Opinion: With Dems in control of House, time for a progressive agenda

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney

By Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

When Democrats take control of the House of the Representatives in January, we will have an opportunity to change the course of our country by pursuing a bold progressive agenda that serves all Americans and providing a badly needed check on President Trump and his administration.

In the next Congress, I will be the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, chair of the Capital Markets Subcommittee and a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Using these positions, I will fight to expand opportunities for all Americans, strengthen our health care system, defend our rights and liberties and make sure Congress acts as the check and balance envisioned in the Constitution.

The first order of business in a Democratic House will be H.R. 1, a bold reform package designed to strengthen our democracy. It will include campaign finance reform, similar to New York City’s system, that combines small-donor incentives and matching support — to increase and multiply the power of small donors — and requires all political organizations to disclose their donors. In addition, it will impose strong new ethics rules to stop officials from using their public office for personal gain, as well as election reforms to make it easier to vote by strengthening the Voting Rights Act, promoting automatic voter registration and bolstering our election infrastructure against foreign attackers.

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Kips Bay resident running for Assembly in primary

Akshay Vaishampayan

By Sabina Mollot

On September 13, a primary will be held in the 74th Assembly District for the seat won by Assembly Member Harvey Epstein in the special election in April.

The 74th Assembly District covers the East Village, Alphabet City, Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, Murray Hill and Tudor City.

The candidates are, along with Epstein, Juan Pagan, an East Village Democrat who ran on the Reform Party line in the special election, and Akshay Vaishampayan, a 29-year-old resident of Kips Bay, who, prior to running, worked in the field of financial compliance.

In an interview this week, Vaishampayan told Town & Village he was running because he doesn’t think enough is being done to improve the subway system and because he felt Epstein’s victory as the Democratic County Committee nominee in February smacked of party politics. Epstein had bested two other candidates who withdrew from the race prior to the County Committee vote, when it was clear he had garnered the most support. Epstein then went on to beat three challengers in the special election.

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Garodnick endorses Epstein

(Pictured) Former Council Member Dan Garodnick with Harvey Epstein

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, former City Council Member Dan Garodnick announced his support for Harvey Epstein, who’s running for the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh.

“I’ve known Harvey Epstein for years and have personally witnessed his leadership in fighting for tenants and seniors — especially his advocacy for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village,” said Garodnick,

“Not only was he responsible for supervising my office’s free tenant hotline over the past decade, but his work on the Rent Guidelines Board led to the historic two-year rent freeze. It is important that we have elected officials who understand the community’s needs and the government process and I am confident that Harvey will be a real asset in Albany.”

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What Senate Dems’ unification proposal means for tenants

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC called the proposal a bad idea (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, Democrat leaders in Albany laid out their hopes for a reunified Democrat body in the Senate, which is currently made up of Democrats, Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference, eight breakaway Democrats who are aligned with Republicans. The IDC members were warned that if they didn’t start playing nice with their own party that the mainline Democrats would actively support their opponents in upcoming primaries. The warning came by way of a letter from the party that was sent to mainline Democrats as well as IDC members.

Because the State Senate is the legislative body chamber where tenant-friendly legislation goes only to flatline, Town & Village turned to TenantsPAC spokesperson and treasurer Mike McKee to ask what this attempt at a deal means for New York City’s renters.

According to him, it does have some impact despite no deal being hammered out yet.

“It’s fallen apart as it should,” said McKee. The deal would have allowed the mainline Democrats and the IDC to keep their chairs (Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jeff Klein, respectively) as co-chairs to more effectively pass a progressive agenda. In response, the IDC said it would want to make sure progressive issues important to its own members were passed.

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Democrats vying for Kavanagh’s Assembly seat

epstein

Harvey Epstein (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Following Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh’s easy victory at the polls last week for the downtown Senate seat he wanted, two Democrat candidates have expressed interest in filling the now vacant 74th District Assembly seat.

One of them is Harvey Epstein, a tenant representative on the Rent Guidelines Board and the project director of the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center. The other is Mike Corbett, an aide to Queens-based City Council Member Costa Constantinides and a former teamster. Marie Ternes, a communications consultant who previously worked for then-Congress Member Anthony Weiner, said she is considering running.

Recently, outgoing City Council Member Rosie Mendez told Town & Village she was mulling a run for Assembly, but then later told the local blog Lo Down that she’d decided against it. Council Member Dan Garodnick has also previously said he has no plan to run.

Corbett, Epstein and Ternes spoke with a Town & Village reporter this week, although Ternes declined to be interviewed at this time since she hasn’t yet made a decision on running.

It’s expected that there will be a County Committee vote held by each party to determine who will get onto the ballot for a special election. However, it’s still unclear when the vote will be or when the election will be, since a special election must be called by the governor. Another possible, though unlikely, scenario is that there will be a primary in June when there’s a Congressional primary, or even later.

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Kips Bay man faces child porn charges

June1 Jacob Schwartz

Jacob Schwartz (Photo via Facebook)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New York City employee and Democratic activist Jacob Schwartz, 29, was arrested on child pornography charges inside the 13th Precinct last Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

According to the district attorney’s office, the Kips Bay resident has been under investigation since last November.

Police said that Schwartz gave officers his signed consent to search his laptop on March 29 inside his Third Avenue apartment.

When police searched the computer, they found that he had more than 3,000 images and 89 videos of nude girls as young as six months through age 16 engaging in “sexual conduct” with men, including sexual intercourse and oral sex.

CBS New York reported last Friday that Schwartz had been working in the Department of Design and Construction for the last two years and was the president of the Manhattan Young Democrats.

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Hoylman: Republicans blocking LGBT, gun legislation

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Senator Hoylman)

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Senator Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Meet the New York State Senate’s most frustrated member.
It’s the end of another legislative term, and yet, even the recent massacre at an Orlando gay club, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, has not been enough of an event to lead to gun reforms. Nor has it motivated Albany to pass protections for the LGBT population.
So noted Senator Brad Hoylman in an interview with Town & Village last week. For example, one bill Hoylman’s pushing that went nowhere would have banned anyone from the federal no-fly list from buying guns. This is separate from similar federal legislation.
For this, the Democrat senator laid the blame on the usual culprits for blocking any bills he authors or supports — the Republican majority.

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Maloney talks homeland security, L train woes and the war on women

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney made a campaign stop in Stuyvesant Town on a recent afternoon. (Pictured) Maloney with ST-PCV Tenants Association Board Member Virginia Rosario (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney made a campaign stop in Stuyvesant Town on a recent afternoon. (Pictured) Maloney with former ST-PCV Tenants Association Board Member Virginia Rosario (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On the Friday before last, Carolyn Maloney had the mother of all colds. Her voice unusually scratchy and her face makeup free, the congresswoman stood on the sidewalk outside of Stuyvesant Town, as a few supporters milled nearby holding banners with her name on it. They ignored the rain. There was after all, a primary around the corner.

On June 28, Maloney will be facing off against Democrat Peter Lindner, a Union Square resident and computer programmer. As T&V has previously reported, last month, Lindner tried to get Maloney kicked off the ballot due to a paperwork snafu. She then retaliated by arguing to the Board of Elections that Lindner didn’t even get half the required amount of signatures while petitioning. However, they were both unsuccessful at giving the other the boot.

But ballot challenges aside, like most Democratic incumbents in New York City, Maloney hasn’t had much difficulty in getting reelected. At this point, she’s been a member of Congress for 24 years.

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Maloney, Hoylman, Kavanagh re-elected

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney chats with a voter in Stuyvesant Town.  (Photo courtesy of Congress Member Maloney)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney chats with a voter in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo courtesy of Congress Member Maloney)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, three local Democrats easily held on to their positions as voters, along with re-electing Andrew Cuomo as governor, also re-elected Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.

Maloney won with 79.85 percent of the vote, defeating former seminary student and former Pfizer employee Nicholas Di iorio, who got 20.15 percent.
Di iorio had fought tooth and nail for each vote though, having sent out near daily press releases blasting his opponent in the weeks leading up to the election on everything from her trip to China to secure a panda for New York to failure to get many bills passed in Washington. For this he labeled her ineffective.

He’d also hounded his opponent for a debate, and did eventually succeed in wearing her down. The only debate of the campaign took place at a newspaper office in Queens last Thursday, focusing on issues of interest to that part of the district.

Meanwhile, by Tuesday morning, Maloney reported doing well with voters she encountered while campaigning.
Many told her they’d be giving her their vote, though she quickly added, “I probably shouldn’t say that. Of course they’re not going to tell me if they weren’t going to vote for me.”

After casting her own vote at the 92nd Street Y, Maloney also made several stops throughout the district, including popping by Stuyvesant Town in the afternoon.
Some voters had gripes about long lines to cast their votes, although this year, without a presidential election, lines weren’t exactly spilling out of polling place doors.“It’s definitely lower (turnout) than in a presidential year, but people are coming out to vote,” said Maloney. She added that she would work on trying to keep lines shorter in the future, either by pushing for more polling sites or the creation of smaller voting districts.

She also said that if reelected, “I’ll be focused like a laser on affordable housing and making sure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not finance anything that removes affordable housing.”
Other goals included making it easier for people to buy homes, doing away with excessive bank overdraft fees and getting a bill for women’s equality passed, that has, since Maloney’s been in office, failed to do so.

Nicholas Di iorio talks to a voter in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Di iorio)

Nicholas Di iorio talks to a voter in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Di iorio)

On Tuesday, Di orio was also making various campaign stops around the three-borough district, starting on the Upper East Side, where he lives not far from Maloney, Greenpoint, Brooklyn and later Queens. At around 11 a.m., he was in Manhattan, after voting at Knickerbocker Plaza on 91st Street.

He said for the most part voters he was encountering were familiar with his campaign, having read interviews with him in Town & Village and other newspapers.
When voters stopped to chat with the candidate, typically they had questions that were economy-related. This is where he felt his background working to save money for a pharmaceutical giant worked in his favor.

“It’s been a great day so far,” said Di iorio said. “A lot of the legislators in Congress talk about growing the economy but they haven’t spent time working in economics. That’s one of the differences between me and Congress Member Maloney. I’m trying to help companies and small businesses hire more employees.”
His platform was based around cutting corporate taxes to keep jobs from going overseas.

Later, when asked about the contentious nature of the race, Maloney dismissed her opponent’s steady stream of criticism as a typical Republican tactic.
“The Republicans do not fight on issues,” she said. “They try to destroy the person.”

But not all Republicans used tough guy tactics in this race — or even any tactics at all. Hoylman and Kavanagh both sailed to reelection thanks to their opponents, Stuyvesant Town resident Frank Scala, and East Villager Bryan Cooper, respectively, not running active campaigns.
Kavanagh won with 85.06 percent of the vote, while Cooper got 14.94 percent. Hoylman got 85.66 percent while Scala got 14.34 percent.

State Senate candidate Frank Scala

State Senate candidate Frank Scala

Scala, who’s the president of the Albano Republican Club and the owner of a Fifth Avenue barber shop, said he only ran for State Senate after being asked by the Republican County Committee. But he didn’t seek attention beyond participating in a candidate forum last week hosted by the 17th Precinct Community Council, which his opponent didn’t attend.
And this wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that local candidates have run just to have a Republican on the ballot. In Manhattan, there hasn’t been a Republican elected since the late Roy Goodman left the State Senate in 2002.

Cooper, who, like Scala, has run for office locally before, told Town & Village he had been genuinely interested in running for Assembly, but had wanted to try doing it in a “grassroots” way. He didn’t build a campaign website or attempt to get press, choosing instead to walk around the Lower East Side and the East Village, mostly, as well as Stuy Town where he said he’s noticed a “strong Republican presence.”

“People do come to our club meetings,” he said, referring to the Albano Club, in which he’s a district leader. “People feel like our interests are not being represented. We need a Republican, especially on the Lower East Side.”
Cooper, a production assistant and Navy veteran, said he’d been hearing disgust from his neighbors about corruption in Albany and Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission’s dismantling. Lack of jobs was another concern.

Nov6 Bryan Cooper

Assembly candidate Bryan Cooper

“We want more businesses to be here, less taxes. There’s more unemployment and the homeless situation has risen. Why is this? Businesses are leaving New York.”
He also said that following Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to end stop-and-frisk, he’s found that people no longer feel safe.
“Ever since they stopped stop-and-frisk, people are like, ‘I’m out of here,’” he said. “What’s the point of having a police force when your hands are tied? What’s the problem with stopping and asking a question or checking your bag?”

On his low-key campaign, he explained it was mainly due to money reasons, but he also wanted to see “how effective it would be,” since he is already planning a run for State Senate. “Maybe if this doesn’t work out, I’ll learn my lesson.”

Opinion: Why our community needs to vote Democratic to save itself

By Mark P. Thompson, president of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club

In the past Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were known as one of the state’s most important voting blocs. Where else could a candidate stand on a street corner for a few hours and greet thousands of people who knew about all the issues of the day and were definitely voting? Big turnouts – even in ho-hum races – forced politicians to pay attention to our needs, coming to us for support and making sure that our opinions were taken into account. Our City Council member and state representatives had a special respect for us, as did  others; they all knew that the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper “squeaky wheel” voting bloc needed to be respected.

But what has happened? The number of voters here has declined, partially due to the changing demographic of our local population, partially due to the apathy that has struck voters everywhere.  But why is it so critical that all of us vote in this election – and that we vote on the Democratic line rather than one of the splinter party lines? It’s because our homes are threatened;  the ability to afford growing rents is being slashed away by an aggressive landlord’s MCIs and other fees, and various public agencies allow it all to happen. It’s because the predators are circling overhead, hoping to buy and alter the community forever. It’s because if we don’t vote and show that we are a unified force to be reckoned with, the city, state and feds will write us off as just another disinterested bunch of people who can always rattle some chains but don’t vote and therefore doesn’t deserve more attention than some needier people in another borough.

But what is really at stake here? No, it’s not just reelecting someone to office and voting against some redistricting proposition hidden on the flip side of the ballot. It’s about sending a firm message to our elected representatives – and others who should also be listening to us – that we demand they protect our homes, keep our streets safe, encourage businesses to  open and stay open, help our seniors with supportive programs, and improve our schools.

The best way we can protect our interests is to show that people in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are important and care by voting. When voting, you will have a choice among several parties on the ballot. It’s important to vote in the Democratic column. This gives the leadership of New York’s leading party proof that we demand its attention; since candidates have always been elected through the Democratic line it’s important to throw our weight there rather than with one of the splinter groups that won’t have any elected candidates.

Beyond the actual decision of which candidate wins, the vote totals are used to calculate a ariety of other functions. Over the years, as voter turnout has declined and votes were siphoned off to other parties, our neighborhood has gradually lost its voice to other communities. With a bigger Democratic backing, our elected representatives, including our Democrat City Council Member Dan Garodnick (former president of the Tilden Democrat Club), will have the ability to use a strong showing to fight for us, and our other elected officials (all Democrats) will need to take more notice of us.

How can we as a community remain relevant and regain our stature, so that our government actually works for us instead of ignoring us? We must vote on Tuesday. We must encourage our friends and neighbors – especially those who claim it’s not important – to vote for our Democratic candidates in the Democratic column. It’s our best chance at protecting our community.