Opinion: Felder overplays his hand

By former Assmeblyman Steven Sanders

Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder is a Democrat. But for reasons best known to him, he has been caucusing with the Republicans in Albany to help enable that Party to maintain control of the State Senate in spite of having fewer members than the Democrats.

But that’s not where the story ends. Last month, the seven Democratic members who have made up the so called “Independent Democratic Caucus” for the past number of years, reluctantly returned to the reservation. That leaves the Senate composition at 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. Governor Cuomo for years tacitly accepted that odd political marriage because he felt it worked to his advantage. He no longer thinks so. He has been pressured from the left, and from his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, to stand up for Democrats. So he suddenly got involved and brokered a deal amongst the Senate Democrats.

But with Felder’s continued affiliation with the Republicans, they will maintain Senate control for the rest of this year. In exchange for Mr. Felder’s support, the Republicans have given him legislative perks and pivotal voting deference. But as the current session winds down and the November elections loom large and soon, Mr. Felder’s political strategy may need rethinking.

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Claim of forced kiss by IDC leader may stall Senate Dem reunification

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

With sexual misconduct allegations having been made last week against Jeff Klein, the Bronx state senator who controls the Independent Democratic Conference, the proposal to reunite the Senate mainline Democrats with the IDC is likely to continue to stall.

Political watchdog Mike McKee, treasurer of TenantsPAC, said he suspects that “Jeff’s days may be numbered.” While not exactly unbiased — McKee rarely misses a chance to call Klein a landlord puppet — the veteran Albany activist put it this way: “I think this puts a monkey wrench into Governor Cuomo’s plan to reunify the Senate, which was very flawed to begin with.” But, he added that he doesn’t believe the plan was going anywhere anyway.

Under the proposed deal put forth last fall, the IDC, a breakaway group of eight Democrat senators who vote with Republicans, would share power with Democrats with each chamber’s chair becoming a co-leader. However, they would also still need Republican-aligned but non-IDC Senator Simcha Felder and two new Democrat senators in two vacant seats formerly occupied by Democrats to actually secure a majority.

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TenantPAC’s top 3 priorities for 2018

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

When it comes to resolutions for tenants in the coming year, TenantsPAC treasurer and spokesperson Mike McKee says time is of the essence.

“They have to pass some of our reform bills this year, not 2019,” the activist said.

McKee is adamant about the timing of a growing, organized effort to strengthen the rent laws, explaining that the following year when the rent regulations are up for renewal or expiration, tenants will no longer have leverage that exists this year. The reason for this is simple. Elected officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, will be up for reelection in 2018, and, explained McKee, six months after the new term, “he’ll have no interest in June 2019 of doing anything for the tenants” nor will the Republican-aligned members of the Independent Democratic Conference.

McKee, who was reached on the phone last Friday, added that he was planning, along with dozens of other activists, to protest outside Cuomo’s State of the State speech. A number of participants, he added, had committed ahead of time to getting arrested for blocking the entrance to the capitol.

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Now a senator, Kavanagh says rent regs are still top priority

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.

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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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Zephyr Teachout makes debut in improv comedy to blast IDC

Zephyr Teachout socks it to the State Senate’s breakaway Democrats in “Drunken Civics.” (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Zephyr Teachout, the law professor who challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo in the last gubernatorial election, lent a helping hand to a new show at the People’s Improv Theater called “Drunken Civics,” borne out of the 2016 election results and combining comedy and learning about local government. Teachout appeared in the show on Monday evening at the theater on East 24th Street to discuss the Independent Democratic Conference (the Senate breakaway Democrats who are aligned with Republicans).

“I guess how this works is that I’ll say things and they make fun of me, which is kind of what it was like running for governor,” Teachout told the crowd, who chuckled in response.

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