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Key Takeaways from Ocasio-Cortez's Victory


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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning (photo: @Ocasio2018)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory seems to be misunderstood in a number of ways. First, it is hard to say that it was representative of Democratic Party supporters in the district. Suppose we measure the Democratic Party voters by Crowley’s vote total in the 2016 Congressional election, when he faced no primary opponent and a nominal general election foe (Crowley won 83 percent). The 2018 Democratic primary total -- 28,000 votes -- was only 19.0 percent of this amount.

Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory reflected the typical outcome of a restrictive voting system favored by the Democratic Party establishment because of its ability to turn out its patronage base. The decline of the patronage base has reduced the turnout of establishment-oriented Democrats while Bernie Sanders has shown the way for a progressive challenger to harness the internet and social media to turn out a base of followers. Thus, Ocasio-Cortez was able to turn the tables on the Democratic Party organization in a low turnout election.

Second, her margin over Crowley was 3,584 in the Queens precincts but only 542 in Bronx precincts. This suggests that her appeal was not primarily to the Latino working-class community but instead the Queens professional class. This thesis is further strengthened by looking at the voter turnout in each borough. In 2016, 66.0% of Crowley’s votes were from Queens whereas in the 2018 primary, 72.4% of the votes were from Queens. Again this is consistent with the Sanders movement.

Despite his principled commitment to working-class politics, Sanders’ message overwhelming resonated with the professional class and little with communities of color. Having a Latina candidate, however, was ideal given the district’s ethnic composition and the desire of Sanders’ supporters to demonstrate their commitment to both far-left politics and multiculturalism.

What happened in the 14th Congressional district certainly reflects the decline of the ability of centrist Democrats to appeal to the anti-Trump movement.
There is also a deeper dynamic at work. In the 1950s, fully one-third of all non-supervisory private-sector personnel were members of unions, giving the Democratic Party a pragmatic working-class base that led to centrist policies.

Similarly, the working class support enabled left-of-center parties in Western Europe and Israel to contest for power with pragmatic centrist policies. In and around 2000, Clinton (U.S.), Blair (U.K.), Schroeder (Germany), Jospin (France), and Barak (Israel) represented victories for this agenda. However, as traditional working-class jobs have declined, as union membership in the private sector has plummeted, this base has shrunk and so too has the support for centrist policies. In the U.K., this has caused a shift in the Labor Party to a much more leftist orientation and this is the direction the Democratic Party has moved in the U.S.; no longer centered around private sector workers but increasingly a party of the professional class and less affluent people of color.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory crystallizes another important cleavage: the schism between an increasingly active anti-Israel stance among leftist Democrats and the pro-Israel stance of more centrist Democrats. The animus to Israel shown by Democratic Party leader Keith Ellison and candidate Bernie Sanders is amplified by her victory.

She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has as one of its platforms, support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. Not only has Ocasio-Cortez not rejected this part of the platform, she has enunciated extreme anti-Israel positions and not shown support for a two-state solution.

How will centrist pro-Israel Democrats deal with this increasingly aggressive anti-Israel stance? Senator Gillibrand, in her courting of the left flank, has embraced Ocasio-Cortez as she did Women’s March leaders who embrace the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. However, given his unequivocal support for Israel and rejection of BDS, what will Senator Schumer do? If centrists don’t stand firm on the issue of Israel, it further exposes the demise of the traditional Democratic Party.

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Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

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Note: this article has been corrected with the intended French leader, Jospin.

Deadline Approaching to Protect Title X and Our Right to Critical Health Care


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(photo: @PPact)


If it were not for Planned Parenthood, I’m not sure where I would have gotten critical health care services that I needed. And now, the Trump-Pence administration is trying to take that access away.

The Trump-Pence Administration recently announced a proposed new rule on the Title X federal family planning program designed to make it impossible for patients like me to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood.

With the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the future of reproductive health policy in the United States is further in jeopardy. Title X is the nation’s family planning program that helps ensure that everyone can access birth control, STD testing, and treatment and other preventive care, regardless of income. Four million people, including 150,000 in New York City, benefit from Title X funding every year.

Under Trump’s proposed “domestic gag rule,” any health care provider who provides abortion, refers patients for abortion, or even mentions the word “abortion” would no longer be able to receive Title X funding.

In 2008, my mom was diagnosed with late-stage fallopian tube cancer, a rare gynecological cancer sometimes found in Ashkenazi Jewish women. My family was heartbroken. We not only had to worry about getting my mom better, but also finding out if this would be a disease that affected me as well. I was attending Hunter College and spent half my week going to school and the other half taking care of my mom as she underwent chemotherapy. In those chemo rooms, I learned how many women were ignored by their doctors when they shared their symptoms and how many didn't know they were genetically predisposed to this illness before it was too late.

Ovarian cancer is known as “the silent killer” and I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid being another woman who lost her life to this horrible illness. My mom's doctor informed me going on birth control pills was the only preventative measure. There was one hiccup though -- I didn't have health insurance. This was before the Affordable Care Act passed and I couldn't afford the monthly cost of the birth control. CVS charged $160 for the brand of birth control pills I needed. As a college student, it was unfathomable.

A friend told me about Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC). So I went to the location downtown, nervous I couldn't afford my bill, but determined to take control of my health. I had a checkup and found out I could get the exact brand of birth control pills I needed for $20 per month. When I went to pay for my visit, I found out it was free thanks to their sliding scale that factors in a person's income. At a time when I was terrified and confused, PPNYC showed me compassion and gave me the tools I needed to be confident in my own health, while taking care of my mom and being a college student.

My mom is now eight years in remission and I graduated from college a triple major. As a writer and performer in New York City, I still use Planned Parenthood of New York City today for my health care. I'm so grateful to be able to continue to have this resource in my life and I lend my voice whenever possible so it can continue to have its doors open for all people, regardless of gender, immigration status, or ability to pay.

The Title X program helped me access affordable birth control from PPNYC, and we need to fight to make sure this program continues to help people like me. In New York, Planned Parenthood serves 52% of patients who get care through Title X. It includes critical preventive services like birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. It has bipartisan support and is part of the reason we’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in the United States.

The Trump-Pence Administration doesn’t care how many people they hurt. A domestic gag rule on Title X providers would have devastating consequences and threaten health care for millions. All people deserve access to high-quality health care and critical, medically accurate information about their bodies.

Planned Parenthood of New York City was there for me when no one else was, and helped me take control of my future. I proudly stand with them as they fight against these regressive policies that take away our right to make the health decisions best for us. You can join us in the fight for our reproductive health care by posting a public comment to the Department of Health and Human Services site by July 31 demonstrating your opposition to the domestic gag rule and why each and every one of us deserves reproductive freedom.

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RoseAnn Fino lives in Astoria and is a patient at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Lives at Stake: Senate Must Reconvene Immediately to Pass Speed Safety Camera Bill


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(photo: @NYC_SafeStreets)


No parent expects that a kiss goodbye on a seemingly normal day will end as it did. A phone call from the police. A frantic trip from a parent-teacher conference to the emergency room. Hours waiting with friends, Sammy’s pediatrician, and family. Praying for him to live but prayers turning out to not be enough.

We should never have met. A social worker, parent, and concerned-but-not-an-activist Brooklynite and a committed elected official from Manhattan. But this unimaginable event brought us together in pursuit of a common goal.

The rage and heart-wrenching pain needed an outlet. So we met, and met again -- at rallies, press conferences and meetings. Now together, we fight for a common goal: to protect New York City schoolchildren and to change the culture of reckless driving that is killing someone like Sammy on our streets every 38 hours.

We have a preventable public health crisis. It was a silent epidemic before we met. But now this crisis is gaining widespread recognition, as is a proven life-saving remedy: speed safety cameras.

New York City’s permission to operate 140 speed safety cameras in school zones is expiring. All of the cameras are about to be turned off. All because of inaction by the New York State Senate. But, the Senate can remedy this by reconvening in Albany and passing the life-saving bill that awaits its members.

After a four-year pilot, the data is conclusive: speed safety cameras work. They have reduced speeding, a leading cause of death and injury on New York City streets, by more than 63 percent, according to the New York City Department of Transportation. And at a time when traffic deaths have been on the rise across the United States as a whole -- traffic deaths climbed 14 percent nationally between 2015 and 2016 -- here in New York City, we have watched traffic deaths fall by 28 percent since speed safety cameras were switched on in 2014.

Simply put, if we can conquer the speeding epidemic, we can achieve Vision Zero and prevent people from dying. We’re making progress. Together, we helped pass the state Assembly bill (A.7798C) to expand the speed safety camera program to 290 school zones and allow the cameras to be placed on the most dangerous streets near schools, not just directly in front of school entrances. This bill has the support of over 300 organizations across the city and 77 percent of New York City voters, and has 34 co-sponsors -- including three Republicans -- in the Republican-led Senate.

The Senate needs to reconvene and pass this bill immediately. For Sammy. For all New York City schoolchildren, and for all New Yorkers.

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Amy Cohen is a founding member of Families for Safe Streets. Deborah J. Glick is a New York State Assembly member representing the 66th District in Lower Manhattan and is the prime sponsor of the speed camera school safety bill. On Twitter @NYC_SafeStreets & @DeborahJGlick.

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Why Chuck Schumer Should Fear the Election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


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Senator Schumer on a tele-town hall (photo: @SenSchumer)


Pay heed Chuck Schumer. The base is coming for you.

And for good reason. The Democratic establishment is historically unpopular. And there is no exception even in deep blue New York.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resounding defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley, the so-called King of the Queens machine, makes clear that establishment Democrats need to wake up. The election of an overnight socialist sensation was a clear demonstration that the groundswell of grassroots progressive activism in New York has moved from street protests to the voting booth.

Ever since Democrats lost to the least qualified presidential candidate in the history of the republic in 2016, there has been a growing repulsion with the status quo on the left across the country generally and in New York City specifically.

Soon after Donald Trump took office, progressive activists took to protesting Senator Schumer outside his Park Slope home. Disgusted by his admitted willingness to work with the demagogue-in-chief, progressive activist groups like Indivisible Nation BK, of which I am a board member, braved the cold winter months to deliver a message: Donald Trump is a racist, xenophobic, treasonous existential threat to the nation and the world. And we want our senators, particularly the Senate minority leader, to say that loud and clear.

Senator Schumer would be wise not to take the base for granted. Just this month, members of Indivisible Nation BK gathered to hear him address his first town hall since Trump’s election. The event was the culmination of over a year of protests, pushing, and prodding by our group and others. However, the senator abruptly altered the event a mere 90 minutes before it was supposed to start. Apparently dealing with plane trouble, Senator Schumer told us he was stuck at an airport in Utica and would conduct a tele-town hall instead.

We were not impressed. As we anxiously waited for the opportunity to ask him how he would save our country, we listened in disbelief as the senator launched into a monologue about how he played basketball in high school and then got into Harvard.

We do not need a regurgitation of the senator’s well-known biography. What we need is leadership. As one tele-town hall participant put it, it’s like we are playing a basketball game, and while Democrats are practicing their bounce passes, Republicans are cutting players’ throats on the court.

Meanwhile, Trump is about to shape the Supreme Court for a generation. Incredibly, if you listened only to Sen. Schumer talk about the matter, you would never know that Trump is poised to do so while under federal investigation for obstruction of justice after his campaign blatantly and wantonly courted a hostile foreign adversary to swing his election. Just last week, Trump stood, quite literally, shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladimir Putin in rejecting his own intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Why is Chuck Schumer not taking every opportunity to call Trump an illegitimate traitor when talking about the Supreme Court fight? What weakness.

If Senator Schumer cannot whip his entire caucus to vote against any nominee not named Merrick Garland, then he should step aside as minority leader. Such a failure would further demonstrate what is becoming readily apparent: that Senator Schumer is not the leader for this dire hour. What we need is a progressive firebrand to lead the charge and throw as many wrenches into the machinery of corruption as possible.

We cannot compromise with the Republican Party. That is because there no longer is a Republican Party. It has been replaced by a reactionary white nationalist party masquerading as the Republican Party, beholden to only Trump. And there can be no compromise with what is dead and rotting. We expect our leaders to adopt a war footing, because, have no doubt, we are at war for the soul of our nation.

A war footing also means supporting bold and clear progressive policies such as Medicare-for-all, federal jobs and affordable housing guarantees, paid parental leave, and tuition-free public universities. When so-called “pragmatic” Democrats inevitably and facetiously ask us how we plan to pay for it, let us be equally resolute in our reply: by taxing corporations, millionaires, and billionaires. No more 12-point plans and carefully crafted, round table-produced cookie cutter messaging.

These progressive policies are overwhelmingly popular both nationally and in New York. This is why, for example, bold progressive policies have been the cornerstones of Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor against the comically establishment Andrew Cuomo. And it is also why Cuomo has been moving to the left as quickly as possible ever since Nixon announced her running.

Half-measures are no longer sufficient. New York’s Democratic voters expect our Democratic officials to bleed blue like us. They must be both moral authorities and fearless leaders.

So pay attention and take action, Senator Schumer. We are.

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Steve Wagner is a Brooklyn-based activist and personal injury trial lawyer. He is an executive board member of Indivisible Nation BK. He blogs at brooklynresists.nyc. On Twitter @stevedwagner.

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We Need Commercial Waste Reform, and Now We Have a Plan


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Council Member Cornegy, the author (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


New Yorkers have good reason to be concerned, even angry, about the state of affairs in our city's commercial waste industry. Stakeholders and commentators are absolutely right to note that, among other issues to address, the tragic loss of life in this industry is unacceptable.

However, agreement on the importance of cleaning up commercial waste carting does not change the fact that a huge question is still on the table: How can we actually achieve our shared goals as quickly and effectively as possible?

In many ways, the answer lies in comments made just this week by Mayor de Blasio, when he said, "I hope that we can really strengthen the hand of the Business Integrity Commission, give them a lot more tools, a lot more teeth to work with in their regulation of that industry."

My colleagues in the City Council and I have introduced legislation, known as Intro. 996, which would do that by empowering the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to raise standards in the commercial waste industry and hold bad actors accountable.

Our bill would enable BIC to create standardized safety certifications for industry employees and institute requirements that ensure workers are properly trained. It would also give BIC the tools to establish clear rules regarding allowable levels of emissions for commercial waste trucks. Additionally, the bill would empower BIC to more stringently regulate the industry with regard to maximizing efficiency along each waste collection route.

These are just several examples of how Intro. 996 would give BIC more of the tools and teeth that Mayor de Blasio has said are necessary for advancing commercial waste carting reforms. Our legislation would also let BIC establish its own task force to offer additional insight and recommendations for continuing to improve this industry over the long-term.

On the other hand, Mayor de Blasio's own Department of Sanitation has offered a nebulous and flawed proposal to develop commercial waste zones, which would replace the industry's current open market system with a series of geographic zones that are exclusively contracted to a small number of waste carters.

First, Sanitation’s proposal is not squarely focused on advancing the mayor's stated goal of empowering BIC. By relying on a fundamental restructuring of the industry, this plan would essentially take power away from BIC rather than giving it more of the tools it needs to regulate carting companies.

There is also the issue of unintended consequences. It is common knowledge by now that the zone-based waste collection plan implemented last year in Los Angeles had a truly disastrous rollout. Prices and service complaints skyrocketed, leading to a chaotic situation that, if it were to happen in New York, would surely make it extremely difficult to achieve our shared goals.

The Department of Sanitation’s own 2016 report, released as part of introducing its waste zone proposal, acknowledged that costs for small businesses that are served by this industry would increase under a zone-based plan. Additionally, the report acknowledged that zones would lead to job losses in the industry - and I do not think that efforts to increase safety have to include putting people out of work.

To be clear, I am ready to advance commercial waste carting reforms now and deliver results on increasing safety, reducing environmental impact and increasing regulatory oversight. And I want to achieve this in the way that Mayor de Blasio himself has articulated - by giving BIC more of the tools and teeth it needs.

Now is the time to translate our concerns about this industry into tangible, sensible, and effective action - we just need to get it done.

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Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. represents the central Brooklyn communities of Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights in the New York City Council. On Twitter @RobertCornegyJr.

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I’m with Cynthia Because She Stands for Schools, Not Jails


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Antonio Reynoso, the author, endorses Cynthia Nixon (photo: @CMReynoso34)


Last week, I endorsed Cynthia Nixon for Governor because her campaign is focused on making sure young people of color across New York thrive in school, rather than wither away in jail. As a City Council member from a predominantly black and brown community in Brooklyn, I constantly hear from young people who know what they need to succeed in school and what stands in their way.

Right now, there are more police in New York City schools than there are guidance counselors and social workers combined. What message does that send our children?

It is time to drastically change course in how we invest in the lives of black and brown young people. Talking to friends and allies across the state, the stories and experiences of the young people in my district are strikingly similar to those of young people across New York, from the Hudson Valley to Syracuse and beyond—because, while we can draw geographical lines to separate their school districts, it’s the color line that ensures they will all still be impacted by racially discriminatory school discipline policies and practices.

These policies have created a school-to-prison pipeline that afflicts young people of color across the State of New York. As Governor, Cynthia Nixon is committed to transformative policy changes to dismantle this system. That’s why a central part of her #SchoolsNotJails platform is school climate reform. Cynthia’s plan will push New York to lead the way by creating a Restorative Practices Training department within the State Department of Education to support schools in implementing restorative practices, introduce legislation to end school-based arrests for misdemeanors and violations, support schools to remove ineffective security measures, such as law enforcement and metal detectors, and only use suspensions as a last resort.

In New York State, there are over 500 suspensions per day and a disproportionate number of our young people being suspended are students of color. Statewide, one in five black boys are suspended from school each year; for black girls, it is one in seven. In New York City, black students are 27% of the population but nearly half of all students suspended; in Kingston they are 14% of the student body but 36% of all suspensions; and in Troy, they are 31% of the population but 61% of all students who are expelled.

The racial disparities in the statistics on referrals to law enforcement are just as alarming. In New York City, black and Latino students are 92% of all students who receive a summons; in Schenectady, black and Latino students are 75% of all students referred to law enforcement; and in Buffalo, black and Latino students are 85% of all students referred to law enforcement.

These disparities begin in pre-kindergarten, where black students are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from school. And they continue through high school and beyond—one suspension in high school doubles the likelihood that a student will drop out before graduation and it denies students from critical instructional time. Last year, students in New York lost 686,000 days of instruction because of suspension. If the school discipline gap continues, it’s no wonder that our state is struggling to close the graduation gap.

Those numbers alone should be enough evidence to convince Governor Cuomo to take steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. But instead of confronting this reality, under his leadership, New York has done nothing to curtail the school-to-prison pipeline.

The young people I meet with are clear that the way forward is not to continue to “harden” their schools and rely on ineffective and harsh school discipline and policing, but to ensure equity in school discipline policies and practices and reimagine our approach to safety. There is no evidence that police officers and metal detectors make schools any safer, but there is ample research that shows they makes students feel less safe and result in more young people being pushed in front of police officers, prosecutors, and judges instead of guidance counselors, social workers, and school administrators.

Students feel safest in their schools not when they know technology exists that track their every move, or police officers do random checks and sweeps, but when they have staff trained in trauma-informed care, restorative practices, and youth development that are there to attend to their needs and create an inclusive environment.

Young people in my district are leading the way in demonstrating what safe and supportive schools can look like. Many of these schools are implementing restorative practices with real results -- dramatically decreasing suspensions and building strong school communities. This year my district saw one of the largest decreases in suspensions across the city. We can replicate this and transform schools into the safe and supportive learning environments our students and families deserve.

New York needs a public school system that is completely disentangled from the criminal justice system and a commitment that we are creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all students. This is the commitment that Cynthia Nixon is making. We need to invest in schools, not repeat the same policy failures that have led to our children ending up in jails.

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Antonio Reynoso is the City Council member for New York’s 34th Council District in Brooklyn. On Twitter: @CMReynoso34.

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Fixing the City's Broken Approach to Nonprofit Contracting


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Comptroller Scott Stringer, a co-author (photo: @NYCComptroller)


From housing for homeless families to meals for our seniors, non-profit organizations are on the front lines of our city, supporting our most vulnerable neighbors. Yet these groups are surviving hand-to-mouth when it comes to funding and often it’s our own city government that’s stalling the contracting process and delaying payments that thousands of nonprofits rely on.

In a new report, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office looked at thousands of human service contracts, and found an astounding 90 percent were submitted to the Comptroller’s Office for registration by a City agency after the contract start date had already passed, with half of them arriving six or more months late. Some agencies, including the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Education, submitted over 99% of their contracts late.

The consequences of the City’s chronic lateness are huge. Because vendors don’t get paid until their contracts are registered, widespread delays in the contracting process force cash-strapped nonprofits to take out loans, miss payroll, or potentially cut services, just to deal with the shortfall in cash. In the last fiscal year alone, nonprofits took 751 City-issued bridge loans worth $149.9 million in total to keep the wheels turning as the City slowly processed their contracts.

It’s unacceptable. The burden of the City’s sluggish procurement process shouldn’t fall on our non-profit partners. That’s why we’re calling for common-sense reforms to break through the bureaucracy.

The City should build a public tracking system for contracts. If you can track a package as it moves across continents, you should be able to track contracts as they move through City agencies. Moreover, the City must develop clear metrics and strict timeframes throughout the procurement process, which will bring a basic level of transparency and accountability into this system.

Consider this: a non-profit is awarded a City contract to provide job training, with a specific start date for summer programming. That contract then goes through multiple layers of bureaucracy at the contracting agency before going over to some, if not all, of the following oversight agencies for review: the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, the Law Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Investigation, and the Division of Labor Services at the Department of Small Business Services.

These levels of review are crucial and help to safeguard the integrity of the City’s public procurement process, rooting out waste and fraud. But as these agencies are not held accountable to deadlines, the full process can take months or even years to complete before the contract arrives at the Comptroller’s Office for registration.

In the end, the non-profit is left waiting for its contract and subsequent payment, without information on the process. This forces hundreds of non-profits into an impossible catch-22: wait to begin work, which can stall vital services and drive up costs – and in reality is rarely possible – or begin work without a registered contract, which can jeopardize the organization’s finances.

But with strict time-frames and a tracking system, non-profits might be spared this turmoil and gain some control in a process that currently treats their ability to function and help thousands of New Yorkers as an afterthought.

What we’re putting forward is a blueprint for the City to do better. Making these fixes will bring the contracting process in line with the City’s priorities, because behind these contracts are people who need food to eat, a roof to sleep under, or someone to care for them. These people are our neighbors, our relatives, and our friends. And right now, the snail’s pace of City agencies is putting their care at risk.

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Scott Stringer is New York City Comptroller and Jose (Joey) Ortiz, Jr., is the Executive Director of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition. On Twitter @NYCComptroller and & @JoeyOrtizJr of @NYCETC_org

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CUNY’s Turn to Provide Paid Parental Leave for All


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Macaulay Honors College commencement (photo via CUNY)


She hid her growing belly under loose dresses and oversized sweaters when she taught her classes of 30 college students. She avoided the departmental office during normal work hours, retrieving her mail early in the morning. If someone realized she was pregnant, she worried, some excuse would be found to deny her work for the next semester. With a baby on the way, losing her job would have put her and her spouse over the financial edge on which they delicately teetered.

Finally, after securing work, the adjunct faculty member relaxed and let her pregnancy show. Still, she worried about the due date. If there were complications, would she be able to return to work within a week as her employer required?

A story from a past generation? No. At CUNY, many adjunct faculty members – called “part-timers”– avoid telling their department chairs and colleagues about an impending pregnancy because their work is contingent from one semester to the next and they fear non-reappointment. Pregnancy discrimination is difficult to prove as adjuncts can be denied employment for any reason or no reason at all.

Even after that hurdle is successfully cleared, CUNY requires that a woman return to work a week after giving birth. Often, this is difficult for the mother and child. Sometimes, it is impossible. Then, she faces the peril of being unilaterally fired, losing her health benefits as well as her income just when she needs them most.
Sometimes co-workers willingly contribute unpaid labor to spell the new mother in the classroom and kindly administrators look the other way. But in many cases, it seems “easier” to find a new part-time faculty member to teach a class than to provide accommodations for the pregnant one. This discrimination arises from chronic understaffing, the well-worn trope of “interruption” to students’ education, and, especially, a pervasive attitude that, even though they teach more than half of all CUNY courses, adjuncts are seen as little more than the labor they provide.

CUNY still pointedly disavows any institutional responsibility to even long-time workers. Adjuncts don’t even have the right to “bank” unused sick days from one semester to the next, and the oddity of counting only their classroom hours as “work time” makes most ineligible for even the limited protections of the Family Medical Leave Act.

We are hopeful, though, that CUNY will soon see fit to enter the 21st century. Recently, two New York faculty unions, United Federation of Teachers and SUNY’s United University Professors, have won paid parental/caregiving leave for their members. And CUNY’s new interim chancellor, Vita Rabinowitz, is a renowned feminist scholar. While working at Hunter College, she was the founder of the Gender Equity Project, intended to clear away obstacles facing women faculty. At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, over a dozen adjuncts asked her to utilize a new state law as a vehicle for the kind of workplace justice she pioneered earlier in her career.

Under New York Paid Family Leave, workers pay a small supplement and receive partial pay and the right to return to their job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth, adoption, or to care for a sick family member. While private employers are required to implement the PFL, unfortunately, public employers, such as CUNY, can choose whether to opt in or not. So far, CUNY has failed to do so.

Currently, CUNY has over 15,000 “part-timers” who need relief from uncertainty. It’s time for their employer to provide this small modicum of security and stability. Then, paid family leave would make CUNY a place where pregnant women can proudly display their bellies for all the celebration that creating new life brings.

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Pamela Stemberg is an adjunct lecturer teaching at CCNY and Hostos College. Marc Kagan is a graduate assistant teaching at Lehman College.

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In Crowded Office Market, Amenities are a Must


dock 72 rendering Brooklyn Navy Yard

Dock 72 rendering


As New York’s economy continues to thrive, the city’s construction and real estate industries are enjoying a sustained building boom that is creating more than 2.5 million square feet of new office space each year. Even with this unprecedented growth, there is still an insatiable demand for new commercial space from companies new and old. To stand out in such a market, developers must create innovative offices filled with cutting-edge amenities – and this trend is reshaping commercial real estate in the five boroughs and beyond.

Amenities like roof decks and fitness centers have long been staples of luxury residential buildings. But more recently, developers and property owners have begun incorporating these perks into commercial office space as a way to attract new and younger tenants. This movement has only intensified in recent months as more and more young professionals and creative companies are drawn to New York City.

Ironically, the apex of this new trend in commercial real estate can be found at one of the City’s oldest facilities: the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Thanks to almost $1 billion of public and private investment, the Navy Yard is in the midst of its largest expansion since the Second World War. The Navy Yard is poised to add 10,000 jobs across two million square feet of new space, in part because that space is optimized to attract the types of companies and talent driven by innovation.

A centerpiece of the Navy Yard’s expansion is the new high performance office building, Dock 72, on which our firms, Boston Properties and Rudin Development, and our anchor tenant, WeWork, have partnered to provide commercial tenants with world-class amenities, sustainable design, and state-of-the-art technology.

Our vision for Dock 72 has been to create a next generation waterfront workplace, where tenants and their employees can collaborate and connect with their coworkers and neighbors. That is why our team is collaborating with WeWork to create a truly unforgettable workplace environment, generated with the well-being of tenants in mind.

When completed later this year, Dock 72 will offer tenants multiple organic food, beverage, and coffee options; an outdoor basketball court and a full-service fitness complex; and a rooftop conference center, event space, an open lawn, and terraces with breathtaking views of the surrounding Navy Yard, the East River, and Manhattan. These amenities were curated by WeWork, based on the best practices they’ve developed while attracting innovative companies in cities around the world. They’re just a few of the reasons why tenants of Dock 72 will enjoy one of the best work experiences in New York City.

Landlords and developers know that it isn’t enough to just offer modern office space – the recent boom in commercial construction means that potential tenants have a wide-variety of options to choose from. That’s why companies like ours will continue pushing the boundaries and coming up with new, state-of-the-art amenities.

This is good for New York City. Businesses that locate in innovative new spaces like Dock 72 will have happier and healthier employees, which will in-turn make them more productive. This creates a virtuous cycle that will keep our city a vibrant and prosperous economic hub for decades to come.

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Michael Rudin is a Senior Vice President at Rudin Management Company and Andrew Levin is Senior Vice President of Leasing-New York of Boston Properties.

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City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it?


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(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


New York City’s leaders have recently been protesting with Muslim and immigrant New Yorkers, but these same leaders are often missing once the cameras are gone. After last week’s stunning Supreme Court setback, the time finally has come for these same leaders to ditch New York City’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant police policies.

We clearly say we’re a sanctuary city, but the facts on the ground are unclear. No, city workers can’t ask about immigration status, but NYPD officers continue to use dragnet surveillance on immigrant communities. Most importantly, they continue to share that data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which the Trump administration is using to intensify its deportation efforts.

Every day, license plate readers all across New York City monitor cars in real-time. These cameras create a massive database of our movements across the city. But instead of using this database just to do police work, the NYPD shares the data with private, for-profit firms like Vigilant Solutions, a company that struck a deal to share New York data with ICE earlier this year.

But the license plate readers aren’t even the worst part. At least the City told us about them. All-too-often, we only find out about spy tools after they’ve been used for years. Tools like stingrays, fake cell towers that can suck-up all the phone data for miles around. To target one suspect, stingrays often need to track thousands of phones. Worst of all, the NYPD has even used these devices without a warrant. Wondering if your texts or calls were copied before? There’s no way to tell.

The City Council knows about the problem now – we told them about it – but for years this spying went on in secret. How? The NYPD has a slush fund: millions in federal and private dollars that can be spent without any oversight by the City Council. The mayor could end this tomorrow; Mr. de Blasio could require the NYPD to disclose how its spy data is shared with ICE with the stroke of a pen. But I’m not holding my breath.

Instead, we need the City Council to act. For years, CAIR-NY, NYCLU, and other advocates have pushed the POST Act, a commonsense bill that would require the NYPD to tell our lawmakers what military-grade spy gear they’re buying with private and federal dollars and how they’re keeping that information safe. The NYPD could continue surveillance, but the cowboy-era of buying whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted would be over. More importantly, the NYPD would finally enact policies to make sure our city’s resources won’t help ICE deport our neighbors.

But, the bill has stalled.

Our city’s leaders have long promised to make New York a sanctuary for all—a symbol of inclusion at a moment of presidential prejudice. So far, action has fallen short of soaring rhetoric, but that can change. This is the moment for our city to practice what we preach. This is the moment to prove we can do more than just show up for the protest.

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Albert Fox Cahn is the Legal Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, a leading Muslim civil rights organization. On Twitter @CahnLawNY and @CAIRNewYork.

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From Awareness to Action: Combating The Epidemic of Gun Violence


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Jumaane Williams, co-author, center (photo: @JumaaneWilliams)


Throughout June, we observed Gun Violence Awareness Month. In the year since we last marked this occasion, 33,000 people lost their lives to gun violence in this country. A mass shooting of four or more casualties occurred nearly every day of that year, and just last week, five people were killed and two injured as a shooter opened fire on an Annapolis newsroom. Over the course of the month about 3,000 people were killed. Over 200 were children.

The statistics are staggering, but at the same time, we have come, over time, to acknowledge and accept this carnage as part of American life. No one can deny it -- we are, in fact, well aware of the plague of gun violence in America.

Yet while this past year has seen death and heartbreak on a massive scale, it has also been marked by a heightened, sustained awareness of the problem that extends beyond the headlines and the evening news. More than many previous years, the horrors and the causes of gun violence in this country have been spotlighted and a central part of the public consciousness. School walkouts and the March for Our Lives, driven by young people across the country, have made it clear that awareness itself is insufficient. We must continue to use this moment to propel awareness into action.

This action, of course, can take many forms. People can use their votes to demand representatives who will stand up to the NRA and other special interests, to fight for common sense gun safety measures. People have the power to make gun reform—not lip service, but real progress—a defining issue of this year’s elections. To make elected officials aware that thoughts, prayers, and passive support are not enough.

Shootings permeate every area of American life -- from churches and schools to concerts and workplaces. The vast majority of gun violence deaths, though, still stems from the daily plague of gun violence in our streets. This is the form of violence that often evades the national consciousness, but is devastating to communities.

This week, as the nation celebrates the Fourth of July, historical trends would suggest that on the ground, in certain neighborhoods, gun violence and the devastation it causes will increase. At odds with the air of celebration, this is a sobering reminder that awareness alone does not create solutions. Much of the recent awareness and attention has rightly been directed at the volume of firearms entering communities. While the availability of guns is one side of the problem we also have to consider why people use them.

Gun violence is a crisis with roots in social-structural inequality, economic distress, trauma, behavioral and public health, and when it is treated as such, we can stop the spread of the disease and combat it at its core. In cities like New York, black men are 13 times more likely to be killed in an act of gun violence than their white counterparts. These wounds—despite rarely making national news—leave a history of trauma in low-income communities of color.

And in New York City, we are relying on community to lead, activating what is known as the Crisis Management System. The Crisis Management System is a network of 50 community-based organizations attached to sites throughout the five boroughs that focus on violence interruption. The organizations employ people who have experienced many of the same things as the young people most at risk, and these violence interrupters identify and intervene in conflicts before they escalate into bloodshed. Recognizing that violence is exacerbated by social stressors, these interventions include additional supports such as job training programs, mental health services, legal aid, hospital responder programs, links to institutions of higher education, and art programming.

The approach is working.

In 2017, the city saw its lowest rates of violence since the 1950s, with a significantly greater drop in areas targeted by Cure Violence than the citywide average. There is much work to be done, but these successes show that with meaningful investment of energy and resources, violence can be prevented and lives saved.

As Congress refuses to take up the fight to end gun violence, community activists and their organizations are on the streets, effecting vital, incremental change. Just as Americans must continue to push their representatives in Congress toward gun violence solutions, they need also to work within their towns and cities to support local voices, groups, and movements, to demand the kind of reforms that we know can have a meaningful impact on the pervasive epidemic that is gun violence.

We are aware of gun violence. When not in our streets it is on our screens, America’s most predictable tragedy. This heightened awareness, raised by the wave of activism against gun violence that has swept over the country since the Parkland shooting, could too easily turn into numbness and complacency. It is imperative that we continue to feel each act of senseless violence, and work to prevent the next, moving past the month of June and carrying throughout the entire year.  

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Jumaane D. Williams is a City Council member from Brooklyn and Eric Cumberbatch is the executive director of the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence. On Twitter @JumaaneWilliams and @NYCMayorsOffice.

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