Letters to the editor, Sept. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

City’s plan will hurt Stuy Cove

In response to the ad in the September 5 issue of T&V, the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association received a number of comments and questions. The following letter has been sent to elected representatives in Washington, Albany and New York. The SCPA thanks to all those who took the time to contact them.

On Monday, October 21, the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association will hold its annual Friends of Stuyvesant Cove Park meeting. The meeting will take place at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center, located at 449 East 16th Street. Among our agenda items is the planned razing of Stuyvesant Cove Park as part of the East Coast Resiliency Project.

It is the opinion of this body that the planned destruction and modification of the park, a project estimated to deprive the community use of the park for two years or more, will do nothing to prevent flooding in Stuyvesant Cove Park in the future. In addition, despite the surge in 2012, regular park-goers observed that within months, most of the flora was alive and well, with only a few exceptions, and within six months, you would not know anything had happened. All this in spite of the fact that the park had been under four feet of river water.

We understand that funds are being provided by the federal government. However, spending money simply because it is available should not be confused with justification and we are in total disagreement with the city’s decision to choose years of construction, hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs and no discernible new protections for the park itself. Moreover, Stuyvesant Cove Park’s natural resiliency in the wake of Hurricane Sandy proves that this is an ill-conceived over reaction to this event.

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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: 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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Letters to the editor, Aug. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Unfair criticisms of Schwarzman

Re: “Pulling back the curtain on Blackstone,” letter, T&V, Aug. 15

Dear Editor,

I find the character assassination by letter writer “name withheld” of Stephen Schwarzman and President Trump offensive and all too common by Trump haters. The letter writer should at least have the courage to sign his name. It’s not as if Antifa will show up at his door and threaten his wife and children. Contrary to what “Name withheld” would have us believe, Trump never said there were good white supremacists. Trump said, “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”

Regarding caging of children, there is no question the situation of people detained at our border is an unfortunate one, but before we believe people who bash Trump for political gain, we need to ask ourselves what are the alternatives. One is to send the illegal immigrants back home immediately, but that would require changing laws that the Democrats refuse to change.

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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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Opinion: Love it or leave it

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week the political rhetoric from the President of the United States sunk to a new low, awash with disturbing invective.

Donald Trump attacked four members of Congress who happen to be women of color and have been very critical of Trump’s immigration policies and his efforts to ban Muslims from entering this country. Trump said of the four that they should “go back to the crime infested countries that they came from.” But each are United States citizens, three of whom were born here.

So “go back to the country that they came from?” Say what?

It was not lost on anyone that the women singled out by Trump were either of Muslim heritage or whose family ties include relatives from Central American countries. To state the obvious, Trump’s comments are as factually wrong as they are repugnant and bigoted.

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Opinion: The summer of miracles

By former Assemblymember Steve Sanders

Much of my childhood growing up in Stuyvesant Town was shaped by politics, current events and sports. Not surprisingly, it still is.

The summer of 1969, fifty years ago, was a time of extraordinary and nearly unfathomable moments. For those of us who were part of that generation it left indelible memories.

The year before was marked by tragedy and turmoil the likes of which we had not seen before. The urban street riots and looting across the nation. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy rocked us to the core. The anti-war protests that enveloped the Democratic National Convention in Chicago while hundreds of American soldiers died each month in Vietnam.

The anger stirred by George Wallace who ran for President mostly on his racist segregation policies, and carried five southern states in a contentious election that ultimately Richard Nixon won by a hair.

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Opinion: What’s this picture worth?

A father and daughter drowned while trying to cross a river between Matamoros in Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

I remember the powerful image of an anguished female student standing over the bloodied lifeless body of a fellow Kent State College student killed by National Guardsmen during the Vietnam War protests. I remember the picture of the lone Chinese protester blocking a tank rolling through Tiananmen Square during that country’s crackdown on democracy. And who can forget the image of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the lunar surface with his giant leap for mankind 50 years ago next month? Such photographs capture a moment in history and became etched in our collective psyches. They also shape the way Americans feel about important events and shape policy issues to come.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In an instant, it can define a policy debate or provide instant clarity to a complicated issue with its powerful graphic. And so it was last week.

Who amongst us was not moved to tears while viewing the father and his daughter both drowned in their perilous attempt to make it across the American border because all other entries were closed off? This was a parent desperate to escape his country’s violence and secure a better life for his daughter and family. Every parent can understand that impulse. This father was certainly not of the criminal element as President Trump has tried to depict all immigrants from Central America.

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Opinion: The difference maker

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It has often be said that elections have consequences. That statement was never truer than last week in Albany.

 You may recall that Brian Kavanagh, after serving for ten years in the State Assembly, in a district that I represented for almost three decades, ran for an open State Senate seat in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn two years ago. He was elected. But of even greater significance, the State Senate became a Democratic Party majority this year after the 2018 November elections. Senator Kavanagh became chairman of the Senate Housing Committee. That was important because all the New York City tenant protections laws would lapse this year and would need to be debated once again.

 For over half a century the State Senate majority was in the hands of the Republican Party almost without interruption and mostly represented by upstate and suburban legislators. For all those years the Senate was commonly referred to as the place where progressive tenant protection and rent regulation reforms went to die. I can personally attest to that.

During my years in the State Assembly, I introduced dozens of affordable housing bills designed to protect tenants from unfair and excessive rent increases and other protections as well. They routinely passed in the Assembly but rarely if ever were even allowed to be voted upon in the State Senate. Did that fact have anything to do with the other fact, which was that Republican senators received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the real estate industry? Well, nobody can say for certain, but neither do I believe in coincidences like that. My counterpart in the State Senate, Roy Goodman, was frequently rebuffed by his own leadership in trying to advance these bills. In those days, Roy was only one of a couple of other Republican senators who represented large communities of tenants in New York State. So try as he did, he was stymied at every turn.

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Opinion: One flag, many stars

“One nation Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Those are the words from the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag first written in 1863 and formally adopted by Congress in 1942. Twelve years later “under God” was inserted after “one nation.” The Pledge articulates the ideal of a unified society with the common belief that everyone is valued and that freedom and fairness guides our civic life. These are principles worth reflecting upon as America observes Flag Day this week.

The Pledge contains nice words for sure, but aspirational at best. Over the decades many Americans have struggled to secure their liberty and justice. Women were only granted the right to vote in the last century and black people and other minorities were suppressed or restricted and also kept from voting by discriminatory local laws.

As for a “nation indivisible”… that is a tough one. From our inception there have always been profound national schisms. At first it was the agrarian states, mostly in the south with their particular cultural orientation vying with the industrialized northern states. The southern states coveted cheap and even free labor to work their fields and desperately protected the immoral and inhumane institution of slavery. Every school child knows that the fracture between free states and slave states led to the bloody Civil War which divided regions and even families, pitting brother against brother on the battlefields of America.

Despite Lincoln’s hopes for a charitable reconciliation at the war’s end “with malice towards none,” the defeated Confederacy lived under a virtual occupation during the Reconstruction Period. Resentments festered giving rise to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which sought to restore the bigotry of a white supremacist society through intimidation and violence against blacks and others. In the succeeding years America remained deeply alienated along racial, religious and geographic lines.

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Opinion: Pick up the phone

May30 Sanders phone

One of the city’s remaining pay phones at First Avenue and 17th Street

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Thomas Jefferson once said when angry, count to 10 before speaking and when very angry, count to 20.

The problem with modern social media is that it is instantaneous with no pause before we unload our thoughts. Texting, Facebook likes, Instagram, and of course tweeting.

If you walk along First Avenue between 14th Street and 23rd Street, you may see a few communication relics from the past.

For those who were born after the year 1999, they used to be called “telephone booths.” They are very scarce now, sort of like the Model T car of transportation.

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Opinion: Double-edged Sword

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

So it’s official: Bill de Blasio is running… away from New York City. He is seeking the nomination for president in a crowded field of nearly two dozen Democrats. His chances of success range from nearly impossible to absurd.

That would be ok if he were doing this on his own time. But he is virtually abdicating his responsibilities as mayor. That is the part that is really arrogant and offensive.

Blame term limitations at least in part.

You see, de Blasio is a politician with no path to future office but nothing to lose thumbing his nose at his current constituents. He can’t run for mayor again and when his current term ends in 2021, there is no other viable office for him to seek.

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Opinion: Running out the clock

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

To understand what is going on between President Trump, his attorney general, other high-ranking administration officials and the Democrats in the House of Representatives, it is useful to understand basketball strategy. When the game clock is winding down in a close basketball game, the team that is barely ahead and has the ball tries to make sure that the opposing team does not get another shot at scoring a bucket. So they protect the ball or just pass it back and forth to themselves.

With 535 days left before the next presidential election the Trump team is doing just that. Democrats in Congress have issued a subpoena to obtain the full unredacted report by Robert Mueller after newly appointed Attorney General William Barr refused to release parts of it. Barr said NO. Tick, tick, tick. Democrats have also subpoenaed President Trump’s concealed tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. Thus far Trump and his Treasury secretary have said NO. Tick, tick, tick.

Democrats in Congress have requested bank records from a financial institution, which loaned Trump billions of dollars for questionable business dealings, that is now under scrutiny. Trump is suing to block that disclosure. They also want key Trump officials to testify at Congressional hearings regarding a variety of matters now under investigation. Trump is asserting “Executive Privilege” to try to block their testimony which might prove either embarrassing or unveil information about obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation. Tick, tick, tick.

And to add to the president’s woes, The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee just subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to return and clarify information that he provided about contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 election…Uh-oh.

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Opinion: The politics of giving

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Several weeks ago, I wrote a column describing the utter futility of Bill de Blasio’s flirtation with a race for president and his frequent trips out of town in pursuit of that office. An avid Town & Village reader emailed us this week to ask why persons would contribute to such a campaign with little or no hope of victory. The answers are varied.

Yes, there are some political donors who truly believe in a particular candidate come hell or high water or ones who are close friends or relatives. Some candidates run for higher office thinking like those who play the lottery. Even though the probability of success is near zero, as the Power Ball slogan exclaims, “Hey, you never know” or “You can’t win it if you are not in it.” The chances of winning the jackpot and the odds of a nondescript candidate winning the presidency is about the same.

In the case of Donald Trump, he at least had a celebrity following from his business ventures, tabloid exposure, and his television show “The Apprentice.” None of those experiences qualified him to be president, but it did give him universal name recognition and political momentum as a candidate.

But back to Bill de Blasio and other office seekers who are not counted amongst the rich and the famous.

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Opinion: Down for the count

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Something really important happened last week at the United State Supreme Court. Arguments both pro and con were presented regarding a Trump Administration policy to change the way in which the decennial census is calculated by the federal Department of Commerce. The outcome could impact New York State in a big way.

Every ten years the government counts the total number of individuals residing in the country, broken down by each individual state and its cities, towns and villages. Currently the national population estimate updated in 2017 stands at 325,719,178 persons. In New York State, the number is 19,849,399. That includes both citizens and non-citizens alike.

So what’s going on at the Supreme Court and what’s the big deal? And should we be concerned?

The Department of Commerce wants to make a change to the census questionnaires that will be sent next year to every household, and other residential facilities. They want to inquire whether the respondents are citizens or not. The validity of including that question has been challenged and the Supreme Court will soon decide. On the surface this all might seem innocuous…but it is not. In fact it is insidious.

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