Murray Hill, Tutor City, Sutton
COMMUNITY CONVERSATION TRANSCRIPT
A Community Conversation with Andrew Eristoff and Liz Krueger
26th Senate District
September 19, 2002 sponsored by Citizens Union Foundation
Moderated by Robert Abrams
Moderator: The first three-minute opening goes to Senator Krueger.
Liz Krueger: Good evening everyone, thank you so much for coming tonight. I think that this is the most important part of the electoral process. I've now been the state senator representing the 26th district of Manhattan for six months, and it has been an amazing experience, and I'm so honored to have the opportunity to be the state senator here. To some degree, the 20 years that I spent professionally as a community activist and organizer running community-based organization, which is somewhat like running small-business operation programs, and advocating, and public interest lobbying at City Hall and in Albany, gave me, I think excellent preparation not only for becoming a state senator, but really getting off the mark running. It's been a terrific six months jumping into the legislative process in Albany, setting up a district office that is responding to the community needs, working with constituents, working with coalitions. I've been a New Yorker since 1983. Some people think that makes me a new kid on the block. My husband and I live here in the district. I've been here with my husband who is a professor at City University of New York and at Princeton University. The reason that I'm here running again for the state senate is that I believe that I am absolutely the best candidate to continue in this position. Six months is clearly just the beginning of a career, but I'm also very proud of what we've been able to accomplish already in Albany, passing the Women's Health and Wellness Act, moving forward school governance reform, passing bills for predatory lending. What we didn't accomplish in Albany is a much longer list, and it is really the reason why I believe it is so important for progressive democrats to move into the state senate, challenge the status quo of Joe Bruno conservative republican leadership, and make sure that we change the way we operate government in Albany. In fact, Albany's government is not delivering what the people of New York City need or deserve. It does not follow the Citizens Union model, it is not a good government model of government, it is a 19th century model of three men in a room, making too many of the decisions without the participation of the public, without a transparent process, without the opportunity for the public to get involved in hearings, to know what's going on in the budget process, to have their voices heard. And I'm very excited about the fact that I was elected in this district to represent those issues to fight for change in Albany. I'm proud of what I've been able to do in my first six months and look forward to working with all of you to make the changes that New Yorkers need and deserve.
Andrew Eristoff: I appreciate everybody coming out, and I also want to say a word of thanks to Citizens Union Foundation for agreeing to host and moderate the first of many debates that we'll have over the course of this campaign, and I'd also like to thank the YWCA for having us. In just 47 days, the voters of the East Side and Midtown will choose their state senator. And I'm asking voters to choose my positive, results-oriented vision for the job of state senator and for the future of our community and our city. Our community is a discerning and a very demanding one with respect to issues, and that's why I've made substance the core of my campaign. Since embarking on this campaign in May, I've issued a series of newsletters with dozens of specific proposals on important topics, like improving education, protecting the environment, investing in the arts, fighting terrorism, reforming the state legislature. In the coming weeks, we're going to follow up with additional proposals on rebuilding our economy and other important topics. Excited as I am about going to the capital and working on those and other issues, I'm also looking forward to serving as the city's point person in Albany. Whether we like it or not, the city is extremely dependent upon the state. I believe that a state senator from Manhattan has a special obligation to stand up for and with the city in good times and in bad. That's especially true now as the city faces tremendous difficulties, a huge fiscal crisis. Mayor Bloomberg needs a strong and effective ally in the state senate majority. I'm ready for this important assignment. I've served as a legislative attorney in Albany, as a three-times elected member of the city council, representing the east side, as mayor Giuliani's finance commissioner. I have a track record working across partisan boundaries to achieve results. I understand the challenges we face, I understand the system in Albany. I look forward to going to Albany, and fighting for that system to work for our community and out city. Thank you.
Moderator: The first question, and it goes to Andrew Eristoff, is going to be an education question. Is the city's current education budget of approximately $9,000 per student, compared to about $15,000 per student in the Long Island and Westchester suburbs, adequate to provide a sound education? If not, what do you propose to raise funds to provide additional support for education? For example, would you favor reinstatement of the commuter tax or a tax surcharge for education, as was done for the police department in the Safe Streets Safe City Program?
Eristoff: I believe that our education as it has been is under funded. There's no question about that, and I supported the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's law suit, and I believe the state should not have appealed Judge DeGrasse's decision in that lawsuit at the trial level. Some of you may recall that the judge determined that the system of allocation of resources from state government is not fair to New York City, systematically robbing New York City and its students of its fair share. It amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That being said, we now have a situation where the state Court of Appeals inexplicably, in my mind, has ruled somehow that an eighth grade education is somehow sufficient. I disagree. And under those circumstances, I believe its incumbent on all of us representing New York City who go to Albany to fight harder than ever for our fare share. If I'm elected senator, I will not vote for a budget that doesn't improve on a fair share that we get from the state budget. Now, in terms of funding, what would I do to provide additional funding? I do support the restoration of the commuter tax. I believe that that money ought to be used for two purposes. One, for deficit reduction, because we are now facing tremendous fiscal difficulties here at the city level. And two, we ought to use it to embark on some targeted tax cuts at the city level that I believe have a tremendously beneficial effect on our local economy. And I would like to elaborate on that later, but I'm out of time. Thank you.
Krueger: Well, in fact, it is clear that New York City is unfairly under funded by the New York State funding formula for public education. It was clear for decades before the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's lawsuit was filed. Frankly, it is a sin that people had to go to court and file a class action suit against the state of New York , simply to try to get the courts to do what the Legislature and the Governor should have been doing year after year, ensuring that New York City did not get cheated out of education funds or that every child in the state of New York had the opportunity to get the best public education imaginable, and to make sure that there was not such an incredibly inequitable distribution of money. So, of course, I supported the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's lawsuit, I was horrified that Governor Pataki appealed it, more horrified that four out of five judges who decided that case believed an eighth-grade education was adequate. Did four of those five judges get past eighth grade? I wonder. Nonetheless, it doesn't change the fact that New York State should have taken care of this without the need to go into court to get this resolved. We have wasted years not addressing the issue of our public school system, and I believe it is the responsibility of the legislature and the governor to address it. And it is one of the reasons why I voted against the state budget this year. Yes, I support the commuter tax being put back, and it should never have been taken out. Yes, I would explore other tax options. The facts are, in bad economic times you have to really evaluate the state budget. Another reason I voted against the state budget was there were billions of dollars of unexplained moneys going into off-budget projects. Those are the kinds of moneys we should be prioritizing for our school system for our children. So I think addressing fair funding for schools means addressing the fundamental inequities in the state funding overall.
Moderator: Thank you. The second question is also an education question. Are higher Regents' standards good for the school children of New York City or will they cause many more children to drop out?
Krueger: Higher Regents' standards are one of those complicated devils in the details questions. Of course we want our children to graduate high school prepared to compete in our economy and prepared to get into good colleges. So, on the surface, absolutely, higher standards for graduation from high school are a good plan. But if we don't make the commitment of resources, if we don't recognize that one size doesn't fit all in public education, what we will find is what we've already been finding: a higher dropout rate for children of the New York City public school system. And that is a very disturbing trend. And as we've been learning from educators throughout the city and state, having made one part of the bargain - higher standards to graduate high school - we have to come up with out side of the deal, which is making sure that we have the resources to commit to provide the children in our school system with the ability to graduate with those higher standards. And that means ensure that we have smaller class sizes, particularly in the younger grades; that we have school buildings that are not falling down on top of children in the public school system, that we have talented, qualified certified teachers who not only want to come to New York City to teach, but once they've gotten their training as young teachers want to stay here and be our teachers. So, higher standards make sense as long as we deliver on our end of the bargain.
Eristoff: I agree that higher standards are appropriate, and I also think that it's critical that we in the public life - in the legislature or local government - can follow through with the resources to realize the cause of higher standards. We are only one small step toward fundamental reform of our school system. Mayor Bloomberg accomplished the unbelievable, the amazing. And I believe that it is the start of reform of the education system by changing the government structure and placing the board of education under mayoral control. That's only the first step. The next step is to revise the administrative structure in the local school districts. And this is key to whether or not we actually succeed in this very, very important experiment. We need sufficient administrative structure, and with appropriate resources, we can look forward to major gains in the performance of our students. And then we will be able to legitimately hold them to these higher standards. But just voting for the standards without the rest of it is, frankly, a politician's copout, and I would be very, very weary of that. Thank you.
Moderator: The subject now is crime. Crime is on the rise in parts of this senatorial district, especially with respect to rape and robberies. Could you share with us your analyses of the problem and ways to reduce it?
Eristoff: I've looked at the statistics for East Side precincts, and I'm truly alarmed at what we're seeing. We're seeing a steady diminution in our quality of life; we're seeing an increase of serious crime, specifically, as noted, rape and robberies. This is a call to arms to all of us who supported what Mayor Giuliani accomplished over the 8 years of his mayoral term. We focused so heavily, in terms of our resources on proving the quality of life, cracking down on crime. It's not the time now to pull back from that experiment and that policy. If I'm elected, one of my top priorities will be to support Mayor Bloomberg in Albany as he seeks to not only continue to crack down on crime, to follow through with the resources we need to maintain an efficient and effective police force. But also to make sure that he has the resources that he needs to take it to the next step. We have so many challenges ahead of us in this are. We've got to upgrade the technology that our police department uses. We're now using Compstat, which is this revolutionary computer statistical analysis system, to address quality of life crimes. And I hear that it is not being used in some other areas on a pilot basis. That, to me, is totally appropriate. At the same time, we can't lose sight of the fact that we need to have a sufficient amount of police officers in every precinct. I have actually talked to some of the police officers and commanders on the East Side in the last six weeks. And they tell me they are alarmed by the fact that they are not getting what they perceive to be a sufficient number of recent graduates from the police academy. That's deeply troubling. We need to be a squeaking wheel; we need to make sure that we get our fare share in this community of police resources. Thank you.
Krueger: I'm not sure I'd use the term "a call to arms." The fact is, it is disturbing that rape and robberies have gone up, but you have to put it in the context, not just for people who live in the community. The fact that we are an extraordinarily low crime district, and overall crimes continue to drop doesn't change the fact that these are two fundamental police issues that do matter to us. And I've also been meeting with police precincts and discussing the fact that their person power counts have been decreasing. They have large numbers of vacancies, and there are several reasons for that. One, we're seeing a dramatic increase in senior police officers and officials leaving the police department. I'm a very strong supporter of the concept of retention bills. Right now we are losing firemen and police people at extraordinarily high rates. They're leaving both because of morale issues after Sept. 11; they're leaving because of the fact that the police are getting incredibly lucrative financial offers from security companies and from real estate companies who now want security people. So we are living in a new environment due to the impact of the last year. We've also seen a change in distribution of police from more police being moved into special anti-terror units and other security units, and that's being out of the community precinct. I believe strongly in community policing. We need to make sure we have our police back in our neighborhoods, in our streets. Particularly on issues for rape and robbery you want police walking down the streets of your district. That we know serves to decrease and discourage crime, but also gives the police the opportunity to work in the community, to troubleshoot before problems occur. So it's a tricky balancing act, but it is true that we did a tremendous job decreasing our crime rate in the city over the last decade. We can't allow that trend to be reversed. We are living in a new world with new demands on our police, and we're going to have to figure out how we balance that out. We, of course, also have a growing population in our district, and I believe that the police need to factor in growing population to their analysis of how many police per precinct. Thank you.
Moderator: There's fear among many New York residents as a result of 9/11. On the first anniversary of Sept. 11 the city was on orange alert, the second highest alert. Are we safe? Do we need to do more to ensure everyone's safety? Is there a role for a state senator?
Krueger: These are hard questions. I suppose at a certain level one of the things that happened to Americans in the last 12 months was the end of naiveté about the question of "are we safe?" and "were we safe" from terrorism, from what happens in the world around us and our role in that world. So, in fact, while I don't on a daily basis feel less safe than I did twelve-and-a-half months ago, I do recognize, I think as a maturing process that this country is going through, we are in a dangerous world, and it does require that we respond differently. It's a national and international and state responsibility. I do believe that the state has an important role both in maximizing its effective use of our local police and security, coordinating on a state-wide basis, and coordinating with the federal agencies that have the ultimate responsibility for security when it comes to terrorism. I'm very proud of having voted for seven anti-terrorism bills at the state level that I think started to go down the road where we need to be. However, it's also critically important for people to understand the importance of a solid federal-coordinated plan, and I think we're not there yet. Some of us may have been watching the debates around the questions of national security and home security in Congress. Those are hard questions. Which is the best road to go down? I think that New York State should not be rushing forward to attempt to create duplication of programs that ought to be under the auspices of the federal government and ought to coordinate with the federal government. But I think all of us recognize the importance of playing a more active role in our own lives of being more aware, of being more responsive, of reporting any concerns that we have. But also, it's critical to know that our lives do go on. This city responded extraordinarily a year ago, and it's handling the situation extraordinarily well.
Eristoff: Clearly, the fight against terrorism is one of international scope. But I do believe that there is a very important role to play for the state government. That's why in a newsletter that I sent out earlier this summer I laid out specific proposals for helping the state to fight against terrorism. For instance, I suggested that we finish the process of updating some of our criminal statutes to meet this new trend. I suggested that we give state and local law enforcement the same kind of legal tools that their federal counterparts have. For instance, to engage in setting roaming wire taps. I suggested that we empower law enforcement to fight terrorism's financial base. That is, looking at the money trends of financial transactions. Furthermore, I suggested that we strengthen law enforcement's ability to gather and protect intelligence. This is a very complex and controversial area, but it's a critical area that we need to examine at the state level. And finally, I suggested that we at the state level take a very firm role in promoting regional cooperation. We live here, and we're a region. We're not just the city of New York; we're part of a region that includes New Jersey, Connecticut and to some degree, Massachusetts. There are tens of millions of people within a fairly small region, and it's incumbent on us, I believe, that we all work together across the state boundaries, perhaps with or without congressional action, to meet this threat on a regional basis. Finally, taking it back home, I believe there's a lot more that we can do to give the population greater assurance as to what they should do in the event of an emergency. I held a town hall meeting recently on terrorism, and I was told repeatedly: "what do we do?" "Who do we call?" "Where do we go?" And we need to address that here at the local level. Thank you.
Moderator: Albany is the subject of our next question. Albany needs to better serve New York City. Please share with us your vision of how to respond Albany and to make it more responsive to the needs of the city.
Eristoff: Thank you. I recently issued a newsletter on just this very topic. And I have five basic proposals I'd like to share with you right now. First, I believe it is very important to create a non-partisan analytical legislative staff. Only with such a staff can we break down the partisan barriers that exist currently in the legislature. We have a minority, and we have a majority, and they never interact. And their separateness is reinforced by the staff structure in Albany. There is something like seven or eight distinct staffs, none of which are bipartisan in nature. And I've served on the staff up in Albany, and I know the environment. It is absolutely a barrier to any kind of creative interaction of minority and majority. Second, I believe we should create a real committee process. The committee procedure now in the state senate is a joke in my opinion. You can vote by proxy. There really is no hearing process. I believe that needs to be changed. Third, we need to reform the budget process. In my opinion, the way to do this would be to include giving the governor a power that the mayor now has at the local level. And that is, the power to set revenue estimates. For the coming fiscal year. Much of the annual delay in the budget negotiations concerns wrangling about just how much money will be available for the next fiscal year. If we place responsibility for revenue estimates with one individual, in this case the governor, can be held accountable for those estimates. I believe the process would prove much more efficient. I believe we should empower the minority party members in both houses. We have many, many talented minority party members in both houses. And the fact that they are completely shut out of the legislative process represents a huge waste of talent. There have been some minority party members who've made a contribution, but all too often they're marginalized. More effective conference committee structure, for instance, so that minority party members would really participate. And finally, I believe that we should create a state version of C-Span which would allow members of the public to follow what's happening in Albany. Thank you.
Krueger: Thank you. Well, I'm pleased to hear Andrew's five proposals, because four of them are proposals that I've been making since I ran for office starting in November 2000. I've actually put forth 34 proposals; I certainly will not go through them all. Maybe I'll highlight why I don't agree with one of Andrew's proposals. The reality is that a non-partisan staff doesn't make sense in Albany. Ultimately, you have to have a boss. And in fact, there are good reasons for partisan party structures. But it's also true that he rules of the floor of the senate are designed to stop people from participating in the process. You don't even have to show up at committee meetings to be checked as attending. You hand in proxies. You don't have to show up on the floor of the senate and vote pro-actively for a bill. If you've checked in for the day, you're automatically treated as a "yes" vote on every bill, unless you stand up or hold your hand up to vote "no." We have no budget transparency at all. It's not just the issue of getting the budget done on time, which is a critical issue. But the answer is not to simply default to the governor's decisions wholesale. The goal of reform in Albany is to make it support a participatory process for all 212 legislators for them to play roles. We have to make sure that we cut through partisanship by allowing legislators of any party to sign on to a bill if they support it, regardless of who the sponsor is. We have to demand conference committees on same as or similar bills in the two houses, so that we don't end up year after year after year with bills that go through one house but not the other. We have to make sure that there's public participation through public hearings. And I agree with the proposed-floor television. I have a belief that if television cameras were on the floor of the senate for just one day and you all saw what was going on, you would rise up and demand radical reform of your state legislature. So I'd be happy to share the rest of the proposals with you soon, but my time is up. Thank you.
Moderator: Housing. Do you favor the current rent stabilization law? If rent stabilization were lifted would builders create more housing? The rent control and rent stabilization laws expire in June of 2003. Senator Krueger, if you were in the senate at that time how would you vote. And Andrew Eristoff, if you were in the senate how would you vote?
Krueger: I'm a strong supporter of the rent regulation, stabilization and control program. It's an imperfect system, no one would doubt that, but it is also the only thing ensuring that middle income and working people can remain living in their homes in the city of New York. It's a particularly important issue for seniors. And it's more important than ever because of the bad economic times we find ourselves in that we protect rent regulation and we fight for it, perhaps to the death next year in Albany. The fundamental problem that I face is that Joe Bruno, the majority leader of the state senate, is opposed to the continuation of rent regulation. He tried to end it in 1997. We lost a lot of ground. People lost their homes, and it's a shrinking population of people who can afford their housing in New York City. Nonetheless, it's not enough. What we have also failed to do in New York State is address the reality that we have an affordable housing crisis. We created the rent stabilization laws because we had a housing shortage. It's not the year 2002; we have a worse housing shortage. We have failed the assignment. The New York state government has to take a more proactive role in the creation of affordable and middle income housing. We're already 50 years too late, so it's a dual assignment next year for us. The fact is, the future of the city of New York is dependent on having affordable housing for the people who live here and work here. And it's a fundamental community development, economic development and social issue. And, no, real estate doesn't decide whether to build or not because we have rent regulation. You could build without being under rent regulation since 1974, so I don't believe changing rent regulation would change the pattern of developers. Certainly not here in Manhattan.
Eristoff: I have always been a very, very strong supporter of rent regulation. When I was a member of the city council for six-and-a-half years I consistently opposed any effort to weaken rent regulation and was proud to have voted against luxury decontrol, which was actually initiated at the city level here in the City Council, and adopted, unfortunately, at the state level by the state legislature. If I'm successful in this campaign, I will make continuation in rent regulation my number one priority. Why? Because tens of thousands of people in this community depend upon rent regulation for their quality of life, for their ability to remain in their homes. I cannot walk down the street as a candidate, and just in a few minutes not hear: "whatever you do, please, please don't toss me out of my apartment." We also have a broader housing agenda. We need to continue housing incentive programs. 421-A and other tax incentive programs are critical. We want to continue to review and upgrade our housing. I was encouraged to read in today's paper that the Liberty Bond program, which is the federally-assisted financial program for lower Manhattan, may be changed to accommodate a larger proportion of lower and moderate income subsidized housing citywide. That's the kind of thing we'll need in order to promote additional housing development for moderate to low income New Yorkers. What I do not believe is that removing rent regulation will somehow solve our housing shortage problem. We need to improve in real estate development. I believe hat there has been for a long time in place plenty of incentive for real estate development, and we have seen here on the East Side, at least, an extreme amount of development in just the last ten or so years. So I don't believe that the repeal of rent regulation would benefit anyone other than a few select people who are in the real estate industry. Finally, I also believe that we should follow up on rent regulations that have been made over time to reduce the cost of construction here in New York City. There are dozens of reasons why it costs more than it should here in New York City. If we want to build more housing, we've got to address that issue. Thank you.
Moderator: The subject is campaign finance, and it's a three-part question. One: do you support the state adopting a four to one public finance system like the one that's now in effect in New York City? Second, do you favor maintaining the current system or do you support reducing the city's matching funds. Thirdly, who are your five major financial supporters in this race?
Eristoff: The answer is "yes," and "yes." I would support the institution of a public financing system at the state level. If what you're talking about is a program that affords a four to one match, obviously, with a careful criteria set up for what would be eligible for matching. I do believe that some form of public financing for legislative races. For those of you who are asking to impose a cap on expenditures, I would also favor that. However, I am extremely leery of most proposals that I've read about because they typically set the expenditure cap at a very unrealistically low number. And, I believe, that makes it impossible to have real political competition. At the city level, I would support the continuation of that program. But, along with the staff of the campaign finance board, I would argue - and do argue - for increases in the expenditure on council races. The current expenditure limit is far too low for a truly competitive general election. Thanks. Third, you asked about the five major supporters: Andrew Eristoff; my parents, my poor brother, and my wife or my sister. And I'm not being facetious. I don't really know that anyone else has been a conspicuous supporter.
Krueger: Well, I am a very strong supporter of campaign finance reform, and in fact have sponsored and co-sponsored four different bills in the senate. It is my continued goal to get New York State to follow any future model of campaign finance reform that would include both up to four to one matches, limitations on moneys provided by tax and political parties, not accepting money from lobbying entities, not doing fundraisers at the capital during session - I think a very disturbing trend, sort of, "here, drop your envelope off, and your proposed piece of legislation at the same time." I do think putting caps on expenditures is important. And frankly, if we had public access to television availability for political campaigns we could dramatically reduce the costs of campaigns in this world that we are today living in, while expanding access of the public to learning more substantively about the candidates running for our offices. So, yes to the first question. Yes, I've always supported the city's matching funds program and lobbied hard when last year there was a discussion about changing that rule and cutting back the amount of money available through that program. It has proved to be probably the model program in the country. I wish that Mr. Eristoff would have participated in the program when he ran for city council then. I suppose, to some degree on number three the answer is the same: my parents, my sisters, myself, my husband. Is that 5? I think so: two sisters, parents, husband, myself.
Moderator: What priority should be given to the Second Avenue subway? And what are the prospects of it becoming a reality in our lifetime?
Krueger: I'm 44, I intend for the Second Avenue subway to be built in my lifetime. If the MTA stays on schedule, we will have a Second Avenue subway in 15 to 20 years. Which is a disturbing number when you deal with the reality every day. I know, you're going: "What?!" It's not the only solution to the problems of transportation in this city. Clearly, we have to do better. I believe the Second Avenue subway has to be one of the top priorities of the MTA and the state and city. And I'm glad that it's technically still on the books as such. I know I met with the head of the MTA recently and the deputy mayor for the city of New York, and some of us in elected office were very concerned that Mayor Bloomberg had made some statements that the 7 line extension was a more important priority than the Second Avenue subway. And, in fact, that state legislature has allowed that the Second Avenue subway stays in the plans as the priority. We also have to be doing much better with our bus service. We are a growing population here on the East Side, and yet we have seen a dramatic drop in availability of bus service in the last decade. That seems crazy: the number of people here goes up, the number of people taking out buses goes up, and yet we decrease our bus service. And thus the lines on the East Side are something I'm working on with other legislators to address at getting commitments form the MTA to change. We also have to - I was so glad to see the New York Times column about this today - we have to recognize that when we're talking about economic development, when you're talking about redevelopment of lower Manhattan, what we have to be talking about is infrastructure. Expansion of the public transportation system throughout the city of New York - that's how we should be using part of our federal funds. It's not a question of giving subsidies for retention deals, it's a question of keeping New York City a city that businesses want to come to and can come to because they know that people can get to and form their businesses.
Eristoff: I believe the Second Avenue subway will be built. Many of you are aware of the fact that the MTA is now in, sort of, pre-design phase, and they tell us that they plan to start construction at the end of 2004. I also share concerns that the commitment to the expansion of the number 7 line, for which additional moneys were approved today by the MTA board. I don't want that to take away from the momentum that we've been able to build up behind the Second Avenue subway. But 15 years is too long for any of us to wait. And clearly the issue before us is how are we going to pay for this? I think there are two things that we've got to look at very, very closely. First, we've got to consider tolling the East River bridges, using the revenue stream from that act to help support funds that would help build the subway system. And secondly, I think we should explore the option of what is called "tax increment financing." That is to say, using increases in property values in a zone around the proposed infrastructure improvement as a dedicated revenue source, again, for bonds to pay for the construction of the subway. Through those two means, I believe, together with federal funding, we will have enough money to accelerate and build this new line for East Siders. We've been waiting since the 1950's, I believe - since the removal of the Second and Third Avenue El's. The time has come for us to finally realize on this much needed infrastructure improvement. On a very local level, I have to express some concern over the MTA's proposed configuration of stops. Some of you will know that the planned stops now are at 72nd Street and 86th Street on the Upper East Side. I'm concerned that there may be too much space between those stops and that it will not serve areas that are now under served because they are so far from the existing lines, and there is relatively poor bus service. Thank you.
Moderator: Health care. EPIC - Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage - is a New York State-sponsored program for senior citizens who need help in paying for their drug prescriptions. The plan is for individuals aged 65 and older with an annual income of less than $35,000 single or $55,000 if married. Is this program adequate, and if not, what changes do you advocate?
Eristoff: EPIC was an excellent start. But, unfortunately, given those income restrictions, it doesn't reach enough New Yorkers who need help paying for their prescription drugs. I also should say, parenthetically, that notwithstanding efforts to get the word out about EPIC, not enough eligible seniors throughout New York City are participating in the program. There are people out there who are eligible, who have not yet signed up for that program, which is a terrible shame. I believe that we need to do more. Prescription drugs clearly cost too much. I've talked to a lot of people during this campaign, and I can tell you that this is an issue that reaches everyone. Now that the United States Congress has utterly failed to address this issue, New York State should act by supporting a bi-partisan piece of legislation that is now pending before the senate. It is called the pharmaceutical justice bill. This bill would lower the cost of prescription drugs for New Yorkers by 25 - even 50 - percent. How? The bill simply says that it would be illegal for drug companies to charge New Yorkers a higher price for drugs than they charge citizens of other major industrialized nations, such as Canada, France and Italy. Right now, because the United States is the only major country which does not control some form of price controls on drugs, we, New Yorkers - and Americans - subsidize the use of drugs in other parts of the world, including Canada. I don't think that's fair. And that's why when I get to the senate, I will be one of the prime sponsors of that legislation. Thank you.
Krueger: EPIC's a good program, but it's clearly not addressing the need. I think it highlights the fact that we have to finally bite the bullet and look at the real problems in healthcare coverage in this country. We need to go to a universal single-provider system. Enormous amounts of money get tied up in the administration of hundreds of different health insurance and healthcare programs. We have 11 different Medicaid programs in this state alone. So we put our money into the administrative complications of providing health insurance. We fail to cover over three million people with basic health insurance in the state of New York. Our drug prices are astronomical. The federal government did flunk the test for Medicare recipients again. Yet again they failed to come up with a prescription drug plan, and we should hold Congress accountable for not having developed a reasonable prescription drug plan. But I believe that you have to tie it all together with the entire funding stream and administrative structure of healthcare in this country. The fact is I can't support Andrew's proposal for prescription drugs because it's an unconstitutional proposal and it won't hold up. But we can through single-payer models or through even negotiated pricing dramatically decrease the price of drugs in the state of New York, particularly through government-funded programs until we get single-payer. We can do negotiated lowest-level pricing for major drugs, for Medicare, Medicaid, Child Health, Family Health programs. For example, through a veterans' administration hospital, you can get the same prescription drug for technically about 20 percent at your neighborhood pharmacy because of the bulk purchasing power of the veterans' administration. That's exactly the kind of model we should be moving forward with now, and universal single-payer over the next several years. Thank you.
Moderator: Now we come to the most unique part of the debate, where each candidate will ask the other a question.
Krueger: Mr. Eristoff, anyone following Albany should have plenty of opportunity to form an opinion about Joe Bruno's record on important issues to New York City, such as affordable housing, rent regulation, fair-funding formulas for schools, a woman's right to choose, and access to healthcare. What is your position on supporting Joe Bruno's leadership if you were to join the state senate?
Eristoff: I don't know what I'm going to do. I will support the majority leader if he helps me support the city of New York. I plan to serve this community and this city, to be the point person for the city in Albany and in the majority. If Senator Bruno helps me do that job then I will be supportive of his leadership. If he doesn't - I can't, I wouldn't. My primary responsibility will be to this community and to this city. This is an example, ladies and gentlemen, of how Senator Krueger and I differ in our approach. She sees the glass as half empty; I see is as more than half full. The truth is, whether or not I win this election, there is zero chance that the partisan control of the state senate will shift this year. In fact, we're going to pick up seats on the Republican side. Under the circumstances, I think we are all far better off having someone in the majority, fighting for New York City from the position of strength. What Ms. Krueger sees as a liability, I see as an opportunity to work on a bi-partisan basis to address critical issues effecting New York City - like rent regulation, like school reform. And an opportunity to push the entire senate, Republicans and Democrats alike, all over the state, to deal with urban issues and concerns. And that's exactly what I'll do if I'm elected.
Eristoff: For years, Senator Roy Goodman ably represented this community in the state senate, and many of us will know that he earned an international reputation, perhaps, as a champion of the arts. In my own feeble way, I've tried to put forward some concrete proposals from leveraging the arts, which are after all much centered in our community, to help New York City and our entire region. Ms. Krueger, do you have any proposal for helping the arts and using the arts as an economic engine for our community and for our city?
Krueger: Thank you. Yes, in fact I do agree, Senator Goodman was an extraordinary advocate for the arts in this city and, in fact, had an enormously successful career in the state senate. And yet, under the leadership of the Republicans in the state senate, New York City continued to be cheated out of billions and billions of dollars for our economy year after year. We sent over $2.6 billion more to Albany in the 1990's than we got back. We didn't get our funding for education or housing or public transportation. And, in fact, we didn't get funding for the arts at the level which they should receive because they are economic development and revenue generating vehicles for the city. Why do people from all over the world come to New York? They come for our great arts and culture. And they spend their money when they are here. We create jobs through the arts. We bring in tourism through the arts. New York State should have years ago recognized that they should be using arts institutions the same way we evaluate other economic development investments at the state level. So in fact I should argue that unfortunately republicans in the state senate have failed to deliver what New York City needs and deserves from Albany. And in fact Democrats moving into the state senate have motivated some of the most important proposals that have passed the state legislature in the last several years. Thank you.
Moderator: Let's take a few questions from the audience. What measures would you propose to improve the city economy and create more jobs?
Eristoff: I look at this as a short-term and a long-term challenge. In the short term, as a state senator I will push the state legislature to be very supportive of the city's efforts to close its fiscal gap and to rebuild our local economy. That means, I believe, supporting the city's proposals for mandatory leave, Wicks Law reform and tort reform. And also providing a fair share of state aid. But looking at the situation from a longer-term perspective, it's clear that as a region we need to develop a unified coherent vision for economic development. I will soon be issuing a newsletter that outlines some ideas that I have for just that. First, I believe that we should restore the commuter tax as discussed before. Use that for deficit reductions in the short term, but also target some tax cuts in the city by focusing on economic development, particularly on small businesses. I believe that we should reform city and state business tax loans to modernize our tax system, because it now reflects the tax system of the 1950's, which doesn't serve us well. Third, I believe we should do what it takes to rebuild the Brooklyn port. Fourth, I believe that we should enhance rail freight as an alternative to diesel-spewing trucks, which have made the cost of doing business and consumer goods prohibitive here in New York City and the region. And finally, I believe that we should exploit our advantages in health sciences by developing a real biotech industry, centered perhaps in New York City, but also located throughout the region. Thank you.
Krueger: New York State government, in fact, most state governments, have a pretty lousy record when it comes to guess how they should invest money for job creation. What we do know works for job creation is having educated workers that businesses want to hire. So if we have the workforce, businesses will want to locate and stay here. And, ironically, without a good education and a good job you can't afford to buy the services that businesses want to sell you, which also leads to either ups or downs in job creation. So education is a fundamental assignment of government for job creation. Also, investing in our infrastructure. If we don't have the public transportation to get people in and out of the city of New York, we won't create jobs. We should be building more housing both to create jobs in construction, for desperately needed resources, and to make sure that people can work and live here and participate in business that will bring jobs and keep them there. Finally, I'm appalled at how little New York State has done to address the needs of small businesses. Small and medium businesses account for 72 percent of new jobs created. We have to get out of the business of doing large retention deals with our economic development money at the state and city level and start being smart about what we do to support the continued success of small and medium-sized businesses. Because they are in fact the ones who are creating the jobs in our economy and those jobs are here to help New York City and state. Thank you.
Moderator: This is the final question, and then we'll go to final statements. We in this district are concerned about the quality of life in the area. What will you do to maintain and improve life in the district?
Krueger: A broad and great question. I'm very proud of the fact that I have an amazing district office and district staff, and we are working basically with every community organization and constituent who comes to us with issues. We meet regularly with the police, with the community boards, we have been following up on issues of noise from bars, and we have been following up on complaints about over development. And I have to tell you that probably the biggest issue that faces our community in the future is massive expansion of development. Just one example: ConEd water sight. We are talking about potentially 16,000 more people going onto nine acres between First Avenue and the FDR. If you want to talk about quality of life you have to ask the hard questions and work with government to figure out how to deal with those issues and those trade-offs for increased congestion on our streets, increased pollution, the inability of our schools to absorb additional children, the increased demand on our policemen and fire services when you increase the population. So we have a very active agenda on quality of life issues. I'm very proud of the work we have been doing already, and the tremendous coalition we have built up and down my district to work on quality of life issues.
Eristoff: When I was a city council man for six-and-a-half years representing this community, I'd like to believe that I developed a very strong reputation for having an outstanding community office that addressed not only individual constituent problems and concerns but also community issues and quality of life concerns. I'll put my record up next to anybody's. And I look forward as a senator to serving the needs of larger community. Quality of life issues, yes, have to do with local community issues like the ConEd proposed development, density, those kinds of issues. They also have a legislative element. Let me give you one example. There was a bill recently at the state level to ban urinating and defecating in public and to ban aggressive panhandling. Ms. Krueger voted against it. I was the sponsor at the city level in the City Council of an aggressive panhandling bill. I believe that bill materially improved the quality of life that we enjoy here on the East Side. I believe that Ms. Krueger was absolutely wrong to oppose that legislation. And when I'm senator, I will be sure to follow that and other quality of life agenda items through to the finish at the state level.
Moderator: Now we'll have closing statements.
Eristoff: You've heard us tonight talk about a number of very, very important issues facing our community and our state. You heard us give opposing view points on some of these issues. Quite possibly, you've heard us agree, perhaps in different language. What I'd like to leave you with is a question. Consider this: we live in an extraordinary community, a leadership community. We live - we're privileged to share this neighborhood - with leaders in every field of human endeavor -- from finance to the arts, to health care, you name it. I believe that we also should expect leadership from our state representatives. Right now, unfortunately, we don't have a voice in Albany and I believe that we are the poorer for it. We may agree, my colleague and I, on critical issues like rent regulation and protecting a woman's right to choose. But at the end of the day, what's important is what we're able to accomplish. When I go to Albany representing this community I will always, always put this community and this city first. I am not a hyper partisan individual. Anybody who's ever looked at my records as a city council member will know that I have a very strong record of working across partisan lines to get things done. In fact, when I was in the council, I was elevated to the first chair that a Republican has ever had in the history of the council because I was able to work well with people from all over the city and of all different background. That's the kind of approach, the kind of temperament that I will take to this job in Albany. And I appreciate your interest and your attendance tonight, because it means that you also have high expectations for leadership that you expect from our community. And I will do my very, very best to live up to that standard. Thank you very much.
Krueger: Leadership and standing up for New York City means going to Albany and pointing out that the way it's been working isn't working for us in the city of New York . For too many years we have been given short shrift in the state budget. We have been cheated out of our opportunity to have a truly democratic and 21st century model of government. This district understands that leadership in Albany is raising the tough issues, is demanding better, is demanding change in how we've been operating what most people recognize as a failed model of government. Even Senator Bruno called our budget process dysfunctional. There is a role for partisanship. It doesn't mean it's ugly, it doesn't mean you don't work with others across the isle. I'm very proud of the fact that just in my first few months on the floor of the senate debating with my colleagues I've had the opportunity to see Republicans change their bills because of my pointing out the importance of changes, of voting with me against their own leadership. In fact, on one bill, 15 members of the Republican Party stood up and voted with me against their leadership on an important consumer protection bill just in my first few months in the senate. When Mr. Eristoff was on the City Council he never had a situation in those six years where members of the Democratic City Council got up and voted against their leadership with him. So I feel that I've made an extraordinary beginning as a new leader in Albany. I set out to help change the way that we operate our government in Albany, and we'll all be the better for it. One can take the position as Mr. Eristoff has that if you can get a few more million dollars in member items for your district because you're in the majority that's a major victory. I don't accept that argument, I know you don't. We're talking about $20-$30 per voter. Trade that off against a modern, fair, democratic process in your state government that delivers as it should for all people in the state of New York on education, on healthcare, on housing, on our economy, on a fair tax system. I do believe that I am the best candidate to continue in my position. I trust the people of this district. I know they know me, and I know them. And I look forward to an opportunity to continue a full two-year term. I will just respond to the comment about the public defecation bill. The city of New York has had that bill. We didn't address the problem of homelessness. A state version does nothing additional. We know the issues of the homeless on our street. We need housing, we need support services, we need programs for the mentally ill, we need drug treatment. A state bill that simply copycats an existent city bill does nothing to address the quality of life questions in our district. So I stand by my vote on my bill. Thank you very much.
--posted September 22,2002
BATTLE ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE
The State Senate race in New York City this fall that has generated the most
attention pits Democrat Liz Krueger, the current incumbent, against
Republican Andrew Eristoff, former city Finance Commissioner and City
Council member, for district 26, which includes the Upper East Side and much
of midtown Manhattan.
Krueger arrived in Albany in February 2002 after a hard-fought special
election held after the retirement of longtime state senator Roy Goodman.
She defeated Republican John Ravitz by casting herself as one who would
"shake things up" in Albany. But she quickly learned how difficult that
would be. Recently, she sent a fund-raising letter to her constituents
revealing the "Top Ten Things I Did Not Know or Want to Know About the State
Many of Albany's problems stem from the fact that lawmaking in New York
State is effectively controlled by the majority leaders of the Senate and
the Assembly, along with the governor, according to Krueger. This monopoly
of power makes it impossible for legislation to even be considered without
Krueger proposes a change in the current rules of the Senate to require
legislators to be present in order to vote upon a proposed bill. Currently,
if a legislator registers as present at the beginning of each session, they
automatically vote yes on bills presented that day, even if they are no
longer there. This gives the leadership of each house the ability to
control the bills that come to the floor as well as controlling the actual
outcome of the vote. Krueger also wishes to open up committee meetings to
the public, and televise Senate sessions, just as national sessions are
aired on CSPAN.
In spite of her efforts, has Krueger succeeded in "shaking things up?"
Eristoff thinks not, and insists he would approach the job differently if
elected. "I don't believe in complaining about the system and standing on
the sidelines. I believe in rolling up sleeves and getting the job done,"
he said. "The process is a mess in Albany," he continued, but stressed that
more important for him would be "representing my community, delivering for
my community and the city of New York."
Krueger said that if Eristoff were to be elected, he would succumb to the
power system extant among majority leader Joe Bruno and the rest of the
Senate legislators. "He will have to defend and work for and follow the
instructions of a majority leader, Joe Bruno, who fundamentally works
against the best interest of our city and our district."
Eristoff insisted that would not be the case. "Let me make one thing
perfectly clear," he said. "Senator Bruno will have to earn my support just
like anyone else. I'm not pledged to support him for leader. I frankly will
put NYC and my community first and that is ultimately the most important
thing for me."
East Side Issues
In spite of its ritzy boutiques, famous museums, and wealthy neighborhoods,
Senate District 26 struggles with many of the problems that resonate
throughout the city.
Although the district's elementary schools are top-ranked, the middle
schools and junior high schools are incredibly overcrowded, said Krueger,
with over 37 children per class, compared to the national average of 25.
She is calling for "smaller class size, trained qualified teachers, and
decent school facilities."
Eristoff would approach the problem differently, by increasing the number of
New York City charter schools, as well as imposing a longer school year.
Also, he said, he would appeal to the State Senate to never again approve a
budget that "fails to increase New York City's share of state education aid
on a per student basis."
On other quality of life issues, Krueger would like to keep rent regulations
at their current levels and hopes to further her work with senior citizens
in her community to establish improved health care and health care access,
affordability of medical services and prescription drugs. Krueger will also
continue to work towards implementing the long-delayed Second Avenue subway,
as well as improved bus service in her district.
Eristoff openly opposed the Rent Guidelines Board decision this year to
increase rents for rent-stabilized apartments. He would also instill
stricter measures for crime prevention, criminal justice, and security. He
is a strong advocate of the arts and has proposed an arts agenda for New
York City that includes creating an Arts Employment Incentive Program, an
Arts Development Fund and a Cultural Tourism Promotion Fund, which would
augment existing marketing campaigns and could be used to create a New York
State Passport to the Arts, allowing discounted admissions to cultural
Financing the Campaign
Winning this close race, (and losing it,) won't come cheap. Eristoff has
already spent $388,594 on the race, according to the New York State Board of
Elections, and Krueger $72,355. The candidates share a history of personal or and familial funding of costly
Krueger raised and spent around $700,000 in her campaign to defeat Ravitz in
February. As much as $328,000 had been donated by her father, who is a Vice
Chairman of Lehman Brothers. Eristoff spent around $750,000 to win
re-election to the City Council in 1997. Both candidates have already received more than $100,000 in contributions to their current campaigns either from their own personal account or from their family members.
In recent weeks campaign spending has surfaced as a major issue for all
candidates running for office in New York City and throughout the state. In
a recent letter sent to Eristoff, Krueger urged her opponent to accept a
campaign spending cap. "I am dedicated to lessening the influence of money
in politics and this is a great place to start," she said. Krueger has
introduced a bill in the State Senate known as the New York State Campaign
Finance Reform Act (S.7498) which would authorize an expenditure cap of
$200,000 per candidate, as well as providing a 2 to 1 match for campaign
contributions. The bill has not yet made it to the Senate floor. While
Eristoff endorses the idea of a campaign spending cap, he also encourages
limits to be "realistic and not so low that your third party support will
carry the day in every election." Currently the candidates are working
towards a campaign spending plan that will focus less on money, and more on
important issues in the community.
To hear Eristoff and Krueger discuss the issues; tune to NY1 on where several debates will be covered.
--posted August 5,2002
7 BILLS IMPORTANT TO NEW YORK CITY RESIDENTS THAT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IS LIKELY TO VOTE ON IN THE NEXT TERM:
1. Rent Regulation: The current rent regulation laws expire in June 2003. Supporters of rent regulation hope that the current provisions will be extended for another five years and that the legislature will repeal the provision which deregulates apartments that rent for $2,000 or more a month. The State Assembly passed such a bill this year, but it died in the Senate in the face of opposition from Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. If the Legislature does not take concerted action in June, rent regulation in New York City will end.
2. Commuter Tax: In 1999, when the State Legislature repealed the Commuter Tax, the city's economy was good. Reinstatement of the Commuter Tax is likely to come up again this Spring as the City's economy takes a turn for the worse.
3. School Funding: Even with mayoral control of the school system, more than 40 percent of New York City's school funding comes from Albany. Next year's budget will determine how much money New York City's schools will get from the state.
4. Rockefeller drug laws: New York's drug laws, passed in 1973 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, are among the harshest in the nation. The Democratic-controlled Assembly, Republican-controlled Senate, and the Governor have not been able to agree on how to reform these laws, look for renewed negotiations and new legislation in the next term.
5. Minimum Wage: Currently set at $5.15 an hour, Democrats will likely propose raising the minimum wage to $6.75 an hour, a proposal that failed last year.
6. Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act: This has been floating around the New York State Legislature for 30 years, with the Governor's support, it is likely to come up for a vote again next Spring.
7. Campaign Finance Reform: Some 80 organizations have proposed a "Clean Money, Clean Elections" bill for the New York State Legislature. Like the New York City law, it would establish a system under which candidates who comply with limits on campaign spending and contributions would receive public funds for their political campaigns.
HOW OTHER ORGANIZATIONS RANKED SENATOR LIZ KRUEGER:
EMPIRE STATE PRIDE AGENDA
Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act
The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act adds actual or
perceived sexual orientation to the state's existing laws
which prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public
accommodations, education, and credit on the basis of age,
race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability or
Pride Agenda's Position: SUPPORT
Liz Krueger's Position: NOT YET IN OFFICE
Hate Crimes Act
The Hate Crimes Act enhances criminal penalties for a long
list of crimes in which perpetrators intentionally select a
target based on the victim's actual or perceived race,
color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion,
religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
The Hate Crimes Act also requires the state to collect,
analyze and annually report on data regarding hate crimes
throughout the state.
Pride Agenda's Position: SUPPORT
Liz Krueger's Position: NOT YET IN OFFICE
THE BUSINESS COUNCIL OF NEW YORK STATE
Taxable Status of Nuclear-Powered Electrical Generating Facilities Act
This measure establishes that nuclear powered electric
generating facilities must pay property tax.
BC of NYS Position: SUPPORT
Liz Krueger's Position: SUPPORT
This measure creates a new article in labor laws by
providing standards for plumbing materials and makes certain
plumbing and piping provisions of the state uniform fire
prevention and building code.
BC of NYS Position: OPPOSITION
Liz Krueger's Position: SUPPORT
New York's nastiest political campaign this fall is taking place in its most genteel district, waged by the city's wealthiest candidate. Republican Andrew Eristoff--a 39-year-old former Giuliani aide and heir to a steel fortune--is on target to spend more than $3 million in a no-holds-barred bid to win the 26th State Senatorial District representing Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The battle for a Manhattan state Senate seat turned nasty yesterday, with Republican Andrew Eristoff's campaign manager accusing Democratic incumbent Liz Krueger of forgery, dirty tricks and, possibly, mail fraud.
New York Times endorses Liz Krueger in the 26th State Senate Distrct and Vincent Gentil in the 22nd State Senate District.
(New York Times)
After four months in the New York State Senate, Senator Liz Krueger has
discovered what she believes to be an intractable Albany reality: that
the governor and two legislative leaders control the legislative domain.
(New York Times)