Julia Qing Reaves, a 19-year old bisexual Chinese American immigrant, has joined the field of candidates running for mayor of New York City in 2021.
Reaves recently announced that she would be among the candidates running for New York City mayor in 2021, a race that includes Brooklyn borough President Eric Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Maya Wiley.
In an exclusive interview with Parkchester Times correspondent, Moses Kuwema, Reaves said she was prompted to stand as a mayoral candidate because “My generation is in a dangerous place right now, what with global warming, COVID, George Floyd’s murder and so much more. Our futures, the economy we thought we were stepping into, the colleges we were about to enter, the lives we were just beginning to build, have all been decimated. The usual political suspects are fighting over positions rather than solutions. We need policies that work, and we need them NOW.”
“Our issues are not being addressed; we are not being heard. Government is ignoring the very real issues we are facing. The people we have put in office are terrible communicators who are not transparent in their objectives or plans,” said Reaves, who was adopted at 10 months old by former directors of Gertrude Stein Theater, John and Cheryl Reaves.
Reaves said that Generation Z is tired of being relegated the bench; they too want to be engaged and present in key conversations. “That is why people of my age group will be very much present in my campaign. They will be at the forefront which is very exciting because it has rarely been done. We are looking for integrity. We are looking for real world solutions to the issues our families are facing. We are also looking at the generation that comes after us, Generation Alpha, and how best we can protect them. They are the future, we are the future, therefore we must prioritize solutions.” she said.
Reaves said that, as someone who sees the problems faced by the community in New York City, she would not stand by and watch the city fall apart, “I could not stand by while watching my family’s future be put in a very precarious situation devoid of strong, capable government management and leadership. I looked at all levels of government, local government, federal government and I didn’t see any strong leaders that could handle these complex issues with empathy and grace, anyone that can take responsibility and move us forward.”
“Why run? Why run during a pandemic? It became clear when I looked at the bigger picture, when I looked at it from a future perspective. 50 years from now when everything that is going on right now is a page in a history book, and we are able to look back on these moments, I knew I could not live with myself knowing that I did not act when I could have. This very moment is a pivotal moment in history. People of all age groups are not getting any responses. We so desperately need answers and acknowledgement. We deserve to have our questions heard and addressed. Running for mayor is one way to show up and be present for my great city. This is the reason why I am running.” Reaves explained.
“I have always thought of running for office, though not this early. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was in a real estate licensing program because I wanted to learn about investing and property management. Financial literacy and independence is extremely important for WOC.”
“My plan was to work in that field, but then COVID-19 happened. Mine is just one of many Gen Z experiences. With great enthusiasm and excitement, we were about to go into jobs in a great economy, colleges and universities but all of that took a 180-degree turn.”
“We have to find a new way to address our dreams, ideas, wishes and hopes for the future because the world is never going to be the same. There is no going ‘back to normal”. That is just the truth of what we are facing. I started looking at how best I can serve my community because clearly the people in charge have a very tenuous grasp on the many ways the world has changed for younger generations and they are not prioritizing any of our concerns.. They are not leading with many of the skills that I and my contemporaries are looking for in a leader. Running for mayor is a way I can change the conversation,” Reaves added.
Asked about some of the challenges the city of New York is facing, Reaves said, “The pandora’s box of issues the five boroughs face did not magically appear when COVID began. For instance, the deterioration of NYC’s existing infrastructure and its effects on quality of life–from the broken subways to dirty streets to homelessness were only exacerbated by COVID.
“New York City has a long list of mishandled, mismanaged issues. The City is in survival mode, WE are in survival mode. One thing that can be done immediately is going through the city budget with a fine-tooth comb. For example, sanitation has not been prioritized. De Blasio is taking funding out of sanitation, now we have trash piling up on our streets which attracts rats and insects. The lack of clean streets devalues our stores and restaurants and chips away at the reasons New Yorkers would want to stay.”
“There are so many things which can be done and I will move into my six point plan, which is also on my website, that addresses crime, homelessness, housing, schools, business and the MTA,” Reaves said.
Reaves noted that one way of dealing with the housing crisis is to rezone commercial buildings.
“Let’s make use of the buildings that lay dormant due to the shift people have made to working from home. It is much more viable for business owners that have gone virtual to stay virtual long after a vaccine is found due to the capital dedicated to their overhead costs now being directed to other areas of their company. It is, overall, much more realistic for them to keep their employees at home for the foreseeable future of financial, fiscal upheaval and uncertainty. With this new landscape, we must adapt. Why not kill two birds with one stone by rezoning said buildings into low- and middle-income housing with mixed use?”
On defunding the NYPD, Reaves said there were many ways of updating law enforcement but taking away law enforcement all together is not the answer.
“There is a case study that we can look at, in Camden, New Jersey where they had a suspension and complete defunding of the police, and then recreated the law enforcement program with a focus on the community. This was a very successful example of defunding and then recreation.”
“Another option is reforming police training. Giving cops better safer tools for subduing resisting perps–not just stripping them of any way of protecting themselves. We also need to hold corrupt cops and the unions that would shield them accountable. Believe me, honest cops want to get rid of the bad apples as much as, if not more, than anyone else. We need to look at how to narrow and specify the jobs performed by NYPD officers. Right now we expect them to do everything from delivering babies to traffic direction to parade supervision. We need to seriously ask, how can law enforcement best support communities, especially communities of color where they are most needed? Let’s address these issues with solution-building, not politics at the forefront.” She said in the end, “it is utterly naive to believe gangs will suddenly give up their guns and their culture of violence in response to a law-enforcement-free NYC and instead study and go to school.”
On gun violence, Reaves said there was a need to track the movement of illegal guns to combat gun violence that has been killing our youth. And reinstate the special units that the present administration eliminated, and that were so effective in keeping guns off the streets.
Reaves said repeat offenders need to be taken off our streets and that Rikers Island needs to be fixed instead of creating borough-based jails which can only place the communities in which they are set under even greater pressure. Instead, we should invest more in creating low and middle class income housing than in blowing massive sums of already scarce resources, on duplicating facilities we already own and that could be repaired and updated.
“We must support and expand job opportunities for our youth. When we do this, we not only uplift them but the entire community as well. And both support and expansion need to happen at the same time. It does not have to be an all or nothing situation. We don’t have to choose between putting all our money into either NYPD, or the community. They are not mutually exclusive,” Reaves said, “The need to be seen as interlocking parts of a whole.”
In response to our correspondent on her limited government experience, Reaves noted that “Former President Barack Obama had little governing experience before becoming senator and later on the president. He relied upon his staff and cabinet. There is no requirement that to an effective mayor, senator or president you must be an expert.”
“We have to look more at skills and what you bring to the table as opposed to experience. Looking at my competitors, their experience is detrimental to their problem-solving skills. They are career politicians who are not only looking to expand power and prestige but have also aided and abetted De Blasio. They have very little regard for very real-world problems and their lack of transparency is indicative of how little they want people to be asking them for in-depth, detailed responses to questions,” said Reaves.
“I have already worked in different fields and sectors. Its part of growing up in NYC, I have worked within the fashion industry. I also did some work with the FDNY foundation. Traditionally in the past, the idea was to work one job and one career your entire life but in today's world people have multiple careers.” Reaves added.
Reaves further noted that going into the mayoral race has brought her numerous attacks and acknowledges that odds are not stacked in her favor.
“I am an underdog. This won’t stop me because I want to change the conversation and that’s at the heart of why I am doing this. I propose serious policies that can positively impact NYC, our home. Our taxes pay their salaries; we must demand to see returns. We have to hold them accountable for what they have done, or more accurately, what they refuse to do, to prevent New York City from falling into ruin. Yes, the odds are stacked against me. I do not have millions to throw at this race, but what I do have is a deep connection to community and a clear vision of my beloved City’s present and future. And that’s more than any of the others standing on that stage, so, yes, I am running.” she said.
“The next NYC mayor will set many precedents in their term, most obvious being setting up a post-Pandemic city. If their priorities lie with real world solutions and policies New York City will rise, but if smart policies are not prioritized it will only consolidate our current weaknesses for four years, making it exponentially harder for the following mayor in 2027 to effect positive change.
“The sun has not set on New York City. In fact, that simple statement sums up the entire history of New York City: We fall into difficulties and then we rise above them. This is the classic New York story. It’s the New York spirit. That’s what inspires the new-comer. We are resilient in the face of tragedy and move forward with bravery. We will move forward. We are a concentration of the best and brightest people in the world, we are overflowing with talent. I am confident we can come together and rise above if we choose clear, confident, uncorrupted leaders. It is in the hands of New Yorkers in 2021 when they vote. It takes a little vision and tough love to move forward.” concluded Reaves.
Julia Qing Reaves is certainly a candidate to watch, particularly in a contest reshaped by pandemic and lacking a clear and popular option. Despite her age and lack of political experience, Julia Qing Reaves may be the breath of post-Covid air that New York City needs to truly come back to life.