As a first-time candidate for elected office, Art Chang (D) appears like a political outsider. Still, his more than thirty years of experience in politics and policy in both the public and private sectors shows he’s hardly a greenhorn.
As the first project manager on Long Island City’s Queens West Development Project in the late nineties, Chang helped create eight blocks of city infrastructure, including parks and the first two eco-friendly buildings designed to address the hundred-year floodline. One of his buildings was one of only two on the waterfront to not lose power when Hurricane Sandy hit.
Yet his credentials have not come easy. The son of Korean immigrants, Chang was born in Jim Crow Atlanta and raised in all-white Ohio neighborhoods. Growing up, he endured racism on the street and domestic abuse at home.
“My earliest memories involved watching the civil rights marches, feeling very close to them, and having the realization that the civil rights movement was making it possible for me to have a more free and equal future,” Chang recalled. “My experience at home also led me to know that equality begins at home and also equity begins at home. If you don’t have those things in the home, it’s very hard to have them in society at large.”
When the murder of George Floyd sparked Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, including in New York over the summer, Chang realized he needed to run for mayor and inject his sense of equality and equity into the city’s body politic.
“I looked at all the good fortunes I’ve had in my life, and successes and happiness that I’ve had, and I looked at how far behind black Americans are,” he said. “When we have to bring New York back, don’t mean back. We need to create a future for New York that is more just and more equitable, specifically remembering the obligation that I feel to black Americans for making life better for not just all people of color, but the legal framework the civil rights movement laid that resulted in women’s equality and gay rights.”
Chang considers universal childcare his top policy priority in a platform prioritizing “jobs, families, and communities.” He hopes to use government partnerships to make New York more amenable for small businesses to start and thrive while revitalizing the existing industries that made the city famous.
Other plans include improved education that treats each student as an individual, greater public transit flexibility, and stronger social protections and safety nets.
Chang has also expressed support for the current eviction and foreclosure moratorium, but not cancelling rent, noting that landlords must pay their mortgages.
“We need to actually work with the finance companies and bring the mortgage finance industry to the table,” he said. “I know there’s a solution for aligning the interests of all three parties so that we can have a successful and lasting outcome, because we all want to see the built up debt from the moratorium to go away, and I have a solution for that.”
On the issue of communities, Chang supports “equitable delivery of services” as well as expanding public health resources, “truly affordable housing, with integration of needed services to reduce crime and re-envision policing,” and working to transition to a carbon-free future.
If elected, he acknowledges that the city government must downsize to manage the budget, but has a proposal to figure out how to solve it.
“[Downsizing] is not a role the government is traditionally comfortable with,” said Chang. “But I think that the labor unions, based on their May letter to the mayor, kind of see the writing on the wall, and they are going to be important partners in the effort.