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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At Epstein town hall, concerns abound on bikes, voting rights

Rachel Bloom from Citizens United Foundation (right) on voting rights at the town hall

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a town hall at the New York University Dental School on East 24th Street last Thursday, attended by more than 100 people braving last week’s arctic deep freeze.

Instead of a single-room free-for-all, the event was broken up into two separate hour-long panels with three different topics that residents could learn more about during each panel. Epstein said that the approach intended to give attendees one-on-one time with experts on a number of different topics, which included voting rights, education and legalization of marijuana during the first panel and transportation, housing and disability rights during the second.

Alex Camarda from Reinvent Albany and Rachel Bloom from Citizens Union Foundation discussed voting rights and good government during the first panel, answering questions about legislative issues such as closing the LLC Loophole, in addition to addressing difficulties that residents had while voting in the last election.

“I’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town for many years and I had so much trouble voting in the last election,” Adrienne Cosner said. “There’s been a lot of irregularity.”

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With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise, Maloney pushing ‘Never Again’ bill

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney speaks about her bill at Center for Jewish History. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Following a spate of disturbing incidents of anti-Semitism in New York City, including in her district, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is reintroducing legislation aimed at making holocaust education a mandatory part of the curriculum at schools around the country.

Maloney said she has introduced the Never Again Education Act at least five times already but is hoping that with Democrats in the majority, she can finally get the bill the hearing it has so far been denied. She said she’s also already gotten support from a few senators on a potential companion bill and in Congress, the bill has 22 co-sponsors.

“We’re making progress,” Maloney said, before blaming the bill’s inaction these past few years on what was then a GOP-led house. “It’s really hard to get anything passed in the U.S. Congress,” she said. But, she added. “If it comes to the floor of the Congress, I think it would pass.”

Along with making Holocaust education required, the legislation also provides a $2 million budget for things like textbooks, visits to schools from experts and holocaust survivors, field trips and a website with educational resources for teachers.

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Pols get behind female Boy Scout, who is still unrecognized by BSA

Local elected officials held a press conference by the Fearless Girl statue to draw attention to the fact that Stuyvesant Town Boy Scout Sydney Ireland, who’s been in the program for over a decade, still doesn’t have her record of work recognized. (Pictured) Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Sydney Ireland, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of NOW (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Just as the organization officially began accepting girls into its program on February 1, elected officials last week called on the Boy Scouts of America to officially recognize Stuyvesant Town resident Sydney Ireland’s 13 years of work as a Scout.

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, along with State Senator (and Eagle Scout) Brad Hoylman and other advocates, joined 17-year-old Ireland at the Fearless Girl statue last Thursday to demand the BSA formally acknowledge Ireland’s work with the organization.

Ireland joined the Cub Scouts at age four with her brother and has been fighting to be recognized by the organization since she was 11. She said that leaders at the local level have been more open to making decisions that allow her and other girls to participate but that despite changes at the national level, much of her work in the Scouts will have to be redone.

“If the (Boy Scouts of America) wants to welcome young women and build our program, we must be treated equally,” Ireland, who has been working to obtain the coveted Eagle rank, said. “(Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh) should not hide behind the discriminatory membership ban against girls to then justify dismissing my hard work and the work of so many young women.”

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Child Victims Act finally passes

State Senator Brad Hoylman during floor debate for the Child Victims Act (Photo by State Senate Media)

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst of a flurry of progressive bill passing and signing in the state capitol, the long-denied Child Victims Act, sponsored by State Brad Hoylman, has finally passed both houses. With Governor Andrew Cuomo having already declared his support — even getting some backlash from the Archdiocese for his newly leftist leanings — the signing of the bill seems just a formality at this point.

The legislation’s language was amended this week to make it clear that secular as well as religious institutions could be held accountable for past incidents of abuse.

Last year it was passed in the Assembly, as it was the year before, but went nowhere in what was then a GOP-led State Senate. This year, however, the bill passed unanimously in the Upper House and nearly unanimously in the Assembly. Opposition to the bill, which has been around at least 13 years, largely had to do with the one-year lookback window of opportunity for starting a claim of abuse in instances where the statute of limitations has expired. The bill will also allow survivors of child sex abuse to file a civil suit against their abusers or institutions that enabled abuse until the age of 55. Currently the age limit is 23. The lookback window will apply to survivors older than 55 as well. Additionally, those abused at a public institution will no longer be required to file a notice of claim as a condition to filing a lawsuit.

Following the bill’s passage, Hoylman admitted he was not expecting to get unanimous support from his colleagues, although he did think it would pass based on the fact that a number of freshman senators had made the CVA part of their platforms. He also credited the bill’s success to new Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins as well as the activism of sex abuse survivors.

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Council approves Waterside affordability deal

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Waterside Plaza as seen from Stuyvesant Cove Park (Pictured last August) Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council voted last Thursday to approve an agreement that will protect longtime Waterside Plaza tenants against substantial rent increases as part of a lease extension between the property and Housing Preservation and Development.

The agreement will allow tenants who have been living at the property since before Waterside left the Mitchell-Lama program and will be retiring soon to receive rent protections. City Council Member Keith Powers, who has been working with Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development on negotiations for the deal for over a year, was able to negotiate an additional year with HPD so that tenants have until 2020 to retire and qualify for the rent protections, compared to 2019 when the plan was first announced.

“It’s not huge but it at least gives people who might be affected a better idea of how they should plan,” Powers said after the Council vote of the additional year.

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New NY Senate passes long-stalled LGBTQ protections, progressive bills

State Senator Brad Hoylman is congratulated by colleagues last week after two of his bills, GENDA and a ban on gay conversion therapy, are passed. (Photo courtesy of State Senator Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, two LGBTQ rights bills that were long-championed by State Senator Brad Hoylman — and long ignored by what was a Republican majority until now — were finally passed. They included a ban on gay conversion therapy and GENDA (The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act), which expands the laws on discrimination to include gender identity and expression.

Additionally, the Child Victims Act, which would lengthen the amount of time victims of sex crimes have to file suits, was included in the governor’s proposed budget. The bill has seen some opposition from religious institutions, including schools and the Boy Scouts of America, and a story in the Times Union recently noted a potential loophole that could exempt public schools.

In response, Hoylman said while he is confident there is no such loophole, the bill will be reworked before it is reintroduced this legislative session to prevent there being any questions about this.

GENDA, meanwhile, is expected to go into effect within 30 days of being signed by Cuomo, while the gay conversion therapy ban would go into effect immediately. Part of the GENDA bill would go into effect in November to give local law enforcement agencies time to catch up and also make paperwork changes.

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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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Hoylman bills get support in governor’s 2019 agenda

State Senator Hoylman is the sponsor of the Child Victim’s Act and GENDA. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted a number of causes frequently championed by State Senator Brad Hoylman in his speech outlining his agenda for 2019 earlier last month, in addition to pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The governor specifically called for the passage of Hoylman’s legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime and human rights laws. The governor also called for bolstering gun control measures and passing Senator Hoylman’s bill banning bump-fire stock devices.

Hoylman said that he’s optimistic about the governor’s commitment to pass his legislation, especially because of the Democrats’ new majority. Of Hoylman’s bills that the governor mentioned in his address, the senator said that the Child Victims Act, which would increase the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, is one of the most crucial.

“New York is an outlier for protections for child sexual abuse and LGBT issues, which were two issues that the governor mentioned, so I’m really glad to see him supporting them,” Hoylman said. “And now we have a Senate to support them. No longer does the governor have to compromise, which unfortunately has been the case in the last decade.”

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2018: A year of L hell, ferry launch and more

Vehicles and pedestrians squeeze between construction barriers along East 14th Street. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The year 2018 didn’t lack for major changes in the community from the transformation of East 14th Street into a (potentially full-time) construction zone to the maiden voyage of a ferry with a stop at Stuyvesant Cove to the axing of a courtyard full of beloved trees in Stuyvesant Town. There was also what appeared to be an uptick in crime perpetrated by youths and homeless men in Kips Bay as well as some political intrigue, with Congressional fixture Carolyn Maloney seeing her first serious competition in nearly a decade.

For more on the year that was, as covered by this newspaper, read on:

  1. There is no doubt at this point that 2018 was the year of L hell. (The day after Town & Village went to press, Governor Cuomo announced his alternative proposal.) Long before the dreaded L train shutdown even would begin, residents of the street have been impacted by the loss of 60 parking spaces, constant noise and clouds of dust from the vehicles going in and out of the construction area along the north side of the street, all while construction on developments goes on along the south side of the street. Local elected officials have been pushing the MTA for some concessions and have won a few so far, like better lighting along the construction barriers, sound reducing blankets and the installation of air quality monitors. But the effort has remained to reduce evening and weekend hours of work to give neighbors — some suffering from respiratory problems — a break. At one point, a lawsuit that had been filed to stop or delay the L train work due to accessibility and congestion issues was expanded to include the misery felt by residents whose apartments face the construction zone between Stuyvesant Town and the East Village.

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Epstein wants student loan forgiveness for low-income NYers

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Late last month, the State Assembly held a hearing in an effort to come up with solutions to the worsening student loan crisis.

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein later said that while it’s yet to be determined by his colleagues if this is a matter to be handled legislatively, he personally supports student loan forgiveness. At the hearing, testimony was also given about whether it’s necessary to regulate student loan servicers in New York.

Over the past decade, student loan debt in New York State has grown by 112 percent, bringing the number of borrowers here to just under three million. Prior to the hearing, the Assembly said the stats highlight “the significant impact the student loan industry has on our population and (how it) needs to be examined with greater urgency.”

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Hoylman is appointed chair of State Senate judiciary committee

State Senator Brad Hoylman with new State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Counsins (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, State Senator Brad Hoylman was named chair of the Judiciary Committee by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

On the December 12 appointment, Hoylman said, “The issue of equal access to justice and judicial independence couldn’t be more important as Trump continues his all-out assault on our court system.”

Hoylman for some time has been pushing a bill that would make it easier for people sexually abused as children to seek justice many years later.

Asked if being on a committee that tackles crime issues would help push the Child Victims Act along, he responded, “It doesn’t hurt.” What also doesn’t hurt is that Democrats have the majority and the bill, while facing opposition from churches and other institutions, has plenty of partisan support.

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City Council bill blitz takes aim at lying landlords

Council Member Keith Powers and other members of the Council (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The City Council has introduced a package of 18 bills that take aim at landlords who use shady tactics to empty their buildings on lower-rent paying tenants.

To crack down on the practices, which include lying on permits and denying access to building inspectors, the legislation’s sponsors are hoping to hit back with denials of permits and doubling of fines for violating existing laws.

Keith Powers was one of the 12 council members who introduced a bill. His legislation would deny building permits to property owners for one year if they are caught lying about the number of occupied units in their buildings.

Powers told Town & Village the bills are intended to crack down on bad actors and improve coordination between oversight agencies. They were, in part, inspired by the revelation that the Kushner Companies failed to note the presence of rent-stabilized tenants in 17 buildings 42 times when filing applications with the Department of Buildings.

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Affordable housing and L train woes top concerns at East Side town hall

Mayor Bill de Blasio answers questions from audience members at a town hall co-hosted by Council Member Keith Powers at Hunter College. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The L train shutdown and the lack of local affordable housing were among the main concerns of East Side residents who packed a town hall hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Keith Powers last Wednesday evening. The mayor, along with numerous representatives from city agencies as well as Powers and other local elected officials, answered questions from more than 300 advocates and community residents during the event at Hunter College.

Stuyvesant Town resident and former ST/PCV Tenants Association president Al Doyle got in the first question of the night, asking the mayor if he would actively support a return to rent stabilization of all apartments that had been deregulated due to vacancy decontrol.

The mayor admitted that he couldn’t necessarily commit to that, at least at this point, despite wanting to.

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Stringer releases affordable housing plan

Comptroller Scott Stringer, pictured at a town hall earlier this month (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City Comptroller Scott Stringer unveiled an affordable housing plan at the end of last month targeting middle-income New Yorkers who don’t qualify for affordable housing under the city’s current plan, proposing to fund it by eliminating advantages for all-cash home buyers.

The new tax model proposed in Stringer’s plan would eliminate the Mortgage Recording Tax (MRT). When buyers purchase a home in New York City or elsewhere in the state, the Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT) is imposed and is based on the price paid, but only those who borrow to purchase their home or who refinance to pay for the home pay the MRT, which often means they end up paying twice as much in taxes as all-cash buyers.

Stringer’s plan would eliminate the MRT entirely and would treat all transactions equally, regardless of how a home is purchased. A report from Stringer’s office that the plan is based on predicts that the tax proposed in the plan would save middle-class New Yorkers more than $5,700 on a purchase or refinancing, and would raise up to $400 million annually.

“Paying all cash means that you pay less,” Stringer said. “There’s a penalty you pay for being middle class, but under our plan, all home purchases would be taxed the same. If we keep the rate low, we can make ownership more affordable for the middle class. This is good policy and would raise enough to fully fund our plan.”

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