City Politics

Chris Banks Says He is the New Leadership Council District 42 Needs



By Mary Alice Miller
As Early Voting for this year’s Council Primary approaches, Chris Banks says, “The district is in need of new leadership. The focus has been taking the message to the voters that I am fighting for them and will bring needed resources back to the district.”
Banks began his foray into community service when he organized the Van Sicklen Block Association in response to potholes and the location of cell phone antennae on his block. Later the block association organized against a 200-bed shelter on his block and another 165-bed shelter across the street from the Betty Shabazz clinic. Banks’ concern about the over-saturation of shelters within the district led to his formation of the Greater East New York Coalition, which sued the City of New York to enforce the Fair Share clause in the NYC Charter.
The group lost the lawsuit on a technicality but Banks has not given up. “We are still committed to rectifying the broader issue of parity of shelters,” said Banks. He wants to “put forth legislation to go after the fair share clause, look to reform it, strengthen community boards, increase notification from 60 to 90 days so communities can get more time to organize when shelters are coming into the community and attack it from a legislative standpoint. I know there are vacancies that do exist, specifically in NYCHA. I have called for moving folks from shelters into NYCHA buildings.”

Through his service as co-chair of Community Board #5’s Transportation committee, co-chair of the Aging committee, co-chair of the Public Safety Committee, and sitting on the Sanitation committee, Banks saw that issues in the district are interrelated. His work within Community Board #5 led Banks to form East New York Concerned Citizens which did recreational activities for seniors and housing advocacy. “One day I was going to get old and I wanted young folks to understand that they need to provide services and take care of their elderly in the community.”
Banks takes issue with the privatization of the management of public properties via PACT-RAD (Permanent Affordability Commitment Together-Rental Assistance Demonstration) which converts NYCHA developments from Section 9 (traditional public housing) to Project-based Section 8 vouchers and allows for much-needed capital rehabilitation. “This private route has been a nightmare for a lot of the residents in Boulevard Houses, Linden Houses, and Penn Wortman Houses,” said Banks. “Resident complaints include lack of communication, inferior materials used when fixing up apartments, and displacement.”
Banks is also concerned about “right-sizing” policy which forces seniors to move from larger apartments where they raised their families to smaller units that align with household composition because their children grew up and moved out to form their own families. “ If you have been in your apartment for over 40- 50 years that could be a death sentence for an elderly person in their 80s. They are familiar with the building, they know their neighbors, and you move them 2 or 3 buildings over in the name of right-sizing the apartments,” said Banks. “I believe there has to be a soft approach. There have been seniors who have been willing to move into a smaller apartment or senior housing. But if a senior is unwilling to move and clearly this would have adverse effects on that senior, allow them to age out.”

Regarding the expansion of new housing in the district, Banks gives credit that some of the housing coming in is 100% affordable. “My issue is accessibility. The lottery process I believe is inherently biased against the local residents. Fifty percent of the housing is set aside and dedicated to residents who live in our particular community board. We have seen when the first selection round takes place, residents who are selected are then disqualified often due to credit issues, or they make too much or too less,” said Banks. “We are saying that 50% should be exclusively for residents who live in 11207, 11208. and 11239 zip codes. If you eliminate someone due to disqualification they should fill that slot with someone from local zip codes. That slot should not go back into the general pool.”
Banks proposes clinics to learn about improving credit, teaching how to fill the application out, and doing follow-up. “A lot of folks have not benefited from the expansion of housing in our district, ‘ said Banks. “You have folks who want to stay, invest, and live in the community. It is going to take all levels of government to change this policy.”
Currently the president of the 75th Precinct Community Council, Banks said his position with NYPD has evolved over the years. “We have to collaborate with the police. We need police accountability but we also need community accountability,” said Banks. “But we’ve had issues with response times. We have been demanding for years that the 75th precinct be split. We have a large population increase in the district. In order to secure and provide proper public safety within the district we need to split the command to improve response times.”
Banks has been endorsed by several unions, including 32BJ, DC 37, UFT, Painters Union, Carpenters Union, NYS Association of Nurses, and CWA. Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37 stated, “Chris has proven himself as a thoughtful and powerful advocate. He is an emerging leader who is responsive to his community’s needs and will represent the best interests of Brooklyn’s working families.”
Pamela Lockley, Linden Plaza Tenant Association President said, “We feel that Chris Banks has been a supporter of the tenants here as well as the tenant association. He has come out for several emergencies that we have had out here without holding public office. We are excited and looking forward to him bringing a fresh face to the City Council.”


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