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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Opinion: America’s Soul

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

America is not perfect, never was, never will be. After all, we are a reflection of the collective us, some 325 million imperfect human beings. But each generation has tried to learn by the mistakes of the previous ones and aspires to make this nation a more perfect union, and worthy of the lofty words of our founders. To be a beacon of hope for the downtrodden and to secure for our neighbors the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 We are a nation of immigrants, by definition. We came here from Europe, then Asia and later from countries south of our border. Sadly the distant relatives of many of our black neighbors arrived from Africa in bondage to be sold as slaves. That stain on our history is one that we are still trying to come to grips with. Most of us have parents or grandparents who were born in other countries and traveled to these shores seeking a better life. And all of us have ancestors who were new Americans at one time. That diversity has been considered a national strength.

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Editorial: The registered Dems have spoken

Congratulations, Keith Powers and Carlina Rivera.

Following, for some candidates, what had been well over a year in campaigning, the primary race for two open City Council seats has come and gone with Peter Cooper resident Keith Powers and Lower East Sider Carlina Rivera winning in crowded fields. In Manhattan, winners of the Democratic primary are unofficially crowned winners of the election. However, there is still a general election where Powers and Rivera will be facing off against Republicans Rebecca Harary and Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan, respectively.

Still, we congratulate the two primary victors – and their opponents because it was a hard-fought race with only a few vanity candidates cluttering things and relatively little controversy. That said, if those who’ll be on the ballots in November are wise then they should understand that the work of Districts 2 and 4 are already on their shoulders and the time to get organized is now, still a few months before their predecessors are forced out of their offices due to term limits.

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Opinion: Tale of two cities

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

In 2012, New York City and Lower Manhattan in particular were swallowed up by Super Storm Sandy. The unprecedented rainfall left whole communities literally underwater for days and without electricity or steam heat for a week. The loss to local businesses was catastrophic. Repairs and renovations from the storm lasted for years. In fact, the work on the L subway line, which will cause some major disruptions, is directly related to the damage caused by the flooding of the subway tunnels. The costs soared into the tens of billions for the New York-New Jersey region.

Federal disaster assistance was applied for, which requires Congressional approval. Such financial help is common after devastating tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and other natural disasters. The response from Washington, DC is usually sympathetic, swift, and bi-partisan. That is until Texas Senator Ted Cruz got involved.

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Opinion: Combating ‘high rent blight’

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Brad Hoylman

“Commerce is killing culture.” That’s what an East Village small business owner told me as my office prepared a report documenting how independent businesses are being forced out of our neighborhood by rising rents and replaced by national chains or left vacant for years.

I continually hear concerns about this phenomenon — known as “high-rent blight” — from neighbors concerned about availability of local goods and services, empty storefronts’ negative impacts on neighborhoods, and the loss of treasured bookstores and restaurants.

My report, “Bleaker on Bleecker: A Snapshot of High-Rent Blight in Greenwich Village and Chelsea,” examines this vexing problem. Using data collected through surveys across major commercial hubs, the report found a storefront vacancy rate as high as 6.67 percent along Second Avenue from 3rd to 14th Streets, and an even more alarming 10.83 percent storefront turnover rate over the last 12 months. On First Avenue from 10th to 23rd Streets, the vacancy rate was 5.76 percent, while the turnover rate was 11.51 percent.

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Opinion: For once the president shuts up

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Say this about Donald Trump, he knows his base… and they evidently know him.

During his campaign rallies, he would preen and strut around the stage and insult his opponents with childish name-calling. On occasions, he would arouse his supporters by saying he’d like to punch demonstrators and see them carried out on stretchers. Music to the ears of the unstable.

As president, he urges police to rough up persons they arrest. He calls transgender individuals unfit to serve in the military in any capacity. He makes up facts and lies constantly. Is it any wonder that violent irrational groups previously relegated to the shadowy fringes of society now feel emboldened to take to the streets?

He labels the press as “enemies of the people.” But when Neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacy hate groups gathered in an incendiary demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, spewing racist and anti-Semitic slogans while parading as the Ku Klux Klan once did, our self-styled “tell it like it is” president had very little to say. He demurred from confronting the gaggle of haters who use Nazi symbols and KKK imagery to intimidate. Instead, he offered muted opposition to bigotry “from many places.” His initial statement refused to identify or condemn the instigators of this violence or single them out in any way.

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Opinion: A trip to Dallas and the past

In the background is the Texas Book Depository Building. The corner window below the top floor is where Oswald was said to have fired his shots. The marking in the street is where JFK was struck.

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

This year is the centennial celebration of the birth and life of our nation’s 35th president, John F. Kennedy. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

Despite the official conclusions of the Warren Commission, the killing of Kennedy has been shrouded in mystery for decades. Fifteen years after the Warren report pronounced Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman acting on his own, a congressional inquiry into the events of 1963 determined that it was “probable” that there was a conspiracy.

Like many, I had always been fascinated by the events culminating in the shooting in Dealey Plaza and the aftermath. So last week I traveled to Dallas to see for myself what I had read in books and seen in actual film footage… the site of America’s most shocking murder.

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Editorial: That’s some key (card)

Last week, Stuyvesant Town management opened a brand new fitness playground, the first of the complex’s playgrounds to be completely renovated and outfitted with a key-card entry system.

At the ribbon cutting, General Manager Rick Hayduk announced the other playgrounds would eventually follow, not only in being renovated but in becoming key-card access only. This is now Blackstone’s property and the owner can of course do what it wants to the playgrounds. However, before this plan is put into action, we hope management reconsiders completely shutting the playgrounds’ gates to outsiders.

Granted, for years, signs on each playground clearly state that Stuy Town/Peter Cooper is private property and the premises are intended for residents’ use. However, we see nothing wrong with the current system, where non-residents are still welcome to visit a playground so long as a) they’re not being rowdy, b) they haven’t confused some part of the property for a dog run and c) they’re not crowding out actual residents. A few years ago, management began having monitors check IDs at the busier playgrounds to prevent this from happening, and it seems to have worked. We realize a key-card access system is cheaper in the long run than having someone staff the playground so maybe having such a system at just the busiest playgrounds could be a good compromise. The rationale behind this key-card entry plan is to make residents feel safe. Another way to do this would be to have more boots on the ground, worn by public safety officers. The sight of more security people still seems, to us, less intimidating than gating off the community, bit by bit.

We are not knocking gates, by the way. They work well at some places, like Gramercy Park, where the space’s exclusivity is its main selling point. But ST/PCV isn’t Gramercy Park, and we’re pretty sure its accessibility — without the pressure of a guided visit by a leasing agent — has helped rent more than a few homes.

Opinion: Obamacare repeal: What’s at stake

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

We all have friends or family who are ill, some seriously. There are some in nursing homes, some in hospitals, and others being treated at home.

My good friend Bob has been courageously battling cancer for several years. He had surgery and follow up treatment, which to a large extent was paid for by his private insurance. He was doing well for a while, but now the cancer is back with a vengeance and has spread to his liver. He is in the fight of his life, literally. His future is uncertain, maybe no future at all. But at least he does not need the added worry about whether he can access treatment or afford medicines that might save or at least extend his life.

Giving this peace of mind to all Americans was the whole point of the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” which President Trump and his cohorts in Congress are so intent on dismantling.

After vowing to “quickly” do away with Obamacare during his campaign, Trump subsequently declared “who knew health care was so complicated”?

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Opinion: Who is Gerry Mander?

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Well, actually, Gerry Mander is not a who but a what.

Gerrymander is the practice of reapportioning voters by drawing political districts from the local level to congressional seats that are designed to favor one political party over the other or even one particular officeholder, and in so doing virtually preordain the outcome of elections. It was coined after Governor Gerry of Massachusetts who engineered such a plan for his state legislature early in the 19th century. Evidently one district was drawn in such a way that it resembled a salamander… hence gerrymander!

This practice is as old as politics itself, but of late it seems to have become more sophisticated and more pervasive, so much so that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case when the Court reconvenes in October to determine whether efforts at redrawing political maps violates the United States Constitution.

Every ten years after the national census is completed, political district lines are required to be re-drawn so that districts comprise approximately the same number of persons. This is to insure that the power of the voters is evenly distributed.

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Opinion: The politics of NYC education

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The debate about continuing the Mayoral Control Law for NYC schools is still raging even after the legislature left the Capital and left that matter unresolved. With a looming expiration date of June 30, I am occasionally asked, why, if mayoral control is so important, was it not enacted while Rudy Giuliani was mayor who also coveted that authority?

Some think it was because Giuliani was a Republican and the State Assembly with its speaker was Democratic. But of course I remind them that when mayoral control was enacted in Albany back in 2002, another Republican, Michael Bloomberg, was mayor.

But there is truth to the fact that the legislation was not negotiated during the Giuliani tenure in part because of who was mayor. I know this because at that time I was chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

I believe that mayoral control and the coherent accountability to the mayor with community input into decision making is far superior to the previous system of decentralization with its authority disbursed across the education landscape.

After a few brief discussions with Giuliani officials in the 1990s, it became clear that the mayor was only interested in total and unfettered control. He did not wish to be bothered or impeded by community or parental involvement whatsoever. In fact, he disdained and even ridiculed those with contrary points of views. Giuliani wanted to run the school system as he ran the police department… no questions asked. That governance view may or may not be right for schools, but it was surely not a philosophy endorsed by Assembly Democrats.

In our strongly-held views, parents and the public needed to be invested and involved in issues and decisions affecting their one million children, the ultimate consumers of our education product. It’s not for me to say whether Mayor Giuliani was right or we were right, but that was the difference.

When Michael Bloomberg became mayor, he too wanted control of the city school system but was ultimately willing to accept public involvement as part of the construct. Even Mayor Bloomberg valued and stressed his authority far more than civic engagement and that was disappointing. But at least Mayor Bloomberg (grudgingly perhaps) allowed a degree of public participation.

At the end of the day, public education is not like running the Police Department or Parks Department or other agencies of city government. Parents entrust the schools with personal custody of their precious children for a large part of every week. They have a right and a need to know what is going on in their schools as well as to have an opportunity to impact school policy. It is their children’s future at stake. What could be more important?

Decentralization failed largely because no public official was ultimately responsible or could be brought to account.

That is why as imperfect as it may be, mayoral control is a better system.

But without a sense of partnership with parents and communities, mayoral control will not make our schools as good as they might be.

If the leadership in Albany truly cares about public education in New York City, they will quit the political gamesmanship and restore the tools this mayor needs by immediately reauthorizing mayoral control. Surrendering to the previous dysfunctional system would be a grievous and cynical abdication of responsibility. It would be the triumph of politics over children.

And if this or some future mayor truly cares about good policies he or she will pay attention to the stakeholders who care the most… parents.

Opinion: From Oswald to Hodgkinson

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Although separated by 54 years, the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and James T. Hodgkinson is all too familiar.

They both possessed a legally acquired rifle, and for reasons only known to them fired shots at the government of the United States with devastating consequences.

In the case of Oswald, he bought his rifle through an ordinary mail order transaction and Hodgkinson legally purchased his weapon as well… no questions asked.

Oswald fired shots at the president of the United States and Hodgkinson fired dozens of shots at members of Congress last week. Both shooters were killed before they could answer questions or to stand trial for their actions.

But the most telling similarity of these shootings is that after more than a half century and over 1.5 million shooting deaths of famous and anonymous Americans, the government of this country is still unwilling to come to grips with the plague of ever more lethal firearms in the hands of ever more people.

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Opinion: Fair housing in an unfair world

Ashley Skaria
Baruch College 2019, Macaulay Honors College 2019

Every news cycle contains a headline documenting another case of widespread discrimination.  Whether it be President Trump’s executive order, coined the “Muslim ban”, which barred immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries to the alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents, it appears that there is an increase in intolerant and prejudicial behavior. Despite this changing culture, it is important to stay vigilant and protect people’s basic rights. The rising discriminatory culture in America can have serious effects on many policy issues, one of them being fair housing.

Fair housing was established by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and is essentially the right to choose housing free from discrimination. The Act was passed in the aftermath of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and was a key issue for the Civil Rights Movement.

The history of fair housing has been contentious and it remains so. The Fair Housing Act attempts to reverse decades of discriminatory federal housing policy, such as redlining and blockbusting, to create fully integrated communities.

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Opinion: JFK’s enduring legacy

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

This week marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. President for less than three years, Kennedy still fascinates and inspires us even after more than fifty years since his assassination in Dallas.

Born into a family of wealth and privilege, nonetheless John Kennedy was instructed that “to those who much is given, much is expected” and that public service was a high calling.

What is it about the JFK legacy that still kindles a flame within us?

I suspect that part of it was the manner in which he left us so young with so much unfulfilled promise. I also suspect that part of the Kennedy mystique is attributed to the turbulent years that were the 1960s. It was a time of hope and change and also triumph and tragedy.

Kennedy embodied all of that.

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