‘Rent is still too damn high!’ is still McMillan’s platform

Jimmy McMillan at a District 2 candidates forum this summer. Photo by Rainer Turim

BY LEVAR ALONZO | Jimmy McMillan, the New York City activist and Vietnam War veteran who famously coined the slogan “The Rent is Too Damn High,” is running for public office again.

The East Village resident has previously run for mayor and governor of New York, as well as mounted a short-lived campaign for president during the 2012 election.

Running on the Republican ticket in a heavily Democratic district, McMillan is seeking to succeed Rosie Mendez, who is term-limited, in City Council District 2.

The seat is opening up for the first time in 12 years.

“I’m running to get in the City Council so that I can help keep people in their East Village homes,” McMillan said. “If I don’t get in to stop the process of people being kicked out or displaced, it will only continue.”

The district stretches from the Lower East Side up to the E. 30s,  in addition to the East Village, also taking in Gramercy, Union Square, Kips Bay and Rose Hill.

He is running his campaign on the same mantra that he has been voicing for years: that the rent is too high in the city, and that if you fix that issue, it will solve all the other problems facing the city.

He thinks the prohibitive cost of housing in the city is inflated by “high-level bureaucracy, fraud and greed,” and is not reflective of landlords’ actual operating costs. His solution would be to set up investigative agencies that would not succumb to bribery from developers.

“I want the City Council to pass laws to protect the people from being ran out of their homes,” he said.

Casey Hill, McMillan’s campaign manager, said the candidate is not against community redevelopment, but wants the Council to lower residential rental rents to be more in line with average incomes.

“The Second District is between two wealthy districts,” Hill said. “We want residents to have more access to housing.”

Hill also said McMillan supports siting police and child-service substations in New York City Housing Authority complexes, where the personnel can be more responsive to residents and their needs.

McMillan is also looking to reform the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“We want them to hold forums so that H.P.D. can tell us what they actually do and how they do it,” Hill said. “More transparency within H.P.D., and we want to know who is in charge.”

McMillan supports charter schools. Under his education plan, any charter school operator that wants to open a new school in the district must reserve 40 percent of the seats for students whose parents’ income is below area median income.

As to his Republican Party affiliation, McMillan said the party needs help and it doesn’t know what it is doing. He endorsed Donald Trump for president last year because, he said, he was the “only candidate speaking for the veterans.”

When asked what he thinks of Trump now and his agenda, McMillan said he still supports him.

“I don’t think he is doing enough for the country,” he offered. “Obamacare sucked; it needs to be repealed at all cost. Trump has made history and he going to get the country going in the right direction.”

Waiting to challenge McMillan in the November general election is the Democratic nominee, Carlina Rivera, former legislative director for Councilmember Mendez. Rivera topped the field in the Democratic primary, winning more than 61 percent in a crowded, six-way race.

McMillan said his opponent doesn’t know what she is doing and is “coming off the coattail of 12 years of failure.”

“One question we would ask her,” Hill noted, “is why is she still living in subsidized housing?”

Rivera and her husband, Jamie Rogers, the chairperson of Community Board 3, live in a federally subsidized, low-income Section 8 apartment at Stanton and Ridge Sts. that she grew up in.

Rivera has said, if she wins election, she and Rogers dwould move so a deserving family could have the apartment.

If he wins, McMillan would join an outnumbered Republican caucus of just three out of 51 city councilmembers. He said he is not paying attention to who is in which party and that they all must work together for the city’s betterment.

“The City Council cannot allow the elite to buy over all ‘homo’s,’ ” McMillan said. “We are all ‘homo’s,’ meaning ‘man’ — ‘homo sapiens’ — people want food and access to healthcare and quality of life.”

Hill said they have no endorsements because they have been running a small campaign and it’s hard for a Republican to get support in this town.

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