Letters to the editor, July 12

July12 Toon Liberty

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Upsets at polls not earth shattering

Steven Sanders in his “Politics & Tidbits” column of July 5 could be completely correct that the results of the primary elections for two New York City congressional seats last month “carry (anti-establishment) messages and meanings. And politicians ignore those messages at their peril.”

On the other hand, primary elections often have extremely low voter turnout – which included those two elections cited by Sanders (the defeat of Joseph Crowley and the strong showing in a losing cause against Carolyn Maloney) – and are far from representative of the electorate. Well-organized and financed outsiders often do well in primary elections when 80 to 90 percent of the electorate stays home. In a general election, usually 60 to 70 percent of the electorate votes.

New York City political history is filled with stunning upsets in primary elections due to low turnout. Those upsets proved to have no carryover to any political trends locally or nationally. In 1970, our local member of Congress Representative Leonard Farbstein lost in the primary to Bella Abzug.

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Opinion: Fixing rents and making enemies

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It is said that a good deal is one in which neither party is entirely satisfied. More about that in a moment.

Rent regulations in New York City has been a thorny issue for decades. So a little recent history. The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) was established in 1969 and modified by the passage of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. There are nine members of the RGB all appointed by the mayor. Of the nine, two are from the real estate industry, two representatives of tenant groups and five “public members.”

The RGB will meet on June 26 to set rent increases for leases that will expire beginning on October 1 through September 30, 2019. Currently, increases are set at 1.25 percent for a one-year lease and two percent for a two-year lease. Based on the proposals that have been recommended for public comment by the RGB, next year’s guidelines will be similar. There have been years where the rent increases rose into the double digits and there have been years that rents have been frozen. Generally speaking whatever the RGB decides, both tenants and owners cry foul. This year will be no different.

The fact is that try as they may, the RGB satisfies nobody. Moreover, it is difficult to do any planning because nobody knows what the rents will be set at from year to year. It is also a very dubious claim that the decision by the RGB is tied to any real economic data in terms of owners’ costs or profits and certainly not taking into consideration the financial burdens on tenants. In short, it is an arbitrary and often political process.

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Opinion: Embassy relocation a bad move

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

The Middle East is a powder keg. Everybody knows that. Well, almost everybody.

It is a toxic cauldron of grievances dating back centuries. Disputed land, hatred between religions, tribal warfare, ancient cultures and grudges abound. Anybody who wants to try to bring a political settlement to these historic forces must be both very knowledgeable and extremely careful. Too much blood has been spilled, and too many lives already lost in that troubled region of the world.

So Donald Trump’s cavalier attitude towards the political reckoning within the State of Israel and the surrounding Palestinian areas was certain to become incendiary with loss of life the result. Anyone could see that coming. Well, almost anyone.

Sure enough, President Trump made good on a campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem against the advice of our European allies and most experienced Middle East diplomats in this country. He did it to satisfy his political base here at home. Did he realize that the fate of Jerusalem is central to any negotiation to arrive at a real peace agreement between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab countries that support the Palestinians? He probably does not, or does not care. After all, it made for good politics at home. The consequence was predictable: violent protests occurred and scores of deaths resulted.

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Opinion: Felder overplays his hand

By former Assmeblyman Steven Sanders

Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder is a Democrat. But for reasons best known to him, he has been caucusing with the Republicans in Albany to help enable that Party to maintain control of the State Senate in spite of having fewer members than the Democrats.

But that’s not where the story ends. Last month, the seven Democratic members who have made up the so called “Independent Democratic Caucus” for the past number of years, reluctantly returned to the reservation. That leaves the Senate composition at 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. Governor Cuomo for years tacitly accepted that odd political marriage because he felt it worked to his advantage. He no longer thinks so. He has been pressured from the left, and from his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, to stand up for Democrats. So he suddenly got involved and brokered a deal amongst the Senate Democrats.

But with Felder’s continued affiliation with the Republicans, they will maintain Senate control for the rest of this year. In exchange for Mr. Felder’s support, the Republicans have given him legislative perks and pivotal voting deference. But as the current session winds down and the November elections loom large and soon, Mr. Felder’s political strategy may need rethinking.

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Opinion: Great American Pastime

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

On Saturday morning, a great community is tradition will be renewed. Led by President Seth Coren, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League baseball season kicks off its 62nd year. It will be preceded by the parade of players and their parents starting from First Avenue at 20th Street and finishing at the Con Ed baseball facility at Avenue C and 16th Street.

In the early 1960s I played in our Little League organization. But in those days, we were homeless. We did not have a field to call our own. We played on the West Side of Manhattan and on Randall’s Island in the middle of the East River. But thanks to the partnership with Con Edison, land adjacent to the East River was developed into ball fields and became home to our local teams which have grown to over 60 teams more than 700 youngsters and scores of adult volunteers coaching, umpiring and taking care of the grounds.

Baseball is the Great American Pastime. It connects families and generations to each other. To underscore that point, when World War II began in the dark days of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to the baseball commissioner and asked him not to suspend Major League Baseball games while this country fought for the salvation of civilization. Roosevelt believed that baseball was that important to the American spirit.

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Opinion: Star Wars

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The first Governor Cuomo (Mario) was fond of saying that “politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose.” What he meant was that political campaigns are filled with lofty sounding rhetoric, but leading a government takes practical and carefully detailed policies. The place to actually look for what public officials mean to do and their priorities is found in the budget each year. That is the vehicle to literally put your money where your mouth is.

Last week the legislature and the governor put the finishing touches on the state budget for the new Fiscal Year. It was passed during the Passover Seder and hours before Easter Sunday. One thing for sure: There was no candy for Mayor de Blasio in those Albany Easter eggs. Mostly just bitter herbs.

Andrew Cuomo, who has never been shy about reacting to real or perceived slights, is using his powers as governor to the fullest extent to belittle and damage Bill de Blasio. However, he is doing a disservice to the people of New York City. It does not matter how this rivalry began. It has morphed into full-scale war. To make things even more interesting, both men fancy themselves as the progressive champion and alternative to the policies of President Trump. And there is not enough space for two such gargantuan egos in the same room or from the same state.

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Opinion: A nation of laws

By Assemblymember Steven Sanders

“Wouldn’t you like to see one of these NFL owners say to someone who disrespects our flag, get that son of a bitch off the field now… you’re fired!”

With that stunning unprovoked rant against professional athletes engaging in protesting what they believe to be societal injustices, the president of the United States proved conclusively that he has no understanding of our Constitution, our history or our American values.

Donald Trump may be president, but he does not speak for me or most Americans, nor does he represent the democracy and sense of decency that millions of Americans fought to preserve over the many years.

It may be redundant, but I guess it needs repeating, that this nation is founded on laws and not the whims (or tweets) of any particular man or woman.

The bedrock of our democracy is built on our Constitution and particularly the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. These are our unique national ethics and statement of principles, and which sets our nation apart from other governments.

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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: 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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