Jenny Low immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 12 years old, learning English while attending school. She later built a career in finance at JP Morgan Chase and served for 30 years on the board of the Chinese-American Planning Council. Most recently, Low has served in a government role, overseeing internal operation at the City Council out of Speaker Corey Johnson’s office. It’s on this experience Low is running to replace the term-limited Council Member Margaret Chin and represent District 1, which encompasses Chinatown, the Financial District, Seaport, Lower East Side, Tribeca and Soho. Here’s our candidate Q&A with Low:
Why are you running for City Council in District 1?
I have experience in the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors, that will be tremendously helpful in being part of the deliberation and discussion on how we get out of this pandemic and how we recover as a city, and also of course, as a district in Lower Manhattan. When the pandemic hit, I jumped in and I helped support the community in multiple ways, and that includes finding ways to help low income seniors and families who have EBT cards when they couldn’t get out to go buy food. We worked with a team of volunteers to deliver free culturally sensitive meals to homebound seniors and families. We need people who have a track record of being successful in community, and I’m one of those people. And it is because of the work I’ve done that over all these years that people have asked me to run for office. Now with the devastation caused by the pandemic, I’m ready to get off the sideline and get to the City Council, and start working day one without any training.
The central issue in every race this year is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic – if you’re elected, what kind of policies would you pursue to help workers, families and small businesses get back on their feet?
Among my top five priorities is helping working families recover and help small business get back on their feet. We need to help people find jobs, to help prepare them, train them with skills to be able to take on jobs that have a living wage and in those industries where there are union jobs. Many small businesses shut down when the city shut down, but in Chinatown, we shut down well before the shutdown racist rhetoric that the White House occupant at the time kept spreading and disseminating.
But it’s not just Chinatown, it’s on the Lower East Side, it’s Lower Manhattan and further downtown in FiDi and Tribeca. Sadly, more and more store keeps closing so what we need to do is we need to really work with not just the [Small Business Administration] that’s providing [Paycheck Protection Program] and economic relief, but we need to be more proactive in helping businesses revitalize themselves. [The city’s Small Business Services] needs to be able to provide language assistance to business owners. Many business owners are immigrants. Many of them are not proficient in English, they may not even be able to get on the internet. If they don’t have internet access, they need to get internet access. So the SBS ambassadors - they need to have ambassadors who speak the language of the neighborhood. They need to be able to speak Spanish, Chinese languages and they need to be able to speak Bengali. We need these businesses to reopen.
Over the course of the year there’s been an uptick in gun violence and other sorts of violent crime, but at the same time there remains a call to reform the NYPD – how you negotiate those two needs of keeping the city safe while reforming policing?
Police misconduct and brutality has hurt many, many people across the city, especially black and brown communities. We need to reform the NYPD, and try to get that trust back in the community. What I believe we need to do is reallocate some of their budget, incorporate programs for the youth: providing them with after school programs, mentorships, and internship program. That will help them stay on the path to becoming a productive member of the community. And I strongly believe that the police should not be the leading responder to mental health crisis incidents. We need mental health professionals. We also need to have check and balance within the police department. We need to give authority to the Civilian Complaint Review Board so they can execute the recommendations upon completion of a review or investigation in which an officer is found violating the law or common rule.
Howard Hughes Corporation’s proposal to build a 324-foot tower within the South Street Seaport Historic District has divided neighbors downtown. Is that a project you support, why or why not?
I have come to the conclusion that this project is not a project that I will support. I am opposed to it in the way that it is presented. That height is out of sync with that area of the Seaport. I believe we need to keep the South Street Seaport in a way that is respectful, and also showcases the legacy of this part of the city for generations to come. So, building another glass tower there or another high rise building that is beyond what is currently zoned for is not something that I will support. For the developers who say, “Oh, we’re gonna provide affordable housing,” ... they’re not providing a whole lot of affordable housing there. It started with 100 or so units and now it’s down to 70 units in the last proposal that they have presented. That’s an insult. I don’t know how else to say it. They can build to the current zoning or they can get the transfer rights to build further into other parts of Lower Manhattan where there are available spaces. If the project is to be built here, I would only support it if the height is kept to the current zoning.
What’s something not related to your platform that you want voters to know about you?
When I first came to this country, my grandmother had a little coffee shop in Chinatown. The coffee shop wasn’t making a whole lot of money. But when people in need came in and ate, and she didn’t charge them. When there were people in need, she helped. So she instilled in her four grandkids that no matter what we have or how much we have, we always help people. That really stuck with me and with the other kids, and I’ve been volunteering since I was 13 years old. So I am someone who if I see something and if I can do something about it, I get it done.
For more election coverage, sign up for The Trail, our weekly newsletter covering Manhattan politics: www.bit.ly/thetrailnyc