Nicole Lee says she would not be afraid to shake things up should she win the special election in the 31st City Council District on Feb. 23.
“I’m running because Queens County has been in an uproar,” Lee said in an interview."The old ways of politics are over, meaning that people aren't being placed in seats because of their political affiliations and who they worked for."
“I’m the best candidate for that because I’m a resident. I’m a constituent. I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years. I can be an advocate. I know what the needs are in the community.”
The Rockaway resident said her first priority is restructuring the school system.
“I’m the mother of a special-needs child. Inclusion is very important for me. You need resources for the special-needs community if they are going to have a fighting chance in society.”
She also would like to bring back the trade and vocational education that she saw in schools years go.
“We had nursing programs,” Lee said. “We had carpentry programs. We had electricians’ programs. I’d like to bring those back.”
Lee said with gentrification, the city must bring in businesses that bring the jobs that assure everyone in the district gets a piece of the pie.
“We want to create generational wealth, not just live paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
Lee also believes that “affordable” housing must be attainable for residents of the district young and old.
“It’s something I’m very concerned about,” she said. “You have people living in this district who are older than me — I’m 39 — who have been living here for over 20 years and they can’t afford to live in their homes anymore. And we have a lot of low-income neighborhoods, especially in the Rockaways. We need to create programs for our residents, both owners and renters.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, she said, exposed areas where the city was lacking.
“We failed the people in terms of trying to sustain them with the things they need,” she said. Lee, whose company provides senior care and child care, said her separate consulting firm helped businesses obtain federal payroll protection program funds made available in federal stimulus bills.
All of Lee’s proposals cost money in a city that is looking at $5 billion deficits for the next few years. While her mother was a police officer, Lee, like her opponents in the campaign, said she would start by trimming the NYPD budget.
“Looking at police reform, we could use some of that money in the school system,’”she said. Lee also pointed to Nassau County, where dedicated school taxes are a major part of residents’ property taxes.
“I know some people are not a big fan of that, but it’s been doing well for them,” Lee said.
Lee said closing the gap and paying new expenses will come down to examining the entire budget and restructuring where necessary.
She said she has not yet identified a specific program, office or service other than the NYPD for cuts at this point.
“It’s about restructuring, seeing where we can take the funds from. Some places you can take more. Some places you need to take less. I think special education is the last area to get what it needs, particularly in our district.
“But I’m an entrepreneur,” she said. “That’s what I do — budget.”
On transportation, Lee said even with a new ferry route to Manhattan, the entire district is in need of more express bus service and both more and faster rail service.
Given her choice of committee assignments if elected, Lee said she would be interested in the business and education committees.