Opinion: Living in NYC isn’t a privilege

By Harvey Epstein

Maria has lived in her apartment for more than 40 years. However, a few years ago, a new landlord purchased the building. The landlord started a lot of work in the building and filed for Major Capital Improvements (MCIs). The rent has gone up over 30 percent in the last 5 years. Maria is getting ready to retire and now really worries whether she will be able to afford to live in her rent stabilized apartment for the rest of her life. There are thousands of Marias living in our city today unsure what their future holds.

It all starts with a stable home. Opportunities for better employment, our children’s success in school, and the ability to lead healthier lives. But when being able to stay in our homes in New York City is a day-to-day struggle, so is everything else. Affordable housing is the cornerstone of a thriving society, but for far too long it has been under threat in our city.

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Opinion: A history of hostile divisions

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

After one year of the Trump presidency, the divide in America is wider and angrier. In truth, there have always been two Americas. One inhabited by mostly Caucasian persons who were born here with parents who were born here. And then there are those whose skin is not white, or newly arrived who speak with an accent, or who are poor and unwashed but ready to work to improve their lives or for their children’s better future.

The two segments of America were often separated by law or circumstances. There was always an underlying tension between the haves and the aspiring.

The American ethos can be found on the inscription of the Statute of Liberty. The promise of America is written into our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the policies articulated by every president interested in making this nation more inclusive and more pluralistic. A place where refugees would be protected and immigrants were welcomed and given an opportunity to succeed no matter their race, religion, national or cultural background. Those principles are what made America
exceptional in the history of nations.

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Editorial: A pilot program in preservation

The city was quick to slam an independent report that said the affordability preserved in the property’s most recent sale was exaggerated (although this was without disputing the actual figures cited by the Independent Budget Office).

Measuring affordability through years rather than apartments, the IBO has calculated that the majority of apartments would have remained affordable even without a deal that cost the city $220 million.

Just whether or not the city got what it paid for remains to be seen, as is how stable the community will remain over the years with a combination of market rents, true stabilized rents and upper and lower lottery tier rents.

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Opinion: See no evil

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

As you drive into New York City across the George Washington Bridge and then south down the West Side Highway you can see huge cranes and glittering new buildings being built. You can be sure that these constructions are for the very well off and not middle income residents.

A tale of two cities indeed.

In part, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor because he promised to do better than his recent predecessors on the matter of decent affordable housing. During his 2013 campaign de Blasio vowed to create some 200,000 units during his two terms. He is way behind schedule. In fact when one calculates the loss of rent-regulated housing each year at about 10,000 units, NYC has made little progress during the mayor’s entire first term of office.

And then there is the New York City federally funded Housing Authority.

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Opinion: Priorities for the year ahead

By Council Member Keith Powers

Starting on January 1, I have the privilege to represent the community that I have called home throughout my life. Our district has been lucky to have been represented by Council Member Dan Garodnick for 12 years that were exciting, turbulent, and important to our future. As I take office, I look forward to building on Dan’s legacy and focusing on a few priority areas:

Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing
As I promised during my campaign, I’ll work to make housing laws fair and to provide residents an opportunity to stay in their homes for the long haul, especially right here in ST/PCV. The next few years will need to include addressing the long-term future of “Roberts” tenants in ST/PCV and assisting overburdened settling tenants in Waterside Plaza. The city and state also need to address the rising cost of housing through MCI reform, expanding SCRIE benefits, and continuing the push for zero or low rent increases for rent-regulated tenants.

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Opinion: Divide and conquer

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

When a vacancy in a state legislative office occurs just before the start of a new session in January, it is customary for the governor to set a special election as early in the new year as possible. Otherwise, constituents from that district are deprived of representation in Albany.

Given the fact that the critical work on the state budget occurs in the months before April, it is even more imperative that vacancies in the State Assembly or State Senate be filled ASAP.

I was elected to the Assembly in a special election on February 14, 1978 when my predecessor left his Assembly seat in the middle of his term on December 31, 1977. Similarly, when I retired from the Assembly at the end of 2005, my successor was also elected to fill my vacant seat in February.

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Opinion: The death of honor

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It was on life support…honor in government, that is. But the President pulled the plug last week.

So many cases of political corruption and personal misdeeds by our elected officials in the past number of years. Greed, lying and sexual indiscretions had become so prevalent that the public was nearly numbed by it and almost accepting such behavior as a new norm.

But with the cascading revelations and accusations against powerful men (and some women) engaging in sexual abuse and intimidation towards their underlings and others, there was a national consensus building that such behavior is simply beyond the bounds of decency or acceptance, until President Trump weighed in.

With the precipitous downfall of such important and famous persons as Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein and most recently Charlie Rose, as well as Senator Al Franken and others in Congress, it appeared that America had reached a watershed moment where such sexual abuse could not and would not be tolerated, no matter what or who. But then the President of the United States declared that politics was more important than the abuse of women or even minors.

That’s right, Donald Trump who himself stands accused of improper conduct by over a dozen women, whom he calls liars and losers, last week asserted that it was preferable for voters in Alabama to elect an alleged Republican pedophile than to vote for any Democrat. Most rational people regardless of party affiliation including the three leading newspapers in Alabama say that they believe the women who have accused Senate candidate Roy Moore of vulgar touching and unwanted aggressive sexual advances towards young girls and even one who was fourteen years old. But Trump supporters including the Alabama governor say they will vote for Roy Moore on December 12. Astonishing!

This American President who has sworn an oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” to stand for justice and be a role model for our youth has chosen to side with Mr. Moore because he does not like the politics of his opponent.

But perhaps we should not be surprised. After all this is the same man who by his own words bragged about groping women because “celebrities can.” And of course this is the same man who could find no difference between white supremacists and Neo Nazis espousing their twisted ideologies in Charlottesville with those who opposed them. This is the man who denigrates the appearance of female political opponents and calls them by derogatory names and mocks a disabled reporter.

Once again Donald Trump is sending a clear message that the nefarious actions from generations gone by when white men suppressed minorities and objectified women is fine with him. So while much of the rest of the country is turning the page and will no longer be silent or tolerate such behavior, the leader of our nation sides with America’s past as well as his own.

There is no honor in this administration, just the politics and proclivities of one man who defends only himself.

 

Opinion: Moving onto the next local election

Nov16 Marie Ternes

Marie Ternes

By Marie Ternes

Suffering a spat of election fatigue? The signs. The phone calls. The mailers. Oh, those mailers. Or maybe you are still in a state of post-Trump election agitation and are extra energized to do everything you can to protect New York? Regardless of your passion or disinterest in local politics, I have news for you: there is another election headed our way and I hope you will embrace it, engage in it and ultimately vote in it.

This past November 7, our Assembly Member, Brian Kavanagh was elected to the State Senate to fill a vacancy created by former Senator Daniel Squadron, leaving our neighborhood without an Assembly Member to represent us in Albany.

While we are fortunate to have great State Senate representatives in Senators Brad Hoylman representing PCVST, and Senators Liz Krueger and Brian Kavanagh nearby, we must take filling the post of Assembly Member for the 74th Assembly District with renewed interest.

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Opinion: Tenants should say no to the Con Con

Nov20 Mike McKee color

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Michael McKee 

 

Every twenty years, the New York State Constitution mandates a statewide vote on whether to convene a convention to consider amending it. On November 7, New Yorkers will vote yes or no. This measure, on the back of the ballot, is more important than anything on the front.

Tenants Political Action Committee debated this question at length, and despite many arguments in favor, we voted unanimously to oppose con-con in 2017.

This was not a decision we took lightly. With a state government that is a model of dysfunction and gridlock, it is tempting to try an end run around the governor and state legislature to attempt necessary reforms they have refused to enact despite the stunning number of politicians who have been convicted of corruption and gone to prison.

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Town & Village endorses Powers, Rivera for City Council

Before the primary, Town & Village endorsed Carlina Rivera for City Council, District 2, and Keith Powers for District 4 (along with a co-endorsement for fellow Democrat Marti Speranza, who is no longer in the race), because we felt they would be the most effective fighters for their respective clusters of Manhattan and the city. Two months later, we have not changed our positions and hope that voters will give their support to Powers and Rivera.

Keith Powers

Keith Powers

In Powers’ case, we like his background of community activism and local politics. Long before becoming a lobbyist — which opponents have delighted in attacking him for — he was working for State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, with duties including helping tenants fight off unfair challenges to their residency. He also was involved with the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, again championing renters’ rights, and Community Board 6, where he has been involved in helping maintain a balance of supporting local nightlife while also protecting neighbors’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their apartments. It’s an advisory role, but the State Liquor Authority does pay attention to it. Because Powers has been involved in civic groups for years, even his challengers couldn’t accuse him of merely doing these things to score points with voters.

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Opinion: It’s a matter of when

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Next week will mark the fifth anniversary of the devastating Super Storm Sandy that ravaged much of New York City and the lower part of Manhattan in particular. The fury of that storm battered the low lying areas, caused the East River and Hudson River to overflow their banks and flooded miles of the coast line and interior blocks. Streets saw four feet of water. Cars parked on Avenue C and nearby streets were virtually swallowed up. Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were swamped and suffered a loss of power and heat for a week. Residents, especially the elderly were stranded in their buildings, without elevator service. To make matters worse, that week was unusually cold with temperatures plunging into the 40s at night. It was hard to escape the chill.  I was there, we all were there… and it was harrowing and it was dangerous. Eventually the lights went back on and the steam heat was restored. But the flooding destroyed basements and the cleanup took over a year at a cost of billions of dollars in the affected metropolitan region.

This community suffered mightily that week, but we also discovered much as well. On the good side, we realized once again that New Yorkers are at their best in a crisis. Neighbor helping neighbor and reaching out to strangers to help keep them safe. We witnessed this same resilience after the September 11, 2001 attack on our city. The character of New York City residents is tough but caring. In an emergency, the famous aloofness and at time gruffness of New Yorkers gives way to acts of kindness and genuine concern.

But we also learned that our city, its topography and infrastructure is totally insufficient to ward off such devastating storms. And we know that with the changing climate, which is undeniable except perhaps by some politicians in Washington D.C., such severe storms will become more frequent in the future. The oceans are rising, the global temperatures are warming and these conditions will make hurricanes and superstorms worse and worse and regularly threaten the Atlantic coastal areas. It is not a matter of “if,” but rather a matter of when and where.

In the short run there will be no remedy or even common sense preparation coming from the federal government. The Trump Administration has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords which would have required this country along with all other countries to do more to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and other causal actions that threaten our ecosystem and environment. For the most part our national leaders are taking an ostrich-like approach to this issue, burying its head along with any studies that substantiate climate change. So if New York wants to protect itself it will need to act alone.

We will need to build higher barriers along the low-lying areas of the East River and the Hudson River to guard against storm surge and over flow. Sadly some of the vulnerable areas in Queens, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn that border on ocean or bays will be hard to defend. Some of those areas are just too open and vulnerable.

We also must undertake to better protect our underground subway system by installing the most efficient pumping apparatus so that our tunnels can remain operational. None of this will be cheap or fast, but it is essential. Mayoral candidates should be talking about this now.

The alternative is to just leave ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature who seems increasingly angry with us.

Opinion: A nation of laws

By Assemblymember Steven Sanders

“Wouldn’t you like to see one of these NFL owners say to someone who disrespects our flag, get that son of a bitch off the field now… you’re fired!”

With that stunning unprovoked rant against professional athletes engaging in protesting what they believe to be societal injustices, the president of the United States proved conclusively that he has no understanding of our Constitution, our history or our American values.

Donald Trump may be president, but he does not speak for me or most Americans, nor does he represent the democracy and sense of decency that millions of Americans fought to preserve over the many years.

It may be redundant, but I guess it needs repeating, that this nation is founded on laws and not the whims (or tweets) of any particular man or woman.

The bedrock of our democracy is built on our Constitution and particularly the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. These are our unique national ethics and statement of principles, and which sets our nation apart from other governments.

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Opinion: The sky really is falling

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In these past few weeks, we have witnessed a preview of what will likely be common future weather. In recent years, we have experienced multiple “storms of the century” with still 83 more years to go. Katrina engulfed New Orleans, Irene clobbered Central New York and a year later Sandy inundated New York City. Harvey drowned Houston and Irma swamped large parts of Florida and devastated the Caribbean. Those storms and others caused unparalleled property damage and death.

The last two occurred just weeks apart and ironically in the wake of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. That treaty was recognition by virtually every other nation on earth that climate change was real, and as Pope Francis observed a few days ago could threaten the very future of humanity if not addressed.

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Editorial: Rage against the Democratic machine

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, who recently announced his intention to run for a downtown State Senate seat, just got a big boost this week with the support of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and the Manhattan Party bosses, the mayor, the governor and other elected officials. This was all in lieu of a primary since State Senator Daniel Squadron’s sudden withdrawal from public office ensured there would be no opportunity for one.

Naturally, this process has been widely blasted as being a shady “backroom” deal, for giving too much power to party bosses and allowing Squadron to handpick a successor. We have to say; we couldn’t agree more. Such blatant cronyism reeks of Tammany politics. Along with cheating voters and Kavanagh’s opponent, District Leader Paul Newell, it has also got to sting a little to the dozens of candidates who just went through the grueling process of campaigning for open and vulnerable City Council seats.

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Opinion: How NYC Dems turned their backs on immigrant-owned businesses

By Sung Soo Kim

For the first time in over a century, NYC as the Gateway to America for immigrants to achieve the American Dream has been closed.  All of the centuries of risk, hard work and scarifies made leading to success for immigrant business owners is being destroyed. The greatest transfer of wealth from hard working successful entrepreneurs to speculators and profiteers has taken place in NYC over the past two decades.

The Democratic Party is fully responsible for this historic destruction of our city’s diverse capitalistic economy.  In the face of a growing economic crisis, they have willingly joined in “rigging the system” with the big real estate lobby (REBNY) to deny any real solution to save our mom and pop businesses, the majority of which are owned by immigrants who employ immigrant families.

Thirty four years ago myself, along with several Korean business leaders began a campaign to recruit Korean families to invest their life savings in opening small businesses in NYC.  To calm their fears of crime, drugs and clashes of cultures in some communities, I founded, along with a few Korean business leaders, The Korean American Small Business Services Center, to help them start their businesses and be present at all times to deal with their problems. Korean families came by the thousands to risk everything in NYC. I was not prepared for the biggest challenge they would face nor had I any idea it would be caused by our own democratic government.

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