Baruch professor appointed as a public member of RGB

Hilary Botein said she was surprised to be asked to serve on the board. (Photo courtesy of Hilary Botein)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced two new appointments to the Rent Guidelines Board — the same day the board held its first meeting to help determine this year’s rent increase (or freeze) for over a million households.

One was real estate professor and lawyer David Reiss. The other was Hilary Botein, an attorney and associate professor at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, who teaches courses on housing and community development policy. Both she and Reiss are now public members, replacing K. Sabeel Rahman and Steven Flax.

Reached on the phone after Botein attended her first RGB meeting as an active participant, she told Town & Village the call from the mayor’s office came as a surprise. However, saying yes to the unpaid position wasn’t difficult for Botein, who’s been to many RGB hearings and meetings as an observer and has also sent her students to the often raucous forum for assignments.

“It is a lot of work and a big responsibility,” she said, “but I also felt it was an opportunity to bring my experience and knowledge of housing in New York to (impact) millions of people.”

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Opinion: Science be damned

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The latest obsessive assault on the Obama legacy by his successor may be the worst and most irresponsible.

Last week, President Trump ordered research on climate change be scaled back. He is now encouraging the burning of coal as a primary energy source while also relaxing policies intended to curtail dangerous and toxic emissions and discharges into our air and water from a variety of sources and especially greenhouse gases. The President’s Environmental Protection Administration is also rolling back regulations on previously banned toxic insecticides claiming that such prohibitions hurt the farming industry.

The Trump Administration argues that our current policies on climate change and environmental preservation is bad for business and impedes job creation. That position is mortally shortsighted.

Scientific research has determined conclusively that the environmental challenges to our planet Earth constitutes a clear and present danger to our ecosystem. Comprehensive studies confirm that the polar caps are melting rapidly due to global warming, and the oceans and seas are rising at an alarming rate. And the impacts from storms and droughts are becoming more severe and more deadly every year.

Global warming is an undeniable fact whose ramifications are real. It is not “fake news” nor is it an “alternative fact” subject to dispute or interpretation. Hurricane Katrina engulfed New Orleans and Super Storm Sandy drowned coastal New York and lower Manhattan in particular. Parts of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper were literally underwater, and buildings remained flooded for weeks. Katrina and Sandy were apocalyptic previews… a shot across our bow by Mother Nature.

To ignore the warning signs and the gathering climate crisis is not just bad planning; it is profound ignorance or even worse, cynical politics.

The question as to whether the policies of the former president were bad for some jobs in certain industries is dwarfed by the magnitude of the crisis. If steps are not taken now to reverse the destructive trajectory of the climate change impacts, the result will be irrevocable in just a few more generations.

I am reminded of the decades of denial by cigarette manufacturers and their supporters about the devastating effects of smoking and the addictive quality of nicotine. The tobacco industry also called this fake science and clung to the fiction that smoking and the inhalation of second hand smoke was of little harm and no concern, nor should it be regulated. They knew better.

In fact, they knew for many years of the sickening impacts of their products but they cared more about profits than people. And they continued to market their products, especially to young people without regard to health consequences. A staggering amount of the cost of medical care and insurance today is attributed to smoking. The toll from smoking related deaths and illnesses is criminal.

With climate change and the Trump reversal of Obama policies, we are witnessing a repeat of the same arguments that were used by the big cigarette and tobacco companies back in the 1950s and 1960s and still to some extent even today.

But the present day climate crisis is worldwide and it is existential in nature. For the Trump Administration to bury its head in the sand is beyond bad policy. It is neglect of monumental proportions. It is suicide.

The global time bomb is real and it is ticking, and Donald Trump is making that fuse a lot shorter.