"We should expand the use of rent regulation in New York."

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

NYU Wagner, 295 Lafayette Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012

The Century Foundation and NYU Wagner are proud to present Debates of the Century @NYU Wagner, a public debate series showcasing thoughtful, informed dialogue from leading experts.

Is the rent really too damn high? Could expanding rent regulations be a part of the long-term solution both in NYC and across New York state? Or are such measures not a one-size-fits-all solution, that actually get in the way of producing much-needed housing stock and impair housing quality—exacerbating the affordability crisis?

The livestream below will begin at the time of the event.

This Debate Features:

Click to expand for biographies.

Afua Atta-Mensah joined the Community Voices Heard team in September 2016 as the Executive Director. Prior to joining  as the Executive Director, Afua served on the Community Voices Heard board. From her work in Ghana, West Africa to the urban centers across America, Afua has worked to improve the quality and quantity of fair and equitable housing, defend racial and social justice initiatives, and galvanize support for programs benefiting low-income families.

She was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship in support of her work at the International Federation of Women Attorneys (FIDA) advocating on behalf of indigent women in Ghana. During her tenure at FIDA Afua represented indigent women in court and was a visiting university lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology , where she taught a course on women’s rights in the context of Ashanti-tribal law.

Afua and her husband are proud residents of Central Harlem. She is the mother of  two children and holds a law degree from Fordham Univ. School of Law, and a BA in Sociology and Africana from Trinity College.  

Pronouns: She/Her


Rafael E. Cestero is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), and a member of its board of directors. He joined CPC in 2012 as the company was going through a challenging restructuring and recapitalization process. Cestero worked with the company’s Board of Directors and Executive Management to implement a strategy that effectively resolved CPC’s portfolio, and returned its focus to the core mission investing in housing that create a positive impact on the physical, social and economic infrastructure of communities. 

Today CPC is a leading nonprofit affordable housing and community revitalization finance company, and the largest Community Development Financial Institution in the nation that focuses solely on investing in multifamily housing. CPC provides a full suite of capital products throughout its construction lending, Agency lending, and equity investing platforms. Since its founding in 1974, the company has leveraged more than $10 billion in private and public investment to finance more than 193,000 units of multifamily housing.

From February 2009 to April 2011, Cestero served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the largest municipal affordable housing development and housing code enforcement agency in the country. As HPD commissioner, he simultaneously served as chairman of the board for the New York City Housing Development Corporation, the nation’s largest municipal Housing Finance Agency. During his tenure, Cestero helped implement and oversee Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multi-billion dollar initiative to finance the creation and preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing. Before taking the helm at HPD, Cestero was the agency’s Deputy Commissioner of Development. 

Cestero has also held leadership positions at L+M Development Partners as Managing Director, at Enterprise Community Partners as Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer, and at the Enterprise Foundation as Director of New York Programs.

A native of Rochester, New York, Cestero received a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy Analysis from Cornell University, and earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Michael Alexander Blake is a Visiting Distinguished Urbanist and Adjunct Professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He was born and raised in The Bronx, New York and is a son of Jamaican immigrants.

Michael is serving in his third term as a New York State Assembly Member representing the 79th District in The Bronx, New York.  Michael is also a candidate for U.S. Congress – 15th District in New York.  

Blake helped lead the efforts to create the first and only statewide My Brother’s Keeper education program in the country, now totaling more than $56 million in three years. Moreover, Blake helped lead the charge to Raise The Age of criminal responsibility so that 16 and 17 year olds are not tried as adults in criminal court, increased funding for New York City public housing, continued to fund Diversity in Medicine medical scholarships, and had his signature piece of legislation signed into law for Small, Minority, and Women owned Business Enterprises with less than 300 employees who contract with New York state get paid in 15 days instead of 30.

Blake is a Vice Chair at Large of the Democratic National Committee helping lead efforts in engaging with millennials, communities of color, local elected candidates and training. Blake has traveled to 31 states and to Japan since the DNC election in February 2017 and participated in activities ranging from candidate trainings to mobilizing base communities across the country.

Blake is a new Five Year Term Member fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow.  He is a national Honorary Co-Chair of the New Leaders Council, which has trained more than 7,000 millennials in progressive policies and political organizing. He is a licensed minister in the United Methodist Church and African Methodist Episcopal church. Blake is on the board for iVOTE, served as a 2016 Resident fellow at the Harvard University Institute of Politics and recently was an advisory board member for the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. Blake is a proud alum of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. 

In early 2007, Blake joined then Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign as the Iowa Deputy Political Director and Constituency Outreach Director. In his 20 month campaign tenure, Blake concluded as the Michigan Deputy State Director for the general election. After the election, Blake joined the White House staff as the Associate Director of Public Engagement and Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs coordinating outreach to the African American, Minority and Women Business Enterprises and state and county elected official communities.  Blake left the White House to serve as the National Deputy Director of Operation Vote for President Obama’s 2012 re-election and helped expand the diverse electorate that later re-elected the president, leading to historic turnout among constituencies nationwide.

This series is presented by: