LGBT protection bills collecting dust in Albany

State Senator Hoylman, pictured with his baby Lucy and husband David Sigal, had to work with a surrogate in California since surrogacy isn’t legal in New York. (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, State Senator Brad Hoylman told Town & Village that any LGBT-related legislation seemed to be blacklisted in Albany to the point where any bill with the term “LGBT” in it would be “dead on arrival.”

Since then, basically nothing has changed with the most recent significant LGBT-related legislation being the marriage equality act in 2011 that was championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In 2016, Hoylman did a study on the lack of action taken in the state capital since then, titled “Stranded at the Altar.” The fact that the Independent Democratic Conference has dissolved hasn’t changed anything, voting dynamic-wise, and Hoylman, as he has before, is laying the blame solely on his chamber’s Republican majority. Hoylman is the only openly gay state senator.

Additionally, while Cuomo is fighting a high-profile battle against a lesbian primary challenger, Hoylman said he wasn’t sure the governor could strong-arm the bills into law through executive order.

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Hoylman and Epstein call for more transparency in real estate lending

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein at a rally on Sunday, held in front of a Jared Kushner-owned property on East 12th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a rally in the East Village on Sunday to slam local predatory landlords and to announce a bill calling for more transparency in real estate lending.

The rally was held in front of a building owned by presidential son-in-law and accused slumlord Jared Kushner, Westminster City Living at 504 East 12th Street.

At the event, the elected officials announced the joint legislation that will direct the New York State Department of Financial Services to collect data on financial institutions lending to landlords acquiring property that include rent-stabilized tenants and investigate the role financial institutions play in encouraging anti-tenant practices.

The legislation argues that predatory equity has destabilized rent regulation and the affordable housing market in the city. The practice of predatory equity involves landlords acquiring rent-regulated properties with low to moderate-income tenants through highly speculative loans and then attempting to harass those tenants out to replace them with those who’ll pay market rent.

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Hoylman taking on robo-call scammers

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Just call him Robo-call Cop.

Like any other New Yorker, State Senator Brad Hoylman has come to view his phone with a sense of dread each time it rings thanks to near-daily scam calls.

Popular ones to hit local communities lately include the Apple iCloud shutoff scam and another claiming money is owed to Con Ed.

In Hoylman’s case, the Greenwich Village resident said it’s recently been a steady mix of callers instructing him to call back about his credit card account, announcements that he’s won a free cruise (complete with a louder than necessary cruise ship horn blast) and messages in Chinese. The Chinese language calls come from numbers that appear to be local with 212, 917 and 646 area codes.

But, said Hoylman, “Those are spoofed calls made overseas.”

To combat the scam scourge, the senator has proposed legislation that would require phone companies to offer consumers tools, free of charge, on landlines as well as cell phones, to block or divert robocalls.

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Opinion: Powers and Epstein

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

It sounds like a law firm. But in reality, this duo is now the political first responders for our Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village community.

Keith Powers became our new City Council member in January following the term-limited retirement of 12-year Councilman Dan Garodnick. Harvey Epstein was elected to the State Assembly last month in a Special Election occasioned by Brian Kavanagh vacating his Assembly seat for the State Senate in lower Manhattan.

Given the fact that most of our State Senate’s district represented by Brad Hoylman is west of Fifth Avenue, and our community is but a small part of Carolyn Maloney’s Manhattan-Queens Congressional District, the predominant burden of representing this community on a day to day basis falls to Powers and Epstein.

And there are no shortage of issues. Preserving affordability in our housing stock and repairing public housing projects, improving mass transit especially the subway system, keeping our streets safe and maintaining city services while the federal government retreats are but a few of the issues facing Manhattan’s East Side and the City.

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Opinion: Why we’re pushing for stronger rent laws early

(Pictured after returning from Albany, left to right) Tom Kuhn, Peter Sullivan, Judy Miller (back row), Mary Garvey, Sherryl Kirschenbaum, Michael Madonia (back row), Susan Steinberg, Patrice Michaels, Anne Greenberg, Alex Lee, Regina Shane and Chandra Patel. (Photo by Harvey Epstein)

By Susan Steinberg
President, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association

Here we go again.  New York State’s rent laws expire in June 2019 and tenant groups are already taking action to renew and strengthen them.

The 2019 date was deliberately set at the time of the 2015 rent law renewal so it would occur in a non-election year, saving incumbents from the danger of losing their seats as a result of a strong, forceful tenant lobby. 2018 is, of course, an election year which means that now is the time to start putting the pressure on state legislators who want tenant support for their election or re-election runs. Since bills to strengthen rent laws can be passed any time prior to the June 2019 expiration, the challenge is to get them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. They are now languishing in the Senate’s Housing Committee. (The State Assembly has already passed two bills and will easily pass a third but the Senate has yet to act.)

What is the tenants’ game plan? We are pushing for passage of three bills to strengthen regulations by repealing two laws most responsible for the loss of rent-regulated units — vacancy deregulation and vacancy bonus — and for closing the preferential rent loophole.  Vacancy decontrol is responsible for the loss of 250,000 rent-regulated units over the past decade; the vacancy bonus gives landlords a 20 percent rent increase each time an apartment turns over; preferential rents are a discount from the legal rent that can be taken away at lease renewal leading to a sudden increase of hundreds of dollars.

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Met joins PSLL on opening day

Mets player Jerry Blevins joined the Peter Stuyvesant Little League at Con Ed Field on Saturday morning for a ceremony following an annual parade through Stuyvesant Town. (Pictured) Blevins with girls from one of the league’s two district teams (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On the sunniest opening day the Little Leagues of New York City have seen in years, the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, celebrating recent district-wide wins, marched triumphantly through Stuyvesant Town, circling the Oval and then heading onto Con Ed Field on Avenue C.

The annual parade and kickoff celebration took place on Saturday morning, with the PSLL also celebrating another coup — the first-ever visit from an active member of Major League Baseball, the Mets’ Jerry Blevins.

For the past decade, the league has had a tradition of having a former player come to the field to give the kids a pep talk. Previous guests have included Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson.

Seth Coren, the league’s new president, introduced Blevins as “the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen, contributing to a historic 11-1 season.” He also joked that Blevins was also “an internet sensation” for stirring up some controversy when he said “Field of Dreams” wasn’t among the top 10 baseball movies of all time.

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Hoylman, Powers ask HCR why it approves all MCIs

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg, pictured at the podium, discusses MCIs at a Tenants Association meeting held in November, alongside local elected officials. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Fed up with the consistent approvals of major capital improvement (MCI) rent increases by the state’s housing agency, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg called on local elected officials last November to get the agency to stop what seemed to be a rubber stamping process. Or at least, Steinberg said, while hosting a meeting for neighbors, to explain the reasons for the approvals of every MCI ever applied for by the landlord, when the Tenants Association has challenged each and every one of them. She noted at the time that the agency, by its own regulations, was supposed to provide explanations for its decisions.

The two state elected officials sitting on the stage of the auditorium of MS 104, State Senator Brad Hoylman and then-Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, said they’d follow up.

Five months later, Hoylman, as well as new City Council Member Keith Powers, have penned a lengthy, legalese-filled letter to RuthAnne Visnauskas, the commissioner of the state housing agency, Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) that reiterates the TA’s arguments against the permanent rent increases.

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Budget funds golf tournament, but not tenant protections

State Senator Brad Hoylman voted no on numerous parts of the budget that were ultimately passed. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In the latest “Big Ugly,” the state budget released on Saturday morning yanked $4.5 million from tenant protections by completely de-funding the housing agency’s Tenant Protection Unit.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who voted no against that measure and numerous others included in the budget, blamed his own chamber for the move. However, he said he’s been assured the TPU will continue to be able to operate through emergency funding set aside by the governor, which was also done last year. Still, said Hoylman, “What kind of message does that send to New Yorkers? The budget is a real statement of our values.”

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled chamber saw fit to spend $3 million of taxpayer funds on an upstate golf tournament because, they said, it would create jobs and spur economic growth in the area.

In arguments that are now online on YouTube, Hoylman responded, “Four and half million dollars was cut from the budget. I’d like to see the Dick’s Sporting Goods money put into the Tenant Protection Unit.”

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Letter to the editor, Mar. 29

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Please, kind landlord, spare this art 

The following letter was written by State Senator Brad Hoylman last Tuesday to the owner of the slated-to-be-demolished building on 14th Street and Sixth Avenue where English street artist Banksy created a painting of a rat on a clock a few days earlier. That artwork was later removed by the developer, John Meehan of Gemini Rosemont Realty LLC with a plan to auction it.

I am writing regarding the Banksy artwork that you removed today from the façade of 532 Sixth Avenue.

First, I commend you for preserving the 1954 mural by Julien Binford, “A Memory of Life of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue,” in the interior of the building earlier this year. Now you have a very different kind of artwork on your hands by the graffiti artist Banksy and a corporate windfall of considerable value. Instead of selling the Banksy on the open market, I would urge you to celebrate your good fortune by finding a suitable location for the Banksy to be permanently displayed to the public. You might consider incorporating it into the façade of the new building or lending it to a local gallery or institution, for example.

As Banksy once said, “For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs, I’d encourage people not to buy anything by anybody, unless it was created for sale in the first place. Graffiti art like Banksy’s is public art, meant for all who want to enjoy it, not just those who can afford it. I hope you can find a way to continue to allow the public continued access to this brilliant artwork.

Sincerely,

Brad Hoylman,
State Senator, District 27

Corey Feldman supporting Hoylman’s Child Victims Act

State Senator Brad Hoylman, Corey Feldman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal hold a sign showing how the Senate has yet to include the legislation in the state budget. (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday, actor Corey Feldman joined the chorus of activists in Albany calling for the passage of the Child Victims Act.

The legislation, sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, has been included in the budget proposed by the governor as well as the Assembly’s proposed budget but not the Senate’s. It aims to significantly stretch out the statute of limitations so people who were sexually abused as children have longer to file a claim in court.

In Albany, Feldman spoke at a press conference, where Hoylman said Feldman called out Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan personally for not supporting the CVA.

He also spoke about his own experience with pedophiles.

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As students protest, gun safety legislation languishes

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney with student protesters in Washington (Photo courtesy of Congress Member Carolyn Maloney)

By Sabina Mollot

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been pushing for stronger gun laws for years, was in Albany on Wednesday negotiating Republican-proposed budget measures as the walkouts were taking place. His own second-grade daughter Silvia Hoylman-Sigal was participating in one of them at her school.

However, when reached on the phone, Hoylman said that gun control bills, including his own, have recently been blocked by the Republican majority before they could even be heard on the floor.

This includes his own legislation, co-sponsored with State Senator Brian Kavanagh, which would allow families and law enforcement officials to intervene when a person known to be dangerous has a gun.

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Experts say no easy fix for transit woes

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger attempted to tackle the city’s current transportation crisis with a panel of experts at CUNY’s Graduate Center last Thursday, discussing the need for improvements to bus service in the city, proposals for congestion pricing and holding the MTA accountable.

Nick Sifuentes, executive director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a member of the Bus Turnaround Coalition, advocated for improvements to bus service as a means of improving transit in the city.

“Bus improvements are faster and cheaper to implement than subway improvements,” he said, pointing to a plan known as Transit Signal Priority, which would signal traffic lights to stay green longer so buses can get through intersections and speed up their routes.

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Letters to the editor, Mar. 8

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Albany Republicans blocking gun regs

Last week, the Senate Democratic Conference announced a legislative package to combat gun violence and protect New Yorkers. I am proud to be part of a group of Senate leaders standing up to the corporate gun lobby, and we have offered a series of common sense bills to address the repeated tragedies caused by gun violence. We brought four of these bills to the floor of the Senate as “hostile amendments” – and every Republican Senator voted no on each proposal.

To quote leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, “The madness must stop. We need to get serious about gun safety and we need to take real action.”

Studies have proven that states with stronger firearm safety laws, like New York, have fewer gun-caused deaths. Unfortunately, NY Republicans are taking their lead from their extremist Washington allies and for years have refused to move any common sense gun laws.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Don’t deny ST girl her Boy Scout status

The following is an open letter from State Senator Brad Hoylman to Randall L. Stephenson, National President of Boy Scouts of America, asking that Sydney Ireland, a Stuy Town teenager and Boy Scout for 11 years, have her status as a Scout formally recognized by the BSA. In December, Town & Village reported on Ireland’s fight, alongside her family, to have female members’ contributions recognized. The BSA has said it would start allowing girls to be members, but not until 2019.

Dear Mr. Stephenson:

I write to you as an Eagle Scout (Troop 70, Lewisburg, WV) and New York State Senator on behalf of my constituent, Sydney Ireland. A lifelong Boy Scouts participant, Sydney successfully advocated for the official inclusion of girls in Boy Scouts of America programs this year. However, because your organization does not plan to implement the new membership policy for two years, Sydney, who is now 16, will age out before she can officially join a troop.

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Epstein secures Democratic nomination for Assembly

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.”

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