Indiana Jones he ain’t

STEVE SANDERS

STEVE SANDERS

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Do you recall the “Indiana Jones” movies from the 1980’s? It featured that intrepid hero played by Harrison Ford who like a later day Superman fought for “truth, justice and the American way,” albeit without super human powers. Enter Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

A week ago there were a dozen potential Republican candidates for its party’s presidential nomination in 2016. This week there are eleven. Exit Governor Pence. It seems that Mike Pence forgot that famous old maxim… “never discuss religion and politics in mixed company.” That lapse in memory and judgment probably cost him his presidential ambitions.

You see, Governor Pence was the driving force behind legislation that was enacted one week ago in Indiana called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Supporters of the measure crowed that the law would allow Christian vendors in Indiana the right to refuse to provide services to same sex couples, or for that matter gay or lesbian individuals and probably others. This discrimination under the guise of exercising religious beliefs and liberties was pushed for and touted by the Tea Party and other extreme conservative groups.

Governor Pence strenuously supported this law until he became the center of a political blowback against his home state and the object of ridicule by network and national commentators. The governors of New York and Connecticut and the Mayor of Seattle even went so far as to say that they intended to ban official travel to Indiana. Now Governor Pence says that he wants the Indiana legislature to clarify that religious freedom does not include lawful discrimination against anybody.

Well, that is nice, but then what was the point of their legislation to begin with? Just who was Governor Pence trying to protect, and against whom? Was this just an April Fool’s joke?

While most places in this country, led by New York State, have been passing laws that make it clear that discrimination against persons for any reason having to do with their race, religion, cultural background or sexual orientation is illegal, Indiana tried to muddy their waters by opening the door to legal discrimination based on whether a person’s sexual orientation offended some other persons beliefs.

To be clear, no government can legislate people to love one another, or even respect each other. But neither should a government try to pass laws allowing personal prejudices to interfere with the civil rights that all Americans should enjoy without reservation or qualification.

Governor Mike Pence in promoting and defending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, only to back down in the face of national outrage, certainly was no profile in courage. In so doing he lost prestige with the right wing conservatives and forfeited support from mainstream republicans.

The cinematic Indiana Jones fought to protect civilization and uphold justice. Indiana Mike should have watched the movies.

Mayor signs legislation extending rent regulation for 3 years

Mayor de Blasio, surrounded by other elected officials, signs legislation that renews the rent laws for another three years. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

Mayor de Blasio, surrounded by other elected officials, signs legislation that renews the rent laws for another three years. (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Intro. 685, which extends the Rent Stabilization laws in New York City until April 1, 2018. The 2014 Housing Survey shows that New York City currently has a rental vacancy rate of 3.45 percent, which constitutes a housing emergency, and this legislation, the mayor said, is necessary to restrict rent increases and prevent evictions. This bill was approved by the City Council during a meeting on March 11.

“Rent regulations are vital to protecting New Yorkers from displacement and keeping our communities whole,” the mayor said in an official statement. “Renewing and strengthening rent rules is a top priority for us in Albany this session, and we will fight alongside our partners in the City Council and our delegation in the State Legislature to ensure we have the tools we need to preserve more than a million rent stabilized apartments.”

A spokesperson for the mayor noted that the legislation in no way shapes what the outcome will be in Albany in terms of parameters of the law when it comes up for renewal this June. In other words, an extension of the law in the city wouldn’t mean changes to the law potentially made later this year at the state level.

ST-PCV Tenants Association’s Al Doyle gives testimony at rent regulation extension signing

Apr2 TA Al Doyle

Al Doyle, board member of ST-PCV TA (Photo by Anne Greenberg)

The following is testimony given by Alvin Doyle in favor of enacting Intro 685, renewal of the NYC rent regulation laws for another three years, on Monday, March 30.

Good afternoon. I’m Alvin Doyle, a member of the board of directors of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association and a lifelong rent-stabilized tenant. I’m here to speak in support of Intro 685.

Our united developments contain over 11,000 apartments, and we have been ravaged by rapacious owners and others. We see our once-peaceful, stable, and affordable middle-class community being destroyed.

Vacancy deregulation is the worm within, slowly, painfully, inexorably eating away at our affordable housing stock.
As our neighbors have died or moved out, apartments have been renovated, chopped up to add so-called bedrooms, and stuffed with more adult occupants than they were designed to accommodate or that the infrastructure can support. The rest of the city will soon see this as real estate types seek to add value, as they say, to existing buildings.

By manipulating existing regulations, our owners have jacked rents up so high that they are well above market rate. I’m talking about as much as $7,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in a building that doesn’t even have a doorman. Families trying to put down roots regularly find themselves priced out of their homes and their school district. Young people have to submit to dorm-like living just to get a toehold in this town.

Mayor de Blasio, you have committed to adding 200,000 affordable units, and we applaud that. We have over 11,000 such units, and it’s far easier to preserve than to build. But we need strong laws to do this. We deeply appreciate your making the case in Albany recently. We need your political and moral leadership now to repeal vacancy deregulation, which makes apartments and communities unaffordable and New York City untenable.
We need to keep rent-stabilized apartments stabilized. No taking them out of the program by jacking up the rents and churning the tenants — no more automatic 20 percent increase every time the apartment turns over because with current landlord practices, they turn over frequently.

No more perpetual Major Capital Improvement costs. They should be surcharges, not part of the base rent. Once something is paid for, the cost should go away. It’s outrageous that tenants have to pay in perpetuity for what the landlord can depreciate. Who made that deal?

And we need to stop the landlords’ practice of renting apartments for hundreds of dollars less than the legal rent and then ambushing tenants with renewal increases of double-digit percentages. That underhanded tactic is destabilizing our community.

There should be room in every borough for New Yorkers at every income level. We can’t allow greedy real estate operators to buy off upstate officials to support their plan to turn Manhattan in particular into an enclave for the rich and absent. We want to keep the lights turned on for everyone so that we can continue to attract the young, the energetic, the creative — and house them. And we want those who have lived here all their lives to know they can stay in their homes in the city they have worked hard in and to which they have contributed so much.

East Village recovering from explosion, DA starts investigation

Firefighters work to put out last Thursday’s deadly fire. (Photo by Robert Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)

Firefighters work to put out last Thursday’s deadly fire. (Photo by Robert Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

One week ago on Thursday, three buildings on Second Avenue near East 7th Street collapsed due to an explosion and fire last Thursday that killed two people. The first two buildings to collapse were 121 and 123 Second Avenue on Thursday afternoon and the fire that followed the explosion largely gutted the third building involved, 119 Second Avenue. Firefighters at the scene demolished the parts of the building’s façade that remained standing with water on Thursday evening, The New York Times reported.

The FDNY had gotten the emergency call from 125 Second Avenue at 3:17 p.m. and while that building did not collapse, it was heavily fire damaged, although additional information about the conditions was not immediately available.

The mayor confirmed last Thursday evening that the explosion was caused by plumbing and gas work that was going on in 121 Second Avenue and Con Edison said on Thursday that the building had failed an inspection earlier that day.

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