Opinion: Mark-Viverito blocked SBJSA

By Sung Soo Kim, founder, Small Business Congress

Normally, the small business advocates would call upon all New Yorkers to put aside the canned election political rhetoric and instead scrutinize the records, qualifications, public statements and past actions of the candidates. There is no time for this proper analysis, but one candidate’s shameful record on dealing with the small business crisis and being influenced by a lobby must be exposed to the voters, especially in the immigrant community.

We carefully reviewed public advocate candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito’s (MMV) record and actions as speaker on addressing the specific crisis of the closings of long established small businesses. Also examined were her actions to address the anti-democratic rigging by a lobby taking place in the speaker’s office for over four years.

Nobody is more qualified to make this assessment than the small business advocates who have been fighting for justice for decades. The small businesses themselves wrote the original legislation (Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act ) giving rights to businesses to survive when their leases expired and then advocated for over 30 years to get it passed.

We know from firsthand experience who is a true progressive and friend of small business and who has been bought off to stop our bill and deny rights to small business owners.  We know when we receive justice and fair treatment at City Hall and when justice is denied by a rigged system. Our warning to voters to not vote for MMV is based solely upon the true record of MMV as speaker on our crisis.

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Opinion: Shutdowns and showdowns

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The federal government shutdown is over, at least for now. This lull before the next budget deadline is a good time to reflect on recent events. Does the president really have an appetite for putting 800,000 federal workers through that financial trauma again? Does he really want to again halt essential functions rendered by FBI agents and air traffic controllers, persons running national parks or those dispensing critical human services to the needy?

Some years ago, when budget delays were common in New York State for lack of an agreement between the legislature and the governor, the state at that time enacted a policy whereby legislators would not be paid until the budget was passed. This was done both in the hopes of spurring agreements as well as punishment for negligent and tardy behavior. So here is an idea:

Come February 15, if there is no budget in place in Washington D.C. and hostages need to be taken, have the members of the executive branch of government, including the president, vice president, the cabinet and their staffs go without their pay until the issues are resolved. And do the same with all members of Congress and their staffs. Whether elected officials are paid bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or once a year, it is legal.

Rumor has it that there is legislation to do just that which is actually being proposed in the House of Representatives. Good. Let them put their money where their mouth is.

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Opinion: Run, Bill, run

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Several weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would be spending time away from City Hall with an ambitious national travel schedule promoting progressive policies which he believes would be good for the country and New York City. He then said that he has “not ruled out” a run for President in 2020. And then in answer to a reporter’s question about his pledge to serve all four years of his second term as mayor, de Blasio’s reply was that “Times have changed since 2017”.

The Democratic Party will have no shortage of candidates vying for the nomination to run against President Trump. There will be more than a dozen and most of those candidates will hold progressive views similar to de Blasio’s. That is the nature of the Democratic Party these days. The route to the nomination travels through the more progressive and liberal ideology espoused by persons such as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris to name just a few. And although the nation’s electorate as a whole is more centrist, the first order of business for any Democratic aspirant is getting the nomination.

But back to Mayor de Blasio. He was re-elected in 2017. With term limits he cannot run for mayor again. His height (six feet, six inches) is a metaphor for his outsized political ambition and his self-esteem. But being mayor of the city that never sleeps, the largest in the nation, is not like any other job in politics. It is a 24/7 responsibility. It is about managing the affairs of this sprawling metropolis and the almost daily crises that arise. It goes with the territory.

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Opinion: Now’s the time to speak up

By Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

New York is often held up as beacon of progressivism, but the truth is that our state has not been a leader on enacting criminal justice and re-entry reforms, fairly funding our schools, increasing voter access and protecting and amplifying the voices of groups that have traditionally been excluded from the political process. This year, with decisive Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, we will have a unique opportunity to go from a laggard to a leader on many important issues by making substantial changes in state law that will have implications for decades to come.

Every issue the state government is dealing with this year is permeated by the issues of race and racism, which are ever present in our society. We need to hear from people with diverse perspectives and experiences. It is critical that people who share a social justice and racial justice lens engage in the legislative process.

Please get involved. Whether you care about single payer healthcare or the renewal and expansion of the rent laws, criminal justice reforms, or fixing the MTA –– pick your issue and dig in. Learn about the bills, think about the policy implications, consider how your community may be impacted and speak up: tell your representatives what you want to see.

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Opinion: The Cuomo watch

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Last week Andrew Cuomo began his third term as governor of New York State. This week the clock starts ticking on whether he will shortly seek a new job…president of the United States.

It’s not as if Governor Cuomo doesn’t have enough to occupy his time in Albany.

In fact, he and the state legislature have a full plate of issues to contend with. Rent laws for New York City, health insurance, MTA funding, repairing an aged infrastructure, ethics and election reform, passage of a new state budget by April 1, and much more.

To be accurate, Mr. Cuomo has said repeatedly that under no circumstances will he run for president in 2020. Yet the rumors persist. To a large extent, they have been fueled by his recently amped up talk about the conditions in Washington, D.C. and the failures of the Trump presidency with comparisons to his own leadership in New York. Andrew Cuomo would surely not be the first politician to say one thing and proceed to do another especially as it relates to a run for higher office. Some call that lying, some politicians call it strategy.

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Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

We will freely admit that the governor’s slamming the brakes on a plan that would have made 250,000 straphangers miserable for 15 months (instead proposing significantly less misery for that time or perhaps five months longer) felt like a white knight rescue.

But.

Andrew Cuomo is no knight. Nor is he, for that matter, an engineer.

Andrew Cuomo is a politician, and the experts he’s relying on for all this newfound information also have no experience with the subway they’re proposing to fix. So please forgive us if we’re not phone banking for Cuomo’s 2020 presidential campaign just yet. Especially since it’s still curious as to why the famously calculating governor would take such an incredible risk. The election against his formidable primary challenger is over, after all. NYC Transit President Andy Byford believes he is the one who would be on the hook if this plan fails spectacularly and he is of course right, but so would Cuomo since we all know he’s the one strong-arming all of this.

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Opinion: With Dems in control of House, time for a progressive agenda

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney

By Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

When Democrats take control of the House of the Representatives in January, we will have an opportunity to change the course of our country by pursuing a bold progressive agenda that serves all Americans and providing a badly needed check on President Trump and his administration.

In the next Congress, I will be the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, chair of the Capital Markets Subcommittee and a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Using these positions, I will fight to expand opportunities for all Americans, strengthen our health care system, defend our rights and liberties and make sure Congress acts as the check and balance envisioned in the Constitution.

The first order of business in a Democratic House will be H.R. 1, a bold reform package designed to strengthen our democracy. It will include campaign finance reform, similar to New York City’s system, that combines small-donor incentives and matching support — to increase and multiply the power of small donors — and requires all political organizations to disclose their donors. In addition, it will impose strong new ethics rules to stop officials from using their public office for personal gain, as well as election reforms to make it easier to vote by strengthening the Voting Rights Act, promoting automatic voter registration and bolstering our election infrastructure against foreign attackers.

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Opinion: The gift of hope

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It’s a story as old as the Bible, yet as new as yesterday’s headlines. It’s about the land of the free and the home of the brave. The Pilgrims, the Statue of Liberty… our past and our present.

Of course, I speak of those seeking sanctuary from oppression, violence or starvation. It’s about persons in dire need of a safe harbor, or possibly a single migrant family looking for a place to give birth to a child who would one day spark a great religion. It’s about the descendant of Irish immigrants fleeing famine who would be president. How different the world would be if the stable had been closed to outsiders or the border shut to the Irish.

Jewish people have a particular affinity for those in search of refuge since they were repeatedly driven from their homes by conquering armies in centuries past, or the pogroms of Russia, or most recently the Nazi onslaught that became the Holocaust. We have witnessed the tragic consequences when people are turned away because of their different religion or skin color or culture. It never ends well.

Most avert their attention from such desperation but some do not.

Our neighborhood congregation of East End Temple refuses to look the other way.

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Opinion: Missing George H.W. Bush

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Anyone who takes government service seriously had to be moved by the tributes to our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush. His life was an embodiment of patriotism and truly exemplified fidelity to our constitution and our laws. Of course, that does not mean that we agreed with every policy decision he made as president. But one cannot question his determination to do what he felt was best for the country, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “with malice towards none and charity for all.”

 The contrast with the 45th president could not be more poignant. Donald Trump more and more speaks like a mob boss. He demands unquestioned loyalty from his associates even to the point of praising those who refuse to discuss what they know about the circumstances that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has been effusive in his praise of those who refuse to assist the Special Counsel Robert Mueller like his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who has already pleaded guilty to multiple crimes but is undercutting the investigation of Russian involvement in American elections. But to those who have spoken candidly to Mr. Mueller, he has nothing but scorn and threats. He tweets that his enemies should be jailed and seeks to exact retribution.

Just last week, we learned that contrary to Mr. Trump’s long assertion of no involvement with the Russians, it is now revealed that even as he made those declarations his company was pursuing a billion-dollar building opportunity in Moscow with the direct knowledge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Could that relationship be why Mr. Putin wanted to help Donald Trump become president, and why Mr. Trump has never uttered a cross word about Putin? Trump has inexplicably dismissed the findings of all our intelligence agencies that in fact there was an organized effort from the Kremlin to aid the candidacy of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump can yell “no collusion” all he wants but increasingly the facts are saying otherwise.

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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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