Blake Morris

Blake Morris

VoteBlake40.com

Twitter: @VoteBlake40 Instagram: VoteBlake40

Do you believe housing is a human right? Yes

What type of action have you taken in the past around issues of housing justice? (500 characters)

Back in the early 2000s, I was a volunteer attorney representing the interests of the neighborhood when the Atlantic Yards redevelopment plan was proposed. I also testified at the Brooklyn RGB hearing in 2018. I have provided pro-bono legal advice to tenants in my community who were dealing with landlords who refused to make necessary repairs.

3. What type of housing do you currently live in?              

Own a co-op, condo or private home

4. Are you, or have you ever been, a landlord? No

4a. If yes, where & how many apts. did you own?

5. Does your campaign accept contributions from real estate developers (including related individuals), corporate lobbyists, organizations that participate in the carceral system, and/or landlords? No

6. Have you ever worked in, or had another affiliation with, the Real Estate industry?  No

7. Have any of your campaign or advisory staff held a position as a corporate lobbyist or an executive role with the Real Estate industry? No

6. & 7. If so, how can we be assured you will have tenants’ interests in mind?  (250 characters)

8. What do you think are the most pressing Housing issues & what action would you take to address them as a City Council Member?  (1000 characters)

In the 40th Council District and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a crisis among many tenants, who are unable to pay their rent due to a long-term loss of income. While New York State has issued a moratorium on evictions which is still in place at the moment, there will soon be a time when it will be lifted and thousands of residents in my Council District will be in danger of losing their homes. As Council member, I would press for emergency legislation from the City Council to continue an eviction moratorium should it expire. In addition, creating real affordable housing is the key to the future in our unique part of central Brooklyn, not the gentrification engine known as MIH-ZQA which creates much more luxury housing with units listed as “affordable” – but not to district residents. I would author legislation and build a coalition of support to drastically change MIH to correct this and de-incentivize developers who put profits over people.

9. Do you believe that housing should be de-commodified?  In the 40th Council District and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a crisis among many tenants, who are unable to pay their rent due to a long-term loss of income. While New York State has issued a moratorium on evictions which is still in place at the moment, there will soon be a time when it will be lifted and thousands of residents in my Council District will be in danger of losing their homes. As Council member, I would press for emergency legislation from the City Council to continue an eviction moratorium should it expire. In addition, creating real affordable housing is the key to the future in our unique part of central Brooklyn, not the gentrification engine known as MIH-ZQA which creates much more luxury housing with units listed as “affordable” – but not to district residents. I would author legislation and build a coalition of support to drastically change MIH to correct this and de-incentivize developers who put profits over people.

9a. What would you do as an elected representative to move that vision forward? (500 characters)

Yes

10. Do you support the move to legalize basement apts?  Yes

11. Do you support the concept of rent regulation and eviction protections? Yes

12. Do you believe in publicly owned and controlled housing? Yes

13. NYCHA has suffered from chronic underfunding, neglect and disrepair. What do you see as the best strategies to rectify these problems?

NYCHA’s decline has been aided by a loss of Federal and State funding and reckless mismanagement by NYC for decades. There are basic actions that can be taken to begin addressing the situation: Create a dedicated stream of funding for NYCHA, particularly for capital improvements. Increase oversight by NYCHA residents and give them powers to legally confront the city if they fail in their commitments and obligations; Create an independent watchdog agency to oversee actions taken and monies spent.

14. Do you support the NYCHA 2.0 Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)/ PACT program and other privatization schemes? Depends

15. Would you support an immediate moratorium on the sale or lease of all City-owned land and air rights to for-profit developers? Yes

16. Would you require that any housing built on public land be 100% permanently affordable to low- and extremely-low income New Yorkers? Yes

17. Would you aggressively use City programs and eminent domain to take ownership of distressed properties and transfer them to community control such as Community Land Trusts?      Yes

18. Would you end the custom of deferring to local council members on land use decisions? No

19. What standards would a rezoning need to meet for you to support it? (500 characters)

Any rezoning must 1) not negatively impact the community that it is being proposed for; 2) include, if appropriate, contextual rezonings that preserve neighborhood character and/or increased affordability for neighborhood residents; 3) appropriate and iron-clad agreements for infrastructure and other improvements before any approvals are granted; and 4) most importantly, buy-in from the residents and constituents of the neighborhood/district affected.

20. What reforms to zoning would you propose to increase community input into development?  (500 characters)

See above. New legislation that creates a ground-up process rather than top-down as per the current bill proffered by Corey Johnson. I am in favor of creating a new process that gives Community Boards and Borough Presidents more than just advisory powers as a counterweight to the current system which relies solely on the slender reed of member deference (a custom, not a law) to fight a bad proposal from a developer or the city.

21. Would you pass and enforce a true racial impact study as part of any rezoning?  Yes

Percentage of people who are below 200% of the poverty line 40% Percentage of Unhoused New Yorkers  15%

23. What is/has been the most important land use fight in your district and what position did you take on it?  (500 characters)

I have been involved in the current fight at 1620 Cortelyou Rd. against a grocery store owner who wants to re-develop larger than what is currently permitted. Council member Mathieu Eugene announced last week that he supports an up zoning to allow for a larger build. If I were currently the Councilmember, I would not have allowed an upzoning for the paltry number of affordable units in this project and would have used my “member deference” to stop it.

24. Would you support increased funding and oversight of NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Mayor’s Tenant Protection Unit to educate tenants on their rights to organize in NYC rental buildings? YesYes

25. Will you support the City seeking injunctions against the landlords on the Right to Counsel’s “worst evictors list,” barring worst evictors from bringing eviction cases while under investigation, and implementing good cause evictions protections? Yes

26. Do you support expanding funding and oversight of the City’s emergency repair program to correct hazardous violations and send the owner the bill? Yes

27. How would you use your office to put pressure on landlords to make repairs and stop harassing tenants?  (500 characters)

I would allow my office to be used as a resource for tenants. In addition, as a practicing attorney for three decades, I am very familiar with the tactics that landlords use to make life miserable for tenants and would act accordingly from both a legal perspective and, if necessary, introducing new legislation to enhance protections for tenants against such harassment.

28. Do you support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA—Int 0737-2018) and Commercial Rent Stabilization bill (Int 1796-2019) currently in committee in the City Council?Yes

29. Do you support converting hotel rooms into permanently affordable apts? Yes

30. Would you end the practice of police responding to people who are homeless?  Yes

31. Would you oppose homeless shelters being built in your district? No

31a. Why or why not?  (500 characters)

We are a microcasm of the city and all are welcome here in Flatbush. Homeless individuals are no different than everyone else; they just don’t have a place to live for a number of reasons.

32. Do you agree that all evictions are bad? No

32a. If no, why not? There are cases where, sometimes, tenants are A) a danger to others and themselves; B) conducting criminal activity; C) purposefully squatting; and D) creating other bad behavior that is not acceptable in any venue. Those bad actors should not be allowed to create negative conditions for other tenants, period.

33. Are you committed to making sure every tenant has free access to counsel in Housing Court? Yes

34. Would you support an eviction moratorium every winter (Heat Season Oct. 1-May 31)?  Yes

35. Do you believe that the Rent Guidelines Board should lower rents for rent stabilized tenants? Yes

35a. If yes, what will you do to influence the board to do so?  (500 characters)
I will use the power of my office to persuade, scold or otherwise inform the Rent Guidelines Board of my position.

36. Have you ever testified on behalf of tenants at a public hearing of the RGB? Yes

37. Do you support restricting the ability of landlords to discriminate and surveil tenants through the use of technologies such as key fobs, smartphone apps, and facial recognition to gain entry into their apartment units and/or buildings? Yes

38. Will you commit to only vote for a budget that decreases funding to the NYPD? Yes