NEW YORK (July 28, 2017) – Faith in New York (FINY) and it’s Faith over Fear coalition of more than 90 congregations and over 25 faith and justice groups, hosted four major Democratic mayoral candidates Thursday, questioning them on topics ranging from immigration, to policing, religious freedom and mass incarceration.

As part of FINY’s “Faith Over Fear” campaign, more than two dozen more dozen clergy and organizational leaders of FINY heard Mayor Bill de Blasio and candidates Sal Albanese, Robert Gangi and Michael Tolkin outline their positions on the coalition’s core issues.

“We wanted to talk about the moral lens of Faith in New York and the Faith Over Fear coalition,” FINY Executive Director Onleilove Alston said. “We are all united to ensure that morals and progressive values are put at the center of the conversation this election season.”

She said we are living in a “moral crisis” that must be addressed and our response must include: protecting immigrant communities and religious freedom, ending civil rights violations and abusive policing, creating affordable housing as well as ending mass incarceration, and climate change.

“It is a real moral failure that in this city children are going to sleep homeless,” she told
the candidates, who were interviewed separately over the course of the day at Middle
Collegiate Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Mayor de Blasio noted his accomplishments, including building or preserving thousands of units of affordable housing, aggressively going after bad landlords, and reducing the number of NYPD stop-and- frisks, since being elected in November 2013, but said much remains to be done.

“By bringing down the use of stop-and-frisk by 93% we fundamentally changed people’s lives,” the mayor said, adding that his administration is ending for low-level marijuana possession, cutting crime while reducing the number of arrests over all, retraining police officers and using more police body cameras. He disputed the idea that a 10-year- timeline to close Rikers Island was too long, saying the jail population must be reduced and new jails built.  

“We will close it,” he said. I’m fully committed, but I won’t lie and give a timeline we can’t do.”

Albanese, a former City Council member and public-school teacher, noted that he championed the gays rights bill and fought to pass the city’s first living wage law. He would not commit to abolishing the “broken windows” policing policy, but rather would tell officers to enforce quality of life crimes, but not in a “willy-nilly” way. Noting he will not accept political contributions from real estate developers, Albanese criticized the mayor’s affordable housing approach.

“Affordable housing should be affordable to working people,” he said. He also said he would try to limit car traffic in the city to combat climate change.

Gangi said he would abolish “broken windows,” and contended the NYPD is what is broken. “The police violate people’s rights every day,” he said. “They violate the constitution and they lie in court…There are terrible, terrible injustices in our city, in criminal justice and in health care.”

Gangi also said he thinks Rikers could be closed in a year, and he vowed to “go after” bad landlords and pump more money into housing and into reducing class sizes in the schools. Tolkin said homelessness should be re-framed as a “domestic refugee crisis,” and said if elected mayor he would “abolish” the homeless shelter system and spend more
money on health care, and job and vocational training.

He said he would close Rikers within a year, step up plans to clean up the environment and try to create “revenue streams” outside of government to pay for it. “We need to have a whole new approach to government,” he said. FINY asked all the candidates to endorse its platform and asked for commitments from each candidate to meet with the group with 100 days of taking office in January 2018.

Faith Over Fear Coalition Members:
African Communities Together (ACT), American Friends World Service, Arab American Association of NY (AAANY),
Bronx Health REACH, Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia, Children’s Defense Fund, Churches United For Fair Housing (CUFFH),
CONNECT NYC, Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Franciscan Action Network, the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York,
Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition, GreenFaith, Interfaith Assembly on Housing & Homelessness (IAHH),
Interfaith Center of NY, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS, Mobilizing Preachers & Communities (MPAC),
Muslim and Immigrant Coalition for Justice (MIC4Justice), Muslim Community Network, Muslims for Progress,
Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary,
The Migrant Center at St. Francis of Assisi, Feminist FHE (Family Home Evening) NYC,
and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens.

Founded in 2013, Faith in New York (FINY) is a citywide multi-faith network of congregations and faith-based partners who transform moral values into public policy. Their mission is to activate faith voices by building and training congregational-based teams of congregants to identify issues and organize New Yorkers around issues, policies, and elections that affect our communities, neighborhoods, and city. FINY is the New York affiliate of the PICO National Network.