2017 City Council Screening Questionnaire
Candidate Name: Marjorie Velázquez
Council District: 13
If there is a Campaign office(s), is it wheelchair accessible? Yes, 79 Westchester Sq, Bronx NY 10461
Campaign Address: 3707 East Tremont, Bronx NY 10465
Political: Council Members James Vacca, Ritchie Torres, Helen Rosenthal, Margaret Chin, Rosie Mendez, Elizabeth Crowley, Julissa Ferreras, Karen Koslowitz, Laurie Cumbo, Deborah Rose, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Progressive Caucus Alliance,
Community: Planned Parenthood, Vote Pro-Choice, Make the Road NY Action, New York State Immigrant Action Fund
Labor: Communication Workers of America (CWA), Working Families Party (WFP),
Action Shows Commitment!
What have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process? Throughout my time in my community, I have always been a voice and advocate for those who are disabled and ensuring their issues are addressed and not pushed to the side to be forgotten. When the city government came to my district to discuss zoning changes, I was one of the first to bring up issues that affect those with disabilities, and push for solutions such as increasing the number of pedestrian ramps, as well as urging for designated Access-A-Ride (AAR) locations, particularly in areas of high demand like medical facilities. Additionally, I was recently named a board member of the St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf because of my past work with the community. I’m looking forward to listening to concerns important to the disabled community and finding solutions to these issues in the City Council.
Will you only attend / sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters as well as ensuring that locations are physically accessible? Yes, if elected I will attend and sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities because my first priority in office is to fight for the equal representation of all New Yorkers. Those who have disabilities are often forgotten, and we must not only remember those individuals but provide them with the resources they need to be active participants. I would also support legislation that would further make events accessible to people with disabilities and increase their participation in city government.
Local Law 28 requires City department and agency “advertising and other materials pertaining to public events to include information regarding accessibility for people with disabilities” but it does not include elected officials or Community Boards. Do you believe the law should be amended to include electeds and Community Boards? In the absence of an amendment to Local Law 28, would you voluntarily comply? Yes, I strongly believe the law should be amended to include elected officials and Community Boards, as well as spaces that utilize public funds. I would voluntarily comply and make materials for my public events include information regarding accessibility.
II. General Questions:
What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities? Over five years ago I suffered from two major accidents that led to 7 surgeries, as well as years of on-going recovery and physical therapy. For nearly 4 years, I was temporarily disabled with limited ability to walk, climb stairs and write with my dominant hand. Throughout this experience, I have had to navigate the difficulties accessing public and private spaces because of a lack of consideration for those physical disabilities and this experience taught me firsthand the challenges people with disabilities face every day. I witnessed and experienced many issues the disabled community faces, and know they are unacceptable. After my 4 year struggle, the concerns of the disabled community are my own concerns, and their fights are my fights.
What would be your strategy to work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation through the City Council? If elected, I will work closely with the disability community by ensuring clear communication on issues to fully understand what is needed, and where I can strongly advocate for legislation to be passed by the City Council. I will form relationships with organizations that advocate for the disability community and ensure that they have a sit at the table when important decisions are being made that will impact the community.
How will you use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections for persons with disabilities? I will utilize my office to advocate and strengthen civil rights protections for the disability community by not only being a public voice but also by building coalitions to develop and implement substantive legislation to make a real difference for those with disabilities.
Will all events planned by your office be accessible with all material including the appropriate accessibility symbols (such as the wheelchair, ASL CART, etc)? Yes, I will make it a requirement for any event I hold to be accessible to those with disabilities.
What is your position on the development of supported apartments/homes for people with disabled in your borough? I strongly support the development of apartments and homes for those with disabilities in my borough and especially in my community.
Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of “visitability” in the Building Code? Yes, I support the concept of “visitability” being incorporated in the Building Code in order to hold developers accountable to the guidelines, and ensure the disability community can access newly constructed buildings.
What will you do to expand affordable wheelchair accessible transportation in NYC, express buses, and shuttles, more accessible subway stations, etc.? As I have done in the past, I will continue to push to expand Access-A-Ride options with designated pick-up and drop-off zones, particularly for areas of high need such as medical facilities and others. In addition, I will advocate for more capital funding to make every subway station accessible - there is no excuse why every single subway station can’t be fully accessible with actual WORKING elevators. I will also push for more state funding for accessible transportation options in transit deserts.
Access-A-Ride (AAR) users experience unnecessarily long trips, causing users to be late for work and appointments. Users have been stranded and penalized as a "no-show" when the vehicle never arrived. Riders who complain report they have been subject to retaliation. What would you do to improve the quality of service? I believe there are three main parts to address this issue, the first being improving the quantity of service, and this can be done by having Access-A-Ride (AAR) and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) establish a joint effort to increase the supply of drivers with accessible cars - in particular among liveries, boro cabs, and black cars. I also believe that we need to consider using more modern transportation app technology that provides a much better customer service experience for the user. If Uber, Lyft and other services can provide accessible, on-demand scheduling of pickups, notification of the time till pickups, and notice of when the driver arrives, there should be no reason in 2017 that Access-A-Ride can’t do the same. Additionally, AAR operators should receive more training to help address the needs of users.
VI. Community Boards:
Do you support requiring all Community Board meetings and functions to be accessible, including requiring sign language interpreters and large print format material? Yes, as a treasurer on the executive board for Community Board 10, I strongly believe there must be a requirement for meetings and events to be accessible to the disability community .
b How many people with disabilities have/will you appoint to your local Community Board? As a new candidate running for office, I have not had the opportunity to appoint members to the CB, but I would gladly appoint people with disabilities to local Community Boards if they are qualified. I will seek the help of the 504 Dems to connect me with interested parties who want to join the Community Boards in my district, as well as make direct outreach to individuals that would represent the disabled community. In order to ensure there is equal representation and inclusivity in all forms of the community, I will advocate and appoint more people with disabilities to the Community Board.
VII. Discretionary Funds
Will you use your discretionary funds to support organizations serving PWDS or service organizations seeking to make their programs accessible to PWDS? Yes, if elected I will use discretionary funds to support reputable organizations that provide services and programs to PWDS because these programs are underfunded and a necessity.
a. What steps do you think NYC should take to encourage business owners to make their establishments more accessible? In order to establish more accessibility amongst businesses, I believe the City Council should hold owners accountable if they do not meet certain accessibility requirements. Additionally, I believe we should treat accessibility similar to the NYC restaurant inspection grades and display a public grade on accessibility to create more transparency with the public.
b. How would you ensure that emergency evacuation for PWDS provisions are put in place to improve survival rates of PWDs in the event of fire, attack, blackout, or other emergency situation? I believe the first steps to ensure that emergency evacuation for PWDS provisions are put in place is to hold building owners accountable to required safety codes, and then we must provide proper training to building staff to fully understand processes in case of an emergency. Additionally, I believe we must involve first responders, like FDNY and EMT, in developing emergency plans for buildings and spaces that specifically address how PWDs will be evacuated. Local emergency responders should know and have a plan to assist PWDS in emergency situations, and I would work with the community and agencies to develop an appropriate mechanism to achieve this goal.
X. Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
a. Mayor Bloomberg elevated the Director of the (MOPD) to a Commissioner without any increase in budget. How would you ensure that city departments/agencies coordinate through MOPD? This was one of Mayor Bloomberg’s empty promises- he established a Commissioner but gave them no ability to implement the needed resources for the disability community in city government. With my experience at DirectTV Latin America managing the budgets for 16 different countries, I know that I will be able to push for a city budget that provides adequate funding to MOPD and gives funding to agencies to provide resources to the disability community.
b. How do you believe the City Council should enforce and do oversight regarding the work of the office and be certain of the implementation and its efforts? The City Council should hold oversight hearings to ensure that MOPD is properly fulfilling its duties. The Council should also establish a Committee with oversight jurisdiction over MOPD to be certain of its work to help the disability community. In addition, I believe we should have MOPD staff within the agencies to ensure compliance with city laws that protect disabled people. If there is ever an instance that proper oversight is not being conducted, I will be a voice and advocate for the disability community to ensure these efforts are clearly followed.