ON THE STREET: Five Quick Questions For Kathryn Garcia

Kathryn Garcia speaks outside a Chinatown senior center on May 13th, 2021.
Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia was in Chinatown calling for the city to reopen its senior centers (with Justin Yu, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association). Photo: Christopher Robbins

Kathryn Garcia may not ride her bike to work, but if she’s elected mayor she’ll subsidize bikeshare so other New Yorkers can.

On Thursday morning, the former Sanitation Commissioner, go-to de Blasio-era czar, and pandemic food logistics manager stood outside a Chinatown senior center on Grand Street asking why her former boss hasn’t reopened the 250 Department for the Aging senior centers. On the heels of her endorsement by the New York Times editorial board, Garcia insisted that this was yet another arena where she would be able to “cut through the bureaucracy” and deliver results.

“We know that there are health impacts from being alone and being isolated. This puts them in danger,” Garcia said. “Bringing back the senior centers gives them a more healthy life.”

Streetsblog took advantage of the dearth of reporters at this event (in perfect 70 degree weather and abundant sunshine!) to ask a handful of questions. Tonight is the first official mayoral debate (7 to 9 p.m. watch and listen here), and Garcia said that she was looking forward to it, with one regret.

“I wish we were doing it in-person, and outside,” she said.

Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our personal press conference.

Can you be a little more specific when you say you’ll “cut through the bureaucracy” in this particular instance? What barriers will you knock down to reopen senior centers?

Well, I actually don’t see there being really any barriers. We have a population that is vaccinated that we can bring together safely. We have an ability for them to be here. Let’s use the things we know. Keep it ventilated, make sure you’re vaccinated, and wear your mask. You can actually do those things in a senior center. We have gyms open, we have bars open, we know that this is possible. [A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio has not responded to our quick-deadline request for comment.]

You told Brian Lehrer on Wednesday that you would keep the NYPD’s budget the same. Are you comfortable with the current level of NYPD budget transparency? Sometimes the City Council literally has to subpoena the police department for information. How would that change in a Garcia administration?

We need to make sure that all of the city budget is transparent. We work for the public. They need to know where their money goes. I’m a taxpayer. I want to make sure that the money’s being spent efficiently, and that is what will happen in a Garcia administration. 

You also have said that you support a city residency requirement for NYPD officers, but that is a state matter. How will you approach that given that you will be the mayor, and you’re not in the state legislature.

Clearly, it is in the hands of the state legislature [but] when you’re the mayor, you need to work closely with both the members of the Assembly and members of the Senate. But I’ve already talked to many of them and they are supportive of this requirement.

The mayor rode a bike to work this week for the first time in seven and a half years. How many times will you ride your bicycle from Gracie Mansion to City Hall?

I’ve promised that I’ll ride the subway. We’ll see how well I’ll do on the bike. But you know, I enjoy the Citi Bike world. I have not made a strict number of ride determinations.

Speaking of Citi Bike, do you support providing public subsidies for bikeshare? Is that part of your transportation plan? [A recent post in Streetsblog revealed that 63 percent of voters said they supported “subsidies that promote cycling in New York City including Citi Bike.”]

We need to have Citi Bike in all of our neighborhoods, not just some. And if we have to subsidize it, then that’s what we’ll need to do.

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