City Council member Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, East New York), a leading candidate to be elected New York Public Advocate on February 26, is full of ideas for how to make New York a better place to live, but he also knows how to take action.
First elected to the City Council in 2013, Espinal has been effective at passing legislation that benefits communities who often get left out of the mainstream political conversations at City Hall. For example, he led the work to establish the Night Mayor and Office of Nightlife, as sees himself as an advocate for all working New Yorkers, whether they go to work when the sun rises or when it sets.
“As most of us end our work days at 5 or 6 pm, many people’s work days are just beginning. They make our city’s nightlife world famous but they never had a voice in City Hall before now. I have been proud to advocate for them,” Espinal says.
In less than two terms at the City Council, Espinal has sponsored and passed over a dozen pieces of significant legislation. His dedication to turning ideas into action led to the New York Times saying this week that “in a 51-member City Council, Mr. Espinal has been a standout.”
“Holding the Mayor accountable on the issues that matter is an important part of the Public Advocate’s job, which is why I’ve proposed establishing a team dedicated to making sure the City is on track to meet its environmental goals,” says Espinal, “But the other part of the job is putting forward plans and legislation to take New York forward, like my plan to fund the MTA and NYCHA by ending tax rebates to Wall Street.”
On the City Council, Espinal’s legislative record includes a bill abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from NYC jails, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act to protect and enhance working conditions for self-employed people, a bill creating New York’s first website dedicated to Urban Farming, and requiring diaper-changing stations in all-gender bathrooms. He also repealed the outdated Cabaret Law, which required permits for dancing and was used to target LGBTQ communities and communities of color, and recently passed legislation protecting small businesses from getting unfair fines for their awnings.
“I’m the only Public Advocate candidate who has been a successful legislator at both city and state level,” says Espinal, “that gives me an advantage over the other contenders. I know how to get things done.”
Espinal has no plans to stop introducing innovative legislation if elected Public Advocate. He says he’ll begin by expanding programs that have worked well in his district and borough, citywide. One example is making school lunches healthier and more nutritious, so children have the fuel they need to learn. Another is expanding urban agriculture and protecting community gardens across the city.
The broad range of topics Espinal has chosen to focus on have seen him gain support across a diverse group of New Yorkers and communities. That is showing in the Public Advocate race, where he’s picked up endorsements ranging from the Teamsters to environmental activists. But it’s his nightlife work that people remember him for, and he’s comfortable with that.
“I get stopped on the street by people saying ‘that’s the guy who got rid of the Cabaret Law!’ Nightlife and culture is such an iconic part of New York. But 25 percent of music venues have closed in the last ten years. We need to protect our nightlife and creative communities for what they add to out city,” Espinal says.
The election for Public Advocate is on Tuesday, February 26. Find out more at www.rafaelespinal.nyc.
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