In the past few months, Doug Biviano’s grassroots campaign as a reform candidate has picked up considerable steam. Biviano has strived to set himself apart from the three ‘machine’ candidates, Steven Levin, Jo Anne Simon, and Evan Theis, emphasizing his lack of ties to special interests. The major tenants of Biviano’s campaign include health care reform, affordable housing, and money for schools, senior centers, and other public institutions. Biviano insists on looking at the broader context, seeing problems such as military spending, special interest groups, and corruption on both a local and national level as issues which play out in local communities in real ways. A Brooklyn native, Biviano lives with his wife and three children in Brooklyn Heights.
Biviano received his B.S. and Master’s degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University and has worked in environmental and geotechnical engineering. Biviano is a public school parent (his children attend P.S. 8), and a Brooklynite who is in danger of losing his current job as a superintendant because his employers are looking to cut costs associated with health insurance.
“This is the price we’re paying to have a culture and a local leadership who won’t talk about the broader issues,” Biviano said. “Right now, more than anything, we need somebody who’s going to be honest about the tough times ahead. We need leaders who aren’t taking the money, who stand up and make sure we find every last dime to pay for EMS, senior centers, and schools. We need to make sure we maintain our class sizes. This is the kind of conversation we need to be having.”
“My family, everybody’s family, they need a future,” Biviano said. “I’m for a government that serves the people instead of special interests. What we’re seeing at every level of government is a failure of leadership. On the national level you can see it coming out with healthcare reform. They are so bought and sold by the health care industry and the for profit hospital industry that what we’re going to get is not what we need. We’re going to get tax payer-subsidized private profit for the health care companies instead of a single- payer system.”
Biviano believes his expertise and advantage is rooted in his practical and real-world experience, free from political ambitions and special interest ties. Running for council member in a district where development contracts and affordable housing are major issues, Biviano emphasizes his engineering experience and his ability to understand building and development issues, do away with special interests and inflated contracts from developers, and cut costs by knowing how to do more with less.
“Housing and real estate—they’re anchored to your real income. When a government allows developers to come in and drive up these prices so people are paying 50% or more of their incomes to live, it’s criminal. It drives people out of these communities that they’ve spent their lives in.”
When it comes to affordable housing, Biviano dismisses talk of ten percent ratios and inclusionary zoning, and instead cites housing projects such as Mitchell-Lama as models which could be updated to meet needs today.
“Mitchell-Lama was a huge success. Why doesn’t anybody talk about it? Because there’s no profit in it for these major developers,” Biviano said. “Instead of delivering to the community, it comes down to a whole system that’s corrupt through and through.”
Biviano has worked hard to establish a presence in his community, setting up his campaign office on bustling Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights and keeping his door open to passersby. In the past few months he has hosted an “Open Door Series” at his office, providing a space for members of the community to discuss issues immigration and health care reform. Biviano was also responsible for the reopening of Squibb Park for the students of P.S. 8, coming up with a low-cost, environmentally friendly solution to renovate the park and gathering almost 800 signatures from the community in support.
“Everybody’s in it so much for themselves that very few politicians are working on behalf of the people. I come from a different place. Life can be so wonderful without making a million dollars. Like last Friday, going out with my family and coming home with a bucket full of clams. Most of those things are free,” Biviano said.
“Who do you want to be broken down on the side of the road with? I think a guy like me. Who do you want to be in this economy with? I think a guy like me. Because I can do more with less. And I’m going to do it. That’s where I come from. I don’t need to do it for my own advancement. We need somebody who’s going to help the community right now, and I’m going to do it. I’ve got the tools to do it.”