Like many other Democrats, the 2016 presidential election was a wake-up call for Susan Damplo. An attorney and 10-year resident of downtown Manhattan, Damplo decided then to take more personal responsibility in achieving progressive outcomes and became more involved with political groups, like Emily’s List. With an open Council seat in District 1, Damplo saw the perfect opportunity to try to bring change to her community and became a candidate. Here’s our Q&A with Damplo:
Why are you running for City Council in District 1?
I’ve always been a progressive Democrat and I just supported progressive candidates and I felt that that politics was moving us forward in a progressive way as a nation. But when Donald Trump won the election I decided to step up my game a bit. Then of course with the pandemic, there was the opportunity to really help heal the district, so I’ve stepped up even further and become a candidate myself.
One of the central issues 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?
The city has its priorities completely backwards. It’s a concrete-focused democracy and not a people-centered democracy. We need to focus on the people of this community, and the motto of my campaign is there’s unity in community. The three pillars of my platform are to improve the quality of life in the district, to promote systemic fairness, as well as to reimagine the local economy. The way you reimagine the economy is to focus on small businesses. The Department of Small Business Services that we have, they’re not reaching the constituents that need to be served. So we need to do more in terms of connecting them. As part of systemic fairness, we know there’s been baked in discrimination and prejudice aimed at particularly our brown and Black brothers and sisters, who have been excluded from access to capital. So in forming small businesses, they’re the least served, and their tax dollars count just as much as everybody else’s. We’ve got to stop this arbitrary discrimination and make that capital available, and by relying on for profit banks, it’s not getting the job done.
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?
I think that with respect to gun violence, one statistic that people should really focus on is that about 98 percent of the victims are minority. We are very much, ignoring the needs of our community. Again, it goes back to the systemic fairness issue. Gun violence is disproportionately impacting some of our most underserved communities. Now, the NYPD budget is substantial, as we know. It’s the largest law enforcement agency in the country, that’s municipal, with 35,000 strong. I would like to see a better distribution of law enforcement. As Kathryn Garcia says, they are our guardians not our warriors.
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 absolutely support development, but that particular project just doesn’t make sense. They’re proposing to build a tower in a historical district, which, by its very nature, has a height restriction ... [it] is currently 12 stories and they want to almost triple that and it’s going to be over 30 stories high. It doesn’t make sense from a historical preservation standpoint or for the integrity of the community to create yet more of a high rise structure that is out of character. We don’t need more shade and more darkness, and less open space.
What’s something not related to your platform that you want voters to know about you?
I’ve been singing since I was a little girl and I sing with the New York City Bar Chorus currently. We are 100 strong, and despite our day jobs we get together and make beautiful music. It’s really a wonderful experience to sing together and to bring joy into other people’s lives who very much appreciate it and could use a little joy now and then.
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