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.”

Continue reading

Tenant groups, pols rally for stronger rent laws

Mayor’s office pledges support but is short on details at Council hearing

Council Member Dan Garodnick and other city politicians called on Albany to repeal vacancy decontrol and further strengthen the laws governing rent stabilization. (Photo by William Alatriste)

Council Member Dan Garodnick and other city politicians called on Albany to repeal vacancy decontrol and further strengthen the laws governing rent stabilization. (Photo by William Alatriste)

By Sabina Mollot

With the Rent Stabilization Laws up for renewal in June, several city politicians and dozens of tenants gathered at City Hall on Monday to call on state lawmakers to strengthen the laws, most importantly by repealing vacancy decontrol.

Most of the comments were directed at Governor Cuomo, with speakers like Comptroller Scott Stringer putting the blame on Albany for “rewarding greedy speculators.”

He added that the city’s plan to build more affordable housing meant nothing if it kept hemorrhaging units at the same pace. “We’re losing affordable housing bastions like Stuyvesant Town,” he said.

The comptroller, who recently released a report saying that 400,000 apartments renting for $1,000 have disappeared from the radar, said at the podium that vacancy decontrol alone has cost the city 153,000 units of affordable housing. Currently, around 2.3 million New Yorkers live in 1.1 million rent stabilized units.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer voiced a suggestion that rent laws include a provision that every new development must include affordable housing, and, she added, “We need to get rid of MCIs (major capital improvements) that go on for 100 years.”

Continue reading

Mendez fights on for return of former PS 64/CHARAS center to community use

Councilmember Rosie Mendez at a rally over the former community center

Council Member Rosie Mendez at a rally over the former community center (Photo by John Blasco)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents joined City Councilmember Rosie Mendez at City Hall last Tuesday on Three Kings Day to deliver an online petition and over a thousand holiday cards to Mayor Bill de Blasio, asking him to help return the former PS 64 building for community use. The cards and petition were delivered along with gold-wrapped chocolate coins, frankincense and myrrh, in honor of the holiday.

Local politicians and community advocates have been fighting to get the former public school back from real estate developer Gregg Singer, who bought the building from the city for $3.15 million when then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani auctioned it off in 1998. Three years later in 2001, Singer evicted the building’s tenant, local community center CHARAS/El Bohio, which had been using the landmarked building since the 1970s. The building, located at 605 East 9th Street, has been vacant for the last 13 years.

CHARAS was founded in the 1960s by a group of Puerto Rican men (who used their initials to create the name for the organization) in response to the crisis in the Lower East Side at the time, where an increasing number of residential buildings were in tax foreclosure and residents were fleeing the neighborhood.

Local advocates have had marginal success in fighting Singer’s plans, including saving the building from demolition in 2008, as the Post recently noted. A Post story at the time said Singer had been trying to argue that the building shouldn’t have been considered a landmark, primarily because he had stripped the facade of most of its architectural details, but a Manhattan Supreme Court justice ruled against him, upholding the building’s landmark status and thwarting his plan to build a 19-story dorm.

Singer has yet to give up on his plans for a dorm, however, going so far as to sign leases with both the Joffrey Ballet Center Concert Group Program (CGP) and Cooper Union in early 2013. Singer has steadily continued the work for the dormitory but the plan was put on hold again last September when the Department of Buildings issued a Stop Work Order to halt construction.

Continue reading

Residents choose de Blasio

De Blasio, Lhota, Mendez, Brewer top in primary

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

After a long and contentious primary season and a race with more Democrats than can be counted on one hand, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio climbed to the top of the pack in the election on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, it was still unclear whether or not de Blasio, who at times during the campaign lagged in fourth place behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, would avoid a runoff with Thompson.

According to election results from the New York Times, de Blasio won all of the districts in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as well as most of the surrounding districts except for some in the Flatiron area and Gramercy, which went to Quinn. The Republican primary was only slightly more split, with former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota winning all of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village districts except two.

The race was too close to call between de Blasio and Thompson on Tuesday night. While various news sources put de Blasio slightly over the requisite 40 percent at around midnight, Thompson said that he would continue his campaign until all of the ballots were counted, which could take days. As of Wednesday morning, the Board of Elections said that de Blasio had 40.13 percent of the vote with Thompson at 26.16 percent.

Quinn, the longtime frontrunner, conceded on Tuesday night with only 15 percent of the vote and disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner ducked out early in the vote-tallying with less than five percent.

Continue reading

Our choices: Lhota for mayor, Lappin for boro prez, Mendez for Council

With the primary just days away, the residents of Peter Cooper Village (always a strong voter base) have remained unsure about who it is they want to make their next mayor. And based on the very cluttered ballot, we can’t say we blame them.

Republican candidate Joe Lhota

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota

In the last issue of Town & Village, we made an endorsement for the candidate on the Democrat side, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, because we believe he is genuinely interested in fighting for the preservation of the middle class and the rights of renters in this city. However, finding a Republican candidate with similar interests has proven to be a wee bit tougher. Last week, Town & Village reached out to the three Republican mayoral hopefuls to ask for their thoughts on how they would help middle class New Yorkers, including tenants, which we hoped to share with readers here. But unfortunately, none of the candidates responded to the question. Not one.

So what we did here was pick a candidate that we believe wouldn’t have a hands-off approach to matters like tenant rights and housing costs. It is after all that way of thinking that allowed a culture of predatory equity to go unchecked and result in real estate disasters like the Stuy Town sale to Tishman Speyer and the frivolous primary residence challenges of tenants and eventually, the default that followed.

Of the three Republican candidates, we think former MTA head Joe Lhota has the most potential to tackle the housing crisis New Yorkers now face. Though he isn’t committed to building or preserving a particular number of units of affordable housing as a few of the Democratic candidates are, he has acknowledged the need for more housing and for the government to step in to make it a reality.
In June, at a candidate forum held by CUNY covered by Town & Village, Lhota said,  “The city government should give tax incentives for housing. We have a million more people; where are we going to house them? Where is the property? We need to renovate existing housing and bring more onto the system. We need to evaluate property that’s not being used. Post offices aren’t as needed as they used to be. The government should grab them and use them through a building incentive program.”

Lhota is also an old hand at the workings of city government, having been the city’s budget director in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s first term and deputy mayor for operations during the second term. Education is another important issue to him; he’s said he’s not in favor of a system that punishes teachers (as educators believe Bloomberg does in failing schools) and he has promised not to be “anti-teacher.”

Though we were somewhat tempted to go with Lhota’s Republican rival George McDonald, here’s why we didn’t. McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, believes that everyone who “wants a job should have one.” This sounds great, but in order to make this a real positive for New York, there needs to be a clear plan that provides for the creation of jobs at all income levels, not just low income jobs that would be an improvement for the people the Doe Fund helps, who were at one point homeless or incarcerated. The idea is for those who work in the city to be able to pay rent or a mortgage there, too. To be fair, no one else has come up with a way to create jobs at all levels, but… we’re still not even sure what else McDonald’s campaign is about. Billionaire Gristedes chain owner John Catsimatidis has also not shown his platform to be a unique one, beyond an admittedly worthy goal of trying to reduce fines and other nuisances for small business owners.

So, though we disagree strongly with his position on kittens, for the Republican side, we endorse Joe Lhota.

Continue reading

Letters to the Editor, Sept. 5

Mendez is a fighter for tenants and the poor


Re: “Mendez, hoping to improve housing crisis, running again,” and “Opponent, East Side pastor, says poor have been ignored,” T&V, Aug. 29

To the Editor:

I was interested to read your profile on both of the candidates in the Democratic Primary in the Second District, which immediately abuts my own.

Since your piece took pains to be balanced, I thought it worth pointing out to your readers that this is not really a close call – Rosie Mendez deserves to win this one decisively.

I have served in the City Council now for a number of years, and have had the great pleasure of calling Rosie Mendez a colleague and a friend.  She is an impressive advocate for tenants, for seniors, and for the poor.  She has stood with me every time I needed her – and even played a critical role in our efforts to protect tenants’ interests in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper.

As Chair of the Committee on Public Housing, Rosie also has been a tremendous advocate for residents of those communities. She has secured $10 million for security enhancements and disability access, and in 2008, she restored $38 million to prevent the closing of community centers.

In the days immediately after Superstorm Sandy, Rosie and her staff were among the first responders on the Lower East Side, where they coordinated with local nonprofits to ensure that stranded residents received the necessities they needed. Since the storm, she has has diligently worked on an emergency plan to make sure that the city is better prepared for our next storm.

I have also enjoyed partnering with Rosie in supporting our local public schools – many of which, like PS 40 and PS 116, physically sit in her district, but serve both of our constituents.  I look forward to continuing that high level of collaboration on all issues.

Rosie is one of the toughest leaders I know, and I encourage the residents of the Second Council District to send her back to City Hall to fight for all of us, even those of us who live next door.

Dan Garodnick,
City Council Member,
District 4

Continue reading

Mendez opponent, a pastor, says poor have been ignored

City Council candidate Richard del Rio  Photo by Sabina Mollot

City Council candidate Richard del Rio
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Lower East Side-based clergyman Richard del Rio, or, as the hog-riding, tattooed 61-year-old is better known in the neighborhood, “Pastor Rick,” will be on the ballot on Primary Day as the Democratic challenger facing Council Member Rosie Mendez.

Del Rio, who founded his nondenominational church, Abounding Grace Ministries, over 30 years ago and has since become known as a community activist as well as a spiritual leader, said he is running because he feels there’s been a neglect of the poor and the elderly in the second city district, in particular NYCHA residents.

He’s also staunchly against elected officials being able to run for a third term, a policy enacted four years ago so Mayor Bloomberg could run again. “It’s legal, but it’s still offensive,” said del Rio. “It was just a few people that overturned the will of 8.5 million people.”

Mendez, of course, is running for a third time, and, while del Rio was quick to say during a recent interview at his Avenue C campaign office that he isn’t about to “trash her,” he has referred to her as a “no-show” politician on his website.

During the interview, del Rio discussed a number of issues from crime (which he’s been on top of as an NYPD clergy liaison), NYCHA’s plan to build market rate housing on eight of its developments (which he’s opposed to) and the gentrification of the district, which includes the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay. (Del Rio said he’s been extremely concerned about residents being priced out of the area and NYU’s ongoing expansion without having to build any affordable housing as part of the development deals.)

Meanwhile they’re getting prime real estate and (they want) humungous towers that are overwhelming to the community.”

On NYCHA’s “infill” plan of leasing space on public housing parks and parking lots to outside developers, including at Campos Plaza, del Rio said he feels that the housing authority’s board has “not only neglected but dismissed the poor.” If elected, he said he promises to fight the plan, as well as fight to protect the rent-regulated housing that exists.

The middle class and the poor are being pushed out,” he said, “the creativity of the East Village — that’s all being stifled with this new plan to create a city for the wealthy.”

Del Rio, whose parents were immigrants from Puerto Rico, has always worked directly with the poor since starting his church in “the worst area” of that time which was the Lower East Side. This place, cops, warned him, was where people sold heroin and their bodies. The idea of setting up a base there was to cut down on gang activity and crime, with del Rio saying he found the most effective way to do this was by befriending gang members and other young people who were failing school, homeless or facing other problems like incarcerated family members. Del Rio and his sons, then ages 3, 6 and 8, were often with him as he took a van around, in particular to Union Square, offering information about treatment and other drug-related programs.

It was in the mid-90s when, del Rio said, he was able to stop a gang from retaliating at Alphabet City’s Haven Plaza for the killing of one its members by a rival gang. He did this by showing up, talking to the gang members and “letting them vent.”

They want to know you’re going to talk to them without judging them or even preaching to them, so I became friends with them,” he said.

After asking his wife to make some sandwiches and hot chocolate — because he’d be inviting the gang over — the group talked some more and then, said del Rio, “It was my turn and I told them, ‘If you do this, this is just going to escalate.’” In the end, the retaliatory battle never happened. Del Rio said he became privy to the looming gang war from the cops, who he said he’s always enjoyed a good working relationship with. For the past 20 years, del Rio has been an NYPD police-clergy liaison.

On crime these days in the district, del Rio is concerned about the still-occasional shootings at public housing projects, and attends meetings of the 9th Precinct Community Council. He has mixed feelings about stop-and-frisk, having once been on the receiving end of such an investigation in which he thought the officer’s behavior was “rude,” but also believing that the local cops – NYPD and those working for NYCHA – have a tough job to do.

On education, del Rio is not a fan of the current system that shuts down failing schools. “Our mayor brags about being able to shut schools down; why in the world would he want to have that as his achievement?” asked del Rio.

In 1996, del Rio and his family started a program called Generation X-Cel, which was aimed at helping kids who were failing in school and had other problems. His sons, who helped run it, had asked local kids, what kind of things they wanted to see in an after school program, and found that by asking, the kids got interested. The program ran at a space rented in a building at the Jacob Riis Houses, until the group was booted when NYCHA decided to use it for storage. The organization was replaced in 2008, though, by another program called 20/20 Vision for Schools, which was implemented at 16 schools.

One of his sons is still involved with the program. Del Rio has a total of three grown sons as well as a grown daughter, now a registered nurse, who is adopted. She came from a family he knew, in which the mother was dying of AIDS. The mother had asked del Rio and his wife Arlene to care for her children, which they did, and he wound up adopting one of them.

As for his pastoral duties, del Rio has operated his church in a space he rents at MS 34, a school on East 11th Street and Avenue D. Though he’s been less active at the church since he launched his campaign earlier in the year, he’s still been involved in some activities including a couple of local street fairs organized by clergy as well as an 18-year-old church tradition of holding an annual basketball tournament.

(People are) so dismissive of clergy, but clergy are servants you don’t have to pay and they have a relationship with the community,” he said.

Richard del, Rio, not long after Hurricane Sandy, helps distribute food and supplies. Photo courtesy of Richard del Rio

Richard del, Rio, not long after Hurricane Sandy, helps distribute food and supplies.
Photo courtesy of Richard del Rio

Del Rio noted that it was through relationships he’d developed with locals and law enforcement that enabled him to respond to Sandy with trucks full of supplies. He and others, including groups from as far as West Virginia, distributed hot meals as well as things like blankets and batteries on the street on Avenue D. Eventually, 20,000 people were recipients of the supplies and 12,000 hot meals were served.

On smaller issues, del Rio said he would like to do more for residents who feel that they’re living in “permanent construction zones” and be quicker about fixing things, like, for example, restoring a few Alphabet City bus stops that were recently removed. The removals were supposed to be temporary, he said, but complaints he’s gotten from local seniors have indicated that they weren’t.

If elected, del Rio said he is hoping for a Democratic mayor that is either Bill Thompson or Bill de Blasio. Both, he said, have promised to have roundtables with local clergy.

Being a political outsider, I know there’s a lot for me to learn,” said del Rio, but, he added, “I’m a quick learner.”

Mendez, hoping to improve housing crisis, running again

Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office

Council Member Rosie Mendez in front of her campaign office

By Sabina Mollot

Rosie Mendez, who’s served as City Council member for the second city district for the past eight years, is hoping voters will choose her on Primary Day, as she seeks a third term.

Mendez, who’s been tackling such issues as building neglect in public housing, disappearing affordable housing options in the district and more recently, plans for a sanitation garage on First Avenue that she opposes, said she’s running again because, “I love my job and I still have more to do. I don’t want to run for something else.”

On Monday, Mendez discussed her goals for the coming years if re-elected as well as ongoing projects at her campaign office on Avenue B and 11th Street, just down the block from where she lives.

In that area of Alphabet City, it’s hard to find a storefront that doesn’t have a campaign poster with either Mendez’s smiling face or Democratic rival Richard del Rio’s.

Del Rio has been critical of his opponent for running for a third term, but at her office, Mendez defended her position, saying that while she had been against overturning term limits for the mayor, she doesn’t feel the same way about other city legislative positions.

“My opponent and some people do not remember the whole process,” she said of the City Council’s move to overturn the term limits, which allowed Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third time.

The reason she said she feels a different policy should apply to the executive of City Hall from the rest of the elected officials, is that simply put, the mayor, with his staff, has outnumbered and outmaneuvered the Council, with theirs, at numerous turns and disagreements.

“Their staff was able to run circles around us,” she admitted. “We don’t have the staff with the experience to really get in and catch everything they’re hiding.”

At this point, Mendez is hoping the next mayor will be the Democratic candidate she’s endorsed, Speaker Christine Quinn. (Mendez also said she supports term limits for that position as well.)

However, Quinn, she believes, would be more sympathetic to tenants, and housing has for many years been the biggest challenge facing the district. This is particularly due to owners of regulated units opting out of the Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 programs and public housing being in a state of crisis with NYCHA having fallen seriously behind on repairs — around one million jobs. Additionally, at this point, the agency seems unsure where to go with a previously hatched “infill” plan to build market rate housing at existing low-income developments. As of last week, NYCHA went from asking developers from RFPs (requests for proposals) to RFIEs, requests for expressions of interest. Mendez said this week that she doesn’t want to see anything pop up that doesn’t have the support of tenants and isn’t entirely or mostly affordable housing. She also doesn’t want any new development at one of NYCHA’s proposed infill sites, Smith Houses, because of how it flooded during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system Photo by Sabina Mollot

Council Member Rosie Mendez at Campos Plaza, where residents recently got a security camera system
Photo by Sabina Mollot

Having grown up in Williamsburg Houses, the first public housing project to be built in Brooklyn, Mendez is no stranger to the problems of public housing.

Mendez said she is also not a supporter of the infill program because she doesn’t think the expected income from market rate units will cover the financial needs of the complex, but, she said, doing away with the $74 million NYCHA pays each year for police services would. The practice of paying the police, which private landlords do not, began in the Giuliani era. Mendez said she’s been pushing for the payments to end since she first came into office. While she is not enthusiastic about that happening any time soon, she has allocated $10 million in funding to NYCHA this coming fiscal year. Last year she did the same.

Mendez, who chairs the Council’s Public Housing Committee, said one thing she is considering — if constituents like the idea — is to get some affordable housing built specifically for seniors. Although well aware that it “takes funding to make,” she’s optimistic about the future under a new mayor, who, she hopes, would give owners incentives to maintain as well as build affordable housing beyond the standard 80/20 formula.

Priority one though for Mendez, if re-elected, would be to focus on a plan of action and preparation for the next Sandy-like disaster. After the superstorm hit, Mendez and her staff went to many buildings to check on the district’s most vulnerable residents, the elderly, sick and disabled. In some cases, this meant trudging up the stairs of high-rises to recharge residents’ motorized wheelchairs or bring them hot meals, medicine and buckets of water for drinking and flushing. With many residents having no water or just afraid to use what they’d saved, “It created an unhealthy and unsanitary situation,” said Mendez. By coordinating with local nonprofits such as GOLES and the Stein Senior Center, Mendez said she was able to meet the needs of those who were most in need while also not duplicating services offered by other agencies.

“It was multiple levels of triage to try to get to everyone so we wouldn’t have a tragedy,” she said, though she added that, “Unfortunately, we did have some tragedies.” One was a senior living at Kips Bay Court who had been carried down the stairs from her apartment on an upper floor, in her bed, as well as along with her oxygen tank, for medical help. The woman ended up not surviving although curiously, she wasn’t considered a Sandy casualty, with her death getting blamed on whatever condition she had. “It should count,” said Mendez.

Other problems were that at local emergency shelters, there weren’t enough cots for people who’d evacuated, and that those who remained behind in their homes were in many cases just unprepared for a blackout that lasted several days.

On education issues, Mendez has been opposed to many of the co-locations of schools in recent years and blasted the Panel for Education Policy as “rubber stampers” for approving the Department of Education’s co-location plans.

“I like to say I’m old school,” said Mendez. “When I went to school, a school was a building and a building was a school.”

From what Mendez has seen, the co-locations have led to principals having to put students’ issues on the back burner while trying to coordinate on who gets the library or rear yard at what time and schools not getting enough funding for arts, music and summer programs.

“I’ve been trying to supplement it with that much maligned discretionary funding,” she said. “It allows me to fund after school programs and during the day.”

Schools that have been on the receiving end of such funding include PS 110, PS 34, PS 40, PS 116, PS 188, PS 15 and MS 104, which recently used the money for a summer tennis clinic.

Other money from the discretionary funds has gone towards local nonprofits’ food pantry and hot meal programs. Mendez noted how on any given Saturday morning, at a church across the street from her campaign office, near the corner of Avenue B, the line for bags of food stretches outside almost down to Avenue A. “You’ll see anywhere from 200 to 400 people,” she said.

More recently, another issue that has been of concern to Mendez is the planned Brookdale campus sanitation garage. While located in City District 4, it would affect Mendez’s constituents living in East Midtown Plaza and Kips Bay. Mendez said she is mainly opposed to it because the garbage trucks would all be located in an area where “we’ve seen cars floating. If the trucks were to get flooded, there are pollutants and a lot of dirt and grime on them. I don’t know how the mayor justifies putting this right in the middle of hospital row, right in the middle of a flood zone. I think it’s very ill advised.”

On crime, Mendez said she believes the police force currently has too few officers due to a shrinking force, and while District 2, which covers the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park and Kips Bay, hasn’t seen the kind of crime it used to, there is still the occasional shootout, and noted Mendez, a spike in sexual assaults all around the city. She suggested that the city put “less money into consultants and more into our agencies.”

As far as quality of life issues is concerned, noise from bars has been an ongoing one though Mendez noted stipulations on hours venues can do business as well as fines issued by the State Liquor Authority against repeat offenders have helped to some degree. Another growing complaint has been evening noise from construction sites with developers applying for and getting variances to do construction from as early as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mendez said she’s, in some specific cases, managed to get it “scaled back” though at other locations, late construction has persisted despite intervention from her office. She said she’ll continue to meet with the developers as well as the Department of Buildings.

Throughout her career in the City Council, Mendez said she considers her biggest accomplishments to be helping to save the Stein Senior Center, which has recently reopened in a new and improved location, preventing closures of daycare centers and in general, being responsive to individual concerns.

“Everything in politics is local,” she said, “so I’m proud of my track record with constituent services.”

Before her first run for office, Mendez graduated from New York University and Rutgers School of Law.

She began her career in politics as chief of staff to her predecessor in the Council, Margarita Lopez (now employed by NYCHA). Like Lopez, Mendez is openly gay and a champion for LGBT rights.

Letters to the Editor, Jan. 3

Some downtown areas still need Sandy aid

The following is a letter from State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Margaret Chin and Council Member Rosie Mendez to Robert Doar, Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration in mid-December.

We write regarding the federal government’s approval of the City’s request to bring the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to areas of New York City impacted by the storm.

The approval of D-SNAP for residents throughout the city means that more New Yorkers in more places will get food assistance they need in the wake of the storm. Many New York City families continue to struggle in Sandy’s aftermath and D-SNAP is one way to help them through this difficult time. We are particularly pleased that residents from the 10002 zip code are eligible for the program. However, we do have concerns about the accessibility and eligibility of the program for Manhattan residents.

Of the twelve full and partial zip codes approved for D-SNAP in New York City, only one, 10002, is in Manhattan. In Lower Manhattan a large area was devastated by the storm, crossing a number of zip codes with a high proportion of low-income, elderly and vulnerable constituents. We urge the inclusion of additional full and partial zip codes to allow more Manhattan residents impacted by the storm to apply.

Additionally, for such a large program that is complex to administer, just two application centers (in Staten Island and Brooklyn), however large, will deter many eligible New Yorkers from applying. If there were additional application centers closer to more affected zip codes, open for a significant amount of time, it would spread the volume of applicants, reduce pressure on the existing centers, particularly in Brooklyn, and make applications more realistic for those who need it. In light of this, we recommend establishing an application center in Lower Manhattan.

Therefore, we urge the inclusion of additional full and partial zip codes that would allow more New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan impacted by the storm to apply, the opening of additional application centers closer to more affected zip codes, and an extension of the December 18th deadline for applications so that the program is as inclusive as possible for New Yorkers in need. Continue reading