November's DMO of the Month Makes Life Easier
Democratic municipal officials deal in solutions to day-to-day problems. Constituents cast their votes in the hopes that their candidate will make changes that leave them with fewer things to worry about. This November we recognize a DMO who removes obstacles from the daily grind. Meet Margaret Chin, City Councilwoman from New York City.
New York is famous for its heavy traffic. Your mind might jump to taxis, but it is trucks that are involved in a disproportionate number of the city’s traffic deaths. Though trucks account for just 3.6% of total vehicles they are responsible for a third of cycler fatalities. One possible cause was that New York’s toll system incentivized multi-axle trucks to avoid costs by rerouting through neighborhood streets. Margaret Chin pushed through a bill that requires the city to take a closer look at how the toll system impacts traffic safety. The effect of bridge tolls on truck routes are now subject to audits every five years by the Department of Transportation. Cities are complex organisms where policy decisions can have unexpected consequences. The most vigilant DMOs keep their eyes open for these interactions and implement change when a different approach becomes necessary.
Crowded streets also mean more noise for residents. Councilwoman Chin introduced a bill that would install small devices to measure the ambient noise level, flagging any areas where you would regularly have to raise your voice to hold a conversation. While this may not first appear to be a critical issue, 40% of New Yorkers surveyed said that their activities have been disrupted by loud ambient noises. In a city constantly under construction, Chin wants to ensure that quiet doesn’t become a luxury that some segments of the population aren’t afforded.
Renting can be a fraught endeavor in New York. Chin has set aside $52,000 of her own discretionary fund to help tenants navigate renting in the city. The money will go to organizations that educate citizens around tenants’ rights and help pay for legal assistance in housing cases. Roughly half of the locals who walk into Chin's office come seeking some kind of housing help. In the famously unaffordable New York, tenants confronted with housing issues can feel backed into a financial corner. Chin recently put forward a bill to counter landlords who take advantage of low-income renters. It would require that flagged building owners place 10% of the past five year’s rent rolls into an escrow account, which would then be available to quickly relocate displaced tenants. In a situation where renters often have little economic power and even less knowledge of the resources available to them, Councilwoman Chin makes sure that her voters have their housing rights upheld.
A speaker of Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taishanese, Margaret Chin advocates so that every member of the 1st District has a voice at City Hall. Even before her time in office, Chin filed suit to mandate that voting materials be made available in Asian languages when speakers comprise at least five percent of the district. She also stood as a long-term proponent of a recent bill to make Lunar New Year a school holiday. Some residents of the 1st District faced additional economic troubles in the aftermath of 9/11. Parts of Chinatown, located in lower Manhattan, were barricaded off as an initial security measure in the wake of the attacks. Park Row in Chinatown remains closed off to this day, which residents say impacts tourism and their local businesses. The barriers also close a major road, diverting traffic away from the city’s fourth largest business district and creating traffic jams. Councilwoman Chin is fighting to get these security checkpoints removed, striving to make sure that her constituents are heard by city government.
Navigating life in New York can be difficult. Margaret Chin makes life easier; reducing danger from traffic, pushing to reduce noise levels, protecting tenants, and advocating for cultural inclusion. Immigrants, renters, and pedestrians might find it near impossible to defend their rights in the face of a complex bureaucracy. Our DMO of the Month this November clears the way, increasing access to municipal resources and creating new defenses within the system.
Margaret Chin was elected to the New York City Council in 2009. She chairs the council’s committee on aging, and holds a seat on the executive committee of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus. An immigrant from Hong King, she helped found the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation to help restore New York’s Chinatown neighborhood in the aftermath of 9/11. Before joining the City Council she assisted immigrants in obtaining their degrees at LaGuardia Community College.
The time has come once again to vote for our DMO of the Year. Take a look back at our 11 DMOs of the Month, and select which one we should honor at the Nashville "Oh So Blue" National Breakfast.
Voting ends Monday, October 26th at midnight. Don't wait to cast your ballot. Head over to the website and vote now!