Attorney running to replace Mendez

Jorge Vasquez, a lifetime Lower East Sider and attorney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lower East Side resident Jorge Vasquez has his lifelong neighborhood to thank for his aspiring City Council candidacy. Vasquez, an attorney who is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Rosie Mendez in District 2, said that it was the local Boys & Girls Republic, as well as his mother’s influence, that got him involved in community advocacy.

“It was a tradition with me and my mom on Election Day where we would wake up and I would go with her to the polls,” he said, recalling that he and his mother also canvassed for Antonio Pagan, the City Councilmember for District 2 in the 1990s prior to Mendez’s predecessor, Margarita Lopez.

Vasquez said that he started attending programming at the Boys & Girls Republic, which offer youth the opportunity to participate in self-government, at age six and was putting bills together by age 10. When Vasquez joined, the program was known as the Boys Brotherhood Republic but the program later became part of the Henry Street Settlement and was renamed the Boys & Girls Republic.

“Those programs give youth the opportunity to be active in the community,” he said. “Being part of democracy, and even to be familiar with the courtroom and jury rules, is so important. I wouldn’t be an attorney without access to these programs and the advocacy it instilled in me.”

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Candidate threatened with arrest while calling for reform of the city’s privately owned public spaces

Marti Speranza said she tried but was unable to get a permit to hold her press conference at the Trump Tower Atrium, which is supposed to be publicly accessible. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Marti Speranza, a Democrat running for City Council, risked but ultimately evaded arrest on Monday while calling for reform of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS).

Ironically, the threat of arrest came because of the venue of her press conference, one of the city’s so-called POPS located in the atrium of Trump Tower.

As Speranza and supporters gathered at the space before the press conference, which was on a level below the ground floor, they were told they’d be arrested if they didn’t leave, her campaign staffers later said. However, Speranza and a couple of other speakers went on to make their arguments anyway, uninterrupted, as a few suit wearing men hovered at the room’s entrance. Afterwards, they stepped forward to ask the candidate and staffers if they’d be dispersing. Speranza’s campaign manager said the men later identified themselves as police from the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit. While no voices were raised, one of the men said he would normally turn the matter over to the legal department, but then added, “We don’t want to go that route.” He also asked if the campaign was planning any similar events in the future. When a staffer responded that doing so would be the campaign’s right, the man disagreed, but ultimately no one was kicked out.

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Countdown clocks coming to East Side bus stops

Council Member Dan Garodnick (right) stands by a new countdown clock at a bus stop for the M66. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In an effort to help straphangers get a more reliable idea of when their next bus is coming, the city is installing 48 new countdown clocks at bus stops around Council District 4. The project is being funded with nearly $1 million allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who admitted that there’s still plenty of work to be done in making buses more reliable.

Similar countdown displays are already in place in local routes where Select Bus Service is offered, like the M23, although other SBS routes, including the M15, will be getting new countdown clocks in stops that don’t have them already.

The announcement was made last Tuesday at a bus stop at 68th Street and Lexington, which is one of four where a new countdown clock has already been installed. The other three are in midtown and the other 44 will be installed by the end of the year.

Garodnick, who was joined by Manhattan Borough Department of Transportation Commissioner Luis Sanchez and John Raskin of the Riders Alliance, discussed how unlike other methods of mass transit, bus usage is actually on the decline.

While noting that it’s sometimes the only option for the mobility impaired or New Yorkers who don’t live close to a subway, the speed or rather lack of it at which buses travel, has made above ground mass transit too slow and unreliable for a growing number of people.

“Bus service has declined by 16 percent in the last decade,” said Raskin. “People are voting with their MetroCards. People are starting to abandon the bus.”

Garodnick gave the bus stopping on that block, the M66, as an example of why.

“It’s the 17th busiest out of 40 routes, but it moves at 4.1 miles per hour,” he said. “I can jog backwards carrying my six-year-old son faster than the M66 goes to the West Side.”

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Garodnick says he’d work with NYPD on surveillance bill

Councilmember Dan Garodnick

By Sabina Mollot

In March, Council Member Dan Garodnick, along with Council Member Vanessa Gibson of the Bronx, introduced a police oversight bill that’s aimed at making the technology the NYPD uses for its anti-terror efforts and the policies under which they are used more transparent.

But it was last Wednesday, when the Council members held a rally and hearing to push the bill, dubbed the POST Act, when the NYPD as well as the mayor responded to slam it, arguing that it would put too much sensitive information in the hands of terrorists.

Garodnick has since reiterated an earlier claim that he was willing the work with police to tweak the bill, adding that police’s bashing of the act as “a blueprint for harm” has amounted to fear-mongering.

Other opinions have already varied just as widely. A Wall Street Journal editorial with the headline “A Terrorist’s Guide to New York City” cited last year’s bombing in Chelsea while calling Garodnick and the bill’s supporters “anti-anti-terror stalwarts.” Meanwhile, an opinion piece in the Daily News called the legislation a much needed step considering previously reported incidents of NYPD surveillance incidents of students and activists.

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Town & Village co-hosts City Council debate at Waterside Plaza

On Thursday night, an evening of debate among the candidates running to replace Dan Garodnick in the City Council was held at Waterside Plaza. The event’s hosts were Town & Village newspaper, the Waterside Tenants Association and Waterside management with the event taking place outdoors. A story covering the views of the various candidates on affordable housing, small businesses, issues affecting seniors, and the sanitation garage the city plans to build at the Brookdale campus, is forthcoming. Scroll down to see some photos from the debate, where all seats on the plaza were filled with a mixed crowd of community residents and candidates’ supporters.

Richard Ravitch, owner of Waterside Plaza and former lieutenant governor, makes opening remarks. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Crowd at the debate

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal, event co-host

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Letters to the editor, June 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

From ShopRite to shopper shuttles

Dear Editor,

I would like to add to the conversation regarding a supermarket on East 14th Street off First Avenue.

First let me say how pleased I am with the service, responsiveness, attitude and tone provided by our new owners and management. Kudos to them for taking into consideration tenants’ needs and interests. I am fortunate to have a car and therefore shop in Brooklyn. However, I “fill in” with items purchased at our local grocers. I understand why many people no longer purchase some items because of the exaggerated prices, sometime double what I pay in Brooklyn. Double.

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PCV woman abandons bid for City Council

Diane Grayson (Photo by Emmanuel Moline)

By Sabina Mollot

Diane Grayson, a Peter Cooper Village woman who’d been running for the City Council seat to be vacated next year by Dan Garodnick, has withdrawn from the race.

Reached recently by Town & Village, Grayson explained that she dropped out because she felt the current crop of candidates “represents the interests of the district.”

Grayson, 27, had been running as an Independent who’d promised to spend $50,000 of her own salary, if elected, on some sort of community program or service. Her platform focused on affordable housing and help for small businesses.

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Former Pataki administration employee running for Council

Rachel Honig, who at one time worked raising money for the arts under Governor George Pataki, is now a Democrat candidate for Dan Garodnick’s City Council seat. (Photo courtesy of candidate)

By Sabina Mollot

In a City Council race that now has 10 candidates, the latest one to attempt to replace a term-limited Dan Garodnick is Rachel Honig, a Democrat who developed her taste for politics when working for a Republican governor.

From 1996-1998, Honig worked under then-Governor George Pataki as special assistant to the chairman and director of special projects at the New York State Council on the Arts. The Council is the grant making body for the arts throughout the state and is based in the city.

Honig later moved on to form her own public relations firm, although since becoming a candidate, she’s severely limited her P.R. work to campaign full time.

Recently, at Madison Restaurant, a diner in her East Midtown neighborhood, Honig discussed her platform and the issues she would tackle if elected, in particular disappearing mom-and-pops, homelessness and quality of life protection.

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Peter Cooper Council candidate has 3 club endorsements, nearly $200G in war chest

Photo courtesy of Keith Powers

Keith Powers, a candidate for City Council in District 4, announced on Tuesday that he’d gotten support from three Democratic clubs on the East Side of Manhattan. The Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club, Four Freedoms Democratic Club and Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club (where Powers is a district leader), voted to endorse Powers, a resident of Peter Cooper Village, last week.

In addition, a spokesperson for the campaign said Powers has amassed close to $200,000 in campaign cash.

The rep said Powers has maxed out on his matching funds at $100,100 and has raised $98,000 in private funds. With the two amounts combined, Powers has hit the $182,000 City Council spending cap.

“With our endorsement, we see Keith as the most qualified candidate who has what it takes to protect our party’s values with new and innovative solutions for the unique needs of our community,” said Greg Martello, president of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club.

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Stuyvesant Town Associated is still waiting for answer on lease renewal

Stuyvesant Town’s Associated Supermarket (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, following an op-ed being published in the newspaper The Villager in support of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, many Stuyvesant Town residents became alarmed after reading a sentence that mentioned the owner of the complex’s Associated supermarket was told he would not get a lease renewal.

Town & Village since reached out to Blackstone, and a spokesperson for the landlord, Paula Chirhart, said a final decision on whether to renew or not has not yet been made. Joseph Falzon, a co-owner of The Associated, confirmed this when we called although he added he wasn’t feeling confident that he’d get a renewal. He added that he was “99 percent sure” he wouldn’t.

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The rent is too damn high, says this Republican Council candidate

Jimmy McMillan, who hopes to replace Rosie Mendez in the City Council, has also run for governor and mayor. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The race for the City Council seat currently occupied by a term-limited Rosie Mendez is beginning to heat up, with the newest candidate being Jimmy McMillan, otherwise known as “The Rent is Too Damn High” guy.

McMillan, who has previously run for mayor of New York City and governor as well as having had a brief dalliance with the 2012 presidential election, said he was approached about running for Council by Manhattan GOP.

The organization, formerly known as the New York Republican County Committee, gave McMillan its blessing in an email blast to members last week.

On getting the local Republican nod to run, McMillan, who’s running as a Republican as well as on his own party, The Rent is Too Damn High, said, “I almost cried.”

And this is no small thing. As the 70-year-old, mutton chopped, Vietnam vet and martial arts aficionado, who claims he was once tied up and doused with gasoline when working as an investigator, also told us, “I’m not a baby. I don’t cry.”

He’s also here to say what he’s been saying all along, that the rent is unquestionably too damn high, and if this is fixed, specifically by halving rents across the board, many of the other problems facing this city — like struggles faced by small businesses — will solve themselves.

“If you raise rents and you go to the store, they have to raise their prices in the store,” he said. “There is no way around it. The rent is too damn high,” he said, before going on to blast economic experts who opine on such matters. “I don’t have a degree, but they (think they) know more than me because they call themselves professors or economic experts. I’m an economic master.”

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Maloney’s tips for women candidates

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, pictured at center campaigning last June in Stuyvesant Town, said candidates need to be prepared for constant battle. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, pictured at center campaigning last June in Stuyvesant Town, said candidates need to be prepared for constant battle. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With the presidential election still a recent memory and New York City races for mayor and the City Council now heating up, Town & Village turned to Carolyn Maloney, who’s represented Manhattan’s East Side in Congress for nearly a quarter century, for some advice for would-be elected officials.

Note: While this article was actually supposed to be a guide for women seeking office, all the tips that were shared by Maloney would work just as well for male candidates. For some background, prior to first getting elected in Washington in 1992, the Upper East Side Democrat served for 10 years as a member of the City Council.

Read on for her guide to success at the voting booth and upon getting elected, success as a lawmaker.

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Former Mendez aide running to replace her in City Council

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

Former Rosie Mendez aide Carlina Rivera in Madison Square Park (Photo courtesy of Carlina Rivera)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Life-long Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera has been involved in local politics since as young as age 12, so it should come as no surprise that her next move is running for City Council. Until recently, Rivera was the legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and she left the position to focus on running to fill the seat in District 2 that Mendez will vacate this year due to term limits.

Rivera’s introduction to politics at such a young age was thanks to tenant advocate Marie Christopher, who lived on the first floor of her building on Stanton Street when she was growing up.

“She was an amazing tenant advocate, always pushing issues of public safety and preservation of NYCHA,” Rivera said of Christopher, who died in 2013. “She brought me to my first community council meeting. She knew that the community was an ecosystem, and she knew the importance of working with elected officials but also holding them accountable.”

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Opinion: A case against term limits

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It has been said that the profession of politics is the second oldest one and regarded on about par with the oldest. Politicians are often times reviled beyond any logical reason. If you are unhappy in life, blame a politician. If you feel overburdened, blame a politician.

But too frequently some public officials give good reason for this antipathy by doing corrupt things. While all professions have their bad players, when a politician is caught with his/her hand in the cookie jar, the rest are tarnished and brought down in the eyes of the public.

It is little wonder that the proposition to impose strict term limits is so popular. Of course, it is also entirely undemocratic and occasionally destructive. Dan Garodnick is a case in point.

Dan has been our City Councilman for 11 years. He has effectively represented our community with intelligence, passion and unquestioned integrity. We sorely need those traits in our government leaders today. But he is in his last year as our local representative. You will not be able to vote for him again and our community will be deprived of an exemplary public official and advocate, because of arbitrary term limits.

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Garodnick recommends Trump Tower police unit

Council Member Dan Garodnick

Council Member Dan Garodnick

By Sabina Mollot

Since the presidential election, traffic in the midtown streets surrounding Trump Tower has been consistently snarled, with local stores reporting a yuuuuge amount of lost business as a result.

While it did help that shortly before the New Year, the block of 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was once again opened to traffic, the area still feels somewhat militarized. The reopening had been pushed by City Council Member Dan Garodnick, whose district includes Trump Tower, and this week, Garodnick spoke with Town & Village about how the neighborhood has been inconvenienced since Donald Trump was elected president.

“It’s an ongoing headache that gets worse when he’s around and we hope he does not choose to use Trump Tower as a pied-a-terre,” said Garodnick.

Incidentally, First Lady Melania Trump has recently reiterated plans to remain at Trump Tower with her son Barron until the school semester ends before moving to the White House.

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