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Former City Councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese would like to increase early education for the city’s youth, put more police on the streets and break apart the MTA should he beat out the competition and find himself in Gracie Mansion next year.
Albanese is taking a second shot at the mayoralty after running in 1997, which followed his 15-year stint as a councilman representing portions of southern Brooklyn. Albanese, who describes himself as an independent candidate not beholden to any political party leadership, recently sat down with TimesLedger Newspapers to discuss his agenda.
“We have a government that is really reactive. I’d like to run a government that is proactive — that is looking ahead in terms of the economy, in terms of infrastructure and creating jobs,” said Albanese, who is heading toward a primary later this year with four other likely contenders: city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, city Comptroller John Liu, former city Comptroller Bill Thompson Jr. and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
Albanese cited the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy as an example of reactive policy. Lawmakers had been given warnings for a decade about the city’s vulnerability to a large storm, yet no preventive action was taken, he said.
Albanese would like to undertake a number of proactive projects, like intervening in a child’s education at an earlier age, he said.
The former councilman turned educator proposed creating so-called pediatric wellness clinics in low-income areas of the city and funding them by courting philanthropy from billionaires, he said.
“One things we know now beyond a doubt is that the first three years of a child’s life are significant — they are pivotal,” Albanese said. “The other thing we know is that the most common link with youngsters who can’t learn is poverty.”
The clinics would work with parents to help ensure a solid foundation for a child’s earliest development, which in turn will have demonstrable effects once that child enters the public education system, according to Albanese.
Mayoral control of the school system is the only way to hold someone accountable for education, Albanese said, which is also why he supports breaking up the Metropolitan Transportation Authority so New York City has its own dedicated body, accountable to the mayor.
“I want to be held accountable and bring in the best and the brightest,” he said.
The former councilman was born in Italy in 1949 and immigrated to Brooklyn when he was 9. Albanese got a degree in education from CUNY before teaching in public schools for 11 years. He then earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School while serving on the Council.
Albanese also considers himself an expert on policing. During his entire decade-and-a-half tenure as a city lawmaker, Albanese served on the Council’s Public Safety Committee. He is proposing a plan to add 3,300 police officers and 500 detectives to the city’s current ranks of about 35,000, so precincts can put more officers on patrol to deal with quality-of-life issues in addition to violent crimes.
Thompson has also pledged to add about the same number of officers to the NYPD, a pledge Albanese said was a pilfered talking point.
“They basically stole my idea,” Albanese said.
The idea has come under criticism for not being fiscally possible. But Albanese estimated the cost of hiring the officers under his plan at $120 million and said they could be paid for through increased federal funds, since the NYPD also serves as a counter-terrorism force.
Albanese bristles at being called a “long-shot” candidate, though according to the city Campaign Finance Board’s last checkup on campaign spending, he is far behind his opponents.
As of Jan. 15, Albanese had raised just $34,615 and given himself a $100,000 loan, according to the filings. This puts him far behind the candidate with the next biggest war chest, Thompson, who boasts about 18 times as much: $2.4 million.
Albanese said he does not accept money from what he called special interests, though he does not consider unions a special interest. He received a $4,950 contribution from the Uniformed Firefighters Association, according to filings.
Albanese is banking on the city’s public matching system to help him become competitive, and noted that his competitors have been fund-raising for years and will be capped at $6 million.
“There’s no Mike Bloomberg in this race,” he said, referring to the current mayor, who spent more than $100 million during his re-election campaign to narrowly defeat Thompson in 2009.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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