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/jesse-hamilton 2018-09-22T18:57:09+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy Podcast: Central Brooklyn Senate Primary Tests IDC Awareness 2018-08-15T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7869:max-murphy-podcast-central-brooklyn-senate-primary-tests-idc-awareness Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 15, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Central Brooklyn Senate Primary Tests IDC Awareness with Zellnor Myrie and Senator Jesse Hamilton<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie-hamilton-277.jpg" alt="myrie hamilton 277" width="277" height="116" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />State Senator Jesse Hamilton is a member of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democrats who caucused with Republicans for seven years and, in April, rejoined the Senate's mainline Democratic conference. This year, Hamilton faces an insurgent primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney. Hamilton and Myrie joined the Max &amp; Murphy show on WBAI radio on Wednesday to discuss their race. &nbsp;</p> <p>Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/486085473&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 15, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Central Brooklyn Senate Primary Tests IDC Awareness with Zellnor Myrie and Senator Jesse Hamilton<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie-hamilton-277.jpg" alt="myrie hamilton 277" width="277" height="116" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />State Senator Jesse Hamilton is a member of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democrats who caucused with Republicans for seven years and, in April, rejoined the Senate's mainline Democratic conference. This year, Hamilton faces an insurgent primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney. Hamilton and Myrie joined the Max &amp; Murphy show on WBAI radio on Wednesday to discuss their race. &nbsp;</p> <p>Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/486085473&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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As Senator Faces Tough Primary, He’s Spending $1 Million in Public Funds from Brooklyn Borough President 2018-08-14T00:34:43+00:00 2018-08-14T00:34:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7862:adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cd2a0nexeaa1wgl.jpg" alt="cd2a0nexeaa1wgl" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Senator Jesse Hamilton with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, center (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid a heated Democratic primary race in central Brooklyn’s state Senate District 20, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is making $1 million of government money available for spending in the district through a process run by Senator Jesse Hamilton, his handpicked, newly-embattled successor in the state Legislature.</p> <p>Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight Democratic state senators who formed a coalition with the Senate Republican conference from 2011 to earlier this year, bolstering the Republicans’ slim legislative majority in the upper house of the state Legislature. After being elected to replace Adams in the Senate in 2014, just after Adams was elected borough president the year before, Hamilton <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/11/jesse-hamilton-promises-to-join-senates-idc-107172" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> he was joining the IDC in November 2016 right before being reelected.</p> <p>Now, this election year, every former IDC member faces a progressive primary challenger, with the votes set for September 13. Hamilton’s challenger, Zellnor Myrie, is receiving widespread institutional support, including the recent <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/08/09/members-of-congress-back-myrie-citing-hamiltons-idc-allegiance-551855" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsements</a> of four Brooklyn members of Congress—Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velázquez, Jerry Nadler, and Hakeem Jeffries—and Mayor Bill de Blasio, among others. Adams, though, seems firmly in support of Hamilton: campaign finance records show that he donated $5,000 on January 12, 2018, to Friends of Jesse Hamilton, the senator’s election committee, though Adams has not yet offered a formal endorsement of his protege.</p> <p>The two have a long-lasting and well-documented relationship. Adams represented District 20, which includes parts of Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, and East Flatbush, in the state Senate for four terms, from 2006 until just after his election to the borough presidency in late 2013. After Adams vacated his seat, Hamilton, then an attorney and elected district leader, competed against Department of Education administrator Rubain Dorancy in a 2014 race widely seen at the time as a proxy battle between Adams, supporting Hamilton, and Hakeem Jeffries, who’d backed Dorancy.</p> <p>After Hamilton won the nomination to the seat by a wide margin, Adams <a href="https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/37/dtg-20-senate-primary-2014-09-12-bk_37_37.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly shouted</a> at a victory party, “We showed them who the real kingmaker in Brooklyn is.”</p> <p>The two have partnered frequently since Hamilton’s election, the senator’s director of communications Ean Fullerton told Gotham Gazette in an email, pointing to past immigration forums, health fairs, and cultural events in Brooklyn.</p> <p>Two terms and four years after his succession of Adams, Hamilton is again battling for his party’s nomination in Senate District 20, after no Democrat contested his renomination in 2016. Concurrently, he is asking his constituents how they’d like to spend the $1 million that Adams recently funded for participatory budgeting in Senate District 20. The borough president made no such allocation available in any other senate district.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting is a process that allows constituents to decide how to spend a portion of the public budget. Community members submit proposals for capital projects, like school and park improvements, which are then put to a vote among residents in the relevant geographic area. In New York, this typically occurs in a City Council district—this year, 31 of 51 City Council members participated, using a portion of the capital funding they receive each year through the larger Council budget process—though Adams has taken up participatory budgeting using the funds at his disposal as borough president.</p> <p>In New York City, representatives who opt to participate in participatory budgeting must allocate at least $1 million of their district’s budget to the process. Senate District 20 is the site of the first participatory budgeting conducted by a New York state legislator, a landmark made especially noteworthy by the fact that the funds arrived from a borough president. The timing is also exceptional, given its alignment with the election calendar. The senator’s spokesperson said Hamilton and Adams had discussed a participatory budgeting proposal “some time ago” and have been working to launch it “as soon as we were ready.”</p> <p>“Sen. Hamilton believes this initiative can serve as an example for more state leaders to pursue [participatory budgeting] on the state level,” he added.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ddvioltvaaaad9m.jpg" alt="ddvioltvaaaad9m" width="300" height="388" style="margin: 1px 6px 1px 1px; float: left;" />The process began this past May 22 with an <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/jesse-hamilton/pb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcement</a> from Senator Hamilton’s office that framed the participatory budgeting as “in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.” Proposals were due, atypically, only 12 days later, on June 4, though on that day Hamilton <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SenatorHamilton/photos/a.614103632001276.1073741829.603272233084416/1904328302978796/?type=3&amp;theater" target="_blank" rel="noopener">extended</a> the deadline to June 8. The proposed PB <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/jesse-hamilton/pb-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener">projects</a> in District 20 would upgrade school facilities, repave streets and sidewalks, install security cameras, and improve green space in the district. Residents aged 11 and up could vote on the proposals between August 6 and August 12, and Hamilton’s office, in partnership with the Bridge Street Development Corporation, launched a get-out-the-vote effort replete with "mailers to the district, email blasts, robocalls, text messages, flyering at subway stations, and community meetings," according to a handout from a May 23 neighborhood assembly on the topic in Crown Heights.</p> <p>All proposed projects must be located within Senate District 20, and flyers and mailers publicizing the initiative prominently feature Hamilton’s face and name. (They also come alongside a series of other mailers that Hamilton has sent to constituents using state funds allocated to his office for communications with district residents, a perk state legislators have long taken advantage of during election years.)</p> <p>The New York City Charter allows the five borough presidents to allocate funds towards capital projects in their boroughs, and Adams was the first elected official in New York City beyond the City Council to fund participatory budgeting, said Stefan Ringel, Adams’ communications director. Adams has <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/press/2018/06/07/1616/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">funded projects</a> in various Brooklyn Council districts to the tune of $1 million a year for the past three years.</p> <p>Hamilton approached Adams in March 2016&nbsp;about setting up participatory budgeting in his Senate district, Ringel told Gotham Gazette. Adams obliged, doubling his annual allocation of PB funds in the borough to $2 million, setting aside half of that sum for Hamilton’s district, one of nine Senate districts that include at least parts of the borough.</p> <p>Through his communications director, Adams emphasized that the district includes Brownsville, Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhood, where he was born and where he “has committed to reverse decades of underinvestment.”</p> <p>The borough president “would welcome other legislators and agencies who wish to partner on any further expansions,” said Ringel. But, for now, he’s allocated $1 million only to District 20, as insurgency threatens his hand-picked successor there.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to clarify that Sen. Hamilton is running the participatory budgeting process, not spending the money himself, and that he approached Borough President Adams about participatory budgeting in March 2016, not March 2017. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cd2a0nexeaa1wgl.jpg" alt="cd2a0nexeaa1wgl" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Senator Jesse Hamilton with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, center (photo: @BPEricAdams)</p> <hr /> <p>Amid a heated Democratic primary race in central Brooklyn’s state Senate District 20, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is making $1 million of government money available for spending in the district through a process run by Senator Jesse Hamilton, his handpicked, newly-embattled successor in the state Legislature.</p> <p>Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight Democratic state senators who formed a coalition with the Senate Republican conference from 2011 to earlier this year, bolstering the Republicans’ slim legislative majority in the upper house of the state Legislature. After being elected to replace Adams in the Senate in 2014, just after Adams was elected borough president the year before, Hamilton <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/11/jesse-hamilton-promises-to-join-senates-idc-107172" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> he was joining the IDC in November 2016 right before being reelected.</p> <p>Now, this election year, every former IDC member faces a progressive primary challenger, with the votes set for September 13. Hamilton’s challenger, Zellnor Myrie, is receiving widespread institutional support, including the recent <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/08/09/members-of-congress-back-myrie-citing-hamiltons-idc-allegiance-551855" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsements</a> of four Brooklyn members of Congress—Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velázquez, Jerry Nadler, and Hakeem Jeffries—and Mayor Bill de Blasio, among others. Adams, though, seems firmly in support of Hamilton: campaign finance records show that he donated $5,000 on January 12, 2018, to Friends of Jesse Hamilton, the senator’s election committee, though Adams has not yet offered a formal endorsement of his protege.</p> <p>The two have a long-lasting and well-documented relationship. Adams represented District 20, which includes parts of Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, and East Flatbush, in the state Senate for four terms, from 2006 until just after his election to the borough presidency in late 2013. After Adams vacated his seat, Hamilton, then an attorney and elected district leader, competed against Department of Education administrator Rubain Dorancy in a 2014 race widely seen at the time as a proxy battle between Adams, supporting Hamilton, and Hakeem Jeffries, who’d backed Dorancy.</p> <p>After Hamilton won the nomination to the seat by a wide margin, Adams <a href="https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/37/37/dtg-20-senate-primary-2014-09-12-bk_37_37.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly shouted</a> at a victory party, “We showed them who the real kingmaker in Brooklyn is.”</p> <p>The two have partnered frequently since Hamilton’s election, the senator’s director of communications Ean Fullerton told Gotham Gazette in an email, pointing to past immigration forums, health fairs, and cultural events in Brooklyn.</p> <p>Two terms and four years after his succession of Adams, Hamilton is again battling for his party’s nomination in Senate District 20, after no Democrat contested his renomination in 2016. Concurrently, he is asking his constituents how they’d like to spend the $1 million that Adams recently funded for participatory budgeting in Senate District 20. The borough president made no such allocation available in any other senate district.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting is a process that allows constituents to decide how to spend a portion of the public budget. Community members submit proposals for capital projects, like school and park improvements, which are then put to a vote among residents in the relevant geographic area. In New York, this typically occurs in a City Council district—this year, 31 of 51 City Council members participated, using a portion of the capital funding they receive each year through the larger Council budget process—though Adams has taken up participatory budgeting using the funds at his disposal as borough president.</p> <p>In New York City, representatives who opt to participate in participatory budgeting must allocate at least $1 million of their district’s budget to the process. Senate District 20 is the site of the first participatory budgeting conducted by a New York state legislator, a landmark made especially noteworthy by the fact that the funds arrived from a borough president. The timing is also exceptional, given its alignment with the election calendar. The senator’s spokesperson said Hamilton and Adams had discussed a participatory budgeting proposal “some time ago” and have been working to launch it “as soon as we were ready.”</p> <p>“Sen. Hamilton believes this initiative can serve as an example for more state leaders to pursue [participatory budgeting] on the state level,” he added.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/ddvioltvaaaad9m.jpg" alt="ddvioltvaaaad9m" width="300" height="388" style="margin: 1px 6px 1px 1px; float: left;" />The process began this past May 22 with an <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/jesse-hamilton/pb" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcement</a> from Senator Hamilton’s office that framed the participatory budgeting as “in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.” Proposals were due, atypically, only 12 days later, on June 4, though on that day Hamilton <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SenatorHamilton/photos/a.614103632001276.1073741829.603272233084416/1904328302978796/?type=3&amp;theater" target="_blank" rel="noopener">extended</a> the deadline to June 8. The proposed PB <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/jesse-hamilton/pb-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener">projects</a> in District 20 would upgrade school facilities, repave streets and sidewalks, install security cameras, and improve green space in the district. Residents aged 11 and up could vote on the proposals between August 6 and August 12, and Hamilton’s office, in partnership with the Bridge Street Development Corporation, launched a get-out-the-vote effort replete with "mailers to the district, email blasts, robocalls, text messages, flyering at subway stations, and community meetings," according to a handout from a May 23 neighborhood assembly on the topic in Crown Heights.</p> <p>All proposed projects must be located within Senate District 20, and flyers and mailers publicizing the initiative prominently feature Hamilton’s face and name. (They also come alongside a series of other mailers that Hamilton has sent to constituents using state funds allocated to his office for communications with district residents, a perk state legislators have long taken advantage of during election years.)</p> <p>The New York City Charter allows the five borough presidents to allocate funds towards capital projects in their boroughs, and Adams was the first elected official in New York City beyond the City Council to fund participatory budgeting, said Stefan Ringel, Adams’ communications director. Adams has <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/press/2018/06/07/1616/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">funded projects</a> in various Brooklyn Council districts to the tune of $1 million a year for the past three years.</p> <p>Hamilton approached Adams in March 2016&nbsp;about setting up participatory budgeting in his Senate district, Ringel told Gotham Gazette. Adams obliged, doubling his annual allocation of PB funds in the borough to $2 million, setting aside half of that sum for Hamilton’s district, one of nine Senate districts that include at least parts of the borough.</p> <p>Through his communications director, Adams emphasized that the district includes Brownsville, Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhood, where he was born and where he “has committed to reverse decades of underinvestment.”</p> <p>The borough president “would welcome other legislators and agencies who wish to partner on any further expansions,” said Ringel. But, for now, he’s allocated $1 million only to District 20, as insurgency threatens his hand-picked successor there.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to clarify that Sen. Hamilton is running the participatory budgeting process, not spending the money himself, and that he approached Borough President Adams about participatory budgeting in March 2016, not March 2017. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
How Much Does Brooklyn Congressional Primary Result Show Path in Overlapping State Senate Race? 2018-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7860:how-much-does-brooklyn-congressional-primary-result-show-path-in-overlapping-state-senate-race Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/myrie_w_congressmembers_via_indivisble_bk.jpg" alt="myrie w congressmembers via indivisble bk" width="600" height="353" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie receives the endorsement of Rep. Clarke, among others (photo: @BKIndivisible)</p> <hr /> <p>A wide swath of central Brooklyn is hosting its second contentious Democratic primary race this year. After a surprisingly close congressional primary in June, voters in a largely overlapping state Senate district will vote in September in another race where an incumbent is facing an upstart challenger.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen_shot_2018-08-10_at_13.10.55.png" alt="Brooklyn Congressional District 9" width="300" height="282" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />An array of neighborhoods in the borough, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, make up New York’s Ninth Congressional District (map left), where Democratic voters narrowly voted to nominate Yvette Clarke for re-election over her challenger, Adem Bunkeddeko, in a race that drew national attention for its closeness, especially alongside the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.</p> <p>The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clarke’s district, with the exception of a few, like Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, also make up State Senate District 20 (map below), which adds Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park, and is represented by incumbent Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing a primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen-shot-2018-08-10-at-13.10.jpg" alt="Brooklyn State Senate District 20" width="300" height="142" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />The two primaries bear some similar contours: a youthful progressive candidate goes for the left flank of a Democratic incumbent amid an anti-establishment milieu, hoping to motivate voters upset by Donald Trump and looking for something different from their elected officials. Bunkedekko’s success as a previously little-known activist and lawyer in the district—he lost by just 1,075 votes—may help provide a roadmap for Myrie, especially in terms of where in the district to go for those anti-establishment votes.</p> <p>But there are key differences between the Clarke-Bunkedekko and Hamilton-Myrie races, including Hamilton’s prior membership in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the flood of endorsements behind Myrie, but a key question for the challenger, incumbent, and all those watching, is: How much can we apply from the results of the race in Congressional District Nine to the race in State Senate District 20?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/romalewski-ny9.jpg" alt="NY9 results" width="300" height="276" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Though ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Representative Clarke, daughter of legendary former City Council Member Una Clarke, Bunkeddeko certainly came close, losing by four points to a politician who won her previous primary challenge, in 2012, by 77%. Results of the June 26 vote show Bunkeddeko’s strongholds were in wealthier, whiter, gentrified areas of the district like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, while Clarke excelled in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods in the eastern part of NY-9 like East Flatbush and Brownsville (map left, via CUNY Mapping Service).</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be replicated in the race between Hamilton and Myrie. Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate that formed a years-long coalition agreement with Republicans to bolster GOP control of the chamber. The IDC formally disbanded this April amid criticism and the declaration of primary challenges by Myrie and a cohort of other candidates.</p> <p>Myrie spokesman André M. Richardson told Gotham Gazette that the campaign was surprised by Central Brooklynites’ widespread knowledge of the IDC.</p> <p>“More people knew about it than we thought would,” he said. “A lot of the conversation is in the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area, but folks in Flatbush recognize it, as well.”</p> <p>Hamilton’s participation in the IDC is a useful cudgel for the Myrie campaign, providing a unifying talking point about propping up Republican control of the state Senate and blocking progressive legislation in a racially and economically diverse district.</p> <p>In predominantly-black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Richardson said, the IDC ties Hamilton to the prevention of Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the State Senate’s first black female majority leader; in heavily-Hispanic Sunset Park, the Myrie campaign tells voters that the IDC is why the Dream Act was blocked. Through this, and with an intense focus on the ever-relevant housing crisis, the challenger hopes to avoid the polarization of the district seen in the results from June and appeal to voters in every neighborhood. That effort is likely to be helped by the fact that Myrie has been endorsed by a wide swathe of elected officials and clubs, including Rep. Clarke and other elected officials from the area, such as Assemblymember Diana Richardson.</p> <p>The IDC is one of several factors that complicate attempts to use the results of the Clarke-Bunkeddeko race to predict the Hamilton-Myrie contest, despite the two races taking place in, more or less, the same territory. Also, noted Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service, to Gotham Gazette, “different groups of voters turn out for different races.” Only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about 8.2%</a> of eligible Democratic voters voted in the primary between Clarke and Bunkeddeko, making it difficult to generalize characteristics of the voter pool.</p> <p>Voter turnout is expected to increase in September, when the Democratic nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will also be decided. Two of those races feature black candidates from Central Brooklyn: Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, and Letitia James, for attorney general. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, have also focused campaign efforts in the area, aware that black voters are essential to winning Democratic primaries.</p> <p>In last year’s September primaries for city elections, Senate District 20 was home to 21,000 voters, while only around 10,000 residents of the Senate district cast votes in June’s contest when the congressional primary was the only race on the ballot.</p> <p>Though it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict whether increased turnout will help or harm Hamilton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, political consultant Jerry Skurnik told Gotham Gazette that “the gentrifiers” constitute a larger proportion of Senate District 20 than they do Congressional District Nine.</p> <p>By Skurnik’s admittedly “not 100% accurate” demographic calculations, 82% of the Senate district lies within the Congressional district, and the overlapping area is about 72% black. But the overall Senate district is just slightly over 60% black, since it includes smaller portions of near-exclusively African-American neighborhoods like Brownsville and East Flatbush and extends farther out of Central Brooklyn, into neighborhoods like Gowanus and Sunset Park that have relatively few black residents. This could spell an advantage for Myrie, if Bunkeddeko’s strength in Park Slope is any indication, and if he is able to move the same voters to the polls while motivating others. But, there are many complicating factors, and neither Romalewski nor Skurnik felt comfortable prognosticating with any certainty.</p> <p>In line with Romalewski’s cautioning that different races motivate different voters, Skurnik emphasized to Gotham Gazette that a race for the New York State Senate necessarily involves issues different from those in a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives. For instance, rent regulations are a marquee issue for state legislators, who will renegotiate current rent laws next year, while the issue is less central to Congressional races like Clarke and Bunkeddeko’s, though candidates for all offices must discuss housing affordability in New York City. Myrie may have an easier time mobilizing residents around his housing-focused campaign than Bunkeddeko, who devoted extensive time to attacking Clarke’s Congressional record (or lack thereof, as he framed it). But, Myrie is also focused on Hamilton’s record in the Senate, especially around progressive bills that have not passed because Republicans, supported by the IDC, did not favor them.</p> <p>The polarized, racially and economically divided results of the NY-9 primary will not necessarily reproduce as such in Senate District 20, Skurnik said, because both Hamilton and Myrie have seen them. “Senator Hamilton knows what happened,” Skurnik said. “He knows where the Congresswoman did badly...He’s not going to be surprised.” The same holds true for Myrie, he added. If the results of the June primary can teach the candidates of District 20 anything, it seems, it’s what to avoid.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/myrie_w_congressmembers_via_indivisble_bk.jpg" alt="myrie w congressmembers via indivisble bk" width="600" height="353" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie receives the endorsement of Rep. Clarke, among others (photo: @BKIndivisible)</p> <hr /> <p>A wide swath of central Brooklyn is hosting its second contentious Democratic primary race this year. After a surprisingly close congressional primary in June, voters in a largely overlapping state Senate district will vote in September in another race where an incumbent is facing an upstart challenger.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen_shot_2018-08-10_at_13.10.55.png" alt="Brooklyn Congressional District 9" width="300" height="282" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />An array of neighborhoods in the borough, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, make up New York’s Ninth Congressional District (map left), where Democratic voters narrowly voted to nominate Yvette Clarke for re-election over her challenger, Adem Bunkeddeko, in a race that drew national attention for its closeness, especially alongside the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.</p> <p>The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clarke’s district, with the exception of a few, like Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, also make up State Senate District 20 (map below), which adds Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park, and is represented by incumbent Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing a primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen-shot-2018-08-10-at-13.10.jpg" alt="Brooklyn State Senate District 20" width="300" height="142" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />The two primaries bear some similar contours: a youthful progressive candidate goes for the left flank of a Democratic incumbent amid an anti-establishment milieu, hoping to motivate voters upset by Donald Trump and looking for something different from their elected officials. Bunkedekko’s success as a previously little-known activist and lawyer in the district—he lost by just 1,075 votes—may help provide a roadmap for Myrie, especially in terms of where in the district to go for those anti-establishment votes.</p> <p>But there are key differences between the Clarke-Bunkedekko and Hamilton-Myrie races, including Hamilton’s prior membership in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the flood of endorsements behind Myrie, but a key question for the challenger, incumbent, and all those watching, is: How much can we apply from the results of the race in Congressional District Nine to the race in State Senate District 20?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/romalewski-ny9.jpg" alt="NY9 results" width="300" height="276" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Though ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Representative Clarke, daughter of legendary former City Council Member Una Clarke, Bunkeddeko certainly came close, losing by four points to a politician who won her previous primary challenge, in 2012, by 77%. Results of the June 26 vote show Bunkeddeko’s strongholds were in wealthier, whiter, gentrified areas of the district like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, while Clarke excelled in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods in the eastern part of NY-9 like East Flatbush and Brownsville (map left, via CUNY Mapping Service).</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be replicated in the race between Hamilton and Myrie. Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate that formed a years-long coalition agreement with Republicans to bolster GOP control of the chamber. The IDC formally disbanded this April amid criticism and the declaration of primary challenges by Myrie and a cohort of other candidates.</p> <p>Myrie spokesman André M. Richardson told Gotham Gazette that the campaign was surprised by Central Brooklynites’ widespread knowledge of the IDC.</p> <p>“More people knew about it than we thought would,” he said. “A lot of the conversation is in the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area, but folks in Flatbush recognize it, as well.”</p> <p>Hamilton’s participation in the IDC is a useful cudgel for the Myrie campaign, providing a unifying talking point about propping up Republican control of the state Senate and blocking progressive legislation in a racially and economically diverse district.</p> <p>In predominantly-black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Richardson said, the IDC ties Hamilton to the prevention of Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the State Senate’s first black female majority leader; in heavily-Hispanic Sunset Park, the Myrie campaign tells voters that the IDC is why the Dream Act was blocked. Through this, and with an intense focus on the ever-relevant housing crisis, the challenger hopes to avoid the polarization of the district seen in the results from June and appeal to voters in every neighborhood. That effort is likely to be helped by the fact that Myrie has been endorsed by a wide swathe of elected officials and clubs, including Rep. Clarke and other elected officials from the area, such as Assemblymember Diana Richardson.</p> <p>The IDC is one of several factors that complicate attempts to use the results of the Clarke-Bunkeddeko race to predict the Hamilton-Myrie contest, despite the two races taking place in, more or less, the same territory. Also, noted Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service, to Gotham Gazette, “different groups of voters turn out for different races.” Only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about 8.2%</a> of eligible Democratic voters voted in the primary between Clarke and Bunkeddeko, making it difficult to generalize characteristics of the voter pool.</p> <p>Voter turnout is expected to increase in September, when the Democratic nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will also be decided. Two of those races feature black candidates from Central Brooklyn: Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, and Letitia James, for attorney general. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, have also focused campaign efforts in the area, aware that black voters are essential to winning Democratic primaries.</p> <p>In last year’s September primaries for city elections, Senate District 20 was home to 21,000 voters, while only around 10,000 residents of the Senate district cast votes in June’s contest when the congressional primary was the only race on the ballot.</p> <p>Though it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict whether increased turnout will help or harm Hamilton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, political consultant Jerry Skurnik told Gotham Gazette that “the gentrifiers” constitute a larger proportion of Senate District 20 than they do Congressional District Nine.</p> <p>By Skurnik’s admittedly “not 100% accurate” demographic calculations, 82% of the Senate district lies within the Congressional district, and the overlapping area is about 72% black. But the overall Senate district is just slightly over 60% black, since it includes smaller portions of near-exclusively African-American neighborhoods like Brownsville and East Flatbush and extends farther out of Central Brooklyn, into neighborhoods like Gowanus and Sunset Park that have relatively few black residents. This could spell an advantage for Myrie, if Bunkeddeko’s strength in Park Slope is any indication, and if he is able to move the same voters to the polls while motivating others. But, there are many complicating factors, and neither Romalewski nor Skurnik felt comfortable prognosticating with any certainty.</p> <p>In line with Romalewski’s cautioning that different races motivate different voters, Skurnik emphasized to Gotham Gazette that a race for the New York State Senate necessarily involves issues different from those in a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives. For instance, rent regulations are a marquee issue for state legislators, who will renegotiate current rent laws next year, while the issue is less central to Congressional races like Clarke and Bunkeddeko’s, though candidates for all offices must discuss housing affordability in New York City. Myrie may have an easier time mobilizing residents around his housing-focused campaign than Bunkeddeko, who devoted extensive time to attacking Clarke’s Congressional record (or lack thereof, as he framed it). But, Myrie is also focused on Hamilton’s record in the Senate, especially around progressive bills that have not passed because Republicans, supported by the IDC, did not favor them.</p> <p>The polarized, racially and economically divided results of the NY-9 primary will not necessarily reproduce as such in Senate District 20, Skurnik said, because both Hamilton and Myrie have seen them. “Senator Hamilton knows what happened,” Skurnik said. “He knows where the Congresswoman did badly...He’s not going to be surprised.” The same holds true for Myrie, he added. If the results of the June primary can teach the candidates of District 20 anything, it seems, it’s what to avoid.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The July Financial Picture for Former Breakaway Democrats and Their Primary Challengers 2018-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7813:the-july-financial-picture-for-former-breakaway-democrats-and-their-primary-challengers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/liu_and_ramos_via_jessicaramos.jpg" alt="liu and ramos via jessicaramos" width="600" height="568" /></p> <p>John Liu and Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)</p> <hr /> <p>The deadline for candidates for state office to file their latest campaign finance disclosures with the state Board of Elections was Monday, July 16. The disclosures show candidate fundraising and expenditures from the last six months, from January to July.</p> <p>All 213 seats in the state Legislature -- 150 Assembly and 63 Senate -- are on the ballot this year, but few incumbents face competitive races. The state Assembly is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats, most of whom do not have a primary challenger. The state Senate, however, has become a battleground for control between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic conference members holding 31 seats and Republican conference members 32 seats. After a Democratic unity deal in April, bringing a rogue group of eight “independent” Democrats back into the mainline conference, Republicans continued to hold power over the chamber with the help of Senator Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn who professes no loyalty to political parties and only votes on policies that he believes suit his district’s interests.</p> <p>In eight races, incumbent Democratic Senators who were once part of the Independent Democratic Conference -- a breakaway group that caucused with Republicans and helped them hold the majority -- face primary contests from progressive challengers. Those challengers are buoyed by an increasingly aware, angry, and active Democratic base that is set on removing the former IDC members from office.</p> <p>Those former IDC members, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, continue to face criticism over their alliance with Republicans and the progressive legislation and budgeting that it may have held up. The challengers and those supporting them have gained momentum following the recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated ten-term U.S. Representative Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district. Notably, Crowley had helped brokered the reunification of the Senate Democrats, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo is himself facing a spirited primary challenge from actor and activist Cynthia Nixon.</p> <p>The former IDC Senators include six representing parts of New York City: Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, and Klein of District 34 the Bronx and Westchester, as well as David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both north of the five boroughs.</p> <p>While fundraising numbers only tell a portion of the story of a campaign or a race, campaign finance filings help indicate where candidate support comes from and what resources a candidate has to help get his or her message out to voters. Challengers to the IDC veterans were eager to tout their number of low-dollar donations as indicative of grassroots support, while the incumbents often posted healthy coffers, though possibly tainted by money transferred from a party account ruled in violation of election law.</p> <p><strong>District 11</strong><br />Former New York City Comptroller John Liu launched a late-stage challenge against Sen. Avella, jumping into the race earlier this month in time to petition his way onto the ballot. Liu has yet to raise funds for the race but he has an open campaign account, likely from his previous attempt to unseat Avella in 2014, with a little more than $3,000 in cash on hand as of January. Liu won 47 percent of the vote that year, just after he had lost in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City in 2013.</p> <p>Avella, whose district covers who represents northeastern Queens, raised nearly $147,000 in the last six months, of which $68,000 was transferred from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee fund set up by the then-IDC and the Independence Party. A state court ruled last month that the joint fundraising arrangement was illegal, and the transfers could possibly even violate contribution limits established in election law. Avella spent about $80,000 over the filing period and has a balance of about $170,000 in his campaign account.</p> <p><strong>District 13</strong><br />One of the Democrats likely most affected by Crowley’s loss is Sen. Peralta, who is relying on the support of the Queens Democratic Party -- chaired by Crowley -- to help him retain his seat in northern Queens. With the party having lost the sheen of immense power, some Queens Democratic insiders say it could affect the candidates who have received its endorsement.</p> <p>Peralta has raised $322,000 and spent $297,000 of it since January. The SICC was more generous with him, transferring $113,500 to his campaign, with the most recent check having been sent just last week. He has about $182,000 remaining in his campaign account.</p> <p>Peralta is being challenged by Jessica Ramos, a former aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ramos raised $171,000 over the last six months and has spent $102,000 of it. She has just about $99,000 in cash on hand. In publicizing her haul, Ramos promoted the fact that she had raised most of the funds, about $129,000, from more than 1,400 individual donors, contrasting it with Peralta’s 238 individual donors who gave him about $69,000.</p> <p><strong>District 20</strong><br />Sen. Hamilton, who represents parts of central Brooklyn, pulled in about $295,000 for his reelection bid and spent $202,000. As with the other IDC senators, the SICC gave him a major boost with $109,700 transferred to his account. He has about $212,000 left to spend.</p> <p>Hamilton’s challenger is Zellnor Myrie, an attorney from Brooklyn. Myrie raised $163,000 in this filing period and spent about $96,000. He has just under $156,000 left in cash on hand. Myrie had more than 4,400 individual donors accounting for 98 percent of his fundraising haul, a fact he highlighted while pointing out that Hamilton had only 243 individual donors.</p> <p><strong>District 23</strong> <br />The district covers Staten Island’s northern shore and parts of southern Brooklyn and is represented by Sen. Savino. The senator hauled in $451,000, of which $270,000 was transferred from an earlier campaign account to a new one. She spent $193,000 in the same period and has $259,000 left in her campaign account.</p> <p>Savino’s primary challenger, community activist Jasmine Robinson, has not yet filed her disclosure with the BOE. She said in an email that her campaign received an extension and will file the report next week.</p> <p><strong>District 31</strong><br />Sen. Alcantara, who is running for a second term, represents a district that covers long stretches of the west side of Manhattan. The incumbent, who narrowly won a tight three-way race in 2016, raised $116,000, which was outpaced by her $130,000 in expenditures. She also had the benefit of receiving $66,000 from the SICC. She has about $132,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Alcantara is facing Robert Jackson, a former City Council member who unsuccessfully challenged her in the 2016 primary for District 31. Jackson raised more than $156,000 and spent about $103,000. He has $157,000 remaining in his account.</p> <p><strong>District 34</strong><br />District 34 spans across Westchester and parts of the Bronx, and is currently held by Sen. Klein. As the former leader of the IDC, Klein played a powerful role in the state Legislature for more than seven years and was one of the proverbial ‘four men in a room’ who decide the state budget, along with the governor, Senate majority leader, and Assembly speaker. As part of the Democratic reunification deal, Klein assumed the position of deputy to the Democratic conference leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jeff_klein_campaign_kickoff.jpg" alt="jeff klein campaign kickoff" width="450" height="245" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Klein raised nearly $740,000 -- $200,000 from the SICC -- between January and July and spent $613,000. He has a whopping balance of $2.1 million, having built up his campaign warchest over the last several years.</p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi is the upstart candidate taking on Klein in the primary. Biaggi’s latest filings were not available on the BOE website but her campaign said she had raised $260,000 and had about $50,000 in expenditures.</p> <p><strong>District 38</strong><br />Sen. Carlucci, who represents Rockland County and parts of Westchester, raised $114,000 for reelection and spent only $32,000. He received $26,000 from the SICC. He has a balance of more than $440,000.</p> <p>Carlucci’s opponent is Julie Goldberg, whose disclosures were not available with the BOE. Goldberg’s campaign manager, Susanne Kernan, pointed to technical issues with the submission and provided the filings to Gotham Gazette. They showed nearly $17,000 in contributions and and about $4,000 in expenditures, leaving her a balance of under $13,000.</p> <p><strong>District 53</strong><br />The district spans Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, and is represented by Sen. Valesky. He raised $126,000 and spent about $74,000 in the last six months. The SICC gave him $36,000. He has $665,000 remaining in his campaign account.</p> <p>Valesky’s opponent, Rachel May, raised $84,000 and had expenses worth about $38,000. She has $81,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7798-new-york-democrats-season-of-choosing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing</a>]</p> <p><strong>Other Senate Primaries To Watch</strong><br /><strong>District 22</strong><br />Democrats see an opportunity this year to unseat Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, one of the few Republican elected officials in New York City. His district is situated in southern Brooklyn covering the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach. Golden raised about $32,000 and has spent more than $125,000 since January. But he maintains a healthy campaign account, with $485,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Two Democrats are competing in the September 13 primary -- Andrew Gounardes, who was an aide to former City Council Member Vincent Gentile, and Ross Barkan, a journalist-turned-candidate. The winner will take on Golden in the general election.</p> <p>Gounardes raised $124,000 and spent $47,000, and had a closing balance of $181,000. Barkan raised about $71,000 and spent $66,000. He has about $59,000 remaining.</p> <p><strong>District 17</strong><br />Felder’s role in propping up the Senate Republicans has prompted a primary challenge from attorney Blake Morris.</p> <p>Felder represents the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood, and parts of Flatbush, Kensington, Sunset Park, and Sheepshead Bay. The senator is well resourced, having raised more than $430,000 since January and having spent about $110,000. He has a balance of $637,000, far surpassing his opponent.</p> <p>Morris had raised $41,000 by the Monday deadline and had spent $31,000 of it. He has a little over $10,000 in his campaign account with under two months till the primary.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Sen. Jeff Klein's fundraising and expenditure over the last six months. The numbers previously included were from his latest disclosure report which only showed his campaign finance activity since May.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/liu_and_ramos_via_jessicaramos.jpg" alt="liu and ramos via jessicaramos" width="600" height="568" /></p> <p>John Liu and Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)</p> <hr /> <p>The deadline for candidates for state office to file their latest campaign finance disclosures with the state Board of Elections was Monday, July 16. The disclosures show candidate fundraising and expenditures from the last six months, from January to July.</p> <p>All 213 seats in the state Legislature -- 150 Assembly and 63 Senate -- are on the ballot this year, but few incumbents face competitive races. The state Assembly is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats, most of whom do not have a primary challenger. The state Senate, however, has become a battleground for control between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic conference members holding 31 seats and Republican conference members 32 seats. After a Democratic unity deal in April, bringing a rogue group of eight “independent” Democrats back into the mainline conference, Republicans continued to hold power over the chamber with the help of Senator Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn who professes no loyalty to political parties and only votes on policies that he believes suit his district’s interests.</p> <p>In eight races, incumbent Democratic Senators who were once part of the Independent Democratic Conference -- a breakaway group that caucused with Republicans and helped them hold the majority -- face primary contests from progressive challengers. Those challengers are buoyed by an increasingly aware, angry, and active Democratic base that is set on removing the former IDC members from office.</p> <p>Those former IDC members, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, continue to face criticism over their alliance with Republicans and the progressive legislation and budgeting that it may have held up. The challengers and those supporting them have gained momentum following the recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated ten-term U.S. Representative Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district. Notably, Crowley had helped brokered the reunification of the Senate Democrats, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and other top party officials. Cuomo is himself facing a spirited primary challenge from actor and activist Cynthia Nixon.</p> <p>The former IDC Senators include six representing parts of New York City: Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, and Klein of District 34 the Bronx and Westchester, as well as David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both north of the five boroughs.</p> <p>While fundraising numbers only tell a portion of the story of a campaign or a race, campaign finance filings help indicate where candidate support comes from and what resources a candidate has to help get his or her message out to voters. Challengers to the IDC veterans were eager to tout their number of low-dollar donations as indicative of grassroots support, while the incumbents often posted healthy coffers, though possibly tainted by money transferred from a party account ruled in violation of election law.</p> <p><strong>District 11</strong><br />Former New York City Comptroller John Liu launched a late-stage challenge against Sen. Avella, jumping into the race earlier this month in time to petition his way onto the ballot. Liu has yet to raise funds for the race but he has an open campaign account, likely from his previous attempt to unseat Avella in 2014, with a little more than $3,000 in cash on hand as of January. Liu won 47 percent of the vote that year, just after he had lost in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City in 2013.</p> <p>Avella, whose district covers who represents northeastern Queens, raised nearly $147,000 in the last six months, of which $68,000 was transferred from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee fund set up by the then-IDC and the Independence Party. A state court ruled last month that the joint fundraising arrangement was illegal, and the transfers could possibly even violate contribution limits established in election law. Avella spent about $80,000 over the filing period and has a balance of about $170,000 in his campaign account.</p> <p><strong>District 13</strong><br />One of the Democrats likely most affected by Crowley’s loss is Sen. Peralta, who is relying on the support of the Queens Democratic Party -- chaired by Crowley -- to help him retain his seat in northern Queens. With the party having lost the sheen of immense power, some Queens Democratic insiders say it could affect the candidates who have received its endorsement.</p> <p>Peralta has raised $322,000 and spent $297,000 of it since January. The SICC was more generous with him, transferring $113,500 to his campaign, with the most recent check having been sent just last week. He has about $182,000 remaining in his campaign account.</p> <p>Peralta is being challenged by Jessica Ramos, a former aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ramos raised $171,000 over the last six months and has spent $102,000 of it. She has just about $99,000 in cash on hand. In publicizing her haul, Ramos promoted the fact that she had raised most of the funds, about $129,000, from more than 1,400 individual donors, contrasting it with Peralta’s 238 individual donors who gave him about $69,000.</p> <p><strong>District 20</strong><br />Sen. Hamilton, who represents parts of central Brooklyn, pulled in about $295,000 for his reelection bid and spent $202,000. As with the other IDC senators, the SICC gave him a major boost with $109,700 transferred to his account. He has about $212,000 left to spend.</p> <p>Hamilton’s challenger is Zellnor Myrie, an attorney from Brooklyn. Myrie raised $163,000 in this filing period and spent about $96,000. He has just under $156,000 left in cash on hand. Myrie had more than 4,400 individual donors accounting for 98 percent of his fundraising haul, a fact he highlighted while pointing out that Hamilton had only 243 individual donors.</p> <p><strong>District 23</strong> <br />The district covers Staten Island’s northern shore and parts of southern Brooklyn and is represented by Sen. Savino. The senator hauled in $451,000, of which $270,000 was transferred from an earlier campaign account to a new one. She spent $193,000 in the same period and has $259,000 left in her campaign account.</p> <p>Savino’s primary challenger, community activist Jasmine Robinson, has not yet filed her disclosure with the BOE. She said in an email that her campaign received an extension and will file the report next week.</p> <p><strong>District 31</strong><br />Sen. Alcantara, who is running for a second term, represents a district that covers long stretches of the west side of Manhattan. The incumbent, who narrowly won a tight three-way race in 2016, raised $116,000, which was outpaced by her $130,000 in expenditures. She also had the benefit of receiving $66,000 from the SICC. She has about $132,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Alcantara is facing Robert Jackson, a former City Council member who unsuccessfully challenged her in the 2016 primary for District 31. Jackson raised more than $156,000 and spent about $103,000. He has $157,000 remaining in his account.</p> <p><strong>District 34</strong><br />District 34 spans across Westchester and parts of the Bronx, and is currently held by Sen. Klein. As the former leader of the IDC, Klein played a powerful role in the state Legislature for more than seven years and was one of the proverbial ‘four men in a room’ who decide the state budget, along with the governor, Senate majority leader, and Assembly speaker. As part of the Democratic reunification deal, Klein assumed the position of deputy to the Democratic conference leader Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/jeff_klein_campaign_kickoff.jpg" alt="jeff klein campaign kickoff" width="450" height="245" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Klein raised nearly $740,000 -- $200,000 from the SICC -- between January and July and spent $613,000. He has a whopping balance of $2.1 million, having built up his campaign warchest over the last several years.</p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi is the upstart candidate taking on Klein in the primary. Biaggi’s latest filings were not available on the BOE website but her campaign said she had raised $260,000 and had about $50,000 in expenditures.</p> <p><strong>District 38</strong><br />Sen. Carlucci, who represents Rockland County and parts of Westchester, raised $114,000 for reelection and spent only $32,000. He received $26,000 from the SICC. He has a balance of more than $440,000.</p> <p>Carlucci’s opponent is Julie Goldberg, whose disclosures were not available with the BOE. Goldberg’s campaign manager, Susanne Kernan, pointed to technical issues with the submission and provided the filings to Gotham Gazette. They showed nearly $17,000 in contributions and and about $4,000 in expenditures, leaving her a balance of under $13,000.</p> <p><strong>District 53</strong><br />The district spans Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida, and is represented by Sen. Valesky. He raised $126,000 and spent about $74,000 in the last six months. The SICC gave him $36,000. He has $665,000 remaining in his campaign account.</p> <p>Valesky’s opponent, Rachel May, raised $84,000 and had expenses worth about $38,000. She has $81,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7798-new-york-democrats-season-of-choosing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Democrats’ Season of Choosing</a>]</p> <p><strong>Other Senate Primaries To Watch</strong><br /><strong>District 22</strong><br />Democrats see an opportunity this year to unseat Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, one of the few Republican elected officials in New York City. His district is situated in southern Brooklyn covering the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach. Golden raised about $32,000 and has spent more than $125,000 since January. But he maintains a healthy campaign account, with $485,000 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Two Democrats are competing in the September 13 primary -- Andrew Gounardes, who was an aide to former City Council Member Vincent Gentile, and Ross Barkan, a journalist-turned-candidate. The winner will take on Golden in the general election.</p> <p>Gounardes raised $124,000 and spent $47,000, and had a closing balance of $181,000. Barkan raised about $71,000 and spent $66,000. He has about $59,000 remaining.</p> <p><strong>District 17</strong><br />Felder’s role in propping up the Senate Republicans has prompted a primary challenge from attorney Blake Morris.</p> <p>Felder represents the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood, and parts of Flatbush, Kensington, Sunset Park, and Sheepshead Bay. The senator is well resourced, having raised more than $430,000 since January and having spent about $110,000. He has a balance of $637,000, far surpassing his opponent.</p> <p>Morris had raised $41,000 by the Monday deadline and had spent $31,000 of it. He has a little over $10,000 in his campaign account with under two months till the primary.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Sen. Jeff Klein's fundraising and expenditure over the last six months. The numbers previously included were from his latest disclosure report which only showed his campaign finance activity since May.&nbsp;</p>
Poll Targeting Brooklyn District Gauges Anti-IDC Sentiment 2018-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7526:poll-targeting-brooklyn-district-gauges-anti-idc-sentiment Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/img-4197.jpg" alt="Jesse Hamilton IDC" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Members of the IDC, including Sen. Hamilton (center), and others (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>A recent phone poll surveying residents of Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Brooklyn district asked residents to react to a number of statements associating the Independent Democratic Conference with President Donald Trump, among a variety of other questions, according to two residents of the district.</p> <p>The polling was conducted “on behalf of a Democrat regarding state Senate elections in September 2018” by the Florida-based Kalamata Group, one resident, who took meticulous notes during a February 10 phone call, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Kalamata Group is associated with Global Strategy Group, which works closely with IDC, indicating that the poll was funded by the conference. Hamilton is one of eight members of the IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, along with nominal Democrat Senator Simcha Felder. The alliance has been blamed for keeping Republicans in power in state government, effectively blocking the passage of key Democratic legislation, such as voting reforms, women’s reproductive health provisions, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>The breakaway Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, are currently in talks to reunify with the mainline Democratic conference later this year, provided Democrats regain a total of 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber after a set of special elections in April, but that has not stopped a number of challengers, backed by a coalition of progressive activists, from launching primary challenges against IDC members.</p> <p>One of the residents of Hamilton’s district, who was polled, lives in Prospect Heights and asked to remain anonymous. He said he was asked to indicate whether he approved or disapproved of the IDC, Jesse Hamilton, Zellnor Myrie -- a lawyer who is running in the Democratic primary against Hamilton in the fall -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, and President Donald Trump.</p> <p>Several poll questions seem to evaluate whether Hamilton will be negatively impacted by criticisms that link him and his conference with Trump’s presidency, which appears to be hurting the Republican Party in New York. IDC challengers and their supporters have taken to calling IDC members “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The poll, for example, asks residents to rank how convincing they found a series of statements about Hamilton’s record, with the pollster telling saying that the statements were from Hamilton’s opponents.</p> <p>‘By aligning with the GOP in New York, Senator Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change,’ read one statement, according to the resident.</p> <p>The poll also tested several positive statements about the incumbent: ‘Hamilton secured $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called sanctuary cities,’ the pollster reportedly said, for example.</p> <p>The poll also tested for two potential criticisms of Myrie. One referred to a charity he founded in 2009 that had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS after he failed to file the paperwork, and another that he has no government experience and is linked to a local political machine.</p> <p>After each segment of the poll, the resident was asked a variation of "If the primary were held today, and the candidates Jesse Hamilton and Zellnor Myrie, who would you vote for?" (See full details of the poll below, as noted by the resident from Prospect Heights.)</p> <p>Barbara Brancaccio, a campaign spokesperson for Hamilton who works for Global Strategy Group, would not confirm that the IDC funded the poll, but as one political operative who Gotham Gazette briefed on the poll’s contents put it, “It's hard to imagine it not being the IDC. [Global Strategy Group] has a very long standing relationship with Jeff [Klein].”</p> <p>Brancaccio said the survey amounts to standard polling that is done whenever there is an election, and that the campaign does not make the results of its polling public.</p> <p><a href="https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Document/I4fa8fe60cd1711dda432a117e6e0f345?viewType=FullText&amp;originationContext=documenttoc&amp;transitionType=CategoryPageItem&amp;contextData=(sc.Default)" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York State law </a>prohibits the partial release of political poll results, so candidates and campaigns often choose not to share their survey results.</p> <p>Still, the founders of No IDC NY, a political campaign <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that backs IDC primary challengers</a>, used the poll questions as an opportunity to take a swipe at the breakaway Democrats, noting that No IDC has conducted its own surveys through its collective phone-banking and text-messaging operations.</p> <p>In the 20th Senate District, home to the Hamilton-Myrie primary, phone-bankers spoke with 1,119 voters, 83 percent of whom are negative on the IDC, said Gus Christensen, chief strategist of No IDC NY.</p> <p>“The numbers are clear: the IDC has no base. Democratic voters are real Democrats, and real Democrats don't support turncoats who caucus with the Republicans. And I'm sure the only reason why the IDC won't release the results of their own polling is that it says the same thing, only in more detail,” said Christensen.</p> <p>Polling experts say phone-banking is generally not a reliable method to determine voter behavior, since phone-bankers likely have their own biases, and their questions may not be balanced. Political polling companies also take steps to ensure that the demographic make-up of subjects polled is reflective of the district.</p> <p>“It would be impossible for me to comment on any of these polls, not knowing the methodology behind them …but the key to making any survey scientifically accurate, is to ensure that you have a representative sample of the geography you are trying to poll,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.</p> <p>While overwhelmingly Democratic, Hamilton’s district is diverse and somewhat fragmented, including portions of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and snaking down to South Slope, and Sunset Park.</p> <p>Myrie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, said it was fair for critics to associate his opponent with President Trump.</p> <p>“In 2016, my opponent joined the Republican-friendly IDC within 24 hours of Donald Trump becoming the most regressive President our country has ever seen,” say Myrie. “Since that day, they both have pushed or supported the regressive Republican policies that have hurt my community...Republicans in the state Senate are lock and step with the Trump agenda, an agenda my opponent bolsters every single day as a member of the IDC.”</p> <p>___</p> <p><em>The following is lightly edited notes taken by one resident of the 20th State Senate District who was polled:</em></p> <p>Do you have favorable or unfavorable view of:<br />-The IDC<br />-Jesse Hamilton<br />-Zellnor Myrie<br />-Bill de Blasio<br />-Donald Trump</p> <p>If the primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jesse Hamilton is doing?</p> <p>What are the two most important issues that will impact your vote?</p> <p>Would you prefer a a state senator who stands up to policies of Trump and Republicans in New York, or a state senator who addresses local issues?</p> <p>I am going to read profiles and ask if you find them favorable or unfavorable.<br />-Democrat Zellnor Myrie is an attorney and local Democratic party leader. He will be a true Democrat in the New York State Senate, an anti-Trump leader who will fight to fully fund schools, will focus on affordable housing, including protecting tenants who are being thrown out of their homes. He will help pave the way for Andrea Stewart-Cousins to become the first African-American woman Senate Majority Leader.<br />-Democrat Jesse Hamilton, current state senator, brought in $1 million for community land trusts that work to build affordable housing. He won tougher rent projections and a freeze on rent for seniors. He brought back $1 billion for public schools. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families earning [amount unclear]. Jesse Hamilton will continue to stand up against Trump, protect women, immigrants, civil rights, and healthcare gains made by President Obama.</p> <p>If the primary were today, and candidates were Zellnor Myrie and Jesse Hamilton, for whom would you vote?</p> <p>I will now read statements from supporters of Jesse Hamilton - how convincing do you find them?<br />-Jesse Hamilton founded United Against Violence Task Force to develop new ways for communities to respond to violence. He funded organizations like Save Our Streets and Cure Violence. He is making a real difference in making our streets safer.<br />-Jesse Hamilton succeeded in securing $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called Sanctuary Cities.<br />(Side note: The woman on the phone didn’t know what “Dreamers” referred to. She said “Dreamers...it’s apparently an organization he is fighting to protect.” She added, “I’m not from New York.”)<br />-Jesse Hamilton is taking a strong stand against Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his attempts to roll back healthcare coverage, civil rights, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose, by writing protections against Trump into New York state law.<br />-Jesse Hamilton has been successful in bringing back hundreds of thousands of dollars for our school and community groups in need. Last year he secured funds for the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn Legal Services, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Youth Represent.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is pushing for the Rider Relief Plan that would repair funding by nearly $900 million to reduce delays and overcrowding for New York subways.<br />-Jesse Hamilton supports true low-income housing, not multi-million-dollar condos at Bedford Armory. He will make housing more affordable by expanding the number of seniors who qualify for homeowner exemptions, and expand the number of people qualified for rent freezes. He will fight for more affordable housing in New York and strengthen laws to give jail time to landlords who are illegally raising rents.</p> <p>Once again, if the NYS primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Now I will read statements from opponents of Jesse Hamilton. How convincing do you find them?<br />-By aligning with the GOP in the New York State Senate, Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change.<br />-The IDC, of which Jesse Hamilton is a member, took tens of thousands of dollars from one of the biggest landlord groups in the city, called REBNY, which has been working to end rent regulations and eliminate tenant protections.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, a group of state senators who ran for office as Democrats, but then aligned with the GOP once elected. This has resulted in GOP control of the Senate, in spite of the GOP being in the minority, and has allowed the conservative GOP to stop or water down Democratic priorities.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, some of whose members have been exposed for taking extra salary or better office space in exchange for aligning with the GOP in the State Senate. This scheme has involved making false statements, and has led to inquiries by the office of the New York State Attorney General and the United States Attorney in Brooklyn.</p> <p>If the primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>I will now read statements from opponents of Zellnor Myrie. How convincing do you find them?<br />-Zellnor Myrie started a charity that critics said he launched simply to promote himself. He promptly lost interest and the charity had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS, for failing the simple task of failing to file the proper forms.<br />-Zellnor Myrie has no government experience, but is relying on his political connections in the local party machine to get elected, and would serve their interest, not ours.</p> <p>If primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>Then there were demographic questions at the end:<br />-Last grade of school completed?<br />-Anyone in household a member/retired from union?<br />-In politics, are you very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative.<br />-Religious background - protestant, catholic, muslim, jewish, something else?<br />-Race?<br />-Hispanic?<br />-Do you receive more calls on landline or cell phone<br />-Can I use your first name?</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/img-4197.jpg" alt="Jesse Hamilton IDC" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Members of the IDC, including Sen. Hamilton (center), and others (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>A recent phone poll surveying residents of Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Brooklyn district asked residents to react to a number of statements associating the Independent Democratic Conference with President Donald Trump, among a variety of other questions, according to two residents of the district.</p> <p>The polling was conducted “on behalf of a Democrat regarding state Senate elections in September 2018” by the Florida-based Kalamata Group, one resident, who took meticulous notes during a February 10 phone call, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Kalamata Group is associated with Global Strategy Group, which works closely with IDC, indicating that the poll was funded by the conference. Hamilton is one of eight members of the IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, along with nominal Democrat Senator Simcha Felder. The alliance has been blamed for keeping Republicans in power in state government, effectively blocking the passage of key Democratic legislation, such as voting reforms, women’s reproductive health provisions, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.</p> <p>The breakaway Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, are currently in talks to reunify with the mainline Democratic conference later this year, provided Democrats regain a total of 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber after a set of special elections in April, but that has not stopped a number of challengers, backed by a coalition of progressive activists, from launching primary challenges against IDC members.</p> <p>One of the residents of Hamilton’s district, who was polled, lives in Prospect Heights and asked to remain anonymous. He said he was asked to indicate whether he approved or disapproved of the IDC, Jesse Hamilton, Zellnor Myrie -- a lawyer who is running in the Democratic primary against Hamilton in the fall -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, and President Donald Trump.</p> <p>Several poll questions seem to evaluate whether Hamilton will be negatively impacted by criticisms that link him and his conference with Trump’s presidency, which appears to be hurting the Republican Party in New York. IDC challengers and their supporters have taken to calling IDC members “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The poll, for example, asks residents to rank how convincing they found a series of statements about Hamilton’s record, with the pollster telling saying that the statements were from Hamilton’s opponents.</p> <p>‘By aligning with the GOP in New York, Senator Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change,’ read one statement, according to the resident.</p> <p>The poll also tested several positive statements about the incumbent: ‘Hamilton secured $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called sanctuary cities,’ the pollster reportedly said, for example.</p> <p>The poll also tested for two potential criticisms of Myrie. One referred to a charity he founded in 2009 that had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS after he failed to file the paperwork, and another that he has no government experience and is linked to a local political machine.</p> <p>After each segment of the poll, the resident was asked a variation of "If the primary were held today, and the candidates Jesse Hamilton and Zellnor Myrie, who would you vote for?" (See full details of the poll below, as noted by the resident from Prospect Heights.)</p> <p>Barbara Brancaccio, a campaign spokesperson for Hamilton who works for Global Strategy Group, would not confirm that the IDC funded the poll, but as one political operative who Gotham Gazette briefed on the poll’s contents put it, “It's hard to imagine it not being the IDC. [Global Strategy Group] has a very long standing relationship with Jeff [Klein].”</p> <p>Brancaccio said the survey amounts to standard polling that is done whenever there is an election, and that the campaign does not make the results of its polling public.</p> <p><a href="https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Document/I4fa8fe60cd1711dda432a117e6e0f345?viewType=FullText&amp;originationContext=documenttoc&amp;transitionType=CategoryPageItem&amp;contextData=(sc.Default)" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York State law </a>prohibits the partial release of political poll results, so candidates and campaigns often choose not to share their survey results.</p> <p>Still, the founders of No IDC NY, a political campaign <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7439-running-without-establishment-support-idc-challengers-show-initial-fundraising-strides" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that backs IDC primary challengers</a>, used the poll questions as an opportunity to take a swipe at the breakaway Democrats, noting that No IDC has conducted its own surveys through its collective phone-banking and text-messaging operations.</p> <p>In the 20th Senate District, home to the Hamilton-Myrie primary, phone-bankers spoke with 1,119 voters, 83 percent of whom are negative on the IDC, said Gus Christensen, chief strategist of No IDC NY.</p> <p>“The numbers are clear: the IDC has no base. Democratic voters are real Democrats, and real Democrats don't support turncoats who caucus with the Republicans. And I'm sure the only reason why the IDC won't release the results of their own polling is that it says the same thing, only in more detail,” said Christensen.</p> <p>Polling experts say phone-banking is generally not a reliable method to determine voter behavior, since phone-bankers likely have their own biases, and their questions may not be balanced. Political polling companies also take steps to ensure that the demographic make-up of subjects polled is reflective of the district.</p> <p>“It would be impossible for me to comment on any of these polls, not knowing the methodology behind them …but the key to making any survey scientifically accurate, is to ensure that you have a representative sample of the geography you are trying to poll,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.</p> <p>While overwhelmingly Democratic, Hamilton’s district is diverse and somewhat fragmented, including portions of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and snaking down to South Slope, and Sunset Park.</p> <p>Myrie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, said it was fair for critics to associate his opponent with President Trump.</p> <p>“In 2016, my opponent joined the Republican-friendly IDC within 24 hours of Donald Trump becoming the most regressive President our country has ever seen,” say Myrie. “Since that day, they both have pushed or supported the regressive Republican policies that have hurt my community...Republicans in the state Senate are lock and step with the Trump agenda, an agenda my opponent bolsters every single day as a member of the IDC.”</p> <p>___</p> <p><em>The following is lightly edited notes taken by one resident of the 20th State Senate District who was polled:</em></p> <p>Do you have favorable or unfavorable view of:<br />-The IDC<br />-Jesse Hamilton<br />-Zellnor Myrie<br />-Bill de Blasio<br />-Donald Trump</p> <p>If the primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jesse Hamilton is doing?</p> <p>What are the two most important issues that will impact your vote?</p> <p>Would you prefer a a state senator who stands up to policies of Trump and Republicans in New York, or a state senator who addresses local issues?</p> <p>I am going to read profiles and ask if you find them favorable or unfavorable.<br />-Democrat Zellnor Myrie is an attorney and local Democratic party leader. He will be a true Democrat in the New York State Senate, an anti-Trump leader who will fight to fully fund schools, will focus on affordable housing, including protecting tenants who are being thrown out of their homes. He will help pave the way for Andrea Stewart-Cousins to become the first African-American woman Senate Majority Leader.<br />-Democrat Jesse Hamilton, current state senator, brought in $1 million for community land trusts that work to build affordable housing. He won tougher rent projections and a freeze on rent for seniors. He brought back $1 billion for public schools. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families earning [amount unclear]. Jesse Hamilton will continue to stand up against Trump, protect women, immigrants, civil rights, and healthcare gains made by President Obama.</p> <p>If the primary were today, and candidates were Zellnor Myrie and Jesse Hamilton, for whom would you vote?</p> <p>I will now read statements from supporters of Jesse Hamilton - how convincing do you find them?<br />-Jesse Hamilton founded United Against Violence Task Force to develop new ways for communities to respond to violence. He funded organizations like Save Our Streets and Cure Violence. He is making a real difference in making our streets safer.<br />-Jesse Hamilton succeeded in securing $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called Sanctuary Cities.<br />(Side note: The woman on the phone didn’t know what “Dreamers” referred to. She said “Dreamers...it’s apparently an organization he is fighting to protect.” She added, “I’m not from New York.”)<br />-Jesse Hamilton is taking a strong stand against Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his attempts to roll back healthcare coverage, civil rights, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose, by writing protections against Trump into New York state law.<br />-Jesse Hamilton has been successful in bringing back hundreds of thousands of dollars for our school and community groups in need. Last year he secured funds for the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn Legal Services, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Youth Represent.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is pushing for the Rider Relief Plan that would repair funding by nearly $900 million to reduce delays and overcrowding for New York subways.<br />-Jesse Hamilton supports true low-income housing, not multi-million-dollar condos at Bedford Armory. He will make housing more affordable by expanding the number of seniors who qualify for homeowner exemptions, and expand the number of people qualified for rent freezes. He will fight for more affordable housing in New York and strengthen laws to give jail time to landlords who are illegally raising rents.</p> <p>Once again, if the NYS primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?</p> <p>Now I will read statements from opponents of Jesse Hamilton. How convincing do you find them?<br />-By aligning with the GOP in the New York State Senate, Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change.<br />-The IDC, of which Jesse Hamilton is a member, took tens of thousands of dollars from one of the biggest landlord groups in the city, called REBNY, which has been working to end rent regulations and eliminate tenant protections.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, a group of state senators who ran for office as Democrats, but then aligned with the GOP once elected. This has resulted in GOP control of the Senate, in spite of the GOP being in the minority, and has allowed the conservative GOP to stop or water down Democratic priorities.<br />-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, some of whose members have been exposed for taking extra salary or better office space in exchange for aligning with the GOP in the State Senate. This scheme has involved making false statements, and has led to inquiries by the office of the New York State Attorney General and the United States Attorney in Brooklyn.</p> <p>If the primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>I will now read statements from opponents of Zellnor Myrie. How convincing do you find them?<br />-Zellnor Myrie started a charity that critics said he launched simply to promote himself. He promptly lost interest and the charity had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS, for failing the simple task of failing to file the proper forms.<br />-Zellnor Myrie has no government experience, but is relying on his political connections in the local party machine to get elected, and would serve their interest, not ours.</p> <p>If primary were today, who would you vote for?</p> <p>Then there were demographic questions at the end:<br />-Last grade of school completed?<br />-Anyone in household a member/retired from union?<br />-In politics, are you very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative.<br />-Religious background - protestant, catholic, muslim, jewish, something else?<br />-Race?<br />-Hispanic?<br />-Do you receive more calls on landline or cell phone<br />-Can I use your first name?</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7512:conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/myrie_idc_opponents.png" alt="IDC opponents" width="600" height="318" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers</p> <hr /> <p>The Working Families Party is escalating its efforts to unseat members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. The WFP, a progressive political party that regularly cross-endorses Democrats, is rolling out additional endorsements of candidates challenging IDC members in this year’s elections, which include all the seats in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that helps keep the GOP in control of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Republicans’ only stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Awareness of the eight-member IDC has grown recently and anti-IDC organizing has increased dramatically since the election of Donald Trump as president and a corresponding increased recognition of the importance of state governments, and specifically party control of the state Senate in New York.</p> <p>The WFP -- which offers organizing and fundraising help to its candidates -- recently announced the endorsement of three IDC challengers: Jessica Ramos; Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May. On Wednesday, the WFP endorsed three others: Zellnor Myrie, John Duane, and Jasmin Robinson. On Thursday night, the party endorsed a seventh candidate, Robert Jackson.</p> <p>These candidates are challenging IDC Senators Jose Peralta, Jeff Klein, Dave Valeski, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Marisol Alcantara, respectively. The WFP does not yet have an announced candidate to take on Senator David Carlucci.</p> <p>On Sunday, the WFP is holding a rally in Brooklyn to bring its endorsed state Senate candidates together, as well as to formally back United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event, to be held at Medgar Evers College, is being billed as the 2018 “campaign kickoff rally” of the “progressive insurgence,” according to the WFP event listing. “This is the first time these Working Families Democrats will share a stage,” said an email from the WFP encouraging people to attend. “[W]e need all hands on deck to elect a progressive majority to the State Senate.”</p> <p>The rally is being co-hosted by several groups that have sprung up in recent months with a focus on local politics, defeating IDC members, and moving New York leftward. These include True Blue NY, No IDC NY, New York Progressive Action Network, Empire State Indivisible and local “Indivisible” chapters. These groups held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to back an initial handful of the IDC challengers. It was headlined by Zephyr Teachout, who ran a grassroots Democratic primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 (without WFP support).</p> <p>An added element of conflict -- and intrigue -- for Sunday is a rally being organized by Senator Hamilton’s office, set for outside Medgar Evers College at the same time participants will be arriving for the WFP rally. Hamilton has a district office nearby, and his team has put together what is billed as a “Black Minds Matter Rally.” Purportedly, the rally is “in support of black history education” and Hamilton’s bill that seeks to build a path toward the mandated teaching of black history in New York schools.</p> <p>However, the Hamilton-led rally, organized by his government office, is being called a fairly obvious response to the WFP campaign event. Hamilton’s office had asked Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) to participate, and its leadership agreed, but that changed when the apparent but unsaid motives for the rally became clear.</p> <p>"While NAN strongly supports badly needed efforts to bolster black history education, organizers of the Black Minds Matter Rally on March 4th neglected to inform us that their event was a thinly veiled counterprotest of the Working Families Party's rally on behalf of a number of their endorsed candidates,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional direction for NAN, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“Given our strong collaboration with WFP and other grassroots groups in the resistance against Trump's attacks on people of color and working people everywhere, we want to clarify that we do not support this counter-protest," Foy said.</p> <p>Past and current flyers for the Hamilton rally show NAN as a partner and not.</p> <p>Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hamilton responded with a clarifying question, but, once it was answered, did not offer any clarity about the event or response to Foy’s assertion.</p> <p>The WFP describes the IDC as “a group of 8 turncoat Democrats who empower Republican senate leadership.” Candidates seeking to unseat IDC members regularly refer to them as “Trump Democrats.” They say that the IDC is part of what is holding New York back from enacting a sweeping progressive agenda including more school aid, more stringent rent regulations, universal health care coverage, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, and more. IDC members, led by Klein, say that they are able to influence legislation and budgetary priorities in the Senate and also bring home added spoils to their districts because of the power-sharing agreement.</p> <p>“The Working Families Party is proud to support this slate of progressive challengers,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the IDC challengers. “Unlike the incumbents who voted to install a Trump loyalist as leader of the state senate, these Working Families Democrats are committed to supporting the progressive leadership of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on day one. Only when progressives hold the gavel can we actually deliver on the progressive agenda working families demand: fair funding for public schools and universities, stronger rent laws, real criminal justice reform and so much more.”</p> <p>While the progressive backers of the IDC challengers are rallying and preparing for a big push through primary day in September, a tentative Democratic unity deal hangs in the background. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down relationship with the WFP and other progressives, has helped orchestrate an agreement for mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC to join forces based on a number of factors, starting with Democrats winning two special Senate elections taking place April 24 to fill vacant seats.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/myrie_idc_opponents.png" alt="IDC opponents" width="600" height="318" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers</p> <hr /> <p>The Working Families Party is escalating its efforts to unseat members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. The WFP, a progressive political party that regularly cross-endorses Democrats, is rolling out additional endorsements of candidates challenging IDC members in this year’s elections, which include all the seats in the state Legislature.</p> <p>The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that helps keep the GOP in control of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Republicans’ only stronghold in state government.</p> <p>Awareness of the eight-member IDC has grown recently and anti-IDC organizing has increased dramatically since the election of Donald Trump as president and a corresponding increased recognition of the importance of state governments, and specifically party control of the state Senate in New York.</p> <p>The WFP -- which offers organizing and fundraising help to its candidates -- recently announced the endorsement of three IDC challengers: Jessica Ramos; Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May. On Wednesday, the WFP endorsed three others: Zellnor Myrie, John Duane, and Jasmin Robinson. On Thursday night, the party endorsed a seventh candidate, Robert Jackson.</p> <p>These candidates are challenging IDC Senators Jose Peralta, Jeff Klein, Dave Valeski, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Marisol Alcantara, respectively. The WFP does not yet have an announced candidate to take on Senator David Carlucci.</p> <p>On Sunday, the WFP is holding a rally in Brooklyn to bring its endorsed state Senate candidates together, as well as to formally back United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event, to be held at Medgar Evers College, is being billed as the 2018 “campaign kickoff rally” of the “progressive insurgence,” according to the WFP event listing. “This is the first time these Working Families Democrats will share a stage,” said an email from the WFP encouraging people to attend. “[W]e need all hands on deck to elect a progressive majority to the State Senate.”</p> <p>The rally is being co-hosted by several groups that have sprung up in recent months with a focus on local politics, defeating IDC members, and moving New York leftward. These include True Blue NY, No IDC NY, New York Progressive Action Network, Empire State Indivisible and local “Indivisible” chapters. These groups held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to back an initial handful of the IDC challengers. It was headlined by Zephyr Teachout, who ran a grassroots Democratic primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 (without WFP support).</p> <p>An added element of conflict -- and intrigue -- for Sunday is a rally being organized by Senator Hamilton’s office, set for outside Medgar Evers College at the same time participants will be arriving for the WFP rally. Hamilton has a district office nearby, and his team has put together what is billed as a “Black Minds Matter Rally.” Purportedly, the rally is “in support of black history education” and Hamilton’s bill that seeks to build a path toward the mandated teaching of black history in New York schools.</p> <p>However, the Hamilton-led rally, organized by his government office, is being called a fairly obvious response to the WFP campaign event. Hamilton’s office had asked Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) to participate, and its leadership agreed, but that changed when the apparent but unsaid motives for the rally became clear.</p> <p>"While NAN strongly supports badly needed efforts to bolster black history education, organizers of the Black Minds Matter Rally on March 4th neglected to inform us that their event was a thinly veiled counterprotest of the Working Families Party's rally on behalf of a number of their endorsed candidates,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional direction for NAN, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>“Given our strong collaboration with WFP and other grassroots groups in the resistance against Trump's attacks on people of color and working people everywhere, we want to clarify that we do not support this counter-protest," Foy said.</p> <p>Past and current flyers for the Hamilton rally show NAN as a partner and not.</p> <p>Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hamilton responded with a clarifying question, but, once it was answered, did not offer any clarity about the event or response to Foy’s assertion.</p> <p>The WFP describes the IDC as “a group of 8 turncoat Democrats who empower Republican senate leadership.” Candidates seeking to unseat IDC members regularly refer to them as “Trump Democrats.” They say that the IDC is part of what is holding New York back from enacting a sweeping progressive agenda including more school aid, more stringent rent regulations, universal health care coverage, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, and more. IDC members, led by Klein, say that they are able to influence legislation and budgetary priorities in the Senate and also bring home added spoils to their districts because of the power-sharing agreement.</p> <p>“The Working Families Party is proud to support this slate of progressive challengers,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the IDC challengers. “Unlike the incumbents who voted to install a Trump loyalist as leader of the state senate, these Working Families Democrats are committed to supporting the progressive leadership of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on day one. Only when progressives hold the gavel can we actually deliver on the progressive agenda working families demand: fair funding for public schools and universities, stronger rent laws, real criminal justice reform and so much more.”</p> <p>While the progressive backers of the IDC challengers are rallying and preparing for a big push through primary day in September, a tentative Democratic unity deal hangs in the background. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down relationship with the WFP and other progressives, has helped orchestrate an agreement for mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC to join forces based on a number of factors, starting with Democrats winning two special Senate elections taking place April 24 to fill vacant seats.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Teaching Black History in Our Schools 2018-02-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7485:teaching-black-history-in-our-schools Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/blackpantherchallenge.jpg" alt="blackpantherchallenge" width="600" height="298" /></p> <p>Senator Jesse Hamilton, the author (middle)</p> <hr /> <p>Last summer, I hosted a hackathon for middle school students at Medgar Evers College. Picture 40 enthusiastic young people ready to learn about coding, computer science, and technology, along with CodeEd educators and the welcoming college staff.</p> <p>In an effort to be as educational as possible, I like to do a little history quiz when we host young people. My quiz features questions like, “Who was the first African-American woman elected to Congress?” That day, I asked, “Who was Medgar Evers?” Silence. The question stumped nearly all the students.</p> <p>Only one student could venture a reply on his Civil Rights Movement leadership. That lone reply is part of the reason I am advancing legislation to make black history instruction in our K-12 schools mandatory.</p> <p>The Southern Poverty Law Center recently published a troubling report on schools teaching the history of slavery, “Teaching Hard History.” Among the most alarming findings, SPLC reports that two-thirds of high school seniors did not know it took a constitutional amendment to end slavery; 58 percent of teachers found their textbooks inadequate in teaching about slavery; the average textbook scored only 46 percent in SPLC’s assessment of what should be included in the study of American slavery; 40 percent of teachers believed their state offers insufficient support for teaching about slavery.</p> <p>The SPLC’s analysis provides important data supporting the need to make black history instruction mandatory, mirroring my experience with the hackathon students and elsewhere.</p> <p>Recent news reports underscore the necessity of this legislation. In one Bronx school, I.S. 224, the principal reportedly instructed an English teacher not to teach about the Harlem Renaissance. In another school, administrators refused to allow a student named Malcolm Xavier Combs to put “Malcolm X” on his senior sweater. In another instance, in Park Slope, the PTA included images of performers in blackface on advertisements for a 1920s themed fundraiser. Passing this law would send a clearly needed message of inclusion to all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Black history’s importance extends far beyond a single month. From the abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, who broke barriers in advocacy and helped end slavery, to the Harlem Renaissance, home to literary and artistic dynamism we benefit from even today, to the pioneering achievements of Shirley Chisholm, who paved a path for future public servants of color, men and women alike, black history serves as part of our national heritage.</p> <p>Our young people should engage with black history in thoughtful, age-appropriate ways, throughout their time as students. Black history provides a panoply of avenues across subject areas for K-12 students to explore, intersecting with social studies, English language arts, performing and visual arts, and more. I have every confidence that the Board of Regents and educators across various disciplines can successfully weave the richness of black history and New York’s unique place in black history into school curricula.</p> <p>A crossroads for the world, New York’s Black History intersects with experiences of the Afro-Caribbean community, the Afro-Latino community, and the entire African diaspora. Under the provisions of my black history in schools proposal, the Board of Regents would be responsible for determining how Black History is best incorporated into students’ studies.</p> <p>Sociologists point to the black experience being underrepresented overall in media, missing stories altogether, exaggeration of negative portrayals, and providing positive portrayals within only a narrow scope. These broader facts have consequences for young peoples’ development, self-esteem, expectations, and what figures are even available as role models. Requiring black history in schools is not a silver bullet, but it marks an important further development in chipping away at stultifying boundaries to opportunities.</p> <p>I invite the public to join in support of an holistic effort to think about black history and participate in embracing a curriculum recognizing New York’s unique place in black history. New York is blessed with a rich variety of institutions that can contribute to making this inclusive move a success, the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, and all our museums, libraries, and numerous institutions of higher education can make valuable contributions to this effort.</p> <p>This broader integration of black history into our schools is as important to our future as the coding and computer science those middle school students learned at Medgar Evers College. Such a curriculum leaves the boundaries of the schoolhouse and will help bolster New York students’ college- and career-readiness, engaging them, sharpening their skills, and preparing them for the diverse and dynamic communities they will lead their lives in.</p> <p>***<br /> Jesse Hamilton is a state senator representing Brooklyn’s 20th district. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SenatorHamilton</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/blackpantherchallenge.jpg" alt="blackpantherchallenge" width="600" height="298" /></p> <p>Senator Jesse Hamilton, the author (middle)</p> <hr /> <p>Last summer, I hosted a hackathon for middle school students at Medgar Evers College. Picture 40 enthusiastic young people ready to learn about coding, computer science, and technology, along with CodeEd educators and the welcoming college staff.</p> <p>In an effort to be as educational as possible, I like to do a little history quiz when we host young people. My quiz features questions like, “Who was the first African-American woman elected to Congress?” That day, I asked, “Who was Medgar Evers?” Silence. The question stumped nearly all the students.</p> <p>Only one student could venture a reply on his Civil Rights Movement leadership. That lone reply is part of the reason I am advancing legislation to make black history instruction in our K-12 schools mandatory.</p> <p>The Southern Poverty Law Center recently published a troubling report on schools teaching the history of slavery, “Teaching Hard History.” Among the most alarming findings, SPLC reports that two-thirds of high school seniors did not know it took a constitutional amendment to end slavery; 58 percent of teachers found their textbooks inadequate in teaching about slavery; the average textbook scored only 46 percent in SPLC’s assessment of what should be included in the study of American slavery; 40 percent of teachers believed their state offers insufficient support for teaching about slavery.</p> <p>The SPLC’s analysis provides important data supporting the need to make black history instruction mandatory, mirroring my experience with the hackathon students and elsewhere.</p> <p>Recent news reports underscore the necessity of this legislation. In one Bronx school, I.S. 224, the principal reportedly instructed an English teacher not to teach about the Harlem Renaissance. In another school, administrators refused to allow a student named Malcolm Xavier Combs to put “Malcolm X” on his senior sweater. In another instance, in Park Slope, the PTA included images of performers in blackface on advertisements for a 1920s themed fundraiser. Passing this law would send a clearly needed message of inclusion to all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Black history’s importance extends far beyond a single month. From the abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, who broke barriers in advocacy and helped end slavery, to the Harlem Renaissance, home to literary and artistic dynamism we benefit from even today, to the pioneering achievements of Shirley Chisholm, who paved a path for future public servants of color, men and women alike, black history serves as part of our national heritage.</p> <p>Our young people should engage with black history in thoughtful, age-appropriate ways, throughout their time as students. Black history provides a panoply of avenues across subject areas for K-12 students to explore, intersecting with social studies, English language arts, performing and visual arts, and more. I have every confidence that the Board of Regents and educators across various disciplines can successfully weave the richness of black history and New York’s unique place in black history into school curricula.</p> <p>A crossroads for the world, New York’s Black History intersects with experiences of the Afro-Caribbean community, the Afro-Latino community, and the entire African diaspora. Under the provisions of my black history in schools proposal, the Board of Regents would be responsible for determining how Black History is best incorporated into students’ studies.</p> <p>Sociologists point to the black experience being underrepresented overall in media, missing stories altogether, exaggeration of negative portrayals, and providing positive portrayals within only a narrow scope. These broader facts have consequences for young peoples’ development, self-esteem, expectations, and what figures are even available as role models. Requiring black history in schools is not a silver bullet, but it marks an important further development in chipping away at stultifying boundaries to opportunities.</p> <p>I invite the public to join in support of an holistic effort to think about black history and participate in embracing a curriculum recognizing New York’s unique place in black history. New York is blessed with a rich variety of institutions that can contribute to making this inclusive move a success, the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, and all our museums, libraries, and numerous institutions of higher education can make valuable contributions to this effort.</p> <p>This broader integration of black history into our schools is as important to our future as the coding and computer science those middle school students learned at Medgar Evers College. Such a curriculum leaves the boundaries of the schoolhouse and will help bolster New York students’ college- and career-readiness, engaging them, sharpening their skills, and preparing them for the diverse and dynamic communities they will lead their lives in.</p> <p>***<br /> Jesse Hamilton is a state senator representing Brooklyn’s 20th district. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SenatorHamilton</a>.</p> <p>

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The IDC Leaves Tenants Out in the Cold 2017-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7366:the-idc-leaves-tenants-out-in-the-cold Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/idc-unions-presser-crop2.jpg" alt="idc unions presser crop2" width="600" height="311" /></p> <p>IDC members (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>For years, dysfunction and real estate power brokers have prevented Albany from strengthening tenant protections in New York, and the result of these failures has been devastating for our neighborhoods: we continue to suffer from record homelessness and increasing displacement across the state.</p> <p>The Independent Democratic Conference — a group of eight breakaway state senators elected as Democrats — has been a leading force of obstruction since 2011, partnering with Senate Republicans to shut out tenant voices in policy-making.</p> <p>Recently, things began to look like they were changing in the Senate for the first time in years. The mainline Democrats and the IDC took up serious discussion about how to unify the conference. During the course of negotiations, the IDC claimed that its focus is “policies, not politics,” and outlined a series of key priorities for the conference.</p> <p>We were extremely disappointed to learn that strengthening tenant protections was not one of them — especially since several members of the conference have both privately and publicly stated to us that this would be their top issue in 2018.</p> <p>We are tenants and we are constituents of three IDC members: Senators Marisol Alcantara, Jose Peralta, and Jesse Hamilton. Joined together, these State Senators have the highest concentration of rent-regulated units in New York City.</p> <p>We are fighting every day to be able to stay in our homes. Our neighborhoods are facing gentrification, and our landlords know loopholes in the rent laws mean they can raise our rents to market rate as soon as we leave. As a result, we face harassment, reduced services, and deplorable living conditions – all in an attempt to get us out of our homes. We have called on our state-level elected leaders to prioritize strengthening the rent laws through closing two major loopholes: the 20% eviction bonus and preferential rent. Our communities are experiencing increased rents, speculative landlords, and mass gentrification.</p> <p>Over and over, Senators Alcantara, Hamilton, and Peralta told us that the IDC is the best vehicle to meet so-called progressive priorities. After serious pressure, they had committed to prioritizing these issues for the overwhelming number of tenants who live in their districts.</p> <p>But once it came time to deliver, these senators and the IDC once again proved that they are the conference of the real estate industry. This is devastating for the tenants who are suffering in their districts daily because of laws that favor landlords.</p> <p>In Peralta’s district, families at LeFrak City are sacrificing their savings, pulling their kids out of after-school programs, getting second jobs, and moving into smaller cramped apartments just to make ends meet. Many of us are seeing large rent hikes. At the end of every month, moving trucks haul the belongings of yet another family that has lost its apartment due to the preferential rent scam that Senator Peralta could fix next year.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, just a few weeks ago, Senator Hamilton joined the Flatbush Tenants Coalition to tell the story of an 85-year-old grandmother recently evicted and now forced to live with friends on their couches, with her belongings in storage. Housing court in Brooklyn often has lines stretched around the block because the state ludicrously rewards landlords for evictions by allowing management to collect a 20% increase in rent — an eviction bonus.</p> <p>The eviction bonus is the largest contributor to rent increases in rent-stabilized apartments.&nbsp;It doesn’t matter if the tenant moved out willingly or because the landlord refused to provide basic services to keep the apartment livable. The landlord can take that 20% increase, even if it raises the rent above market value.</p> <p>Preferential rent is a bait-and-switch scam to get tenants out and collect the 20% eviction bonus. When a tenant first moves into an apartment, the landlord offers them a “discounted” rent. But when the lease is up, tenants can see increases of hundreds of dollars on their monthly rent.</p> <p>This is simply a tactic used to get the eviction bonus and keep rents skyrocketing.</p> <p>Preferential rents are causing tenants in Alcantara’s district to face potential increases of $1,000 or more when their lease expires, causing tenants to move and disrupting communities.</p> <p>To be very clear, this can be changed through legislation in Albany.</p> <p>Senators Alcantara, Hamilton, and Peralta could help change this next year. They have spent the past years and months promising tenants in their districts that this is a top priority. Alcantara and Peralta went as far as publishing their promises in an <a href="https://eldiariony.com/2017/09/26/nuestra-principal-prioridad-proteger-a-los-inquilinos/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a>. But we have since seen that like so many things with IDC senators, these promises ring hollow, as the IDC did not list rent regulations as a priority area in its negotiations to realign with mainline Democrats.</p> <p>There are only a few months left for the members of the IDC to deliver for tenants. If they fail to do so, we will remember in September.</p> <p>***<br />Aisha Gomez is a resident of LeFrak City in Senator Jose Peralta’s district in Queens<br />Sherryann Bain is a resident of Flatbush in Senator Jesse Hamilton’s district in Brooklyn<br />Lauren Nye is a resident of Washington Heights in Senator Marisol Alcantara’s district in Manhattan</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/idc-unions-presser-crop2.jpg" alt="idc unions presser crop2" width="600" height="311" /></p> <p>IDC members (photo: @IDC4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>For years, dysfunction and real estate power brokers have prevented Albany from strengthening tenant protections in New York, and the result of these failures has been devastating for our neighborhoods: we continue to suffer from record homelessness and increasing displacement across the state.</p> <p>The Independent Democratic Conference — a group of eight breakaway state senators elected as Democrats — has been a leading force of obstruction since 2011, partnering with Senate Republicans to shut out tenant voices in policy-making.</p> <p>Recently, things began to look like they were changing in the Senate for the first time in years. The mainline Democrats and the IDC took up serious discussion about how to unify the conference. During the course of negotiations, the IDC claimed that its focus is “policies, not politics,” and outlined a series of key priorities for the conference.</p> <p>We were extremely disappointed to learn that strengthening tenant protections was not one of them — especially since several members of the conference have both privately and publicly stated to us that this would be their top issue in 2018.</p> <p>We are tenants and we are constituents of three IDC members: Senators Marisol Alcantara, Jose Peralta, and Jesse Hamilton. Joined together, these State Senators have the highest concentration of rent-regulated units in New York City.</p> <p>We are fighting every day to be able to stay in our homes. Our neighborhoods are facing gentrification, and our landlords know loopholes in the rent laws mean they can raise our rents to market rate as soon as we leave. As a result, we face harassment, reduced services, and deplorable living conditions – all in an attempt to get us out of our homes. We have called on our state-level elected leaders to prioritize strengthening the rent laws through closing two major loopholes: the 20% eviction bonus and preferential rent. Our communities are experiencing increased rents, speculative landlords, and mass gentrification.</p> <p>Over and over, Senators Alcantara, Hamilton, and Peralta told us that the IDC is the best vehicle to meet so-called progressive priorities. After serious pressure, they had committed to prioritizing these issues for the overwhelming number of tenants who live in their districts.</p> <p>But once it came time to deliver, these senators and the IDC once again proved that they are the conference of the real estate industry. This is devastating for the tenants who are suffering in their districts daily because of laws that favor landlords.</p> <p>In Peralta’s district, families at LeFrak City are sacrificing their savings, pulling their kids out of after-school programs, getting second jobs, and moving into smaller cramped apartments just to make ends meet. Many of us are seeing large rent hikes. At the end of every month, moving trucks haul the belongings of yet another family that has lost its apartment due to the preferential rent scam that Senator Peralta could fix next year.</p> <p>In Brooklyn, just a few weeks ago, Senator Hamilton joined the Flatbush Tenants Coalition to tell the story of an 85-year-old grandmother recently evicted and now forced to live with friends on their couches, with her belongings in storage. Housing court in Brooklyn often has lines stretched around the block because the state ludicrously rewards landlords for evictions by allowing management to collect a 20% increase in rent — an eviction bonus.</p> <p>The eviction bonus is the largest contributor to rent increases in rent-stabilized apartments.&nbsp;It doesn’t matter if the tenant moved out willingly or because the landlord refused to provide basic services to keep the apartment livable. The landlord can take that 20% increase, even if it raises the rent above market value.</p> <p>Preferential rent is a bait-and-switch scam to get tenants out and collect the 20% eviction bonus. When a tenant first moves into an apartment, the landlord offers them a “discounted” rent. But when the lease is up, tenants can see increases of hundreds of dollars on their monthly rent.</p> <p>This is simply a tactic used to get the eviction bonus and keep rents skyrocketing.</p> <p>Preferential rents are causing tenants in Alcantara’s district to face potential increases of $1,000 or more when their lease expires, causing tenants to move and disrupting communities.</p> <p>To be very clear, this can be changed through legislation in Albany.</p> <p>Senators Alcantara, Hamilton, and Peralta could help change this next year. They have spent the past years and months promising tenants in their districts that this is a top priority. Alcantara and Peralta went as far as publishing their promises in an <a href="https://eldiariony.com/2017/09/26/nuestra-principal-prioridad-proteger-a-los-inquilinos/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a>. But we have since seen that like so many things with IDC senators, these promises ring hollow, as the IDC did not list rent regulations as a priority area in its negotiations to realign with mainline Democrats.</p> <p>There are only a few months left for the members of the IDC to deliver for tenants. If they fail to do so, we will remember in September.</p> <p>***<br />Aisha Gomez is a resident of LeFrak City in Senator Jose Peralta’s district in Queens<br />Sherryann Bain is a resident of Flatbush in Senator Jesse Hamilton’s district in Brooklyn<br />Lauren Nye is a resident of Washington Heights in Senator Marisol Alcantara’s district in Manhattan</p> <p>

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On the Bus to Albany for Better New York Voting Laws 2017-05-07T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-07T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6916:on-the-bus-to-albany-for-better-new-york-voting-laws Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/vote_better_ny_lobbyist_via_nyc_votes.jpg" alt="vote better ny lobbyist via nyc votes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One Vote Better NY lobbyist (photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCVotes/status/859480712361148416" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCVotes</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Two charter buses idling in downtown Manhattan in the early hours of the morning on a weekday would usually be full of mismatched tourists from far-flung states and countries, waiting to gape at the Wall Street bull and his recently-placed female antagonist.</p> <p>That was not the case for the buses that departed Church Street this past Tuesday morning, which, like their counterpart departing from the Bronx, were full of New Yorkers headed to Albany with a very specific mission: pushing legislators to adopt voting reforms that would make it easier for people to cast their ballots.</p> <p>The group of about 150 activists, students, and assorted concerned citizens from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Syracuse had risen at an hour when most fellow city-dwellers were still sound asleep, steeled themselves with coffee and muffins, and traveled to the state capital as part of the “Vote Better NY” campaign. The effort -- now an annual lobbying day -- was organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s “NYC Votes” initiative, which partnered with schools and civic organizations like Dominicanos USA, CUNY, and the recently founded high school progressive group Coalition Z.</p> <p>Chloe Baker, 21, a junior studying history at Queens College and interning at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), felt that the trip’s intent was to “get the legislators thinking about [voting reform], and remind them that they work for us,” a sentiment echoed by many of her fellow volunteers.</p> <p>It’s the fourth year of the annual pilgrimage (Gotham Gazette was also along for the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5695-for-a-better-new-york-activists-lobby-albany-for-election-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last</a> <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6323-lobbying-in-albany-for-better-voting-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">two</a>). To the chagrin of organizers, the objectives this year are the same as they were the first: to change the laws around voting so that citizens can more easily register and stay registered, and find it more feasible to actually vote once registered.</p> <p>Those goals are put forward in proposals included in four bills introduced to the Democratically-controlled State Assembly -- they would need passage there, then in the state Senate, and to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05312&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;utm_source=NYC+Campaign+Finance+Board+List&amp;utm_campaign=e33bfb860a-CY2016_SVRD_Media_Advisory_20160429&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_35d7325629-e33bfb860a-290602913" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Votes</a> and <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A02278&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;utm_source=NYC+Campaign+Finance+Board+List&amp;utm_campaign=e33bfb860a-CY2016_SVRD_Media_Advisory_20160429&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_35d7325629-e33bfb860a-290602913" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Voter Empowerment Acts</a>, sponsored by Democrats Michael Cusick of Staten Island and Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan, have some similar language; both would permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds and allow government agencies like housing authorities to automatically forward voter information for registration.</p> <p>New York Votes would additionally establish same-day registration with a constitutional amendment (it isn’t permitted under the current state constitution), open polls two weeks before elections for what is known as “early voting,” expand absentee voting, and boost polling place resources and training. Voter Empowerment would establish online voter registration through the Board of Elections and automatically update registration information.</p> <p>A separate early voting bill, also sponsored by Kavanagh, would, in its current version, establish an early-voting window beginning eight days before an election.</p> <p>Finally, the so-called preclearance bill, sponsored by Brooklyn Democrat Latrice Walker, would seek to replicate some of the controls previously contained in the Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the Supreme Court. Counties where 10 percent of the population are racial or language minorities or which have been found to have denied voting rights to protected populations would need to submit any changes in voting-related practical or policy changes to the Attorney General’s office for approval.</p> <p>The early voting and voter empowerment bills both have versions in the Republican-controlled Senate. The former, sponsored by Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, was passed through the election committee and has been sent over to the local government committee. The latter, sponsored by Queens Democrat Michael Gianaris, was voted down, 6-3, in the elections committee less than 24 hours before the activists boarded their buses, including a “nay” vote by one of its own sponsors, Queens Democrat and Independent Democratic Conference member Tony Avella.</p> <p>Yet what would seem like a deflating defeat was received with cautious optimism by activists, who are happy that the leadership in the Senate -- “where these bills go to die,” was how one NYC Votes staffer put it -- were even publicly acknowledging the ideas.</p> <p>“Having [Senate Majority Leader John] Flanagan even talking about wanting to know the cost of it is a change in the right direction. Last year it would have been a flat ‘no,’” said Onida Coward Mayers, the NYCCFB director of voter assistance, referring to the Suffolk County Republican’s recent <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/05/flanagan-questions-cost-of-early-voting/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comments</a> citing the potential cost of early voting, while leaving the door open to continued conversations on reform.</p> <p>The day’s activities began with a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rally</a> held by legislators and advocates on the steps of the Capitol building’s famed “Million Dollar Staircase,” where it was moved after rain scuttled plans to hold it in Lafayette Park. After that, the group splintered into 11 teams, each with its own schedule of meetings; the idea was to try to have each legislator who had been open to a meeting hear from at least one of his or her own constituents. “They’re much more interested if it’s someone from their community, because they know that person represents many more at home,” explained Coward Mayers.</p> <p>The group Gotham Gazette trailed soon found itself in the imposingly bright and bustling Legislative Office Building, where hordes of staffers, lobbyists, and activists tried hard not to run into each other as they shuffled between meetings. First on the group’s schedule was Senator Roxanne Persaud, who had to run out but left an aide, who asked not to be identified, to speak with the six-person delegation. The Brooklyn legislator is one of a handful of Senate mainline Democrats who have not sponsored both of the Senate bills. No Republicans have signed on.</p> <p>As Amanda Melillo, public affairs officer at NYCCFB, explained that multi-hour lines dissuaded voters from participating in elections, the staffer nodded and spoke of her own experience during last year’s presidential election, saying, “I was out there, I saw the last-minute rush. I understand.” While she couldn’t quite commit to the senator sponsoring the bill, she promised to discuss it with her boss, and ended with the hope that “when we meet next year, it’ll be better.”</p> <p>A cramped elevator ride and brisk walk through halogen-lit hallways deposited the group at the office of Brooklyn Senator Jesse Hamilton, who greeted Coward Mayers with a hug and spent a few minutes posing for photographs with the activists. Hamilton and his seven colleagues in the IDC, a group that forms a governing coalition with Senate Republicans, are crucial to pushing through the bills that still have a chance in this legislative session, which runs through mid-June.</p> <p>The group quickly scored their first clear success: Melillo explained the intent of the preclearance measure and had not quite finished asking Hamilton to introduce it in the Senate before he piped up with, “I can do that, that’s not a problem.”</p> <p>He was a bit less receptive when the volunteers raised the issue of early voting. When Bella Wang, a 26-year-old PhD student at Princeton and former poll worker, brought up voters waiting “one to three hours” to get their ballot, Hamilton said that “that’s only in presidential elections that you get three hours.”</p> <p>Wendy Odle-Harvey, a volunteer in her fifties whose family moved to Brooklyn from Barbados in the 1970s, chimed in to say that if people vote in any election to find long lines and voting machine problems, they “don’t want to come out to vote for senator, for local races.”</p> <p>Hamilton promised to look a the bill, but told the group that they’d be best served by “talking to the Republicans, because you’re preaching to the choir.”</p> <p>Case in point, the group’s next scheduled meeting was with Republican Senator Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, who quickly got into a back-and-forth with Wang when she stated that people with oddly-spelled and hyphenated names often find themselves left off the voter rolls due to human error.</p> <p>“We have people with names, hyphenated or not hyphenated, voting in several elections” he said, and asserted that there were “people bused in from the Bronx and Westchester to vote in Brooklyn races.” Wang shot back that you were more likely to be “crushed by furniture” than to commit voter fraud, a claim that Golden vigorously disputed. While there have been sporadic claims of voter fraud in New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6770-schneiderman-not-one-single-substantiated-claim-of-voter-fraud-in-new-york-last-year" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">declared earlier this year</a> that there was not one substantiated incident of voter fraud in New York in 2016.</p> <p>As Melillo ticked off reasons why New York’s voter turnout is so low - <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/273112/report-new-york-ranks-41st-in-voter-turnout-in-2016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">41st</a> out of the 50 states in the 2016 general election, with 57 percent turnout - Golden asked if it couldn’t be that “people don’t care,” and argued that high immigrant populations and cultural differences led to low turnout in some districts, pointing to “Palestinian and Arab communities” in his own constituency. “Do they vote? No,” he said.</p> <p>Despite the disagreements, Golden conceded that improvements could be made to the state’s voting procedures, saying “there are a couple of things we can do to help people register and vote, and I’m open to that,” and agreeing to consider the bills. He threw out some of his own ideas, such as making poll workers’ pay non-taxable and getting the MTA to provide expanded service on election days.</p> <p>Asked about the probability that he would support any of the bills were they to come to a vote, he said “our leader is having conversations about the bill,” but declined to definitively take a position.</p> <p>Downstairs in the building’s cafeteria, past a group of Army personnel manning a series of small tables covered in military equipment as part of something called Fort Drum Day, the activists took a breather.</p> <p>“I didn’t really know what to expect…Say ‘I’m a constituent’ and maybe they’ll listen more, but there are a lot of groups here, so sometimes it feels like lip service,” said Natasha Padilla, 38, a Brooklynite who had taken a vacation day to go on the trip, as a group of people in bright green shirts emblazoned with the Airbnb logo chatted quietly 10 feet away.</p> <p>The final meeting of the day for the group Gotham Gazette followed took its members back through the packed elevators with the electronic voice and to the office of Brooklyn Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr., who was not available. Aide Joe Brady took his place for a quick discussion that largely consisted of Brady agreeing that there were issues with voting and pledging to discuss the proposals with the Assembly member.</p> <p>The issue of voting reform is a particularly sensitive one for legislators, Coward Mayers said, because it “taps into their livelihoods. They want to be safeguarded.” If successful, the reforms would shift their voter base, empowering a whole slate of people previously not involved in politics. That prospect can be frightening to elected officials that can pretty much predict the comfortable margin they’ll be reelected with under the current system. Incumbents in New York, where there are no term limits for state legislators, do very well election after election, often running unopposed or with nominal opposition.</p> <p>For the activists who gave up their weekday to show up at their doorstep, the legislators’ reticence is understandable but misplaced. With “a few million dollars in a multibillion dollar budget,” as Melillo put it, they could bring hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into the political process. (The state budget that was recently passed totals $153.1 billion in operating funds.)</p> <p>In a telling exchange with Senator Hamilton, Wang, the PhD student, brought up Minnesota, a state with same-day registration and early voting that also happens to have had the <a href="http://www.twincities.com/2016/11/29/minnesotas-no-1-in-voting-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">highest</a> percentage turnout in 2016 elections. As Hamilton began to speculate about the reasons Minnesotans may simply have a greater interest in voting, Padilla cut him off.</p> <p>“They got their people to vote. And it’s really cold there,” she said.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/vote_better_ny_lobbyist_via_nyc_votes.jpg" alt="vote better ny lobbyist via nyc votes" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>One Vote Better NY lobbyist (photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCVotes/status/859480712361148416" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCVotes</a>)</p> <hr /> <p>Two charter buses idling in downtown Manhattan in the early hours of the morning on a weekday would usually be full of mismatched tourists from far-flung states and countries, waiting to gape at the Wall Street bull and his recently-placed female antagonist.</p> <p>That was not the case for the buses that departed Church Street this past Tuesday morning, which, like their counterpart departing from the Bronx, were full of New Yorkers headed to Albany with a very specific mission: pushing legislators to adopt voting reforms that would make it easier for people to cast their ballots.</p> <p>The group of about 150 activists, students, and assorted concerned citizens from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Syracuse had risen at an hour when most fellow city-dwellers were still sound asleep, steeled themselves with coffee and muffins, and traveled to the state capital as part of the “Vote Better NY” campaign. The effort -- now an annual lobbying day -- was organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s “NYC Votes” initiative, which partnered with schools and civic organizations like Dominicanos USA, CUNY, and the recently founded high school progressive group Coalition Z.</p> <p>Chloe Baker, 21, a junior studying history at Queens College and interning at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), felt that the trip’s intent was to “get the legislators thinking about [voting reform], and remind them that they work for us,” a sentiment echoed by many of her fellow volunteers.</p> <p>It’s the fourth year of the annual pilgrimage (Gotham Gazette was also along for the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5695-for-a-better-new-york-activists-lobby-albany-for-election-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last</a> <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6323-lobbying-in-albany-for-better-voting-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">two</a>). To the chagrin of organizers, the objectives this year are the same as they were the first: to change the laws around voting so that citizens can more easily register and stay registered, and find it more feasible to actually vote once registered.</p> <p>Those goals are put forward in proposals included in four bills introduced to the Democratically-controlled State Assembly -- they would need passage there, then in the state Senate, and to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05312&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;utm_source=NYC+Campaign+Finance+Board+List&amp;utm_campaign=e33bfb860a-CY2016_SVRD_Media_Advisory_20160429&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_35d7325629-e33bfb860a-290602913" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Votes</a> and <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A02278&amp;term=&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Text=Y&amp;utm_source=NYC+Campaign+Finance+Board+List&amp;utm_campaign=e33bfb860a-CY2016_SVRD_Media_Advisory_20160429&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_35d7325629-e33bfb860a-290602913" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Voter Empowerment Acts</a>, sponsored by Democrats Michael Cusick of Staten Island and Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan, have some similar language; both would permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds and allow government agencies like housing authorities to automatically forward voter information for registration.</p> <p>New York Votes would additionally establish same-day registration with a constitutional amendment (it isn’t permitted under the current state constitution), open polls two weeks before elections for what is known as “early voting,” expand absentee voting, and boost polling place resources and training. Voter Empowerment would establish online voter registration through the Board of Elections and automatically update registration information.</p> <p>A separate early voting bill, also sponsored by Kavanagh, would, in its current version, establish an early-voting window beginning eight days before an election.</p> <p>Finally, the so-called preclearance bill, sponsored by Brooklyn Democrat Latrice Walker, would seek to replicate some of the controls previously contained in the Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the Supreme Court. Counties where 10 percent of the population are racial or language minorities or which have been found to have denied voting rights to protected populations would need to submit any changes in voting-related practical or policy changes to the Attorney General’s office for approval.</p> <p>The early voting and voter empowerment bills both have versions in the Republican-controlled Senate. The former, sponsored by Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, was passed through the election committee and has been sent over to the local government committee. The latter, sponsored by Queens Democrat Michael Gianaris, was voted down, 6-3, in the elections committee less than 24 hours before the activists boarded their buses, including a “nay” vote by one of its own sponsors, Queens Democrat and Independent Democratic Conference member Tony Avella.</p> <p>Yet what would seem like a deflating defeat was received with cautious optimism by activists, who are happy that the leadership in the Senate -- “where these bills go to die,” was how one NYC Votes staffer put it -- were even publicly acknowledging the ideas.</p> <p>“Having [Senate Majority Leader John] Flanagan even talking about wanting to know the cost of it is a change in the right direction. Last year it would have been a flat ‘no,’” said Onida Coward Mayers, the NYCCFB director of voter assistance, referring to the Suffolk County Republican’s recent <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/05/flanagan-questions-cost-of-early-voting/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comments</a> citing the potential cost of early voting, while leaving the door open to continued conversations on reform.</p> <p>The day’s activities began with a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rally</a> held by legislators and advocates on the steps of the Capitol building’s famed “Million Dollar Staircase,” where it was moved after rain scuttled plans to hold it in Lafayette Park. After that, the group splintered into 11 teams, each with its own schedule of meetings; the idea was to try to have each legislator who had been open to a meeting hear from at least one of his or her own constituents. “They’re much more interested if it’s someone from their community, because they know that person represents many more at home,” explained Coward Mayers.</p> <p>The group Gotham Gazette trailed soon found itself in the imposingly bright and bustling Legislative Office Building, where hordes of staffers, lobbyists, and activists tried hard not to run into each other as they shuffled between meetings. First on the group’s schedule was Senator Roxanne Persaud, who had to run out but left an aide, who asked not to be identified, to speak with the six-person delegation. The Brooklyn legislator is one of a handful of Senate mainline Democrats who have not sponsored both of the Senate bills. No Republicans have signed on.</p> <p>As Amanda Melillo, public affairs officer at NYCCFB, explained that multi-hour lines dissuaded voters from participating in elections, the staffer nodded and spoke of her own experience during last year’s presidential election, saying, “I was out there, I saw the last-minute rush. I understand.” While she couldn’t quite commit to the senator sponsoring the bill, she promised to discuss it with her boss, and ended with the hope that “when we meet next year, it’ll be better.”</p> <p>A cramped elevator ride and brisk walk through halogen-lit hallways deposited the group at the office of Brooklyn Senator Jesse Hamilton, who greeted Coward Mayers with a hug and spent a few minutes posing for photographs with the activists. Hamilton and his seven colleagues in the IDC, a group that forms a governing coalition with Senate Republicans, are crucial to pushing through the bills that still have a chance in this legislative session, which runs through mid-June.</p> <p>The group quickly scored their first clear success: Melillo explained the intent of the preclearance measure and had not quite finished asking Hamilton to introduce it in the Senate before he piped up with, “I can do that, that’s not a problem.”</p> <p>He was a bit less receptive when the volunteers raised the issue of early voting. When Bella Wang, a 26-year-old PhD student at Princeton and former poll worker, brought up voters waiting “one to three hours” to get their ballot, Hamilton said that “that’s only in presidential elections that you get three hours.”</p> <p>Wendy Odle-Harvey, a volunteer in her fifties whose family moved to Brooklyn from Barbados in the 1970s, chimed in to say that if people vote in any election to find long lines and voting machine problems, they “don’t want to come out to vote for senator, for local races.”</p> <p>Hamilton promised to look a the bill, but told the group that they’d be best served by “talking to the Republicans, because you’re preaching to the choir.”</p> <p>Case in point, the group’s next scheduled meeting was with Republican Senator Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, who quickly got into a back-and-forth with Wang when she stated that people with oddly-spelled and hyphenated names often find themselves left off the voter rolls due to human error.</p> <p>“We have people with names, hyphenated or not hyphenated, voting in several elections” he said, and asserted that there were “people bused in from the Bronx and Westchester to vote in Brooklyn races.” Wang shot back that you were more likely to be “crushed by furniture” than to commit voter fraud, a claim that Golden vigorously disputed. While there have been sporadic claims of voter fraud in New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6770-schneiderman-not-one-single-substantiated-claim-of-voter-fraud-in-new-york-last-year" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">declared earlier this year</a> that there was not one substantiated incident of voter fraud in New York in 2016.</p> <p>As Melillo ticked off reasons why New York’s voter turnout is so low - <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/273112/report-new-york-ranks-41st-in-voter-turnout-in-2016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">41st</a> out of the 50 states in the 2016 general election, with 57 percent turnout - Golden asked if it couldn’t be that “people don’t care,” and argued that high immigrant populations and cultural differences led to low turnout in some districts, pointing to “Palestinian and Arab communities” in his own constituency. “Do they vote? No,” he said.</p> <p>Despite the disagreements, Golden conceded that improvements could be made to the state’s voting procedures, saying “there are a couple of things we can do to help people register and vote, and I’m open to that,” and agreeing to consider the bills. He threw out some of his own ideas, such as making poll workers’ pay non-taxable and getting the MTA to provide expanded service on election days.</p> <p>Asked about the probability that he would support any of the bills were they to come to a vote, he said “our leader is having conversations about the bill,” but declined to definitively take a position.</p> <p>Downstairs in the building’s cafeteria, past a group of Army personnel manning a series of small tables covered in military equipment as part of something called Fort Drum Day, the activists took a breather.</p> <p>“I didn’t really know what to expect…Say ‘I’m a constituent’ and maybe they’ll listen more, but there are a lot of groups here, so sometimes it feels like lip service,” said Natasha Padilla, 38, a Brooklynite who had taken a vacation day to go on the trip, as a group of people in bright green shirts emblazoned with the Airbnb logo chatted quietly 10 feet away.</p> <p>The final meeting of the day for the group Gotham Gazette followed took its members back through the packed elevators with the electronic voice and to the office of Brooklyn Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr., who was not available. Aide Joe Brady took his place for a quick discussion that largely consisted of Brady agreeing that there were issues with voting and pledging to discuss the proposals with the Assembly member.</p> <p>The issue of voting reform is a particularly sensitive one for legislators, Coward Mayers said, because it “taps into their livelihoods. They want to be safeguarded.” If successful, the reforms would shift their voter base, empowering a whole slate of people previously not involved in politics. That prospect can be frightening to elected officials that can pretty much predict the comfortable margin they’ll be reelected with under the current system. Incumbents in New York, where there are no term limits for state legislators, do very well election after election, often running unopposed or with nominal opposition.</p> <p>For the activists who gave up their weekday to show up at their doorstep, the legislators’ reticence is understandable but misplaced. With “a few million dollars in a multibillion dollar budget,” as Melillo put it, they could bring hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into the political process. (The state budget that was recently passed totals $153.1 billion in operating funds.)</p> <p>In a telling exchange with Senator Hamilton, Wang, the PhD student, brought up Minnesota, a state with same-day registration and early voting that also happens to have had the <a href="http://www.twincities.com/2016/11/29/minnesotas-no-1-in-voting-again/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">highest</a> percentage turnout in 2016 elections. As Hamilton began to speculate about the reasons Minnesotans may simply have a greater interest in voting, Padilla cut him off.</p> <p>“They got their people to vote. And it’s really cold there,” she said.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
State Electeds Insult City Criminal Justice While Reform in Albany is Minimal at Best 2017-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6837:state-electeds-insult-city-criminal-justice-while-reform-in-albany-is-minimal-at-best Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18510331656_3d976ced4b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo prison break" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed <a href="https://twitter.com/stschrader1/status/845778659206205444" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a flier</a> to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The week before, during <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-knocks-de-blasio-rikers-island-staying-open-article-1.2997154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a speech</a> in Manhattan, Governor Cuomo disparaged Mayor de Blasio for failing to close the notorious Rikers Island jail, accusing the mayor of “impotence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">These criticisms of the city come as the state government, led by Cuomo, struggles to make its own reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. Current state budget negotiations include a push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility so that 16- and 17-year-olds are largely prosecuted as juveniles, not adults. But the measure, which is seeing new daylight this year, has <a href="http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/new-york/2017/03/24/raise-age-central-ny-budget-talks/99600318/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faced strong opposition</a> from Senate Republicans for years, despite the fact that New York is now one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senate Republicans want teenagers charged with violent crimes to be tried as adults and they want all 16- and 17-year-olds tried in criminal, not family, court. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The Republican Conference holds a plurality in the Senate—and the power that comes with it—in part because Senator Hamilton and the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) do not caucus with the Democrats. Nominal “Democrat” Senator Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a 32-seat bare majority in the 63-seat chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Senator Hamilton says that far from diluting the “raise the age” effort, his position in the IDC empowers progressive reform like it. “I, along with my colleagues in the IDC, have pushed Raise the Age further than ever before in the New York State Senate,” he said. “My advocacy around broken windows policing is motivated by my support for Raise the Age.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For their part, city officials are defending their approach and pointing the finger back at the state. At a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about Cuomo’s Rikers comments, and said, “Our job is to address this crisis [on Rikers Island]. We’ve been doing it for three straight years…The state’s job is to take care of the state prison system."</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Carlos Menchaca exchanged sharp words with Senator Hamilton <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton/status/830561071593377792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on Twitter</a>, asking him, “What law are you advancing at the state level to curb the impact of Broken Windows policing?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since that exchange, Senator Hamilton has introduced a bill to make turnstile jumping -- perhaps the prototypical broken windows offense -- a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Evading the subway fare is a charge the NYPD disproportionately brings against young black and Latino New Yorkers. Since city police enforce state laws, that is one avenue state legislators could use to influence city criminal justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senator Hamilton, who is black, spoke of his son as a motivation for opposing broken windows policing and for supporting raising the age. “He’s at an age where ‘the talk’—about young black men, safety, and interactions with police—is not an abstraction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If the state raises the age of criminal responsibility, it will be the first major criminal justice reform legislation since the law ending the shackling of pregnant inmates in 2015. Executive action on prison reform has also slowed recently. After closing 13 prisons in his first term, Governor Cuomo has not closed any since 2013, even while the state prison population has <a href="http://www.scoc.ny.gov/pop.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continued to decline</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding to public defenders in the state. Cuomo insists he’s open to similar legislation but that it must be done through the budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">And <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a New York Times report</a> about rampant racial bias in New York State’s parole system led Cuomo to launch an investigation, but no findings have been made public and the parole system is unchanged.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parole reform is on <a href="http://www.caami.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Platform-for-Challenging-Incarceration-in-NY.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the list of criminal justice changes</a> that advocates have long hoped New York State would take up. The list also includes reform to the bail system, ending the use of solitary confinement, and a bill to accelerate trials. Republican control of the Senate, aided by the IDC, makes further reforms less likely.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speedy trial bill, Kalief’s Law, should be a no-brainer,” said gabriel sayegh*, the Co-Executive Director of Katal, an organization fighting mass incarceration. “It would reduce pre-trial detention in jails.” The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, but has stalled in the Senate. “Even common sense bills that have bi-partisan support don’t get done,” sayegh said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t think it’s a problem when state folks speak out on city issues, or vice versa,” continued sayegh. “We are eager to have the governor support the speedy trial bill, which would help us close Rikers. We want to see Senator Hamilton follow through by advancing legislation at the state level that addresses disparities in policing practices and arrests. They should connect their comments to action.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Brenden Beck is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center researching police, suburbs, inequality, and housing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrendenBeck" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BrendenBeck</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p> <p>*sayegh spells his name with all lowercase letters</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18510331656_3d976ced4b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo prison break" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed <a href="https://twitter.com/stschrader1/status/845778659206205444" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a flier</a> to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The week before, during <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-knocks-de-blasio-rikers-island-staying-open-article-1.2997154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a speech</a> in Manhattan, Governor Cuomo disparaged Mayor de Blasio for failing to close the notorious Rikers Island jail, accusing the mayor of “impotence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">These criticisms of the city come as the state government, led by Cuomo, struggles to make its own reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. Current state budget negotiations include a push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility so that 16- and 17-year-olds are largely prosecuted as juveniles, not adults. But the measure, which is seeing new daylight this year, has <a href="http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/new-york/2017/03/24/raise-age-central-ny-budget-talks/99600318/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faced strong opposition</a> from Senate Republicans for years, despite the fact that New York is now one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senate Republicans want teenagers charged with violent crimes to be tried as adults and they want all 16- and 17-year-olds tried in criminal, not family, court. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The Republican Conference holds a plurality in the Senate—and the power that comes with it—in part because Senator Hamilton and the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) do not caucus with the Democrats. Nominal “Democrat” Senator Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a 32-seat bare majority in the 63-seat chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Senator Hamilton says that far from diluting the “raise the age” effort, his position in the IDC empowers progressive reform like it. “I, along with my colleagues in the IDC, have pushed Raise the Age further than ever before in the New York State Senate,” he said. “My advocacy around broken windows policing is motivated by my support for Raise the Age.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For their part, city officials are defending their approach and pointing the finger back at the state. At a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about Cuomo’s Rikers comments, and said, “Our job is to address this crisis [on Rikers Island]. We’ve been doing it for three straight years…The state’s job is to take care of the state prison system."</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Carlos Menchaca exchanged sharp words with Senator Hamilton <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton/status/830561071593377792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on Twitter</a>, asking him, “What law are you advancing at the state level to curb the impact of Broken Windows policing?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since that exchange, Senator Hamilton has introduced a bill to make turnstile jumping -- perhaps the prototypical broken windows offense -- a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Evading the subway fare is a charge the NYPD disproportionately brings against young black and Latino New Yorkers. Since city police enforce state laws, that is one avenue state legislators could use to influence city criminal justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senator Hamilton, who is black, spoke of his son as a motivation for opposing broken windows policing and for supporting raising the age. “He’s at an age where ‘the talk’—about young black men, safety, and interactions with police—is not an abstraction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If the state raises the age of criminal responsibility, it will be the first major criminal justice reform legislation since the law ending the shackling of pregnant inmates in 2015. Executive action on prison reform has also slowed recently. After closing 13 prisons in his first term, Governor Cuomo has not closed any since 2013, even while the state prison population has <a href="http://www.scoc.ny.gov/pop.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continued to decline</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding to public defenders in the state. Cuomo insists he’s open to similar legislation but that it must be done through the budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">And <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a New York Times report</a> about rampant racial bias in New York State’s parole system led Cuomo to launch an investigation, but no findings have been made public and the parole system is unchanged.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parole reform is on <a href="http://www.caami.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Platform-for-Challenging-Incarceration-in-NY.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the list of criminal justice changes</a> that advocates have long hoped New York State would take up. The list also includes reform to the bail system, ending the use of solitary confinement, and a bill to accelerate trials. Republican control of the Senate, aided by the IDC, makes further reforms less likely.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speedy trial bill, Kalief’s Law, should be a no-brainer,” said gabriel sayegh*, the Co-Executive Director of Katal, an organization fighting mass incarceration. “It would reduce pre-trial detention in jails.” The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, but has stalled in the Senate. “Even common sense bills that have bi-partisan support don’t get done,” sayegh said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t think it’s a problem when state folks speak out on city issues, or vice versa,” continued sayegh. “We are eager to have the governor support the speedy trial bill, which would help us close Rikers. We want to see Senator Hamilton follow through by advancing legislation at the state level that addresses disparities in policing practices and arrests. They should connect their comments to action.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Brenden Beck is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center researching police, suburbs, inequality, and housing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrendenBeck" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BrendenBeck</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p> <p>*sayegh spells his name with all lowercase letters</p>