How do you take the “man” out of Manhattan? 

You add a “mom” to it. 

Kim Watkins is running for Borough President of Manhattan under the mantra, “Momhattan.” Not only is being a mom important to her, but it is also a critical part of her campaign. Watkins believes that for too long “we have watched men make decisions for our city, avoiding responsibilities and prioritizing the protection of their own power.”  As a result, “Momhattan” demands a different way, a way in which mothers take charge in order to improve the city. As things get back to normal after the pandemic, what the city needs is someone who advocates nurture and care. To endure such a feat as the pandemic, recovery should be a primary goal.

Photo taken by Shawn Antoine II

Recently, I spoke with Watkins and she declared,  “It is time the “unconventional” takes charge. It’s the conventional that has got us in our current situation.” To combat all patriarchal norms in society is one of Watkins’ driving forces. 

Watkins is currently serving as the President of the Community Education Council (CEC3-NYC Version of School Boards) in her third two-year term. As the president of the school board, Watkins sees firsthand what does and does not work for our students.  Watkins believes in giving public schools back to the public. In other words, New York’s public school system is the largest in the nation; however, it is also the most segregated, according to Watkins. For a budget of a school system to be larger than the budget of a city is baffling.  According to the Fiscal Year Budget Summary from 2019-2020 of the City of Los Angeles, the budget totals $10.71 billion. Whilst, New York City’s public school system budget for 2020-2021 is totaled at $34 billion. Watkins is not against this budget, but she does not believe that one person should control such a large sum of money.

In her Five Point Long Term Plan, Watkins wants to abolish mayoral control in the public school system. That is, Watkins wants to bring democracy back to schools with a more democratically selected school board of the city and each district. The Five Point Long Term Plan focuses not only on abolishing mayoral control but also fighting for budget justice, fixing the school nurse and social worker shortages, bringing elected public school leaders into Borough Board Ops, and stopping the privatization of public schools. 

As remote learning comes to an end, it is interesting to see how such a drastic change in returning to school has affected students both cognitively and emotionally. Watkins believes “schools do need to open.” However, she emphasizes that public health guidelines must be followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

Throughout Watkins’ campaign, she has spoken compassionately about housing insecurity and the inhumane living conditions of public housing. According to a survey in 2018 by the American Community Survey at NYU Furman, home ownership in Manhattan is at 24%, while in Staten Island, it’s at 69%.  Home ownership leads to generational wealth, yet in black and brown communities, there is very little evidence of home ownership. Watkins sheds light on these racial disparities and has plans to eradicate such racial inequities. 

As a former auxiliary police officer, Watkins believes in reforming the NYPD. Personally, she believes the NYPD has too many responsibilities, and its immense budget should be allocated elsewhere like parks, housing, health care, and other social services. According to the Gothamist, 51% of NYPD officers live outside of New York City while 4% only live in Manhattan. Watkins believes this is a fracture in the system because those officers should not be governing or policing communities they do not live in or are not familiar with. 

With days until the election, Watkins believes her vision for Manhattan is the best. As a marathon coach for the New York Road Runners Club Team for Kids Charity, she is steadily running to the finish line this election season. She reminds us, “Run with Kim, I will not let you down.” 

For more on Kim Watkins, follow her on Instagram @watkinsforbp.

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