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Q&A With Yuh-Line Niou: NY-10 Democratic Congressional Candidate Isn’t Afraid To Battle For Progress

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Q&A With Yuh-Line Niou: NY-10 Democratic Congressional Candidate Isn’t Afraid To Battle For Progress


NEW YORK — New York State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D) is used to creating highly effective enemies — even in her personal celebration. Niou received her state legislative seat by ousting an establishment incumbent in 2016, and has not hesitated to tackle fellow Democrats when she felt they had been betraying the celebration’s progressive beliefs. She has had high-profile disputes with then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and then-New York Metropolis Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), and already had variations with their respective successors.

On account of her outspokenness, the decrease Manhattan lawmaker even elicited a self-funded centrist main challenger in 2020, whom she easily defeated.

Niou ― whose full title is pronounced “You Lean New” ― is hoping to proceed her profitable streak within the Democratic main for New York’s new tenth Congressional District on Aug. 23. The predominantly liberal seat encompasses decrease Manhattan and a cluster of contiguous neighborhoods in central and South Brooklyn.

HuffPost is operating an interview sequence with the tenth District candidates. Try our earlier interview with Bill de Blasio.

Niou, who immigrated to the US from Taiwan as a baby, could be the primary openly autistic member of Congress and the second-ever Asian American to symbolize New York in Washington. She can be a former bartender, an enthusiastic karaoke participant, and an avid reader of science fiction-themed graphic novels.

Niou’s standing as a progressive star has already helped her land endorsements from the New York Working Households Get together, the New York Metropolis chapter of the local weather action-focused Dawn Motion, and democratic socialist state Sen. Julia Salazar (D).

However she is competing in a subject of at the least 15 Democrats that features de Blasio, New York Metropolis Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D), who had $2.9 million available on the finish of March.

HuffPost interviewed Niou earlier this month over ice cream and dumplings in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. We requested her about her causes for operating, housing coverage and the significance of Asian American illustration.

The interview has been edited for readability and size.

New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D), left, and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D), a friend who is now also running for Congress, speak at a 2019 rally for the presidential campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).
New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D), left, and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D), a good friend who’s now additionally operating for Congress, communicate at a 2019 rally for the presidential marketing campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).

It is a once-in-a-generation alternative to symbolize an open congressional seat in New York.

We’re attempting to symbolize people who’ve by no means been represented on the congressional degree earlier than. There’s an absence of illustration on the federal degree, by way of range, by way of lens, and by way of perspective. We have to have loads of completely different sorts of lenses in order that we will have higher coverage. That’s how we make good coverage.

I’m hoping that we will have this chance for all of our communities to have illustration.

I’ve clearly served for six years within the Meeting. And I really feel prefer it was one thing that was missing on the Meeting degree.

Now clearly, we have to struggle greater than ever on the congressional degree. We’re seeing that we’re shedding not simply our bodily autonomy, but additionally a lot of our rights. We have to make it possible for we now have people who find themselves brave on this second, to struggle for us. My district, my neighborhood requested me to struggle and so I’m combating.

You appear to be you’d be a pure addition to the “Squad,” since you’re type of part of the state Capitol “Squad” in Albany. Do you aspire to be a part of that ultra-progressive bloc of fighters?

I must symbolize my folks. My district could be very, very progressive. There’s loads of stances that we now have to take to make it possible for we now have the voices of our constituents represented. I’ll say that over and time and again.

However it’s not as simple as in, “Oh, that is going to be the perspective of this group, or that group.” And really, each single individual that you simply discuss to could have completely different views, and completely different lenses that they’re seeing issues via.

It’s important to perceive that there’s no mistaken or proper, or “that is one of the best ways” or “that is the worst approach.” It’s about attempting to determine what are a number of the issues that make these points so necessary to folks, after which determining tips on how to finest problem-solve.

All people’s perspective is necessary. All people’s perspective is legitimate. And that’s why it’s so enjoyable to have the ability to perceive the place issues are turning, in order that we will have higher solutions.

“One in 4 Asian People right here in our metropolis reside in poverty, and other people don’t notice that.”

– New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D)

Let’s take Chinatown for example. What is a matter for which you suppose the neighborhood wants higher advocacy on the federal degree?

For instance, language entry is humongous, however folks don’t ever give it some thought.

The federal authorities may do quite a bit on all of our types, on its web sites. I nonetheless keep in mind seeing the indicators for tips on how to entry assist after 9/11 — none of it was translated, and our neighborhood was all affected up right here. They didn’t know that they may go and get the sufferer compensation or they didn’t know that they may go and ask for medical assist. It’s not on the market.

It was actually necessary for us to go that language access bill offering translation for all state company web sites. On the state degree, that was one of many largest issues that I labored on. Language entry could be very, quite common sense stuff, however folks don’t notice that as a result of there’s no lens to see that it will get left on the desk.

It helps everybody. After we are speaking about each difficulty, we must be speaking about it as a incapacity difficulty, as a result of each difficulty is a incapacity difficulty, whether or not it’s housing, schooling — all of it. All people ought to have entry, really. If we’re constructing a ramp to make it possible for we will get in to exhausting locations, isn’t that simpler for [people without disabilities too]?

One in 4 Asian People right here in our metropolis reside in poverty, and other people don’t notice that. That makes it probably the most impoverished ethnic group in the whole metropolis. It’s additionally simply actually, actually unhappy as a result of we even have the least quantity of entry to advantages. Not as a result of they don’t already qualify. It’s as a result of they don’t have language entry. They don’t know tips on how to apply. They don’t know tips on how to get it.

What Home committees would you wish to be on in case you have the possibility?

I’ve all the time been an anti-poverty advocate. I labored quite a bit on stopping predatory lending. I truly helped to control the payday lending business in Washington State once I was a lot youthful. After which over right here, clearly, we prohibit payday lending as a complete. However we even have seen that there are individuals who have tried to legalize payday lending via the again door with verify cashing companies. We tried to place collectively one other legislative part into how they lend.

So I’d most likely need to be on committees that take care of monetary providers, banking and housing points. I’m such a giant proponent of public housing.

Niou chats with Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), center, and state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D), left. She is part of a new crop of progressive New York lawmakers.
Niou chats with Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), heart, and state Senate Deputy Majority Chief Michael Gianaris (D), left. She is a part of a brand new crop of progressive New York lawmakers.

Hans Pennink/Related Press

Particularly on the problem of housing, what do you suppose the federal authorities can do higher?

Totally funding our public housing and ensuring that our public housing will not be dilapidated. There have been actually many years of disinvestment to our public housing and sadly that devastated our housing inventory in a approach that’s exponential. So if you happen to’re not taking good care of one factor, then each different factor will worsen and worse — lead paint, lack of scorching water, lack of skill to care for the mildew remediation state of affairs. We’d like round $70 billion simply to fill the opening in public housing for our state.

What do you consider any individual coming in from the suburbs to run?

I like Mondaire [Jones] quite a bit. I fought for him in his election. I made requires him with [the] Dawn [Movement].

It’s a democracy. Anybody can run. However I do suppose that’s going to be as much as the voters.

What about Invoice de Blasio?

He’s a pleasant man. I’ve met him a pair occasions. We now have a few issues that we disagree on — loads of the issues he tried to do in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is oversaturated — all communities of coloration are oversaturated — with shelters, jails, providers that the entire metropolis is benefiting from.

You additionally see the bodily lack of funding if you’re strolling round right here. We needed to stroll virtually 5 blocks [just now] to get to a trash can.

Is that why you opposed the Haven Inexperienced housing growth, which claims to supply reasonably priced housing?

I opposed it as a result of they offered a plan that didn’t have any reasonably priced housing — that was really reasonably priced, deeply reasonably priced. The unique plan additionally didn’t have loads of longevity to the proposal — like only a few years. So we needed to push again.

And on prime of that, if you happen to’re taking away a public good, you need to get a public good in return — a everlasting public good in return. And this housing isn’t everlasting. It’s 60 years after which it’s opened as much as privatization. It’s actually necessary that we even have everlasting affordability.

We have already got an absence of inexperienced house down right here. Individuals have a tough time. Individuals stated, “Oh, my God! The place are the children going to play?” Sure, we’re a concrete jungle and we don’t hate density. We now have density. It’s all about ensuring that we are literally balancing all the wants of our constituents, the people who find themselves residing down right here.

I’ll say that the plans have gotten higher resulting from the truth that we pushed again. I believe that it may nonetheless get higher. If town actually wished it to be reasonably priced, they may say that it’s going to stay reasonably priced for 99 years and that signifies an intention to make it everlasting.

“The U.S. does have sure quantities of energy that it ought to train when there are dangerous issues which can be occurring the world over.”

– Assemblywoman Yuh-Lin Niou (D)

Would you’ve gotten voted for the latest city budget — or joined the six progressive council members who voted in opposition to it?

I completely would have voted in opposition to it.

The federal price range gave us extra schooling funding resulting from COVID. The state lastly fulfilled its funding obligations. That’s billions of {dollars}. And I don’t perceive why town then minimize schooling. I don’t perceive it.

I’ve voted “no” on budgets earlier than. However I’m not voting “no” flippantly. I do it as a result of generally we have to take a stand to make issues higher.

You’ve spoken out quite a bit about acts of violence in opposition to members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander neighborhood. Why has there been a rise in anti-Asian violence? What do you suppose may be accomplished to reverse it?

On the federal degree, our leaders had been completely OK with demonizing Asian People, blaming the pandemic on us, utilizing stereotypes which have been regurgitated over and time and again after many years to hurt us. It’s straightforward to make use of these issues as a result of Asian People have traditionally been demonized. That’s the type of stuff that Trump was doing and loads of our Congress members had been saying.

That’s why it’s so necessary that we now have people who find themselves talking out in opposition to it, and combating in opposition to it.

There’s a fairly numerous array of views throughout the Asian American neighborhood about legislation enforcement. What’s your perspective about it? Is there a legislation enforcement part to addressing this difficulty?

Once more, it’s about illustration. We solely have two high-ranking officers of Asian descent in the whole NYPD. And considered one of them, Thomas Chan, retired.

How are we serving our neighborhood? Are they really policing in a approach that’s useful or dangerous?

There’s an absence of illustration there and till there’s a system that’s going to assist us to have the ability to have issues in perspective, then it’s not one which’s servicing our neighborhood.

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, center, speaks at a gathering of New York state lawmakers rallying against then-President Donald Trump's immigration policies in 2018.
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, heart, speaks at a gathering of New York state lawmakers rallying in opposition to then-President Donald Trump’s immigration insurance policies in 2018.

Hans Pennink/Related Press

What do you make of conservatives’ argument that the 2019 bail reform legislation has contributed to an uptick in violent crime?

There’s a purposeful story that they need to make about bail reform, which isn’t true. Bail reform is about ensuring that there’s not two felony justice methods — one for the wealthy, and one for the poor. It doesn’t imply that they’re not then nonetheless having to go to courtroom and nonetheless may get charged or any of these issues. It simply means the distinction between sitting on Rikers Island ready for trial versus staying house and ready for trial.

One factor you hear generally is that possibly judges ought to have extra instruments to disclaim folks bail, reminiscent of figuring out whether or not somebody is “dangerous.”

The phrase “harmful” in a bail willpower context has racist roots. “Dangerousness” and the willpower of “dangerousness” is racist, as a result of generally a decide will see one thing that may be a subjective feeling of, “That is extra harmful.” That’s why it’s not authorized language.

Judges have judicial discretion, simply as they all the time have. Individuals ought to most likely take into consideration what it’s that judges are doing, not the legislation itself being the problem.

Do you suppose that there’s any room for frequent floor with Republicans in Congress?

We may most likely come to some frequent floor with regards to shopper safety points, even some banking or labor practices.

However I believe that that’s most likely not going to be the identical perspective with regards to abortion rights, or well being care. There’s a really distinct distinction in what we predict is necessary.

After we had been speaking concerning the Adult Survivors Act [enabling more adults to pursue justice for sexual abuse endured as children], we noticed loads of pushback from Republicans. They stated we had been attempting to bankrupt the church. I needed to step up and say, “None of that is about bankrupting church buildings or establishments. It’s about defending children.” My sharing my own experience of abuse made it in order that lots of people ended up voting for it that wouldn’t have in any other case.

One factor that you simply’ll get an opportunity to work on in Congress that you simply didn’t take care of in Albany is international coverage. America not too long ago gave $40 billion in aid to Ukraine and the one folks to vote in opposition to it had been Republicans. However some folks on the left are involved about extra navy spending, and escalated American involvement in conflicts. What are your ideas?

I’m by no means any individual who says, “We must be going to warfare.” However I do suppose that the U.S. does have sure quantities of energy that it ought to train when there are dangerous issues which can be occurring the world over.

Our authorities does should make these exhausting choices quite a bit. And I believe that there’s most likely info that I personally don’t know in how folks made sure choices. It’s actually necessary to have that info for making these choices.

Does that imply you’re unsure whether or not you’d assist the help bundle with out extra info?

An unlawful invasion of one other nation by a world superpower, by which there are civilians killed, harmless folks — there must be one thing for the world to say about that. However it’s actually necessary that we see the results and perceive the results that we now have every time we intrude with one thing overseas or insert our energy. It ought to all the time be for humanitarian causes and never only for ourselves.





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