Editorial: Amazonian giveaway to a giant

After months of speculation on where Amazon would decide to hold court, the online retail giant finally announced the locations of its headquarters, which will be split in two cities: Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City in New York.

It didn’t take long before City Hall and nearly every politician in town crowed about Amazon’s promise to make at least 25,000 hires  in positions paying an average of $150,000, after being promised up to $2.2 billion in state and city giveaways. Of course good-paying jobs are a benefit to New Yorkers. However, we still can’t help but feel the city has really turned its back on small businesses this time.

As the long-stalled effort to get the Small Business Jobs Survival Act passed proves, no one is afraid to parrot the real estate industry’s argument that the demise of mom-and-pops has more to do with online shopping than exorbitant rent. At the hearing for the SBJSA, a representative of the city’s Small Business Services agency argued against the bill, warning of “unintended consequences” like landlords being more hesitant to lease to small businesses.

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What a Democratic State Senate means for tenants

Nov20 Mike McKee color

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For years, Democrats in Albany have been pledging to strengthen rent regulations in New York City, but whenever legislation aimed at doing so dies on the chamber floor, fingers get pointed at their Republican colleagues, who, up until November 6, held a majority in the State Senate.

Now, with the chamber having turned unquestionably blue, tenants might just have a chance at seeing some of the legislation, most notably the repeal of vacancy decontrol, get signed into law. Following the election, the Democrat to Republican ratio is 40 Democrats to 23 Republicans. While this figure includes Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, the Democrats still have a clear majority.

But even still, it won’t be easy, Michael McKee, the treasurer and spokesperson of Tenants Political Action Committee, is warning.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” McKee said. “We are going to have to work very hard to make sure our friends in both houses do the right thing and hold them accountable. Just because the Senate is now under Democratic control, it doesn’t mean stronger rent protections are automatically going to happen.”

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Opinion: Cuomo’s conundrum

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Elections results usually reveal answers to political questions. Last week’s Democratic primaries did that, but also raised a raft of new questions, some of which will determine the course of important policy issues next year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated his rival Cynthia Nixon with nearly two thirds of the vote. Usually that would be cause for celebration in the winning camp. But the noticeable muted response from the Cuomo campaign speaks volumes.

In vanquishing his opponent, Cuomo outspent Nixon by almost 10 to 1, depleting his considerable campaign war chest. And along the way he made some bad gaffes which may come back to haunt him. Moreover, his political strategy over his first eight years in office of maintaining control over the state legislature seems to be coming to an end.

By tacitly supporting the breakaway Senate Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) for years, Cuomo enabled the Republican Party to maintain control over the State Senate. The Republican leadership in turn kept a lid on a number of progressive pieces of legislation emanating from the Assembly including tenant protections, health insurance reforms, tax policy, education spending and political campaign contributions.

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Letters to the editor, Sept. 13

Sept13 Toon Streetcar

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Stranded by disabled MTA

To the Editor: An open letter to the MTA and our local politicians.

On Thursday, Sept 6 at 2:45, on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue C, I was waiting for the westbound Ave D cross town buss. For 45 minutes I watched as eleven D buses go eastbound. Three buses going west stopped but they did not allow me to board, the driver said their buses were full.

A fourth bus stopped and the driver also did not want to assist me to board, I am handicapped and use a walker, however, a kind gentleman waiting with me picked up my walker and placed into the bus. No one got up and offered me a seat; I had to sit on my walker.

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Editorial: Keep Epstein in the State Assembly, send Cuomo a message from tenants

On Thursday, September 13, Democrat voters in New York will have the opportunity to vote, at the primary level, for their governor, lieutenant governor and public advocate. In the 74th Assembly District, which runs along the East Side from the East Village to Tudor City, there will also be the chance to vote for their representative in the New York Assembly.

For this seat, we endorse Harvey Epstein.

Epstein received our endorsement prior to the special election in April and is getting it again now for the same reason, his record of getting results for tenants. His opponents have argued – and rightly so – that it’s nearly impossible to beat the “Democratic machine,” a candidate supported firmly by the party, which in this case is Epstein. However, we do believe he has rightfully earned the trust he’s gotten and look forward to seeing him implement not only tenant protections but reforms to the state’s voting system as he has already sponsored legislation to do.

As for governor, we support Cynthia Nixon.

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Opinion: How far is too far?

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week was a particularly interesting week in politics. Governor Andrew Cuomo in his unbridled pursuit to appeal to the left leaning activists in the Democratic Party who he fears will support Cynthia Nixon in next month’s primary for Governor, again attacked President Trump. For most Democrats this is low hanging fruit. But in doing so he committed a major political faux pas. Speaking off the cuff Andrew Cuomo declared that America has “never been all that great,” a clear reference to Trump’s slogan of “making America great again”. That was a big oops.

With apologies to: Native Americans who were pushed off their land to make way for new Americans; black people who were legally enslaved in this nation until 1865; women who were deprived of the right to vote until 1920; American citizens who were imprisoned during World War II for the “crime” being of Japanese descent; thousands of other Americans who were blacklisted during the Joe McCarthy “Red Scare” days… Americans overwhelmingly think that America was and is great.

And with all our blemishes, imperfections and failures, I agree. Our political system of representative government was historic. Our national mission statement to protect free speech and one’s right to worship in their own way was unheard of 250 years ago. Our Constitution is among the most copied documents, a template for emerging democracies. And the generosity of the American people and (historically at least) our government to aid the less fortunate and oppressed around the globe is unmatched in human history.

So Andrew Cuomo went off script and said something that was politically stupid and offensive to veterans and many others. It will surely come back to haunt him as he seeks support around the country for his much-desired 2020 bid for the White House. The reaction to his remark from many Democratic Party leaders around the state and elsewhere was swift and pointedly critical. Those detractors risk incurring the wrath of Mr. Cuomo who does not appreciate dissent.

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Cuomo says he’d end vacancy decontrol

Mar15 Cuomo at podium

Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Sabina Mollot

Call it the Cynthia Nixon effect.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has frustrated housing advocates in recent years for not pushing harder for strengthened rent regulations, has recently stated, in writing, that he would be coming up with a plan to bolster them, including by eliminating vacancy decontrol.

Earlier this month, the Met Council on Housing published a questionnaire for all the gubernatorial candidates along with answers provided by all the candidates who responded, on its website.

Answering a question about how he would strengthen the rent laws in 2019, Cuomo said he would “advance a comprehensive plan — eliminating vacancy decontrol, limiting or eliminating vacancy bonuses, combating artificial rent inflation, making preferential rent the rent for the life of the tenancy, and securing new TPU (Tenant Protection Unit) enforcement tools.”

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Opinion: Strikes and the city

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

There are valid reasons to support a candidate running for governor this year other than Andrew Cuomo. He has certainly failed to reign in corruption in Albany as he promised he would. That is principally because he has been weak on changing campaign contribution laws and gargantuan political donations. These are the very laws that have enabled him to build a bulging $31M campaign war chest. He was slow to try to bring together warring factions of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, so much so that the Republican Party with fewer elected members has maintained control of that House for the past number of years thwarting pro-tenant and pro-consumer legislation in favor of big business.

Governor Cuomo has refused to increase taxes, even by a dime, on the wealthiest one percent in New York State while vital social service and education programs have been underfunded for lack of resources. He has tried to evade responsibility for the deteriorating condition of our mass transit system even though he controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has unnecessarily ramped up the feud with Mayor De Blasio, displaying an unflattering vindictive streak.

However, he cannot be taken to task, as “Sex and the City” actress turned governor candidate Cynthia Nixon has tried to do, over the issue of allowing municipal employees to go on strike. Some of us vividly remember the devastating strikes in New York City by the transportation workers, the sanitation workers and public school teachers in the 1960s and ‘70s. We can recall how difficult it was getting around the five boroughs during the transit strikes and the mounds of rotting garbage on the streets during the sanitation strikes. Fortunately, fire fighters and police never went down that road, and that is largely because of the Taylor Law, which Ms. Nixon wants to abolish.

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Editorial: Now’s your chance, Cuomo

Even New Yorkers who are far from being political junkies know one thing. Andrew Cuomo is running scared over his primary against lesbian activist Cynthia Nixon. The most recent poll numbers are favoring the incumbent. However, political outsider Nixon is a threat to the governor’s LGBTQ supporters; with Pride Week coming up, so too will his name and hers among New York’s Democrat voters.

There will be those rightfully pointing out how Cuomo strong-armed marriage equality into reality in 2011, but as State Senator Brad Hoylman has proven with a study, LGBTQ New Yorkers have been “stranded at the altar” since then. And with seven years having gone by, it does appear they’ve officially been jilted by Albany.

This legislative session in the state capital is over now, but elected officials, including Cuomo, still have a chance to at least commit to passing some LGBTQ protections like (at least) banning gay conversion therapy of young people and ensuring a fairer workplace for gay and transgender people. And we truly don’t know what’s stopping them. Yes, the State Senate is controlled by Republicans and that is where all this legislation, like tenant protection legislation, has gone to die.

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Letters to the editor, June 7

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Darth VDER is cheating NYers

Did you know that a recent decision by New York State energy regulators means that 32 percent of all New York City residents are not treated equally when it comes to accessing renewable energy as compared to other New York state residents? This affects all of us who do not pay our energy bills directly to Con Ed, including everyone living at Stuy Town, Waterside and most people living in large multifamily buildings, even though we pay the same amount as the other 68 percent of New York state residents to fund the state’s clean energy programs.

For most of us in New York City, remote renewable energy – also known as community distributed generation (CDG) – is the only option we have if we want to purchase clean renewables energy. Recently the Public Service Commission – a board of utility regulators appointed by Governor Cuomo – changed the rules for valuing clean energy generated at locations remote to where is consumed.

This new method, called VDER (Value of Distributed Energy Resources), applies to solar, wind and hydro-electric generation and is intended to succeed the current net meter value methodology. VDER differentiates between those of who pay their Con Ed bill directly to Con Ed, known as Direct Metered and those that do not, known as Master Metered or Master/Submetered, crediting Direct Metered residents almost 50 percent more value. It’s not fair.

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Flatiron, Kips Bay subway stations to close for 5 months

May10 station closure 23rd st rendering

Rendering of entrance at the 23rd Street F/M station (Renderings courtesy of MTA)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA confirmed with little fanfare at the end of April that two stations in the Flatiron and Kips Bay neighborhoods would be closing this summer until the end of the year as part of the Enhanced Station Initiative program. The 28th Street station on the 6 will be closed starting on July 16 and the 23rd Street station on the F/M will be closed beginning on July 23, with both expected to reopen sometime in December.

The agency presented the plan to Community Board 5 on April 23 but specific information about the closures is not available on the MTA’s website. Photos included in the presentation to the community board show significant rusting and water damage in both stations and one of the MTA’s stated goals for the project is to “address structural and cosmetic deficiencies,” as well as improve wayfinding services, navigation and communication to customers.

Renderings of the entrances at 23rd and 28th Streets show inconspicuous improvements, with the most noticeable changes being the addition of new electronic signs announcing service changes and updates, as well as maps to help with navigation.

The interior of the stations will be getting upgrades as well, with renderings showing improvements in lighting, new turnstile areas and wayfinding screens on the platforms.

In addition to the two local stations getting the improvements, 57th Street on the F will also be closed for about six months from July to December for similar cosmetic upgrades and both the 1/2/3 and A/C/E areas in Penn Station will be renovated as well, but work there will be phased and the station will not be fully closed.

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Opinion: Very special election

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The stakes are high in next week’s special election to fill vacancies in several state legislative seats on April 24. In our own Assembly District Democrat Harvey Epstein will be squaring off against Republican Bryan Cooper and two third-party candidates, Adrienne Craig-Williams and Juan Pagan, to fill the vacant seat left by Brian Kavanagh who was elected to the State Senate representing lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

The winner of that election will be a key player for our community. But the real significance will be in the several special elections for the Senate across the state. The results of those elections could have important policy and political implications for New York as well as national ambitions.

 For most of his two terms as governor, Andrew Cuomo has presided over a divided government. The Senate has been controlled by the Republican Party with the essential aid of a handful of Democratic Senators aligning themselves with the Republicans to give them numerical control. In exchange, these Democrats have received certain personal and political perks. This arrangement had the tacit approval of Cuomo. Why (you might ask), would a Democratic governor prefer a Republican-controlled State Senate?

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Letters to the editor, Apr. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

MTA BUSted

I’ve been waiting half an hour at E 14th and B
but some buses are arriving now. I count three.
I take the first bus because the others hang behind
and although it’s somewhat crowded, no one seems to mind.
I even find an empty seat to rest my happy rear
but when this girl gets on the bus, my heart is filled with fear.
With an iPhone in her left hand and hot coffee in her right,
this wobbly girl stands over me. It turns my fear to fright.
I’m worried that this bus will lurch and she will spill her drink
all over me and I’ll get burned while she will barely blink.
Luckily my stop is near, but when I rise to leave,
I almost have an accident which no one could believe:
I slip on a banana peel. But while falling to the floor
A man reaches out and saves me, then he helps me to the door.
The driver seems robotic; he’s oblivious to all:
the smelly foods, obstructive walkers or my recent fall.
I finally leave this “Bustaurant.” I’m happily on my way!
Thank God I have no further need of the MTA today!

John Cappelletti, ST

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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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What does the Democrats’ ‘unity’ deal mean for tenants?

Apr12 Cousins Cuomo Klein

Senate Democrat Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

Following what is being touted as Senate Democratic chamber reunification, Town & Village reached out to Michael McKee of TenantsPAC. He outlined the scenario as it is likely to play out in an op-ed while also sharing his thoughts on the reason for the governor’s sudden insistence on reunification.

“Everything comes down to two words. Cynthia Nixon,” said McKee. “Andrew’s scared to death and trying to hide it and he’s not fooling anyone.”

As for the Independent Democratic Conference’s sudden demise, read on, but, warned McKee, “We’ve been down this road before.”

 

By Michael McKee, treasurer, Tenants Political Action Committee

In a stunning development, Governor Andrew Cuomo has persuaded Jeff Klein and his fellow turncoat members of the Independent Democratic Conference not only to rejoin the mainstream Democratic conference but also to dissolve the IDC.

This is a huge political defeat for Jeff Klein, who up to now has insisted that while he was open to a reunification deal, the IDC would continue as a separate conference and he would be co-leader with Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Now he has agreed to disband the IDC, and accept a lower position as Andrea’s deputy.

Why? Because Andrew Cuomo, Jeff Klein, and the other turncoat senators are scared of losing their jobs this year. This is a perfect illustration of how grassroots political pressure can produce results. While Klein and Cuomo are desperate to lessen the pressure on them, we need to keep the pressure on – and increase it.

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