The Candidates 2021: Denny Salas for CD1

This is the first in a series of short interviews with candidates along with their responses to a very long questionnaire I sent them based on reader questions. As these roll out, I will link to each candidate’s response at the bottom.

A few years into Denny Salas’ first job out of college — he graduated in 2006 — at Fidelity Investments, he got a cold call from a client of the bank. It was 2009, and the 63-year-old woman on the other end of the line had lost $700k and was down to zero. She cried through the entire phone call.

“I thought, I gotta get out of here,” said Salas, who was then living in Boston. He quit the next day.

From there his path took him from a volunteer gig doing grassroots organizing for Obama’s Organizing for America to an internship with a Democratic political consultant in DC to work as a lobbyist for, of all things, the recreational boating industry. But all paths lead somewhere and his brought him to New York via Florida (about six years ago) and a job in development for a charter school in the Bronx — the antidote, he said, to DC politics. He’s 38, recently married and lives on Mulberry.

George Floyd’s murder inspired him to run. “If you’re a Black person, something like that event can force you to retreat — it’s overwhelming and it’s so painful,” he said. “But I saw who was running for the council seat and I read their platforms and I thought, ‘I have agency. I can do something. I can do better.”

Salas was born and raised in New Hampshire, the son of immigrants from the DR who landed first in the Bronx but soon moved to Lawrence, Mass., and eventually Londonderry, NH, in search of better schools for their four kids. They encouraged them to be adventurous and to see the world (one of the kids took them literally and is now a long-haul trucker). And they told them to figure stuff out on their own — the essence of his work ethic today. “Look it up,” Salas said they would tell them. “If you want something, you have the resources. Figure it out.”


1. Do you have any solutions for protecting small business from the pressures of rising real estate costs? (tax abatements for landlords who keep mom-and-pop stores?)

In a previous role, I was a lobbyist for the small business manufacturing industry. I traveled to 42 states around our country, speaking with executives, listening to their concerns, bringing them back to Washington D.C., and translating it into policy that we would fight for on Capitol Hill.

In every conversation then and now with business owners, all they ask is for an environment that allows them to succeed. That is all.

So how will I help our business do that? Well, I have the most comprehensive economic plan out of any of my opponents based on my experience, speaking with business owners, and doing my research.

In the last 20 years, commercial rents have skyrocketed, and they’ve become unmanageable to our small businesses. When rent is too high, our small businesses cannot hire people, and operating costs are too high. This leads our small businesses susceptible to hardships during economic downturns like we are currently experiencing because of this pandemic.

During World War II, NYC implemented commercial rent control, and there is no reason why we can’t do the same today facing an economic crisis that’s akin to that. I will enhance and pass the Commercial Rent Stabilization Bill 1796 introduced in 2019, which would establish a system of commercial rent registration and regulation applicable to retail stores of 10,000 square feet or less, manufacturing establishments of 25,000 square feet or less, and professional services or other offices of 10,000 square feet or less. The Mayor would appoint a seven-member Commercial Rent Guidelines Board responsible for annually establishing guidelines and the rate of rent adjustments for covered commercial spaces.

2. What is your proposal or attitude towards the future of Open Restaurants post-pandemic?
THE FORMATION OF SUPERBLOCKS: Imagine a city where car traffic is relegated to major thruways while neighborhoods are reclaimed for people, creating burgeoning street-level communities, increased commerce for small businesses, more luxurious green spaces, and cleaner air free from exhaust and fumes. Enter Superblocks.

Superblocks are the most immediate action we can undertake as a city to increase business activity and improve our air and noise pollution. Superblocks originated in Barcelona, Spain, and transformed that city’s streets into walkable public spaces, where pedestrians, cyclists, and citizens mix safely. Car traffic is banned for a large part of the day and evening (opening up at night for deliveries), allowing pedestrians to walk freely within their neighborhoods, particularly for social distancing and various reopening stages. Here’s a quick video on the concept.

How can this idea improve our economy? Healthier citizens, for starters. We know that particulate matter from exhaust — even in the most diminutive forms — can lead to respiratory illness, making us more susceptible to viruses like COVID-19.

According to Scientific American, “The U.S. cities hardest hit by COVID-19 so far are also cities with poor air quality: the New York, San Francisco, and Seattle metro areas. Areas with the best air quality, such as Maine, Vermont, and Hawaii, have fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita. Poor air quality is caused by industry and traffic. Social distancing policies improve air quality by decreasing the pollutants released by traffic and factories. Satellite photos show cleaner air over COVID-19 restricted areas.”

Superblocks have been a boon for local businesses located within their organizational bounds. Pedestrians roaming within superblocks have led to increased commerce and business activity. That increased activity has led to additional job gains as businesses hire more staff to meet rising demand.

It is incumbent upon elected officials to implement evidence-based policy and seize this rare opportunity to take back our city streets for its residents.

3. Do you have any ideas for addressing retail vacancies? (vacancy tax? Incentives?)
TRANSFORM EMPTY STOREFRONTS TO SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Our city is overwhelmed with empty storefronts that yield our neighborhoods no social benefit and add to an image of commercial blight. We can do better by transforming these spaces into a temporary community location that increases social cohesion (envision cafes, libraries, public concerts, etc.) while the landlords benefit from the generated activity.

This BloombergCityLab article explains:
“The idea, says co-founder Aaron Greiner, is to create a shortcut to “social infrastructure” in communities that need more welcoming public spaces — amenities like parks and libraries, where neighbors can interact with one another. And the kicker: In exchange for injecting Kendall Square with a little street-level energy, Greiner* and his team pay no rent: Agreements with property managers rely on the premise that the non-commercial activation of idle stores will draw more life (and business) to the surrounding area. Early signs have been promising.”

4. Do you have any solutions for limiting the regulations and red tape required to both start and maintain small business?
One of the major inhibitors for businesses to succeed in NYC is cost and taxes. The following policies are what I call for.

REMOVE THE UNINCORPORATED BUSINESS TAX: Our small businesses operate in an unfriendly environment that limits their ability for growth, and we must remove unnecessary taxes that cause NYC to be a difficult place to succeed. When companies register as a Limited Liability Corp (LLC), they are subjected to an additional 4% Unincorporated Business Tax (UBT), in addition to Medicare and Social Security taxes. My plan includes removing the UBT for any small business with annual revenues under $5 million.

WAGE SUBSIDIES: Eighty-nine percent of the more than 200,000 New York City businesses employ fewer than 20 people. To revive our economy, we need to assist those small businesses as we continue to fight COVID-19 and the destruction it has left in its wake. To that end, the City Council should pass legislation offering small businesses wage subsidies to retain and hire new workers.

For small businesses with annual revenues between $0 — $200,000, the city would subsidize an additional $10 per hour salary per employee. There would be a sliding scale towards eliminating the subsidy for companies that make between $200,001 — $500,000 in revenues. This program will provide a short-term stabilizing boost to its most vulnerable workers and businesses while creating a pathway toward the long-term economic stability and equity that our city deserves.

CONGESTION PRICING: Eliminate congestion pricing fees for all small business deliveries.

INCREASE BUSINESS EXPORT GRANTS BY TENFOLD: The current grant program to boost exports grant businesses up to $25,000, and non-profits up to $50,000, to promote their businesses worldwide. As currently devised, the Global NY program is not good enough.

More money is needed to assist our small companies to expand their foothold overseas. I propose we increase our export grants by a factor of ten to promote our New York businesses. The grants should be limited and given out on a sliding scale for companies that generate up to $2,500,000 in annual revenues. My plan will increase export grants up to $500,000 for small businesses and up to $250,000 for non-profits.

1. Do you have any solutions to the helicopter traffic that often plagues the neighborhood and others?
Unfortunately, this is a federal issue where our mayor has recognized he has little room for movement. But, we should be convening a tri-state area conference involving all governors to create a resolution that can satisfy all parties.

In the absence of federal oversight – which our federal elected representatives have introduced effective legislation – we need to ask our state government to get involved and work with all parties to offer a solution. The constant helicopter noise has to stop. It’s more than a nuisance, and noise pollution has proven to have detrimental health effects.

2. This neighborhood has been under construction for decades. Do you have any solution for making construction sites be better neighbors? (limiting hours, monitoring vibrations and hours, disallowing the blocking of sidewalks or streets) (and don’t say call 311)
Today, the regulation around construction limits the activity from 7 AM – 6 PM on weekdays, with no weekend work allowed. The Department of Buildings often issues after-work variance licenses recognizing that it becomes challenging for construction companies to complete work during the scheduled timeframe.

In 2019, a few city council members introduced a bill to revise the timeframes above to speed up construction so it doesn’t linger for an indeterminate amount of time. The bill called for allowing construction from 6 AM – 10 PM on weekdays and from 8 AM – 6 PM on weekends, and I support this. That is a fair rule that will accommodate both our neighbors’ needs and the need to complete the construction site promptly.

The proposed bill should include the review of permits issued by the Department of Transportation to block access to sidewalks. During construction, the operator is required to get a license to block sidewalk access. This bill can include a review of the permitting process to question whether blocking a sidewalk is necessary or not.

3. There is hardly a block in this neighborhood that does not have a sidewalk shed, some of which have been up for more than a decade. Do you have any solutions for requiring landlords to finish projects within a certain time frame so that they can be removed?
I would introduce legislation that would require the following:
• 180 days for building owners to fix the required condition;
• 180 additional days for building owners to fix the required condition upon extension request;
• After 360 days, the city would correct the required condition and invoice the owner for all costs.

4. Garbage pickup seems to be at an all-time low. Do you have solutions for better street cleaning? And, many private buildings leave mountains of trash on the sidewalks waiting for pickup. Can this be regulated?
It’s long past time that our city joins the rest of the world and implements new and existing ideas to clean up our streets and improve our quality of life. I want to fully implement the new Clean Curbs Program in every city block eligible. The program requires applicants to design and install a decked platform with sealed containers, which can be up to eight feet wide, five feet tall, and 20 feet long — there’s a zero-waste calculator to help applicants figure out what size bins they may require — and it must include an array of features for safety and visibility. Planters, bike parking, and seating can even be incorporated into the design, and the group must sign a maintenance contract to keep the whole operation clean, snow-free, and insured.

I also call for implementing another proposal submitted by the Chelsea–Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety (CHEKPEDS), which would follow the example of many other cities and place on-street containers in every neighborhood in the city, eliminating the need for sidewalk trash.

The proposal is simple. Six parking spots per block, three on each side of the street, would be reserved for Waste Corrals, which could hold more than 500 bags of recycling and trash; the containers would be located no more than 100 feet from buildings. The cost of the system, CHEKPEDS estimates, would be just $889 for installation, along with periodic cleaning expenditures. The group’s plan would, in a stroke, deal with the bulk of New York City’s trash problems. On-street containers would free up sidewalk space and eliminate odors and unsightly garbage bags. Rodents would be denied easy food access. The hygiene and basic livability of the city would be greatly improved.

Finally, a third solution is implementing a pneumatic trash system where infrastructure allows. This system exists on Roosevelt Island, Hudson Yards, and parts of Battery Park City.

5. The proliferation of e-bikes and electric scooters has been a challenge for this neighborhood. We support these delivery workers, but we do not support their use of the sidewalks or bike paths that are reserved for non-motorized vehicles. Do you have a solution?
We currently have enforcement mechanisms in place if complaints are filed/NYPD watches them break city ordinances. What I will not do is target essential workers with onerous and cumbersome fines and penalties when they kept our city running when we were relegated to our living spaces during the pandemic.

6. The NYPD has consistently used its power to close public spaces and amenities, especially during the pandemic. Do you have a proposal for this issue?
The NYPD, at first, under the mayor’s orders, closed public spaces to citizens not knowing the extent of viral spread at the outset of the pandemic. After more information about how spread occurs, the city took corrective measures by opening public spaces.

That being said, the NYPD should not have control over whether public spaces are open or closed to the public – that sole responsibility should lie with the Parks Department. The hyperlinks to this question raise concerns about who has the regulatory authority over shutting down a public space. I believe that more information has to be known before offering a solution to this question. For example, was City Hall Park shut down due to an increase in unsafe activity, etc.? I will need to know more about individual instances of public spaces being shut down – outside of pandemic orders – before offering a solution.

We have the great advantage and privilege of being a walking community and therefore are often looking for ways to increase pedestrian safety. What are your thoughts on expanding pedestrian-only streets? Do you have other proposals that would address pedestrian safety?
Please refer to my previous response on Superblocks.

1. Do you have any new solutions for addressing those people who refuse to go to shelters?
My overarching position is that shelters are a stop-gap measure that do not offer a long-term solution to keeping our homeless population housed. I have consistently called for supporting non-profits who mimic the successful model created by Utah state where they virtually eliminated homelessness. This means funding non-profits that offer permanent housing with wrap-around services that include mental and physical health. Part of the bargain is that the individual is gainfully employed, re-entering them into our society.

This method has shown an annual recidivism rate of 2% – 5%, which is extraordinarily successful. Two non-profits that come to mind that offer this model are Breaking Ground and Brooklyn Community Housing & Services.

2. The Financial District is also being asked to take on several new homeless shelters. What are your thoughts on residents’ opposition to this and their concerns?
Please refer to my previous response.

What is your approach to community policing?
My father-in-law has been a police officer for over 30 years, and I have been against the calls for defunding the police because it doesn’t solve the issue of accountability. In June of 2020, I drafted a complete police reform plan approximately nine months before our city council did and nearly ten months prior to our mayor, and my plan is more robust than both.

There’s no question that violent crime has risen in our city, and part of it stems from our officers’ reluctance to get involved because of the constant criticism – earned and unearned – they receive. Moreover, our law enforcement officers must hear from us that we appreciate them and need them. They are an indispensable cog in communities across our country. When police officers carry out their mission of serving/protecting the citizenry, they display the courage and idolization that is often bestowed upon them for their acts of bravery that have saved so many.

We must also acknowledge that our police officers are often called upon to witness some of the worst incidents humanity has to offer. Those incidents — whether it be child abuse, rape, and murders — affect our officers’ mental well-being. Witnessing those circumstances can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, and reaching out for assistance to cope with these issues has not been successful.

In New York City, the rate of suicides among NYPD officers is higher than for other city residents. According to some studies, as many as 34 percent of our officers suffer from symptoms reminiscent of PTSD. PTSD has severe adverse effects that can alter a person’s behavior and well-being. Now imagine the consequences of not addressing those issues when law enforcement officials interact with civilians in a high-stress situation. The result can be deadly.

To offer support for our law enforcement officials, we need to implement the following:
Mandatory Mental Health Check-Ups. Our city has to fund programs that make it compulsory for our police officers to receive help on a schedule designated by their commanding officer to seek mental health professionals’ assistance.

Substance abuse counseling. Many of our officers have sought substances to cope with the daily rigors of the role they serve. We must get rid of the stigma from within their ranks that question their toughness by seeking help when experiencing a traumatic event on the job.

Higher base-pay and establishing a bonus structure for good policing. These are dangerous jobs, and we want to welcome the best and brightest to serve within NYPD’s ranks. We should restructure the salary to include higher wages and a performance-based bonus structure for good policing.

To stem the rising tide of major/minor crimes, we have to get our economy up and running again. There is a direct correlation between how our economy is performing, unemployment, and crime rates. This is indisputable. We cannot focus on one silo when all of it is interconnected.

We would like to hear your thoughts on the status of affordable housing downtown and in our zip codes. What can be done to preserve it? What can you propose to create more below market housing?
I have the developed the most comprehensive housing platform out of any candidate in this race that will create more affordable housing, but also homeownership opportunities for middle-class New Yorkers. My housing plan calls for the following:

CREATE A MODERN MITCHELL-LAMA HOUSING PROGRAM: The Mitchell-Lama Program was established in 1955 and spurred an incredible surge in New York City homeownership for working and middle-class city dwellers. According to a Mitchell-Lama report, from the beginning of the program to its end in 1978, nearly 140,000 apartments were built for every-day New Yorkers.

This program was a success for working and middle-class families looking to live and grow their families in New York. But now, millennials are left struggling to meet their rent demands or have to move farther and farther away from the city because they can’t afford to live here. The dream of starting a family in the city they love is beyond their reach.

An Urban Institute study found that “Millennials are less likely to be homeowners than baby boomers and Gen Xers. The homeownership rate among millennials ages 25 to 34 is eight percentage points lower than baby boomers and 8.4 percentage points lower than Gen Xers in the same age group.” The study also indicated that:

• Increasing education debt has reduced millennials’ likelihood of owning a home, as debt rises their debt-to-income ratios and lowers their remaining income to save for a down payment.
• High rental costs make it difficult for millennials to save for a down payment.
• Obtaining a mortgage has become more challenging since the housing market crisis because of an unstable labor market and tightening credit standards.
• The supply of affordable housing has declined over the past decade, especially in areas where millennials prefer living.

Establishing a new Mitchell-Lama for this generation of middle-class Americans, who are more educated than any generation before them, will enhance the possibilities for the future of New York City. My program would allow couples with a combined annual income of $350,000 or less to attain homeownership in NYC. This program will establish new and exciting co-op developments that provide an economic opportunity to generate wealth and income mobility for a generation that’s been battered by the Financial Crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

EXPAND COMMUNITY LAND TRUSTS: Community Land Trusts are non-profit organizations that develop and stewards affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces, and other community assets on behalf of a community. These organizations balance individuals’ needs to access land and maintain the security of tenure with a community’s need to maintain affordability, economic diversity, and local access to essential services.

In the latest budget, the City Council secured $637,500 towards funding the Community Land Trust Initiative. That’s not nearly enough. Community Land Trusts need to be supported at a $5 million per year rate to successfully create and fully fund non-profit organizations seeking to maintain and expand affordability and create long-lasting community services access.

REIMAGINE AND EXPAND THE MANDATORY INCLUSIONARY HOUSING PROGRAM: The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Program was established by Mayor De Blasio in 2016 to increase permanently affordable housing as a condition of residential development when building in an MIH zone.

In broad terms, the program has successfully increased affordable housing production (despite the most recent budget where funding was drastically cut) but has faced fair criticism around its implementation. In narrower terms, the program has failed due to its concentration of affordable housing in the lowest socioeconomic areas of New York City. Intergenerational income mobility, that core tenet of the American Dream, is predicated on access to the best schools and economic opportunity. Permanent affordable housing is more effective when built in the wealthiest areas of the city.

Further, the concentration of MIH affordable housing in the lowest socioeconomic areas makes the program more expensive for taxpayers while also limiting the development of more affordable housing units.

A study by NYU’s Furman Center found, “In many neighborhoods, including some that the city has already targeted for the new program, market rents are too low to justify new mid and high-rise construction, so additional density would offer no immediate value to developers that could be used to cross-subsidize affordable units. In these areas, inclusionary zoning will need to rely on direct city subsidy for the time being to generate any new units at all regardless of the income level they serve. “Where high rents make additional density valuable, there is the capacity to cross-subsidize new affordable units without direct subsidy…” Furthermore, a report commissioned by de Blasio’s administration found “MIH requirements work best in strong housing markets. Rental projects in moderate and weak markets do not achieve sufficient returns to achieve feasibility without subsidies…”

What solutions for seniors in housing, mobility and access to basic needs can ensure that downtown is a place that residents don’t need to leave as they age?
Please see my housing policy response above.

Recently there have been some neighborhood concerns that have not received attention from local elected officials, such as the siting of Citi Bike stations. How will you communicate and deal with constituent concerns? What mechanisms? How will your staffing address that?
I will always be honest with my constituents. I’m realistic to know that people will not agree with me 100%, but as Ed Koch would say, “If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.”

The first and foremost responsibility for an elected official is to address the concerns of her/his constituents, and my office will always be available to do so. Moreover, I will be proactive in reaching out to communities to solicit feedback on what they would want to see addressed outside of my American Dream plan (

On the issue of the Citi Bike racks, my Superblocks plan would alleviate pressure and provide opportunities for the affected business with additional open space to operate.

Also, as you know the district has several distinct neighborhoods. How will you balance their needs and issues within your office?
Please see previous response.

Homeowners here are concerned about rising taxes on condos and coops – which is making it harder and harder to keep apartments here affordable. This also strains seniors on fixed incomes, forcing them out of their homes that they have owned for decades. We also see homeowners in other neighborhoods – especially single-family dwellings — paying much lower taxes for the same services. How would you address this inequity?
I’m very supportive of the recommendations released by the New York City Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform in January of 2020. The commission released the following recommendations that address your questions:
The Commission recommends creating a circuit breaker within the property tax system to lower the property tax burden on low-income primary resident owners, based on the ratio of property tax paid to income.
The relief program the Commission is recommending would be administered via the property tax system and targeted to lower-income owners facing a high property tax burden, after applying all exemptions and abatements including the newly created partial homestead exemption. Under this program, property tax bills for qualifying owners would be limited to a certain percentage of household income. The circuit breaker relief would be capped at a certain dollar amount. This new program would help ensure that low-income owners have affordable tax bills.
The Commission recommends assessing every property in the residential class at its full market value.
This proposal eliminates fractional assessments, thus situating all properties in the new residential class on an equal footing: all properties in the residential class would be valued via the same sales-based methodology. This reform would improve transparency and simplicity by eliminating the confusion surrounding fractional assessments; all parcels will now be taxed based on their full market value, thus allowing all property owners to focus on the essential de- termination of the tax bill: (assessed value) x (tax rate).
The Commission recommends that annual market value changes in the new residential class be phased in over five years at a rate of 20% per year, and that Assessed Value Growth Caps should be eliminated.
To allow for some predictability in tax bills and time to adjust to market changes, annual market value changes (excluding growth due to physical alterations) would be phased in over five years. As a result, inequities caused by different rates of property value appreciation would be temporary. This change would be a critical step towards resolving inequities within current Class 1 properties and the Class 2 properties subject to caps.
Removing the system of AV Growth Caps would promote equity, fairness and transparency across locations with varying rates of property value appreciation; eliminating the cumulative effects of these caps would clarify the relationship between the amount of taxes paid relative to a property’s value.

Most neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan are plagued with traffic issues because of our density and the fact that one of the city’s prime commercial hubs co-exists with vibrant residential neighborhoods. Please take on one of these issues:

Congestion pricing passed in the state legislature two years ago but its implementation has been held up. As councilmember will you urge the MTA and the governor to put it in place? Would you include carve-outs for downtown residents or other groups?

What else do you propose to reduce vehicular traffic, blocking the box, and speeding? More speed cameras? Convert some streets to prohibit private vehicles as was done on 14th Street? Increased enforcement or penalties?
Please see my Superblocks plan.

As you know, White Street is the location for the Manhattan borough-based jail, the proposal that addresses the closing of Rikers Island. What is your stance on the borough-based jail plan for this location? If you are against it, what do you suggest instead, in order to accommodate the loss of Rikers?
We need a wait-and-see approach to this planned jail expansion. One, I’m for closing Rikers, but with the numerous bail reform plans passed by the state legislature, we may not need any new or expanded jails. Yes, there has been a rise in crime, but that is due to the cascading issues that befell our city in 2020, including calls for social justice, the pandemic, and having nearly 1 million unemployed citizens. Any one of those issues would have led to an increase in crime, but we faced them concurrently. When our city begins to recover and return to a sense of normalcy in everyday life and activity, we will gauge our city’s needs in this area properly.

What is your opinion on school choice? What proposals do you have to address inequities? Or not?
I worked for a charter school in the Bronx for the last five years where I raised $1.5 million and created the school’s first-ever music band; a financial literacy program for parents; a coding, robotics, and engineering program; and funded several extended-learning programs and the school’s first-ever Summer School Program. The school’s student body composition was 80% living below the poverty line and a nearly 100% Black/Brown racial makeup. And their outcomes ranked with the top 11% of the wealthiest school districts in New York State. My Education Plan calls for improving existing schools and outcomes by creating the following:

PUBLIC/PRIVATE AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS: We live in New York City and have access to the most extensive breadth of industries. Our city has professions ranging from our world-class educational institutions, research, development, fashion, finance, technology, media, advertising, real estate, culinary arts, and performance arts. The list goes on and on. Yet, we fail to utilize access to these industries to provide our students with career pathways. It is a failure of imagination and leadership on our part, and it stops now.

I propose creating new afterschool programs beginning in elementary school and going through high school that focuses on developing real-world skills for our city’s students. Hence, they have a pathway to a fruitful and long-last career. These new programs will be designed using the professional expertise of the various industries our city has to offer and be taught by professionals within the respective industries.

The benefits would be twofold:
• Our students, especially in some of our lower-socioeconomic areas, will be exposed to professions that they never thought possible and be prepared by developing relationships and mentors that will guide them to achieve their dream of working in any of the occupations that they seek.
• Employers will have access to a homegrown talent pool and ensure that they do not experience a shortage of talent for future job openings that they will seek to fulfill.

MODIFYING ENTRANCE TO SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS: Our city’s schools are segregated by race. Let us speak boldly and frankly about that. One area that has consistently displayed racial disparities and access to our best performing schools is our specialized high schools. These excellent schools perpetuate segregation by demanding that our middle-school students pass an entrance exam requiring access to capital to study. Students who have resources or access to tutors have often passed these exams that have created a cottage industry, restricting access to these schools for primarily Black & Brown students. This will stop under my service.

My proposal rectifies this problem by taking proactive steps to modify the entrance to these schools. Among these steps, I will expand Gifted & Talented programs to every school in New York City. Moreover, my plan will modify the entrance requirements and allow automatic acceptance of our specialized high schools for students rated in the top 5% of every middle school in our city. My plan also does not eliminate the entrance exam but modifies it.

After entrance for students who perform in the top 5% throughout the school year, those who range from the top 6% – 25% will have an opportunity to attend one of the specialized high schools by passing the entrance exam that currently exists. I will also provide an additional option for those students to attend a specialized high school by adding a performance-based assessment, which offers a more accurate measure of a students’ knowledge than a typical standardized exam.

TEN-YEAR EVALUATION & DISSEMINATION GRANTS: It is long past time for us to fix our failing schools that has left generations of our city’s children relegated to poverty without a chance to achieve upward social mobility. That begins with improving all of our lowest-performing schools.

My plan calls for the creation of ten-year dissemination grants where a high-performing school partners with a low-performing school and evaluates the school environment and professional development processes of our educators, trains our school leaders and teachers in the lowest-performing schools with best practices and dissemination of their curriculum and executes the performance plan to educate our children better.

We can no longer accept having schools that underperform in any capacity. Our children have too much talent that our job is to support them and not let them fail.

CREATE A CITYWIDE PREDICTIVE AI CHATBOX: We all recognize that personalized education and support can lead to higher outcomes and success in the classroom. What NYC can do is create a chatbox that uses predictive artificial intelligence (AI) to support our students and parents. The AI Chatbox will be accessible as a website and phone-based application that can be easily accessed 24 hours a day. The tool will support delivering much-needed information that some students and parents feel unsure of where to look for. This tool would expand on what Georgia State University (GSU) designed to help students of color succeed in the classroom and increase graduation rates that match their white peers.

GSU’s chatbox found the following:
• About 80% of students are talking to the chatbot regularly, with students sending 70-80 queries on average.
• First-generation college students disproportionately benefit from the chatbot because they are often more reluctant to ask questions in person, and many work on top of taking classes.
• An algorithm identifies a “predicted risk level” for each student, based on factors like their major, class schedule, grades, and faculty feedback.
• If a student is at risk of falling behind or dropping out, advisors can reach out with personalized emails, text messages, or in-person meetings.
• “The easiest way to have an impact is with B to C students who fly under the radar,” said Allison Calhoun-Brown, who oversees GSU’s advisor center. “We can strategically target them at the first sign they are going off track.”

MUNICIPAL BROADBAND: Create municipal broadband that supports our lowest-income families across the city to ensure internet connectivity.

PERMANENT HOUSING FOR HOMELESS FAMILIES WITH SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN: I will create a program that supports our homeless families with school-age children by finding permanent housing until the student graduates high-school. We cannot allow our city’s children to be home insecure and not have a stable learning environment. We will prioritize housing these families in high-opportunity areas to ensure access to some of our best schools.

What is your opinion on preserving historic districts?
I’ve been very vocal of my support for rezoning SoHo/NoHo because of my personal story. I grew up in poverty, and when my siblings and I reached school age, my parents lied about our address, in violation of the law, to send us to better schools in the neighboring town. As immigrants, my parents risked severe penalties to ensure their children would receive a good education. To them, their actions were justified because of service to their kids.

What was the outcome of their actions? We ended up excelling in school and our personal lives. My older sister became a William Fulbright Scholar and attained a Ph.D. in Psychology. My older brother speaks three languages, knows how to code, and became a long-haul truck driver. My younger sister earned a master’s degree in economics and has continued pursuing her studies to earn a doctorate in the field.
Allowing working-class families the opportunity to achieve their American Dream and have an opportunity for upward social mobility is the right thing to do.

How do you plan to deal with the abuse of placard holders (real and fake ones)?
I support this bill that would allow citizens to report placard abuse and earn 25% of the fees collected from the violation.



  1. I like Denny and his responses to all the questions!

  2. 1.”In 2019, a few city council members introduced a bill to revise the time frames …speed up construction so it doesn’t linger for an indeterminate amount of time”

    Salas supports this indicating that it speeds up construction time. However, this does not take into account that in many areas there is ALWAYS construction. So, rather than getting it over with, this approach simply adds yet another day of unbearable noise.

    2. In regards to preserving historic districts – is it not possible to retool older buildings, thus offering low income housing without destroying the historic fabric of any given neighborhood? Perhaps an abatement to those families willing to renovate?

    3. The superblock plan does not detail how one may safely cross streets that would, of necessity, frame these superblocks. Would 6th Avenue and Canal Street, for example, still be Whack-a-mole (with pedestrians being the mole)?

    • Unfortunately, these points 1 and 2 are in direct opposition to one another. Time is money. Delays in historic approvals, zoning approvals, and permissible hours of construction all make low income housing massively cost-prohibitive. Further, the restrictions imposed by historic approvals and zoning approvals minimize the developer’s ability to spread the fixed costs of development over a larger number of apartments to lower the per unit cost of development.

      “[…] A new wave of housing activists argues that this focus is a farce. In reality, they say, the ostensible interest in cornices, mullions, materials, rooflines, massing, and setbacks on new buildings serves as a convenient excuse for neighborhoods to keep everything the same—except for the socioeconomic diversity that once filled their sidewalks. Buildings that do survive the pageant arrive in a diminished state, bearing high rents that testify to their long delay and small stature.

      ” ‘Time is money,’ says Diana Lind, the author of Brave New Home, which argues against the single-family-home paradigm that keeps density out of expensive neighborhoods. ‘It’s the basic issue for most developers: Housing cost is only partly labor and materials. A lot of it is time and risk. Developers will talk about having an entire year to start building and factoring that into their cost.’ In other words: Housing is more expensive, and less abundant, in the name of good looks. Not everywhere, but often in the high-opportunity neighborhoods and cities where it would mean the most.

      “It is hard to pinpoint what America’s era of highly supervised construction has achieved. This status quo has preserved the shape of older places, but not the kinds of people who once lived there. Instead we’ve manifested a landscape of historicist McMansions, parking podium towers, isolated commercial buildings dressed up in ornament like children on Halloween, landmarked gas stations and shoe-repair shops, and mishmash structures drafted by committee. This hyperlocal futzing is part of the reason that, in the decade following the Great Recession, we built the fewest new homes per capita of any period since World War II. […]

      “The mother of all design pressure is the zoning code itself, which is supposed to protect residents from environmental hazards like slaughterhouses being built next door—but has long been used to micromanage construction down to the window glass.

      “Because zoning codes are both restrictive and out of date, they force many builders to seek exemptions, which often trigger design-review-style public meetings. Politicians like obsolete zoning codes, since this negotiation gives them the power to extract concessions from any project that deviates from a site’s strictly prescribed use. (In Chicago, ‘aldermanic privilege’ has proved a little too much to handle and has led many pols to prison. Elsewhere, officials simply take bribes the legal way—as campaign donations.)

      “Regardless of how much you trust your local representative, this piecemeal spot-rezoning process is bad for new housing growth, since it introduces so much uncertainty and time into the development process. The understanding that zoning rules are made to be broken, meanwhile, embitters residents who double down on strict zoning. If developers consider the current zoning code a baseline, why won’t they do the same in the future? […]”

  3. ..”..Moreover, my plan will modify the entrance requirements and allow automatic acceptance of our specialized high schools for students rated in the top 5% of every middle school in our city. My plan also does not eliminate the entrance exam but modifies it.”..

    Unfortunately, NYC Councilmember have NO say over the admission to the NYC specialize HS. Admission is controlled by NYS education law 2590.

    This lack of understanding (and lack of research) highlight the main reason why people should NOT vote for Denny Salas.

    • That’s not accurate! NYC has control over five specialized high schools and can modify the entrance exams over them. Even the mayor considered doing this but punted using the state’s control over three schools as an excuse.

      If the city council has the guile to change the terms of the five they control, it will force the state to act on the other three.

      That’s how the legislative branch works!

      Plus, Denny worked at a school in the Bronx for the last five years – are you really going to question his knowledge on how it works?

      Good luck!

  4. These responses were terrific! Did he answer all the questions that posed? If so, that’s great!

  5. I met Denny yesterday in the Lower East Side, and he is impressive. Smart, knowledgeable, and has realistic goals for our city (I’ll admit he’s pretty handsome, too).

    He’s got my vote!