Opinion: Leading by example

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

During tough times, I often take refuge and inspiration from history and the leadership that helped people get through the worst moments.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unimaginable disruptions to our daily lives and poses a serious health and safety threat to possibly tens of million Americans, and hundreds of millions more around the globe. But it is not the first calamitous threat a nation has ever faced.

Exactly 80 years ago another deadly enemy was on the move causing whole nations to be swallowed up in just weeks.

The Nazi war machine was spreading across all of Europe faster than the COVID-19 contagion. Countries were falling like dominos. In just a few months during the spring of 1940 Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Finland, Denmark, Norway and France were overrun by the Nazis, soon North Africa too. The year before, parts of Eastern Europe fell victim to the German army rout.

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Opinion: Crisis, yes… apocalypse, no

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Over the past twenty years, we have had more than our share of calamitous events, each one with worries and dire fears. But it is said neither our greatest hopes nor our worst fears are ever realized. And so it will be with the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2001, the New York City World Trade Center and the Pentagon building were hit with terrorist missiles in the form of passenger airplanes. The World Trade Center towers were utterly destroyed with a loss of life of over 3,000 persons including hundreds of first responders. For those of us in New York City, it seemed like the end of the world. The Stock Market crashed and closed for several days. All of New York City was on lockdown. Nobody knew if there would be more attacks in the days to come. It was terrifying.

But our city showed courage and resilience. We somehow got through those dark days where destruction and fear seemed to permeate everyday life. We persevered. We rebuilt and we restored downtown Manhattan. We came through it arguably even stronger than before.

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Opinion: Coming to our census

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

I must confess I do not much like filling our surveys or answering questionnaires. We all have busy lives with much to do and a lot to think about. However, the census material that is being sent out to every household this very week is very significant information to open and to read, and then to respond to the simple 10 questions. This is of critical importance to every New Yorker in particular. The stakes are very high for our city and state.

Every 10 years, the United States Constitution requires a tabulation of the total population of the nation, state by state, and community by community. The numbers that are yielded are not just interesting data, they are the basis for how much federal resources and political representation this state will receive relative to the rest of the nation. Ten years ago, we failed.

In 2010, only about 62% of all New Yorkers responded to the census questions. That compares unfavorably to the 76% response rate in the rest of the nation. That failure to respond has likely led to an undercount of persons living in New York State. The undercount has cost the State billions of dollars each year. A lower recorded population also impacts the number of Congressional seats that New York State is assigned and our strength in the Electoral College, which selects the President of the United States.

It is vitally important that New Yorkers not repeat that dismal showing again this go around. In baseball parlance, we need to step up to the plate!

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Opinion: Science versus convenience

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

This week, the ban on issuance of plastic bags in supermarkets and other stores went into effect in New York State. It is inconvenient, to say the least. Customers must now either bring their own reusable bags or deal with the more cumbersome paper bags that these retail places will substitute. Yes, life is tough.

But science has proven that the billions of plastic bags in circulation poses a serious threat to our environment. They are not biodegradable. And when they inevitably find their way into our water systems, lakes, rivers, streams and oceans, they do major damage to our already fragile ecosystem. Aquatic life below the waves are choking and suffocating. This carnage to sea life damages the fishing industries. These plastic wraps is also a cause of massive pollution which adversely impacts the environment and us all.

Next year, new regulations are scheduled to be issued which will implement congestion pricing in New York City. It is intended to reduce the number of vehicles entering and clogging Midtown Manhattan. Private vehicles would be charged a new toll when entering the zone. This is intended to be a deterrent to driving in congested areas of Manhattan and instead encourage the use of mass transit.

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Opinion: The truth about Mayor Pete

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Some people think that this is the most consequential Presidential election since 1860. I agree.

Had Democrat Stephen Douglas or any of the other candidates defeated Republican Abraham Lincoln, it is unlikely that the “peculiar institution” of slavery would have ended three years later. The savage brutality would have continued for years, maybe decades more. Southern states that had a vested economic interest in preserving the status quo would have grown stronger. The ramifications of that are impossible to calculate or even imagine. But it would have continued to tear at the fabric of this country, our ideals, our morality and our democratic institutions. The course of American history and our trajectory as a world leader would have forever been changed.

It is 160 years later now, and the election of 2020 is fast approaching. The Republican candidate will be its incumbent, Donald Trump. As for the Democrats, well, that is a much different story. There are still a half dozen candidates who are seriously vying for the nomination. In two months, on April 28, Democratic voters from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village along with the rest of the state will get their say. That is the date of the New York Presidential Primary. And it may be pivotal.

After the very early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, one thing is certain. The mayor of South Bend Indiana has emerged as a major contender. His name is Pete Buttigieg. I have watched his unlikely rise with fascination.

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Opinion: An election and a warning for 2020

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, the American Democracy was founded with the approval of our Constitution. In the centuries that have passed, it is easy for some to forget how inspired and revolutionary that document was. Sadly, others choose to ignore it.

For the first time, a nation was to be a Republic, governed not by a monarchy or other form of dictatorship or autocracy, but rather by the will of its citizens with important checks and balances among three co-equal branches of government.

That was the enduring genius of our founders. Every president of the United States takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” rather than to preserve his own power.

Like me, you may be wondering whatever happened to those principles and that oath that guided this nation and its presidents for over two centuries.

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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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Maloney named interim chair of House Oversight and Reform Committee

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, seen here celebrating the passage of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund earlier this year with US Senator Charles Schumer (left) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (right), has been named interim chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Democrats have named Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as the interim chair for the House Oversight and Reform Committee last Thursday following the death of Representative Elijah Cummings, who played an active role in the impeachment inquiry as the committee’s chair.

Maloney is a senior Democrat on the panel and the New York Times noted last week that her appointment as acting chairwoman is in line with House rules. A permanent leader of the committee is expected to be elected at a later time, a senior Democratic leadership aide said.

Local elected officials lauded the news of Maloney’s appointment while paying tribute to Cummings.

“While we all mourn the loss of Congressmember Cummings, I am reassured by Congressmember Maloney’s appointment as interim Chair,” Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said. “Congresswoman Maloney is dedicated to protecting our democracy and I am confident that she will carry out what is necessary to move forward with impeachment inquiries.”

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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: Who’s a socialist? Part II

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders 

Last week, I wrote about how political candidates are being tagged with that seemingly evil “socialist” label for advocating that more government resources be redirected to health, education and other social needs.

But it is also true that Democratic candidates for president are falling over themselves to make one promise after the other, many of which Congress will never approve and all of which would be a major cost to the treasury. However, that is still a far cry from being a socialist. Sadly, some in the political world care very little about the honesty of such a charge, but rather hope that the label of socialist will stick. That is the state of our politics by vilification today.

But the issue of health care for all Americans will dominate the national debate over the next year. Was it accurate to call Medicare or Medicaid socialism when enacted over 50 years ago? Is it socialism to go the next step and provide health care coverage for all Americans regardless of their ability to pay? That is the big question. And how would such a system be paid for?

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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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