In exactly twelve months the Republican Party will nominate its candidates for president and vice-president. Donald Trump will not be on that ticket. So what is the fascination with him and why is he leading in the early Republican polling?
First of all let’s state the obvious… Donald Trump is not a credible candidate, his personal fortune notwithstanding. He has espoused no serious ideas nor solutions to our nation’s challenges. He is a demagogue and a bully.
No person in American history has been elected President without some political experience in government or high ranking military service. Trump has none. If Donald Trump is the richest person to ever seek the nation’s highest office, he is also the most outlandish. He is a successful and shrewd real estate businessman and media celebrity. And he knows how to attract attention and press coverage.
Up until just a few months ago, aside from his hair-do, he was primarily noted for his hot pursuit of President Obama’s birth certificate. He led the charge of the so called “birthers” who wanted to prove that Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen and consequently not eligible to be President. Even the most rabid Obama haters had to give up that silly effort, but not so Donald Trump.
Education has dominated the headlines in state and local politics for the past year. So after 18 months and the end of this school year it is fair and appropriate to grade this mayor and his administration on the job that they are doing.
Ed Koch famously asked “How am I doing?” so now it is time to answer that question for the current mayor… so far.
• Attendance and punctuality…D The mayor has become famous for not appearing on time for most anything. He has kept important constituencies waiting, in the rain, in the cold and in vain.
• Socialization… C The mayor seems intent on engaging in unnecessary fights with charter school advocates, business groups, the Police Department and even the presumptive Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. As for his fighting with the governor, there is no question that de Blasio has been unmercifully treated and even provoked by Cuomo. But since the mayor fancies himself as a master politician, he should have found a better way to express his angst.
To begin to understand the machination of Albany politics especially with the state legislature, a basic understanding of chess is necessary. For they are based on the very same principles.
Chess is a game of strategy. Unlike other games, the moves made in chess are often times disguised and not always what they appear to be. First of all, in chess each player starts with 16 pieces. The pieces are of different values and are capable of making different moves across the 64 squared checkerboard. The goal in chess is to navigate across the board using your pieces in different ways to ultimately capture the opposing player’s “King.” Each player knows that in spite of starting out with 16 pieces they will lose some pieces along the way and even sacrifice some pieces in order to position themselves for victory.
To some extent that explains why Senator John Flanagan, the newly minted Senate (Republican) Majority Leader from Long Island, is so interested in New York City rent regulations. There are many more important local issues to Senator Flanagan’s constituents and fellow legislators from Nassau, Suffolk or upstate districts. But Flanagan is deftly holding on to the rent regulation issue near and dear to virtually every city legislator in the hopes of trading it or sacrificing it for something more important to his constituents and colleagues in the Senate. Each issue is like a chess piece. Each has a relative importance and each has a value if it is to be given up for something else.
No issue stands alone in Albany. Each issue is part of the bigger picture of what can be gained or lost in negotiations. This is probably also true of New York City mayoral control of the public schools which like New York City rent regulations must be renewed. It is very important to New York City politicians. But Flanagan and his mostly suburban and rural colleagues are holding on to both of those issues like a dog and its favorite bone.
Senator Flanagan cares much more about upstate property taxes and even some changes to the state’s restrictive gun laws (although that may now be a nonstarter following yet another gun tragedy, this time in a church in South Carolina). Flanagan also cares about upstate economic revitalization issues and even tax cuts to underwrite private and parochial school costs for parents who send their children to those schools or individuals who donate funds to those schools.
So the leaders in the Democratic Assembly led by Speaker Carl Heastie and the Senate leaders will move those issues along the checkerboard of negotiations knowing that to achieve their ultimate goals they will sacrifice some of those less important issue to gain more important issues for each of them. As for the governor, He will try to broker a deal that satisfies his political priorities by cobbling together issues that are of importance to the Assembly and the Senate that satisfies his political needs. In this case the governor is using the rent
regulation issue as leverage to procure approval from the Assembly on issues that it is less interested in, but ones that the governor has a great interest.
This is the traditional horse trading that has always been part of the Albany legislative culture of getting things done. But this gamesmanship causes great anxiety to ordinary citizens who feel like pawns in the game, especially one million New York City tenants.
Rent regulations and protections against eviction or huge increases in rents is a matter of life and death for many apartment dwellers.
So my advice to the leadership of Albany is to get this done this week and allow the people of the State of New York to proceed with their lives without the uncertainty and intrigue of Albany machinations.
Really, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Heastie and Mr. Flanagan… this is not a game!
It is axiomatic that young people must rebel. That is nothing new. It has been going on since the time of the Stone Age I suspect, and certainly during recorded history. Whether it is attire, hairstyles, music, dance or other assorted personal activities, savory or not, kids need to act out, and will. We all did it whether we wish to recall or not. But in the last number of years there has been a disturbing difference… random violence.
To be sure there are no circumstances in which vandalism and even the violent attacks against other innocent people or businesses can be condoned or rationalized. But we see that over and over these days. Protesting against social ills or injustices is part of the fabric of youth. It is in their DNA, and that is a good thing. As people age they tend to become more conservative and complacent and more easily accepting of things the way they are. Young people possess the zeal of idealism and a sense of indignation against the status quo especially when the status quo results in societal unfairness or discrimination. But what we are witnessing of late goes well beyond the pale and the norm.
The demonstrations in response to police shootings in Ferguson, New York City and now Baltimore and elsewhere have turned ugly with indiscriminate acts of destruction. Gone are the days of civil disobedience and peaceful protests. They have been displaced largely with rock and bottle throwing, setting fires and the spewing of vile insults designed to provoke an equally ugly response. To some extent it is not hard to understand how a protest with passions and emotions running high can escalate into aggression after what may be an unjust death at the hands of the local police. But how does that situation become an opportunity to loot local merchants, largely in minority communities, or commit indiscriminate vandalism? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be apoplectic at the sight of such uncontrolled and mindless fury.
But it gets worse. How does the celebration of a baseball World Series victory, or a basketball championship become cause for street violence with the overturning of cars and other acts of random destruction? We have been spectators to that scene all too often. What is going on in America’s inner cities that provokes such aberrant and volatile behavior?
Do you recall the “Indiana Jones” movies from the 1980’s? It featured that intrepid hero played by Harrison Ford who like a later day Superman fought for “truth, justice and the American way,” albeit without super human powers. Enter Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
A week ago there were a dozen potential Republican candidates for its party’s presidential nomination in 2016. This week there are eleven. Exit Governor Pence. It seems that Mike Pence forgot that famous old maxim… “never discuss religion and politics in mixed company.” That lapse in memory and judgment probably cost him his presidential ambitions.
You see, Governor Pence was the driving force behind legislation that was enacted one week ago in Indiana called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Supporters of the measure crowed that the law would allow Christian vendors in Indiana the right to refuse to provide services to same sex couples, or for that matter gay or lesbian individuals and probably others. This discrimination under the guise of exercising religious beliefs and liberties was pushed for and touted by the Tea Party and other extreme conservative groups.
Governor Pence strenuously supported this law until he became the center of a political blowback against his home state and the object of ridicule by network and national commentators. The governors of New York and Connecticut and the Mayor of Seattle even went so far as to say that they intended to ban official travel to Indiana. Now Governor Pence says that he wants the Indiana legislature to clarify that religious freedom does not include lawful discrimination against anybody.
Well, that is nice, but then what was the point of their legislation to begin with? Just who was Governor Pence trying to protect, and against whom? Was this just an April Fool’s joke?
While most places in this country, led by New York State, have been passing laws that make it clear that discrimination against persons for any reason having to do with their race, religion, cultural background or sexual orientation is illegal, Indiana tried to muddy their waters by opening the door to legal discrimination based on whether a person’s sexual orientation offended some other persons beliefs.
To be clear, no government can legislate people to love one another, or even respect each other. But neither should a government try to pass laws allowing personal prejudices to interfere with the civil rights that all Americans should enjoy without reservation or qualification.
Governor Mike Pence in promoting and defending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, only to back down in the face of national outrage, certainly was no profile in courage. In so doing he lost prestige with the right wing conservatives and forfeited support from mainstream republicans.
The cinematic Indiana Jones fought to protect civilization and uphold justice. Indiana Mike should have watched the movies.
One upsmanship, name calling, gotcha, the ends justify the means, winning at any cost, my way or the highway.
Pick any of the above, in fact pick all of the above. Sadly that is what American politics has become. This is true in Albany, City Hall and especially in our nation’s capital.
Witness in Washington D.C. the sorry spectacle right at this moment of our Homeland Security funding being held hostage because a faction in Congress does not like actions that the President took on immigration reform. So instead of dealing with that issue head on, they threaten to disable the government agency charged with keeping us safe from terror attacks, hoping that will force the President to yield on his immigration policies. Of course this is an attempt to slap down the President which plays well in some portions of the country. Threatening to shut down all or essential parts of the federal government to get their way seems to be a favored tactic. Politics before the national interest, not a pretty sight!
Compromise has become a dirty word, and it is harder to find a statesman among the ruling class than to have the winning lottery ticket.
In my 40 years in and around government I have never seen our political institutions at every level reduced and debased to such a self-serving and morally bankrupt condition.
The ultra conservatives in Washington D.C. would rather see President Obama fail than see the country (they loudly profess to love) succeed. And the myopic and partisan members of the political far left are too often mired in sanctimonious rhetoric to be able to reach compromise and govern in the best interest of the people. Politics seems more rife with corruption than ever before. Increasingly individuals seemingly enter government as a way to enrich themselves either through money or power or both advancing good public policies? Well that comes in at the bottom of the agenda.
On September 10, 2001 Rudy Giuliani was approaching the end of his eight year tenure as Mayor of the City of New York. As he entered his final four months his popularity and approval ratings had ebbed to its low point.
In spite of his successes in starting to reverse the high crime rates in the city, the electorate had clearly had enough. Tired of his sullenness, tired of his tirades, divisiveness and his “my way or the highway” approach to governing, the polls indicated that had he been able to seek a third term as chief executive of the city, he would be rejected by the voters.
And then the world as we knew it came to an end on September 11. Two hijacked planes slammed into the Twin Towers causing them to crumble and crushing 2,800 innocent men and women. The war with terrorism had begun and New York City was ground zero.
During the aftermath Mayor Giuliani showed extraordinary leadership and an uncommon calm in the midst of that catastrophe. He earned the respect and praise of Republicans and Democrats alike. 9-11 changed the way people perceived the man.
But ultimately it was just a facade as the real Giuliani surfaced again last week.
The lid on the National Football League (NFL) has been lifted and the picture is not pretty…nor should it be surprising. We now discover that numerous players are facing charges of battery, domestic abuse and even murder. Former New England Patriot star Aaron Hernandez sits in a Massachusetts lock up charged with homicide and suspected of other killings. A number of elite players are facing accusations of wife beating and child abuse.
We should not be shocked, but we should be appalled! It now seems quite obvious that authorities in the highest echelons of the NFL for years turned a blind eye to what was common knowledge that some or even many of its players were engaged in violence away from the stadiums and playing fields. One of its elite quarterbacks went to prison a few years ago for extreme animal cruelty, but is now welcomed back into the ranks of the League and right here in New York.
We should not be at all shocked at this spasm of violent behavior because football at the scholastic and professional levels has become the essence of condoned violence. Young men are taught and rewarded for their roughness and aggression and are even encouraged to inflict pain and punishment on their opponents. In the professional ranks, they are paid millions of dollars and celebrated for their physicality.
In short, those who are interested in a football career are instructed from the very beginning that extreme rough play is not only ok, but it is essential to success. Long gone are the days when the tools of football were athletic passing, catching and running as well as blocking and tackling. Those skills and abilities have been largely replaced with brutality and collision. The number of serious injuries on the field including concussions and broken bones increase each year. So why should anyone be surprised that those combative tendencies honed in these young men, fueled at times with steroids or other high potency performance “supplements”, have also been responsible for off field violence?
Players have been prodded towards aggression as a means for success. They should know the difference between a football game and life, but sadly many do not.
We should be disgusted not only by this thuggish behavior by the players but also by those coaches in high School, college and professional ranks who encourage and even insist upon this kind of intimidating play. For these adults who instruct their players to engage in such aggressive and dangerous conduct, our strong condemnation must be voiced. They are as responsible for the off field violence as the individual players themselves. These coaches are supposed to be educators and responsible mentors and should know better. But winning a game by any means necessary has replaced the sense of sportsmanship that athletics used to embody. No more. It is all about winning and the fame and riches that goes with it.
It is really too bad because the glory and joy of playing and competing in sports has been usurped for a much lower form of gratification. We are all injured and diminished because of that.
New York City tenants were hoping for a freeze in June.
When the Rent Guidelines Board met earlier this week to set rent increases for leases due to expire during the 12 month period beginning on October 1, there was great anticipation that for the first time in history the board with its newly minted de Blasio appointments would vote for a zero percent increase. After all, the new mayor was supporting that position and legions of tenants and neighborhood groups were rallying around a rent freeze.
It did not happen. Instead the board voted for the lowest increases in history… a one percent increase for a one-year lease and a 2.75 percent increase for a two-year lease. That’s not bad. In other words for rent stabilized apartments currently renting for $2,000 per month the rent will rise by $20 a month for a one year lease renewal, and by $55 for a two year renewal. And of course if the rent for an apartment is lower than that the rent increase too will be lower. And while that is “not nothing” it’s not the triple digit dollar increases of past years that drove rents to an unaffordable level for many.
The purists will condemn this vote as a betrayal, but the truth is that a one percent rent increase for a one-year lease is a big victory for tenants. It is below the inflation rate and it is next to nothing. Even the two-year lease option which would lock in a 2.75 percent increase over a 24-month period of time will prove to be below the inflation rate for the next two years. Never before have tenants seen such miniscule adjustments, and it bodes well for the next three years of the de Blasio administration.
Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977
By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.
State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo
At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.
Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign flier for Scala’s Assembly run
Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.
Thinking of Senator Roy Goodman makes me smile. This in spite of the sadness I feel at his passing at age 84.
Roy Goodman was truly the last of his kind. A New York State Republican with moderate social leanings and a sense of humor! He was exceedingly intelligent, funny and ready with a wry quip. He was always a gentleman and interested in getting things done for this community more than grandstanding. He was my partner in the state legislature for 25 years of his 34 years in the State Senate. He was a great storyteller and was known to break out in song at political functions or social gatherings.
But what I remember most about Roy Goodman was the serious work we did together. Although He a Republican and I a Democrat we worked cooperatively in common purpose for all but a few weeks before an election. Then we pursued our partisan battles. But when the smoke cleared from the campaign season, we were back to work attending to our shared responsibility… the community of Manhattan’s East Side.
Roy Goodman’s efforts and imprints are permanent. They survive his life. If you need a tranquil moment take a walk along the East River water front park called Stuy Cove. The gargantuan luxury housing towers that were proposed for that very same location would have blighted this community. But they never were built, in part because of Roy Goodman’s efforts. Instead we have a wonderful open airy space to enjoy and find rest and relaxation instead of dense fortress like buildings blocking out sunlight. We can enjoy the natural beauty and contours of the shoreline and its magnificent view. When you stroll along the way, occasionally think of Roy Goodman.
Last month on January 23, I wrote on this page that government ought to recognize cigarettes for what they are: an addictive toxin and as such its production and retail sale should be banned. I opined what public health organizations have been saying for years based on decades of study and irrefutable medical and scientific evidence that smoking or inhaling second hand smoke is the greatest health risk threatening Americans. And those astronomical costs to our health care system are ultimately borne by everyone in the form of higher taxes and fees.
In the interim, I have heard back from a number smokers and non-smokers alike. Predictably, many smokers believe that being able to buy a cigarette is part of their liberties, which although unlike guns (as some like to say) is not protected in the Constitution. Others observe that prohibition did not work for alcohol so why repeat the same mistake? Furthermore, growing tobacco and selling it to cigarette manufacturers for retail sale is a huge American industry. All true. But at what cost? Nearly 500,000 Americans die each and every year to smoking related causes. And the expense to our health care system to treat smoking related diseases is a staggering $300 billion annually. Non-smokers care mostly about having to inhale second hand smoke, which studies indicate is almost as deadly as direct smoking over a prolonged period of time.
But smoking is well ingrained in or culture and for sure it is big business. Enter CVS.
Last week, this giant pharmacy chain which makes more money selling tobacco products than penicillin announced that it would stop selling cigarettes in its thousands of outlets across the country, including the one across the street from Peter Cooper Village on 23rd Street near First Avenue. In making their announcement, CVS concluded that selling cigarettes is inconsistent with its main mission of wellness. No longer will they sell antibiotics and cough medicine designed to treat people’s illnesses and symptoms and then sell them disease-inducing cigarettes on their way out.
This move by CVS took guts and a profound sense of civic responsibility rarely exhibited by mega companies otherwise preoccupied with their bottom line. Probably they will lose money… in the short run.
However, I intend to take my pharmacy business from other large chains to CVS. I am very comfortable entrusting my health needs to a pharmacy that puts the well-being of its customers above profits.
The question now is what will other pharmacy chains like Duane Reade and the independents do? Will they double down on their cigarette sales, or will they follow the courageous and visionary example of CVS?
Imagine if every pharmacy and business dedicated to the good health of their customers decided to just say no to cigarettes?!
Steven Sanders is a former Assemblyman who represented this community for 28 years from 1978-2005. He currently is the Executive Director of ACTS, an association that provides services to young children with developmental and learning disabilities.
Satire but true political commentary by former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
Dateline Washington D.C. April 15, 2014…
President Obama announces that his administration working with the Center for Disease Control has found a cure and vaccine for the common cold!
The immediate response from Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is that the cure does not go nearly far enough. “Do you know how many other diseases this President has ignored? He should be ashamed of himself,” House Speaker John Boehner added. “This President continues to preside over a nation that spends too much and taxes too much. On this the day that we file income taxes, where is the tax cut in the President’s announcement?” Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin proclaimed, “What a travesty that this failed President is wasting the time of the American people instead of working 24/7 to stop the onset of the common cold by keeping illegal immigrants out of the country who spread germs and sickness.” And finally Rush Limbaugh declared on his talk radio program, “Let them try to give me or one of my family members a cold shot, the only shots that are protected by the Constitution are those in the second amendment, which come a from a gun.”