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/robert-cornegy 2018-11-18T23:01:21+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
Fostering Feeder Schools Will Improve Diversity at the Specialized High Schools 2018-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-02T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7841-fostering-feeder-schools-to-improve-diversity-at-the-specialized-high-schools Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41541458224_4763c6f367_z.jpg" alt="students" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>students (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The public education system in New York City remains one of the most segregated and unequally resourced school systems in the country, reflective of segregation and inequality in other areas of our civic life.</p> <p>That segregation is starkly obvious in our specialized high schools. In a city where two out of three public high school students are black or Latino, it is unacceptable that they comprise only 10% of the student body across all eight of our elite high schools.<br /> <br />Much has been made recently of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, or SHSAT, from the admissions process. The plan is to replace it with a more holistic assessment of achievement based on students’ classroom grades, scores on state standardized English and math tests, and potentially other criteria yet to be determined. But the lack of diversity in our specialized high schools is not a function of the admissions process alone.<br /> <br />The city’s specialized high schools <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/06/02/mayor-bill-de-blasio-new-york-city-will-push-for-admissions-changes-at-elite-and-segregated-specialized-high-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">draw from just 21</a> of the nearly 600 public middle schools citywide. The two Brooklyn City Council districts that we represent factor into this discussion in important ways, and help us draw a path toward improvements to our school system and more diversity at our elite high schools.<br /> <br />Three of these 21 feeder schools are located in the city’s 43rd City Council District in south Brooklyn, with nearly a quarter of all students admitted to specialized high schools coming from School Districts 20, 21, and 22. The schools in these communities are exceptionally diverse, with a majority of students coming from first and second generation immigrant families -- white, black, Hispanic, and Asian alike.<br /> <br />District 16 in central Brooklyn, where schools are 77 percent black and 18.5 percent Hispanic, is a different story. There is not one feeder middle school in District 16, which decades ago had enhanced academics that sent hundreds of students of color to the specialized schools. In fact, until 2015, District 16 schools did not offer the advanced level courses and programming known as “gifted and talented.”<br /> <br />It took pressure from local elected officials forced the Department of Education to provide many majority-minority school districts access to the kind of enhanced academics that provide a pathway to the specialized schools. Despite representing over two-thirds of our public school population, black and Latino students make up <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/03/31/with-diversity-still-dismal-at-specialized-schools-new-york-city-officials-and-parents-shift-focus-to-gifted-programs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only 27% of those enrolled</a> in gifted and talented programs. But even now, the enhanced academics are poorly resourced.<br /> <br />To be sure, improving the admissions process to ensure greater diversity in our specialized high schools is critically important. Expanding access to a great education for minority communities already facing obstacles to their achievement is necessary if we are going to provide equality of opportunity for all New Yorkers.<br /> <br />High-stakes, standardized tests like the SHSAT are poor indicators of students’ potential for success. However, the test is not in itself the problem, and need not be eliminated in order to increase opportunity and diversity. But even with additional methods of assessment, the reality of unequal resources and underinvestment in certain schools would mean improving diversity at our elite high schools will still be a significant challenge.<br /> <br />When you consider that <a href="https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/sg158/PDFs/Pathways_to_elite_education/PathwaystoAnEliteEducation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nearly 60% of the middle schools</a> that sent students to specialized high schools were in districts that had gifted and talented schools that required a test for admission, it is evident how decades of unequal investment in enrichment for students of color might be the most significant contributing factor to the city’s problem of diversity in specialized high schools.<br /> <br />Barring state intervention, the students who receive a qualifying score on the SHSAT will continue to be those who have access to test prep and other educational enrichment that most black and Latino students do not.<br /> <br />Today, the National Society of Black Engineers offers test prep to youngsters in District 16 schools to prepare them for tests like the SHSAT. This programming should be expanded, not just to succeed on a test, but to teach how to succeed in life. We must give students enriching experiences that make them connect with learning and foster critical thought and engagement. And we have to do more to create parent awareness and interest in gifted and talented programming.<br /> <br />But it is not enough simply to offer gifted and talented programs and call it a day. The programming provided must be adequately resourced and targeted at the students who are currently underrepresented.<br /> <br />Our colleagues in the City Council agree that the city must restore the funding for enhanced academics in black and Latino communities. As recently as 1989, Brooklyn Tech, for example, was 51 percent black and Latino. As enhanced academics for high-potential students was eliminated in those communities, the percentages of students of color decreased to the point we are at today. We know students, whether in southern or central Brooklyn, can compete successfully if given the resources. They have done it before. They can do it again.<br /> <br />Ending the SHSAT without providing adequate funding and a commitment to educating all students equitably will do nothing to adequately resolve the lack of diversity in our schools, specialized or otherwise.<br /> <br />*** <br />Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. Justin Brannan represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst in the City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/robertcornegyjr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RobertCornegyJr</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustinBrannan</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p> <p>Note: this column has been corrected to reflect that in&nbsp;1989, Brooklyn Tech was 51 percent black and Latino, not 67 percent as originally stated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/41541458224_4763c6f367_z.jpg" alt="students" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>students (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The public education system in New York City remains one of the most segregated and unequally resourced school systems in the country, reflective of segregation and inequality in other areas of our civic life.</p> <p>That segregation is starkly obvious in our specialized high schools. In a city where two out of three public high school students are black or Latino, it is unacceptable that they comprise only 10% of the student body across all eight of our elite high schools.<br /> <br />Much has been made recently of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, or SHSAT, from the admissions process. The plan is to replace it with a more holistic assessment of achievement based on students’ classroom grades, scores on state standardized English and math tests, and potentially other criteria yet to be determined. But the lack of diversity in our specialized high schools is not a function of the admissions process alone.<br /> <br />The city’s specialized high schools <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/06/02/mayor-bill-de-blasio-new-york-city-will-push-for-admissions-changes-at-elite-and-segregated-specialized-high-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">draw from just 21</a> of the nearly 600 public middle schools citywide. The two Brooklyn City Council districts that we represent factor into this discussion in important ways, and help us draw a path toward improvements to our school system and more diversity at our elite high schools.<br /> <br />Three of these 21 feeder schools are located in the city’s 43rd City Council District in south Brooklyn, with nearly a quarter of all students admitted to specialized high schools coming from School Districts 20, 21, and 22. The schools in these communities are exceptionally diverse, with a majority of students coming from first and second generation immigrant families -- white, black, Hispanic, and Asian alike.<br /> <br />District 16 in central Brooklyn, where schools are 77 percent black and 18.5 percent Hispanic, is a different story. There is not one feeder middle school in District 16, which decades ago had enhanced academics that sent hundreds of students of color to the specialized schools. In fact, until 2015, District 16 schools did not offer the advanced level courses and programming known as “gifted and talented.”<br /> <br />It took pressure from local elected officials forced the Department of Education to provide many majority-minority school districts access to the kind of enhanced academics that provide a pathway to the specialized schools. Despite representing over two-thirds of our public school population, black and Latino students make up <a href="https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/03/31/with-diversity-still-dismal-at-specialized-schools-new-york-city-officials-and-parents-shift-focus-to-gifted-programs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only 27% of those enrolled</a> in gifted and talented programs. But even now, the enhanced academics are poorly resourced.<br /> <br />To be sure, improving the admissions process to ensure greater diversity in our specialized high schools is critically important. Expanding access to a great education for minority communities already facing obstacles to their achievement is necessary if we are going to provide equality of opportunity for all New Yorkers.<br /> <br />High-stakes, standardized tests like the SHSAT are poor indicators of students’ potential for success. However, the test is not in itself the problem, and need not be eliminated in order to increase opportunity and diversity. But even with additional methods of assessment, the reality of unequal resources and underinvestment in certain schools would mean improving diversity at our elite high schools will still be a significant challenge.<br /> <br />When you consider that <a href="https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/sg158/PDFs/Pathways_to_elite_education/PathwaystoAnEliteEducation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">nearly 60% of the middle schools</a> that sent students to specialized high schools were in districts that had gifted and talented schools that required a test for admission, it is evident how decades of unequal investment in enrichment for students of color might be the most significant contributing factor to the city’s problem of diversity in specialized high schools.<br /> <br />Barring state intervention, the students who receive a qualifying score on the SHSAT will continue to be those who have access to test prep and other educational enrichment that most black and Latino students do not.<br /> <br />Today, the National Society of Black Engineers offers test prep to youngsters in District 16 schools to prepare them for tests like the SHSAT. This programming should be expanded, not just to succeed on a test, but to teach how to succeed in life. We must give students enriching experiences that make them connect with learning and foster critical thought and engagement. And we have to do more to create parent awareness and interest in gifted and talented programming.<br /> <br />But it is not enough simply to offer gifted and talented programs and call it a day. The programming provided must be adequately resourced and targeted at the students who are currently underrepresented.<br /> <br />Our colleagues in the City Council agree that the city must restore the funding for enhanced academics in black and Latino communities. As recently as 1989, Brooklyn Tech, for example, was 51 percent black and Latino. As enhanced academics for high-potential students was eliminated in those communities, the percentages of students of color decreased to the point we are at today. We know students, whether in southern or central Brooklyn, can compete successfully if given the resources. They have done it before. They can do it again.<br /> <br />Ending the SHSAT without providing adequate funding and a commitment to educating all students equitably will do nothing to adequately resolve the lack of diversity in our schools, specialized or otherwise.<br /> <br />*** <br />Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. Justin Brannan represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst in the City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/robertcornegyjr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RobertCornegyJr</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustinBrannan</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p> <p>Note: this column has been corrected to reflect that in&nbsp;1989, Brooklyn Tech was 51 percent black and Latino, not 67 percent as originally stated.</p>
We Need Commercial Waste Reform, and Now We Have a Plan 2018-07-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7816-we-need-commercial-waste-reform-and-now-we-have-a-plan Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/city-council-cm-cornegy.jpg" alt="city council cm cornegy" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New Yorkers have good reason to be concerned, even angry, about the state of affairs in our city's commercial waste industry. Stakeholders and commentators are absolutely right to note that, among other issues to address, the tragic loss of life in this industry is unacceptable.</p> <p>However, agreement on the importance of cleaning up commercial waste carting does not change the fact that a huge question is still on the table: How can we actually achieve our shared goals as quickly and effectively as possible?</p> <p>In many ways, the answer lies in comments made just this week by Mayor de Blasio, when he said, "I hope that we can really strengthen the hand of the Business Integrity Commission, give them a lot more tools, a lot more teeth to work with in their regulation of that industry."</p> <p>My colleagues in the City Council and I have introduced legislation, known as Intro. 996, which would do that by empowering the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to raise standards in the commercial waste industry and hold bad actors accountable.</p> <p>Our bill would enable BIC to create standardized safety certifications for industry employees and institute requirements that ensure workers are properly trained. It would also give BIC the tools to establish clear rules regarding allowable levels of emissions for commercial waste trucks. Additionally, the bill would empower BIC to more stringently regulate the industry with regard to maximizing efficiency along each waste collection route.</p> <p>These are just several examples of how Intro. 996 would give BIC more of the tools and teeth that Mayor de Blasio has said are necessary for advancing commercial waste carting reforms. Our legislation would also let BIC establish its own task force to offer additional insight and recommendations for continuing to improve this industry over the long-term.</p> <p>On the other hand, Mayor de Blasio's own Department of Sanitation has offered a nebulous and flawed proposal to develop commercial waste zones, which would replace the industry's current open market system with a series of geographic zones that are exclusively contracted to a small number of waste carters.</p> <p>First, Sanitation’s proposal is not squarely focused on advancing the mayor's stated goal of empowering BIC. By relying on a fundamental restructuring of the industry, this plan would essentially take power away from BIC rather than giving it more of the tools it needs to regulate carting companies.</p> <p>There is also the issue of unintended consequences. It is common knowledge by now that the zone-based waste collection plan implemented last year in Los Angeles had a truly disastrous rollout. Prices and service complaints skyrocketed, leading to a chaotic situation that, if it were to happen in New York, would surely make it extremely difficult to achieve our shared goals.</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation’s own <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/bic/downloads/pdf/pr/private_carting_release_2016_16_8.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2016 report</a>, released as part of introducing its waste zone proposal, acknowledged that costs for small businesses that are served by this industry would increase under a zone-based plan. Additionally, the report acknowledged that zones would lead to job losses in the industry - and I do not think that efforts to increase safety have to include putting people out of work.</p> <p>To be clear, I am ready to advance commercial waste carting reforms now and deliver results on increasing safety, reducing environmental impact and increasing regulatory oversight. And I want to achieve this in the way that Mayor de Blasio himself has articulated - by giving BIC more of the tools and teeth it needs.</p> <p>Now is the time to translate our concerns about this industry into tangible, sensible, and effective action - we just need to get it done.</p> <p>***<br /> Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the central Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RobertCornegyJr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RobertCornegyJr</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/city-council-cm-cornegy.jpg" alt="city council cm cornegy" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>New Yorkers have good reason to be concerned, even angry, about the state of affairs in our city's commercial waste industry. Stakeholders and commentators are absolutely right to note that, among other issues to address, the tragic loss of life in this industry is unacceptable.</p> <p>However, agreement on the importance of cleaning up commercial waste carting does not change the fact that a huge question is still on the table: How can we actually achieve our shared goals as quickly and effectively as possible?</p> <p>In many ways, the answer lies in comments made just this week by Mayor de Blasio, when he said, "I hope that we can really strengthen the hand of the Business Integrity Commission, give them a lot more tools, a lot more teeth to work with in their regulation of that industry."</p> <p>My colleagues in the City Council and I have introduced legislation, known as Intro. 996, which would do that by empowering the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to raise standards in the commercial waste industry and hold bad actors accountable.</p> <p>Our bill would enable BIC to create standardized safety certifications for industry employees and institute requirements that ensure workers are properly trained. It would also give BIC the tools to establish clear rules regarding allowable levels of emissions for commercial waste trucks. Additionally, the bill would empower BIC to more stringently regulate the industry with regard to maximizing efficiency along each waste collection route.</p> <p>These are just several examples of how Intro. 996 would give BIC more of the tools and teeth that Mayor de Blasio has said are necessary for advancing commercial waste carting reforms. Our legislation would also let BIC establish its own task force to offer additional insight and recommendations for continuing to improve this industry over the long-term.</p> <p>On the other hand, Mayor de Blasio's own Department of Sanitation has offered a nebulous and flawed proposal to develop commercial waste zones, which would replace the industry's current open market system with a series of geographic zones that are exclusively contracted to a small number of waste carters.</p> <p>First, Sanitation’s proposal is not squarely focused on advancing the mayor's stated goal of empowering BIC. By relying on a fundamental restructuring of the industry, this plan would essentially take power away from BIC rather than giving it more of the tools it needs to regulate carting companies.</p> <p>There is also the issue of unintended consequences. It is common knowledge by now that the zone-based waste collection plan implemented last year in Los Angeles had a truly disastrous rollout. Prices and service complaints skyrocketed, leading to a chaotic situation that, if it were to happen in New York, would surely make it extremely difficult to achieve our shared goals.</p> <p>The Department of Sanitation’s own <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/bic/downloads/pdf/pr/private_carting_release_2016_16_8.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2016 report</a>, released as part of introducing its waste zone proposal, acknowledged that costs for small businesses that are served by this industry would increase under a zone-based plan. Additionally, the report acknowledged that zones would lead to job losses in the industry - and I do not think that efforts to increase safety have to include putting people out of work.</p> <p>To be clear, I am ready to advance commercial waste carting reforms now and deliver results on increasing safety, reducing environmental impact and increasing regulatory oversight. And I want to achieve this in the way that Mayor de Blasio himself has articulated - by giving BIC more of the tools and teeth it needs.</p> <p>Now is the time to translate our concerns about this industry into tangible, sensible, and effective action - we just need to get it done.</p> <p>***<br /> Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the central Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RobertCornegyJr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RobertCornegyJr</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Johnson Makes Series of City Council Changes, But Sidelines Formal Rules Reforms 2018-06-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7726-johnson-makes-series-of-city-council-changes-but-sidelines-formal-rules-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cojo-cm-team.jpg" alt="cojo cm team" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, middle, and Council members (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In December, several City Council members jostling to become the powerful next speaker of the 51-member legislative body <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">signed on</a> to a broad platform of reforms to the Council’s rules and procedures, which can have a significant impact on city law-making and funding for communities. Both returning and newly-elected Council members, 33 of them in total, backed the proposals, which would make legislative drafting procedures more transparent, bolster staffing for prominent divisions such as land use, and tweak the Council’s internal culture in significant ways, among other more minor adjustments.</p> <p>But a deadline set in that platform for convening a public hearing on the proposals came and went as new Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was among the signatories, has chosen instead to implement administrative changes in lieu of more formal reforms through the Council’s Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. Several Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette largely praised those measures but others expressed concern that important promises have been left unfulfilled.</p> <p>In a process somewhat similar to four years prior when Council members proposed changes ahead of the election of a new speaker, the document signed by the Council members in December of last year laid out broad areas where the Council could improve its functions, including in bill drafting, the role and operations of the 40-plus issue committees, the body’s oversight and investigations capacity, its budget negotiation process, its land use powers, and the quality of working life for members and their staff.</p> <p>“A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018,” states the letter, signed by both Speaker Johnson and Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whom he appointed as chair of the rules committee. “The reforms should then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later than June 2018.”</p> <p>By this time in 2014, then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito had ushered in transformative rules changes that made the body more democratic, diluting some of the traditional powers of the speaker and empowering individual members. The changes were spearheaded along with Council Member Brad Lander, who she appointed to chair the rules committee and was instrumental in drafting the reforms.</p> <p>Discretionary funding -- also known as “member items” that are usually awarded by Council members to local nonprofits in their districts -- was equalized across Council districts, with additional resources allocated to poorer districts, and could no longer be a tool to punish members who might oppose the speaker, as Mark-Viverito’s predecessors had used it. A new bill drafting unit was created to aid Council members and speed up the legislative process, and other changes were made to how bills are introduced and heard in committees.</p> <p>Johnson has taken a different tack, making significant administrative changes that cover large parts of the rules reform package and were key pledges he made as he ran for speaker.</p> <p>The Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voted</a> to significantly increase its own annual budget to $81.3 million, up from $64 million, with the new funds pegged for staffing increases in the land use, legislative, and finance divisions. A dedicated 15-member oversight and investigations unit was created to conduct systemic analyses of city agencies and their functioning. According to a Council spokesperson, the central staff has also internally overseen improvements in bill drafting, no longer allowing indefinite delays on bill introductions and impressing on members to move their bills or release them for others. Members can now also electronically access the status of their bills in real time and there is a timely process for staff to express legal concerns with bill language. Members are provided legal memos on their bills on request, which is apparently rare. All moves meant to address major areas of frustration for some members, though key pieces of proposed changes to bill-drafting have not been implemented.</p> <p>In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the Council also moved rapidly to change its rules to mandate anti-sexual harassment trainings.</p> <p>“I am proud to have taken important steps on necessary reforms in my first months as speaker, including the creation of the new Oversight and Investigations Unit that will strengthen our capacity for monitoring city agencies as mandated by the charter,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “I will continue to discuss with members what reforms should be made in the future to help better serve the people of New York.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/photobyemily.jpg" alt="photobyemily" width="181" height="141" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Council Member Koslowitz (pictured), chair of the rules committee, initially said the Council member was unfamiliar with the rules reform package that she had signed. When presented with the full list of proposals, the spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>By and large, Council members are appreciative of the steps Johnson has taken. Several members said their bills are moving faster and, without making any comparisons with Mark-Viverito, that Johnson is openly seeking member input on the budget and larger strategy. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The rules reform this time around, there were a lot of legitimate questions about whether or not these reforms needed to be put into the Council’s rules or they could just be effected,” said Council Member Rory Lancman, a member of the rules committee. “A lot of them had to do with resource allocation. So I don’t know if once Corey’s done with putting his administrative imprint on the body, how much of the rules reforms still need to get done. Maybe that’ll be something to assess once we get through the city budget.”</p> <p>At the same time, some members declined to comment, taking a wait-and-see approach before they evaluate Johnson’s commitment to rules reform. Others only agreed to speak anonymously, fearing what they say is increased scrutiny of public comments by the speaker’s office.</p> <p>Those members pointed out, for instance, that though there have been changes to bill drafting, the process still falls largely to the discretion of the speaker’s central staff. Under a long-standing process, Council members who made “first-in-time” legislative services requests -- Council speak for when a member asks for a bill to be drafted -- were given priority even if other members may have similar bill requests. Having a “first-in-time” request meant that members could sit on bills indefinitely, which the rules reforms would have amended with an official time-bound process.</p> <p>A Council spokesperson said that practice has ended and that members have offered positive feedback for the changes that have been made. Members are no longer allowed to sit on bills, and lose them to other members, the spokesperson said, without providing the details of how the new protocols work.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, said that is perhaps the most significant item in the rules reform package. “There’s no known criteria by which they’re making that decision and that needs to change,” he said in a phone interview. “At the very least, the speaker’s office ought to declare the criteria by which they decide which bills are moved.”</p> <p>Council members who spoke to Gotham Gazette seemed to be in the dark about whether rules reforms were even being discussed. The overarching platform hasn’t been discussed in hearings though some of the issues have been raised in the Democratic conference meetings, said one member who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The first-in-time issues have not been changed,” the member said. “They did update the database -- truthfully, this was mostly done last term -- you can find out more quickly whether you’re first-in-time or not, but the process itself is still exactly as it was. And the legal concerns issue,” about getting legal opinions on bills in a timely manner, “is still as it was...And some of the disability and accessibility investments [for Council hearings] still need to be advanced.”</p> <p>Though the Council allocated more money for pay raises for staffers, it hasn’t implemented pay parity with other city agencies where benefits are better and salaries are higher, despite that being a priority outlined in the draft of reforms. “Yeah, I would add that to the list,” the Council member said. Nor is childcare provided to members or staffers, as called for in the reform proposal.</p> <p>The Council spokesperson noted that audio induction loops for those with hearing impairments were added last year and that language accessibility can be requested. The spokesperson also said that pay parity has been discussed with members when the Council was deciding its own budget, and ultimately members get to decide how they will use the increased funds budgeted for their offices and staff. The spokesperson also acknowledged that the Council does not currently provide childcare options but insisted that the Council is always looking at ways to expand it for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine, one of Johnson’s chief rivals for the speakership, said the Council has made major improvements. “[The Speaker] has made progress on a lot of fronts,” he said, pointing to the uptick in the budget, the staffing increases, and more transparency and faster timelines on bill introductions. “It helps tremendously in managing your LS [legislative service] requests to have real-time access to that information. They’ve also staffed up pretty dramatically in the bill-drafting unit,” he said. “And it’s more equitable now. Everybody gets to identify 10 priority LSs which we want staff to work on and that evens it out a little bit more.”</p> <p>Echoing Lancman, Levine said a formal hearing wasn’t absolutely necessary. “These changes have been possible through a combination of changing internal procedure, through allocation of resources, and that really is a very big deal,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Some members are waiting until after budget negotiations have concluded with the administration to see more changes go into effect, particularly with new funding at the Council’s disposal.</p> <p>“To date, the specifics of the rules reform stuff that we signed on to hasn’t been evidenced,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy, another current rules committee member and speaker candidate of last year. “There has been some efforts, especially in bill drafting, to make sure that bills move faster. But we’re so deep in the budget and I’m on the budget negotiation team, I can’t really see anything. I almost don’t know what’s going on around me as it relates to the legislation or the rules reform because we’re so deep in the budget.”</p> <p>Cornegy said he wants to see “a bit more latitude” for members in the drafting process so bills can move more quickly.</p> <p>Council Member Adrienne Adams, also a rules committee member, said very briefly before a Council hearing, “We’re still waiting. It’s been a while. We’re still waiting. I really don’t have anything to add right now.”</p> <p>Among other items that remain unfinished are changes to the functioning of the Council committees, which hear bills and hold oversight hearings.</p> <p>Despite being included in the proposed agenda, there’s still no protocol for committee hearing scheduling; there isn’t a standard process for members who want to switch committees midway through the term; hearings are not automatically triggered for bills with popular support; and committee staff aren’t publishing recaps of hearings that summarize testimony, requests made by members and promises made by the administration (though the full testimony from hearings continues to be readily available online.)</p> <p>It’s likely once the budget is decided, which could be as soon as the coming week, that the Council will ramp up some of the changes put in motion by Johnson and get to other delayed reforms. Yet, Council members and government reform groups say that needs to happen in a public, transparent way. “If the speaker and 32 members made a commitment to pass rules reforms,” said Camarda of Reinvent Albany, “they should honor that commitment and hold public hearings to solicit input and pass meaningful rules changes.”</p> <p>Camarda also pointed to a <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/05/12/city-council-speaker-breaks-transparency-promise-watchdog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Post report</a> from May that highlighted Johnson’s partial reversal on a promise to regularly publish his full public schedule and details of his contact with lobbyists. “We hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend that the speaker’s promises on good government issues go unfulfilled,” Camarda said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Inset Koslowitz photo by Emil Cohen</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cojo-cm-team.jpg" alt="cojo cm team" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson, middle, and Council members (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>In December, several City Council members jostling to become the powerful next speaker of the 51-member legislative body <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7378-rules-reform-package-supported-by-33-current-and-incoming-city-council-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">signed on</a> to a broad platform of reforms to the Council’s rules and procedures, which can have a significant impact on city law-making and funding for communities. Both returning and newly-elected Council members, 33 of them in total, backed the proposals, which would make legislative drafting procedures more transparent, bolster staffing for prominent divisions such as land use, and tweak the Council’s internal culture in significant ways, among other more minor adjustments.</p> <p>But a deadline set in that platform for convening a public hearing on the proposals came and went as new Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was among the signatories, has chosen instead to implement administrative changes in lieu of more formal reforms through the Council’s Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. Several Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette largely praised those measures but others expressed concern that important promises have been left unfulfilled.</p> <p>In a process somewhat similar to four years prior when Council members proposed changes ahead of the election of a new speaker, the document signed by the Council members in December of last year laid out broad areas where the Council could improve its functions, including in bill drafting, the role and operations of the 40-plus issue committees, the body’s oversight and investigations capacity, its budget negotiation process, its land use powers, and the quality of working life for members and their staff.</p> <p>“A hearing should be held in the Rules Committee on these reforms – as well as any others proposed by good government groups or members of the public – in the first quarter of 2018,” states the letter, signed by both Speaker Johnson and Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whom he appointed as chair of the rules committee. “The reforms should then be converted into a Rules Resolution, and adopted by the Council by March 2018, but no later than June 2018.”</p> <p>By this time in 2014, then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito had ushered in transformative rules changes that made the body more democratic, diluting some of the traditional powers of the speaker and empowering individual members. The changes were spearheaded along with Council Member Brad Lander, who she appointed to chair the rules committee and was instrumental in drafting the reforms.</p> <p>Discretionary funding -- also known as “member items” that are usually awarded by Council members to local nonprofits in their districts -- was equalized across Council districts, with additional resources allocated to poorer districts, and could no longer be a tool to punish members who might oppose the speaker, as Mark-Viverito’s predecessors had used it. A new bill drafting unit was created to aid Council members and speed up the legislative process, and other changes were made to how bills are introduced and heard in committees.</p> <p>Johnson has taken a different tack, making significant administrative changes that cover large parts of the rules reform package and were key pledges he made as he ran for speaker.</p> <p>The Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">voted</a> to significantly increase its own annual budget to $81.3 million, up from $64 million, with the new funds pegged for staffing increases in the land use, legislative, and finance divisions. A dedicated 15-member oversight and investigations unit was created to conduct systemic analyses of city agencies and their functioning. According to a Council spokesperson, the central staff has also internally overseen improvements in bill drafting, no longer allowing indefinite delays on bill introductions and impressing on members to move their bills or release them for others. Members can now also electronically access the status of their bills in real time and there is a timely process for staff to express legal concerns with bill language. Members are provided legal memos on their bills on request, which is apparently rare. All moves meant to address major areas of frustration for some members, though key pieces of proposed changes to bill-drafting have not been implemented.</p> <p>In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the Council also moved rapidly to change its rules to mandate anti-sexual harassment trainings.</p> <p>“I am proud to have taken important steps on necessary reforms in my first months as speaker, including the creation of the new Oversight and Investigations Unit that will strengthen our capacity for monitoring city agencies as mandated by the charter,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “I will continue to discuss with members what reforms should be made in the future to help better serve the people of New York.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/photobyemily.jpg" alt="photobyemily" width="181" height="141" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Council Member Koslowitz (pictured), chair of the rules committee, initially said the Council member was unfamiliar with the rules reform package that she had signed. When presented with the full list of proposals, the spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>By and large, Council members are appreciative of the steps Johnson has taken. Several members said their bills are moving faster and, without making any comparisons with Mark-Viverito, that Johnson is openly seeking member input on the budget and larger strategy. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The rules reform this time around, there were a lot of legitimate questions about whether or not these reforms needed to be put into the Council’s rules or they could just be effected,” said Council Member Rory Lancman, a member of the rules committee. “A lot of them had to do with resource allocation. So I don’t know if once Corey’s done with putting his administrative imprint on the body, how much of the rules reforms still need to get done. Maybe that’ll be something to assess once we get through the city budget.”</p> <p>At the same time, some members declined to comment, taking a wait-and-see approach before they evaluate Johnson’s commitment to rules reform. Others only agreed to speak anonymously, fearing what they say is increased scrutiny of public comments by the speaker’s office.</p> <p>Those members pointed out, for instance, that though there have been changes to bill drafting, the process still falls largely to the discretion of the speaker’s central staff. Under a long-standing process, Council members who made “first-in-time” legislative services requests -- Council speak for when a member asks for a bill to be drafted -- were given priority even if other members may have similar bill requests. Having a “first-in-time” request meant that members could sit on bills indefinitely, which the rules reforms would have amended with an official time-bound process.</p> <p>A Council spokesperson said that practice has ended and that members have offered positive feedback for the changes that have been made. Members are no longer allowed to sit on bills, and lose them to other members, the spokesperson said, without providing the details of how the new protocols work.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, said that is perhaps the most significant item in the rules reform package. “There’s no known criteria by which they’re making that decision and that needs to change,” he said in a phone interview. “At the very least, the speaker’s office ought to declare the criteria by which they decide which bills are moved.”</p> <p>Council members who spoke to Gotham Gazette seemed to be in the dark about whether rules reforms were even being discussed. The overarching platform hasn’t been discussed in hearings though some of the issues have been raised in the Democratic conference meetings, said one member who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The first-in-time issues have not been changed,” the member said. “They did update the database -- truthfully, this was mostly done last term -- you can find out more quickly whether you’re first-in-time or not, but the process itself is still exactly as it was. And the legal concerns issue,” about getting legal opinions on bills in a timely manner, “is still as it was...And some of the disability and accessibility investments [for Council hearings] still need to be advanced.”</p> <p>Though the Council allocated more money for pay raises for staffers, it hasn’t implemented pay parity with other city agencies where benefits are better and salaries are higher, despite that being a priority outlined in the draft of reforms. “Yeah, I would add that to the list,” the Council member said. Nor is childcare provided to members or staffers, as called for in the reform proposal.</p> <p>The Council spokesperson noted that audio induction loops for those with hearing impairments were added last year and that language accessibility can be requested. The spokesperson also said that pay parity has been discussed with members when the Council was deciding its own budget, and ultimately members get to decide how they will use the increased funds budgeted for their offices and staff. The spokesperson also acknowledged that the Council does not currently provide childcare options but insisted that the Council is always looking at ways to expand it for all New Yorkers.</p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine, one of Johnson’s chief rivals for the speakership, said the Council has made major improvements. “[The Speaker] has made progress on a lot of fronts,” he said, pointing to the uptick in the budget, the staffing increases, and more transparency and faster timelines on bill introductions. “It helps tremendously in managing your LS [legislative service] requests to have real-time access to that information. They’ve also staffed up pretty dramatically in the bill-drafting unit,” he said. “And it’s more equitable now. Everybody gets to identify 10 priority LSs which we want staff to work on and that evens it out a little bit more.”</p> <p>Echoing Lancman, Levine said a formal hearing wasn’t absolutely necessary. “These changes have been possible through a combination of changing internal procedure, through allocation of resources, and that really is a very big deal,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Some members are waiting until after budget negotiations have concluded with the administration to see more changes go into effect, particularly with new funding at the Council’s disposal.</p> <p>“To date, the specifics of the rules reform stuff that we signed on to hasn’t been evidenced,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy, another current rules committee member and speaker candidate of last year. “There has been some efforts, especially in bill drafting, to make sure that bills move faster. But we’re so deep in the budget and I’m on the budget negotiation team, I can’t really see anything. I almost don’t know what’s going on around me as it relates to the legislation or the rules reform because we’re so deep in the budget.”</p> <p>Cornegy said he wants to see “a bit more latitude” for members in the drafting process so bills can move more quickly.</p> <p>Council Member Adrienne Adams, also a rules committee member, said very briefly before a Council hearing, “We’re still waiting. It’s been a while. We’re still waiting. I really don’t have anything to add right now.”</p> <p>Among other items that remain unfinished are changes to the functioning of the Council committees, which hear bills and hold oversight hearings.</p> <p>Despite being included in the proposed agenda, there’s still no protocol for committee hearing scheduling; there isn’t a standard process for members who want to switch committees midway through the term; hearings are not automatically triggered for bills with popular support; and committee staff aren’t publishing recaps of hearings that summarize testimony, requests made by members and promises made by the administration (though the full testimony from hearings continues to be readily available online.)</p> <p>It’s likely once the budget is decided, which could be as soon as the coming week, that the Council will ramp up some of the changes put in motion by Johnson and get to other delayed reforms. Yet, Council members and government reform groups say that needs to happen in a public, transparent way. “If the speaker and 32 members made a commitment to pass rules reforms,” said Camarda of Reinvent Albany, “they should honor that commitment and hold public hearings to solicit input and pass meaningful rules changes.”</p> <p>Camarda also pointed to a <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/05/12/city-council-speaker-breaks-transparency-promise-watchdog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Post report</a> from May that highlighted Johnson’s partial reversal on a promise to regularly publish his full public schedule and details of his contact with lobbyists. “We hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend that the speaker’s promises on good government issues go unfulfilled,” Camarda said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Inset Koslowitz photo by Emil Cohen</p>
Council Members Renew Call for Task Force on NYPD Response to Emotionally Disturbed Persons 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7603-council-members-renew-call-for-task-force-on-nypd-response-to-emotionally-disturbed-persons Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41194192502_5bec2c68c3_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; top NYPD officials (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In August of last year, shortly after NYPD officers shot to death an emotionally disturbed man in his apartment, City Council Member Jumaane Williams led an effort calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to set up a task force to conduct a wholesale review of the police department’s protocols in dealing with “emotionally disturbed persons,” or EDPs. Almost eight months later, with many in the city again reeling from the fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed man at the hands of the NYPD, the mayor has continued to vacillate on the request.</p> <p>“It seems to me that there’s systemic failure there,” said Williams in a phone interview. The initial request was made in a letter dated August 11 and co-signed by Council Members Ritchie Torres and Robert Cornegy representing the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos representing the Progressive Caucus, and Council Member Andrew Cohen, who was then chair of the Council’s mental health committee.</p> <p>The letter was sent shortly after the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/nyregion/police-fatally-shoot-man-in-brooklyn.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Dwayne Jeune</a>, a 32-year-old resident of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in Williams’ district. Jeune was tazed and then shot by officers, who responded to a 911 call from his mother, when he advanced on them with a knife. Jeune’s mother had told a 911 caller that her son was mentally ill and was not acting violently. In January, the Jeune family <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/01/24/dwayne-jeune-family-lawsuit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed</a> a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking $20 million in damages.</p> <p>Since then, even though police officials have signaled support for the task force proposal, there has been little action.</p> <p>The letter called for a task force to be convened and for it to complete its work within 60 days, conducting a top-to-bottom review of NYPD protocols; the department’s implementation of recommendations made last year by the NYPD Inspector General; and a look at how the administration’s much-touted Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) can be integrated with the 911 system. The Council members insisted that the task force include the chairs of the Council’s Committees on Mental Health and on Public Safety, mental health and police reform advocates, and people directly affected by officer-involved shootings.</p> <p>“We keep having people who simply need help end up dead because they reached out in times of emergency,” the letter reads. “The natural consequence of this will be those New Yorkers suffering from episodes of poor mental health, as well as their loved ones, hesitating to ask for help from emergency services.”</p> <p>The mayor himself showed initial reluctance to agree to the proposal. At an unrelated news conference on August 3, after Williams had first floated the idea, de Blasio said, “I don’t personally see the need for a specific task force because I think it’s an area of tremendous concern right now both at City Hall and at the NYPD to continue to improve the NYPD’s ability to address situations involving emotionally disturbed people.”</p> <p>The number of 911 calls regarding EDPs, de Blasio noted, were “staggering,” about 150,000 the prior year. “[I] would say given the intense concern at City Hall related to mental health and the focus the NYPD has put on it, the right ideas are in place. We now have to just continue to deepen our implementation of those ideas,” he said, touting the ThriveNYC mental health program and the NYPD’s Crisis Intervention Training for officers to handle situations involving people with mental illness.</p> <p>But the city hasn’t gone far enough, say the Council members who signed the August letter and who, in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Saheed Vassell</a> in Crown Heights, Brooklyn last week, are renewing their push for the task force. “It’s seven months later and nothing’s happened,” said Williams. “It’s concerning. The NYPD is ready and willing but now it’s on City Hall.”</p> <p>“You have to look at what’s happening from a bird’s-eye view,” he added, “because we can’t just keep going along with the status quo where people in crisis, who need mental health treatment, are being killed.”</p> <p>The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/families-mentally-ill-fear-calling-police-turn-deadly-article-1.3917552" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently reported</a> that only about 8,200 of the NYPD's 36,000-member force have gone through the CIT training.</p> <p>As far back as September, the NYPD expressed support for the task force. At a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594668&amp;GUID=A2F70681-F3CB-4047-B66D-E86578DF6F34&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hearing</a> of the public safety committee last month, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman reiterated that support, for either a new working group or reconstituting the mayor’s 2014 Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice. “[W]e have been continuing to work even as that hasn’t yet happened,” Herman said. “We did a pretty substantial review within the police department of our response to people who are mentally ill quite recently and are in the process of implementing several recommendations. So the work has continued.”</p> <p>When could they expect to hear news of the task force, Williams asked.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s really a City Hall conversation,” Herman responded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>“Obviously the most recent tragedies kind of highlight the fact that we need that task force,” said Council Member Cornegy, at City Hall on Monday, saying he would directly reach out to the mayor’s office to see if there has been movement on the request. He did say that he had “heard through the grapevine” that the NYPD is in the process of setting up the unit but that there had been no official word of how far along it was.</p> <p>Cornegy said he is proposing a bill that would create a separate crisis hotline for EDPs, similar to 911 and 311. “NYPD should not necessarily be required to come out and be the first line of defense when you have mental health situations, whether they are egregious or whether they’re mid-level,” he said, noting that Saheed Vassell had past encounters with the police because of the lack of an alternate system. “I believe and the [Vassell] family believes that if that step had been available to them early on then they may have had a better treatment plan for his success as a person living with mental illness in the community.”</p> <p>Council Member Cohen, similarly, introduced a number of bills late last year (which were reintroduced this year) that would require the NYPD to provide more data regarding interactions with people suffering from mental illness.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7375-bills-seek-to-examine-nypd-interactions-with-emotionally-disturbed-persons-prevent-tragedies" target="_blank">Bills Seek to Examine NYPD Interactions with ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons,’ Prevent Tragedies</a>]</p> <p>“I think that there’s more information needed about EDP calls,” Cohen said outside the Council chambers on Monday. “It seems to me...the people who are getting shot by the NYPD seem to be disproportionately EDPs…These tragedies are mounting so time is of the essence. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to get a response. That’s something you’re going to have ask the other side of the building.”</p> <p>Police reform advocates have long criticized the mayor and his administration for not acting urgently enough, particularly at a time when a national conversation is happening around the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers and the lack of accountability by police departments. “I think absolutely the mayor has show he’s not giving real credit to these calls from the Council members for a task force,” said Yul-san Liem, a representative of Communities United for Police Reform and co-director of the Justice Committee. “At the same time, people in distress, people who are mentally ill, are still being brutalized and killed...We need a complete overhaul of how we treat people in emotional distress or with psychological disabilities.</p> <p>Liem noted that after each incident in the recent past involving use of force against mentally ill people, the administration has fallen back on the argument that they are continually training and retraining officers to handle such situations. “But that’s really rhetoric to shield the police force from accountability and making substantial changes.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41194192502_5bec2c68c3_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYPD" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; top NYPD officials (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In August of last year, shortly after NYPD officers shot to death an emotionally disturbed man in his apartment, City Council Member Jumaane Williams led an effort calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to set up a task force to conduct a wholesale review of the police department’s protocols in dealing with “emotionally disturbed persons,” or EDPs. Almost eight months later, with many in the city again reeling from the fatal shooting of an emotionally disturbed man at the hands of the NYPD, the mayor has continued to vacillate on the request.</p> <p>“It seems to me that there’s systemic failure there,” said Williams in a phone interview. The initial request was made in a letter dated August 11 and co-signed by Council Members Ritchie Torres and Robert Cornegy representing the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos representing the Progressive Caucus, and Council Member Andrew Cohen, who was then chair of the Council’s mental health committee.</p> <p>The letter was sent shortly after the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/nyregion/police-fatally-shoot-man-in-brooklyn.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Dwayne Jeune</a>, a 32-year-old resident of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in Williams’ district. Jeune was tazed and then shot by officers, who responded to a 911 call from his mother, when he advanced on them with a knife. Jeune’s mother had told a 911 caller that her son was mentally ill and was not acting violently. In January, the Jeune family <a href="http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/01/24/dwayne-jeune-family-lawsuit/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">filed</a> a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking $20 million in damages.</p> <p>Since then, even though police officials have signaled support for the task force proposal, there has been little action.</p> <p>The letter called for a task force to be convened and for it to complete its work within 60 days, conducting a top-to-bottom review of NYPD protocols; the department’s implementation of recommendations made last year by the NYPD Inspector General; and a look at how the administration’s much-touted Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) can be integrated with the 911 system. The Council members insisted that the task force include the chairs of the Council’s Committees on Mental Health and on Public Safety, mental health and police reform advocates, and people directly affected by officer-involved shootings.</p> <p>“We keep having people who simply need help end up dead because they reached out in times of emergency,” the letter reads. “The natural consequence of this will be those New Yorkers suffering from episodes of poor mental health, as well as their loved ones, hesitating to ask for help from emergency services.”</p> <p>The mayor himself showed initial reluctance to agree to the proposal. At an unrelated news conference on August 3, after Williams had first floated the idea, de Blasio said, “I don’t personally see the need for a specific task force because I think it’s an area of tremendous concern right now both at City Hall and at the NYPD to continue to improve the NYPD’s ability to address situations involving emotionally disturbed people.”</p> <p>The number of 911 calls regarding EDPs, de Blasio noted, were “staggering,” about 150,000 the prior year. “[I] would say given the intense concern at City Hall related to mental health and the focus the NYPD has put on it, the right ideas are in place. We now have to just continue to deepen our implementation of those ideas,” he said, touting the ThriveNYC mental health program and the NYPD’s Crisis Intervention Training for officers to handle situations involving people with mental illness.</p> <p>But the city hasn’t gone far enough, say the Council members who signed the August letter and who, in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shooting death of Saheed Vassell</a> in Crown Heights, Brooklyn last week, are renewing their push for the task force. “It’s seven months later and nothing’s happened,” said Williams. “It’s concerning. The NYPD is ready and willing but now it’s on City Hall.”</p> <p>“You have to look at what’s happening from a bird’s-eye view,” he added, “because we can’t just keep going along with the status quo where people in crisis, who need mental health treatment, are being killed.”</p> <p>The Daily News <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/families-mentally-ill-fear-calling-police-turn-deadly-article-1.3917552" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently reported</a> that only about 8,200 of the NYPD's 36,000-member force have gone through the CIT training.</p> <p>As far back as September, the NYPD expressed support for the task force. At a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594668&amp;GUID=A2F70681-F3CB-4047-B66D-E86578DF6F34&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hearing</a> of the public safety committee last month, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman reiterated that support, for either a new working group or reconstituting the mayor’s 2014 Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice. “[W]e have been continuing to work even as that hasn’t yet happened,” Herman said. “We did a pretty substantial review within the police department of our response to people who are mentally ill quite recently and are in the process of implementing several recommendations. So the work has continued.”</p> <p>When could they expect to hear news of the task force, Williams asked.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s really a City Hall conversation,” Herman responded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.</p> <p>“Obviously the most recent tragedies kind of highlight the fact that we need that task force,” said Council Member Cornegy, at City Hall on Monday, saying he would directly reach out to the mayor’s office to see if there has been movement on the request. He did say that he had “heard through the grapevine” that the NYPD is in the process of setting up the unit but that there had been no official word of how far along it was.</p> <p>Cornegy said he is proposing a bill that would create a separate crisis hotline for EDPs, similar to 911 and 311. “NYPD should not necessarily be required to come out and be the first line of defense when you have mental health situations, whether they are egregious or whether they’re mid-level,” he said, noting that Saheed Vassell had past encounters with the police because of the lack of an alternate system. “I believe and the [Vassell] family believes that if that step had been available to them early on then they may have had a better treatment plan for his success as a person living with mental illness in the community.”</p> <p>Council Member Cohen, similarly, introduced a number of bills late last year (which were reintroduced this year) that would require the NYPD to provide more data regarding interactions with people suffering from mental illness.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7375-bills-seek-to-examine-nypd-interactions-with-emotionally-disturbed-persons-prevent-tragedies" target="_blank">Bills Seek to Examine NYPD Interactions with ‘Emotionally Disturbed Persons,’ Prevent Tragedies</a>]</p> <p>“I think that there’s more information needed about EDP calls,” Cohen said outside the Council chambers on Monday. “It seems to me...the people who are getting shot by the NYPD seem to be disproportionately EDPs…These tragedies are mounting so time is of the essence. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to get a response. That’s something you’re going to have ask the other side of the building.”</p> <p>Police reform advocates have long criticized the mayor and his administration for not acting urgently enough, particularly at a time when a national conversation is happening around the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers and the lack of accountability by police departments. “I think absolutely the mayor has show he’s not giving real credit to these calls from the Council members for a task force,” said Yul-san Liem, a representative of Communities United for Police Reform and co-director of the Justice Committee. “At the same time, people in distress, people who are mentally ill, are still being brutalized and killed...We need a complete overhaul of how we treat people in emotional distress or with psychological disabilities.</p> <p>Liem noted that after each incident in the recent past involving use of force against mentally ill people, the administration has fallen back on the argument that they are continually training and retraining officers to handle such situations. “But that’s really rhetoric to shield the police force from accountability and making substantial changes.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Airbnb Reality in Central Brooklyn 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7381-the-airbnb-reality-in-central-brooklyn Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/robert-cornegy-airbnb.jpg" alt="robert cornegy airbnb" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council Member Robert Cornegy (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Just when I thought I’d seen it all, here comes Michael McKee with a screed against middle class home sharers like me that would -- or at least should -- make the hotel industry blush. &nbsp;From one New Yorker to another - thanks but no thanks. We don’t need a white “savior” to tell people of color that they know how to best address gentrification in their communities.</p> <p>I am a third generation Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, mother of three, and a proud constituent of City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. For years, I’ve shared my home with travelers from all over the world -- introducing people to my favorite local businesses and generating some extra income to provide for my family.</p> <p>Hosting through Airbnb helps me pay my property taxes, contribute to my children’s education, and stay in the home and neighborhood I love, so that one day I can pass it on to my children.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7352-high-stakes-for-affordable-housing-in-city-council-speaker-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In his op-ed</a>, McKee uses desperate attacks filled with debunked reports and misleading data to explain his misinformed view of why home sharing “doesn’t work.” He asserts that "75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not ‘regular folks’ renting their own place.” This is false. &nbsp;</p> <p>In reality, 95 percent of New York City hosts who share an entire space have a single listing and 88 percent of host ​earnings ​in ​the city ​come from ​guest ​stays ​in ​private ​and ​shared ​spaces (i.e. a spare bedroom), ​long-term ​stays ​lasting ​at ​least ​30 ​days, ​and short-term ​stays ​with ​hosts ​who ​have ​only ​one ​entire ​home ​listing. &nbsp;</p> <p>This data can easily be found in Airbnb’s<a href="https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/One-Host-One-Home-_-November-2017-Update.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> monthly data releases</a>, but it’s pretty clear that McKee has no use for facts.</p> <p>Indeed, he claims, without evidence, that "North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Airbnb is helping families like mine stay in our communities. Home sharing is a bulwark against gentrification and the rising cost of living. Seventy-nine percent of Airbnb hosts in New York City report that home sharing has helped them stay in their homes, with 30 percent saying it’s helped them avoid eviction or foreclosure.</p> <p>Moreover, rents in many Brooklyn neighborhoods were rising far before Airbnb came to town. According to MNS monthly reports, the average 1-bedroom in Williamsburg in<a href="http://www.mns.com/pdf/brooklyn_market_report_jan_11.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> January 2011</a> -- when Airbnb was still in its infancy -- cost $2,979 a month. In<a href="http://www.mns.com/pdf/brooklyn_market_report_oct_17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> October 2017</a>, the figure was $2,946, a decrease over the period of Airbnb's greatest growth.</p> <p>The sad truth for a proud organization like Tenants PAC is that its leader, Mr. McKee, sounds more like a mouthpiece for the big hotel industry than he does an ally of tenants and homeowners.</p> <p>It’s outrageous for McKee, who lives in a pre-war condo in Chelsea, where two-bedroom units sell for over<a href="https://streeteasy.com/building/233-west-21st-street-new_york/1b" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $1 million</a> and one-bedrooms rent for more than<a href="https://streeteasy.com/rental/1760809" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $4,000,</a> to point his finger at New Yorkers like me as the cause of gentrification in our own neighborhoods. It's even more ridiculous when he cites an offensive, completely flawed "study" by an opponent of home sharing that was torn apart by<a href="https://www.airbnbcitizen.com/correcting-flawed-studys-false-assertions-community/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> actual academics</a>.</p> <p>Instead of parroting specious arguments made by the hotel industry, which continues to<a href="http://bedfordandbowery.com/2016/10/protests-continue-against-demolition-of-east-village-tenements-for-hotel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> bulldoze</a> permanent housing to build luxury hotels in New York City, even as profits stand at all-time highs, true advocates for tenants should get behind a bill introduced by Brooklyn Assemblymember Joe Lentol, A-7520, which would ensure that New Yorkers could share their own home, while protecting affordable housing from bad actors who threaten to remove permanent tenants.</p> <p>The bill creates a mandatory registration system for hosts and would allow Airbnb to collect nearly $100 million in lodging/sales taxes in the first year alone. That’s money that could be used for affordable housing, as in Portland, Oregon and New Orleans, or services for people without homes, as in Chicago and Los Angeles.</p> <p>You don’t have to look at Census data to realize that there are more white folks and fewer black folks here than there were 10 years ago. Bed-Stuy isn’t static -- no neighborhood ever is. But families like mine that have invested blood, sweat, and tears into this community for generations are going to do whatever we can -- including hosting through Airbnb -- to keep a toehold in the place we call home. Maybe Michael McKee should swing by sometime and see what we’re all about.</p> <p>***<br />Richelle Burnett is Airbnb host who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/robert-cornegy-airbnb.jpg" alt="robert cornegy airbnb" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council Member Robert Cornegy (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Just when I thought I’d seen it all, here comes Michael McKee with a screed against middle class home sharers like me that would -- or at least should -- make the hotel industry blush. &nbsp;From one New Yorker to another - thanks but no thanks. We don’t need a white “savior” to tell people of color that they know how to best address gentrification in their communities.</p> <p>I am a third generation Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, mother of three, and a proud constituent of City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr. For years, I’ve shared my home with travelers from all over the world -- introducing people to my favorite local businesses and generating some extra income to provide for my family.</p> <p>Hosting through Airbnb helps me pay my property taxes, contribute to my children’s education, and stay in the home and neighborhood I love, so that one day I can pass it on to my children.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7352-high-stakes-for-affordable-housing-in-city-council-speaker-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">In his op-ed</a>, McKee uses desperate attacks filled with debunked reports and misleading data to explain his misinformed view of why home sharing “doesn’t work.” He asserts that "75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not ‘regular folks’ renting their own place.” This is false. &nbsp;</p> <p>In reality, 95 percent of New York City hosts who share an entire space have a single listing and 88 percent of host ​earnings ​in ​the city ​come from ​guest ​stays ​in ​private ​and ​shared ​spaces (i.e. a spare bedroom), ​long-term ​stays ​lasting ​at ​least ​30 ​days, ​and short-term ​stays ​with ​hosts ​who ​have ​only ​one ​entire ​home ​listing. &nbsp;</p> <p>This data can easily be found in Airbnb’s<a href="https://2sqy5r1jf93u30kwzc1smfqt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/One-Host-One-Home-_-November-2017-Update.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> monthly data releases</a>, but it’s pretty clear that McKee has no use for facts.</p> <p>Indeed, he claims, without evidence, that "North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Airbnb is helping families like mine stay in our communities. Home sharing is a bulwark against gentrification and the rising cost of living. Seventy-nine percent of Airbnb hosts in New York City report that home sharing has helped them stay in their homes, with 30 percent saying it’s helped them avoid eviction or foreclosure.</p> <p>Moreover, rents in many Brooklyn neighborhoods were rising far before Airbnb came to town. According to MNS monthly reports, the average 1-bedroom in Williamsburg in<a href="http://www.mns.com/pdf/brooklyn_market_report_jan_11.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> January 2011</a> -- when Airbnb was still in its infancy -- cost $2,979 a month. In<a href="http://www.mns.com/pdf/brooklyn_market_report_oct_17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> October 2017</a>, the figure was $2,946, a decrease over the period of Airbnb's greatest growth.</p> <p>The sad truth for a proud organization like Tenants PAC is that its leader, Mr. McKee, sounds more like a mouthpiece for the big hotel industry than he does an ally of tenants and homeowners.</p> <p>It’s outrageous for McKee, who lives in a pre-war condo in Chelsea, where two-bedroom units sell for over<a href="https://streeteasy.com/building/233-west-21st-street-new_york/1b" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $1 million</a> and one-bedrooms rent for more than<a href="https://streeteasy.com/rental/1760809" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> $4,000,</a> to point his finger at New Yorkers like me as the cause of gentrification in our own neighborhoods. It's even more ridiculous when he cites an offensive, completely flawed "study" by an opponent of home sharing that was torn apart by<a href="https://www.airbnbcitizen.com/correcting-flawed-studys-false-assertions-community/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> actual academics</a>.</p> <p>Instead of parroting specious arguments made by the hotel industry, which continues to<a href="http://bedfordandbowery.com/2016/10/protests-continue-against-demolition-of-east-village-tenements-for-hotel/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> bulldoze</a> permanent housing to build luxury hotels in New York City, even as profits stand at all-time highs, true advocates for tenants should get behind a bill introduced by Brooklyn Assemblymember Joe Lentol, A-7520, which would ensure that New Yorkers could share their own home, while protecting affordable housing from bad actors who threaten to remove permanent tenants.</p> <p>The bill creates a mandatory registration system for hosts and would allow Airbnb to collect nearly $100 million in lodging/sales taxes in the first year alone. That’s money that could be used for affordable housing, as in Portland, Oregon and New Orleans, or services for people without homes, as in Chicago and Los Angeles.</p> <p>You don’t have to look at Census data to realize that there are more white folks and fewer black folks here than there were 10 years ago. Bed-Stuy isn’t static -- no neighborhood ever is. But families like mine that have invested blood, sweat, and tears into this community for generations are going to do whatever we can -- including hosting through Airbnb -- to keep a toehold in the place we call home. Maybe Michael McKee should swing by sometime and see what we’re all about.</p> <p>***<br />Richelle Burnett is Airbnb host who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Council Speaker Candidates Hesitant to Criticize or Reform Party-Controlled Board of Elections 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7368-council-speaker-candidates-hesitant-to-criticize-or-reform-board-of-elections Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/24746697891_2461799422_z.jpg" alt="City Council chambers with members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo by William Alatriste/City Council</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections has widely been acknowledged as a dysfunctional agency in need of urgent and sweeping reform, yet the political will for modernizing and professionalizing the board has not existed, at least in part because its current structure benefits those in power.</p> <p>Its system of appointments based on political patronage has long been a source of criticism and its mismanagement of election operations has frustrated voters and been the subject of City Council oversight hearings. But, when asked, the eight men vying to become the next Speaker of the City Council recently said concerns about the BOE are misguided. To varying degrees, they indicated that the board is effective and efficient, that its failings are isolated rather than systematic, and that its current structure should be preserved.</p> <p>At a November 20 speaker candidate forum hosted by Citizens Union, other government reform groups, and New York Law School, seven speaker candidates -- Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan; Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens; and Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn -- were present and they mostly took the middle of the road when asked about the steps the City Council, which approves appointments to the BOE, could take to improve the board. The ten BOE commissioners include two -- one Republican and one Democrat -- from each borough.</p> <p>The Council members hedged their bets and praised the BOE, recognizing that any criticism could potentially be read as directed toward the county party organizations that nominate BOE commissioners and place other employees at the board -- the same county organizations whose support each candidate is seeking in order to become speaker. The eighth candidate, Ritchie Torres from the Bronx, would later give Gotham Gazette a similar response.</p> <p>None of the members were in favor of a non-partisan restructuring of the board. “That’s a tough question to ask of speaker candidates,” Williams said, to laughter from his colleagues in acknowledgement of the role of the county party machines in both picking BOE commissioners and picking the Council speaker. Williams defended the board but did acknowledge that patronage has played a role in appointments and that the Council could do more to improve it.</p> <p>“We know that we do have some issues and if we can just do some more thinking through that process and make sure that it’s not as patronage as some folks may think, we can move a lot further,” Williams said, taking the most bold position of the group. “I’m not sure if we push as hard as we can when things go wrong.”</p> <p>Other candidates spoke generally about reforming election and voting laws, a tangential subject that is mostly the prerogative of the state Legislature, and some staunchly argued in favor of the current partisan composition of the board, which they insisted maintains a balance and prevents one-party hegemony in elections.</p> <p>“I do not support non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections,” said Johnson, one of the three perceived frontrunners in the race, along with Levine and Cornegy. “I believe that the parties play a particular role in ensuring that we make sure that any party that’s dominant at a given time cannot run roughshod over another party. If someone came up with a perfect system of a non-partisan way to handle it, maybe I’d entertain it. I’ve never heard of that system, I don’t know how you take political influence out of politics.”</p> <p>“I couldn’t agree more,” Van Bramer said in response.</p> <p>The city BOE falls under state jurisdiction, like all local boards of election, although the city gets to decide the board’s budget and not much else. The ten board commissioners are nominated by the county party machinery and appointed by the City Council. Representatives from the board testify at City Council hearings, usually during budget season, and receive recommendations and often admonitions from Council members, but are not bound to follow any Council mandates.</p> <p>The board is often seen as favoring the Democratic Party establishment, given that the vast majority of candidates for city offices are Democrats. Candidates not backed by the party machinery are often challenged in board proceedings and kicked off the ballot, though they are often first-time candidates with fewer resources and without experienced election lawyers.</p> <p>On Monday, Torres reiterated what his colleagues had said weeks ago. “I suspect you’re misdiagnosing the problem, the problem is a lack of resources,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall. “I suspect it’s a lack of resources more than the manner in which the appointments are made.”</p> <p>He continued, “Does the BOE have inefficiencies? Yes. It’s true of every agency in city government. There’s not a single agency in city government that’s free of inefficiency. So the notion that you would cite inefficiency as an excuse for fundamentally changing the structure of an institution is dubious.” Torres said he would oppose any measures that could weaken the party organizations’ role but conceded that the Council should “study the problem comprehensively” to determine the needs and inefficiencies of the BOE.</p> <p>There have been studies in the past, and each has found persistent issues.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2013/2013-12-30-BOE_Unit_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 report</a> by the city’s Department of Investigations <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131230/civic-center/nyc-board-of-elections-riddled-with-problems-dept-of-investigation-finds" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> a raft of problems in elections management as well as internal board administration. In 2016, the BOE was responsible for a massive voter purge in Brooklyn during the presidential primaries, resulting in legal action by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In November, Schneiderman announced a consent decree with the BOE that requires added oversight of the board’s voter list maintenance.</p> <p>Less than a week before this year’s general election on November 7, city Comptroller Scott Stringer also released an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-board-of-elections-controls-over-the-maintenance-of-voters-records-and-poll-access/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> that excoriated the BOE’s dysfunctional election operations. At each step, the BOE has pushed back and has been resistant to change. Even when Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a $20 million incentive for the board to enact major reforms -- recommending the empaneling of a Blue Ribbon Commission to analyze the BOE, more transparency in hiring and improved poll worker training, among other measures -- its commissioners refused.</p> <p>“The Mayor believes that it is critical that we reform the Board of Elections,” said Seth Stein, a mayoral spokesperson, in a statement on Tuesday. “They have demonstrated time and again that they are unable to perform the basic functions of their office, like keeping eligible voters on the rolls. The Mayor looks forward to working with whoever the next Speaker is to encourage the Board to accept the $20 million we have offered in exchange for necessary reforms.”</p> <p>State-level BOE reforms have not progressed in Albany.</p> <p>Those who could take steps or apply pressure to improve the BOE’s abysmal record are the very people invested in the status quo, however, and the City Council, particularly its speaker, falls squarely within that dynamic. Election experts also tend to agree that the Council can pass little meaningful reform, absent legislative action at the state level, and that the bi-partisan BOE composition is appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s very little the City Council can do regarding the structural functioning of the agency,” said Sarah Steiner, an election lawyer. “They could maybe fund the board at a higher level so it could function better.”</p> <p>“In terms of patronage, it’s a bi-partisan agency, not a civil service agency. Unless that’s changed, the county organizations is where the commissioners and employees will come from,” she added. She insisted that most of the board’s employees are, in her experience, qualified and hard-working professionals. “As in any organization, some employees are better than others,” she said. And she warned that a civil service agency running elections could be open to political interference, while the current structure is designed to prevent just that.</p> <p>Steiner praised, in particular, the speed and accuracy with which the BOE provides election night results. But, she said, “they are less good at some of the work regarding candidates. I think the rules structure for candidates needs substantial revision.” Unlike the state BOE, the city agency doesn’t provide a public comment period for rules changes, she said, which often leaves the candidates and their campaigns unaware and unprepared. “The administrative rules are not as easy as the board thinks they are, and they’re largely a minefield,” she added.</p> <p>J.C. Polanco, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for public advocate this year, has served as &nbsp;president of the city BOE and saw the problems first hand and attempted to fix them. He campaigned this year on a platform that included BOE reform. He’s blunt about the Council speaker candidates and why they wouldn’t speak up against the agency. “Each candidate has to try not to offend the county organizations,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Though Polanco also agrees that the BOE’s partisan structure may be necessary, he believes it can be better. “One of the things to do is to professionalize the board,” he said, “by forcing every candidate to go through the crucible of the [Council’s] investigations process required of commissioners.” He favors merit-based hiring and called for it when he worked at the board.</p> <p>“There are professionals at the board that get a bad rap for the failures of the board to modernize,” he insisted, echoing Steiner. “You can definitely have a professionalized partisan agency.” The board should post positions with qualifications online, he said, and more publicly seek employees. “It would require an enlightenment of the citizenry and the board,” Polanco said. He also speculated about giving third parties representation on the board, proportionate to their vote shares in prior elections.</p> <p>Although the Council members poised to be the next speaker may not agree, the official they are hoping to succeed believes that the BOE needs improvement. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who, in the waning days of her speakership, has waded into <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/local-politics/2017/12/09/squabble-among-manhattan-democrats-pits-council-speaker-against-county-chair" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conflict</a> with the Manhattan Democratic County Committee over a BOE commissioner appointment, said the Council has discussed reforming the BOE for years. Responding to a question from Gotham Gazette, she said, “There’s obviously a lot more work that has to be done. We’ve seen the reports issued by DOI and others with the dysfunction at the Board of Elections and there definitely has to be a lot more professionalizing of the Board of Elections and being able to implement reforms.”</p> <p>While much of the conversation around elections and voting in New York tends to revolve around the state’s antiquated laws, there have been local attempts at such reform. Council Member Ben Kallos has been a particularly vocal critic of the board and, as chair of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, has pushed legislation that can improve elections and voting access. He has time and again urged representatives of the board to move towards merit-based hiring -- &nbsp;“I favor the civil service over the patronage appointment process,” he told Gotham Gazette on Monday. Kallos’ bill allowing online voter registration recently passed the Council. The mayor is expected to sign it into law, and it is considered valid under guidance from A.G. Schneiderman.</p> <p>We can “find meaningful alternatives that can help fix the BOE at the city level,” Kallos said. “As we learned with online voter registration, with a little bit of creativity and good attorneys, I think a lot can be possible at the local level.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/24746697891_2461799422_z.jpg" alt="City Council chambers with members" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo by William Alatriste/City Council</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections has widely been acknowledged as a dysfunctional agency in need of urgent and sweeping reform, yet the political will for modernizing and professionalizing the board has not existed, at least in part because its current structure benefits those in power.</p> <p>Its system of appointments based on political patronage has long been a source of criticism and its mismanagement of election operations has frustrated voters and been the subject of City Council oversight hearings. But, when asked, the eight men vying to become the next Speaker of the City Council recently said concerns about the BOE are misguided. To varying degrees, they indicated that the board is effective and efficient, that its failings are isolated rather than systematic, and that its current structure should be preserved.</p> <p>At a November 20 speaker candidate forum hosted by Citizens Union, other government reform groups, and New York Law School, seven speaker candidates -- Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan; Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens; and Robert Cornegy and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn -- were present and they mostly took the middle of the road when asked about the steps the City Council, which approves appointments to the BOE, could take to improve the board. The ten BOE commissioners include two -- one Republican and one Democrat -- from each borough.</p> <p>The Council members hedged their bets and praised the BOE, recognizing that any criticism could potentially be read as directed toward the county party organizations that nominate BOE commissioners and place other employees at the board -- the same county organizations whose support each candidate is seeking in order to become speaker. The eighth candidate, Ritchie Torres from the Bronx, would later give Gotham Gazette a similar response.</p> <p>None of the members were in favor of a non-partisan restructuring of the board. “That’s a tough question to ask of speaker candidates,” Williams said, to laughter from his colleagues in acknowledgement of the role of the county party machines in both picking BOE commissioners and picking the Council speaker. Williams defended the board but did acknowledge that patronage has played a role in appointments and that the Council could do more to improve it.</p> <p>“We know that we do have some issues and if we can just do some more thinking through that process and make sure that it’s not as patronage as some folks may think, we can move a lot further,” Williams said, taking the most bold position of the group. “I’m not sure if we push as hard as we can when things go wrong.”</p> <p>Other candidates spoke generally about reforming election and voting laws, a tangential subject that is mostly the prerogative of the state Legislature, and some staunchly argued in favor of the current partisan composition of the board, which they insisted maintains a balance and prevents one-party hegemony in elections.</p> <p>“I do not support non-partisan appointments to the Board of Elections,” said Johnson, one of the three perceived frontrunners in the race, along with Levine and Cornegy. “I believe that the parties play a particular role in ensuring that we make sure that any party that’s dominant at a given time cannot run roughshod over another party. If someone came up with a perfect system of a non-partisan way to handle it, maybe I’d entertain it. I’ve never heard of that system, I don’t know how you take political influence out of politics.”</p> <p>“I couldn’t agree more,” Van Bramer said in response.</p> <p>The city BOE falls under state jurisdiction, like all local boards of election, although the city gets to decide the board’s budget and not much else. The ten board commissioners are nominated by the county party machinery and appointed by the City Council. Representatives from the board testify at City Council hearings, usually during budget season, and receive recommendations and often admonitions from Council members, but are not bound to follow any Council mandates.</p> <p>The board is often seen as favoring the Democratic Party establishment, given that the vast majority of candidates for city offices are Democrats. Candidates not backed by the party machinery are often challenged in board proceedings and kicked off the ballot, though they are often first-time candidates with fewer resources and without experienced election lawyers.</p> <p>On Monday, Torres reiterated what his colleagues had said weeks ago. “I suspect you’re misdiagnosing the problem, the problem is a lack of resources,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall. “I suspect it’s a lack of resources more than the manner in which the appointments are made.”</p> <p>He continued, “Does the BOE have inefficiencies? Yes. It’s true of every agency in city government. There’s not a single agency in city government that’s free of inefficiency. So the notion that you would cite inefficiency as an excuse for fundamentally changing the structure of an institution is dubious.” Torres said he would oppose any measures that could weaken the party organizations’ role but conceded that the Council should “study the problem comprehensively” to determine the needs and inefficiencies of the BOE.</p> <p>There have been studies in the past, and each has found persistent issues.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doi/reports/pdf/2013/2013-12-30-BOE_Unit_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 report</a> by the city’s Department of Investigations <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131230/civic-center/nyc-board-of-elections-riddled-with-problems-dept-of-investigation-finds" target="_blank" rel="noopener">found</a> a raft of problems in elections management as well as internal board administration. In 2016, the BOE was responsible for a massive voter purge in Brooklyn during the presidential primaries, resulting in legal action by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In November, Schneiderman announced a consent decree with the BOE that requires added oversight of the board’s voter list maintenance.</p> <p>Less than a week before this year’s general election on November 7, city Comptroller Scott Stringer also released an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-board-of-elections-controls-over-the-maintenance-of-voters-records-and-poll-access/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> that excoriated the BOE’s dysfunctional election operations. At each step, the BOE has pushed back and has been resistant to change. Even when Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a $20 million incentive for the board to enact major reforms -- recommending the empaneling of a Blue Ribbon Commission to analyze the BOE, more transparency in hiring and improved poll worker training, among other measures -- its commissioners refused.</p> <p>“The Mayor believes that it is critical that we reform the Board of Elections,” said Seth Stein, a mayoral spokesperson, in a statement on Tuesday. “They have demonstrated time and again that they are unable to perform the basic functions of their office, like keeping eligible voters on the rolls. The Mayor looks forward to working with whoever the next Speaker is to encourage the Board to accept the $20 million we have offered in exchange for necessary reforms.”</p> <p>State-level BOE reforms have not progressed in Albany.</p> <p>Those who could take steps or apply pressure to improve the BOE’s abysmal record are the very people invested in the status quo, however, and the City Council, particularly its speaker, falls squarely within that dynamic. Election experts also tend to agree that the Council can pass little meaningful reform, absent legislative action at the state level, and that the bi-partisan BOE composition is appropriate. &nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s very little the City Council can do regarding the structural functioning of the agency,” said Sarah Steiner, an election lawyer. “They could maybe fund the board at a higher level so it could function better.”</p> <p>“In terms of patronage, it’s a bi-partisan agency, not a civil service agency. Unless that’s changed, the county organizations is where the commissioners and employees will come from,” she added. She insisted that most of the board’s employees are, in her experience, qualified and hard-working professionals. “As in any organization, some employees are better than others,” she said. And she warned that a civil service agency running elections could be open to political interference, while the current structure is designed to prevent just that.</p> <p>Steiner praised, in particular, the speed and accuracy with which the BOE provides election night results. But, she said, “they are less good at some of the work regarding candidates. I think the rules structure for candidates needs substantial revision.” Unlike the state BOE, the city agency doesn’t provide a public comment period for rules changes, she said, which often leaves the candidates and their campaigns unaware and unprepared. “The administrative rules are not as easy as the board thinks they are, and they’re largely a minefield,” she added.</p> <p>J.C. Polanco, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for public advocate this year, has served as &nbsp;president of the city BOE and saw the problems first hand and attempted to fix them. He campaigned this year on a platform that included BOE reform. He’s blunt about the Council speaker candidates and why they wouldn’t speak up against the agency. “Each candidate has to try not to offend the county organizations,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Though Polanco also agrees that the BOE’s partisan structure may be necessary, he believes it can be better. “One of the things to do is to professionalize the board,” he said, “by forcing every candidate to go through the crucible of the [Council’s] investigations process required of commissioners.” He favors merit-based hiring and called for it when he worked at the board.</p> <p>“There are professionals at the board that get a bad rap for the failures of the board to modernize,” he insisted, echoing Steiner. “You can definitely have a professionalized partisan agency.” The board should post positions with qualifications online, he said, and more publicly seek employees. “It would require an enlightenment of the citizenry and the board,” Polanco said. He also speculated about giving third parties representation on the board, proportionate to their vote shares in prior elections.</p> <p>Although the Council members poised to be the next speaker may not agree, the official they are hoping to succeed believes that the BOE needs improvement. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who, in the waning days of her speakership, has waded into <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/local-politics/2017/12/09/squabble-among-manhattan-democrats-pits-council-speaker-against-county-chair" target="_blank" rel="noopener">conflict</a> with the Manhattan Democratic County Committee over a BOE commissioner appointment, said the Council has discussed reforming the BOE for years. Responding to a question from Gotham Gazette, she said, “There’s obviously a lot more work that has to be done. We’ve seen the reports issued by DOI and others with the dysfunction at the Board of Elections and there definitely has to be a lot more professionalizing of the Board of Elections and being able to implement reforms.”</p> <p>While much of the conversation around elections and voting in New York tends to revolve around the state’s antiquated laws, there have been local attempts at such reform. Council Member Ben Kallos has been a particularly vocal critic of the board and, as chair of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, has pushed legislation that can improve elections and voting access. He has time and again urged representatives of the board to move towards merit-based hiring -- &nbsp;“I favor the civil service over the patronage appointment process,” he told Gotham Gazette on Monday. Kallos’ bill allowing online voter registration recently passed the Council. The mayor is expected to sign it into law, and it is considered valid under guidance from A.G. Schneiderman.</p> <p>We can “find meaningful alternatives that can help fix the BOE at the city level,” Kallos said. “As we learned with online voter registration, with a little bit of creativity and good attorneys, I think a lot can be possible at the local level.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency">City Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Speaker Candidates, All Men, Promise Gender Equity if Victorious 2017-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7359-city-council-speaker-candidates-all-men-promise-gender-equity-if-victorious Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8295.jpg" alt="City Council speaker candidates" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>The City Council speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>At the last public forum in the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, seven of the eight men contending for the Council’s top leadership spot took turns making their argument for why they would be the right person to continue Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s legacy of protecting and promoting the cause of women, transgender, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. Though few new ideas emerged, for nearly two hours, the seven Council members pitched their progressive credentials and promised to champion the city’s underrepresented and underserved populations.</p> <p>Hosted by a coalition of 14 organizations, at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute in Manhattan, the forum capped off a post-election month that has seen the candidates appear at more than a dozen issue-focused debates and discussions on everything from criminal justice to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government transparency and accountability</a>. Thursday’s event was moderated by Politico New York reporter Laura Nahmias and Shatia Burks of the New York City Young Women’s Initiative. In attendance were Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer. Ritchie Torres was the only candidate absent.</p> <p>Past was prologue as the candidates took turns briefly narrating their individual histories, giving tactful yet heartfelt answers while also lamenting the obvious irony of them all being men after 12 years of the City Council having women serve as speaker.</p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, who in recent weeks has risen to become one of the perceived frontrunners in the race, spoke as a family man, a husband and father of six. He noted his support for reproductive health bills in the Council, particularly one that created lactation rooms at city agencies that provide family services (he first opened a “lactation station” in his district office). He half-joked that he co-chairs the Council’s “men who get it” caucus.</p> <p>Johnson, another leading contender, reminded the audience that he is an openly gay man and the only openly HIV positive elected official in New York, and that issues related to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals are “deeply important” to him. He touted the passage of his bill allowing transgender New Yorkers to receive accurate birth certificates from the city.</p> <p>“The fact that the people running for Council speaker are all men reflects a failing of the political system in New York City,” said Levine, who is seen with Cornegy and Johnson as one of the three most likely to win the position when the vote takes place in January. “I think it does obligate the eight of us to reign in the hubris a little bit and do more listening than dictating.”</p> <p>Richards echoed the sentiment, saying “it is shameful that there is not a woman in this race,” while emphasizing that not only would the next speaker have to focus on women’s issues, but also ensure that women are in leadership positions.</p> <p>Rodriguez cited his experience as an immigrant, in a large family with many sisters. “Women’s issues are trans-sectional,” he said, while promising to continue Mark-Viverito’s legacy.</p> <p>Van Bramer, who is also openly gay, spoke from the experience of his own coming out. Being an LGBTQ activist meant also being “an activist for choice and a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “The two of them are inseparable.” He proudly touted his successful efforts to open the first Planned Parenthood health center in Queens, and in helping found the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.</p> <p>Williams, who noted early that the seven would likely respond similarly to questions, instead emphasized that he is “battle-tested to move forward” and has passed the most bills of all the candidates. His statement would ring true as there was little daylight between the candidates as they addressed the issues raised at the forum including access to reproductive health services, education, economic development and workplace sexual harassment, NYPD policy, affordable housing, city budgeting, and Council governance.</p> <p>On abortion access and so-called crisis pregnancy centers -- which NARAL Pro-choice America calls “fake health clinics” that mislead women to block access to abortions -- all seven agreed that the NYPD should play a stronger role in both protecting women from protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics and in cracking down on predatory crisis centers. Cornegy even floated the idea of a dedicated police unit focused on these centers.</p> <p>Johnson insisted that Planned Parenthood is always a budget priority for him. He said the Council needed to do more to “reign in” CPCs while calling on the police to be more vigilant to protect women seeking abortions at clinics.</p> <p>Levine said the Council needs to fight back against the demonization of Planned Parenthood, and use its budgetary resources to provide services for women and TGNC individuals. Should the Republican-led federal government cut contraception coverage, for instance, Levine said the city should step in to fund it.</p> <p>Richards, of Queens, said there was a need to fund services where “people are living in the shadows” and expand health centers to communities like his that are underserved. And he said the Council should fund local organizations that provide those services.</p> <p>Rodriguez urged continued support for Planned Parenthood and better reproductive education in schools. Van Bramer insisted that contraceptives should be fully covered and if they’re not, the City Council should fund them. Williams, who jokingly apologized that all the candidates were men, echoed his colleagues and said he looked forward to passing his “boss bill” prohibiting discrimination by employers based on workers’ reproductive decisions.</p> <p>The candidates varied little on their perspectives on providing a quality education in city schools, particularly for those that face greater obstacles in the system including students in foster care, low-income, undocumented and LGBT and GNC students. Johnson emphasized that schools should not be punitive, but rather supportive and rehabilitative.</p> <p>Richards, Levine and Rodriguez touted the virtues of community schools that provide wraparound services to students, including physical and mental health and social services. Levine raised the spectre of school bullying and its “frequent entanglement” with anti-LGBT prejudice, which he said the school system and city leadership have failed to acknowledge and address. Rodriguez railed against school segregation, and called for the launch of an “education civil rights movement” under the next Council.</p> <p>The issue hit home for Van Bramer, who admitted being “near-suicidal” and skipping school to avoid a constant barrage of homophobic slurs. “All of us have to make sure that that stops once and for all and all children are safe to go to school,” he said.</p> <p>Williams stressed a change in school curriculums to ensure the inclusion of people of color and LGBT and GNC people. Cornegy said school segregation and prejudice based on sexual orientation need to be tackled at the Department of Education, and he lauded the effectiveness of community schools as well.</p> <p>Given the current national climate on sexual assault and workplace harassment, it was only natural that the candidates for arguably the second-most powerful position in city government would be asked about their perspective on the model policy to deal with the endemic problem.</p> <p>Levine reiterated three proposals, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which he announced earlier in the day</a>, for rooting out sexual misconduct in city government through regular disclosure of sexual harassment claims by city agencies, a evaluation of sexual harassment policy and by elevating City Council staff complaints to bring them under committee oversight. Van Bramer also released details of bills on Thursday that would evaluate sexual harassment at city contractors and embargo those organizations with a history of misconduct. Another member with pending legislation was Cornegy, whose bill would require small businesses to detail what constitutes sexual harassment and provide hotline numbers for victims.</p> <p>Richards advocated a “zero tolerance” policy and said the Council should have its own independent department or agent to monitor sexual harassment. Rodriguez called for an entire agency to do the same citywide.</p> <p>Williams expressed support for his colleagues’ legislative efforts and candidly said, “The one thing we could all do immediately is believe” women’s stories of harassment. Johnson bemoaned a culture that allows men to believe they can act and behave in any way in a public setting because of their inherent power. “We have to change that,” he said.</p> <p>On changes to NYPD policy in interactions with LGBT and GNC New Yorkers, Richards and Rodriguez both stressed that the city needs to fully implement its body camera program and strengthen community-police relationships. Richards said the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct, needs more teeth to hold erring officers accountable. “That’s where the culture shift absolutely needs to happen,” he said.</p> <p>Williams touted his “demonstrable leadership” against the NYPD’s racially biased use of stop-and-frisk policing, and the Council’s Community Safety Act of 2013, which he co-sponsored. The act created an independent monitor for the police department and added protections against biased profiling by officers. Cornegy subsequently advanced the idea of characterizing negative police interactions with protected classes of people as hate crimes.</p> <p>Women, trans and GNC communities and domestic violence survivors are at greater risk of becoming homeless in the city, said Burks of the Young Women’s Initiative, seeking the candidates’ ideas on improving access to affordable housing. Again, there were only slight differences in the candidates’ proposals as they called for deeper affordability and more set asides for formerly homeless New Yorkers, while some emphasized increased services and resources for survivors of domestic violence.</p> <p>The 51-member Council will have only 11 women members in the next term starting January, down from 19 a few years ago, and has not had a trans member yet. In the current Council, debate moderator Nahmias noted, three women of color negotiate the city budget -- Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Council finance director Latonia McKinney. Nahmias pressed the seven candidates on how they would ensure representation of cis and trans women, and women of color in particular, in their own senior teams and in the Council’s top leadership positions, namely the powerful chairs of the land use and finance committees.</p> <p>All the candidates were strongly committed to the task of choosing women and people of color as a majority of their senior leadership, and some said their staffs already reflect that commitment, though some rued the political reality that makes such a pledge necessary. “Women are 50 percent of the workforce and none of us deserves a gold star for making sure that women are in these positions and roles,” said Van Bramer.</p> <p>“It is appalling that there are only 11 women on the Council,” said Williams. The candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">all interviewed with the Council's Women's Caucus and made commitments</a> to its existing and incoming members.</p> <p>Cornegy noted that hiring of people of color in the Council central staff had doubled in Mark-Viverito’s tenure, and he vowed to build on that by including women and trans individuals in particular.</p> <p>Danced around was the fact that the winning speaker candidate will likely have earned the backing of the major Democratic political organizations of the Queens and the Bronx, which will then have a lot of say in staffing and top Council leadership decisions made by the next speaker.</p> <p>Richards was possibly the only one to acknowledge that the speaker race will be influenced heavily by forces outside of the Council, including county party chairs and the mayor. He wouldn’t say who might be the finance or land use chairs under his speakership since “we all have power brokers that we’re talking to at play,” though he did promise to advocate for women to be chosen for those positions.</p> <p>Levine stressed the need to support far more diverse candidates for the Council in the 2021 elections, when nearly 40 seats will be up for grabs. Richards said the Council’s efforts need to go further, by making sure each city agency has diverse staff, by hiring gender diversity compliance officers and ensuring that women of color and trans people move up into managerial positions.</p> <p>In a brief lightning round, all seven candidates agreed to staff their senior teams and central staff with more than 50 percent women and TGNC individuals, committed to support and expand the Young Women’s Initiative, and said they would back the “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>” policy proposals identified by numerous TGNC advocacy groups.</p> <p>With the last of the speaker forums, the public-facing aspect of the speaker-selection process appears effectively over. Candidates will now spend much of the next few weeks in backroom negotiations and closed meetings before the next speaker will be chosen in January when the next class of the City Council convenes.</p> <p>The partner organizations for Thursday’s forum included: Girls for Gender Equity, Women of Color for Progress, Brooklyn Movement Center, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual &amp; Transgender Community Center, PowHer NY, Planned Parenthood of New York City, National Organization for Women-NYC, New Leaders Council--NYC Chapter, National Institute for Reproductive Health, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Eleanor’s Legacy, National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8295.jpg" alt="City Council speaker candidates" width="600" height="382" /></p> <p>The City Council speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>At the last public forum in the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, seven of the eight men contending for the Council’s top leadership spot took turns making their argument for why they would be the right person to continue Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s legacy of protecting and promoting the cause of women, transgender, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers. Though few new ideas emerged, for nearly two hours, the seven Council members pitched their progressive credentials and promised to champion the city’s underrepresented and underserved populations.</p> <p>Hosted by a coalition of 14 organizations, at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute in Manhattan, the forum capped off a post-election month that has seen the candidates appear at more than a dozen issue-focused debates and discussions on everything from criminal justice to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government transparency and accountability</a>. Thursday’s event was moderated by Politico New York reporter Laura Nahmias and Shatia Burks of the New York City Young Women’s Initiative. In attendance were Council Members Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Cornegy Jr., Donovan Richards, Jumaane Williams, and Jimmy Van Bramer. Ritchie Torres was the only candidate absent.</p> <p>Past was prologue as the candidates took turns briefly narrating their individual histories, giving tactful yet heartfelt answers while also lamenting the obvious irony of them all being men after 12 years of the City Council having women serve as speaker.</p> <p>Council Member Cornegy, who in recent weeks has risen to become one of the perceived frontrunners in the race, spoke as a family man, a husband and father of six. He noted his support for reproductive health bills in the Council, particularly one that created lactation rooms at city agencies that provide family services (he first opened a “lactation station” in his district office). He half-joked that he co-chairs the Council’s “men who get it” caucus.</p> <p>Johnson, another leading contender, reminded the audience that he is an openly gay man and the only openly HIV positive elected official in New York, and that issues related to transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals are “deeply important” to him. He touted the passage of his bill allowing transgender New Yorkers to receive accurate birth certificates from the city.</p> <p>“The fact that the people running for Council speaker are all men reflects a failing of the political system in New York City,” said Levine, who is seen with Cornegy and Johnson as one of the three most likely to win the position when the vote takes place in January. “I think it does obligate the eight of us to reign in the hubris a little bit and do more listening than dictating.”</p> <p>Richards echoed the sentiment, saying “it is shameful that there is not a woman in this race,” while emphasizing that not only would the next speaker have to focus on women’s issues, but also ensure that women are in leadership positions.</p> <p>Rodriguez cited his experience as an immigrant, in a large family with many sisters. “Women’s issues are trans-sectional,” he said, while promising to continue Mark-Viverito’s legacy.</p> <p>Van Bramer, who is also openly gay, spoke from the experience of his own coming out. Being an LGBTQ activist meant also being “an activist for choice and a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “The two of them are inseparable.” He proudly touted his successful efforts to open the first Planned Parenthood health center in Queens, and in helping found the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.</p> <p>Williams, who noted early that the seven would likely respond similarly to questions, instead emphasized that he is “battle-tested to move forward” and has passed the most bills of all the candidates. His statement would ring true as there was little daylight between the candidates as they addressed the issues raised at the forum including access to reproductive health services, education, economic development and workplace sexual harassment, NYPD policy, affordable housing, city budgeting, and Council governance.</p> <p>On abortion access and so-called crisis pregnancy centers -- which NARAL Pro-choice America calls “fake health clinics” that mislead women to block access to abortions -- all seven agreed that the NYPD should play a stronger role in both protecting women from protesters outside Planned Parenthood clinics and in cracking down on predatory crisis centers. Cornegy even floated the idea of a dedicated police unit focused on these centers.</p> <p>Johnson insisted that Planned Parenthood is always a budget priority for him. He said the Council needed to do more to “reign in” CPCs while calling on the police to be more vigilant to protect women seeking abortions at clinics.</p> <p>Levine said the Council needs to fight back against the demonization of Planned Parenthood, and use its budgetary resources to provide services for women and TGNC individuals. Should the Republican-led federal government cut contraception coverage, for instance, Levine said the city should step in to fund it.</p> <p>Richards, of Queens, said there was a need to fund services where “people are living in the shadows” and expand health centers to communities like his that are underserved. And he said the Council should fund local organizations that provide those services.</p> <p>Rodriguez urged continued support for Planned Parenthood and better reproductive education in schools. Van Bramer insisted that contraceptives should be fully covered and if they’re not, the City Council should fund them. Williams, who jokingly apologized that all the candidates were men, echoed his colleagues and said he looked forward to passing his “boss bill” prohibiting discrimination by employers based on workers’ reproductive decisions.</p> <p>The candidates varied little on their perspectives on providing a quality education in city schools, particularly for those that face greater obstacles in the system including students in foster care, low-income, undocumented and LGBT and GNC students. Johnson emphasized that schools should not be punitive, but rather supportive and rehabilitative.</p> <p>Richards, Levine and Rodriguez touted the virtues of community schools that provide wraparound services to students, including physical and mental health and social services. Levine raised the spectre of school bullying and its “frequent entanglement” with anti-LGBT prejudice, which he said the school system and city leadership have failed to acknowledge and address. Rodriguez railed against school segregation, and called for the launch of an “education civil rights movement” under the next Council.</p> <p>The issue hit home for Van Bramer, who admitted being “near-suicidal” and skipping school to avoid a constant barrage of homophobic slurs. “All of us have to make sure that that stops once and for all and all children are safe to go to school,” he said.</p> <p>Williams stressed a change in school curriculums to ensure the inclusion of people of color and LGBT and GNC people. Cornegy said school segregation and prejudice based on sexual orientation need to be tackled at the Department of Education, and he lauded the effectiveness of community schools as well.</p> <p>Given the current national climate on sexual assault and workplace harassment, it was only natural that the candidates for arguably the second-most powerful position in city government would be asked about their perspective on the model policy to deal with the endemic problem.</p> <p>Levine reiterated three proposals, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which he announced earlier in the day</a>, for rooting out sexual misconduct in city government through regular disclosure of sexual harassment claims by city agencies, a evaluation of sexual harassment policy and by elevating City Council staff complaints to bring them under committee oversight. Van Bramer also released details of bills on Thursday that would evaluate sexual harassment at city contractors and embargo those organizations with a history of misconduct. Another member with pending legislation was Cornegy, whose bill would require small businesses to detail what constitutes sexual harassment and provide hotline numbers for victims.</p> <p>Richards advocated a “zero tolerance” policy and said the Council should have its own independent department or agent to monitor sexual harassment. Rodriguez called for an entire agency to do the same citywide.</p> <p>Williams expressed support for his colleagues’ legislative efforts and candidly said, “The one thing we could all do immediately is believe” women’s stories of harassment. Johnson bemoaned a culture that allows men to believe they can act and behave in any way in a public setting because of their inherent power. “We have to change that,” he said.</p> <p>On changes to NYPD policy in interactions with LGBT and GNC New Yorkers, Richards and Rodriguez both stressed that the city needs to fully implement its body camera program and strengthen community-police relationships. Richards said the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints of police misconduct, needs more teeth to hold erring officers accountable. “That’s where the culture shift absolutely needs to happen,” he said.</p> <p>Williams touted his “demonstrable leadership” against the NYPD’s racially biased use of stop-and-frisk policing, and the Council’s Community Safety Act of 2013, which he co-sponsored. The act created an independent monitor for the police department and added protections against biased profiling by officers. Cornegy subsequently advanced the idea of characterizing negative police interactions with protected classes of people as hate crimes.</p> <p>Women, trans and GNC communities and domestic violence survivors are at greater risk of becoming homeless in the city, said Burks of the Young Women’s Initiative, seeking the candidates’ ideas on improving access to affordable housing. Again, there were only slight differences in the candidates’ proposals as they called for deeper affordability and more set asides for formerly homeless New Yorkers, while some emphasized increased services and resources for survivors of domestic violence.</p> <p>The 51-member Council will have only 11 women members in the next term starting January, down from 19 a few years ago, and has not had a trans member yet. In the current Council, debate moderator Nahmias noted, three women of color negotiate the city budget -- Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Council finance director Latonia McKinney. Nahmias pressed the seven candidates on how they would ensure representation of cis and trans women, and women of color in particular, in their own senior teams and in the Council’s top leadership positions, namely the powerful chairs of the land use and finance committees.</p> <p>All the candidates were strongly committed to the task of choosing women and people of color as a majority of their senior leadership, and some said their staffs already reflect that commitment, though some rued the political reality that makes such a pledge necessary. “Women are 50 percent of the workforce and none of us deserves a gold star for making sure that women are in these positions and roles,” said Van Bramer.</p> <p>“It is appalling that there are only 11 women on the Council,” said Williams. The candidates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">all interviewed with the Council's Women's Caucus and made commitments</a> to its existing and incoming members.</p> <p>Cornegy noted that hiring of people of color in the Council central staff had doubled in Mark-Viverito’s tenure, and he vowed to build on that by including women and trans individuals in particular.</p> <p>Danced around was the fact that the winning speaker candidate will likely have earned the backing of the major Democratic political organizations of the Queens and the Bronx, which will then have a lot of say in staffing and top Council leadership decisions made by the next speaker.</p> <p>Richards was possibly the only one to acknowledge that the speaker race will be influenced heavily by forces outside of the Council, including county party chairs and the mayor. He wouldn’t say who might be the finance or land use chairs under his speakership since “we all have power brokers that we’re talking to at play,” though he did promise to advocate for women to be chosen for those positions.</p> <p>Levine stressed the need to support far more diverse candidates for the Council in the 2021 elections, when nearly 40 seats will be up for grabs. Richards said the Council’s efforts need to go further, by making sure each city agency has diverse staff, by hiring gender diversity compliance officers and ensuring that women of color and trans people move up into managerial positions.</p> <p>In a brief lightning round, all seven candidates agreed to staff their senior teams and central staff with more than 50 percent women and TGNC individuals, committed to support and expand the Young Women’s Initiative, and said they would back the “<a href="https://avp.org/solutions-struggle-survival-tgnc-policy-brief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Solutions out of Struggle and Survival</a>” policy proposals identified by numerous TGNC advocacy groups.</p> <p>With the last of the speaker forums, the public-facing aspect of the speaker-selection process appears effectively over. Candidates will now spend much of the next few weeks in backroom negotiations and closed meetings before the next speaker will be chosen in January when the next class of the City Council convenes.</p> <p>The partner organizations for Thursday’s forum included: Girls for Gender Equity, Women of Color for Progress, Brooklyn Movement Center, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual &amp; Transgender Community Center, PowHer NY, Planned Parenthood of New York City, National Organization for Women-NYC, New Leaders Council--NYC Chapter, National Institute for Reproductive Health, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Citizens’ Committee for Children, Eleanor’s Legacy, National Association of Social Workers—NYC Chapter.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[READ: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Council Speaker Candidates Address Power, Reform and Transparency</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Inside the Fundraising and Spending of the City Council Speaker Candidates 2017-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7356-inside-the-fundraising-of-the-city-council-speaker-candidates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8277.jpg" alt="city council speaker" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight men running to become the next speaker of the City Council are all Democrats who were re-elected in November to serve a final term in the body. None of them faced a strong challenger in their respective races, either in the primaries, which are largely determinative of overall results, or in the November 7 general election. Nevertheless, a few of the candidates raised significant campaign cash and spent it just as liberally as if they were running competitive races. As Gotham Gazette has reported, several of the speaker candidates have donated heavily from their campaign accounts to those of other City Council members and candidates, in apparent effort to win favor ahead of the speaker vote, which will occur in January.</p> <p>Among the eight candidates, a few are seen as frontrunners in the race -- Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr., Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and, to a lesser degree, Ritchie Torres -- though it is a notoriously nebulous contest with shifting dynamics. Labor unions may buoy the chances of certain members while county allegiances may supersede that support. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s role remains to be determined. The other candidates -- Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, Donovan Richards and Jumaane Williams -- are considered less likely to emerge victorious, though one or more may have an outside path to the throne.</p> <p>This week, the candidates had to final a new campaign finance report, with activity between October 24 and November 30. It is the last filing before the speaker vote, which is likely to occur January 3.</p> <p>When it comes to campaign fundraising and spending, Johnson remains at the top of the list. His run for speaker began two years ago and the Manhattan Democrat even eschewed the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which would have limited his expenditures. He has also been the most prolific donor to other members who ran for reelection and fresh faces that will be joining the Council come January.</p> <p>Johnson raised $505,818 over the race and spent $374,707, the latest campaign disclosures show. He has $131,111 left to spend on future races or charitable donations or supporting other electoral candidates. Of his total fundraising, $209,000 came from 76 contributions of $2,750, the maximum allowable in a City Council race. A total of $73,600 came from political action committees, while a slew of his largest donations came from individuals in the real estate, hotel, and nightlife industries. Some top donors include Barry Diller, the billionaire IAC and Expedia chairman; former Ralph Lauren Corporation CEO John Mehas; and Tony award-winning producer Daryl Roth. Much of Johnson’s spending, $126,300 to be exact, took the form of political contributions, and he spent only about $22,750 with campaign consulting firm Metropolitan Public Strategies.</p> <p>Levine, another Manhattan Democrat who also did not participate in the public funds program, raised $439,110 over the course of the election cycle. But Levine’s expenditure of $405,802 outpaced the fundraising leader, Johnson, and left just $33,308 in campaign funds at his disposal. There were 45 donors who gave Levine the maximum contribution, for a total of $118,250. He received $86,825 in total from PACs. Among his top donors were employees of real estate firms, law practices, property management companies, and at least one hedge fund. He counts George and Marian Klein of the Park Tower Group among those who gave the highest possible donation.</p> <p>Levine has been seen as the candidate perhaps most favored by the mayor, which has raised concerns about whether he can be a sufficiently independent leader, and led him to focus many of his public remarks on leading an strongly independent Council. He retained the services of Pitta Bishop &amp; Del Giorno LLP, an influential lobbying firm, to handle his strategy in running for speaker. He has spent $58,200 on campaign consultants, including Kirtzman Strategies and RKM Strategic Consulting, and another $84,985 on political contributions.</p> <p>Cornegy Jr., the only candidate who isn’t a member of the Council’s progressive caucus, was once viewed as an unlikely next speaker, having done little to cultivate a viable candidacy, spending little money or time helping others campaign, and having a low-key presence at the Council. But with the backing of the Brooklyn county party apparatus and, more recently, support from prominent voices that can influence the race, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, he is seen as having better chances of prevailing. Cornegy did participate in the CFB’s public funds program, which meant he had to abide by a strict spending limit of $182,000 for each of the primary and general elections. He ended up raising a total of $184,730, and spent all but $1,722. He received $71,500 from maxed-out donations, and political action committees contributed a total of $40,650 to his reelection. Billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis donated to Cornegy’s campaign, as did Soly and David Bawabeh, prominent real estate developers in the city. Campaign consultations accounted for $67,450 in Cornegy’s campaign spending, most of which went to Mercury Public Affairs, a well-known consulting firm. He also doled out $35,750 in political contributions.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat and the youngest candidate in the race for speaker, raised $264,819 this election cycle, but he was also a public funds participant and ended up spending $108,851 for his reelection. He has $155,968 in cash on hand. His campaign got $69,400 from PACs and he received less than a dozen maxed-out donations, including one from Council Member Johnson’s campaign.</p> <p>Torres’ prospects depend largely on support from the Bronx county machine, which will likely negotiate with the Queens county establishment to determine how plum Council committee chair positions are distributed. U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the Queens Democrats, is expected to play an outsize role in the entire process this year. The two counties were sidelined in 2014 when the Council’s newly empowered progressive caucus, influential labor unions, de Blasio, and Brooklyn Democratic County chair Frank Seddio collaborated to anoint Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker.</p> <p>Queens Council Member Van Bramer, another public funds non-participant, raised $539,560 and spent $278,587, for a balance of $260,973. He received 68 contributions of the max $2,750, equalling $170,500 of his total fundraising. About $66,000 of his total came from PAC donations. Van Bramer has attempted to make public and private overtures to Crowley but is not expected to receive the county backing. Currently majority leader of the Council, Van Bramer could wind up with another top leadership or committee post.</p> <p>Richards, whose district spans parts of Brooklyn and Queens, participated in the public funds program and raised $171,598, including $39,700 from PACs, and spent $150,948. He has only $20,650 left in his account. Richards is seen as having long odds in the race but was for a time expected to be the mayor’s preferred candidate after Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced she would not be running for reelection. She was widely regarded as a strong contender for the speakership and her exit from the Council left the speaker race dominated by men.</p> <p>Rodriguez was a public funds participant but he had two primary opponents, explaining his expenditure of $242,365 from his total fundraising of $255,423. He has $13,058 in his campaign account. He received $45,175 in PAC money.</p> <p>Williams, who some say could be a potential primary opponent to Governor Andrew Cuomo next year, or a lieutenant governor candidate as part of a ticket, opted out of the public funds program and raised $226,784 for his reelection to the Council, including $66,100 in PAC donations. He also had a non-competitive primary but he spent nearly all of his campaign cash, leaving just $660 in his account.</p> <p>The next and final campaign finance disclosures are due January 16.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/img_8277.jpg" alt="city council speaker" width="600" height="406" /></p> <p>City Council Speaker candidates (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>The eight men running to become the next speaker of the City Council are all Democrats who were re-elected in November to serve a final term in the body. None of them faced a strong challenger in their respective races, either in the primaries, which are largely determinative of overall results, or in the November 7 general election. Nevertheless, a few of the candidates raised significant campaign cash and spent it just as liberally as if they were running competitive races. As Gotham Gazette has reported, several of the speaker candidates have donated heavily from their campaign accounts to those of other City Council members and candidates, in apparent effort to win favor ahead of the speaker vote, which will occur in January.</p> <p>Among the eight candidates, a few are seen as frontrunners in the race -- Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr., Corey Johnson, Mark Levine and, to a lesser degree, Ritchie Torres -- though it is a notoriously nebulous contest with shifting dynamics. Labor unions may buoy the chances of certain members while county allegiances may supersede that support. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s role remains to be determined. The other candidates -- Ydanis Rodriguez, Jimmy Van Bramer, Donovan Richards and Jumaane Williams -- are considered less likely to emerge victorious, though one or more may have an outside path to the throne.</p> <p>This week, the candidates had to final a new campaign finance report, with activity between October 24 and November 30. It is the last filing before the speaker vote, which is likely to occur January 3.</p> <p>When it comes to campaign fundraising and spending, Johnson remains at the top of the list. His run for speaker began two years ago and the Manhattan Democrat even eschewed the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which would have limited his expenditures. He has also been the most prolific donor to other members who ran for reelection and fresh faces that will be joining the Council come January.</p> <p>Johnson raised $505,818 over the race and spent $374,707, the latest campaign disclosures show. He has $131,111 left to spend on future races or charitable donations or supporting other electoral candidates. Of his total fundraising, $209,000 came from 76 contributions of $2,750, the maximum allowable in a City Council race. A total of $73,600 came from political action committees, while a slew of his largest donations came from individuals in the real estate, hotel, and nightlife industries. Some top donors include Barry Diller, the billionaire IAC and Expedia chairman; former Ralph Lauren Corporation CEO John Mehas; and Tony award-winning producer Daryl Roth. Much of Johnson’s spending, $126,300 to be exact, took the form of political contributions, and he spent only about $22,750 with campaign consulting firm Metropolitan Public Strategies.</p> <p>Levine, another Manhattan Democrat who also did not participate in the public funds program, raised $439,110 over the course of the election cycle. But Levine’s expenditure of $405,802 outpaced the fundraising leader, Johnson, and left just $33,308 in campaign funds at his disposal. There were 45 donors who gave Levine the maximum contribution, for a total of $118,250. He received $86,825 in total from PACs. Among his top donors were employees of real estate firms, law practices, property management companies, and at least one hedge fund. He counts George and Marian Klein of the Park Tower Group among those who gave the highest possible donation.</p> <p>Levine has been seen as the candidate perhaps most favored by the mayor, which has raised concerns about whether he can be a sufficiently independent leader, and led him to focus many of his public remarks on leading an strongly independent Council. He retained the services of Pitta Bishop &amp; Del Giorno LLP, an influential lobbying firm, to handle his strategy in running for speaker. He has spent $58,200 on campaign consultants, including Kirtzman Strategies and RKM Strategic Consulting, and another $84,985 on political contributions.</p> <p>Cornegy Jr., the only candidate who isn’t a member of the Council’s progressive caucus, was once viewed as an unlikely next speaker, having done little to cultivate a viable candidacy, spending little money or time helping others campaign, and having a low-key presence at the Council. But with the backing of the Brooklyn county party apparatus and, more recently, support from prominent voices that can influence the race, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, he is seen as having better chances of prevailing. Cornegy did participate in the CFB’s public funds program, which meant he had to abide by a strict spending limit of $182,000 for each of the primary and general elections. He ended up raising a total of $184,730, and spent all but $1,722. He received $71,500 from maxed-out donations, and political action committees contributed a total of $40,650 to his reelection. Billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis donated to Cornegy’s campaign, as did Soly and David Bawabeh, prominent real estate developers in the city. Campaign consultations accounted for $67,450 in Cornegy’s campaign spending, most of which went to Mercury Public Affairs, a well-known consulting firm. He also doled out $35,750 in political contributions.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat and the youngest candidate in the race for speaker, raised $264,819 this election cycle, but he was also a public funds participant and ended up spending $108,851 for his reelection. He has $155,968 in cash on hand. His campaign got $69,400 from PACs and he received less than a dozen maxed-out donations, including one from Council Member Johnson’s campaign.</p> <p>Torres’ prospects depend largely on support from the Bronx county machine, which will likely negotiate with the Queens county establishment to determine how plum Council committee chair positions are distributed. U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the Queens Democrats, is expected to play an outsize role in the entire process this year. The two counties were sidelined in 2014 when the Council’s newly empowered progressive caucus, influential labor unions, de Blasio, and Brooklyn Democratic County chair Frank Seddio collaborated to anoint Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker.</p> <p>Queens Council Member Van Bramer, another public funds non-participant, raised $539,560 and spent $278,587, for a balance of $260,973. He received 68 contributions of the max $2,750, equalling $170,500 of his total fundraising. About $66,000 of his total came from PAC donations. Van Bramer has attempted to make public and private overtures to Crowley but is not expected to receive the county backing. Currently majority leader of the Council, Van Bramer could wind up with another top leadership or committee post.</p> <p>Richards, whose district spans parts of Brooklyn and Queens, participated in the public funds program and raised $171,598, including $39,700 from PACs, and spent $150,948. He has only $20,650 left in his account. Richards is seen as having long odds in the race but was for a time expected to be the mayor’s preferred candidate after Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced she would not be running for reelection. She was widely regarded as a strong contender for the speakership and her exit from the Council left the speaker race dominated by men.</p> <p>Rodriguez was a public funds participant but he had two primary opponents, explaining his expenditure of $242,365 from his total fundraising of $255,423. He has $13,058 in his campaign account. He received $45,175 in PAC money.</p> <p>Williams, who some say could be a potential primary opponent to Governor Andrew Cuomo next year, or a lieutenant governor candidate as part of a ticket, opted out of the public funds program and raised $226,784 for his reelection to the Council, including $66,100 in PAC donations. He also had a non-competitive primary but he spent nearly all of his campaign cash, leaving just $660 in his account.</p> <p>The next and final campaign finance disclosures are due January 16.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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High Stakes for Affordable Housing in City Council Speaker Race 2017-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-05T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7352-high-stakes-for-affordable-housing-in-city-council-speaker-race Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/cornegy_speaker_forum_crop.jpg" alt="cornegy speaker forum crop" width="600" height="363" /></p> <p>Robert Cornegy (far right) at a City Council Speaker forum (photo: @RobertCornegyJr)</p> <hr /> <p>Eight members of the New York City Council are asking their colleagues to elect them as the new Speaker after the new legislative body is seated January 1.</p> <p>Seven of the candidates oppose allowing Airbnb and other on-line platforms to continue their assault on our scarce affordable rental housing. But one of them, Robert Cornegy, Jr. of Brooklyn, does not.</p> <p>In <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/opinion/why-albany-should-reject-the-flawed-airbnb-bill.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a June 2016 opinion piece</a>&nbsp;for City &amp; State, Council Member Cornegy argued that Airbnb brings extra income to his struggling constituents in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, ensuring that they can continue to live in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This column was straight out of the Airbnb playbook, and contradicted by the fact that roughly 75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not “regular folks” renting their own place.</p> <p>North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role. In Council Member Cornegy’s district, there were some 3,400 listings for Airbnb in October. Of these, almost 1,300 were for entire homes. If these “entire homes” are in apartment buildings, then they are illegal, as short-term rentals are against the law if the tenant is not present. (Renting out a room while the tenant is living in the apartment is not illegal, although tenants who do so risk eviction if the landlord finds out.)</p> <p>Airbnb’s negative impact on Council Member Cornegy’s district is merely one part of a larger trend in the borough. Four City Council districts stretching from Williamsburg to Crown Heights are represented by Steve Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, and Cornegy. These four districts combined had Airbnb listings for more than 16,000 units in October. By contrast, the top four Council districts in Manhattan combined had 10,800 listings.</p> <p><a href="http://insideairbnb.com/face-of-airbnb-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study last March</a> by Inside Airbnb tallied the host photographs in the 72 predominately African-American neighborhoods in the city. The Airbnb host population in these communities was 74 percent white, while the white resident population was only 13.9 percent. White hosts in these neighborhoods earned 73.7 percent of the income from Airbnb rentals. Despite Airbnb’s claim that they make it possible for people of color to supplement their incomes, it is clear that the newer, white residents in these gentrifying neighborhoods are the main beneficiaries of the “sharing economy.”</p> <p>So, who suffers? These units have been withdrawn from the rental market because short-term rentals are more profitable. Long-term residents therefore face a tighter market, and are subject to harassment and rent gouging.</p> <p>This is not only a Brooklyn or even a New York problem. From Vancouver to London, local governments are taking action to curb short-term rentals. Airbnb’s response is to stonewall, and enlist surrogates to spin its public relations web.</p> <p>I have a friend whose family owns a restaurant in a year-round resort town in the northeastern United States. He told me recently that until a couple of years ago, the cooks and waiters could share a house for $700 to $800 per month. Now there are no such rentals available, because owners can make that much in a weekend through Airbnb.</p> <p>The sheer scope of this crisis makes the future of New York City’s government all the more critical. The rest of the nation and even the world look to us as a model for policy and politics, and we must do everything we can to make our housing market more affordable.</p> <p>Ensuring that the next Speaker of the City Council is a true advocate for tenants, and for preserving our threatened stock of affordable rental housing, is the first next step in addressing the host of problems we face: weakened rent laws, lax enforcement by state and city, predatory speculators paying excessive prices for apartment buildings with an eye to driving out the rent-regulated tenants, constant upward pressure on rents, construction as harassment, and more.</p> <p>We cannot afford to have in our house of government a Speaker who will not fight to protect the homes of its citizens. I urge Council Member Cornegy’s colleagues to take a look at this before casting their votes, and show that they stand with tenants, not the companies that are forcing them out.</p> <p>***<br /> Michael McKee is treasurer of Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/tenantspacny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TenantsPACNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/cornegy_speaker_forum_crop.jpg" alt="cornegy speaker forum crop" width="600" height="363" /></p> <p>Robert Cornegy (far right) at a City Council Speaker forum (photo: @RobertCornegyJr)</p> <hr /> <p>Eight members of the New York City Council are asking their colleagues to elect them as the new Speaker after the new legislative body is seated January 1.</p> <p>Seven of the candidates oppose allowing Airbnb and other on-line platforms to continue their assault on our scarce affordable rental housing. But one of them, Robert Cornegy, Jr. of Brooklyn, does not.</p> <p>In <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/opinion/why-albany-should-reject-the-flawed-airbnb-bill.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a June 2016 opinion piece</a>&nbsp;for City &amp; State, Council Member Cornegy argued that Airbnb brings extra income to his struggling constituents in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, ensuring that they can continue to live in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This column was straight out of the Airbnb playbook, and contradicted by the fact that roughly 75 percent of Airbnb revenue in New York City is generated by commercial hosts with multiple listings, not “regular folks” renting their own place.</p> <p>North and Central Brooklyn are the epicenter of gentrification in New York City, and Airbnb has played a destructive role. In Council Member Cornegy’s district, there were some 3,400 listings for Airbnb in October. Of these, almost 1,300 were for entire homes. If these “entire homes” are in apartment buildings, then they are illegal, as short-term rentals are against the law if the tenant is not present. (Renting out a room while the tenant is living in the apartment is not illegal, although tenants who do so risk eviction if the landlord finds out.)</p> <p>Airbnb’s negative impact on Council Member Cornegy’s district is merely one part of a larger trend in the borough. Four City Council districts stretching from Williamsburg to Crown Heights are represented by Steve Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, and Cornegy. These four districts combined had Airbnb listings for more than 16,000 units in October. By contrast, the top four Council districts in Manhattan combined had 10,800 listings.</p> <p><a href="http://insideairbnb.com/face-of-airbnb-nyc/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study last March</a> by Inside Airbnb tallied the host photographs in the 72 predominately African-American neighborhoods in the city. The Airbnb host population in these communities was 74 percent white, while the white resident population was only 13.9 percent. White hosts in these neighborhoods earned 73.7 percent of the income from Airbnb rentals. Despite Airbnb’s claim that they make it possible for people of color to supplement their incomes, it is clear that the newer, white residents in these gentrifying neighborhoods are the main beneficiaries of the “sharing economy.”</p> <p>So, who suffers? These units have been withdrawn from the rental market because short-term rentals are more profitable. Long-term residents therefore face a tighter market, and are subject to harassment and rent gouging.</p> <p>This is not only a Brooklyn or even a New York problem. From Vancouver to London, local governments are taking action to curb short-term rentals. Airbnb’s response is to stonewall, and enlist surrogates to spin its public relations web.</p> <p>I have a friend whose family owns a restaurant in a year-round resort town in the northeastern United States. He told me recently that until a couple of years ago, the cooks and waiters could share a house for $700 to $800 per month. Now there are no such rentals available, because owners can make that much in a weekend through Airbnb.</p> <p>The sheer scope of this crisis makes the future of New York City’s government all the more critical. The rest of the nation and even the world look to us as a model for policy and politics, and we must do everything we can to make our housing market more affordable.</p> <p>Ensuring that the next Speaker of the City Council is a true advocate for tenants, and for preserving our threatened stock of affordable rental housing, is the first next step in addressing the host of problems we face: weakened rent laws, lax enforcement by state and city, predatory speculators paying excessive prices for apartment buildings with an eye to driving out the rent-regulated tenants, constant upward pressure on rents, construction as harassment, and more.</p> <p>We cannot afford to have in our house of government a Speaker who will not fight to protect the homes of its citizens. I urge Council Member Cornegy’s colleagues to take a look at this before casting their votes, and show that they stand with tenants, not the companies that are forcing them out.</p> <p>***<br /> Michael McKee is treasurer of Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/tenantspacny" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TenantsPACNY</a>.</p> <p>

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

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