Meet the City Council’s New Members: Mark Levine

Meet the City Council’s New Members: Mark Levine

Meet the City Council’s New Members: Mark Levine
January 28, 2014

For many New York City Council members, the need for more affordable housing goes without saying.

What is harder to find is a policy wonk like Councilman Mark Levine, who has concrete proposals to help meet the ambitious affordable housing goals set by the city’s new leadership.

“The greatest power that the City Council and the city have to do that is our zoning code, and we could do much more to require and incentivize the creation of new affordable housing when buildings are built,” Levine said. “We need to make sure that when people build big in New York City, they build units that are affordable to everybody.”

According to Levine, hundreds, if not thousands, of affordable housing units are taken out of rent regulation each year in his community. As a result, families who lived in his district for decades are forced out by aggressive landlords, and when their children grow up they must look elsewhere to find rents they can afford.

“As a Council member, I want to focus like a laser on this issue, and find more ways to support tenants and find more ways to build new affordable housing around the city,” he said.

If affordable housing is the most pressing challenge in northern Manhattan, a close second is tenants’ rights. When renters find themselves in housing court, fewer than 10 percent have legal representation, Levine said, while landlords almost always hire an attorney.

“I want to make sure that every tenant in housing court has legal representation,” Levine said. “People don’t realize it, because in criminal court everyone, even the most poor, has an attorney. It’s an incredibly unequal playing field.”

Levine has been politically active in his neighborhood for years, getting elected as a Democratic district leader in 2007, founding the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan in 2009 and chairing a transportation committee on the local community board. He also launched the first community development credit union in upper Manhattan, and had a career in education, both as a teacher and a nonprofit executive.

“I’ve worked extensively on education, so I have some passions about that,” Levine said. “As a public school parent, this is one of my top concerns.”

District: 7
Neighborhoods represented: Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights, West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood
Policy focus: Affordable housing, education, transportation, environment, parks
Date of birth: April 30, 1969
Birthplace: Chicago, Ill.
Education: B.A. in physics, Haverford College; Master’s in public policy, Harvard University
Previous occupation: Executive director of the Center for After-School Excellence
Family: Wife: Ivelisse; two sons
Party: Democrat
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