You are reading

Ben Guttmann: I’m Out… But Here’s One For The Road

(Ben Guttmann)

Dec. 30, 2020 By: Ben Guttmann 

A few months ago, in this very publication, I announced my candidacy to represent the 26th district in the New York City Council. This neighborhood is my home, it is where I’ve grown a business, and I believe that this community is the future of New York and can be a model far beyond the five boroughs.

But today, I’m suspending my campaign. With a coming winter that promises to be challenging for us all, my first commitments to our employees and clients, my students, and of course to my friends and family, make it necessary to take a step back and rededicate my time and efforts. It’s been an honor to be a part of the conversation about how to save the promise of New York for the next generation – and I wanted to leave this race with one idea for the road, literally.

It’s rather simple: streets should be for people. In this decade, we should reallocate 25% of the 3 million on-street parking spaces in this city to community-building uses.

New York City happens when you walk out your front door. When you take that step from the private realm to the public one, you enter what is the essential fabric of our city: the street.

Our streets make up an incredible 27% of the land in our city. They are the largest single part of NYC. But they are easy to overlook in the “everydayness” of it all. We’re used to what we’ve got in most of our neighborhoods: one row of moving cars, two rows of parked ones, and the occasional tree, meter, cyclist, or pile of stinking garbage.

But I believe that our streets contain the answers to help us address nearly every problem we have in this city. We saw some of this happen at light speed in the spring and summer of 2020, when the pandemic forced communal life outdoors, and we built sidewalk cafes, pop-up bike lanes, and instant open streets. In 2021 and beyond, we need to continue this creative re-imagining of our streets to remain a competitive, equitable, healthy, and sustainable city for our next generation.

Streets can help us save and spark small businesses and entrepreneurialism. Streets can help us address our open space crisis and allow for healthy community gathering. Streets can help us solve our environmental challenges, from the sewers and garbage on up to the climate. Streets can even help us build a more just and equitable society.

And most of all, streets can help us do what we most need them to do: safely and efficiently get around this city, whether that means by foot, wheelchair, stroller, bike, bus, train, or yes, car.

Through research and discussions over the past few months, I’ve become passionately convinced that how we view our street needs to radically change. I’m also a Community Board member who knows exactly what kind of pushback and criticism a plan like this can face. But as we’ve seen in 2020, the arguments against progress held little water, and the upside of our sudden shift outward saved both lives and jobs. Indeed, the cost of inaction is far greater.

I’m stepping back from this campaign, but I look forward to sharing more ideas for how to build a better city as we progress into a new, hopeful year. I’m deeply grateful to everybody who donated time, money, expertise, or all of the above in this campaign. Your support means more than you know, and I hope to make you proud in whatever is next.

This is a difficult decision, but what makes it easier is the great field of candidates that I leave behind. I’ve known many of the contenders for years, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the others over the past few months. Everybody is doing this for the right reasons, and everybody cares about our community enough to go through the wringer of this race.

I don’t know who I’m voting for yet. But I will say that in a community as diverse as Western Queens – and which has not had a long history of equally diverse representation – we’d likely be well-served by a woman and/or BIPOC Councilmember. I eagerly look forward to seeing the debate shake out over the coming months, and to see this continued passion for our great city in 2021 and beyond.

Thank you again, happy new year, and see you around the neighborhood.

 

  • * Ben Guttmann is the co-founder and co-owner of Digital Natives, a Long Island City-based digital marketing agency. He ran for City Council in district 26 to represent Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Astoria.  

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Gunman who fired shots at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City remains at large: NYPD

Police from the 114th Precinct in Astoria and PSA 9 are continuing their search for a gunman who allegedly opened fire at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City last month.

The incident occurred during the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 18, when officers responded to a 911 call and a ShotSpotter activation for multiple shots fired at 21-25 35 Ave. at the Ravenswood Houses NYCHA complex just after 2 a.m., according to authorities.

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.