Opinion: Is the rent too damn high?

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Let me state at the outset that I like Joseph Strasberg a lot. I have known him for something like 40 years. He used to live in Stuyvesant Town when I did. He is smart and he is savvy, and an all-around good guy. So who is Joseph Strasberg?

Joe is the long-time president of the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA). Their slogan is “we house New York.” They represent hundreds of rent regulated building owners throughout New York City. Much of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village remain under the Rent Stabilization law. As such, thousands of tenants in our community are subject to the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) annual determination regarding rent renewal amounts for leases expiring in any given year.

For the past two years those increases have been small, just about two percent for a two-year lease and zero percent for a one-year lease renewal. In essence for tenants who have opted for one-year lease renewals their rent has been frozen for the past two years. Good news for tenants, but is this unfair to owners? Well Strasberg and the RSA say “for sure!” In fact, as was reported in the T&V, they went to court to petition a judge to overturn the RGB’s freezing of rents. They argued it was arbitrary and capricious and challenged the independence of the board from the political influence of the mayor. Strasberg averred in his court filings that the current mayor had “corrupted” the process. Strasberg and the RSA lost.

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Opinion: Bait and switch

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It was a sales pitch; it was always a sales pitch. It was like the defunct Trump University whose former students now have buyer’s remorse and have won a $22 million restitution of their tuition costs for a product that was promised but not delivered.

For nearly two years since the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to put Americans first and to “make America great again.” He advertised his credentials as the consummate businessman and the ultimate deal maker. Just the kind of tonic Washington D.C.’s unhealthy dysfunctional government needed.

To that end he promised to repeal the current health care law and replace it with something “much better and more affordable for every American.”

But instead he endorsed a plan that would toss 24 million Americans from their current health coverage, increase premiums and roll back benefits.

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Opinion: How many more lies?

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Not wanting to sound too melodramatic I still must ask the question: what more will it take for Donald Trump to say or do something that will cause him to forfeit the confidence of the American people as a stable and responsible leader of this nation? If lying and weird Twitter outbursts based on no facts were an impeachable offense then Vice President Mike Pence would be warming up in the bullpen to relieve this president.

Without recounting the dozens of insults, lies and provocations uttered by Mr. Trump during the campaign and before, it is instructive to remember some of what he has said since being sworn in as president less than two months ago.

He started by claiming that he won the election in an “historic landslide.” And then when corrected that the election was very close and that he actually was one of the very few presidents ever elected without having won the actual popular vote, he concocted a baseless assertion that there were millions of illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton. He questioned the entire integrity of our political voting system, the underpinning of democracy.

There are no facts to support those allegations.

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Opinion: Fool me once…

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It’s Groundhog Day and like the movie by the same name I feel as if we have been here before.

President Donald Trump is objecting strenuously to what he considers false reports by the media about himself. He is now labeling any personally critical news report as “fake news.” This from the man who spent years alleging that Barack Obama was not a legitimate president, propagating the myth that Obama was actually born in Kenya and not a natural born citizen. He also made veiled suggestions that Obama was not a Christian but really a Muslim. Both scurrilous allegations were false, but that did not stop Donald Trump from launching his political career on the quicksand of a lie.

Donald Trump has proved to be the great purveyor of fabricated information that becomes bogus news headlines. Now his White House team refers to that as “alternative facts.” During the campaign he falsely asserted that thousands of Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001. Or the whopper about the father of his main Republican opponent Texas Senator Ted Cruz, somehow being involved in the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Or tweeting that 80 percent of whites murdered in the United States are killed at the hands of black people. He still insists that he achieved a “landslide victory” in spite of losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Now he asserts, with no proof, that millions of people illegally voted for his opponents which is why he lost the actual vote.

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Opinion: America’s greatness on 20th Street

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

There has been so much talk about making America great “again.” There has also been a lot said about the impact of immigrants in our nation. I submit that the two questions are inextricably tied together.

By definition, virtually every one of us are descendants of immigrants. Some from 20 years ago or less and others from 200 years ago or more. Only if your heritage traces back to say the Cherokee nation or Iroquois can you say that you are not from an immigrant family. America has always been the beacon of hope and opportunity for the multitude of newly arrived inhabitants.

This history is particularly poignant here in New York City where so many of our ancestors arrived on Ellis Island and then settled somewhere in the five boroughs. Irish, Italian, Scandinavian, East European, Asian, Indian, African, Latin American… and on and on. These immigrants built New York City and continue to serve our city in so many occupations and small businesses.

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Opinion: Shall we overcome?

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

I had planned a different column for this week…but that will have to wait.

The horrific events of last week in St. Paul, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas have cast a pall over the American spirit and should cause us all to take a deep breath and think long and hard about race and bigotry in this country, past, present and future. In St. Paul and Baton Rouge, two more young black men lost their lives to trigger happy police officers, otherwise sworn to preserve and protect their citizens. This scene has tragically repeated itself in dozens of American cities over recent years. In Dallas, a young black man seemingly decided to vent his fury against white police officers by ambushing them during a protest gathering and killing five.

In the days that have followed, some politicians called for calm and reflection. Others dismissed or failed to understand the meaning of the “Black Lives Matters” rallies. One politician even declared that the murders in Dallas was war on white people and inferred violence against President Obama! Still others assigned blame to all police officers for the crimes of a few.

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Opinion: The way we were

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Listening to the political rhetoric of this year and hearing over again that we need to “make America great again” has got me to thinking. How good were the good old days? When was America and our cities great or at least greater than today? We tend to harken back to a time gone by and think nostalgically about those days. The problems never seemed as bad as the current ones. But were they? If we turn back the clock was this country better off 50 years ago than today?

So think back to 1966.

There was a war in South East Asia that would kill American soldiers at a rate of about 100 per week and ultimately spark violent protests in cities and across dozens of college campuses. Segregation was still very much a fact in this country including Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Those of us who grew up in this community in the 1950s and 1960s never saw a black or Hispanic family unless we ventured below 14th Street. And speaking of Stuyvesant Town, there was no air conditioning in the hot summer months when temperatures sweltered into the 90s. But at least we had the fountains in the Oval to cool us, and of course the ever present Sam the ice cream man who stationed his pushcart on 20th Street across from Lenz’s.

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Reckoning for state government

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Once again the light is shining brightly on the Albany scene… and not in a good way. The last chapter of the saga of convicted Dean Skelos (former Senate Majority Leader) and convicted Shelly Silver (former Assembly Speaker) is about to be written as they are soon to be sentenced for their crimes and misdeeds as leaders of the State Legislature. In the meantime more unsavory information has come to light about the former speaker’s personal life and ways in which those relationships compromised the public trust. Undoubtedly both men will be sentenced to prison and maybe for a considerable length of time. The specter of these two legislative leaders being led off to incarceration is a profoundly sad day for New York State government.

For me personally it is enormously painful to watch. For the public it is more than a little disillusioning.

I served with both Dean and Shelly and consider them both to be friends. Shelly and I shared a close political relationship for all the 28 years that I served in the Assembly until 2006. My sense of unreality at what was going on just beyond the sight of their colleagues and just beneath the surface has shocked me. If I were still in the Assembly, would I have known? And If I had known what would I have said or done?

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Opinion: Spitzer on fire

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The 49 percent of the electorate who voted for Eliot Spitzer to be New York City Comptroller in 2013 should send a thank you note to the 51 percent who did not. Spitzer in 2008 lost his position as governor through resignation following a prostitution scandal; lost his wife; and lost the respect of the citizens of New York. He should have learned his lesson… he did not. Last week, Spitzer was back on the front pages of the New York City newspapers responding to allegations that he spent a (very expensive) night at the Plaza Hotel with a prostitute and was accused of assaulting her. She has since left this country and returned to her homeland, Russia.

But this is not a story about prostitution. Personally I think that what goes on between consenting adults is their business and their business only, even if it is “business.” I have always thought it was odd that prostitution is only illegal if money changes hands. If it is not a commercial transaction, with no currency involved, then there is no crime. It is all very curious; the law I mean.

Nor is this a story about morality or fidelity.  Mr. Spitzer has professed his love for another woman, his girlfriend since the divorce from his wife.

Whether what Mr. Spitzer is alleged to have done (again) is moral or not, or whether he has broken his vows and promises to yet another woman is beside the point. Far be it for me to condemn or condone. Rather this is a story about judgment and temperament.

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Opinion: The world has seen this kind of hate-mongering before

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

A country weary of war, wracked and roiled by economic woes. Its citizens worried about their jobs and their future. A loss of national confidence in the present. A charismatic leader emerges running for the highest office in the land, promising to make the country “great again” while attacking a religious minority as evil and subversive. Stoking suspicion and fear towards immigrants, non-Caucasian people and non-native born residents. America in 2015? Yes. Also Germany in 1933.

I do not know if Donald Trump is a closeted fascist as some have said, or just so impulsive that he says whatever enters his mind at a given moment.

Children often times have no impulse control and just blurt out things that adults would filter. That is not being politically correct, that is acting like a grown up and understanding that words matter as well as actions.

Donald Trump has insulted immigrants, African Americans, millions of peace loving Muslim citizens and stereotyped Jews. He has attacked with childish characterizations his opponents and critical journalists. He has mocked a disabled reporter and called Senator John McCain a false war hero.

He has repeatedly referred to the President of the United States as “stupid” and suggested that Obama has lied about his birth origin and his practiced religion. Donald Trump is not just being politically incorrect as he and his supporters say, he is behaving like a spoiled adolescent unable to temper his impulses. He is dangerous.

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