Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/francisco-moya 2017-10-21T12:21:51+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Members Still Navigating Outside Income Divestment Ahead of Deadline 2017-10-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7234:city-council-members-still-navigating-outside-income-divestment-ahead-of-deadline Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/paul_vallone_by_john_mccarten.jpg" alt="paul vallone by john mccarten" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Paul Vallone (photo: John McCarten)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Legislation barring City Council members from making outside income will go into effect on January 1, forcing several sitting and incoming Council members to make tough decisions about their side jobs.</p> <p>The regulations, which were linked to a significant pay increase for all city elected officials, including a salary bump from $112,500 to $148,000 for City Council members, were approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council last year. Only three current City Council members, two of whom voted against the new restrictions, continue to be involved in their private sector businesses, and each is still in the process of figuring out divestment as mandated by the new law.</p> <p>Council Members Peter Koo, Chaim Deutsch, and Paul Vallone -- all still in the process of being reelected to another term -- were required to submit letters to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito by March 1, 2016 indicating whether or not they intended to continue earning outside income and stating an intention to comply with the rules by the January deadline -- in time for the 2018-2021 Council session.</p> <p>When reached by Gotham Gazette, each of the three Council members or a representative described legal and logistical complexities in divesting from or dissolving a limited liability company (LLC), resigning from a job, or recusing oneself from duties in anticipation of the deadline.</p> <p>Meanwhile, some still question whether the Council should have gone to a near-complete ban on outside income (small allowances are provided for members who teach a college course, for example), or if the model should have been akin to the cap on what members of Congress are allowed to make outside of their governmental duty -- a small percentage of their salaries.</p> <p>Vallone, a Democrat who represents District 19 in Eastern Queens, reported earning between $5,000 and $47,999 from his family’s law practice on his 2016 financial disclosure forms. In opposing the new outside income restrictions on Council members, he introduced a last-ditch <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/vallone-to-propose-capping,-not-barring,-city-council-members-outside-income.html#.WdPBx2JSw6U" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amendment</a> -- citing a statement made by good government group Citizens Union -- that Council members’ outside income should be capped at 15 percent of their Council salaries rather than eliminated. The amendment did not pass, and a spokesperson for Vallone said he is working with his lawyers to figure out how the rules apply to the family’s legal firm, which was founded by his grandfather Judge Charles J. Vallone in 1932, and where three generations of Vallones have since practiced.</p> <p>As managing Partner of Vallone &amp; Vallone, the Council member oversees the company’s day-to-day operations and serves as general counsel for corporate clients, according to <a href="http://vallonelaw.com/partners/paul-vallone-esq/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the firm’s website</a>. The firm also handles estate law, real estate transactions, civil and personal injury litigation, and criminal law.</p> <p>Also a Democrat, Deutsch represents the 48th Council District, in Southern Brooklyn, and currently makes between $100,000 and $250,000 a year through a real estate management company he owns. He said he intends to shut down the business by January, but has not yet determined the process for doing so.</p> <p>“It’s going to take some time to shut down the corporation. I don’t know exactly what the process is,” said Deutsch, who voted against the bills. “What I do know, is that I’m not accepting any more managing fees. I could keep the corporation open for the next five years, and maybe reopen it after term limits. But I will not be receiving the outside income.”</p> <p>Deutsch, like Vallone and Koo, will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021 if successful on Election Day this year, which each is expected to be.</p> <p>Koo is a Democrat who owns a chain of pharmacies and represents the 20th Council District in Queens. He reported making between $60,000 and $99,999 as the president of a pharmacy, and another $5,000 to $47,999 at another pharmacy. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but he was the only one of the three who voted in favor of the legislation.</p> <p>Other newly elected Democratic nominees for the City Council said that they had already quit their jobs to focus on their campaigns and that they have no intentions to returning to work before January.</p> <p>“I quit in 2017 in April to be a full-time candidate,” said Keith Powers, who won a crowded District 4 Democratic primary and is the favorite to win the seat in November. “No matter what job I had at the time, I would have given it up; you want to make sure you have all the time to talk to voters.”</p> <p>Like Powers, most candidates for City Council either leave their jobs entirely or take a leave of absence for the key months of the campaign.</p> <p>Powers, a former government aide and, more recently, lobbyist who ran partly on a reform and transparency platform, said he hopes that the City Council rules can be a model for the state Legislature, where the salaries are far lower but the outside income restrictions are minimal and the job is considered part-time.</p> <p>“You should be fully committed to the job that you’ve been elected to for the district. In the district that I am in, I don’t know how you would even have time to do both,” Powers said.</p> <p>State government appeared to be moving toward pay raises for state legislators and others in government last year, but the process was stalled amid disagreements among Governor Andrew Cuomo, members of the Legislature, and appointees to a special panel tasked with determining pay raises and, potentially, other reforms to the relevant jobs. Legislators haven’t had a salary increase in nearly 20 years, with base pay stuck at $79,000, though many legislators receive additional bonuses as well as per diem payouts for trips to Albany.</p> <p>There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.</p> <p>“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council, &nbsp;which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”</p> <p>Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.</p> <p>“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.</p> <p>Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.</p> <p>“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.</p> <p>While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”</p> <p>Certain passive income, such as interest, dividends, rent, annuities, capital gains, copyright royalties, or retirement payouts are acceptable under the new rules. Council members may also accept compensation for speaking engagements or artistic performances, with advance approval by the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), and income for teaching an accredited college course, “so long as such compensation does not exceed that normally received by others at the institution for a comparable type and amount of instruction.”</p> <p>The language also leaves room for jobs drawing “minimal income, involving a limited time commitment,” with advance approval by the Office of General Counsel, as long as the role does not interfere with the member’s official duties.</p> <p>The pay raise at the City Council may have helped attract a number of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen since 1999. But, the new city guidelines can also create complications for an Assembly member and state senator earning outside income on the verge of election to the City Council. Three state lawmakers won Democratic City Council primaries in September and are either heavily favored or guaranteed to win the seat in November.</p> <p>State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who won the primary for Council District 18 in the Bronx, earns between $5,000 and $20,000 for his role as pastor at the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, which he founded, according to his most recent financial disclosure forms. Diaz Sr. could not be reached for comment.</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, who won the primary for Council District 13 in the Bronx, has earned between $75,000 &nbsp;and $100,000 from a real estate brokerage firm he owns with a family member. A spokesperson for Gjonai said he has started the process with his lawyers and accountants to take the necessary steps to comply with city law.</p> <p>“It's difficult for him to comment, because he's learning himself about that process,” said Jennifer Blatus, a spokesperson for Gjonaj. “I can say that it’s something the Assemblyman is happy to do in order to better serve his constituents.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who won the primary in Queen’s 21st Council District, receives between $5,000 and $20,000 in rental income, according to his state disclosure filings, and will not be obligated to give up the income.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/paul_vallone_by_john_mccarten.jpg" alt="paul vallone by john mccarten" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Council Member Paul Vallone (photo: John McCarten)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Legislation barring City Council members from making outside income will go into effect on January 1, forcing several sitting and incoming Council members to make tough decisions about their side jobs.</p> <p>The regulations, which were linked to a significant pay increase for all city elected officials, including a salary bump from $112,500 to $148,000 for City Council members, were approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council last year. Only three current City Council members, two of whom voted against the new restrictions, continue to be involved in their private sector businesses, and each is still in the process of figuring out divestment as mandated by the new law.</p> <p>Council Members Peter Koo, Chaim Deutsch, and Paul Vallone -- all still in the process of being reelected to another term -- were required to submit letters to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito by March 1, 2016 indicating whether or not they intended to continue earning outside income and stating an intention to comply with the rules by the January deadline -- in time for the 2018-2021 Council session.</p> <p>When reached by Gotham Gazette, each of the three Council members or a representative described legal and logistical complexities in divesting from or dissolving a limited liability company (LLC), resigning from a job, or recusing oneself from duties in anticipation of the deadline.</p> <p>Meanwhile, some still question whether the Council should have gone to a near-complete ban on outside income (small allowances are provided for members who teach a college course, for example), or if the model should have been akin to the cap on what members of Congress are allowed to make outside of their governmental duty -- a small percentage of their salaries.</p> <p>Vallone, a Democrat who represents District 19 in Eastern Queens, reported earning between $5,000 and $47,999 from his family’s law practice on his 2016 financial disclosure forms. In opposing the new outside income restrictions on Council members, he introduced a last-ditch <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/vallone-to-propose-capping,-not-barring,-city-council-members-outside-income.html#.WdPBx2JSw6U" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amendment</a> -- citing a statement made by good government group Citizens Union -- that Council members’ outside income should be capped at 15 percent of their Council salaries rather than eliminated. The amendment did not pass, and a spokesperson for Vallone said he is working with his lawyers to figure out how the rules apply to the family’s legal firm, which was founded by his grandfather Judge Charles J. Vallone in 1932, and where three generations of Vallones have since practiced.</p> <p>As managing Partner of Vallone &amp; Vallone, the Council member oversees the company’s day-to-day operations and serves as general counsel for corporate clients, according to <a href="http://vallonelaw.com/partners/paul-vallone-esq/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the firm’s website</a>. The firm also handles estate law, real estate transactions, civil and personal injury litigation, and criminal law.</p> <p>Also a Democrat, Deutsch represents the 48th Council District, in Southern Brooklyn, and currently makes between $100,000 and $250,000 a year through a real estate management company he owns. He said he intends to shut down the business by January, but has not yet determined the process for doing so.</p> <p>“It’s going to take some time to shut down the corporation. I don’t know exactly what the process is,” said Deutsch, who voted against the bills. “What I do know, is that I’m not accepting any more managing fees. I could keep the corporation open for the next five years, and maybe reopen it after term limits. But I will not be receiving the outside income.”</p> <p>Deutsch, like Vallone and Koo, will be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021 if successful on Election Day this year, which each is expected to be.</p> <p>Koo is a Democrat who owns a chain of pharmacies and represents the 20th Council District in Queens. He reported making between $60,000 and $99,999 as the president of a pharmacy, and another $5,000 to $47,999 at another pharmacy. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but he was the only one of the three who voted in favor of the legislation.</p> <p>Other newly elected Democratic nominees for the City Council said that they had already quit their jobs to focus on their campaigns and that they have no intentions to returning to work before January.</p> <p>“I quit in 2017 in April to be a full-time candidate,” said Keith Powers, who won a crowded District 4 Democratic primary and is the favorite to win the seat in November. “No matter what job I had at the time, I would have given it up; you want to make sure you have all the time to talk to voters.”</p> <p>Like Powers, most candidates for City Council either leave their jobs entirely or take a leave of absence for the key months of the campaign.</p> <p>Powers, a former government aide and, more recently, lobbyist who ran partly on a reform and transparency platform, said he hopes that the City Council rules can be a model for the state Legislature, where the salaries are far lower but the outside income restrictions are minimal and the job is considered part-time.</p> <p>“You should be fully committed to the job that you’ve been elected to for the district. In the district that I am in, I don’t know how you would even have time to do both,” Powers said.</p> <p>State government appeared to be moving toward pay raises for state legislators and others in government last year, but the process was stalled amid disagreements among Governor Andrew Cuomo, members of the Legislature, and appointees to a special panel tasked with determining pay raises and, potentially, other reforms to the relevant jobs. Legislators haven’t had a salary increase in nearly 20 years, with base pay stuck at $79,000, though many legislators receive additional bonuses as well as per diem payouts for trips to Albany.</p> <p>There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.</p> <p>“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council, &nbsp;which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”</p> <p>Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.</p> <p>“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.</p> <p>Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.</p> <p>“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.</p> <p>While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”</p> <p>Certain passive income, such as interest, dividends, rent, annuities, capital gains, copyright royalties, or retirement payouts are acceptable under the new rules. Council members may also accept compensation for speaking engagements or artistic performances, with advance approval by the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), and income for teaching an accredited college course, “so long as such compensation does not exceed that normally received by others at the institution for a comparable type and amount of instruction.”</p> <p>The language also leaves room for jobs drawing “minimal income, involving a limited time commitment,” with advance approval by the Office of General Counsel, as long as the role does not interfere with the member’s official duties.</p> <p>The pay raise at the City Council may have helped attract a number of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen since 1999. But, the new city guidelines can also create complications for an Assembly member and state senator earning outside income on the verge of election to the City Council. Three state lawmakers won Democratic City Council primaries in September and are either heavily favored or guaranteed to win the seat in November.</p> <p>State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who won the primary for Council District 18 in the Bronx, earns between $5,000 and $20,000 for his role as pastor at the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, which he founded, according to his most recent financial disclosure forms. Diaz Sr. could not be reached for comment.</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, who won the primary for Council District 13 in the Bronx, has earned between $75,000 &nbsp;and $100,000 from a real estate brokerage firm he owns with a family member. A spokesperson for Gjonai said he has started the process with his lawyers and accountants to take the necessary steps to comply with city law.</p> <p>“It's difficult for him to comment, because he's learning himself about that process,” said Jennifer Blatus, a spokesperson for Gjonaj. “I can say that it’s something the Assemblyman is happy to do in order to better serve his constituents.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who won the primary in Queen’s 21st Council District, receives between $5,000 and $20,000 in rental income, according to his state disclosure filings, and will not be obligated to give up the income.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Meet The Three State Legislators Likely Heading To The City Council 2017-09-13T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7195:meet-the-three-state-legislators-coming-to-the-city-council Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/gjonaj_election_night_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj election night crop" width="600" height="416" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Mark Gjonaj &amp; Bronx Democratic leadership (photo: @MarkGjonajNY)</p> <hr /> <p>With the New York City primary election behind us, it appears that at least three state legislators are likely to be leaving behind the trips to Albany for plush City Council seats.</p> <p>Following the path of former State Senator Bill Perkins, who was elected to the City Council in a special election earlier this year, two Assembly members and one state senator are likely to be making the same jump come January: State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, and Assemblymember Francisco Moya were all victorious in determinative Democratic primaries Tuesday night.</p> <p>Assemblymembers Felix Ortiz and Robert Rodriguez also ran in Democratic City Council primaries, but appear to have lost their respective bids. Ortiz came in a distant second attempting to unseat incumbent Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Rodriguez is narrowly behind Diana Ayala in a race he has not conceded, though Ayala did declare victory. Gjonaj will have to defeat Republican candidate John Cerini in the general election, who is expected to be tougher competition than Diaz Sr.'s Republican opponent,&nbsp;Eisley Constantine. Moya does not have any general election competition.</p> <p>The three state legislators who won on Tuesday would join the City Council as part of the full new class of 51 members for a four-year term starting in January. For Diaz Sr., it would be a return to a Council district he once represented before being elected to the state Senate.</p> <p>Gjonaj, Moya, and Diaz Sr. will likely be part of a Democratic supermajority in the Council that will elect a new Speaker and work with Mayor Bill de Blasio -- if he prevails in November’s general election as expected. They will be asked to help deal with problems like a lack of housing affordability, a deteriorating transportation system, substandard schools, and more.</p> <p>The state lawmakers would bring to the City Council significant legislative experience as they fill three of the 10 seats set to change hands.</p> <p>"The powers of the Legislature are infinitely broader, as a result these candidates bring a functional experience which is invaluable and would help City Council immensely,” says former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council approved a large pay boost for all city elected officials, including Council members -- to $148,000, up from $112,500 -- in exchange for a ban on most outside income, which may continue to draw a steady stream of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen at $79,000 since 1999. In addition to the pay bump, state lawmakers from New York City may be attracted to the proximity of City Hall as opposed to the state capital, as well as the influence and visibility that come with a City Council position.</p> <p>Leaving the Legislature, the three would join a number of other rank-and-file state lawmakers who have abandoned Albany for other offices where they believe they can be more effective. Additionally, this year, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who was largely unnoticed outside of her district while serving in the Assembly minority, is now posing a fierce challenge to de Blasio in the mayoral race.</p> <p>In August, State Senator Daniel Squadron, penning a letter <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/leaving-n-y-senate-article-1.3394774" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in The Daily News</a> about his own disillusionment with the Albany process, announced that he would leave the Senate to pursue a national initiative. During his eight years in Albany, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7122-dan-squadron-fought-the-llc-loophole-and-the-loophole-won" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his legislation to close the infamous “LLC loophole”</a> had never made it to the Senate floor.</p> <p>The moves from the state Legislature to the City Council often come down to opportunity. Diaz Sr., Rodriguez, Gjonaj and Moya all sought to replace City Council members who are term-limited or not seeking re-election. As soon as an elected official enters a City Council race, they typically become the favorite, given their higher profile, ability to fund-raise, and ties to important entities like labor unions. They almost always win.</p> <p>Lawmakers say they find it easier to have an impact legislatively from the City Council than in the State Assembly, where Democrats have an overwhelming majority, or in the State Senate where the Democratic conference is fractured and in the minority, according to those who have made the switch. The Albany budget and legislative processes are also known to be closed off to many rank-and-file legislators, given the “three men in a room” decision-making that often dominates.</p> <p>“In order to be effective in Albany you have to be there a long time, to accumulate seniority, to get a committee chairmanship. It’s very hard to get legislation passed without clout,” said Brooklyn Council Member Alan Maisel, who was elected to the body in 2013 after seven years in the Assembly.</p> <p>Some leave Albany in part because they have young children at home and being Upstate for portions of six months out of the year is grueling for their families, while others are motivated to move to the City Council as they near retirement, because the state’s pension system determines disbursements based on a lawmaker’s most recent salary. Maisel said he enjoyed his time Albany, but the turning point for him was the months after Hurricane Sandy, when he felt helpless to support his constituents from Albany. When the seat became available, he ran.</p> <p>“Here I am in Albany, from January till June, and I didn’t like that,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in local community things.”</p> <p>In 2021, when 37 Council members will be term-limited out of office, there is expected to be a marked influx of state legislators to the City Council. Other City Council members who have came from the State Legislature in recent years include Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Rafael Espinal, Joe Borelli, Inez Barron, and Rory Lancman.</p> <p>The departure of Squadron, Moya and, likely, Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj, will set off a series of special elections, which will be called at the discretion of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, has called for Cuomo to consolidate all the special elections into one, on November 7, Election Day.</p> <p>"We need to remove barriers to voting with early voting, instant runoff voting, and automatic voter registration -- an advance the Governor could accomplish administratively without legislative action," said Lerner.</p> <p>To enable this, Lerner called on the Diaz Sr., Gjonaj, and Moya to "put the public's interest ahead of their own self-interest and resign from the Legislature immediately." If the lawmakers remain in office for the remainder of the term, their seats will remain unfilled during the start of the 2018 legislative session.</p> <p>This year’s likely migrants have already been thrust into the next big fight in City Hall, that for the coveted role of City Council speaker, held by term-limited Melissa Mark-Viverito until the end of the year. It is for Mark-Viverito’s Council seat in District 8 (East Harlem and the South Bronx) where Assemblymember Rodriguez could still possibly join the wave, if his attempt to see affidavit and absentee ballots counted puts him ahead of Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s preferred successor and former aide.</p> <p>As their votes are being sought by their soon-to-be-colleagues seeking the speakership, there is more to know about the three legislators likely moving to the City Council.</p> <p><strong>Ruben Diaz Sr.: Council District 18</strong><br />Famous for his signature cowboy hat, his unvarnished “What You Should Know” <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/ruben-diaz/what-you-should-know-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newsletter</a>, and his passionate speeches on behalf of immigrants and the working class on the Senate floor, Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr. will soon be bringing his distinctive sartorial style to the Bronx’s 18th City Council District, a position he briefly held in 2001.</p> <p>An ordained minister who was born in Puerto Rico, Diaz leads the Christian Community Neighborhood Church on Longfellow Avenue and the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, an organization of 150 local evangelical ministers. He is known as a conservative Democrat who may be out of step with many more socially progressive Council members.</p> <p>Diaz, who replaces the term-limited Annabel Palma, enjoys widespread support in the district. Legislatively, during his 13 years in the Senate, 18 of his bills have made it to the governor’s desk, 16 signed into law. His record ranges from <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/240132/diaz-will-introduce-legislation-to-address-toplessness-crisis/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">targeting the topless panhandlers</a> in Times Square, to pushing Cuomo to implement <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/246064/ruben-diaz-sr-to-cuomo-implement-id-program-that-helps-immigrants/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an identification card program</a> similar to IDNYC across the state, which is available to all immigrants regardless of documentation.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. also has much to gain from returning to his former district, which he left in 2002 to replace the scandal-scarred Senator Pedro Espada. Moving back to New York City and joining the City Council will allow Diaz, who is 74, to collect a higher pension when he eventually retires and cementing the Diaz brand could be beneficial for his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who may have broader, citywide political aspirations in the future.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. has drawn criticism for his socially conservative views, particularly his vote against New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and his anti-abortion stance. The reverend’s views have made for tricky politics for allies such as City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who is seeking the Council speakership and was <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/08/14/city-councilman-slammed-by-gay-activists-for-endorsing-ruben-diaz-sr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized</a> by gay activists for endorsing Diaz Sr. in his Council bid. A prominent LGBT political club, the Stonewall Democrats, rescinded its support for Rodriguez as a result.</p> <p>“While we obviously do not agree on every issue–particularly his stances on abortion and the rights of the LGBTQ community–I know Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has been a strong advocate for Latino representation and his working class constituents in the Bronx,” Rodriguez <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/08/14/city-councilman-slammed-by-gay-activists-for-endorsing-ruben-diaz-sr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told the New York Post</a>. “As an experienced legislator, he will continue to serve them well in the Council.”</p> <p>Another speaker hopeful, Council Member Corey Johnson, who is gay, also caught flack for friendliness toward Diaz Sr., but much earlier in the election cycle.</p> <p>In 2011, Diaz’s grandaughter, Erica, who is a lesbian, <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-and-profiles/state-sen-ruben-diaz-sr-city-council-interview.html#.WbkpPkqGM6U" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">famously</a> organized a counter protest to her grandfather’s anti-gay marriage rally.</p> <p>Regarding his views on homosexuality, Diaz Sr. <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/08/03/i-am-the-church-i-am-the-state-diaz-sr-faces-younger-voices-in-bronx-primary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told City Limits</a>, “You don’t believe in this, you don’t believe in that, but you respect the people. And you provide the service you are supposed to provide and you make sure they get the same service as everyone else.”</p> <p>Many are surely hoping that his “What you Need to Know” columns, which are published <a href="http://thebronxchronicle.com/2016/02/17/wysk-eliot-spitzer-vs-hiram-monserrate/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in the Bronx Chronicle</a> continue. In his blunt columns, he’s taken to task his <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/ruben-diaz/3-new-amigos-%E2%80%93-what%E2%80%99s-difference" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">colleagues</a> in the Senate, Governor Cuomo’s <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/228751/diaz-whats-good-for-the-ethics-goose/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ethics reform attempts</a>, actor/director <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/229541/diaz-goes-out-of-his-way-to-be-offended-by-sean-penn/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sean Penn’s comment</a> at the Oscars, and most recently, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was caught <a href="http://thebronxchronicle.com/2015/12/09/melissa-mark-viverito-is-the-wrong-person-to-teach-american-values-to-donald-trump/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in his crosshairs</a>.<br /><br />On Tuesday, Diaz Sr. defeated Elvin Garcia, a former Bronx aide in Mayor de Blasio’s community assistance unit who is gay; activist Amanda Farias, who was backed by the National Organization of Women; and others.</p> <p>“I disagree with Diaz [Sr.] on just about everything, but I find him to be active and engaged and a serious member of the Legislature,” said Brodsky of his former colleague. “The tendency for these candidates to be colorful and independent is a virtue," he added.</p> <p><strong>Mark Gjonaj: Council District 13</strong><br />Gjonaj joined the state Assembly in 2012, after defeating incumbent Assemblymember Naomi Rivera, the daughter of Assemblymember Jose Rivera and sister Councilman Joel Rivera, in the 2012 Democratic primary. A real estate broker without political background aside from a stint as the Bronx representative on the Taxi and Limousine Commission, his victory caught the political establishment <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20120930/POLITICS/309309975/the-unlikely-assemblyman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by surprise</a>.</p> <p>The son of Albanian immigrant union workers, Gjonaj is seen as something of a trailblazer for the Bronx’s Albanian-American community, which includes a population of more than 12,500, according to 2011 figures, and he continues to have widespread support in the district.</p> <p>The 48-year-old Gjonaj, <a href="http://bronxink.org/2012/10/20/24603-from-albanian-roots-to-an-albany-job-mark-gjonajs-long-trail-to-the-assemblybly/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">who is known</a> for his extravagant fundraising tactics, recently drew criticism for spending campaign dollars on his own family businesses as well accepting donations from questionable sources. He is credited with <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/bronx-mark-gjonaj-assembly-council-albanian-flag-day-don-coqui/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">energizing</a> a somewhat conservative constituency in the Bronx. His centrist Democratic politics is evidenced by the endorsement of state Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which forms a ruling majority with the Senate GOP. Both politicians represent suburban areas of the Bronx.</p> <p>Gjonaj served as chairperson of the subcommittee on micro business and has <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/education/charter-schools-republicans-vs-democrats.html#.WbLXNdOGPVo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">signaled support</a> for charter schools. He has been <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bronx-pol-brags-pushing-women-rights-bill-voted-no-article-1.2964989" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized for taking credit</a> for the Women’s Equality Act, which he voted against, and he has promoted drug-fighting legislation, including a bill criminalizing and increasing penalties for the sale of synthetic marijuana.</p> <p>During his bid for City Council, Gjonaj scooped up all the major endorsements from the Bronx Democratic party machine and power players, as well as major labor unions. He spent a record amount -- <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-council-hopeful-sets-record-pumping-716g-bid-article-1.3485386" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than $716,469</a> -- on his campaign, defeating Marjorie Velazquez, a Democratic district leader and community board member who was endorsed by progressive and women’s groups, and John Doyle, a hospital official who once worked for Klein.</p> <p>“I am honored that the people of the 13th District have chosen me to fight for The Bronx and help lead the way in protecting the common-sense Democratic values that are vital in safeguarding our working and middle-class families, keeping our streets safe, ensuring every child receives a quality education and securing affordable housing options for the most vulnerable,” Gjonaj said in a statement following his primary win. “From City Hall, I will be in a better position to bring attention to those issues and take action.”</p> <p>But, Gjonaj does have an active general election competition ahead, even if he is a heavy favorite. Following the primary, Bronx County Republican Party Chair Michael Rendino said in a statement that Gjonaj's primary win showed a lack of popular support. "In a stunning rebuke to politics as usual, Mark Gjonaj couldn't even break 40% in his Democratic primary election after spending more money than any council candidate in the history of the City’s campaign finance system," Rendino said. "Developer Mark Gjonaj is now going to have to defend his record against John Cerini in the general election. John is a longtime community leader and small business owner in Throgg's Neck and has been fighting for us his whole life. I like our chances."</p> <p><strong>Francisco Moya: Council District 21</strong><br />Good governance won out on primary day when Francisco Moya successfully beat out disgraced ex-Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was coming off of a two-year stint in jail for misappropriating $100,000 of taxpayer funds after previously having been expelled from the Senate for a domestic violence incident involving his then girlfriend.</p> <p>Monserrate has been seeking a return to elected office and has shown he can still turn out votes. After a particularly ugly battle, the margin was close, with Moya pulling in 56 percent of the vote, compared to Monserrate’s 44 percent.</p> <p>"Honesty and integrity won tonight,” Moya, 43, told the crowd at a victory party in Corona Tuesday night, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/crooked-domestic-abuser-monserrate-sees-city-council-hopes-dashed-article-1.3491279?cid=bitly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>.</p> <p>That sentiment was echoed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) which released a statement of congratulations to the incoming Council member. “We are proud to congratulate Francisco Moya for his victory today, because we know that he is going to fight for women, fight for immigrants, and fight for his community, and he can stand up as a role model for them as well,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the NOW, which had come out strongly against Monserrate’s candidacy in recent weeks.</p> <p>Beyond Monserrate’s criminal record and ethics, a key point of contention during the race was the fate of Willets Point, a large plot of land that is in limbo after a proposed development there was blocked by a Court of Appeals ruling. The initial deal had been struck by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection for the seat and will leave it at the end of the year. She endorsed Moya as her successor and campaigned with him in the days before the primary.</p> <p>Moya’s progressive legislative record during his seven years in Albany -- not to mention universal disdain for Monserrate from the Democratic establishment -- allowed the Assembly member to sweep up <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/08/cuomo-endorses-moya/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">endorsements</a> from the Working Families Party, unions, and numerous politicians, including Mayor de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Public Advocate Tish James.</p> <p>Elected to the Assembly in 2010 over Monserrate, Moya has been known for <a href="http://www.latinpost.com/articles/15552/20140625/dream-act-fails-pass-ny-bill-sponsor-francisco-moya-acts-immigration-reform.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his efforts</a> to fight for the passage of the NY DREAM Act, which would enable undocumented immigrant college students to be eligible for state financial aid. But year after year, the legislation died in the Republican controlled Senate.</p> <p>As a Council member, Moya won’t have to worry about his bills being blocked by Republicans, who control only three seats in the 51-seat body.</p> <p>Moya, who has said that he is the first state legislator of Ecuadorian descent and represents Jackson Heights, Queens, this year introduced <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6749-citing-trump-threat-assembly-passes-new-immigrant-protections-along-with-dream-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an extensive legislative package</a> aimed at protecting immigrants from police and enforcement agencies amidst a federal immigration crackdown, which would provide undocumented individuals with access to public defenders.</p> <p>He has <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/legislators-step-protect-wage-workers-article-1.2218229" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">introduced legislation</a> to stop employment agencies from committing fraud against job seekers, and went to bat for New York’s Scaffold Law, which places all liability for injured construction workers on employers. An avid soccer enthusiast, he's also championed <a href="http://thenycfcnation.com/2017/01/queens-borough-president-open-to-soccer-stadium-in-willets-point/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bringing </a>a Major League Soccer stadium to Queens -- an idea that may come to fruition soon.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Update: this article has been updated with a revised statement from Common Cause NY.</p> <p>Update: this article and its headline have been corrected to reflect that Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj have general election opponents.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/gjonaj_election_night_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj election night crop" width="600" height="416" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Mark Gjonaj &amp; Bronx Democratic leadership (photo: @MarkGjonajNY)</p> <hr /> <p>With the New York City primary election behind us, it appears that at least three state legislators are likely to be leaving behind the trips to Albany for plush City Council seats.</p> <p>Following the path of former State Senator Bill Perkins, who was elected to the City Council in a special election earlier this year, two Assembly members and one state senator are likely to be making the same jump come January: State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, and Assemblymember Francisco Moya were all victorious in determinative Democratic primaries Tuesday night.</p> <p>Assemblymembers Felix Ortiz and Robert Rodriguez also ran in Democratic City Council primaries, but appear to have lost their respective bids. Ortiz came in a distant second attempting to unseat incumbent Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Rodriguez is narrowly behind Diana Ayala in a race he has not conceded, though Ayala did declare victory. Gjonaj will have to defeat Republican candidate John Cerini in the general election, who is expected to be tougher competition than Diaz Sr.'s Republican opponent,&nbsp;Eisley Constantine. Moya does not have any general election competition.</p> <p>The three state legislators who won on Tuesday would join the City Council as part of the full new class of 51 members for a four-year term starting in January. For Diaz Sr., it would be a return to a Council district he once represented before being elected to the state Senate.</p> <p>Gjonaj, Moya, and Diaz Sr. will likely be part of a Democratic supermajority in the Council that will elect a new Speaker and work with Mayor Bill de Blasio -- if he prevails in November’s general election as expected. They will be asked to help deal with problems like a lack of housing affordability, a deteriorating transportation system, substandard schools, and more.</p> <p>The state lawmakers would bring to the City Council significant legislative experience as they fill three of the 10 seats set to change hands.</p> <p>"The powers of the Legislature are infinitely broader, as a result these candidates bring a functional experience which is invaluable and would help City Council immensely,” says former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council approved a large pay boost for all city elected officials, including Council members -- to $148,000, up from $112,500 -- in exchange for a ban on most outside income, which may continue to draw a steady stream of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen at $79,000 since 1999. In addition to the pay bump, state lawmakers from New York City may be attracted to the proximity of City Hall as opposed to the state capital, as well as the influence and visibility that come with a City Council position.</p> <p>Leaving the Legislature, the three would join a number of other rank-and-file state lawmakers who have abandoned Albany for other offices where they believe they can be more effective. Additionally, this year, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who was largely unnoticed outside of her district while serving in the Assembly minority, is now posing a fierce challenge to de Blasio in the mayoral race.</p> <p>In August, State Senator Daniel Squadron, penning a letter <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/leaving-n-y-senate-article-1.3394774" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in The Daily News</a> about his own disillusionment with the Albany process, announced that he would leave the Senate to pursue a national initiative. During his eight years in Albany, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7122-dan-squadron-fought-the-llc-loophole-and-the-loophole-won" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his legislation to close the infamous “LLC loophole”</a> had never made it to the Senate floor.</p> <p>The moves from the state Legislature to the City Council often come down to opportunity. Diaz Sr., Rodriguez, Gjonaj and Moya all sought to replace City Council members who are term-limited or not seeking re-election. As soon as an elected official enters a City Council race, they typically become the favorite, given their higher profile, ability to fund-raise, and ties to important entities like labor unions. They almost always win.</p> <p>Lawmakers say they find it easier to have an impact legislatively from the City Council than in the State Assembly, where Democrats have an overwhelming majority, or in the State Senate where the Democratic conference is fractured and in the minority, according to those who have made the switch. The Albany budget and legislative processes are also known to be closed off to many rank-and-file legislators, given the “three men in a room” decision-making that often dominates.</p> <p>“In order to be effective in Albany you have to be there a long time, to accumulate seniority, to get a committee chairmanship. It’s very hard to get legislation passed without clout,” said Brooklyn Council Member Alan Maisel, who was elected to the body in 2013 after seven years in the Assembly.</p> <p>Some leave Albany in part because they have young children at home and being Upstate for portions of six months out of the year is grueling for their families, while others are motivated to move to the City Council as they near retirement, because the state’s pension system determines disbursements based on a lawmaker’s most recent salary. Maisel said he enjoyed his time Albany, but the turning point for him was the months after Hurricane Sandy, when he felt helpless to support his constituents from Albany. When the seat became available, he ran.</p> <p>“Here I am in Albany, from January till June, and I didn’t like that,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in local community things.”</p> <p>In 2021, when 37 Council members will be term-limited out of office, there is expected to be a marked influx of state legislators to the City Council. Other City Council members who have came from the State Legislature in recent years include Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Rafael Espinal, Joe Borelli, Inez Barron, and Rory Lancman.</p> <p>The departure of Squadron, Moya and, likely, Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj, will set off a series of special elections, which will be called at the discretion of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, has called for Cuomo to consolidate all the special elections into one, on November 7, Election Day.</p> <p>"We need to remove barriers to voting with early voting, instant runoff voting, and automatic voter registration -- an advance the Governor could accomplish administratively without legislative action," said Lerner.</p> <p>To enable this, Lerner called on the Diaz Sr., Gjonaj, and Moya to "put the public's interest ahead of their own self-interest and resign from the Legislature immediately." If the lawmakers remain in office for the remainder of the term, their seats will remain unfilled during the start of the 2018 legislative session.</p> <p>This year’s likely migrants have already been thrust into the next big fight in City Hall, that for the coveted role of City Council speaker, held by term-limited Melissa Mark-Viverito until the end of the year. It is for Mark-Viverito’s Council seat in District 8 (East Harlem and the South Bronx) where Assemblymember Rodriguez could still possibly join the wave, if his attempt to see affidavit and absentee ballots counted puts him ahead of Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s preferred successor and former aide.</p> <p>As their votes are being sought by their soon-to-be-colleagues seeking the speakership, there is more to know about the three legislators likely moving to the City Council.</p> <p><strong>Ruben Diaz Sr.: Council District 18</strong><br />Famous for his signature cowboy hat, his unvarnished “What You Should Know” <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/ruben-diaz/what-you-should-know-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">newsletter</a>, and his passionate speeches on behalf of immigrants and the working class on the Senate floor, Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr. will soon be bringing his distinctive sartorial style to the Bronx’s 18th City Council District, a position he briefly held in 2001.</p> <p>An ordained minister who was born in Puerto Rico, Diaz leads the Christian Community Neighborhood Church on Longfellow Avenue and the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, an organization of 150 local evangelical ministers. He is known as a conservative Democrat who may be out of step with many more socially progressive Council members.</p> <p>Diaz, who replaces the term-limited Annabel Palma, enjoys widespread support in the district. Legislatively, during his 13 years in the Senate, 18 of his bills have made it to the governor’s desk, 16 signed into law. His record ranges from <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/240132/diaz-will-introduce-legislation-to-address-toplessness-crisis/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">targeting the topless panhandlers</a> in Times Square, to pushing Cuomo to implement <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/246064/ruben-diaz-sr-to-cuomo-implement-id-program-that-helps-immigrants/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an identification card program</a> similar to IDNYC across the state, which is available to all immigrants regardless of documentation.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. also has much to gain from returning to his former district, which he left in 2002 to replace the scandal-scarred Senator Pedro Espada. Moving back to New York City and joining the City Council will allow Diaz, who is 74, to collect a higher pension when he eventually retires and cementing the Diaz brand could be beneficial for his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who may have broader, citywide political aspirations in the future.</p> <p>Diaz Sr. has drawn criticism for his socially conservative views, particularly his vote against New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and his anti-abortion stance. The reverend’s views have made for tricky politics for allies such as City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who is seeking the Council speakership and was <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/08/14/city-councilman-slammed-by-gay-activists-for-endorsing-ruben-diaz-sr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized</a> by gay activists for endorsing Diaz Sr. in his Council bid. A prominent LGBT political club, the Stonewall Democrats, rescinded its support for Rodriguez as a result.</p> <p>“While we obviously do not agree on every issue–particularly his stances on abortion and the rights of the LGBTQ community–I know Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has been a strong advocate for Latino representation and his working class constituents in the Bronx,” Rodriguez <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/08/14/city-councilman-slammed-by-gay-activists-for-endorsing-ruben-diaz-sr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told the New York Post</a>. “As an experienced legislator, he will continue to serve them well in the Council.”</p> <p>Another speaker hopeful, Council Member Corey Johnson, who is gay, also caught flack for friendliness toward Diaz Sr., but much earlier in the election cycle.</p> <p>In 2011, Diaz’s grandaughter, Erica, who is a lesbian, <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-and-profiles/state-sen-ruben-diaz-sr-city-council-interview.html#.WbkpPkqGM6U" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">famously</a> organized a counter protest to her grandfather’s anti-gay marriage rally.</p> <p>Regarding his views on homosexuality, Diaz Sr. <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/08/03/i-am-the-church-i-am-the-state-diaz-sr-faces-younger-voices-in-bronx-primary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told City Limits</a>, “You don’t believe in this, you don’t believe in that, but you respect the people. And you provide the service you are supposed to provide and you make sure they get the same service as everyone else.”</p> <p>Many are surely hoping that his “What you Need to Know” columns, which are published <a href="http://thebronxchronicle.com/2016/02/17/wysk-eliot-spitzer-vs-hiram-monserrate/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in the Bronx Chronicle</a> continue. In his blunt columns, he’s taken to task his <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/ruben-diaz/3-new-amigos-%E2%80%93-what%E2%80%99s-difference" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">colleagues</a> in the Senate, Governor Cuomo’s <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/228751/diaz-whats-good-for-the-ethics-goose/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ethics reform attempts</a>, actor/director <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/229541/diaz-goes-out-of-his-way-to-be-offended-by-sean-penn/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sean Penn’s comment</a> at the Oscars, and most recently, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was caught <a href="http://thebronxchronicle.com/2015/12/09/melissa-mark-viverito-is-the-wrong-person-to-teach-american-values-to-donald-trump/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in his crosshairs</a>.<br /><br />On Tuesday, Diaz Sr. defeated Elvin Garcia, a former Bronx aide in Mayor de Blasio’s community assistance unit who is gay; activist Amanda Farias, who was backed by the National Organization of Women; and others.</p> <p>“I disagree with Diaz [Sr.] on just about everything, but I find him to be active and engaged and a serious member of the Legislature,” said Brodsky of his former colleague. “The tendency for these candidates to be colorful and independent is a virtue," he added.</p> <p><strong>Mark Gjonaj: Council District 13</strong><br />Gjonaj joined the state Assembly in 2012, after defeating incumbent Assemblymember Naomi Rivera, the daughter of Assemblymember Jose Rivera and sister Councilman Joel Rivera, in the 2012 Democratic primary. A real estate broker without political background aside from a stint as the Bronx representative on the Taxi and Limousine Commission, his victory caught the political establishment <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20120930/POLITICS/309309975/the-unlikely-assemblyman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by surprise</a>.</p> <p>The son of Albanian immigrant union workers, Gjonaj is seen as something of a trailblazer for the Bronx’s Albanian-American community, which includes a population of more than 12,500, according to 2011 figures, and he continues to have widespread support in the district.</p> <p>The 48-year-old Gjonaj, <a href="http://bronxink.org/2012/10/20/24603-from-albanian-roots-to-an-albany-job-mark-gjonajs-long-trail-to-the-assemblybly/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">who is known</a> for his extravagant fundraising tactics, recently drew criticism for spending campaign dollars on his own family businesses as well accepting donations from questionable sources. He is credited with <a href="http://observer.com/2017/03/bronx-mark-gjonaj-assembly-council-albanian-flag-day-don-coqui/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">energizing</a> a somewhat conservative constituency in the Bronx. His centrist Democratic politics is evidenced by the endorsement of state Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which forms a ruling majority with the Senate GOP. Both politicians represent suburban areas of the Bronx.</p> <p>Gjonaj served as chairperson of the subcommittee on micro business and has <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/education/charter-schools-republicans-vs-democrats.html#.WbLXNdOGPVo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">signaled support</a> for charter schools. He has been <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bronx-pol-brags-pushing-women-rights-bill-voted-no-article-1.2964989" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized for taking credit</a> for the Women’s Equality Act, which he voted against, and he has promoted drug-fighting legislation, including a bill criminalizing and increasing penalties for the sale of synthetic marijuana.</p> <p>During his bid for City Council, Gjonaj scooped up all the major endorsements from the Bronx Democratic party machine and power players, as well as major labor unions. He spent a record amount -- <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-council-hopeful-sets-record-pumping-716g-bid-article-1.3485386" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than $716,469</a> -- on his campaign, defeating Marjorie Velazquez, a Democratic district leader and community board member who was endorsed by progressive and women’s groups, and John Doyle, a hospital official who once worked for Klein.</p> <p>“I am honored that the people of the 13th District have chosen me to fight for The Bronx and help lead the way in protecting the common-sense Democratic values that are vital in safeguarding our working and middle-class families, keeping our streets safe, ensuring every child receives a quality education and securing affordable housing options for the most vulnerable,” Gjonaj said in a statement following his primary win. “From City Hall, I will be in a better position to bring attention to those issues and take action.”</p> <p>But, Gjonaj does have an active general election competition ahead, even if he is a heavy favorite. Following the primary, Bronx County Republican Party Chair Michael Rendino said in a statement that Gjonaj's primary win showed a lack of popular support. "In a stunning rebuke to politics as usual, Mark Gjonaj couldn't even break 40% in his Democratic primary election after spending more money than any council candidate in the history of the City’s campaign finance system," Rendino said. "Developer Mark Gjonaj is now going to have to defend his record against John Cerini in the general election. John is a longtime community leader and small business owner in Throgg's Neck and has been fighting for us his whole life. I like our chances."</p> <p><strong>Francisco Moya: Council District 21</strong><br />Good governance won out on primary day when Francisco Moya successfully beat out disgraced ex-Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was coming off of a two-year stint in jail for misappropriating $100,000 of taxpayer funds after previously having been expelled from the Senate for a domestic violence incident involving his then girlfriend.</p> <p>Monserrate has been seeking a return to elected office and has shown he can still turn out votes. After a particularly ugly battle, the margin was close, with Moya pulling in 56 percent of the vote, compared to Monserrate’s 44 percent.</p> <p>"Honesty and integrity won tonight,” Moya, 43, told the crowd at a victory party in Corona Tuesday night, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/crooked-domestic-abuser-monserrate-sees-city-council-hopes-dashed-article-1.3491279?cid=bitly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to The Daily News</a>.</p> <p>That sentiment was echoed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) which released a statement of congratulations to the incoming Council member. “We are proud to congratulate Francisco Moya for his victory today, because we know that he is going to fight for women, fight for immigrants, and fight for his community, and he can stand up as a role model for them as well,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the NOW, which had come out strongly against Monserrate’s candidacy in recent weeks.</p> <p>Beyond Monserrate’s criminal record and ethics, a key point of contention during the race was the fate of Willets Point, a large plot of land that is in limbo after a proposed development there was blocked by a Court of Appeals ruling. The initial deal had been struck by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection for the seat and will leave it at the end of the year. She endorsed Moya as her successor and campaigned with him in the days before the primary.</p> <p>Moya’s progressive legislative record during his seven years in Albany -- not to mention universal disdain for Monserrate from the Democratic establishment -- allowed the Assembly member to sweep up <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/08/cuomo-endorses-moya/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">endorsements</a> from the Working Families Party, unions, and numerous politicians, including Mayor de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Public Advocate Tish James.</p> <p>Elected to the Assembly in 2010 over Monserrate, Moya has been known for <a href="http://www.latinpost.com/articles/15552/20140625/dream-act-fails-pass-ny-bill-sponsor-francisco-moya-acts-immigration-reform.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his efforts</a> to fight for the passage of the NY DREAM Act, which would enable undocumented immigrant college students to be eligible for state financial aid. But year after year, the legislation died in the Republican controlled Senate.</p> <p>As a Council member, Moya won’t have to worry about his bills being blocked by Republicans, who control only three seats in the 51-seat body.</p> <p>Moya, who has said that he is the first state legislator of Ecuadorian descent and represents Jackson Heights, Queens, this year introduced <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6749-citing-trump-threat-assembly-passes-new-immigrant-protections-along-with-dream-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an extensive legislative package</a> aimed at protecting immigrants from police and enforcement agencies amidst a federal immigration crackdown, which would provide undocumented individuals with access to public defenders.</p> <p>He has <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/legislators-step-protect-wage-workers-article-1.2218229" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">introduced legislation</a> to stop employment agencies from committing fraud against job seekers, and went to bat for New York’s Scaffold Law, which places all liability for injured construction workers on employers. An avid soccer enthusiast, he's also championed <a href="http://thenycfcnation.com/2017/01/queens-borough-president-open-to-soccer-stadium-in-willets-point/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bringing </a>a Major League Soccer stadium to Queens -- an idea that may come to fruition soon.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Update: this article has been updated with a revised statement from Common Cause NY.</p> <p>Update: this article and its headline have been corrected to reflect that Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj have general election opponents.</p>
Mass Mailer Loophole Gives State Legislators Advantage in City Council Races 2017-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7163:mass-mailer-loophole-gives-state-legislators-advantage-in-city-council-races Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="600" height="342" /></p> <p>The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer</p> <hr /> <p>Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an election, differences between state rules and city regulations mean that state legislators running for City Council have a distinct advantage over their opponents at the local level.</p> <p>In at least three City Council races where sitting state Assemblymembers are candidates, separate complaints have been filed with the city Campaign Finance Board alleging that each of them has violated prohibitions against using government-funded mass mailers within a mandated 90-day communication blackout period before the September 12 primary. Copies of the complaints were provided to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The rules governing mass mailers are adopted by each legislative chamber, but they differ from the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/guidance/restrictions_on_resources.pdf">rules and guidelines</a> established by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which oversees expenditure by campaigns in the city. Each set of rules establishes ‘blackout’ periods ahead of an election, during which communications funded through government resources are prohibited unless they meet certain exceptions.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/law/charter/prohibitions-on-the-use-of-government-funds-and-resources/">New York City Charter</a> states that “public servants” may not use government funds or resources for mass mailers within 90 days of a primary or general election. (The law also prohibits officials from appearing in government-funded advertisements in an election year.)</p> <p>There are certain exceptions, for instance allowing one mailer to be sent out within 21 days of the passage of the city’s budget, and permitting communications required by law or those necessary for public safety or health emergencies, among others.</p> <p>For City Council candidates currently working for New York City -- including incumbent Council members and even community board members -- the CFB blackout period began June 15, roughly three months before the September 12 primary.</p> <p>But since the City Charter only applies to “all officials, officers and employees of the city,” state officials and legislators are out of reach of those provisions and prohibitions. The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Rules/?sec=r5#s10">state Assembly’s</a> blackout period, in comparison, is only 30 days before a local, special or primary election and 60 days before the general. This effectively allows state legislators to use their offices to promote their image and build greater name recognition, enhancing the already-significant power of incumbency and giving them an additional leg up over their opponents who would have to rely on campaign funds to communicate with voters.</p> <p>“It’s a clear loophole,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government reform organization. “The problem is that city law is always subordinate to state law. So the CFB cannot tell a state legislator what they can or cannot do.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="250" height="142" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In District 38, incumbent Democratic City Council Member Carlos Menchaca is facing a slew of challengers, including sitting Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. A complaint filed with the CFB earlier this month alleged that Ortiz had violated the CFB’s blackout provisions by sending out four mailers from his government office over the summer. But these mailers, a regular function of state legislative offices, are exempt from the CFB’s purview.</p> <p>“Part of Felix’s job as an Assemblyman is to inform his constituents, whether he’s running for office or not,” said Robinson Iglesias, Ortiz’s campaign treasurer. “He has been in full compliance with the CFB and he will continue to do so.”</p> <p>“For sure, it’s unfair. For sure, it’s an advantage,” said Kaehny of the loophole. “It hasn’t been effectively exploited until now. The reality is, an incumbent already has an advantage in name identity. Using their mail privileges helps reinforce that name identity...This is a real unfairness under the law.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, the frontrunner for the District 13 seat being vacated by Council Member James Vacca, similarly sent out a legislative update to his constituents at the end of June.</p> <p>Of Gjonaj’s four opponents in the Democratic primary, John Doyle has been his most vociferous critic and lodged objections with the CFB over potential violations regarding mass mailers and government-sponsored communications. When informed that the communications were largely permitted under the Assembly’s rules, Doyle directed his ire at both the state Legislature and Gjonaj. “We have a culture of corruption in Albany that allows this,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “This is the state Legislature that can’t seem to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/gjonaj_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj mailer crop" width="250" height="242" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />Doyle also insisted that Gjonaj has ample campaign resources at his disposal to get his message out and should have eschewed the Legislature’s mass mailing resources. “He’s against public funds to augment the voice of ordinary citizens,” Doyle said, referring to Gjonaj’s decision to not participate in the CFB’s public matching funds program, “but he has no problem using public funds when it supports his interests.”</p> <p>Gjonaj’s campaign spokesperson Jennifer Blatus pushed back against Doyle’s complaint. “Let's be clear, there was no unfair advantage in the District 13 council race,” Blatus said in an email. “This is another ridiculous attempt by John Doyle to distract voters and continue his negative and divisive campaign.” Insisting that the CFB allows elected officials to conduct ordinary communications with constituents, she added, “In the final days of this election, while Mr. Doyle continues to complain over the experience Mark Gjonaj brings to this race, our campaign remains focused on the issues at hand, which is quality of life, public safety, education and transportation.”</p> <p>In District 21, where Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is stepping down at the end of her current term, two Democrats are facing off in the primary: Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a disgraced former state Senator and Council member who is attempting a comeback after a checkered recent past that includes separate criminal convictions on fraud and assault charges.</p> <p>Monserrate claims that Moya misused government resources to send mass email blasts within the 90-day period, including references to events Moya attended outside his district. Moya’s Assembly district overlaps with parts of Council District 21 but excludes large sections. “Moya is a liar and a fraud,” Monserrate said in a statement. “He lies about where he lives. And now we know he's committing fraud by using tax-dollars illegally to campaign.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/moya_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="moya mailer crop" width="250" height="169" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In a written response to the CFB on Monserrate’s complaint, Moya noted, correctly, that “as an Assemblymember my mail cut off deadline is different than sitting City electeds.” In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Moya had harsher words for his opponent. “My opponent is a convicted felon who has zero credibility on this or any other issue in the campaign,” he said. “He is using these baseless claims to attack my record of public service, and direct attention away from his corrupt, violent history. These charges have been easily refuted by my campaign, and simply bear no resemblance to the facts.”</p> <p>Moya went on to criticize Monserrate for his own misuse of taxpayer funds. “The questions voters are asking are, ‘Hiram, where is our money that you stole and how can we ever trust you again?’”</p> <p>The CFB and the City are mostly powerless to bridge the gap in the law. “Obviously we provide extensive guidance on how candidates should handle constituent communications in the days leading up to an election, It’s certainly something we monitor,” said Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany’s Kaehny says closing the loophole would require the state Legislature to take action, “which it seems very unlikely to do.” In the absence of legislation, he said, “The best thing CFB could do is keep track and include as much information in their post-election report to note how much of a problem it is and bring attention to that.”</p> <p>The CFB issues a comprehensive report after each city election that includes numerous recommendations on improving the campaign finance and election system. Many of the recommendations from their 2013 report were passed into law by the City Council.</p> <p>Two other state Legislators are also running for “open” City Council seats, though no apparent complaints have been lodged against either. Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who has also sent out mass mailers from his office, is running for the District 8 seat currently held by term-limited Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and in District 18, state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., famous for his constituent e-blasts, which have continued apace, is vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma.</p> <p>Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, another good government group, conceded that the CFB has no authority over the state and insisted that the Legislature should increase its own communication blackout periods to undo the advantage that accrues to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Legislators wouldn’t send [mailers] out if they didn’t think it will bolster public good will,” Horner said, adding that perhaps it will fall to voters to ensure a level standard. “I think it’s fair for the public to urge state elected officials running for City Council to follow the same rules,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="600" height="342" /></p> <p>The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer</p> <hr /> <p>Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an election, differences between state rules and city regulations mean that state legislators running for City Council have a distinct advantage over their opponents at the local level.</p> <p>In at least three City Council races where sitting state Assemblymembers are candidates, separate complaints have been filed with the city Campaign Finance Board alleging that each of them has violated prohibitions against using government-funded mass mailers within a mandated 90-day communication blackout period before the September 12 primary. Copies of the complaints were provided to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The rules governing mass mailers are adopted by each legislative chamber, but they differ from the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/PDF/guidance/restrictions_on_resources.pdf">rules and guidelines</a> established by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which oversees expenditure by campaigns in the city. Each set of rules establishes ‘blackout’ periods ahead of an election, during which communications funded through government resources are prohibited unless they meet certain exceptions.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/law/charter/prohibitions-on-the-use-of-government-funds-and-resources/">New York City Charter</a> states that “public servants” may not use government funds or resources for mass mailers within 90 days of a primary or general election. (The law also prohibits officials from appearing in government-funded advertisements in an election year.)</p> <p>There are certain exceptions, for instance allowing one mailer to be sent out within 21 days of the passage of the city’s budget, and permitting communications required by law or those necessary for public safety or health emergencies, among others.</p> <p>For City Council candidates currently working for New York City -- including incumbent Council members and even community board members -- the CFB blackout period began June 15, roughly three months before the September 12 primary.</p> <p>But since the City Charter only applies to “all officials, officers and employees of the city,” state officials and legislators are out of reach of those provisions and prohibitions. The <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/Rules/?sec=r5#s10">state Assembly’s</a> blackout period, in comparison, is only 30 days before a local, special or primary election and 60 days before the general. This effectively allows state legislators to use their offices to promote their image and build greater name recognition, enhancing the already-significant power of incumbency and giving them an additional leg up over their opponents who would have to rely on campaign funds to communicate with voters.</p> <p>“It’s a clear loophole,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a government reform organization. “The problem is that city law is always subordinate to state law. So the CFB cannot tell a state legislator what they can or cannot do.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ortiz_mailer_crop.png" alt="ortiz mailer crop" width="250" height="142" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In District 38, incumbent Democratic City Council Member Carlos Menchaca is facing a slew of challengers, including sitting Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. A complaint filed with the CFB earlier this month alleged that Ortiz had violated the CFB’s blackout provisions by sending out four mailers from his government office over the summer. But these mailers, a regular function of state legislative offices, are exempt from the CFB’s purview.</p> <p>“Part of Felix’s job as an Assemblyman is to inform his constituents, whether he’s running for office or not,” said Robinson Iglesias, Ortiz’s campaign treasurer. “He has been in full compliance with the CFB and he will continue to do so.”</p> <p>“For sure, it’s unfair. For sure, it’s an advantage,” said Kaehny of the loophole. “It hasn’t been effectively exploited until now. The reality is, an incumbent already has an advantage in name identity. Using their mail privileges helps reinforce that name identity...This is a real unfairness under the law.”</p> <p>Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, the frontrunner for the District 13 seat being vacated by Council Member James Vacca, similarly sent out a legislative update to his constituents at the end of June.</p> <p>Of Gjonaj’s four opponents in the Democratic primary, John Doyle has been his most vociferous critic and lodged objections with the CFB over potential violations regarding mass mailers and government-sponsored communications. When informed that the communications were largely permitted under the Assembly’s rules, Doyle directed his ire at both the state Legislature and Gjonaj. “We have a culture of corruption in Albany that allows this,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “This is the state Legislature that can’t seem to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/gjonaj_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="gjonaj mailer crop" width="250" height="242" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />Doyle also insisted that Gjonaj has ample campaign resources at his disposal to get his message out and should have eschewed the Legislature’s mass mailing resources. “He’s against public funds to augment the voice of ordinary citizens,” Doyle said, referring to Gjonaj’s decision to not participate in the CFB’s public matching funds program, “but he has no problem using public funds when it supports his interests.”</p> <p>Gjonaj’s campaign spokesperson Jennifer Blatus pushed back against Doyle’s complaint. “Let's be clear, there was no unfair advantage in the District 13 council race,” Blatus said in an email. “This is another ridiculous attempt by John Doyle to distract voters and continue his negative and divisive campaign.” Insisting that the CFB allows elected officials to conduct ordinary communications with constituents, she added, “In the final days of this election, while Mr. Doyle continues to complain over the experience Mark Gjonaj brings to this race, our campaign remains focused on the issues at hand, which is quality of life, public safety, education and transportation.”</p> <p>In District 21, where Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is stepping down at the end of her current term, two Democrats are facing off in the primary: Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a disgraced former state Senator and Council member who is attempting a comeback after a checkered recent past that includes separate criminal convictions on fraud and assault charges.</p> <p>Monserrate claims that Moya misused government resources to send mass email blasts within the 90-day period, including references to events Moya attended outside his district. Moya’s Assembly district overlaps with parts of Council District 21 but excludes large sections. “Moya is a liar and a fraud,” Monserrate said in a statement. “He lies about where he lives. And now we know he's committing fraud by using tax-dollars illegally to campaign.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/moya_mailer_crop.jpg" alt="moya mailer crop" width="250" height="169" style="margin-right: 8px; float: left;" />In a written response to the CFB on Monserrate’s complaint, Moya noted, correctly, that “as an Assemblymember my mail cut off deadline is different than sitting City electeds.” In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Moya had harsher words for his opponent. “My opponent is a convicted felon who has zero credibility on this or any other issue in the campaign,” he said. “He is using these baseless claims to attack my record of public service, and direct attention away from his corrupt, violent history. These charges have been easily refuted by my campaign, and simply bear no resemblance to the facts.”</p> <p>Moya went on to criticize Monserrate for his own misuse of taxpayer funds. “The questions voters are asking are, ‘Hiram, where is our money that you stole and how can we ever trust you again?’”</p> <p>The CFB and the City are mostly powerless to bridge the gap in the law. “Obviously we provide extensive guidance on how candidates should handle constituent communications in the days leading up to an election, It’s certainly something we monitor,” said Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany’s Kaehny says closing the loophole would require the state Legislature to take action, “which it seems very unlikely to do.” In the absence of legislation, he said, “The best thing CFB could do is keep track and include as much information in their post-election report to note how much of a problem it is and bring attention to that.”</p> <p>The CFB issues a comprehensive report after each city election that includes numerous recommendations on improving the campaign finance and election system. Many of the recommendations from their 2013 report were passed into law by the City Council.</p> <p>Two other state Legislators are also running for “open” City Council seats, though no apparent complaints have been lodged against either. Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, who has also sent out mass mailers from his office, is running for the District 8 seat currently held by term-limited Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and in District 18, state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., famous for his constituent e-blasts, which have continued apace, is vying for the seat being vacated by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma.</p> <p>Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, another good government group, conceded that the CFB has no authority over the state and insisted that the Legislature should increase its own communication blackout periods to undo the advantage that accrues to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Legislators wouldn’t send [mailers] out if they didn’t think it will bolster public good will,” Horner said, adding that perhaps it will fall to voters to ensure a level standard. “I think it’s fair for the public to urge state elected officials running for City Council to follow the same rules,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Hiram Monserrate Has No Place in Elected Office 2017-08-11T00:10:40+00:00 2017-08-11T00:10:40+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7120:hiram-monserrate-has-no-place-in-elected-office Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nydia_moya_via_ydanis_crop.jpg" alt="nydia moya via ydanis crop" width="600" height="430" /></p> <p>Rep. Velázquez, the author, rallying for Moya for Council (photo: @ydanis)</p> <hr /> <p>Elections send messages.</p> <p>You don't have to look any farther than the victory of Donald Trump to see that electing a racist, misogynistic demagogue helps to normalize abhorrent behaviors in the eyes of some Americans. That may be why, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, our country saw 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days after the November election.</p> <p>If the president advocates for violence against opponents and unabashedly sexualizes and demeans women, then how can we effectively combat these dangerous practices?</p> <p>The same can be said for our local elections. While there is far less media coverage of who runs for our local city and state offices, the implications are arguably just as great. Your local City Council member or state senator is often your most important local advocate. They work to bring resources to your district and manage problems that arise -- and they host park cleanups, sponsors holiday toy giveaways, and hand out merit certificates at your child's local school.</p> <p>In fact, for many of our youngest New Yorkers, these most local elected officials are the first and most enduring images of a politician that they will have in their lives.</p> <p>That's why I refuse to stand by and watch as corrupt former official Hiram Monserrate plots his reentry into New York politics with a run for the 21st City Council District in Queens.</p> <p>For those who don't know, Hiram Monserrate is a former Council member and state senator who was ejected from the Legislature for slashing his fiancée in the face and, to cover his actions, drove her over an hour to the hospital avoiding Elmhurst Hospital only blocks away. Additionally, in 2012 Monserrate was sentenced in federal prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in public funds.</p> <p>He has a history of violent outbursts and altercations that should immediately disqualify him from office. If that isn't enough, he also helped orchestrate the State Senate coup that handed power over to Republicans and doomed countless pieces of truly progressive legislation from becoming law, from the Dream Act to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York law.</p> <p>Thankfully, there is another choice in this election: State Assembly Member Francisco Moya.</p> <p>I am proud to support Francisco for City Council. Not only have I known Francisco since he was a staffer in my Congressional office, but I have had the chance to watch him grow into a leader on countless issues in Albany.</p> <p>Where Hiram Monserrate's collusion set our progressive goals back, Francisco Moya moved them all the more forward. Francisco sponsored and championed the Dream Act, so that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, could have access to affordable higher education. He stood up to the real estate industry to secure needed affordable housing for our city. Most of all, he fought time and again for policies like paid family leave and $15 minimum wage that strengthen families and ensure that they have the resources to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.</p> <p>This is why countless unions, advocacy groups, and elected officials at all levels of government have joined me in supporting Francisco's candidacy. I know that they share my belief in Francisco's ability to bring his unparalleled leadership to City Hall, just as I know that they are deeply afraid of what Hiram Monserrate would do in that same Council seat.</p> <p>Let's be clear: Monserrate comes nowhere near Moya in terms of community supporters, positive accomplishments, or campaign funds raised. His electoral track record is even worse. Since 2010, Monserrate lost three straight elections and hasn't won a Democratic primary since 2005. In this sense, Moya has the clear advantage going into the September 12 vote, but nothing can be taken for granted.</p> <p>We shouldn't forget that many people wrote off Donald Trump. It was assumed that a thrice-married, fraud-tainted reality star with a trail of sexual assault accusations would never be president, and yet here we are. We must not be this complacent again in the face of a corrupt abuser like Hiram Monserrate with a criminal record looking to secure a prestigious job in city government.</p> <p>Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that it’s OK to steal taxpayer money. Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that abusing your partner is OK and can be explained away by a momentary lapse in judgement. This is deeply troubling, especially as so many struggle with the wounds of domestic abuse and sexual assault.</p> <p>After all, this is New York and the world is watching. Our city overwhelming rejected Trump and his politics of hate and abuse at the ballot box. Even today, we continue to send the message that our city is place of diversity, tolerance and equality. Will the voters of the 21st City Council District send the message that Hiram Monserrate doesn't reflect our values, as they did with Trump? I certainly hope so.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents New York’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/nydia_moya_via_ydanis_crop.jpg" alt="nydia moya via ydanis crop" width="600" height="430" /></p> <p>Rep. Velázquez, the author, rallying for Moya for Council (photo: @ydanis)</p> <hr /> <p>Elections send messages.</p> <p>You don't have to look any farther than the victory of Donald Trump to see that electing a racist, misogynistic demagogue helps to normalize abhorrent behaviors in the eyes of some Americans. That may be why, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, our country saw 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days after the November election.</p> <p>If the president advocates for violence against opponents and unabashedly sexualizes and demeans women, then how can we effectively combat these dangerous practices?</p> <p>The same can be said for our local elections. While there is far less media coverage of who runs for our local city and state offices, the implications are arguably just as great. Your local City Council member or state senator is often your most important local advocate. They work to bring resources to your district and manage problems that arise -- and they host park cleanups, sponsors holiday toy giveaways, and hand out merit certificates at your child's local school.</p> <p>In fact, for many of our youngest New Yorkers, these most local elected officials are the first and most enduring images of a politician that they will have in their lives.</p> <p>That's why I refuse to stand by and watch as corrupt former official Hiram Monserrate plots his reentry into New York politics with a run for the 21st City Council District in Queens.</p> <p>For those who don't know, Hiram Monserrate is a former Council member and state senator who was ejected from the Legislature for slashing his fiancée in the face and, to cover his actions, drove her over an hour to the hospital avoiding Elmhurst Hospital only blocks away. Additionally, in 2012 Monserrate was sentenced in federal prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in public funds.</p> <p>He has a history of violent outbursts and altercations that should immediately disqualify him from office. If that isn't enough, he also helped orchestrate the State Senate coup that handed power over to Republicans and doomed countless pieces of truly progressive legislation from becoming law, from the Dream Act to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York law.</p> <p>Thankfully, there is another choice in this election: State Assembly Member Francisco Moya.</p> <p>I am proud to support Francisco for City Council. Not only have I known Francisco since he was a staffer in my Congressional office, but I have had the chance to watch him grow into a leader on countless issues in Albany.</p> <p>Where Hiram Monserrate's collusion set our progressive goals back, Francisco Moya moved them all the more forward. Francisco sponsored and championed the Dream Act, so that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, could have access to affordable higher education. He stood up to the real estate industry to secure needed affordable housing for our city. Most of all, he fought time and again for policies like paid family leave and $15 minimum wage that strengthen families and ensure that they have the resources to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.</p> <p>This is why countless unions, advocacy groups, and elected officials at all levels of government have joined me in supporting Francisco's candidacy. I know that they share my belief in Francisco's ability to bring his unparalleled leadership to City Hall, just as I know that they are deeply afraid of what Hiram Monserrate would do in that same Council seat.</p> <p>Let's be clear: Monserrate comes nowhere near Moya in terms of community supporters, positive accomplishments, or campaign funds raised. His electoral track record is even worse. Since 2010, Monserrate lost three straight elections and hasn't won a Democratic primary since 2005. In this sense, Moya has the clear advantage going into the September 12 vote, but nothing can be taken for granted.</p> <p>We shouldn't forget that many people wrote off Donald Trump. It was assumed that a thrice-married, fraud-tainted reality star with a trail of sexual assault accusations would never be president, and yet here we are. We must not be this complacent again in the face of a corrupt abuser like Hiram Monserrate with a criminal record looking to secure a prestigious job in city government.</p> <p>Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that it’s OK to steal taxpayer money. Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that abusing your partner is OK and can be explained away by a momentary lapse in judgement. This is deeply troubling, especially as so many struggle with the wounds of domestic abuse and sexual assault.</p> <p>After all, this is New York and the world is watching. Our city overwhelming rejected Trump and his politics of hate and abuse at the ballot box. Even today, we continue to send the message that our city is place of diversity, tolerance and equality. Will the voters of the 21st City Council District send the message that Hiram Monserrate doesn't reflect our values, as they did with Trump? I certainly hope so.</p> <p>***<br />Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents New York’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ReElectNydia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@ReElectNydia</a>.</p> <p>

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Queens Council Primary Pits Assembly Member Versus Disgraced Former Rep 2017-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7105:queens-council-primary-pits-assembly-member-versus-disgraced-former-rep Ben Max <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/10173747_10153118229311322_3724478101330474029_n.jpg" alt="Francisco Moya City Council" width="600" height="459" /></p> <p>Francisco Moya (photo via Moya's Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, City Council Member for District 21 in Queens and chair of the powerful finance committee, shook up city politics in June when she announced she would not be running for re-election. Now, with her seat up for grabs and several potential candidates removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections, there is a dramatic head-to-head Democratic primary matchup to fill the City Council seat.</p> <p>The contest is between State Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a former City Council member and state senator who spent time in prison after being convicted on fraud charges. This, after he was expelled from the Senate after slashing his girlfriend’s face.</p> <p>Moya has quickly secured the backing of the Queens Democratic Party establishment and many labor unions and advocacy groups, but Monserrate has strong name recognition in the district, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights.</p> <p>Key issues in the race include Monserrate’s history, as well as Moya’s work in Albany, and district issues like affordable housing, development -- especially in Willets Point, education, small businesses, and opportunities and protections for immigrant communities.</p> <p>“For the last seven years, I have worked tirelessly in Albany to stand up for working families in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and across this city,” Moya said in a campaign statement. “I have seen the challenges we face in providing a quality public school education to our children, encouraging the small businesses that drive economic growth in Queens, and standing up for the rights of immigrants, women and members of the LGBTQ community at a time of mass deportations, fear and Donald Trump.”</p> <p>Moya has unsuccessfully pushed the Dream Act in Albany, legislation that would expand state college tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children. The Council district has a very large immigrant population and many Spanish speakers.</p> <p>As of the mid-July <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/searchabledb/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">campaign finance filings</a>, Moya had raised $111,473 for his campaign. He has received endorsements from unions including 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council (NYHTC AFL-CIO), and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). He has also been endorsed by Public Advocate Letitia James and the Queens Democratic Party, led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley.</p> <p>In comparison, Monserrate had raised only about $30,000. Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute and the Black Leadership Action Coalition (BLAC), a non-profit organization that works to shape public policy, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/06/22/hiram_monserrate.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently endorsed</a> Monserrate, reportedly due to his policy position on Willets Point, which he wants to transform into affordable housing (he attempted to move a deal on Willets Point the last time he was in the Council, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Village Voice</a>). <br /><br />Willets Point is an area known for its industrial sites that has been undergoing redevelopment since 2011. Many of the auto-shops and small businesses in the area have been shut down and are to be replaced by a hotel, a convention center, a large parking lot, a mall, and a number of housing units. The plan has faced criticism and multiple lawsuits for killing local businesses and failing to provide adequate affordable housing. In June, the New York Supreme Court <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2017/Jun17/54opn17-Decision.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ruled</a> that the proposed construction of the mall could not be built on city parkland. The future of the area is unclear.</p> <p>Both Monserrate and Moya have expressed opposition against the redevelopment plan and have called for the Willets Point land in question to be turned into affordable housing.</p> <p>“I look forward to continuing the tremendous efforts of Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, and fighting for the progressive values that define our city,” Moya said in his campaign statement. “We know all too well how corruption and a lack of accountability can harm our community, and the last thing we need is to follow Council Member Ferreras-Copeland's tenure with the kind of failed leadership of the past.”</p> <p>His reference to corruption was clearly aimed at Monserrate, who was removed from the state Senate in 2010 for his fraud conviction over misusing city funds for his Senate campaign. There is also <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Security-Video-Played-in-Monserrate-Assault-Trial-60297527.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">video footage</a> of Monserrate dragging his girlfriend by her hair through his apartment building in 2008.</p> <p>Ferreras-Copeland, the outgoing Council member, served as chief of staff to Monserrate in the past, but came to distance herself from him, and the two became embroiled in controversy as Monserrate appeared to seek revenge. Moya previously defeated Monserrate in the 2010 primary for the District 59 Assembly seat. Monserrate also recently lost a 2016 <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160914/corona/hiram-monserrate-loses-by-only-57-votes-comeback-bid-for-district-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">district leader race</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette regarding why he decided to attempt another comeback in elected politics, Monserrate said, “My decision to run stems from one very simple thing: I love my community and district. My love for my community led me to serve as city councilman and state senator and it compels me to run for City Council once again. Our community faces difficult challenges and these challenges require strong and proven leadership.”</p> <p>When previously asked about the controversy surrounding his assault charges, Monserrate said in a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/05/16/hiram-monserrate-announces-run-for-city-council.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 interview</a>, “My mistakes are now in my past, several years ago. I have moved on.”</p> <p>While Moya has received a variety of endorsements from elected officials and groups, there has not been a large show of force against Monserrate, with elected officials denouncing his candidacy. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement that Monserrate “has absolutely no business running for City Council” and called him “violent” and “corrupt.”</p> <p>Cristina Furlong, an activist and the founder of a community organization called Make Queens Safer that aims to secure neighborhood streets, attempted to run in the primary as well, but her ballot signatures were ruled invalid on August 1. She had told Gotham Gazette that Monserrate “has an unrealistic platform. He’s running on the idea that we can fix Willets Point to make it affordable housing, and I think that people who are committed voters who are going to turn out on September 12 need to understand what’s realistic for our district.”</p> <p>Furlong said, “I’m not a career politician” and that an outsider’s voice was important. She recognized the challenge of raising money for a competitive race against Moya and Monserrate.</p> <p>Both Moya and Monserrate have stated they want to bring 100 percent affordable housing to Willets Point. Moya has said 33 percent of the units should be made affordable for low-income individuals making $25,000 or less. He has suggested forming a community advisory council to give residents a say in its development. Moya is also calling for greater funding for renovations at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the creation of a “World’s Borough Market” modeled after the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem, which he says would support local vendors and businesses. Of all of the businesses in the area, he would like 65 percent of them to be owned by women or minorities.</p> <p>Monserrate has not put forward a campaign policy agenda. His <a href="http://hirammonserrate.net/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> touts “a lifetime of service and delivering for our community,” and past accomplishments.</p> <p>Walking around Corona in late July, you would not necessarily know there is a contested election just a few weeks away. Aziz, who has managed Dream Pizza, a local pizzeria, for almost 30 years, spoke with Gotham Gazette about the issues he sees in the community. He said, “Everything is too expensive, especially rent and the taxes. Everybody complains about it. Business is not like it used to be.” Aziz said he is also concerned with the availability of good jobs. He didn’t indicate he was aware of the City Council election in September until prompted by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Sam, who runs Game Star Communication, Inc., a local video game and electronics store also located in District 21, echoed similar sentiments, and said, “Small businesses are dying now. Internet business has hurt us a lot. The internet prices are sometimes lower than my prices, but they [online businesses] aren’t paying rent or property tax. They don’t have to pay employees like we do.”</p> <p>Sam then paused, clicked his tongue, and said, “What are we going to do? We have to go vote.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[For more on this contest, read <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ross Barkan’s story on the race in the Village Voice</a>]</p> <p> </p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/10173747_10153118229311322_3724478101330474029_n.jpg" alt="Francisco Moya City Council" width="600" height="459" /></p> <p>Francisco Moya (photo via Moya's Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, City Council Member for District 21 in Queens and chair of the powerful finance committee, shook up city politics in June when she announced she would not be running for re-election. Now, with her seat up for grabs and several potential candidates removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections, there is a dramatic head-to-head Democratic primary matchup to fill the City Council seat.</p> <p>The contest is between State Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a former City Council member and state senator who spent time in prison after being convicted on fraud charges. This, after he was expelled from the Senate after slashing his girlfriend’s face.</p> <p>Moya has quickly secured the backing of the Queens Democratic Party establishment and many labor unions and advocacy groups, but Monserrate has strong name recognition in the district, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights.</p> <p>Key issues in the race include Monserrate’s history, as well as Moya’s work in Albany, and district issues like affordable housing, development -- especially in Willets Point, education, small businesses, and opportunities and protections for immigrant communities.</p> <p>“For the last seven years, I have worked tirelessly in Albany to stand up for working families in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and across this city,” Moya said in a campaign statement. “I have seen the challenges we face in providing a quality public school education to our children, encouraging the small businesses that drive economic growth in Queens, and standing up for the rights of immigrants, women and members of the LGBTQ community at a time of mass deportations, fear and Donald Trump.”</p> <p>Moya has unsuccessfully pushed the Dream Act in Albany, legislation that would expand state college tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and their children. The Council district has a very large immigrant population and many Spanish speakers.</p> <p>As of the mid-July <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/searchabledb/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">campaign finance filings</a>, Moya had raised $111,473 for his campaign. He has received endorsements from unions including 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council (NYHTC AFL-CIO), and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). He has also been endorsed by Public Advocate Letitia James and the Queens Democratic Party, led by Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley.</p> <p>In comparison, Monserrate had raised only about $30,000. Bertha Lewis, the president of the Black Institute and the Black Leadership Action Coalition (BLAC), a non-profit organization that works to shape public policy, <a href="http://gothamist.com/2017/06/22/hiram_monserrate.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently endorsed</a> Monserrate, reportedly due to his policy position on Willets Point, which he wants to transform into affordable housing (he attempted to move a deal on Willets Point the last time he was in the Council, <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Village Voice</a>). <br /><br />Willets Point is an area known for its industrial sites that has been undergoing redevelopment since 2011. Many of the auto-shops and small businesses in the area have been shut down and are to be replaced by a hotel, a convention center, a large parking lot, a mall, and a number of housing units. The plan has faced criticism and multiple lawsuits for killing local businesses and failing to provide adequate affordable housing. In June, the New York Supreme Court <a href="https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2017/Jun17/54opn17-Decision.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ruled</a> that the proposed construction of the mall could not be built on city parkland. The future of the area is unclear.</p> <p>Both Monserrate and Moya have expressed opposition against the redevelopment plan and have called for the Willets Point land in question to be turned into affordable housing.</p> <p>“I look forward to continuing the tremendous efforts of Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, and fighting for the progressive values that define our city,” Moya said in his campaign statement. “We know all too well how corruption and a lack of accountability can harm our community, and the last thing we need is to follow Council Member Ferreras-Copeland's tenure with the kind of failed leadership of the past.”</p> <p>His reference to corruption was clearly aimed at Monserrate, who was removed from the state Senate in 2010 for his fraud conviction over misusing city funds for his Senate campaign. There is also <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Security-Video-Played-in-Monserrate-Assault-Trial-60297527.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">video footage</a> of Monserrate dragging his girlfriend by her hair through his apartment building in 2008.</p> <p>Ferreras-Copeland, the outgoing Council member, served as chief of staff to Monserrate in the past, but came to distance herself from him, and the two became embroiled in controversy as Monserrate appeared to seek revenge. Moya previously defeated Monserrate in the 2010 primary for the District 59 Assembly seat. Monserrate also recently lost a 2016 <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160914/corona/hiram-monserrate-loses-by-only-57-votes-comeback-bid-for-district-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">district leader race</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette regarding why he decided to attempt another comeback in elected politics, Monserrate said, “My decision to run stems from one very simple thing: I love my community and district. My love for my community led me to serve as city councilman and state senator and it compels me to run for City Council once again. Our community faces difficult challenges and these challenges require strong and proven leadership.”</p> <p>When previously asked about the controversy surrounding his assault charges, Monserrate said in a <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/05/16/hiram-monserrate-announces-run-for-city-council.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY1 interview</a>, “My mistakes are now in my past, several years ago. I have moved on.”</p> <p>While Moya has received a variety of endorsements from elected officials and groups, there has not been a large show of force against Monserrate, with elected officials denouncing his candidacy. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement that Monserrate “has absolutely no business running for City Council” and called him “violent” and “corrupt.”</p> <p>Cristina Furlong, an activist and the founder of a community organization called Make Queens Safer that aims to secure neighborhood streets, attempted to run in the primary as well, but her ballot signatures were ruled invalid on August 1. She had told Gotham Gazette that Monserrate “has an unrealistic platform. He’s running on the idea that we can fix Willets Point to make it affordable housing, and I think that people who are committed voters who are going to turn out on September 12 need to understand what’s realistic for our district.”</p> <p>Furlong said, “I’m not a career politician” and that an outsider’s voice was important. She recognized the challenge of raising money for a competitive race against Moya and Monserrate.</p> <p>Both Moya and Monserrate have stated they want to bring 100 percent affordable housing to Willets Point. Moya has said 33 percent of the units should be made affordable for low-income individuals making $25,000 or less. He has suggested forming a community advisory council to give residents a say in its development. Moya is also calling for greater funding for renovations at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the creation of a “World’s Borough Market” modeled after the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem, which he says would support local vendors and businesses. Of all of the businesses in the area, he would like 65 percent of them to be owned by women or minorities.</p> <p>Monserrate has not put forward a campaign policy agenda. His <a href="http://hirammonserrate.net/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website</a> touts “a lifetime of service and delivering for our community,” and past accomplishments.</p> <p>Walking around Corona in late July, you would not necessarily know there is a contested election just a few weeks away. Aziz, who has managed Dream Pizza, a local pizzeria, for almost 30 years, spoke with Gotham Gazette about the issues he sees in the community. He said, “Everything is too expensive, especially rent and the taxes. Everybody complains about it. Business is not like it used to be.” Aziz said he is also concerned with the availability of good jobs. He didn’t indicate he was aware of the City Council election in September until prompted by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Sam, who runs Game Star Communication, Inc., a local video game and electronics store also located in District 21, echoed similar sentiments, and said, “Small businesses are dying now. Internet business has hurt us a lot. The internet prices are sometimes lower than my prices, but they [online businesses] aren’t paying rent or property tax. They don’t have to pay employees like we do.”</p> <p>Sam then paused, clicked his tongue, and said, “What are we going to do? We have to go vote.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[For more on this contest, read <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/08/02/after-doing-time-for-corruption-hiram-monserrate-is-back-and-running-for-city-council/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ross Barkan’s story on the race in the Village Voice</a>]</p> <p> </p> New York Must Take Action Against Corporate Backers of Hate 2017-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-21T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6945:new-york-must-take-action-against-corporate-backers-of-hate Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/moya_profits_pain.jpg" alt="moya profits pain" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Moya, the author, speaks at a rally (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy recently exposed President Trump’s corporate “<a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">backers of hate</a>,” companies that stand to profit off an agenda so steeped in hate, prejudice, and greed, you would have to be willfully blind not to see it.</p> <p>Nothing is more dangerous than business as usual when it is conducted in a moral vacuum, and these companies have been more than happy to go along for the ride: Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Blackrock, Boeing, IBM, Uber, and Disney all seem eager to cash in on the Trump agenda.</p> <p>Whether it's financing or investing in the detention centers necessary for Trump’s immigration crackdown, bidding on contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection, supporting Trump’s campaign and inauguration, or spearheading an anti-worker agenda, the corporations share one commonality: they enable the most destructive and hateful policies of this White House.</p> <p>Because Trump is great for business when that business is locking up people of color behind bars for petty crimes, and standing to gain from their imprisonment - as it is for JPMorgan Chase. A Trump White House is great for business when you stand to profit from breaking up unions, rolling back workers’ rights, and squeezing more from the middle-class. As for the overwhelming majority of Americans, those living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to afford their kid’s college education, or bracing for the sharp cuts to their health care, they are on the opposite side of that transaction; their pain is another’s profits.</p> <p><a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Backers of Hate campaign</a> urges these corporations to reverse course, until they are no longer accessory to the crimes against the disappearing middle class, against the Muslims targeted by Trump’s travel ban, and to the immigrants living in constant anxiety that today will be the last day they’ll see their family.</p> <p>And although these companies may not be swayed by the moral argument, they will listen when it comes to their almighty dollar. The Trump resistance must expand to include resisting his enablers. Consumers will need to apply the pressure where they can until condoning the Trump agenda is no longer a profitable business model.</p> <p>But they don’t need to fight goliath alone.</p> <p>As the finance capital of the world, New York not only has an obligation to pressure these companies, it has leverage. Our state pension fund is the third largest in the United States, with assets totaling $178.6 billion. In the weeks to come, I will introduce legislation in the state Assembly to divest that pension fund from companies guilty of the most egregious corporate complicity.</p> <p>New York needs to lead the effort and draw a line in the sand. If you choose to benefit from the broad net Trump has given immigration enforcement agencies, from the deregulation and right-to-work campaigns that will bleed the middle class, or from the environmental degradation that endangers all of our futures, you’ve chosen to build upon a morally dubious house of cards. If New York is to truly stand in resistance to the Trump agenda, it’s time to put its money where its mouth is and disassociate itself from the backers of hate.</p> <p>***<br />Francisco P. Moya is a New York State Assemblymember representing the 39th District in Queens and is the prime sponsor of the NYS Liberty Act and the NY DREAM Act. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/FranciscoPMoya" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@FranciscoPMoya</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/moya_profits_pain.jpg" alt="moya profits pain" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Moya, the author, speaks at a rally (photo: Make The Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy recently exposed President Trump’s corporate “<a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">backers of hate</a>,” companies that stand to profit off an agenda so steeped in hate, prejudice, and greed, you would have to be willfully blind not to see it.</p> <p>Nothing is more dangerous than business as usual when it is conducted in a moral vacuum, and these companies have been more than happy to go along for the ride: Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Blackrock, Boeing, IBM, Uber, and Disney all seem eager to cash in on the Trump agenda.</p> <p>Whether it's financing or investing in the detention centers necessary for Trump’s immigration crackdown, bidding on contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection, supporting Trump’s campaign and inauguration, or spearheading an anti-worker agenda, the corporations share one commonality: they enable the most destructive and hateful policies of this White House.</p> <p>Because Trump is great for business when that business is locking up people of color behind bars for petty crimes, and standing to gain from their imprisonment - as it is for JPMorgan Chase. A Trump White House is great for business when you stand to profit from breaking up unions, rolling back workers’ rights, and squeezing more from the middle-class. As for the overwhelming majority of Americans, those living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to afford their kid’s college education, or bracing for the sharp cuts to their health care, they are on the opposite side of that transaction; their pain is another’s profits.</p> <p><a href="http://www.backersofhate.org/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Backers of Hate campaign</a> urges these corporations to reverse course, until they are no longer accessory to the crimes against the disappearing middle class, against the Muslims targeted by Trump’s travel ban, and to the immigrants living in constant anxiety that today will be the last day they’ll see their family.</p> <p>And although these companies may not be swayed by the moral argument, they will listen when it comes to their almighty dollar. The Trump resistance must expand to include resisting his enablers. Consumers will need to apply the pressure where they can until condoning the Trump agenda is no longer a profitable business model.</p> <p>But they don’t need to fight goliath alone.</p> <p>As the finance capital of the world, New York not only has an obligation to pressure these companies, it has leverage. Our state pension fund is the third largest in the United States, with assets totaling $178.6 billion. In the weeks to come, I will introduce legislation in the state Assembly to divest that pension fund from companies guilty of the most egregious corporate complicity.</p> <p>New York needs to lead the effort and draw a line in the sand. If you choose to benefit from the broad net Trump has given immigration enforcement agencies, from the deregulation and right-to-work campaigns that will bleed the middle class, or from the environmental degradation that endangers all of our futures, you’ve chosen to build upon a morally dubious house of cards. If New York is to truly stand in resistance to the Trump agenda, it’s time to put its money where its mouth is and disassociate itself from the backers of hate.</p> <p>***<br />Francisco P. Moya is a New York State Assemblymember representing the 39th District in Queens and is the prime sponsor of the NYS Liberty Act and the NY DREAM Act. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/FranciscoPMoya" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@FranciscoPMoya</a>.</p> <p>

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