Assembly Member Harvey Epstein with L train construction zone neighbors and disability advocates in front of the MTA’s headquarters (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
While most New Yorkers are approaching April with a sense of dread because of the start to the 15-month L-pocalypse, for those who live around the East 14th Street construction site, the nightmare has been going on already for quite some time.
Recently, local elected officials were able to secure some concessions from the MTA in response to neighbor concerns like additional lighting along the sidewalks where views of the street are obstructed by construction barriers, a commitment to install air quality monitors along the street and reopening of the sidewalk on the East Village side of the street, where stores have been cut off from foot traffic.
However, many concerns have remained, such as noisy work that goes on from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as on weekends, clouds of debris that have caused some neighbors to fear for their respiratory health and equipment-packed streets that have led to an obstacle course for the disabled. Residents have also been left to wonder about the presence of an unidentified, glowing green substance in one of the many dumpsters that regularly get trucked in and out of the site.
Harvey Epstein (right) with an aide at the Stuyvesant Town flea market (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday, residents of the 74th Assembly District trickled into polling places, almost exclusively to make Harvey Epstein the next Assembly Member.
Epstein, the Democrat nominee who was also running on the Working Families line, obliterated three other candidates with 90.59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial poll results released by the New York City Board of Elections.
All the now-former candidates are residents of the East Village and had run on platforms that included affordable housing and tenant protections. Pagan is a retired entrepreneur and former corrections employee who’s run for office several times. Cooper is an event planner and the vice president of the Albano Republican Club who’s also run for office before. Craig-Williams is a graduate student and longtime Green Party activist who was running for the first time.
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?
On April 24, there will be a special election in which voters of the 74th Assembly District will choose their next Assembly member. There are four candidates on the ballot, but we are solidly in camp Harvey.
Harvey Epstein, a social justice attorney, is no stranger to the community he hopes to represent. Over a decade ago, when residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were being issued residency challenges like they were going out of style, it was Epstein who ran a free legal hotline for tenants. More recently, he served for five years as a tenant member of the Rent Guidelines Board and in two of those years, the board issued rent freezes for tenants signing one-year leases and low increases for those signing two-year increases.
If someone wants to top that act, they’ll need to get a rent freeze for three years or a rent rollback. (And hey… please do try!) But since none of the other candidates have yet managed to demonstrate how they’d be a better champion for affordable housing, we don’t see why voters should favor someone’s campaign promises over someone’s results.
Reform Party candidate Juan Pagan has run for local office a handful of times. (Photo courtesy of candidate)
By Sabina Mollot
The special election for the seat representing the 74th Assembly District is less than two weeks away, but one of the four candidates on the ballot is still hoping to get his name out there.
That candidate is Juan Pagan, a resident of Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, who is running against three others from his own neighborhood. Also running are Democrat and Working Families nominee Harvey Epstein, Republican Bryan Cooper and Green Party candidate Adrienne Craig-Williams.
Pagan, 62, who worked in corrections at two points in the 1980s and 1990s, has run for office a handful of times before. Then, as well as now, he did it in part to protest “the machine,” or more specifically, the Democratic Party, which, he is arguing, chooses its favorites while edging out perceived interlopers. He first ran in 2006 against Brian Kavanagh for the Assembly seat he’s running for now, that Kavanagh ended up winning and holding onto easily for the next 11 years, before switching to the State Senate. Pagan ran again in 2010, 2012 and 2016. He also ran against then-Council Member Rosie Mendez in 2009 and for the seat again in 2017 once it opened up, though it was handily won by Carlina Rivera.
For too long, the scales of justice in New York have been weighted in favor of the rich and powerful and the promise of equal justice has gone unfulfilled. Our courts and our laws consistently disadvantage low-income people, people of color, immigrants (especially those with limited English proficiency), the elderly and the disabled.
New York’s civil justice system handles the cases that affect our fundamental human needs – our homes, our family life, our economic concerns. Yet the system is pay-to-play. If you have the means and can afford a lawyer, you can get a fair shake in court. If you can’t afford a lawyer and can’t get legal help from New York’s underfunded legal services programs, you are left on your own to face dire consequences in courts that are impossible to navigate on your own. A recent state commission report found that each year, 1.8 million low-income New Yorkers are forced to appear in court without counsel in cases that involve life’s essential aspects.
Assembly candidate Bryan Cooper believes it’s unfair Republicans are blamed for the lack of affordable housing. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Cooper)
By Sabina Mollot
In New York City, it’s generally understood that whichever Democrat candidate is on the ballot in a general election is going to win, regardless of who the Republican or third party candidate is. And Bryan Cooper, the Republican hoping to fill the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh, knows this.
Nevertheless, he is hoping three time’s the charm. This will, after all, be the third time he’s run for the 74th District Assembly seat. Cooper, now 51, ran against Kavanagh in 2008 and again in 2014. He also ran against then-City Council Member Rosie Mendez in 2009.
While both incumbents were easily re-elected, Cooper said he’s more hopeful this time since the special election on April 24 is an open one.
He’ll be on the ballot along with Democrat Harvey Epstein who last Monday got the nomination from the Democratic County Committee. That same evening, the Manhattan Republican Party announced it was supporting Cooper.
My principal difficulty with Harvey Epstein’s “Living in NYC isn’t a privilege,” opinion, Town & Village, Feb. 1, is his omission of what has brought us an “unprecedented housing crisis.” Mr. Epstein took pains to lay bare the crux, but he did not get to its persistent cause. As we read his letter, it becomes apparent that while he understands the crisis, in the sense that he, like we, can describe it, he does not understand it as anything other than a crisis in housing. It is, in his words, “an alarming trend” whose remedy is “up for debate.” I do not know why Mr. Epstein sees the “unprecedented crisis” as a “trend,” and it bears badly for his future leadership and his constituency that he thinks the remedy is “up for grabs.”
To treat the plight of our most vulnerable, Mr. Epstein would provide them with “subsidies so that they can afford to stay in their rent-regulated housing.” He would require “all developers to set aside a percentage of all future development for affordable housing.” He would “repeal vacancy deregulation… reform the way in which landlords impose exorbitant rent increases based on MCIs,” and he would “end the vacancy bonus which allows landlords to increase rents a whopping 20 percent whenever a tenant [vacates] an apartment.” In the main, covering all of the issues, Mr. Epstein believes that, “It’s time we create new working class housing program that allows working class New Yorkers the ability to work and stay here.”
Harvey Epstein at Monday evening’s County Committee vote with a supporter, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (Photo courtesy of Harvey Epstein)
By Sabina Mollot
On Monday night, the Manhattan Democratic Party County Committee unanimously nominated Urban Justice Center attorney Harvey Epstein for State Senator Brian Kavanagh’s vacated Assembly seat. However, the vote, held by about 200 county committee members at the Sirovich Senior Center, was technically already decided ahead of time when the two other Democrat candidates in the race, Sandro Sherrod and Mike Corbett, withdrew.
Corbett, a City Council aide and former president of New York Young Democrats, announced on Monday morning he was withdrawing and giving his support to Epstein.
In an email blast, he said it was clear Epstein had more backing from the party.
“I was especially honored to have the support of so many of you in this race,” wrote Corbett. “However, as we approach the County Committee vote tonight, I believe that the result is no longer in doubt. My friends, to paraphrase the musical Hamilton, I don’t have the votes.”
Assembly candidates Mike Corbett, Harvey Epstein and Sandro Sherrod at a forum held by local Democratic clubs on Saturday (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Candidates for the 74th Assembly District seat met for a forum hosted by the Tilden Democratic Club and the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club last Saturday evening at the Seafarer’s International House. The forum had been postponed from earlier in the month due to the snowstorm, although the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, which originally planned the event with the two other clubs, ultimately braved the weather and held its forum that day.
Sandro Sherrod, a technology director at NYU Langone, Harvey Epstein, a project director with the Urban Justice Center, and Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides, all agreed that they didn’t disagree on much but shared their specific positions on issues such as affordability, the MTA, education and other topics.
(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.”
State Senator Brian Kavanagh reflected on his career in Albany so far at a Pret shop near his office, which was already in boxes earlier this month. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Thursday, December 7, Brian Kavanagh, who had served as Assembly member representing Manhattan’s 74th District for 11 years, took the oath of office for his new role as state senator. While his Assembly district, which included Stuyvesant Town, Waterside, Tudor City and a handful of other East Side neighborhoods, is now vacant, Kavanagh’s new beat, the 26th Senatorial District, formerly represented by Daniel Squadron, spans part of Brooklyn’s waterfront and much of Lower Manhattan.
Just days before Kavanagh officially began his new position, he met with a Town & Village reporter at a Pret sandwich shop near his legislative office (since the office itself was already packed up in boxes) to discuss his reason for switching chambers and how he still plans to fight for affordable housing.
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.
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.
Last month, our City Council approved a package of tenant-protection bills that will provide legal counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction, and curb tenant harassment. This is a huge victory for tenants, but there’s still much more we must do – especially in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where rent-stabilized tenants know first-hand the struggles of rising rents. This fall, we must elect a Council Member who will adopt bold, innovative solutions to solve the affordability crisis. That’s why I’ve endorsed Democrat Marti Speranza.
While every candidate talks about affordable housing, Marti has a workable 19 point plan that will protect residents of ST/PCV while preserving and creating more permanently affordable housing throughout the district. A cornerstone of her Plan for A Livable City is creating a citywide Community Land Trust (CLT), a proven method of transforming underutilized land into permanently affordable housing.
Tenants play limbo at the vote. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The city’s rent-stabilized renters will be seeing increases of 1.25 percent for one-year leases and 2 percent for two-year leases.
The increases were voted on by the Rent Guidelines Board on Tuesday evening, after two years of rent freezes for one-year leases, frustrating tenants as well as landlords.
Tenant advocates and community groups were pushing for at least another freeze and in many cases a rollback, but owner representatives felt that the increases didn’t go far enough.
Tenant member Harvey Epstein said in his remarks prior to introducing the proposal that ultimately passed that he and Sheila Garcia, the second tenant member on the board, knew tenants needed a rollback or at least a freeze, but he said that neither were possible at this year’s vote.
“It’s our job to do the best we can and live with the political realities,” Epstein said. “We take this job seriously and today is the first day to move to a better system.”