Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/510 Tue, 19 Mar 2019 06:07:58 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Seizing the Moment for Bold Climate, Green Job & Environmental Justice Legislation in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8367-seizing-the-moment-for-bold-climate-green-job-environmental-justice-legislation-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8367-seizing-the-moment-for-bold-climate-green-job-environmental-justice-legislation-in-new-york aerial solar panels

(photo: mayor's office on flickr)


On Friday, March 15, over 1 million students from 125 countries walked out of school to demand that we act on climate change.  As New Yorkers, we’re already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change in our communities. We all remember the damage to homes, lives, and communities caused by Superstorm Sandy, and we know we’ll face more intense storms in the future. As summers get longer and hotter, more of our elderly neighbors will be at risk for heat stroke or even death.

We also know that the impacts of climate change do not  affect everyone the same way. From heat waves to hurricanes to sea-level rise, low-income communities, communities of color, and communities historically burdened by polluting and extractive industries are often more vulnerable to climate risks.

But discussion of climate change does not have to be all doom and gloom. In New York State, we have an opportunity to move to a fossil-fuel-free economy while also investing in good, high-wage jobs and creating real investment in communities most impacted by the climate change.

If we want a carbon-free future, or some would say, any future, we need to reduce our emissions from all sources and we need to set an enforceable timeline to do it.

This crisis gives us an opportunity to re-imagine our priorities as a state. It will take planning and investments to move to a fossil-free future. We need to direct some of those investments to marginalized communities and people already hurt by the climate crisis. We need to make sure green jobs pay livable wages, and create opportunities among low- and middle-income communities across the state. We need to end our dependence on fossil fuels while building a better economy that does its best not to leave anyone  behind.

This is part of the reason why I sponsor the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), which has passed in the State Assembly three years in a row.  This year has brought with it more opportunities, and the time is right to create a green and equitable future.

The CCPA has the support of over 160 grassroots community, labor, and environmental organizations. It creates an enforceable timeline to move our entire economy to 100% renewable energy by no later than 2050. It is based on the timeline scientists recommend to avoid catastrophe. It also includes the strongest equity provisions in the nation to invest in communities hit hardest by the climate crisis.

The CCPA is about more than just the environment. Under the bill, 40 percent of state funds directed towards greening our economy would go to environmental justice communities. That includes low-income communities, communities of color, and folks at high risk of being adversely impacted by major storms or sea-level rise, and communities already experiencing polluted air and water from carbon-burning facilities.

The CCPA also sets wage and apprenticeship standards so that new green jobs are well-paying, livable jobs. It is estimated that the CCPA will generate the creation of 150,000 jobs related to the green energy transition, revitalizing communities and providing opportunities for New Yorkers across the state.

We can and should get this done this year.

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Assemblymember Steven Englebright represents parts of Long Island. On Twitter @SteveEngles.

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

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Seizing the Moment for Bold Climate, Green Job & Environmental Justice Legislation in New York Mon, 18 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
An Agenda to Protect New York Immigrants and Benefit the Entire State http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8364-an-agenda-to-protect-new-york-immigrants-and-benefit-the-entire-state http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8364-an-agenda-to-protect-new-york-immigrants-and-benefit-the-entire-state gov cuomo immigrant

(photo: governor's office)


Immigrants in New York are under attack. In New York City for example, despite municipal policies to welcome and protect immigrants, ICE arrests of immigrant individuals with no criminal convictions have rapidly increased. From fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2018, ICE non-criminal arrests in the New York City area increased by 414%.

These increases reflect the president’s negative rhetoric and policies toward immigrants. Not only is new immigration being discouraged and made nearly impossible, individuals who have long-standing community ties, such as U.S. citizen family members or years-long work histories, are being torn apart from their children, families, and communities.

In this past November’s election, Democrats won the majority in both the New York State Assembly and Senate. Now, New York legislators not only have the opportunity but the obligation to stand up for immigrants.

Immigrants are integral parts of local communities, but they also contribute to local and statewide economies. In New York there are 4.49 million foreign-born immigrants.

This year, both houses of the state Legislature voted to pass The José Peralta New York State DREAM Act. This legislation will allow undocumented students to apply for state aid for higher education. This legislation also creates a Dream Fund for college scholarship opportunities and removes barriers that prevent undocumented families from college saving programs. The DREAM Act will allow talented students to access the financial help needed to earn degrees, access highly-skilled employment, and support their local economies across New York.

Nonetheless, the agenda for immigrants can and must go further and is a top priority for state legislators that represent large immigrant communities.

Our next priority, The Driver's License Access and Privacy Act would restore access to driver’s licenses for all, regardless of immigration status, in New York. Currently, 13 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico issue standard driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Accessibility to reliable public transportation is many times unavailable to those living and working throughout upstate New York, the downstate suburbs, and the outer boroughs of New York City.

Also, data indicates annual revenue of $57 million to state and local governments, with an additional one-time boost of $26 million. This legislation, supported by law enforcement policy analysts, will safeguard hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from possible deportation if pulled over by law enforcement and also aims to ensure all drivers are insured and informed of traffic laws.

Our community also needs New York to further break the links between the criminal legal system and the deportation pipeline. First, ICE’s presence in our courts must end. New Yorkers must not fear that while they are seeking protection and justice, they could be detained and separated from their families.

Second, under federal immigration law, a one year sentence for a non-violent crime can trigger deportation proceedings and removal from the United States. The One Day to Protect New Yorkers Act modifies the maximum imprisonment sentence for a class A misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days. This bill aims to protect families from personal and financial devastation if a family member is faced with a possible one year sentence.

In addition to refusing to participate in Trump’s anti-immigrant game, New York must also expand opportunity for immigrants. New York should take immediate steps to preserve Medicaid access for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients at risk because of the Trump administration’s reckless actions to end TPS. New York should also create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

In the state budget, New York should also fully invest in the civil legal services that are so critical to our community’s well-being. The State must also significantly expand resources for adult literacy classes, which are often the best pathway to a better job and an increased ability to participate in the life of the broader community.

Finally, as the 2020 Census approaches, New York must step into the void left by Trump’s negligence. As a Fiscal Policy Institute analysis has shown, the state should invest $40 million in outreach by community-based organizations, in addition to the funds it should allocate for state and government agencies’ work. These resources will more than pay for themselves, as they will help ensure all New Yorkers are counted and thus that all our communities get their fair share of federal resources.

In the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies raining down from Washington, D.C, New York must lead by standing up for immigrants throughout the state. By passing an ambitious agenda to keep immigrant families together and invest in the success of our communities, we can do just that.

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Assemblymember Victor M. Pichardo represents New York’s 86th Assembly District and is Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. Assemblymember Marcos A. Crespo represents the 85th Assembly District and is Chair of the Committee on Labor. On Twitter @MarcosCrespo85 & @VPichardo86.

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

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An Agenda to Protect New York Immigrants and Benefit the Entire State Sun, 17 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New York Nurses Threaten Major Strike Over ‘Understaffing’ http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8351-new-york-nurses-threaten-major-strike-over-understaffing http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8351-new-york-nurses-threaten-major-strike-over-understaffing  nynurses

(photo: @nynurses)


During one night shift at the children’s hospital where she worked as a nurse, Nicolette Mabeza‘s unit filled up with intubated children. She and the other nurses were frantic.

“It was just the entire floor running around,” said Mabeza, who worked in the intensive care unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Washington Heights. “Some nurses had two intubated patients and they weren’t even right next to each other.”

Nurses stretched to the limit by understaffing would regularly cry on the job, she said.

“Not only does it make you feel that you’re being a terrible nurse,” said Mabeza. “You also wonder, why should patients come here if nurses can’t give the adequate care that they deserve?”

Feeling that she could no longer do her job in good conscience, she quit last April after less than a year at the hospital.

After years of complaints, understaffing has become a major point of conflict between the nurses union and private hospitals in New York City.

Around 13,000 nurses could strike this month if negotiations fail between the New York State Nurses Association and a group of three major hospital systems, union leaders say.

Nurses from Montefiore, Mount Sinai, St. Luke's-Mount Sinai West, and New York-Presbyterian hospitals authorized a strike last week and announced a rally for safe staffing on Monday, March 18 at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem.

“We’re saying enough is enough,” said Carl Ginsburg, a spokesperson for the union, which represents 37,000 nurses. “No sooner do we make a deal than we drift back into this danger zone.”

He said contract negotiations have slowed to a crawl with the New York City Hospital Alliance, an informal bargaining group of private hospitals that includes Montefiore, New York-Presbyterian, and Mount Sinai hospitals.

On the bargaining table is an increase in nurse-to-patient ratios in emergency rooms and intensive care units. Staffing levels have reached dangerously low levels, putting the safety of both nurses and patients at risk, Ginsburg said.

“Sometimes where a nurse should be caring for five patients, she’s caring for eight or 10,” said Ginsburg. “Make no mistake – it’s dangerous.”

In 2018, more than 12,000 nurses signed “Protest of Assignment” forms to complain about unsafe conditions at Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and New York Presbyterian.

A spokesperson for the NYC Hospital Alliance said that hospitals are financially stretched because of state Medicaid cuts. He added that the recent “Protest of Assignment” forms account for a negligible portion of the total number of nurse shifts.

Understaffing at hospitals forces nurses to make tough choices, said Anthony Ciampa, a nurse at New York Presbyterian for the last 14 years.

“I had to make the decision whether to hang blood or to help an elderly patient eat,” said Ciampa. “No nurse should be forced to make these types of decisions.”

The elderly patient sat in front of the food – unable to eat – while Ciampa took care of the blood transfusion, he said. By the time Ciampa was able to help, the patient’s food tray had been removed, untouched.

“I’m still upset about that,” said Ciampa, who is currently representing the union in contract negotiations. “It was like torture to sit there with the meal in front of you and not be able to eat it.”

Outside Brooklyn Hospital Center last month, nurses were reluctant to talk about staffing conditions, fearing retaliation from their employers.

“Everybody’s understaffed,” said a medical assistant who requested anonymity and said she has worked at the hospital for more than 20 years. “The patients are not getting adequate care.”

But the NYC Hospital Alliance denied reports that understaffing is leading to unsafe conditions, and said that enforced staffing ratios would be costly and ineffective.

“The reality is that the union’s rigid, mandated staffing ratios would lower the quality of patient care by overriding the professional judgment of nurses and healthcare professionals and crowding out other members of the care team,” said Linden Zakula, a spokesperson for the group.

Zakula said that state budget cuts to Medicaid have resulted in a loss of $240 million in expected funding for the three hospital groups combined.

“Alliance hospitals respect our nurses and are committed to bargaining in good faith,” said Zakula. “We are doing everything we can to reach an agreement that is fair, reasonable, and responsible for all parties.”

In the last few years, several New York City Council members have shown support for more staffing regulation at hospitals.

“Nurses are some of the most important people in the hospital,” said New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera. “It’s important that they feel they have the resources they need to be supported in some of the most stressful environments.”

Rivera, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Hospitals, cosponsored a resolution in 2018 that called on the state Legislature to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

The bill would set specific nurse-to-patient ratios by hospital unit, and would ensure that nurses can’t be assigned to more patients than specified.  Hospitals that break the law would be fined.

But there is no vote in sight for either the Council resolution or the state bill, which are both stuck in committee.

For many years, safe staffing legislation was met with resistance from Republicans who controlled the New York Senate.

Last week, New York Assemblymember Karines Reyes said she was confident that the Senate’s new Democratic majority would bolster the bill’s chances of passing.

“Apart from the Republican Senate’s pushback in past years, the primary obstacle posed to the legislation stems from the conflicting opinions of hospital administrators,” said Reyes, who is also a registered nurse in the Oncology Department at Montefiore Einstein Hospital. “These points of view fail to acknowledge that safe staffing is about saving lives. The legislation is paramount to the safety and outcomes of patients while not only providing adequate staffing to nurses, but to ancillary staff as well.”

While several states have laws that address nurse staffing, California is the only state that requires hospital units to maintain a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio.

Under that law – in effect since 2004 – critical care units in California must have at least one nurse for every two patients. The required nurse-to-patient ratio varies by department, with 1-to-4 for labor and delivery units and 1-to-6 for psychiatric units.

A 2010 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that mandated nurse-to-patient ratios resulted in fewer patient deaths and better morale for nurses compared to other states without similar legislation.

***
Gaspard Le Dem is a freelance journalist. On Twitter @GLD_Live.
@GothamGazette

Note: this story has been updated to change $300 million to $240 million based on corrected information provided by Zakula of NYC Hospital Alliance.

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New York Nurses Threaten Major Strike Over ‘Understaffing’ Tue, 12 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Proposal Would Subvert Efforts to Address Affordable Housing Crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8345-proposal-would-subvert-efforts-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8345-proposal-would-subvert-efforts-to-address-affordable-housing-crisis mayorsoffice aff

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


One of the greatest and most immediate challenges facing New York is a statewide affordable housing crisis that continues to affect millions of families. Elected officials must support and promote new legislation and policies that will help our state produce more affordable homes and, correspondingly, do no harm to much-needed housing efforts.

The reality today is that more than 3 million households across the state still pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, which means they are “rent-burdened” and often struggle to afford housing and other necessities like health care and child care.

This crisis is what led Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to dedicate $2.5 billion to support an ambitious five-year statewide housing plan and preserve crucial low-income housing tax credits that were under threat by the federal government.

But our state’s ability to address the affordable housing crisis is now at risk of being undermined by new legislation that proposes to expand the definition of public work and the application of the prevailing wage mandate to private construction projects – including low-income housing developments – based on the public subsidies they rely upon to be built.

As an organization whose members deeply believe in supporting the needs of low- and middle-income New Yorkers, we also believe in good, fair wages for all workers. But the wide application of prevailing wage, which is far in excess of the median wage and can raise construction costs by 25 percent or more, is not actually a path to higher pay for construction workers. In fact, it is certainly a way to ensure there are fewer jobs, fewer new developments, and fewer affordable homes for New Yorkers.

This would be a step backward for New York, where construction costs are already the most expensive in the world, averaging $362 per square foot in New York City, according to Turner & Townsend’s 2018 report on international construction. The report also notes that those costs will only continue to rise and are expected to jump by another 3.5 percent over the next year. Other costs and regulatory burdens remain major obstacles all across the state.

Whether they live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, New Yorkers simply cannot afford to lose opportunities for new housing construction and the many good jobs that come with them. It is worth noting that the creation and preservation of affordable housing supported more than 300,000 total jobs throughout the state between 2011 and 2015.

The state Legislature now has an important choice to make. Rather than advancing well-intentioned but misguided legislation that would diminish new affordable homes and good jobs across the state, we hope lawmakers will fully consider these negative impacts before they proceed with imposing prevailing wages on the construction of affordable housing in New York.

The further that lawmakers explore this issue, the clearer it will become that it is unwise to hastily advance these proposals and risk undercutting New York State’s much-needed housing plan. And if they make the right choice, all New Yorkers will benefit.

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Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade association that represents nearly 400 members responsible for the construction and preservation of affordable housing across the state.

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

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Proposal Would Subvert Efforts to Address Affordable Housing Crisis Tue, 12 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york wikimedia call center

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Long gone are the days when a family could live comfortably with a minimum wage job. In 1968, a worker making the federal minimum wage could support a partner and a child above the poverty line. Today, you can’t even support yourself and a child on it. Even with the recent increase to the minimum wage, hitting $15 an hour in New York City, it’s impossible for families in many parts of the state to live on minimum wage.

Economic anxiety has unfortunately become the new norm. Traditionally, most families’ golden ticket out of poverty was a solidly middle-class job, like at a call center. Those jobs, however, are increasingly being lost to corporate greed.

Since 2006, over 40,000 call center jobs were lost in New York. Forty thousand.

That means 40,000 families have had to face the emotional and financial stress of losing a job. It’s not as though the need for call center jobs has decreased; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% growth rate for customer service representative jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Unfortunately, there has been an upward trend of massive corporations looking to ship these jobs elsewhere so they can pay workers less and often find better tax incentives. Outsourcing work to other parts of the country or abroad has become a common corporate tactic to reduce costs. Middle class jobs are replaced with cheaper labor (often with subpar working conditions).

With the Trump administration’s tax cuts last year, outsourcing has become even more attractive to corporations, accelerating the process. The law rewards corporations with tax cuts and incentives for profits made overseas, with corporations paying as little as half or less of the corporate tax rate on profits earned abroad as they would here at home.

This is why I support the New York State Call Center Jobs Act, a bill that would finally prevent companies from being rewarded for outsourcing these good jobs elsewhere.

In January, AT&T announced it was closing a call center in Syracuse, eliminating 150 jobs. The workers in the call center had just two weeks to decide whether to accept a severance package or relocate.

Call center jobs are critical lifelines to sustain a robust middle class and it’s important we recognize that moving these jobs out of state has devastated families and communities across New York. We can no longer allow corporations to line their own pockets at the expense of hard-working New Yorkers.

This bill would help New York protect call center jobs at employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees. Employers would be required to notify the Public Service Commission if they intend to relocate at least 30% of call volume in a year. Those companies would lose all grants, loans, tax benefits, and state contracts, since our government should not be giving tax dollars to companies that are leaving the state. It would also ensure that all call center work related to state business is performed by New York companies.

This legislation passed last year in the Assembly and had considerable support in the Senate. Now that the Senate leadership has changed, we can and should get this done this year. I urge my fellow legislators to do what is right and protect New York’s middle class.

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Senator Jessica Ramos represents State District 13, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and parts of Astoria and Woodside. On Twitter @JessicaRamos.

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

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One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York Mon, 11 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Speaker Says Assembly No Longer Supports Public Campaign Financing, Downplays Other Reforms http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8342-speaker-says-assembly-no-longer-supports-public-campaign-financing-downplays-other-reforms http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8342-speaker-says-assembly-no-longer-supports-public-campaign-financing-downplays-other-reforms heastie carl nys assembly speaker 9.62

(photo: Buck Ennis/Crain's)


Though Democrats have for years blamed Republican intransigence for the failure of key campaign finance and ethics reforms in Albany, those measures still appear stalled even as their party controls the entire state Legislature and governor’s office. On Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that the votes are not there in his chamber to approve a public-matching campaign finance system, despite the fact that the Assembly has repeatedly passed such a measure in the past when Republicans controlled the Senate.

Heastie appeared at a Crain’s New York Business forum at the New York Athletic Club, where he gave remarks about the Assembly’s accomplishments and priorities, then took questions from Erik Engquist of Crain’s and Errol Louis of NY1, before also speaking with other reporters after the event.

With a new state budget due April 1, Heastie said it appeared unlikely that the Assembly would approve public campaign financing before or within that deal, though it is a long-held Democratic goal espoused not only by Assembly Democrats but also the new state Senate Democratic majority and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I think the members want to discuss it but I’d say right now what the concerns are on IEs [independent expenditures], problems with [New York City’s] campaign finance system, also with a shortage of [state] money, I think they want to have the discussion but I’d say right now there’s not 76 members who want to move forward with it in the next three weeks in the budget,” Heastie said in response to a question from Gotham Gazette, and referring to the minimum number of votes needed to advance a bill in the 150-seat chamber.

The speaker later tweeted to add to his comments from the morning, writing that the Assembly does want to consider a small-dollar matching program, but one that does not use public money.

Heastie also threw cold water on a state Senate-approved bill to limit campaign contributions from entities seeking state contracts and downplayed the need for additional government ethics reforms, saying that law enforcement entities catch bad actors and he is “still waiting for the idea of the bill that will really fix people’s morality.”

Asked about it by the moderators, Heastie expressed concerns that a bill passed on Tuesday by the state Senate could end up hurting the party in power. The bill, S3167, prohibits companies bidding for state contracts from contributing to “officeholders with authority over procuring entities” within a specific window of time, therefore applying largely to the executive branch, namely the governor.

Though Heastie’s conference has advanced similar bills in previous years, he hesitated to endorse that measure, which was sponsored by new state Senator Zellnor Myrie from Brooklyn.

“On the premise of it, it sounds great. Yeah, anybody who wants to bid on a contract, yeah they shouldn’t have the opportunity to make contributions to the governing entity because there could be the appearance that somebody’s trying to grease the skids,” Heastie said. “But the way that the legislation is drafted...it just covers such a vast number of people so that one company who...bids on a contract, their lobbyist, and it doesn’t just stop there, every other company that that lobbyist is responsible for is now radioactive.”

The bill would also put the State Democratic Party and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, “in a bind,” he said, because it would exclude them from raising funds from entities who would be able to donate to Republicans who don’t hold the same authority in state government. The bill includes a prohibition on contributions “indirectly or directly, to political committees operationally controlled by officeholders with authority over state governmental entities” that receive and review bids and issue contracts. “So I guess that on the surface the bill sounds like a great idea, but it really does put the governor and the Democratic Party at a huge disadvantage as compared to the Republican Party,” he said.

Asked about Heastie's comments, Jonathan Timm, a spokesperson for Senator Myrie, said in a statement, "The history of corruption in New York State government demonstrates that inaction is not an option. As with any other legislation, this bill will be subject to negotiation with the Assembly, and the Senator looks forward to working with them to clean up state government in the best way possible."

Speaking to reporters after Friday's event, Heastie then tempered expectations about public campaign financing, which appeared for months as though it would be a crowning achievement of the new Democratic era in Albany.

His comments weren’t taken lightly by a variety of advocates, including the Fair Elections for New York coalition, which has been pushing the state to adopt a small-donor matching system similar to the one in place in New York City, among other reforms.

“Historically, the Assembly Democrats have supported people-powered elections anchored with a small-donor matching system,” the coalition pointed out in a Friday statement, responding to Heastie’s comments as initially reported by Gotham Gazette.

“‘Fair elections’ is the policy that will really shake up the status quo, and thus the real test of the new Albany,” continued the coalition statement, referring to the Fair Elections Act that the Democratic Assembly has passed in previous sessions and that Senate Democrats have supported in the minority. “Passing this legislation now, in the budget, is the best chance for New York to once again lead the nation by having a campaign finance system that gives everyday New Yorkers as loud a voice as the wealthiest donors.”

The coalition is made up of more than 200 groups, including labor unions such as 32BJ, tenant organizers such as New York Communities for Change, immigrant advocates like the New York Immigration Coalition, environmental and racial justice groups such as the Sunrise Movement and VOCAL-NY, good government advocates like Reinvent Albany and more.

Urging the governor and legislative leaders to reject a budget that does not include public campaign financing, the coalition offered solutions for Heastie’s concerns. It said a public financing system should not include spending limits, therefore mitigating the effect of outside independent expenditure campaigns; suggested that New York follow Connecticut’s public matching program, which gives assistance to candidates in using small dollar contributions, compared to New York City’s program that many have called too punitive; and pointed out that the total budget ramifications of public financing were between $40-60 million, which wouldn’t even be apparent in the short term and could hardly affect a $175 billion state budget. The annual costs, the coalition estimated, would be less than $3 annually for every New Yorker.

Asked to comment on Heastie’s statements, neither the office of Senator Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins nor that of Governor Cuomo responded.

After seeing the blowback to his comments, Heastie issued another statement on Twitter Friday afternoon, writing, "I want to be clear – the Assembly Majority is supportive of limiting the influence of money in our elections through consideration of a small dollar donor matching system that does not rely on scarce public funds. Our members are not ready to support the NYC model for the entire state, but we will continue to have discussions in order to reach our goals."

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

This story has been updated.

Note - This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Senator Zellnor Myrie. 

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Speaker Says Assembly No Longer Supports Public Campaign Financing, Downplays Other Reforms Fri, 08 Mar 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senator David Carlucci http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8334-max-murphy-podcast-state-senator-david-carlucci http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8334-max-murphy-podcast-state-senator-david-carlucci mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


March 6, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senator David Carlucci

dav carlucci senateState Senator David Carlucci represents a Rockland and Westchester district that has a significant stake in the MTA, congestion pricing, and other key transit discussions, not to mention the overall state budget and other state policies. Carlucci joined the show to discuss his priorities and his take on the congestion pricing debate (and more) as Albany lawmakers look to make an agreement before a budget is due April 1.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: State Senator David Carlucci Wed, 06 Mar 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Addressing the Crisis of Family Separation Here in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8317-addressing-the-crisis-of-family-separation-here-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8317-addressing-the-crisis-of-family-separation-here-in-new-york reunion hug prison visit


It is time to address the crisis of family separation. This time, it’s not about the humanitarian emergency on our nation’s southern border, but our own homegrown crisis that affects New York’s approximately 80,000 children with a parent in prison. Most of these children deeply miss and want to visit their mothers or fathers, yet distance is a barrier, and many of New York’s 54 prisons are not accessible by public transportation.

Time and again, constituents from across the state have asked us for help. Grandmothers like Mrs. Coleman who was unable to take her grandchildren in Brooklyn to see their mother when she was incarcerated near the Canadian border. She once drove through the night so as not to miss school and work, her grandchildren asleep in the back, and scarily, almost fell asleep at the wheel. Children like Jeremiah and Jonathan, who used to see their father monthly when he was an hour away by MetroNorth, but now have no affordable way to travel 10 hours to see him. And Brianna and Isaiah, from Buffalo, who have seen their mother only once since she was moved to Taconic Correctional Facility, almost 400 miles away.

There are four bills before the New York Senate and Assembly that would address these issues: the Visiting Bus, Proximity, Restoring 7 Day Visiting, and Codifying Visiting bills will improve children’s access to their parents, strengthen family connections, and promote the correctional and public safety goals of rehabilitation and successful reentry. Many prison officials—including former Corrections Commissioner Brian Fischer—report that visiting improves the prison environment, promotes program participation and rehabilitation, and increases the likelihood of successful reentry.

The Visiting Bus bill restores free transportation for families visiting a New York State Prison. In 1973, in the aftermath of the Attica Uprising, New York State undertook a series of reforms that included these free visiting buses. The buses operated for 38 years until their funding was eliminated from the state budget in 2011.

Visiting buses are more cost-effective and less onerous on families if people need not travel great distances to visit a loved one. The Proximity bill will place parents in the prison as close to their children as possible if the parent, the child, and the child’s caregiver also agree, and only after the state corrections department’s existing assignment criteria of security, health, and programming needs are satisfied.  

When prison visit rooms are open every day, families have more flexibility to visit as well as to visit two days in a row, making the most of their time and resources they spent to travel to the facility. Only maximum security prisons currently offer visiting every day. The Restore 7 Day Visits bill would remedy this. New York State has long been a national leader in offering in-person visiting. The Codifying Visiting bill ensures in-person, contact visits are a right throughout New York that cannot be replaced by video visiting.

Taken together, these bills strengthen a lifeline between parents and children who often grapple with their parent’s incarceration in isolation, fearing someone will find out and treat them differently as a result. Visiting lessens this isolation and stigma, maintains the parent-child relationship, and allows children to see others in the visiting room and realize they are not alone.

This is not simply a downstate issue. Today, 60% of incarcerated women and 50% of incarcerated men in state prisons come from areas outside of New York City. It affects all of us, and it is up to all of us to ensure that no family will have to choose between bringing a child to see his or her parent or putting groceries on the table.

Just as Mrs. Coleman and her grandchildren have asked us for help, we urge our colleagues in the Legislature and Governor’s office to pass these bills, fund the visiting buses, and strengthen this lifeline for thousands of children and families.

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Assemblymembers Carmen De La Rosa and David Weprin are a member and the chair, respectively, of the New York Assembly Committee on Correction. On Twitter @CnDelarosa & @DavidWeprin.

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

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Addressing the Crisis of Family Separation Here in New York Wed, 27 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Coverage Denied No Longer: Expanding Eating Disorder Treatment in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8300-coverage-denied-no-longer-expanding-eating-disorder-treatment-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8300-coverage-denied-no-longer-expanding-eating-disorder-treatment-in-new-york niley ro am

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, the author


“An eating disorder? I wish I had one of those — I could stand to lose a few pounds.”

Every year, clients, advocates, and professionals visit the New York State Capitol to meet with legislators. When discussing their eating disorder experiences and pushing for legislation to ensure proper insurance coverage, too often they are met with that response and others like it.

These kinds of insensitive quips reveal how little many people know about the danger and severity of eating disorders.

No one intentionally jokes about wanting a life-threatening illness. And the truth that too few people understand is that eating disorders are life-threatening mental illnesses. Not a choice; the disorder is a means of coping and can be attributed to a collection of biological, psychological, social, and genetic factors.

Anorexia and bulimia nervosa are the most common disorders but they are not the only ones. Others recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual include Binge Eating Disorder, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, Pica, and Rumination Disorder. All of these disorders are serious and require medical attention.

People who struggle with an eating disorder are doing precisely that — they are struggling. Part of that pain and stigma comes from their symptoms not being understood as dangerous or serious. Often, symptoms are not taken seriously and they must convince not only their loved ones that they are sick but also insurance providers that approve treatment and coverage.

There remains a troubling gap in insurance coverage. Through Timothy’s Law, eating disorders are ensured coverage but only anorexia and bulimia nervosa are named. Insurance providers use this grey area as reasoning to deny coverage of the other eating disorders.

The story is common: Too many people are turned away due to lack of coverage. Too many people lose their chance of a full recovery because they didn’t meet strict weight requirements to classify as anorexic or didn’t throw up often enough each day to be considered bulimic. Not only is it hard to be approved for coverage, it’s even harder to find a comprehensive care center close to home — there are only three across New York.

It is time that law reflects the most current version of known eating disorders. New York can change the story. Earlier this year, I introduced the Eating Disorders Act (A1619/S3101) that would ensure coverage is provided to all people struggling with eating disorders by codifying all the currently recognized disorders.

The time for awareness is now. The time for change is now.

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New York State Assemblymember Nily Rozic represents parts of Queens. On Twitter @nily.

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

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Coverage Denied No Longer: Expanding Eating Disorder Treatment in New York Sun, 24 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Campaign Finance Reform May Come with Mandatory Debates for Statewide Elections http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8302-campaign-finance-reform-may-come-with-mandatory-debates-for-statewide-elections http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8302-campaign-finance-reform-may-come-with-mandatory-debates-for-statewide-elections cr cuomo

2014 NY gubernatorial debate (photo: C-SPAN)


With Democrats in charge of the state Legislature, there’s broad optimism that New York may finally create a state-level public financing system for electoral campaigns modelled after the program in place in New York City, including mandatory debates for candidates for statewide offices who receive public campaign funds.

In his executive budget released last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a voluntary public campaign financing program that would provide a 6-to-1 match for the first $175 of each contribution. The proposal also requires that statewide candidates, though not those running for State Senate or Assembly, participate in official debates before each primary and general election if they receive public funds, unless a candidate does not have an opponent.

Debates at the state level, particularly in gubernatorial contests, have been a thorny issue in previous elections. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, is notoriously averse to debating his opponents and has often limited the number of debates he agrees to participate in, and he almost always attempts to strictly dictate the terms of those debates.

In 2014, Cuomo refused to debate primary opponent Zephyr Teachout and would only partake in a general election debate open to all candidates, something he also insisted on in 2010, instead of any one-on-one with his Republican challenger, Rob Astorino. Cuomo used the messy 2010 debate to justify his lack of participation in debates. “I’ve been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy,” he told the New York Times in 2014. “So anyone who says debates are always a service to democracy hasn’t watched all the debates that I’ve been in.”

Last year, Cuomo did agree to one debate with his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, who nevertheless hammered the governor for only agreeing to one, a scenario that played out quite similarly for the general election when Cuomo participated in one debate with Republican Marc Molinaro. The governor’s insistence on a low room temperature at the primary debate venue even triggered a discussion about sexism in the workplace.

Incumbent state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli participated in two televised general election debates last year after facing no primary challenger. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul similarly debated her opponent, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, twice before the primary though only one of the debates was televised. In an attorney general race with no incumbent, eventual winner Letitia James participated in a series of debates and forums in the Democratic primary, then agreed to just one general election debate against Republican Keith Wofford.

In New York City, the Campaign Finance Board, which administers the public matching funds program, organizes two official debates before each primary and general election for the three citywide offices of mayor, comptroller, and public advocate. Participation is determined based on financial thresholds for initial debates and additional nonpartisan criteria for subsequent ones. Participation is mandatory for any candidate receiving public matching funds.

Notably, the governor’s proposal only includes statewide candidates, which is more limited than the Fair Elections Act, versions of which have been introduced in the past in both the state Senate, by now-Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and in the Assembly by Speaker Carl Heastie. Both those public financing proposals included provisions for mandatory debates for all candidates who participate in the public campaign finance program.

But neither Stewart-Cousins nor Heastie have reintroduced the Fair Elections Act and it’s unclear if they intend to do so, indicating that Cuomo’s proposal may form the basis for negotiations with the Legislature. Asked about the Fair Elections Act and the governor’s proposal, a spokesperson for the Senate majority, Mike Murphy, simply said by email, “It is being discussed and we look forward to moving forward.” Heastie’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Jonathan Timm, a spokesperson for Senator Zellnor Myrie, who chairs the elections committee, said Myrie is working with other senators to improve on the governor’s budget proposal but had yet to finalize their plans. “The Senator is a strong supporter of public financing...and he is working with all parties to see how we can get to best system possible. Everything is on the table, including, possibly, debate requirements,” Timm said in an email.

Though a mandatory debate program is a desirable element for any public financing proposal, it’s not a top priority for advocates. “We don’t want the excuse of something not being perfect as a justification for not doing anything, which happens all too often in Albany,” said Alex Camarda, senior advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group that is part of the Fair Elections for New York coalition.

What’s more important, he said, “is establishing the foundation for a public matching funds program in New York State and following the city model of improving it over time.”

He also said that though debates are important in informing the public and for allowing candidates to contrast their policy platforms, they tend to be more essential for elections that aren’t as high profile. For instance, the public advocate special election in New York City, which has 17 candidates, many of whom with little name recognition, running for a seat that many New Yorkers are unaware about. That’s the “poster child for the importance of debates,” Camarda said. Qualifying candidates in that field have now participated in two official, televised debates ahead of the February 26 vote.

At the statewide level, where the stakes are higher, voters tend to be more engaged. “In an era of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, debates are certainly not as critical as they once were,” Camarda said.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Campaign Finance Reform May Come with Mandatory Debates for Statewide Elections Sun, 24 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000