The Candidates 2021: Susan Damplo for CD1

This is the seventh in a series of short interviews with candidates for City Council District 1 along with their responses to a very long questionnaire based on reader questions. As these roll out, I will link to the posts on other candidates at the bottom.

It was the presidential election four years ago that first got Susan Damplo thinking she should run for office. “When 2016 rolled around, we really regressed in a deep and dark way,” she said. And then everything else seemed to fall into place. “This was an open seat; ranked choice voting brought light, not heat; it gave a chance for an average person to run.”

Damplo, 59, has lived around the country — she has four bar jurisdictions — largely following her husband’s academic law career (he’s now at NYU). The couple raised their adult son in Westchester and then, 10 years ago, moved into the city to the district, settling on MacDougal. She’s was most recently a state administrative law judge in Harlem within the Division of Alcohol and Beverage — deciding on, among other things, 500-foot hearings for bars and restaurants. She left the job in March 2020, when the online court system became a grind. The timing worked out for a run for City Council.

She’s the only candidate in this race who is not taking the matching funds from the city — that part was an easy decision. “We have a $4 billion deficit and I’ve been an attorney for three decades. I respect my colleagues decisions, but it wasn’t a problem for me to contribute.”

She thinks the city has its priorities in reverse — that it has to do better to take care of issues that are most important to us as humans, such as the fact that there are 78,000 homeless in the city, with thousands living on the street. “Those who have much have much responsibility. We have to take care of each other,” she says. And her husband is a political refugee from Cuba, a fact that also drove her to run. “No one has to meet my son to know he’s Latino — they just look at his name and decide how he will be treated.”

Fun fact, Damplo sings in the City Bar Chorus as a soprano, a passion that started in high school. She was an all-state singer growing up in Natick, Mass., where she grew up the sixth of seven kids — an experience that set on her a path of independence. “I always knew I had to be self-reliant,” she said.


Do you have any solutions for protecting small business from the pressures of rising real estate costs?
One possibility is to consider commercial cooperatives, where small businesses buy a share in commercial property.

What is your proposal or attitude towards the future of Open Restaurants post-pandemic?
I support Open Restaurants. Having lived in New York City exclusively throughout the pandemic, I know how important the initiative has been to our community. It has been a lifeline for restaurant owners and their staff, and it has been a respite for us as customers from the isolation and loneliness of our public health crisis. Dining al fresco and windows and doors that allow in fresh air are more than pleasant, they’re an adjunct to promoting public health. That said, the Open Restaurant initiative does not obviate restaurants’ obligations to the community as good neighbors. Any violations of excessive noise, odors, congestion, or other infractions of municipal rules must be enforced.

Do you have any ideas for addressing retail vacancies? (vacancy tax? Incentives?)
As I mentioned above, the ability to own the commercial space in cooperation with other building occupants would promote greater stability for retail or other businesses. We are seeing more and more restaurants taking the place of retail because through their liquor licenses they are the only establishments that can afford the rent. I love to dine out, but it would be nice to still be able to buy shoes from my favorite shoe stores, several that have closed over the last decade while I have lived in the district, to walk to those eating establishments, or to pick up the latest novel at my favorite book stores, which have also closed, to read with my meal.

In addition to promoting commercial ownership, taxation, as you suggest, is also a tool. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all in this together. Let’s make sure that our community partners in the real estate sector are paying their fair share, too. Of course, taxation without adequate enforcement is meaningless. We need to invest more in enforcing all revenue-creating rules.

And, as you suggest, incentives will undoubtedly help. By their nature, they create a win-win situation. I support greater investment by our City to help new and ongoing businesses maximize their business acumen. There are many ways to do this: mentorship, training, site visits, coaching, among others. For example, the NYC Department of Small Business Services should partner with the Secretary of State to steer businesses to it for evaluation and assistance. Is the proposed business adequately capitalized? Is there adequate financing? Does the business plan meet the goals of the entrepreneur? How can the business market itself to maximize its revenues through branding, logo creation, inventory, diversification of services, etc.? Is its advertising approach state of the art, including non-traditional means such as social media or digital presence? Of course, as a City Council member, I will build coalitions with my colleagues, residents, business associations, and other stakeholders to see what best responds to the ever-changing landscape of New York City retail to develop sustainable solutions.

Do you have any solutions for limiting the regulations and red tape required to both start and maintain small business?
Starting a business involves multiple layers of government, from obtaining a federal employer identification number, to registering to do business with the state, as well as adhering to all municipal provisions governing local operation. Government agencies, however, are too often silos of information. We need greater cooperation among levels of government. It’s been painfully apparent in the relationship between the current administrations at the state and local levels. But it’s also an issue within our municipal government, among its more than 60 agencies.

I have worked at the federal, state, and municipal levels. In City Council, I will foster closer relations among these levels of government to smooth the creation and sustenance of small businesses. As I discussed above, the Department of Small Business Services is an important resource to promote the health and well-being of our local businesses. We need to invest in these efforts. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Do you have any solutions to the helicopter traffic that often plagues the neighborhood and others?
Helicopter traffic contributes to the problem of noise pollution here in New York City. Empirically, we know many of us are experiencing hearing loss, increased anxiety, and sleep deprivation from excessive noise. As a City Council member, I will apply a different lens to representation. Too often our public officials act like we live in a concrete-centered democracy instead of a people-centered democracy. (As we know, “demo” is derived from the Greek word for people). Helicopters must serve us, not the other way around. They are lifesaving for medical evacuation and for investigating public safety crises. They allow press to inform us on breaking events of public interest. But as mere commercial vehicles, we should not cede our peace and quiet for profitability. At some point the expediency for travel or tourism is outweighed by the human costs. I support efforts to limit helicopter traffic, and as the Tribeca Citizen has reported, relief requires federal intervention. I will encourage our federal representatives to advocate strongly for reform. But excessive helicopter traffic and noise is a symptom of a greater cause: public officials’ cessation of responsibility to promote the general welfare of people rather than maximizing profitability. I will not only address the specific issue with partners at the federal level, but I will also advocate to foster a more sustainable balance and encourage all public officials to center human interests in their leadership.

This neighborhood has been under construction for decades. Do you have any solution for making construction sites be better neighbors?
Through these questions, the Tribeca Citizen is highlighting the many ways that our public officials have treated us residents as second class in terms of their priorities. Construction is not an end, it’s a means. Both the purpose of construction and how it is executed are regulated. But if they don’t serve the people, they are delegitimized. We New Yorkers accept construction because the outcome in general serves our needs: our residential building is protected against the elements, additional office space is added for our new businesses, houses of worship are erected, etc. But that construction must be performed expeditiously. In City Council, I will work with colleagues to see that oversight is conducted to ensure agencies including the Department of Buildings are adequately enforcing existing regulations at sites surrounding noise, vibration, scaffolding, and hours, and that additional steps are implemented as needed. I do not, however, support extending hours of construction because I think they already materially impact our daily quality of life, and I don’t support greater impact. Blocking sidewalks or streets is an obvious hazard and should be minimized. Leadership is crucial, and I additionally support City Council confirmation of all agency commissioners and not just a select few. In a “strong” mayoral system, we residents have had our representation in City Council weakened. As your City Council member, I will work to create a better system of checks and balances in our municipal government. Lastly construction sites are not entities unto themselves. There are organizations behind those sites who indeed will become our neighbors. We need transparency and accountability for their leadership even before they occupy the site and as your Council Member, I will amplify your concerns with the organization heads.

Garbage pickup seems to be at an all-time low. Do you have solutions for better street cleaning?
The Department of Sanitation’s budget was cut last year by over $100 million due to deficits created by decreased activity from the pandemic, which greatly impacted cleanliness. Fortunately, funding has increased and the problem is being addressed. But New York City can do more. The current administration is in its waning months. We will see what the new mayor’s priorities are, but I suspect she will be supportive of improved sanitation. Leadership matters. I support City Council confirmation of commissioners across the board. Added scrutiny of nominees will ensure higher quality candidates.

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?
I believe delivery workers’ e-bikes and e-scooters are for the primary benefit of management. Workers are expected to operate in any weather condition at farther distances to serve businesses’ needs. By requiring workers to purchase these more expensive vehicles, management creates risk to the workers. They are vulnerable to robbery, theft, and even murder, in defending their property. I support the use of non-motorized vehicles, including bicycles, for local deliveries or motor vehicles for deliveries of greater distances. I also believe these types of vehicles pose too great a risk to pedestrians or non-motorized vehicle operators. Rather I support increased public transportation as alternatives for workers who would seek to commute to their work via e-scooters or e-bicycles.

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?
I believe the NYPD lacks adequate oversight and accountability. When I am your City Council member, I will support confirmation of all agency heads, including the NYPD. The current administration is too deferential on these issues. Closing public spaces is done too liberally. There needs to be more nuance, including requiring a particularized showing that the specific location needs closure for the time, place, and manner that the closure is in effect. If necessary, legislation may be needed to require that but presumably the next administration’s leader will recognize that system will better serve the public.

What are your thoughts on expanding pedestrian-only streets? Do you have other proposals that would address pedestrian safety?
I support expanding pedestrian-only streets in principle, but closure determinations must be particularized, including consultation with neighborhood residents, public safety officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders.

I have other proposals that would also address pedestrian safety. As I indicated above, I would support a ban on e-bike and other motorized non-traffic vehicles because the risk of their use given other safer alternatives outweighs any benefit. Remember, our City has over 8 million pedestrians, including our most vulnerable: elderly, persons of limited mobility, and families using strollers and carriages to transport their infants and small children. We also hope for the return of over 66 million tourist pedestrians annually.

I would also invest in educating cyclists. We don’t require licenses to operate bicycles, and, therefore, we can’t assume those operating them have any knowledge or training on safe operation. Studies have shown that increased fines for reckless operating will also improve pedestrian safety, and I would consider supporting those as your advocate in City Council.

Do you have any new solutions for addressing those people who refuse to go to shelters?
I would refuse to go to a New York City shelter, so it’s hard for me not to sympathize with those who are homeless and refuse. The shelter system is plagued with noise, violence, and theft. There was a young couple living in a tent during the winter months down the block from my residence. They clearly made the calculation that they were safer together on the cold concrete than in that system. Rather than shelters, I would support transitional supportive housing. Only related persons should share rooms. Others should have the ability to close the door behind them for privacy and safety. But of course, homelessness is a symptom for deeper causes, including lack of resources and mental illness, which society must address.

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?
. The past four years it has been stoked at the highest levels of government. I believe in universal dignity of individuals. The solutions lie in helping each other, not pushing one another away. To say someone is a threat to others just because of who they are, homeless, is wrong. It’s prejudice. Adopting the solutions I propose in answering your prior question will go a long way to improving the quality of life for all of us here in the district.

What is your approach to community policing?
I support community policing. NYPD are New York’s finest, and the public should have the opportunity to engage in non-confrontational encounters with these brave public servants as they protect and serve. Agency leadership should promote community engagement both through planned activities but also in everyday encounters. We’re all part of the community.

I believe that comm stat and other policies in NYPD are addressing major crimes in the City. Continuous data collection and deft pivoting allow the force to reallocate resources where needed. The force can’t easily prevent intangible factors such as increased tension due to gang warfare, heightened anxiety from the global pandemic, and other variables, including foreign influence. We as New Yorkers need to do our part to counter these intangibles, like give our children the attention and positive outlets they deserve, promote outdoor exercise and access to nature, as well as other well-being techniques.

Lastly, crimes of economic opportunity, public urination, graffiti, etc., are symptoms of the causes of increased unemployment and lack of outdoor activity. We are at the cusp of turning the situation around as businesses reopen, workers return to in person work sites, and street life increases. We still need to increase public restroom facilities, generally, however. We also need to add signage to direct people to the nearest public bathrooms.

We would like to hear your thoughts on the status of affordable housing downtown and in our zip codes.
New York City is digging itself deeper and deeper into a hole with unaffordable housing. Every new development that sets aside affordable housing is underprojecting. Estimates show 43% of New York City housing needs to be affordable to meet the current population’s needs. Do the math. If you set aside $100 to $200 per month to pay your rent but your rent is $430, you’ll go deeper and deeper into debt with every passing day. We need in the short term to create much higher percentages of affordable housing with development to begin to address the shortfall. It takes political will to do that and when I am in City Council I will advocate to invest in more affordable housing.


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?
Our elders deserve the same access we all deserve. Curbside cut outs should not be blocked and the Department of Transportation must enforce parking violations. The Department of Sanitation must adequately remove snow and private concerns must be cited if they fail to do their part regarding these services. Adequate enforcement is not punitive. It’s an investment in promoting the quality of life for our community.

How will you communicate and deal with constituent concerns?
I highly value constituent services. In fact, I have direct experience working in constituent services. I interned in the field office of U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas when I was an undergraduate. I studied government at Harvard and wrote a paper for academic credit on the internship. Many of the senator’s constituents were Greek speakers, and my supervisor was bilingual in English and Greek.

The same best practices should apply in our multilingual district. While English is the predominant language spoken, many constituents are Chinese or Spanish speakers. I myself am proficient in Spanish, which is my husband’s first language. I will ensure to employ staff that can effectively communicate with those in our communities who are Chinese or Spanish speakers.

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?
It is important to compare apples with apples. I would need to know more such as the relative ages of the properties and the amenities. That said, any inequity should be addressed by oversight to study the issue, followed by proposed legislative reform to correct any problem. I worked as a fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, which was chaired by Congressmember Augustus Hawkins at the time. I have direct experience organizing legislative briefings to educate members about important issues. In a memorable instance, legislation was enacted to remedy the expiration of statutes of limitations on age discrimination claims that had not been timely processed by the EEOC, then chaired by Clarence Thomas.

What proposals do you have (or are you against) for increasing bike lanes?
We need to do more to educate vehicle operators about bike lane restrictions. Increased fines may be needed. Additional lanes need to be assessed based on feasibility, considering all relevant factors. Shared paths between bicycles and pedestrians should be avoided where possible. Greater public education is required for cyclists, who are not required to be licensed. Increased fines for reckless operating may also be needed.

What is your stance on the borough-based jail plan for White Street?
I have personally represented former inmates of Rikers. Rikers is a hazard, and I have long supported its closure. It should be closed before FY 2026, if possible. I absolutely support construction of new jails that are proximate to the communities from which our incarcerated sisters and mostly brothers are detained. There is no doubt that recidivism is reduced, and those whose loved ones are detained, such as children and parents, benefit from increased contact, which locating these facilities in our communities will allow. This is a moral imperative.

The location is ideal because it is proximate to the courts and public transportation. There is relatively little residential housing in the immediate area.

I’m not persuaded that the cost and size of the White Street jail as proposed is sensible. It needs revising. Alternatively, I would support memoranda of understanding allowing the temporary integration of city detainees within state or federal facilities that are within the City or contiguous counties. I would support transportation and communication services to promote contact between inmates and their loved ones.

What is your opinion on preserving historic districts?
I support preserving historic districts but not at the expense of preserving the status quo in terms of affordable housing stock. That said, rezoned areas should be consonant with their surroundings. I don’t support high-rise construction in a low-rise area. Frankly, high-rise construction per se threatens the livability of our community, creating hazards during evacuations, as we saw with the elderly during Superstorm Sandy, and tragically in 9/11. It also reduces sunlight. I lived in Washington, DC for over a decade after college. The height restrictions make the city more human scale without detracting from its grandeur as our nation’s capital.

How do you plan to deal with the abuse of placard holders (real and fake ones)
Placard abuse makes no sense. All placards should be abolished and reissued with modern technology for scanning to authenticate. In the meantime, our elders and others with limited mobility can’t even enter their homes safely because operators abusing the current system have blocked cutouts or otherwise obstructed access to our sidewalks.

Do you have any solutions for residential street parking?
I support residential permitting. I also support increased incentives for residents to use car sharing, bicycles, and public transit.


Denny Salas
Christopher Marte
Tiffany Winbush
Susan Lee
Gigi Li
Maud Maron



  1. The Village is north of CD1, right? What’s this candidate’s connection to our district? Doesn’t one need to reside in the district, per the Public Officers Law?

    • Of course! but the district has an irregular northern boundary and includes the Village. In fact you might recall that Alan Gerson was the councilmember before Margaret Chin — a longtime Village resident. CD1 includes the neighborhoods of Battery Park City, Civic Center, Chinatown, Financial District, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, NoHo, SoHo, South Street Seaport, South Village, Tribeca & Washington Square, and goes as far north as 8th Street, on the north side of Washington Square Park. See the map here.

      • Thank you. A modest proposal for our neighboring Village constituents: replace Washington Square Park with this proposed new jail, instead of putting it in Chinatown. It had previously been a Potter’s Field and site of a gallows. Then, by adaptive reuse, convert back the nearby Jefferson Market Courthouse library into a criminal courthouse, for convenient access to the new jail. No one needs to provide green space for transient NYU students anyhow.

  2. Putting the jail here is a “moral imperative”??
    Lost me especially with the claim that “There is relatively little residential housing in the immediate area.”

  3. No thanks.

    Seems far too car-centric. “Studying feasibility” of bike lanes is no commitment to build them. Supporting “expanding pedestrian-only zones in principle” while pushing them through a gauntlet of bureaucracy is not real support.

    It’s also nearly impossible to understand the mindset that leads one to the position that “crimes of economic opportunity” (what a charming way to describe robbery or theft), graffiti, and public urination (happens *everywhere*) will fix themselves, but that we really need to clamp down on cyclists and e-bikes/scooters even though they’re environmentally friendly, safe, quick, and space-efficient ways to get around the city. (Note: I don’t use any of these things, but they’re obviously extremely useful means of transportation.)

    The position on historic districts is equally confusing. Supporting something—but with loopholes—is not support.

  4. Just say no.

    What on earth are “crimes of economic opportunity”? Is that like price-gouging isopropyl alcohol during a pandemic?

    No mention of congestion pricing at all. And the measures proposed for dealing with dangerous traffic are to ban e-bikes and educate bicyclists. What about dealing with the main source of pedestrian injuries and fatalities (not to mention noise, congestion, and pollution): motor vehicles?

    Seems to me we need things like: congestion pricing, speed bumps, enforcement of speed and reckless driving laws, enforcement against distracted driving, etc.

  5. What a load of incoherent horses**t!

  6. I think Susan’s positions on these issues are spot on. She will make the change for the better!

    • No, they are not IMO. This is a race for New York City councilperson, not head of the Brookside Drive HOA in Ann Arbor.

  7. Susan Damplo is the strongest District 1 candidate for City Council. She has local, state, and federal experience that will serve her well in addressing District 1 residents’ needs. Susan has the best command of the issues. You can trust Susan to do everything humanly possible to make life better for District 1 citizens. She will work tirelessly to build consensus and unify the community.

    Join Susan at her virtual town hall called “What Should We Do About NYC’s Homeless Crisis?” on Thursday, May 27 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EDT with former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. Sign up here to take part: