Typically, being an incumbent Democrat would mean smooth sailing to another term in the City Council. However, this November 7th won’t be a cakewalk for Upper East Side City Council Member Keith Powers, who faces off against a moderate Republican challenger painting him as soft on crime and weak on public safety.
“I’m confident we’re going to have lots of folks who are going to come out support us,” Powers told Upper East Site in a recent interview.
“We’re helping people every day, and those are the people we think are going to come out and vote. We’re confident they’ll be voting for me,” the two-term lawmaker added.
Running on a platform of aiding small businesses, protecting affordable housing, and tackling the dangers of e-bikes, Powers is quick to tout his roots in and record serving District 4.
“I am a born and raised product of this district. I know it inside and out because I’ve spent my entire life here,” Powers explained.
However, the district includes much more than just the western half of the Upper East Side. It covers half of Midtown, Peter Cooper Village — where Powers was born and raised — and Stuyvesant Town, where the council majority leader has focused most of his efforts over the last six years.
“You have to protect affordable housing, and I’ve done that,” Powers noted, pointing to legislation he sponsored to preserve rent-stabilized housing in Stuy Town, as well as a development in Kips Bay, failing to note any achievements on the Upper East Side.
“Whether you are living here or operating a small business here, the cost of living is getting way too high,” Powers added.
“I hear all the time from folks on the Upper East Side about the vacant storefronts and the impact on their favorite businesses,” he said. “[I’ve] introduced legislation to lower the cost of operating a small business in the city, to reduce unnecessary taxes.”
One of these bills would exempt retail stores, restaurants, bars and nightclubs from paying commercial rent tax — a tax of 3.9% of annual rent levied on businesses in Manhattan south of 96th Street — through May of 2025.
The obligation to pay this tax is “patently unfair to folks,” fumed Powers, whose office describes himself as ‘the proud son of a restaurant owner.’
However, as Upper East Site previously reported, true small businesses are already exempt from paying.
Since 2018, companies with incomes under $5 million and less than $500,000 in annual rent do not owe commercial rent tax.
Powers’ bill would only help large businesses at the expense of City coffers while Mayor Adams is looking to make drastic budget cuts amid the migrant crisis.
Safer streets are also “top of mind” for Powers, who has sponsored several bills combating the scourge of dangerous e-bikes and mopeds.
“It’s one of the top concerns my office hears every day,” Powers said.
Powers has supported several bills, currently in session, that would change local laws to require all motorized vehicles, such as e-bikes, scooters and mopeds, to be licensed and registered, as well as their sale be tracked.
He also sponsored now-enacted legislation prohibiting the sale of lithium-ion batteries modified with used parts, a dangerous practice and fire hazard.
“It’s a combination of strengthening penalties, increasing enforcement, and streamlining the legal process,” Powers explained.
He has also sponsored bills aiming to monitor indoor air quality, reduce noise pollution, and strengthen scaffolding requirements.
The City Council election will take place this November 7th, with early voting from October 28th to November 5th. To find your polling place, visit New York City’s Board of Elections website.