Opinion: Senator Hoylman arrives

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

He’s been in the trenches for over two decades. He was a community activist, chair of Community Board 2, and currently is our state senator. He is one of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable members of the state legislature. I am referring to Brad Hoylman. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from Harvard Law School. And now he is important.

For only the second time in over a half century, the Democratic Party has won control of the State Senate. And now entering his seventh year in that body Mr. Hoylman is poised to become one of its most impactful and influential legislators.

Several years ago, I had dinner with Senator Hoylman in Albany. I was impressed with his ideas and his energy. He is a progressive but he is also pragmatic. The very two characteristics that are necessary to advance vital legislation for our community and our state.

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Editorial: Give Stuy Town’s drivers a break

As Town & Village reported this week, a number of community residents have gotten parking tickets or even towed for parking in spots along the newly designed 20th Street east of First Avenue that used to be legal.

While the city has already made the choice to justify the permanent loss of 12 parking spaces in the interest of enhanced traffic safety (an important issue to be sure) it’s unfortunate that this plan was enacted with almost no heads up to the community (unless you count a tweet in September by the Department of Transportation, followed by an article in this newspaper after residents noticed the sudden loss of parking spaces).

It is also unfortunate that this lack of communication extends between city agencies. Ideally, there would have been a message given to the NYPD that parking spaces that are no longer legal were legal up until very recently and that perhaps motorists parking where they have always parked might be deserving of a grace period, as Council Member Keith Powers is asking for.

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Opinion: Public advocate: Use it or lose it

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

After Letitia James is sworn in as the state’s new attorney general, there will be a special election in early 2019 to replace her as New York City’s next, and sixth, public advocate. But is that really necessary?

The position of public advocate, which pays $165,000 a year, was created when court ordered changes were made to New York City government in 1989. The powerful Board of Estimate was declared unconstitutional and abolished, transferring much of its responsibilities to the more democratic City Council.

The office of president of the City Council, a citywide elected position, was also eliminated and in its place the office of speaker of the City Council was created with significant new powers. Subsequently the citywide elected position of “public advocate” was created in place of City Council president. But its duties were ill defined and vague. It was given virtually no authority over anything.

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Opinion: The moment of truth

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Throughout my entire 28-year tenure in the State Assembly, the State Senate was controlled by the Republican Majority with their leadership mostly based in conservative rural or suburban regions of New York.

The Republicans are ideologically closer to big business, such as the real estate industry, than with consumers or tenants. I don’t say that as a value judgement, but rather as a political fact.

Of course, the millions of dollars from those business groups and corporations that roll into the Senate Republican campaign coffers regularly help.

During my time in the Assembly representing the East Side of Manhattan, Roy Goodman was my counterpart in the Senate for almost all those years. We worked closely together to press for needed tenant protections and fair housing laws. But try as he might, Roy was frequently stymied by his Republican leadership. Bills passed in the Assembly never saw the light of day in the Senate.

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Editorial: Amazonian giveaway to a giant

After months of speculation on where Amazon would decide to hold court, the online retail giant finally announced the locations of its headquarters, which will be split in two cities: Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City in New York.

It didn’t take long before City Hall and nearly every politician in town crowed about Amazon’s promise to make at least 25,000 hires  in positions paying an average of $150,000, after being promised up to $2.2 billion in state and city giveaways. Of course good-paying jobs are a benefit to New Yorkers. However, we still can’t help but feel the city has really turned its back on small businesses this time.

As the long-stalled effort to get the Small Business Jobs Survival Act passed proves, no one is afraid to parrot the real estate industry’s argument that the demise of mom-and-pops has more to do with online shopping than exorbitant rent. At the hearing for the SBJSA, a representative of the city’s Small Business Services agency argued against the bill, warning of “unintended consequences” like landlords being more hesitant to lease to small businesses.

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Opinion: Wait til next year

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The elections are mercifully over. This campaign cycle has been brutal. The mud has been splattered about like graffiti on the side of a building. We all need a break from politics!

Yet for the past month I have detected a different angst in the city, a melancholy unrelated to the fallout of the bitter partisan sniping. A pain that goes to our very core as a city. The shared love for our baseball teams.

Four weeks ago the Yankees walked off the fabled field at Yankees Stadium, losers to their perennial rival, the Red Sox from Boston. And worse still, the Red Sox went on to win their fourth World Series Championship of this century, twice as many as the Yankees. Thus wresting the title away from the Bronx Bombers as “team of the (21st) century”… at least so far.

Mayor de Blasio is ok with this revolting development, since in spite of his New York leadership position, his baseball allegiance remains with the boys from Beantown. Grounds for impeachment? If only.

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Editorial: Re-elect Maloney and Epstein

Today is Election Day, and along with the race for governor, United States senator and attorney general, locally, in the 74th Assembly District, voters will have the opportunity to choose their Assembly member and Congress member.

During the primaries, Town & Village endorsed the incumbents, Harvey Epstein and Carolyn Maloney, for these positions. (State Senator Brad Hoylman ran uncontested during the primary and will again face no opponent on November 6.)

As for the general election, we are sticking with the aforementioned candidates for their records of accomplishment and for platforms that are in line with the concerns and values of the vast majority of their constituents.

Eliot Rabin, an Upper East Side boutique owner and Republican, and Scott Hutchins, a homeless activist in the Green Party, both hope to unseat Maloney.

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Opinion: Anti-Semitism then and now

By Daniel Alder, Rabbi of the Brotherhood Synagogue

This week I visited with the older children in our religious school to speak with them about the horrific massacre of praying Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last Shabbat. They had previously been taught about anti-Semitism in Jewish history and recent anti-Jewish attacks in Israel and in Europe. Now, for the first time, they had to assimilate the very real, virulent form of anti-Semitism here in the United States.

One of the scariest things about today’s rise in anti-Semitism is that it is coming both from the far right and the radical left. From the right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis don’t just consider Jews an enemy, alongside immigrants and people of color, but the ultimate enemy. And from the extreme left, Jews are vilified for their prominence and support of Israel. Anti-Semitism appeals to defiant bigots and proud justice-seeking universalists alike.

The Anti-Defamation League reported a near 60 percent increase increase in harassment, vandalism and assault of Jews and Jewish institutions in 2017. The largest single year increase on record. Synagogues here in our neighborhood need to hire security guards to protect their buildings and congregants on Shabbat and during the week.

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Opinion: Tales of the Waterside ducks

Oct11 Waterside ducks

Photo courtesy of Waterside Plaza

By Marsha Sorotick 

On the first day of Spring, 2014, much to the surprise of Waterside residents, a lone female duck was seen strolling around the Plaza looking like she owned the place. Shortly thereafter, she was observed taking a morning swim in the neat little pond that is part of the Plaza’s garden space. In time, a mallard joined her in the pond. To the residents’ delight, the two of them would sun and groom themselves on the ponds’ rocks, take short swims, and an afternoon snooze.

It eventually was reported by the garden staff that, apparently, it wasn’t all sunning and swimming and snoozing. Eggs were discovered, well hidden in the garden’s shrubbery. So began several weeks of waiting, watching and wondering by Watersiders. Checking on the duck eggs became the thing to do.

The day finally arrived when the ducklings appeared in all their fuzzy cuteness swimming with their mom in the Plaza pond. They stayed until they were deemed ready to leave by their mom and, as is their tradition, marched out of the garden in single file behind their mother, down the Plaza steps to the river.

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T&V Editorials, Oct. 4

Amazon can’t rescue your parakeet

This week, Town & Village would like to acknowledge one of the many ways that independent, owner-run businesses, as opposed to employee-run chains, can benefit the community.

Along with helping to keep any money spent by neighborhood residents in the same neighborhood and having knowledgeable people around to answer questions instead of clueless kids telling customers to call corporate, they are also generally fiercely loyal to the communities they serve.

A perfect example of this Carole Husiak. Husiak and her husband Johnny own Ibiza Kidz, the children’s store that only reopened last Friday after the electrical fire over three weeks ago in Stuyvesant Town.

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Opinion: Supreme questions

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The great Motown singing group The Supremes had a big hit called “You Can’t Hurry Love.” But what is the rush in getting Judge Brett Kavanaugh safely ensconced on the United States Supreme Court for the rest of his life?

What seemed like a fairly easy road to confirmation albeit partisan is now is now filled with land mines for Brett Kavanaugh. Three weeks ago after the hearings ended, Kavanaugh seemed to answer all the questions in a knowledgeable and legally astute way. Sure he dodged the tough ones like how he might vote on abortion rights and presidential authority, but in fairness, so do all nominees, pretty much. There is no question that his qualifications from the standpoint of experience and scholarship are impressive.

The opposition to Mr. Kavanaugh did not stem from whether or not he was qualified, but rather how he might vote on critical issues and the belief that he will tilt the court unalterably to the political right. His predecessor Justice Anthony Kennedy was considered a centrist. That lurch to the right could easily last for a generation or more.

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Opinion: Cuomo’s conundrum

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Elections results usually reveal answers to political questions. Last week’s Democratic primaries did that, but also raised a raft of new questions, some of which will determine the course of important policy issues next year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated his rival Cynthia Nixon with nearly two thirds of the vote. Usually that would be cause for celebration in the winning camp. But the noticeable muted response from the Cuomo campaign speaks volumes.

In vanquishing his opponent, Cuomo outspent Nixon by almost 10 to 1, depleting his considerable campaign war chest. And along the way he made some bad gaffes which may come back to haunt him. Moreover, his political strategy over his first eight years in office of maintaining control over the state legislature seems to be coming to an end.

By tacitly supporting the breakaway Senate Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) for years, Cuomo enabled the Republican Party to maintain control over the State Senate. The Republican leadership in turn kept a lid on a number of progressive pieces of legislation emanating from the Assembly including tenant protections, health insurance reforms, tax policy, education spending and political campaign contributions.

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Editorial: Keep Epstein in the State Assembly, send Cuomo a message from tenants

On Thursday, September 13, Democrat voters in New York will have the opportunity to vote, at the primary level, for their governor, lieutenant governor and public advocate. In the 74th Assembly District, which runs along the East Side from the East Village to Tudor City, there will also be the chance to vote for their representative in the New York Assembly.

For this seat, we endorse Harvey Epstein.

Epstein received our endorsement prior to the special election in April and is getting it again now for the same reason, his record of getting results for tenants. His opponents have argued – and rightly so – that it’s nearly impossible to beat the “Democratic machine,” a candidate supported firmly by the party, which in this case is Epstein. However, we do believe he has rightfully earned the trust he’s gotten and look forward to seeing him implement not only tenant protections but reforms to the state’s voting system as he has already sponsored legislation to do.

As for governor, we support Cynthia Nixon.

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Opinion: How far is too far?

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week was a particularly interesting week in politics. Governor Andrew Cuomo in his unbridled pursuit to appeal to the left leaning activists in the Democratic Party who he fears will support Cynthia Nixon in next month’s primary for Governor, again attacked President Trump. For most Democrats this is low hanging fruit. But in doing so he committed a major political faux pas. Speaking off the cuff Andrew Cuomo declared that America has “never been all that great,” a clear reference to Trump’s slogan of “making America great again”. That was a big oops.

With apologies to: Native Americans who were pushed off their land to make way for new Americans; black people who were legally enslaved in this nation until 1865; women who were deprived of the right to vote until 1920; American citizens who were imprisoned during World War II for the “crime” being of Japanese descent; thousands of other Americans who were blacklisted during the Joe McCarthy “Red Scare” days… Americans overwhelmingly think that America was and is great.

And with all our blemishes, imperfections and failures, I agree. Our political system of representative government was historic. Our national mission statement to protect free speech and one’s right to worship in their own way was unheard of 250 years ago. Our Constitution is among the most copied documents, a template for emerging democracies. And the generosity of the American people and (historically at least) our government to aid the less fortunate and oppressed around the globe is unmatched in human history.

So Andrew Cuomo went off script and said something that was politically stupid and offensive to veterans and many others. It will surely come back to haunt him as he seeks support around the country for his much-desired 2020 bid for the White House. The reaction to his remark from many Democratic Party leaders around the state and elsewhere was swift and pointedly critical. Those detractors risk incurring the wrath of Mr. Cuomo who does not appreciate dissent.

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Opinion: Strikes and the city

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

There are valid reasons to support a candidate running for governor this year other than Andrew Cuomo. He has certainly failed to reign in corruption in Albany as he promised he would. That is principally because he has been weak on changing campaign contribution laws and gargantuan political donations. These are the very laws that have enabled him to build a bulging $31M campaign war chest. He was slow to try to bring together warring factions of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, so much so that the Republican Party with fewer elected members has maintained control of that House for the past number of years thwarting pro-tenant and pro-consumer legislation in favor of big business.

Governor Cuomo has refused to increase taxes, even by a dime, on the wealthiest one percent in New York State while vital social service and education programs have been underfunded for lack of resources. He has tried to evade responsibility for the deteriorating condition of our mass transit system even though he controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has unnecessarily ramped up the feud with Mayor De Blasio, displaying an unflattering vindictive streak.

However, he cannot be taken to task, as “Sex and the City” actress turned governor candidate Cynthia Nixon has tried to do, over the issue of allowing municipal employees to go on strike. Some of us vividly remember the devastating strikes in New York City by the transportation workers, the sanitation workers and public school teachers in the 1960s and ‘70s. We can recall how difficult it was getting around the five boroughs during the transit strikes and the mounds of rotting garbage on the streets during the sanitation strikes. Fortunately, fire fighters and police never went down that road, and that is largely because of the Taylor Law, which Ms. Nixon wants to abolish.

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