Opinion: Why our community needs to vote Democratic to save itself

By Mark P. Thompson, president of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club

In the past Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were known as one of the state’s most important voting blocs. Where else could a candidate stand on a street corner for a few hours and greet thousands of people who knew about all the issues of the day and were definitely voting? Big turnouts – even in ho-hum races – forced politicians to pay attention to our needs, coming to us for support and making sure that our opinions were taken into account. Our City Council member and state representatives had a special respect for us, as did  others; they all knew that the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper “squeaky wheel” voting bloc needed to be respected.

But what has happened? The number of voters here has declined, partially due to the changing demographic of our local population, partially due to the apathy that has struck voters everywhere.  But why is it so critical that all of us vote in this election – and that we vote on the Democratic line rather than one of the splinter party lines? It’s because our homes are threatened;  the ability to afford growing rents is being slashed away by an aggressive landlord’s MCIs and other fees, and various public agencies allow it all to happen. It’s because the predators are circling overhead, hoping to buy and alter the community forever. It’s because if we don’t vote and show that we are a unified force to be reckoned with, the city, state and feds will write us off as just another disinterested bunch of people who can always rattle some chains but don’t vote and therefore doesn’t deserve more attention than some needier people in another borough.

But what is really at stake here? No, it’s not just reelecting someone to office and voting against some redistricting proposition hidden on the flip side of the ballot. It’s about sending a firm message to our elected representatives – and others who should also be listening to us – that we demand they protect our homes, keep our streets safe, encourage businesses to  open and stay open, help our seniors with supportive programs, and improve our schools.

The best way we can protect our interests is to show that people in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are important and care by voting. When voting, you will have a choice among several parties on the ballot. It’s important to vote in the Democratic column. This gives the leadership of New York’s leading party proof that we demand its attention; since candidates have always been elected through the Democratic line it’s important to throw our weight there rather than with one of the splinter groups that won’t have any elected candidates.

Beyond the actual decision of which candidate wins, the vote totals are used to calculate a ariety of other functions. Over the years, as voter turnout has declined and votes were siphoned off to other parties, our neighborhood has gradually lost its voice to other communities. With a bigger Democratic backing, our elected representatives, including our Democrat City Council Member Dan Garodnick (former president of the Tilden Democrat Club), will have the ability to use a strong showing to fight for us, and our other elected officials (all Democrats) will need to take more notice of us.

How can we as a community remain relevant and regain our stature, so that our government actually works for us instead of ignoring us? We must vote on Tuesday. We must encourage our friends and neighbors – especially those who claim it’s not important – to vote for our Democratic candidates in the Democratic column. It’s our best chance at protecting our community.

Maloney writing memoir

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney with a giant panda named Han Han during a recent trip to China

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney with a giant panda named Han Han during a recent trip to China

This article ran in Town & Village on August 28, 2014, but wasn’t online. An interview with Maloney’s challenger Nicholas Di iorio can be found here. Election Day is Tuesday, November 4.

By Sabina Mollot

After 22 years in Congress, Carolyn Maloney could write a book about everything she’s seen in Washington. So that’s what she’s doing.

Though the memoir hasn’t yet been shopped to publishers, the Democrat has some experience in that department, having written a self-help book for women in the workplace, Rumors of Our Success Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, which was published by Rodale in 2008.

The book she’s currently working on, titled Tales from the Front Line, will be about her own experience in Congress, which should certainly provide plenty of material.

A staunch advocate of gun control, Maloney received a death threat last year over legislation she authored that would require gun owners to get liability insurance. (Upstate Elmira resident Ronald Buchanan, the man who made the threat over the phone, has since been charged with the crime.)

She’s also had a few significant political victories that will no doubt be shared, the most recent being the Chinese government’s agreeing to allow two giant pandas to come to a New York zoo to live.

Maloney, who’s running for reelection against Republican Nicholas Di iorio, a former seminary student, discussed some of her career highlights as well as some frustrations during an interview with Town & Village this week. This is when she also mentioned the book, though she didn’t get into specifics of what would be in it.

As for the panda acquisition, which has captured the attention of the press along with that of Di iorio (who didn’t think that should have been the Congresswoman’s priority during Israel’s incursion into Gaza), it was the result of a trip to China earlier this month. Maloney has defended the trip, saying it was also aimed at trade and educational exchange. Since getting the approval from the Chinese, via a government letter, Maloney’s also gotten request letters from American officials in the Rochester, Seneca and Catskills areas who would like custody of the pair of cuddly creatures.

“So everyone wants the pandas,” said Maloney, who would personally prefer to see them headed to The Bronx Zoo. “I think pandas are good luck and we’ve had too many hard hits lately, Sandy, 9/11, the housing crisis. I think every one of the schoolchildren in New York would love to see them.”

Maloney also noted another recent win, which is that she’s just secured $300 million in federal funding for work on a high speed rail between New York and Boston.

“It’s pleasant, it’s fast. It runs 200 miles per hour,” she said. Originally, she admitted, she would have preferred a high speed rail between New York and Washington, but that would have been next to impossible due to all the eminent domain that would have been needed. But Boston was doable and the money was there after it was rejected by some state governors (including New Jersey’s Chris Christie) for a similar, but even more sweeping project suggested by the president five years ago.

When that happened, Maloney pounced. “I said, let’s go after that money,’” she said. “And Governor Cuomo, to his credit, joined us.”

Transit improvement has always been a priority for the congresswoman, for job creation as well as for the infrastructural improvements.

“The unemployment rate for New York is 7.4 percent,” said Maloney. “We have to have a government plan for creating jobs.”

She’s long been the biggest champion of the Second Avenue Subway (soon to start its second phase) and East Side Access projects. Another recent job for the tri-borough pol (her district now includes part of Brooklyn as well as parts of Manhattan and Queens) was getting $670 million for modernization of the Kosciuszko Bridge. The bridge connects Greenpoint, Brooklyn with Maspeth, Queens, and the project includes adding more lanes.

As far as accomplishments in her district are concerned, Maloney noted that since she’s been in office, she’s been instrumental in the opening of six residences built for low-income seniors in Queens, and fought to maintain affordable housing, in particular at Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Most recently, this was by way of her reintroduction of legislation, first authored in 2010, aimed at preventing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from providing financing to deals that reduce rather than protect affordable housing.

She’s since admitted she doesn’t think she can get it passed any time soon, but added, “I’m not giving up until I do. It’s a reasonable bill.”

On education, she’s supported the opening of six new schools in her district and is a believer in charters.

“I support charter schools, but I don’t think they’re the answer to our entire school system,” she said. “We have to support public schools, which serve the vast majority of students. Parents and children should have choices of schools.”

Maloney said she’s running on her record, and her support for certain issues, including affordable housing, consumers’ rights, gun control and women’s rights can’t be disputed. In 2004, her anti-rape legislation, the Debbie Smith Act, which went towards providing better training for first responders in sexual assault cases, was passed. In 2008, it was reauthorized to allocate $151 million a year (from 2009-2014).

“It’s been called the most important anti-rape legislation to ever be passed,” she said.

However, Maloney’s quick to admit she’s had a near impossible time getting her bills passed in recent years. In fact, she considers it tougher now to do than it’s ever been and blames it on increasing partisanship in Washington.

“The Tea Party has had the effect of shifting Republicans more to the right,” said Maloney. “The Republicans are being challenged by the Tea Party and the divide has become bigger and stronger. It used to be that we could compromise in the glorious center, but it’s been more difficult to achieve compromise.”

Still, she added, this doesn’t mean she’s given up on any of her legislation.

“I’ve had bills that took a long time to get passed,” she said, giving the Zadroga Act, which provides healthcare compensation to 9/11 first responders, and took over seven years to get signed into law, as an example. She co-authored that legislation along with Congress Members Jerrold Nadler and Peter King. Her credit cardholders’ bill of rights, which also took years to go anywhere, is now believed to save Americans a minimum of $10 billion a year in fees. Similar legislation, introduced by Maloney years ago that is aimed at reducing excessive bank overdraft fees, is still pending.

She also has not yet had luck in getting her colleagues to agree to pass a bill that would create a museum devoted to accomplishments by women, even after she promised that no federal money would be used in the project. Maloney considers the resistance to that idea to be just another example of what she’s previously blasted as a “war on women” in Washington, centered mainly on some of her colleagues’ attempts to undo protections of women’s reproductive rights.

“I think the Hobby Lobby decision was a disaster,” said Maloney, in reference to the Supreme Court decision in June that said companies could refuse to include birth control and other reproductive health services in an employee’s healthcare benefits. One of companies engaging in this policy was the chain Hobby Lobby. “There’s a constant eroding or attempt to erode fights we have already won in the past.”

As for the museum, the fact that there is currently no museum devoted to honoring women in the entire country is why Maloney considers its creation a priority. With no government backing, she said she’ll keep trying to open it anyway, “the way women do everything. By ourselves. Raise the money and make it happen.”

She added, “I work hard. They can say a lot about me, but they can’t say I don’t work hard.”

Editorial: Why Maloney’s earned another term

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney at a tenant rally in June (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

November 4 is Election Day, and while the big race for New Yorkers is the gubernatorial one, there’s also a race of local interest for the Congress seat representing the 12th District, which is much of the East Side of Manhattan, part of Queens and part of Brooklyn.

Maloney has easily held this seat since 1992 and while we think the system that keeps incumbent politicians in their positions for life if they want to stay put is not a good thing for communities, we do believe that Maloney is.

On a local level, she has proved herself as a fighter for her district. She has worked to prevent predatory equity via legislation (albeit yet to be passed) that would give more oversight to financing from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to prevent more deals like the 2006 sale of Stuyvesant Town that reduced rather than increased affordable housing.

District-wise, she’s also been a champion of transit, securing significant amounts of cash for projects like East Side Access, the Second Avenue Subway and most recently, a high speed rail between New York and Boston.
On a federal level, legislative successes have included the Creditcard Holders’ Bill of Rights, the Zadroga Act, which provided compensation to 9/11 first responders with health problems and reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act aimed at helping rape survivors.

Then there are the many bills that have failed to get passed (though Maloney said she intends to keep trying). One is the aforementioned Fannie/Freddie bill. Other bills are aimed at improving women’s rights, reproductive and at work and legislation aimed at reducing excessive bank overdraft fees. Recently introduced legislation would make sure former Nazi war criminals can no longer collect Social Security.

Maloney’s opponent, former seminary student Nicholas Di iorio, has blasted Maloney for sponsoring so much legislation that ends up on the Congress’s cutting room floor. However, it’s unfair to blame the perpetually gridlocked state of Washington on a single legislator, who has consistently voted in a way that is in line with her beliefs and in touch with the way much of her heavily democratic district thinks.
For these reasons, we endorse Carolyn Maloney.