Shaun Donovan

Democratic Mayoral Candidate

Shaun Donovan has extensive government experience in the area of housing, at both the city and national level. He was the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development during the Bloomberg administration and the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. His top priorities are housing, education, and climate change.

“We cannot accept an expensive emergency shelter system that temporarily boards tens of thousands, public housing buildings that are deteriorating, or outdated and arcane land use regulations that prevent us from providing families with affordable housing across the city.” (Source: shaunfornyc.com)

“The inability to reopen our schools in September, which absolutely would have been possible if the mayor listened more clearly to his teachers, his principals, parents and communities, and [had] done the work of [improving] ventilation in the schools and opening classrooms outdoors or in gyms, at YMCAs, or other things.” (Source: Bloomberg)

“Climate change is a global issue, but cities are on the frontline of its impacts—and the response.” (Source: shaunfornyc.com)

Candidate's Standing On The Issues

Mental Health

  • He plans to establish the city’s first Safe Use Community Centers, taking substance abuse off the streets and making treatment options more accessible. It is unclear if communities would welcome these centers as a way to get drug use out of the public space or would fight them on the theory that they would attract addicts and drug deals to neighborhoods. (Source: Brooklyn Eagle)
  • “Long-term solutions to the crises require us to institutionalize a holistic approach beyond traditional treatment and crisis intervention. This involves increasing our investment in permanent supportive housing with high-quality healthcare and employment services that can help people achieve financial independence.”
  • Plans on creating a dedicated mental health crisis hotline to divert calls from 911 and investing in frontline mental health crisis resources to respond to these emergencies, including social workers, counselors, and emergency medical technicians. (Souce: shaunfornyc.com)

Education

  • Has called for permanently eliminating middle school admission screens, but wants to change the SHSAT instead of ending it.
  • Regarding middle school admission, he has said, “An open lottery alone isn’t gonna lead to more diverse schools without more intentional efforts beyond that,” and implied eliminating screens would only be the first step to reconfiguring who goes to what school.
  • On high school admissions, Donovan would change the system to include mechanisms like weighted lotteries to ensure broader demographic representation.
  • On charter schools, Donavan has expressed that he is pro “good schools” and is not anti-charter.
  • Donavan often talks about how to build strong neighborhoods and believes one piece of that is ensuring each neighborhood has good schools.

Public Safety

  • Has pledged (along with Wiley and Morales) to remove police intervention from all responses related to homelessness, drug use, and mental health crises. (Source: Gotham Gazette)
  • Donovan believes in defunding the police. Specifically, he has proposed cutting the city’s criminal justice system budget by ~$3 billion over four years. “I’m looking at the entire criminal justice budget that needs to be reallocated and moved, not just the police but our corrections system as well,” he said. “We have to focus on both.” (Source: Mott Haven Herald)
  • He wants to remove police officers and metal detectors from schools. He would replace School Safety Agents with “Positivity, Prevention, and Relationship Response Coordinators”. These coordinators would be people trained in child development and de-escalation tactics.
  • Donovan supports the creation of a mental health response hotline to divert 911 calls away from NYPD officers and invest in more mobile response teams. (Source: Gothamist)
  • Donovan has joined most other candidates (with the exception of Erica Adams) in calling for the full decriminalization of prostitution.

Housing & Homelessness

  • Believes we should move away from the congregate shelter model and toward private rooms, such as the Safe Haven model, where an individual is welcomed with few if any rules, including no requirement of sobriety or any imposition of a curfew. He promises to end the congregate shelter system by the end of his first term. (Source: Politico)
  • Plans to establish a flexible rental assistance program funded by a reduced reliance on shelters and financial support from the state and federal government.
  • Promises an annual $2 billion commitment to helping the Department of Housing Preservation and Development create new affordable housing programs and expand existing ones, with a goal of producing more than 30,000 units per year. (Source: NY1)
  • Believes homelessness cannot be solved by a single agency or program, but by having different parts of the government work together. He says, “It’s a criminal-justice problem and a mental-health problem and a substance-abuse problem.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Small Businesses

  • Has said a key way to sustaining small businesses is through the creation of the NYC Entrepreneurship Financing Fund. He has indicated that the funds would be collected through public, private, and philanthropic dollars.
  • Throughout his candidacy he has consistently leaned toward public-private partnerships to achieve his goals for the city. (Source: Gothamist)
  • Has said he would also revamp small business regulations, aiming to address “costs imposed on businesses.” He has not called for the suspension of fines or fees and he is not advocating for commercial rent relief. (Source: Gothamist)

Fiscal Outlook

  • “The single most important economic development tool that a mayor has to attract talent is quality of life. Because talent decides where it wants to live, and companies and capital follow. And so that means not only safe streets and good schools; it means ending homelessness in this city. It also means arts and culture, and so many of the other things that make this the most interesting, exciting city in the world” (Source: Bloomberg)
  • Has expressed that he is open to a temporary surcharge to help reduce the budget gap, similar to how Bloomberg imposed temporary increases on property taxes. “I am open to a temporary increase on the highest earners to help us.”
  • “What I have also said, though, is we’re not going to tax our way to recovery. And I have not been supportive, as you know — many of the other candidates have supported six different tax increases, including a transaction tax and others. I’ve been clear that I am not supportive of many of those.”
  • Indicated that the city needs to get its budget under control by making government more efficient, finding alternative revenue enhancers (such as congestion pricing).

About Shaun Donovan

Shaun Donovan has extensive government experience in the area of housing, at both the city and national level. He was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development from 2004 to 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014, and Director of the US Office of Management and Budget from 2014 to 2017.

November 16, 2020

Opinions & observations: Unconventional solutions to mental health, overdose challenges amid pandemic crisis

February 3, 2021

Mayoral Candidate Shaun Donovan Calls for Creating 30,000 Affordable Housing Units a Year

February 11, 2021

Mayoral Hopeful Donovan Talks Reforms With Criminal Justice Activists

February 4, 2021

Mayoral hopefuls face questions on homelessness from New Yorkers living in shelter

March 1, 2021

How Shaun Donovan Would Run New York

March 19, 2021

Where Do Mayoral Candidates Stand On The Future Of Policing?

March 20, 2021

Advocates Press Democratic Mayoral Candidates on Drug Policy, Homelessness, and Policing Reform

April 23, 2021

How Mayoral Candidates Will Help Small Businesses Hit Hard By The Pandemic

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Serves as the Chief Executive The mayor has the power to appoint and remove the commissioners of more than 40 city agencies including the police, fire, education, sanitation, health and more. The mayor also has full control over the city’s public schools.

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What does the District Attorney do?

The office is responsible for the prosecution of violations of New York state laws (federal law violations in Manhattan are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York).

A DA's duties typically include reviewing police arrest reports, deciding whether to bring criminal charges against arrested people, and prosecuting criminal cases in court. The DA may also supervise other attorneys, called Deputy District Attorneys or Assistant District Attorneys.

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What does the Public Advocate do?

The public advocate is a non-voting member of the New York City Council with the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation.

The public advocate also serves as an an ombudsman for city government, providing oversight for city agencies, investigating citizens' complaints about city services and making proposals to address perceived shortcomings or failures of those services.

Along with the Mayor and the Comptroller, the public advocate is one of three municipal offices elected by all the city's voters. In the event of a vacancy or incapacity of the mayor, the public advocate is first in line to become mayor.

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What do City Council Members do?

From Woodlawn to Coney Island, every neighborhood in New York City is part of a Council District. There are 51 of these Districts, each represented by an elected Council Member.

Council Members Introduce and vote on legislation (proposed laws) having to do with all aspects of City life; negotiate the City's budget with the Mayor and approve its adoption; monitor City agencies such as the Department of Education and the NYPD to make sure they're effectively serving New Yorkers; and review land use and making decisions about the growth and development of our city.

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What makes a good Comptroller?

  • Complex Managerial Experience — Leads a staff of about 800 employees across all various skill sets including accountants, attorneys, economists, engineers, IT professionals, etc.
  • Sound Investment Strategy — Serves as the Chief Investment Officer who has the final say in how the City’s five public pension funds totaling approximately $250 billion in assets are invested.
  • Track Record of Transparency & Accountability — Serves as the fiscal “watchdog” — overseeing the auditing team for the entire City, with the power to hold the City accountable when contractors/agencies are falling short. Approves all City contracts and reviews performance.
  • Government Experience (City & State) — Understands complex interplay between agencies and lawmakers. Responsible for resolving legal claims on behalf of and against the City.
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What does the Borough President do?

Each Borough President advises the mayor on issues relating to their respective borough. They propose legislation, zoning changes, city-wide budget recommendations, and influence direction for land-use. Borough presidents also appoint members to the New York City Planning Commission, and members to other local boards including community boards.