Opinion: Rethink the approach to help small businesses

By Carlina Rivera and Jennifer Sun

When Tamika Gabaroum decided she finally wanted to open her restaurant, Green Garden in the East Village, she understood it wouldn’t be an easy task. But Tamika, a former public health advocate with the Peace Corps who served in UN Peacekeeping Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was used to a challenge. What she couldn’t expect was her landlord, Raphael Toledano, disappearing months after signing her lease, and a new landlord arriving with demands of higher rent. And she could have never guessed that Toledano had harassed the previous long-time tenants out of their stores as well.

The challenges facing Tamika and other small business owners in New York City are well known. Rising commercial rents, competition from corporate franchises, and the growth of online shopping have forced an alarming number of mom and pop stores to close their doors.

In many community districts, vacant storefronts have become a common sight, turning once-thriving retail corridors into ghost towns. When a small business closes, it is not only a loss for their neighborhood’s local economy, but also for its vibrancy and character.

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Nadler, Engel and Maloney

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

They sound like partners of a law firm… but in truth they are the firmament of law.

New York has taken center stage in the rapidly expanding impeachment inquiry of President Donald J. Trump.

Three of the key players in Congress are New Yorkers and one is our very own.

I am speaking of Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler who is chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and our very own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who just last week assumed the post of interim chair of the House Committee on Oversight following the sudden passing of Elijah Cummings.

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Opinion: The Fall of Rudy

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

“Men at some time are masters of their fates; the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.” The precipitous fall of Rudolph Giuliani is like something from a Shakespearean drama.

For a moment not so long ago, Rudy Giuliani was viewed as “America’s Mayor.” That title was given in the days and weeks following the attack against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. During that horrible time, Giuliani used his considerable skills to rally a city wracked with grief and anger. His resolute leadership inspired the nation. It was a defining moment for Rudy. It was short-lived.

It is worth remembering that before the attack, Mayor Giuliani had fallen out of favor with most New Yorkers who had tired of his combative and snarling personality. He could not run for re-election because of term limits but if he could have, the odds were that he would have lost.

So off he went to the world of lobbying, forming his own firm working closely with his business associate the former NYC Police Commissioner Bernie Kerick until Kerick was convicted of corruption and sent to prison. That was an omen of things to come.

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Opinion: Science-based policy gets a booster shot

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

With the new school year, there’s a new law going into effect, too. This year, faced with a statewide measles outbreak of historic proportions, I sponsored legislation that ends all non-medical exemptions to New York’s vaccination requirements for school attendance.

For some people who’ve been misled by the so-called anti-vaxx movement, vaccines are part of a widespread conspiracy between government and drug companies to harm our children.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As your State Senator, it’s my job to base public policy on evidence to make our constituents’ lives better. Strong vaccine laws do just that. When California passed a law similar to ours four years ago, their immunization rates for kindergartners rose nearly five percentage points.

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Opinion: Who is a socialist? Part I

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It is a sure bet that over the next 12 months as the race for president heats up, you will hear the term “socialist” tossed around by some like an accusation of criminal conduct or of a political miscreant. A scare tactic for certain.

Those who hurl this spitball gauge that most Americans are suspicious, even fearful of socialists. It’s a timeworn page out of the playbook of those opposed to social change that might reapportion some of America’s vast wealth to support programs that primarily benefit middle and low income persons at the expense of the richest.

But is that socialism? In reality, socialism is an all-encompassing system in which government controls the economy from production output to prices of goods and the incomes of its citizens. The actual fact of the matter is that no candidate is proposing that, not even Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist running for president.

But in the aggregate, Democratic candidates are offering the American people a plethora of goodies, too many that could ever possibly be enacted all at once. To wit: Medicare For All; an elimination of private insurance; forgiveness of all student loans; free college; pre-K programs for all 3 and 4-year-olds. One Democratic candidate is even proposing to give families $1,000 per month every month to spend as they wish!

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Opinion: In the name of Butch

John “Butch” Purcell, also known as the mayor of Stuyvesant Town, pictured with his pooch Ginger (Photo by Kelly Vohs)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

His name is John Purcell. To his legion of friends he is simply known as “Butch.” He has been a resident of Stuyvesant Town for over five decades. The basketball court Playground 9 near East 18th Street and First Avenue will from now on bear his name. This singular honor will be conferred on Butch in a dedication ceremony next Wednesday, September 25 at 10 a.m. And what a splendid choice he is for that honor.

There have been an array of luminaries to live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village during those years. Important politicians, sports stars and entertainers as well as leaders of business and industry. So why Butch? Simply put… he deserves it!

Butch has spent his adult life helping young people. He has devoted much of his time keeping kids away from drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. When he has encountered those who have already gone down that poisoned path, he has shown them an off ramp.

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Opinion: What’s on the governor’s plate?

The winning design

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

There was an election last week. Cuomo lost.

Being governor of New York State with its nearly 20 million population and world important venues is a really big job. To govern successfully requires great intelligence, leadership skills and a focus on what matters most.

Andrew Cuomo has had this job for the past nine years. But one must wonder if he momentarily lost his attention on what is really important. Of all his significant policy initiatives during his first two terms, Cuomo’s preoccupation with issuing new license plates for motorists is a head scratcher. Of course, the change is estimated to raise upwards of $100 million for the state coffers, whether the replacement is necessary or not.

It will tax each car owner up to $45 to replace their current plates, once in circulation, for ten years. Governor Cuomo says that is needed because EZ pass terminals are having a hard time reading the existing plates. Since when?

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Opinion: Back to school needs

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Labor Day has come and gone, which means that school bells will soon be ringing.

Our community has some of the finest public and parochial schools all in walking distance of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. I’m speaking about P.S. 40, Simon Baruch JHS 104 and schools in Epiphany and the Immaculate Conception churches. Each of those schools rank in the top tiers of their respective academic categories.

Unfortunately, they remain anomalies within the overall New York City education universe. Too many schools are failing our over one million school children. Too few students graduate from high school with the requisite tools or academic knowledge to succeed in college or a trade.

This is true in many school districts across America. If not remedied, it will leave this nation behind in the highly competitive 21st-century world where advanced knowledge is a necessary commodity.

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Opinion: ‘Revival window’ for child sex abuse survivors opened

By State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal

A window to long-overdue justice just opened in New York for survivors of child sexual abuse, thanks to the Child Victims Act (S.2440 / A.2683), legislation we sponsored.

Until earlier this year, our state had among the worst laws in the country for survivors of child sexual abuse. New York’s statute of limitations was so tilted against survivors that most had no later than until their 23rd birthday to file criminal charges against their abusers, or until their 21st birthday to file a civil lawsuit.

The Child Victims Act changed that by increasing the criminal statute of limitations by five years and giving survivors the ability to sue their abusers or the institutions that enabled them until their 55th birthday – ensuring that future survivors have more time for legal recourse.

On August 14, one of the most important provisions of the Child Victims Act took effect: a one-year window during which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for whom the civil statute of limitations has already expired will be able to file lawsuits against their abusers and the people or public or private institutions that intentionally or negligently enabled the abuse.

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Opinion: A litmus test for small businesses

By Sung Soo Kim, founder of the Small Business Congress

It took 9 years for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (Jobs Act) to get a hearing in the City Council. Why the delay when the Jobs Act was unanimously selected at its last hearing in June 2009 as the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses by the entire Small Business Committee and had 32 sponsors? How is it possible in a progressive council to deny justice on a bill for 9 years, the only real solution, that would save the “backbone of our economy and creators of the majority of resident’s jobs? Would progressive lawmakers who pledged to promote progressive legislation if elected remain silent and complicit for 9 years to the rigging by REBNY to stop any rights to small business owners to survive?

 Even with the NYC courts issuing 52,314 warrants to evict commercial businesses since 2009, and long established businesses forced to close in record numbers and empty storefronts appearing on every main street where once thriving businesses were, our progressive lawmakers did “nothing” for 9 years to save a single business or job. This fact by itself is a good reason to be skeptical of any bills suddenly created after doing nothing for so long and with a real solution bottled up in committee.

After the last hearing on the Jobs Act, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn colluded with REBNY to cook up a bogus legal roadblock to stop any vote or fair treatment of the Jobs Act. She started the rigging that allowed REBNY to hijack our democracy and the Jobs Act and was responsible for the origin of the small business crisis today. This answers the question of why self-proclaimed progressive lawmakers allowed this economic injustice and catastrophe to happen and allowed the destruction of our small businesses. Face the truth, when it comes to economic policy, democracy does not exist at City Hall, only oligarchy serving the wealthy few.

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Opinion: As The World Turns

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Some weeks feel like a year in the life of national politics, especially as it concerns President Trump. He likes saying that no president in history has done more than he. Maybe, but is it good? If last week felt like a half dozen episodes of a soap opera, you are forgiven. It was produced by the recently self-proclaimed “chosen one.”

In just one week, Trump attacked members of Congress who have been critical of him and the Israeli government. He proceeded to pressure Israel to forbid the planned visit of two of them. Evidently the First Amendment has no meaning to this President.

He went on to lecture the Jewish community about anti-Semitism and said that any Jew who voted against him and for a Democrat was either ignorant or “disloyal.”

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Opinion: De Blasio’s Delusion

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders 

Last week I saw Mayor Bill de Blasio on a local newscast giving an interview from the Iowa State Fair. He looked very relaxed in his shirtsleeves with no tie or jacket. I think he had just eaten a corndog, a local favorite. He seemed a million miles away from the daily cares of his actual job as chief executive of New York City. To be precise, he was about eleven hundred miles away from home.

Hizzoner was enjoying himself free from the problems of the disgraceful public housing conditions, the mass transit infrastructure woes, another police suicide, the worry about a terrorist attack in Chelsea with the discovery of what appeared at first to be improvised explosive devices. You know, some of the stuff that requires a Mayor to be on the job 24/7. But Bill de Blasio assures us that he is in communication with his staff every hour. That sort of makes him New York’s first Skype Mayor.

To be sure, everyone deserves a vacation and respite from their job. But Bill de Blasio has been spending chunks of time out of the city on a regular basis for the better part of 2019. His venue of choice has been Iowa because that is the first state which will be holding a Presidential nominee contest in just five months.

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Opinion: A fitting tribute

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last weekend, my wife and I hosted friends of ours from the great state of Michigan who were visiting New York City. Of course they wanted to see all the sites of interest in Manhattan. We did that and we also saw some wonderful shows on Broadway, including “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Ain’t Too Proud,” which is a wonderful musical about the life and times of that great Motown singing group known as The Temptations. I recommend both shows.

But as we approach the 18th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, my friends wanted to go downtown to “Ground Zero” and see the area which for many New Yorkers, and Americans everywhere, has become sacred ground and a pilgrimage.

It is hard to believe that so many years have now passed since that dreadful day when nearly 3,000 people were killed by the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers and caused such destruction. Surely it is a moment in time that none of us will ever forget. I was just a few hundred yards away when the planes struck. No New Yorker in particular can ever forget the grief and anger that we all felt as our city was attacked.

I found myself reliving the whole experience as I walked my friends from the Brooklyn Bridge subway stop across City Hall Park to Broadway and then along Church Street to the site. Retracing the very path that I travelled that morning on 9/11.

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Opinion: Turning over a new leaf at Bellevue Park South

Bellevue South Park (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

For almost four decades, Bellevue South Park has provided Kips Bay residents a much-needed oasis for recreation and relaxation in an area otherwise starved for green space. Unfortunately, in recent years, the park has become a hotspot for illegal activity that includes drinking and drug use. These behaviors make the park unwelcome and unsafe for the families in the neighborhood. We must address these problems as a community and make the park a safe and enjoyable place for all.

Bellevue Hospital, which operates over 300 psychiatric beds, and the 850-bed 30th Street Men’s Shelter are just steps away from the park, making it a natural hang out spot for homeless individuals as well as those with mental health issues. Often these groups overlap, creating even greater challenges with providing services. Further complicating the situation is the nearby The Children’s Center, whose clients are city’s most vulnerable children waiting to be placed with a foster family. Teens in the facility face incredible emotional stress and unfortunately have a history of being involved in violent incidents around the neighborhood.

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Opinion: Gunning down America

On the Monday after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, several dozen people gathered in Union Square to both mourn the several dozen victims as well as to criticize the ease of buying guns in America. Organized by the group RefuseFascism.org, many at the rally were critical of politicians who blamed mental illness as the cause of the massacres rather than the availability of military-style guns. (Photo by Jefferson Siegel)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week I wrote about gun violence and mass murder. My column was a warning entitled “It could happen anywhere.”

Two days later, it did.

This time a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. It was one of the worst massacres in U.S. history, leaving 20 dead and dozens more seriously wounded. The weapon of choice again was an assault weapon. And then just hours later a gunman in Dayton, Ohio opened fire on innocent bystanders killing nine with an assault weapon. It took 30 seconds. That’s the killing power of assault weapons.

Thirty-one dead and scores wounded in 12 hours. They won’t be the last.

In El Paso, the assailant was fueled by hatred of Hispanics and Mexicans who largely inhabit the city of El Paso. He was said to be enraged by what he referred to as the “invasion” of Hispanic immigrants. He used the very same language that we have heard this president use over and over again. “Invasion.”

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