UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Voters in New York City’s 5th Council district, which includes parts of the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, will see seven names on their ballots when they vote in the June 22 primary election.
One of those names will be Billy Freeland, an architect and Community Board 8 member who is among the Democrats seeking to replace term-limited incumbent Ben Kallos. (Kallos is running for Manhattan Borough President.)
Patch reached out to all candidates in the election to create these profiles. Tamayo’s responses are below.
City Council, District #5
Neighborhood of residence (i.e., East Village, Astoria, etc.)
My mother Carmen Amelia Soria who was my guide and my hero in my life. Also, my eldest brother Alberto who showed me in life that the pathway through education is the best heritage that my parents left me was to become a better person and the best way to honor them. They also passed away and are immortal in my heart forever.
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Bachelor in Architecture and Urbanism; Masters degree in Urban Planning
Architect-planner with 39 years of experience
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Community Board#8 Member
Why are you seeking elective office?
With 12 years fighting for preserving our community, I have profound understanding of the problems that our community is facing before and after covid-19. In addition, as an architect-planner with 39 years of experience in urban planning, development, sustainability and resilience communities. I am the only one that has a real plan for:
to reduce over development in our community and disinvestment in others to create an equity city with opportunities for all.
To build a resilient Esplanade to protect the FDR Drive and buildings from flooding and erosion and reduce the deficit of open spaces in our community.
To retrofit buildings to dramatically to reduce energy and increase our quality of air.
To build resilient and affordable affordable housing in NYCHA development. Increasing the density on those lots, the city will save millions of dollars from the tax payer’s money.
To increase housing by capping the buildings heights, we have opportunities to create middle-and-low income housing and protect our mom & pop stores.
to put the federal economic relief in the right hands.
to improve our quality of life: noise control, cleaning streets, enforcing the bicycle laws, etc.
to provide an enlighten training, funding and no lethal weaponry for the police officers and to emulate the Roosevelt Island Police Force law enforcement where one crime was reported last year.
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Over development and I intend to propose to stop the City Council deference policy which has driven us to where we are: over developed in some neighborhoods and in others disinvestment, forming a city of great disparity. This issue we must address it soon rather than later otherwise this problem will be unsurmountable to find a solution and it would create social resentment.
These are the problems and solutions for each of them. On the former neighborhoods the problems are: super tall buildings, stifling traffic conditions in rush hours, overwhelming mass transit, lack of open spaces, overcrowded class rooms in the schools, disappearance of the mom-and-pop stores, reduction of affordable housing, etc. the solutions are: I will propose more taxes on those business that are attracting large number of cars and people to our community; minimizing approvals on discretionary actions for new private developments; also, controlling the minimum density on new developments; so I can build more housing for middle- and low-income households. In addition, we need to control the building heights to stop super tall buildings and create opportunities to build affordable housing.
In the depressed neighborhoods, the problem is disinvestments and we need to create jobs with enticing incentives like: free air rights with expeditious discretionary actions, alluring tax reductions, new infrastructure to support these developments; therefore, this would attract developers to invest on those areas and at the same time create jobs for their residents.
We can achieve it with a comprehensive planning with accountability on the decision makers; therefore, we can create an equitable city with opportunities for all.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I have several critical different from them and they are:
DANGEROUS CYCLING CONDITIONS: Despite the repeated objections of the residents of E 61st and E 62nd Streets as well as a daycare center and a dialysis center in the zone, a number of Council candidate members of CB# 8 voted in favor of bike lanes on these streets. Marco will fight to remove these bike lanes and will advocate for strict enforcement of biking lanes as well as cracking down on speeding bikes and cyclists on the sidewalks.
LAX IN THEIR PROTECTION OF OUR HISTORIC DISTRICTS Some candidates have voted against the preservation of historic districts. MARCO has a twelve-year record of fighting to preserve our precious architectural history. Knowing our past helps us look to the future.
A candidate is proposing to increase the height limits on residential midblock buildings and permit commercial entities and over-development to encroach on the quality of life of our mid-block residents by reducing sunlight and increasing pedestrian crowding. Marco will protect the Zoning Resolution and the height and architectural value of the mid-block.
A candidate lacks understanding of the effect of over-development and super-tall buildings in our community and in our city. His Community Board votes are antithetical to the community’s wants and needs. MARCO, as an architect, supports reasonable development but opposes selfish development which impacts negatively on traffic and overcrowding the sidewalks and heavily burdens mass transit and our local schools
A candidate is in favor of no height limits on new construction, foolishly believing that very tall buildings will lead to an increase in affordable housing, but she is WRONG! In order to amass lots to create very tall buildings, developers are tearing down those smaller buildings that have affordable housing units. Today, we have no height limits on some avenues, and we don’t produce any affordable housing. As an architect, a developer and a planner, MARCO has the expertise and knowledge to negotiate and plan for increased affordable housing and accomplish that goal.
RADICAL ANTI-POLICE RHETORIC: Some candidates support defunding the police and tying their hands as they serve and protect. The city reduced the number of police officers on our streets, and because we now have insufficient levels, 200 police were moved from desk duty to active policing. We need more Police Officers to protect our subway system, Central Park and all communities. Shootings and violent crimes are rising making it imperative that responsible, adequate policing be maintained. MARCO will support adequate funding for police training, innovation and non-lethal weaponry.
CONGESTION PRICING: Some candidates support congestion pricing without regard for the detrimental financial and quality of life effects it will have on our community. Because of designated federal money, this funding source is no longer needed to support the MTA. Marco opposes congestion pricing because the boundaries for the congestion pricing district will begin on 59th St. and go south. Because of this, many cars will be circling through our streets to find parking and then take public transit into the zone, thus over-burdening our streets, our local subway stops, creating poor air quality and causing a reduction of parking spaces.
ANTI-RESILIENT COMMUNITY: Some candidates are supporting permanent year-round outdoor dining, despite there being no evidence of need or sustainability. There is no evidence that they will be needed as the economy recovers. Moving business to the streets is a violation of the zoning resolution, a windfall for businesses not having to pay rent for increased square footage, a visual blight, will cause day and late-night noise disruption, sanitation concerns, and will increase vermin in our streets. These precarious structures will need to be monitored by the Department of Buildings to certify their structural competence. There is currently no funding source for enforcement of outdoor restaurant dining. Making this program permanent, without step-by-step trial periods until the financial need is reduced, would be devastating to our quality of life. MARCO is proposing extending the program in 3 month increments until the economic effects of the pandemic are diminished, and then eliminating the program. MARCO believes that most people do not want to increase our “living on the streets” and have the noises of outdoor dining permeate the apartments of our residents who want peaceful enjoyment of their homes.
ANTI-COMMUNITY SERVICES: On Affordable Housing, Senior Programs, etc.: A candidate, at the last State Budget hearing meeting, supported providing some of the budget for criminal justice reform rather than supporting money for affordable housing. MARCO testified in favor, at the State Budget hearing, to maintain $20 Billion for affordable housing, and the NYS budget was in favor of it.
A candidate, as Director of NYC Census, failed to count 89 people in the last City census. Therefore, our city lost one political seat in Congress and millions of dollars for public schools, affordable housing, senior programs, etc. from the Federal government for the next ten years. MARCO is proposing financial incentives for developers create jobs in under-developed areas. This will be a financial benefit to the community and the city.
A candidate, as a Commissioner of the Department of Consumers Affairs, failed to resolve the violations of the Street Vendors at Third Avenue between 86th and 85th Streets, in front of the Guggenheim Museum, at Bloomindales, etc. MARCO will continue to fight for adequate enforcement of vendor law before any vendor licenses are granted and, a new vendor enforcement agency is adequately funded.
No real policy on sustainability: Some candidates don’t have a comprehensive policy to reduce global warming even though buildings are responsible for 70% of greenhouses emissions. As a developer, MARCO is building the energy efficient buildings of tomorrow.
How do you think local officials performed in responding to the coronavirus? What if anything would you have done differently?
We were not ready and this is why the coronavirus pandemic took us all by surprise and killed many people.
However, we would have done better if the city would have had a plan to build more housing to reduce the demand of housing, especially, around the epicenter of the Elmhurst Hospital breakout and other areas of the city. One of the biggest problems that we are facing are those neighborhoods with the overcrowding housing conditions. Many home owners changed the use of their cellars into unlawful apartments which have lack of adequate fresh air, illumination and ventilation, conditions under which the covid-19 virus was rampant. In short, we need a policy to build more housing to reduce the unbalance of supply; therefore, having more affordable housing, the monthly housing expenses would be less expensive and the quality of housing would improve.
Do you support or oppose the New York Blood Center’s proposed tower and rezoning? If you oppose it, should it be scrapped entirely, or just revised?
Yes. I am opposing completely this application because this project can be approved as an as-of-right-development., because under the current zoning, the Blood Center can build high enough to give them two additional floors, which will yield more space to them than they are getting in the proposed tower.
MARCO, therefore, is opposing the commercial/industrial use that the Blood Center doesn’t need for its scientific investigation. The emission of the exhaust particles permitted labs would create a hazardous condition for all residents of the surrounding this project if there is a human error. This would destroy the whole concept of our contextual R8B residential district in height from 75 feet to 334 feet, would eliminate the concept of rear yards. The height of the tower will become even more oppressive on the narrow streets. It would create perpetual shadows on the surrounding buildings and the park. If these labs would not be profitable as expected, the Longfellow developer can change the use at his pleasure for different commercial more profitable uses allowed within the zoning district approved.
In addition, this project is expected to bring more than 5500 more people to our area each day, impacting on the already stifling traffic conditions on this street with a cross-town bus route and many school buses twice daily, as well putting pressure on the already overcrowded subway.
Furthermore, the proposed change of use from R8B to C2-7, the proposed C2-7 is not the real district because the applicant is requesting several waivers, changing the height from 25 feet to 334 feet and the floor area ratio from 2 to 10. In short, this proposed final C2-7 would not descriptive of any existing zoning district. That is absolutely wrong.
Ben Kallos worked to bring a Safe Haven shelter to the district — would you have done the same, and would you do so again for another shelter, if elected?
If it is within the zoning resolution yes even though our community has a minimum zoning districts of this type. It means that Ben Kallos’ development was proposed as-of right-of-development.
In addition, this development is a transitional housing where the homeless have a period to stabilize their lives and; then, they are moving to permanent housing. MARCO would do a few things differently from Mr. Kallos. I would buy the land and develop it in agreement with a non-for-profit organization whose philanthropic mission statements fits perfectly with this type of housing, and the city would save millions of dollars, therefore, the city could become more effective to resolve the homeless problem
While police statistics show crime mostly dropping on the Upper East Side, many residents report feeling less safe in the neighborhood than they used to. Why do you think this is, and is adding more police the way to solve it?
Some candidates have some radical anti-police rhetoric and support defunding the police and tying their hands as they serve and protect. The city reduced the number of police officers on our streets, and because we now have insufficient levels, 200 police were moved from desk duty to active policing. We need more Police Officers to protect our subway system, Central Park and all communities. Shootings and violent crimes are rising making it imperative that responsible, adequate policing be maintained. MARCO will strongly support adequate funding for police training, innovation and non-lethal weaponry.
What single policy would you advocate for to make housing more affordable on the Upper East Side?
MARCO would advocate to increase the housing vacancy rate from 2.68% to a higher rate than the city 3.5% average vacancy rate in our community. Consequently, having more apartments available for rent, in our community there would be more affordable apartments available and good quality rental apartments too. To do that, I will stop demolition and build more affordable housing in NYCHA developments and the City will save millions of dollars from the tax payer’s money. I will modify the 421-a program to produce affordable housing in perpetuity. By capping the building heights on unprotected avenues; this would allow me to negotiate some FAR and building heights to produce affordable housing. Stop the medical institutions from buying affordable housing.
Would you push to add more bike lanes in the district?
Yes, in appropriate locations where there is less traffic and does not compete with the business development. MARCO is the only candidate to propose to build a resilient Esplanade where a two-way bicycle lane will be built and at same the time protect the erosion and flooding of the FDR Drive and near-by buildings as well as dividing the bicyclist areas from the pedestrian areas. In addition, there will be a scenic seating and other attractions.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
I am the only candidate that has the most comprehensive platform on the most important issues that our community is facing as well as I have solutions, creating opportunities for all. My platform includes: expanding (building) new schools to reduce overcrowded classrooms and mandatory learning to read by the third grade and constant remedial classes for low-income housing students. On reasonable development, I propose to stop super tall buildings. On global warming, buildings contribute with 70 % of the greenhouse emissions; then, I am proposing to build energy efficiency buildings of tomorrow. More secure public spaces and less noise and investing aggressively to bring back our small businesses especially the mom & pop businesses. Finally, I am proposing to build sustainable, an independent self-financial development as well as building resilient affordable housing.
In addition, I have a plan to increase more open spaces, building a new resilient Esplanade section from 81st to 71st Streets. I propose to build a new seawall of 11 feet high to control the flooding to protect the pathway of the FDR Drive and residential buildings. Above it, I am planning to build a new bicycle pathway, and finally covering it with a new pedestrian deck with plenty of landscape and a scenic seating. This proposal would increase dramatically the open space for active and passive recreation and at the same time would impact positively in the real estate value of the coops and condos as well as the city would receive more tax from our community.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I am a co-author of the methodology of planning for cities which allows me to understand the city problems within some methodical and rational matter, putting accountability on the decision makers as well as propose practical solutions with measurement goals. Therefore, I believe that the new “Let’s plan Together” presented by the speaker of the house is the best choice to face the present crisis. It is unacceptable the deference policy that the City Council has driven to a myriad of problems. This policy created over development in some neighborhoods and disinvestment in others.
I have a plan on how to improve the quality of life of NYCHA residents building more affordable housing. The Holms Tower development is located in a flood zone; this lot is underutilizing its land even though in our community we don’ t have any land available to build affordable housing, increasing its density the City would save millions of dollars from the tax payers’ money; these units have more than 3,000 complaints predominantly: leaky pipes, vermin; lack of heat, elevators, lead paint, windows, etc., repairing them would very pricey and with potential negative effects of flooding. Therefore, I am proposing to build 2,356 new affordable units, increase its density which would improve the life of its residents and new ones.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
While we re-activate our small business putting the money in the right hands, we can create new jobs in disinvested neighborhoods. With a comprehensive planning, we can eliminate the deference policy established in the City Council which has brought us to where we are. With this, we can reduce the disparity on the city neighborhoods.
On disinvested neighborhoods, we can create new jobs, providing incentives such as free air rights and make easier the process of discretionary actions, tempting tax reductions, building new infrastructure and other services to attract new investment.
On over developed neighborhoods in new developments, we can minimize the approval of discretionary actions on private developments. Controlling the minimum density in new developments, we can produce middle-and low-income housing. Also, we can impose more taxes in those businesses that are attracting large numbers of cars and straphangers.
Consequently, we can create a more equitable society with opportunities for all.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
MARCO will strongly support adequate funding for police training, innovation and non-lethal weaponry. Some candidates have some radical anti-police rhetoric support defunding the police and tying their hands as they serve and protect. The city reduced the number of police officers on our streets, and because we now have insufficient levels, 200 police were moved from desk duty to active policing. We need more Police Officers to protect our subway system, Central Park and all communities. Shootings and violent crimes are rising making it imperative that responsible, adequate policing be maintained.