowing private developers to continue to extract wealth from our communities while not providing anything for the community members who have been here for generations.

Should the city council cut police funding? If so, by how much? Yes, by at least $2 billion annually. While every government agency is being gutted and defunded, the only agency seeing a budget increase is the NYPD. For too long we have asked police to deal with problems they were never equipped to handle. 2-3%  of what police do is what most people think they do – respond to violent crime. Right now the other 97% of their time and resources are spent responding to people in mental health crisis, showing up when you are evicted from your home, credentialing our press corp, doing routine traffic enforcement, and even taking kids’ temperature at schools, among other functions. Reliance on policing and incarceration do not produce good public health and public safety outcomes. It is time to fund the right workers — teachers, nurses, counselors, sanitation workers, etc — to address the problems our communities face.  We need to defund the bloated police budget and invest in the true sources of safety: housing, jobs, education, and healthcare, including mental healthcare.

Our campaign just released our public safety plan which is a roadmap to empower people, not police, to lead with care and keep our communities safe. It focuses on centering impacted voices, putting people to work in their own neighborhoods, and uplifting community based initiatives.

Do you think non-citizens (including undocumented immigrants) should be able to vote in New York City elections? Yes. Every person that lives in New York City should have the right to vote and help determine the future of our city. We need to build a city that works for the people who make it what it is, and that includes our undocumented immigrant neighbors.

We must work to ensure our elected officials and government are accountable to each and every person — and that is accomplished by making sure their voices and experiences are on the ballot and in the voting booth.

How would you select community board members and is the current system working? What’s really important about our community boards is that we are doing the work to create more onramps toward civic engagement and political empowerment.

If we are not actively working to create that access, we end up with these homogeneous bodies that don’t reflect the diversity of our communities.

We have to do the work to reach out to all the different cross sections of our community to make our community boards more accessible and equitable.

It’s important to look at the demographics, the politics, and the values of our district and make sure we have a really good and intentional cross section of our community that represents every corner of our district.

Are you an advocate for protected bicycle lanes in the district and, if so, where do you think they should go? Yes. Our District desperately needs more protected bike lanes and additional bus lanes that are thoughtfully connected throughout the district. We must redesign our streets so that mass transit, cycling, and walking are accessible to all, and prioritized. In district 22 for example, we have 21st street as a huge corridor that is ripe for a bike lane and a dedicated bus lane that both lead towards the entrance of the Queensboro bridge. The East Elmhurst and Woodside portions of the district certainly need deeper investments in bike lanes. We can look to many of our extra-wide streets throughout the district as well. These wide streets are often grounds for dangerous speeding and narrowing roadways with protected bike lanes could help curb that. There are many resulting benefits of this from reducing pollutants with less cars on the road, minimizing street injuries and fatalities, to stimulating our local economies by encouraging residents to stay close to home and patronage their neighborhood’s small businesses.
What is your view on the transportation network in Queens? What would you do to improve it? We must invest to expand and improve public transportation in Queens.

Here in District 22, once you go west of 21st it’s a transportation desert, though the addition of the ferry has helped alleviate that a little. Before folks had to travel over an hour sometimes just to get the few thousand feet across the river to Manhattan.

We need more bus lanes, and 21st street is a great place to start. Adding properly protected bike lanes is a must as well. Our train stations, many of which are above ground, are currently inaccessible and need capital improvements. Only one of our stations has working elevators, creating unacceptable hardships for our elderly and disability communities.

Fully funding free transportation requires substantial capital investments and major construction projects that will require redesigning our city to reflect superblock and open streets being implemented elsewhere across the world.

We also have to be cognizant that there are working people who drive for a living and who have to be taken care of as we transition away from fossil fuel-based transportation. Taxi cab drivers, bus drivers and other city drivers – many of whom are Black and brown or immigrants whose income sustains their families – must be guaranteed job opportunities that are at least as stable and good-paying as the work that they do right now, and we should first prioritize reducing the number of private cars driving in the city any given day.