Candidate Name: Gustavo Rivera
Candidate for Senate District: 33 (Bronx)
Campaign Name: Gustavo Rivera for State Senate
Campaign Address: 3224 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10458
Campaign Manager: Horacio Gutierrez
If there is a Campaign office(s), is it wheelchair accessible?
How have you incorporated people with disabilities into your campaign?
My campaign has just gotten off the ground. We are moving into an office this weekend and are working with the superintendent to make sure it is accessible for individuals with disabilities so that all members of the community are welcome to our headquarters. I have sought to incorporate people with disabilities through the policies I am advocating for. And I've made it clear to my staff that interns, volunteers, and paid workers will reflect a brought spectrum of the people of my district and New York in general. We are welcoming individuals with disabilities into our campaign to help us beat Pedro Espada.
If you are not an incumbent,
Is your present office/work place accessible to people with disabilities? If not, what have you done to rectify the inaccessibility?
We have not yet moved into our office, and are working with the super to mitigate the inaccessibility due to stairs at the entrance.
If the present district office is inaccessible, do you intend to find an accessible office?
As the 33rd Senate District, is a large district, best covered by two campaign offices in ground-floor commercial space. We recently accepted the use of donated office space, even though it is not accessible. We will ensure that our second office is fully accessible, and, if elected, will not use the Grand Concourse space as a district office unless the issue with the entry stairs is resolved.
What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities in your personal life and in the workplace?
From 2003-2006, I was on the staff of State Senate Democratic Leader David Paterson, now Governor Paterson. I saw firsthand the daily challenges then-Senator Paterson faced as someone who is legally blind. But more importantly, I witnessed the Senator's extraordinary abilities, and the fact that he would refuse to allow his disability to get in the way of his work. Nor would he allow his staff to treat him
"differently." Reasonable accommodations allowed him to perform his duties, and from that experience I learned that a disability shouldn't hold anyone back from being a productive member of society. The fact that Mr. Paterson has served as the highest official in the state is truly an inspiration.
What type of jobs would you be willing to hire and to provide reasonable accommodation (e.g. flex or part time) for staff members with disabilities?
If elected, all of the positions in my office will be available to members of the disability community, from Chief of Staff on down. My experience working in David Paterson's office tells me that there is no conflict between having individuals with disabilities on staff and hiring the most qualified people for the position. I would ensure that all means of reasonable accommodation are utilized, including flex or part time.
While in public office and/or prior to this campaign, what have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process?
Throughout my career, I've worked for progressive candidates and elected officials who have fully supported disability rights - people like Council Members Phil Reed, Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Senators Jose Marco Serrano, John Sabini, Andrea Stewart Cousins, United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and President Barack Obama. They share my values on housing, transportation, employment, health care, education - and all have fought for the rights of people with disabilities.
Will you commit to only attend and/or sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters, as well as ensuring that locations are accessible to people who use mobility aids, like wheelchairs and walkers?
Do you pledge to use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections to persons with disabilities?
How do you propose your active involvement/availability to the disability community?
Will there be a specific person in your office responsible to this community?
Yes - I will have an outreach coordinator on staff whose job it will be to liaise with the disability community.
Will have regular office agenda meetings on these issues?
What would you do to have direct contact with our community?
Besides the above, I will hold regular meetings with members of the disability community to discuss policy, issues, legislation, etc.
How will you work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation? What will be your strategy?
I will work with groups like the 504 Democrats to sponsor and pass legislation that meets the needs of people with disabilities. My strategy will be the same as it will be for all the issues that I value: where possible, I will try to make my colleagues see the light. And if not, I will help to turn up the heat to bring the change we need.
How would you change the laws of New York State to protect the rights of its citizens with disabilities?
I take seriously the principles of equal opportunity for all and equal protection of the laws for all. I will enact legislation that ensures equal opportunity for citizens with disabilities. I also applaud the State Senate for the recent passage of the most sweeping legislation to ensure equal protection of the law and equal treatment for all. The legislation expands of polling locations that follow the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities act, provides equality for those with physical disabilities in regards to fares for public transportation, holds insurance companies accountable for their lack of timeliness in reimbursing those who purchase their wheelchairs out of pocket, and ensures those with disabilities are not discriminated against when seeking services from public entities.
But protecting civil rights is not just a matter of having laws on the books, but also enforcing them. It is important that any and all laws regarding accessibility have appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. As a State Senator, I will fight to make sure that these laws are ENFORCED.
While the State is focused on reducing the costs of Medicaid and other programs, persons with disabilities need to continue to have access to the services and supports they need and choose.
Would you oppose proposals which would negatively affect eligibility, benefits, coverage, and/or access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries and eliminate the systemic bias that leads to unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions?
I oppose cutting Medicaid services to people with disabilities who need this support. We will have to make tough budget choices this year and next - but I don't believe in balancing the budget on the backs of our neediest constituents.
Would you seek to promote comprehensive long term care reform that will not reduce coverage or access to services?
Yes, I would promote such reform.
Would you increase rental/housing subsidies to participants in the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Medicaid waiver program?
In principle, I am in favor of increasing rental and housing subsidies to participants in this program. Budgetary restraints in the current fiscal crisis may pose problems for an increase, however I certainly will fight against any cuts to subsidies.
Would you expand Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) to provide the same level of eligibility and coverage to persons with disabilities under age 65?
In principle, I am in favor of expanding the EPIC program.
Will you support moving funds from nursing homes to moving patients out of nursing homes and back into the community?
We are in the midst of a housing crisis. Accessible, affordable housing is in short supply. People with disabilities are being priced out of the market. Do you support the creation of a housing trust fund for persons with disabilities?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires housing developers to set aside a certain percentage of accessible units for persons with disabilities when federal funds are used for construction. Do you favor incorporating these provisions into State law so that the Department of Housing and Community Renewal can be empowered to enforce these provisions?
Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to
"age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of
"visitability" in the New York State Building Code?
At present: SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) Household income cap is $29,000. DRIE (Disabled Rent Increase Exemption) is $19,284/single and $27,780/2 or more. What is your position on increasing DRIE income eligibility to match SCRIE?
In principle, I favor increasing DRIE to match the income cap of SCRIE.
While localities have acquired voting machines that attempt to meet the accessibility standards of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), many poling places in New York State remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Do you favor the elimination of provisions in Section 4-104 (1-a) of the New York State Election Law allowing waiver of polling place accessibility standards?
Despite Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with disabilities face problems when pursuing higher education. These statutes do not specify how students should request accommodations or assistance in asserting their rights under the law. Will you support a fully funded office of disability services on each SUNY and CUNY campus to assist students with disabilities in securing accommodations?
Yes. I've worked with CUNY students for 11 years and understand the importance of access to public education for all New Yorkers. Although it often does not work in practice, the NYC Department of Education has a process in place for student advocacy and parental involvement in managing IEPs and 504 accommodations. Most college students are young people negotiating bureaucracies on their own as adults for the first time, so it is doubly important to ensure that there is a process in place to ensure the accommodations and assistance to which students with disabilities are legally entitled.
How do you propose dealing with school districts that deny civil rights to disabled students even after the Sate Division of Civil Rights affirms the student's rights such as to use a service animal?
School districts must comply with the laws of the state, and as State Senator I will do all I can to make sure all school districts meet their obligations under law with regard to service animals or any other accommodation or face legal challenges and the possibility of losing education funds. Schools also must ensure that staff-based accommodations such as readers, writers and extra time are readily available for all whose IEPs or 504 plans require them.
Do you support legislation requiring car services, and shuttle services to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles or otherwise ensure that they have the capacity to serve persons with disabilities?
I support ensuring that all of our transportation services have the capacity to serve persons with disabilities.
Will you or do you support Assembly Member Kellner's proposed bill requiring New York City to transition to a 100% accessible taxi fleet?
Persons with disabilities have historically been under-represented within the Democratic Party leadership. According to the 2000 census, persons with disabilities comprised 20.6% of New York State residents and 23.1% of those 18 years and older. Previously, we were told that only those groups included in the Voting Rights Act were included in the goals and timetables for delegate selection. Yet the lesbian and gay communities were included for the first time at the 2000 convention and again at the 2004 and 2010 conventions. Would you support a campaign to set a goal that 10% of the total New York State Delegation to the 2012 Democratic National Convention be comprised of persons with disabilities.