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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Help for mom and pop lies in pending legislation

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Robert Cornegy, pictured last year while introducing a bill that a rep for Cornegy recently insisted isn’t dead (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Recently, a couple of City Council members proposed ideas on ways to combat “high rent blight” and promote retail diversity, or at least, keep the city from completely getting overtaken by chains.

This was at a hearing where the council members’ ideas, such as putting legislative restrictions on chain stores and imposing penalties on landlords who warehouse storefronts, were shot down by city planners.

According to the planners, as Town & Village previously reported, many stores that appear to be chains are actually individually owned franchises and as for lengthy retail vacancies, sometimes, the planners argued, they are not necessarily intentional on the part of property owners.

Meanwhile, a few legislators, including Council Member Robert Cornegy, the small business committee chair who’d chaired the aforementioned hearing on September 30, have come up with some legislative ideas to deal with the problem already.

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PCV’s Keith Powers a top candidate in city elections for small contributions

Photo courtesy of Keith Powers

Photo courtesy of Keith Powers

By Sabina Mollot

Peter Cooper Village resident Keith Powers, who’s running for the City Council seat currently occupied by Dan Garodnick, is currently one of the top five city candidates for small contributions. Small, according to the Campaign Finance Board, which has released the stats for the latest filing period, means a contribution of $175 or less.

Other candidates to make the list include Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James. De Blasio had the highest number at 691 small donors. Powers was fourth on the list with 170. James followed him at 162. Number two on the list is Carlina Rivera, who’s running for the City Council seat now occupied by Rosie Mendez with 226 and three is Queens Borough President Melinda Katz with 187.

Small donations are eligible for matching funds if they’re from New York City residents, and therefore the program encourages candidates to seek the financial support of constituents and potential constituents.

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Opinion: Time to nix these six

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Before you know it, the 2016 presidential election campaign will be (mercifully) over and then the political focus in New York City will almost immediately shift to the mayoral and other city elections in 2017. Aside from the mayor, there are elections including those for comptroller, public advocate, five borough presidents, district attorneys and all 51 members of the City Council. Each will be elected for four year terms of office. At least six of them are unnecessary.

But first a little recent history: Prior to 1989 this city was governed essentially by a body known as the Board of Estimate. It consisted of the three citywide elected officials: the mayor, the president of the City Council, the comptroller and each borough president.

The citywide officials had two votes on the board and each borough president had one vote.

The City Council was virtually powerless since most of the real decision making occurred at the Board of Estimate, including virtually all fiscal matters. After a lawsuit and changes to the New York City Charter much of that changed. The Board of Estimate was abolished and the City Council was empowered to make all legislative decisions. The office of the president of the City Council was also abolished and instead a speaker of the council was created, elected by the other members of the council.

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Another Council candidate enters race, raising $170G

Marti Speranza, City Council candidate and co-president of the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats Club, pictured at Madison Square Park Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Marti Speranza, City Council candidate and co-president of the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats Club, pictured at Madison Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The most recent person to enter the City Council race for the seat currently occupied by Dan Garodnick is Marti Speranza, a former city employee and the co-president of the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats Club.

Speranza, a 40-year-old NoMad neighborhood resident, is so far the only woman Democrat in the race. Another female candidate, Peter Cooper Village’s Diane Grayson, is running as an Independent.

Other candidates are Democrats Keith Powers and Jeff Mailman. As T&V first reported, former candidate Joshua Thompson dropped out of the Council race in May and is now running for mayor.

For Speranza, fundraising for the Council campaign has been in the works since April and just last week, she stepped down from her job as director at Women Entrepreneurs (WE) NYC, a new city initiative, to focus on the race.

So far things seem to be going well for Speranza, who announced that she raised $169,706 by the filing date last week, a fundraising record for the first filing of a Council race. She now has over $170,000. The record was previously held by Council Member Corey Johnson, who’d raised $166,000. Speranza also said this was the first time a woman candidate got $100,000 in contributions in the first filing. Of that campaign cash, 52 percent of those donating it are women and 72 percent gave $250 or less, she said. None were real estate developers or lobbyists.

On being the only female Democrat in the race, Speranza pointed out that at this time, because of term limits faced by members of the City Council, the number of female representatives out of over 50 could potentially drop to just nine.

“I do feel that more women need to step up to the plate and run for these seats,” she said.

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Stuy Town man out of Council race, running for mayor instead

Joshua Thompson on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Joshua Thompson on First Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Joshua Thompson, the Stuyvesant Town resident who’d been running for the City Council seat currently occupied by a term-limited Dan Garodnick, is no longer on the ballot — because he’s running for mayor.

The 30-year-old candidate’s name appeared last week on a list of candidates on the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s website. Asked about the switch in direction, Thompson said via email that there would be a campaign launch event on May 24.

Town & Village profiled the candidate, then the only person running for Council in the 4th District in February. Thompson has previously worked for the Booker administration in Newark, New Jersey, where he grew up, and also recently held a job as director of education for the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Currently, he serves as executive director of external relations for the nonprofit New Leaders, which promotes leadership in education.

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Third person enters race for Garodnick’s City Council seat

Jeff Mailman is currently a legislative aide to Council Member Liz Crowley of Queens. Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jeff Mailman is currently a legislative aide to Council Member Liz Crowley of Queens. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The race for the City Council seat currently occupied by a term-limited Dan Garodnick appears to be heating up with a third person announcing his candidacy.

That person is Jeff Mailman, an East Midtown Democrat who’s currently a legislative aide to Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. Mailman had told Town & Village in February that he was seriously considering a run.

Others to get into the ring already are Stuyvesant Town Democrat Joshua Thompson and Peter Cooper Village resident Diane Grayson, who said she may run as an Independent.

During a recent interview at Aroma, a coffee joint near the Civic Center legislative building where he works, Mailman discussed his platform, which focuses on public safety, improved schools and quality of life issues.

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Garodnick: About those $36,000 City Council raises

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo courtesy of B’Nai B’rith)

Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo courtesy of B’Nai B’rith)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, members of the City Council voted to give themselves $36,000 raises, and last Friday, it became official when Mayor de Blasio authorized the massive boosts in pay. He was also a beneficiary, though he won’t accept the raise for the remainder of his term. Most Council members defended the move, pointing out that that the money was contingent upon enacting a package of ethics reforms, like restricting certain kinds of outside income. It also put an end to the stipends, also known as lulus, that get doled out by the Council speaker to various members for chairing committees, a practice that has been linked to crony-ism.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, who authored the bill restricting outside income and changing the status of the Council to be considered full-time employment, along with fellow East Side Council Member Ben Kallos, was among those defending the raises.

However, he pointed out the next time the Council’s up for a raise, members will only be allowed vote to authorize raises for upcoming and not current terms. This will be ensured by having the Quadrennial Commission, which recommends the raises, be appointed later in the legislative session. (This could of course mean the same elected officials will get the raise they voted on if reelected.) The raises authorized last week, which boost legislators’ pay from $112,500 to $148,500, are retroactive to January 1.

On the raises and reforms, Garodnick said he’s long been against lulus (which can be as high as $25,000), and for the past 10 years he’s been in the Council, he hasn’t taken any. He currently chairs the Economic Development Committee and has previously chaired the Committee on Technology, the Consumer Affairs Committee and the Planning Committee. Had he accepted lulus, he said, they would have been for $10,000 each year up until the last two years when they would have been $15,000.

“I asked that the stipends be done away with altogether,” said Garodnick. “I felt very strongly that they should be eliminated.”

However, the main inspiration for the reforms was Albany, where last year’s sordid corruption scandals against both legislative chamber leaders led to long-called for ethics reforms actually seeing the light of day.

For the city’s elected officials, there will be more transparency regarding personal income, with disclosure reports being put online.

“Today it is too difficult more members of the public to see financial disclosure,” Garodnick said.

Still, not everyone within the legislative body supported the latest round of pay hikes.

A Post article noted that three Republican members who were opposed to the raises found them to be “an obvious conflict of interest.” They recommended an independent body rather than the Council be given the task of issuing raises.

The Council hasn’t gotten a raise since 2006. As for the reason for the 10-year delay, normally the Quadrennial Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, convenes every four years to recommend raises, which the Council votes on. However, Mayor Bloomberg never called a Quadrennial Commission after 2006, so it hadn’t met since then. Garodnick noted that the Commission will meet again in 2020, which is when the new regulation about prospective raises will come into play. Garodnick is a co-sponsor of that legislation, which was authored by James Van Bramer.

The no lulu policy was a rule change, and required a vote in the Council, but didn’t require legislation.

In other news, Garodnick, who’s running for higher office, seems to be enjoying the fact that half a dozen people have already expressed interest in his District 4 Council seat, with one already on the ballot.

“I wish them well,” said Garodnick. “I’m happy to be a resource to whoever lines up for the seat. This is an important district and deserves top notch representation.”

PCV woman eyes Council seat

Diane Grayson said she’s primarily concerned about the lack of affordable housing. (Photo by Dana Wan)

Diane Grayson said she’s primarily concerned about the lack of affordable housing. (Photo by Dana Wan)

Potential candidate would run as Independent

By Sabina Mollot

The race to succeed Dan Garodnick on the City Council may soon have another candidate in Peter Cooper resident Diane Grayson, a 26-year old associate editor and former assistant teacher.

Grayson, who’s a third-generation resident of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village community, added that she may run as an Independent.

Currently, there’s only one candidate officially on the ballot so far, Democrat Joshua Thompson, a Stuyvesant Town resident who’s held government jobs in Newark, New Jersey and Bridgeport, Connecticut. However, as Town & Village recently reported, the Council seat for the city’s fourth district is also being eyed by a few others, also Democrats. There’s East Midtown resident Jeff Mailman, currently legislative director to Council Member Liz Crowley; Peter Cooper resident Keith Powers, who’s the president of a government and nonprofit consulting and lobbying firm and has previously worked for elected officials; Central Park area resident Renee Cafaro, a political consultant and fundraiser; and Andrew Kalloch, a Lenox Hill resident and deputy policy director to Comptroller Scott Stringer.

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Week In Review, Jan. 21

State Senator Brad Hoylman called on telecommunications giant Time Warner Cable on Monday to improve access for blind and visually impaired customers by voluntarily instituting basic product standards, including television guides and documents written in Braille, font size options for on-screen menus, as well as “talking menus” and “talking guides.” In a letter to Chairman and CEO Robert Marcus, Hoylman noted that while “Comcast has already set an example with its simple to use and accessible technology,” Time Warner has yet to implement similar programs for its share of New York’s 400,000 visually impaired residents.
Hoylman learned of the issue from a constituent while visiting VISIONS, a nonprofit that offers rehabilitation and social services to the visually impaired, in his senate district with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The City Council voted unanimously in support of legislation to change the way that the city communicates with New Yorkers who qualify for the city’s Rent Freeze Program on Tuesday.
The legislation, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, requires the Department of Finance to include a notice regarding legal and preferential rents on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.
Specifically, the notice must include the rent amount on which the benefit calculation was based, an explanation of why that amount was used in the calculation, an explanation that the tenant may continue to pay a preferential rent even once enrolled in the program, A statement that the tenant can obtain a rent registration history and file a complaint with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and a telephone number and email address for that agency. In addition, by 2018, the legislation would require the Department of Finance to include both the preferential and legal regulated rents of applicants to the NYC Rent Freeze Program in its database and include the preferential rent amount in the notice described above.

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Traffic safety improvements underway in Stuyvesant Town

Speed bumps are put into place near the daycare center. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

Speed bumps are put into place near the daycare center. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town residents will soon see $100,000 worth of traffic and pedestrian safety improvements made to the neighborhood.

Funds for the project were allocated last week, as part of the city budget, at the request of Council Member Dan Garodnick.

What exact improvements are going to be made has not yet been determined with Garodnick saying he wanted to have the Department of Transportation make its own recommendations. The goal, however is to make the cityscape surrounding the property more child and senior-friendly with smoother curb cuts (the slopes from sidewalks to the street on corners) and other changes aimed at minimizing car and bike accidents.

Increasing crossing times at street lights is a possibility, as are changes to the service roads. Last month, a Town & Village reader asked Garodnick, via a letter to this newspaper, to make the service roads safer. This was after witnessing a pedestrian dart out into one to catch a bus, only to get hit by a car.

“Pedestrians treat the service road as a semi-sidewalk, while drivers drive at full speed,” observed the writer, Joseph Sanderson.

Garodnick said he’s been in touch with Sanderson. “We’re looking at the safety issue on the service road and that could be a part of this potentially,” he said.

He added that he’s also heard from residents that some curb cuts are difficult to manage by people using walkers or pushing strollers.

Meanwhile, other changes aimed at pedestrian safety are already afoot within Stuyvesant Town.

The Council member noted how the recent move of the onsite daycare center from East 14th Street to the old management office building on Avenue C has led to a higher concentration of kids on Avenue C near the southbound entrance to the FDR Drive. Due to concerns over their safety, CompassRock was asked to implement its own safety measures along the Avenue C Loop — and management agreed.

“They responded almost immediately, which we are very grateful for,” said Garodnick.

Improvements include putting two speedbumps along the C Loop, installing “Caution: Children at Play” signage and painting the street outside the center yellow to prevent double parking. The speed bumps were put into place on Tuesday morning, while the painting was already done last Thursday and earlier in the week, Garodnick said he spotted at least one sign.

The improvements inside Stuy Town are being paid for by CompassRock/CWCapital, not the city.