Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics



Investments, Not Cuts, in Youth Summer Programs

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Students rally at City Hall (photo via @CMMathieuEugene)

In a short time, it will be summer, but it's not the impending warm weather that's causing parents to feel the heat.

Parents are scrambling to make plans for their children because Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has not included funding for summer programs in the city budget, and this severe cut will impact more than 34,000 students across New York City.

Our children deserve to have the educational and recreational opportunities they need to succeed. School’s Out New York, or SONYC, is a vital citywide initiative that engages youth in the arts, sports, and community service. This program helps youth from all neighborhoods foster their creativity, while encouraging sportsmanship and leadership.

Summer programs are not only an expansion of classroom learning, these crucial programs also offer children creative outlets in a supervised space. Childcare is expensive and many parents can't afford pricey camps - our city's summer programs offer youth a much-needed safe space to spend the summer.

We know our children are bombarded with negativity on a daily basis—but these summer programs offer them respite. The elimination of $20.4 million in funding for middle school students—which equates to at least 34,000 summer program slots—should not be perceived as a cost-saving measure, but rather a divestment from our most vulnerable population. Cutting costs shouldn’t be at the expense of our youth.

Our city has implemented a number of truly progressive policies to improve quality of life for residents, but the decision to eliminate summer programs for middle school children will drastically hurt the tremendous progress we have been making.

Since these important summer programs impact the constituents of virtually all of our City Council colleagues, we have already received tremendous support from Council members who have signed on to a letter asking Mayor de Blasio to restore this funding immediately—and to make this funding for youth a priority in future budgets. When the mayor releases his Executive Budget in the coming weeks, many working families would be relieved to see the funding included.

Last year, summer programs were included in the preliminary budget but the funding was inexplicably removed in May. By working together with our colleagues and dozens of youth advocates, we were able to make sure that it was restored. But, less than a year later, our children—and parents—are in the same uncertain situation since funding for these programs was not included in the budget for Fiscal Year 2017. So, once again, we must join together to fight for the restoration of these crucial programs that must be baselined in the budget.

It is our moral obligation to do everything possible for our youth. Ultimately, an investment in our youth is a great investment in our city.

By City Council Members Mathieu Eugene and Laurie A. Cumbo. Eugene is chair of the Youth Services Committee; Cumbo is chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.

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Delegate Matters: How New York’s Presidential Primaries Actually Work

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A Bernie Sanders rally

For the first time in generations, both the Republican and Democratic parties are still engaged in extremely competitive presidential primary races as New Yorkers go to the polls. While everyone is eager to see which candidate on each side of the aisle earns the most votes on Tuesday, the statewide popular vote is not the only factor, or even necessarily the most important factor, in amassing the key prize: loyal delegates.

Each party uses its own arcane system to apportion and select its bound delegates for the coming national nominating conventions. This process is now of interest to a much wider group than in the past, and will significantly influence the path ahead for all five candidates, their supporters, and millions of other Americans.

The Basics
New York holds closed primaries with strict registration rules. As Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, said, “Only enrolled party members have the right to vote." Kellner added that "The deadline for changing enrollment was last October,” with new voters allowed more leeway.

Most New York Republicans will be voting for one of the three remaining GOP presidential candidates, although a fourth, Ben Carson, will still be on the ballot. They will send 95 delegates to their national convention in Cleveland. All will be bound by Tuesday’s vote, at least through the first convention ballot.

Democrats will not only vote for a presidential candidate, but also for up to seven individual delegates, whose names will be organized into Clinton and Sanders slates by congressional district. They will send 247 pledged delegates to their national convention in Philadelphia alongside New York’s 44 unpledged “super” delegates.

Both parties use a combination of at-large delegates, who will be pledged to presidential candidates based on the statewide vote, and district-level delegates, who will be pledged based on the vote in each of New York’s 27 congressional districts. The Republicans have 14 at-large and 81 district delegates, while the Democrats have 84 at-large and 163 district delegates.

Democratic delegates will be pledged proportionally, while Republicans give a far greater share to the winner, both statewide and by district. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Donald Trump continues to lead with 55% statewide and “in every region of the state.” If Trump holds that broad lead, he could walk away with almost all of New York’s delegates.

New York Republicans have a two-step process to their national convention. On Tuesday, they choose how all 95 delegates will be pledged. But if there are multiple ballots in Cleveland, who the actual delegates are will matter. That is where the second step comes in: the New York Republican State Committee will choose its delegates at its own convention, likely in May.

In contrast, the Democrats will elect most of their specific delegates on Tuesday, although their at-large delegates will also be chosen at a later state convention.

The Republicans
New York Republican rules are considered “proportional” by the Republican National Committee (RNC), but in reality are “winner take most” due to their majority triggers for winner-take-all at both the statewide and congressional district levels. If any candidate wins over 50% statewide, he would collect all 14 at-large delegates. Otherwise, they split proportionately among all candidates who cross a 20% minimum threshold.

Each of New York’s 27 congressional districts gets three Republican delegates. At that level, the GOP awards all three delegates to a majority winner. If no one breaks 50% in a given district, then two delegates would go to the plurality winner and one to the runner-up.

As Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, puts it: "The thing to watch for on Tuesday night is whether Trump breaks 50%."

With three Republican delegates per congressional district whether an area is deeply red, deeply blue, or pretty purple, things can get interesting. The system means a few hundred Republican voters in a (heavily Democratic) New York City district could be enough to swing its GOP delegates, while it might take tens of thousands upstate.

One GOP strategist told me, "Ted Cruz is smart to focus on the Orthodox Jewish vote. About 40% of the registered Republicans in the 10th [Congressional District], which includes really liberal areas like the Upper West Side, actually live in Borough Park. That's the kind of district where Cruz might be able to beat Trump."

But Malpass, who is one of the few large county party leaders to remain neutral in the primary, said, “Cruz hasn't been able to overcome his ‘New York values’ comment.” She added “Manhattan could be Kasich country.”

With Trump polling around 55% statewide, and Cruz and Kasich both hovering around 20%, it can help to look at three possible scenarios:

  1. If Trump wins a majority both statewide and in every district, he wins all 95 delegates.
  2. If Trump breaks 50% statewide and in half of the districts but lands just below 50% in the other half, he wins 81 or 82 delegates. Kasich and Cruz would split the remainder based on who finished second in each of the districts where Trump failed to break 50%.
  3. If Trump only scores a plurality statewide and in all 27 districts, he would still win 61 delegates. Cruz and Kasich would then have 34 to split, 7 proportionately statewide and 27 to whomever came in second by district. And for each district Trump actually loses to Kasich or Cruz, another one or two delegates would swing away from him.

Regardless of which scenario occurs, Trump is almost certain to win a clear majority of New York’s delegates unless polling proves to be very wrong.

The real drama on the GOP side might well occur weeks after the primary, when the Republican State Committee meets to select the actual delegates.

Through 2012, the New York GOP selected its delegates much the same way that the Democrats do: each presidential candidate would submit a slate of delegates in each congressional district. But after some tension between the state party and the Romney campaign, the state party changed its rules.

Under the new rules, the full Republican State Committee will later name the 11 at-large delegates (the other three of the 14 are ex officio, but still pledged), while the State Committee members within each of the 27 districts will decide their three delegates.

Trump has recently taken to accusing the GOP of running a “rigged” system for selecting delegates, including in states with similar procedures. However, Malpass says "I don't think the system is ‘rigged,’ but it is complex and different in each state."

And if County Party Chairs exercise as much influence over State Committee members as is generally assumed, Trump’s recent announcement that he has been endorsed by the Republican Party Chair in 32 of New York’s 62 counties, including 16 of the 20 largest, bodes well for his chances of having at least some delegates remain loyal to him if there are multiple ballots in Cleveland.

The Democrats
New York Democrats have a total of 291 delegates: 247 pledged (84 at-large and 163 district-level) plus 44 unpledged “super” delegates. Each of New York’s 27 congressional districts elects either five, six or seven, depending on the district’s proportion of Democratic votes in recent presidential elections.

Trudy L. Mason, a vice-chair of the New York State Democratic Committee, described Tuesday’s process: “First, you vote for Clinton or Sanders, then you vote for individual delegates. Within each district, the pledged delegates are apportioned based on the presidential preference vote. The delegates are then chosen in descending order of votes received on each slate, alternating by gender to ensure equal balance.”

Mason added, “[Another] 84 at-large, pledged delegates will be chosen at the New York State Democratic Convention in May, also proportionate to the statewide presidential primary vote. This may sound like a Byzantine system, but it works.”

The Democratic Party system is designed to achieve two things. The first is proportional representation at the national convention for each candidate. The second is selection of a gender-balanced group of pledged delegates who will be loyal to their candidates, or at least nominated by their campaigns. And while the “Byzantine system” should work as planned, what it will not do is give Sanders much of a chance to catch up to Clinton in pledged delegates should he win New York. Nor will it give Clinton the kind of opportunity to deliver a knock-out blow that a winner-take-all victory could.

Get Ready for Tuesday
So what can New Yorkers expect to see after the polls close on Tuesday?

In all likelihood, Clinton and Sanders will run close enough together that the proportionate split keeps Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates intact. She is polling around 10 points ahead of Sanders across the state and has a sizeable delegate lead coming into New York, though Sanders has been shrinking her margin with a steady stream of recent wins.

On the Republican side, Trump is likely to win the lion’s share of delegates, at least through the first ballot in Cleveland. And, given the breadth of Trump’s support throughout the state party, many of the individual delegates chosen to go to Cleveland may stick with him.

Cruz has the opportunity to beat expectations by picking up some delegates on what is considered unfriendly turf for him.

And all John Kasich has to do to win his first delegate in over a month is come in second to Trump in at least one district, keeping Trump below 50% there in the process. Kasich has an even bigger opportunity to collect some at-large delegates and a lot of press attention if a late surge in his support holds Trump below 50% statewide. To paraphrase Fred Ebb's famed lyric, if Kasich can't make it here, he probably can't make it anywhere.

Gus Christensen is a financial consultant to non-profits and start-ups, as well as a former investment banker and political candidate.

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Toward Progress on Equal Pay Day

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The City Council Women's Caucus, including two authors (photo: William Alatriste)

Today - Tuesday, April 12 - New York City recognizes Equal Pay Day – a day to confront the challenges our mothers, daughters, and sisters still face in achieving workplace equality.

Significant progress has been made, but substantial discrepancies exist between women and men – most notably, a sizable wage gap. As of 2013, women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, with a median income over 27 percent lower than that of men. For women of color, the pay gap widens: black and Hispanic women earn 64 and 56 cents on the dollar, respectively. Stretched over a lifetime of work, this leaves women with much less money than the average man.

At S&P Fortune 500 companies, women hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions and only 16 percent of board seats. When women are top earners, the pay gap tends to close at a faster pace. But disappointingly, the numbers show that women are vastly underrepresented in these higher-level positions, resulting in a persistent pay gap and lack of diversity in board rooms big and small.

Yet, women are more educated and prepared for the workforce than ever before. Women now account for nearly 60 percent of annual four-year university graduates, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates being awarded in the United States.

Though the longstanding pay gap is an undeniable social injustice; it amounts to much more, and is actually hurting corporate bottom lines.

Study after study, particularly those from Catalyst, the global expert on accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion, has stated that when women hold leadership or board positions, it improves company financial performance, economic growth, productivity, and profitability. This makes it crystal clear that business is better and companies perform most effectively when they bring equal opportunity, allowing everyone a seat at the table.

The City of New York, as the global center of business and commerce, and proprietor of billions in private contracts, can play an important role in promoting the levels of diversity we need in the 21st century. Let’s make sure we get the best value for our own tax dollars, and promote businesses that promote equal opportunity.

Last week, the City Council voted and passed Introduction 704-A, a bill we sponsored to gather more information on the gender and racial makeup of the individuals who make up executive-level staff and boards of companies that do business with the City. Once signed into law, it will require the Department of Small Business Services to survey companies that do business with the City and obtain the demographics of companies’ executive-level staff and board members.

In 2015, the City procured $13.8 billion worth of goods and services through more than 60,000 transactions, yet we do not know who is running the companies that are conducting this business. Our new law will provide the City with the data it needs to ensure that city-contracted companies are promoting the diversity that makes this City so great, and could ultimately boost the economy.

It’s a small step that we believe will go a long way to help our City recognize inequities in our own front yard and create incentives for businesses throughout New York to promote diversity in their top ranks.

We hope you will all join us today in the fight for equal opportunity, equal pay, and a New York City where everyone can succeed.

Elizabeth Crowley and Darlene Mealy are New York City Council Members; Deborah Gillis is President & CEO of Catalyst.

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Forget the Brooklyn Presidential Debate, the Real Battle is New York State

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Albany of yesteryear (photo via The Governor's Office on flickr)

With an April 14 date set for the Clinton-Sanders Brooklyn debate, New York and Kings County are now center stage in the ever-engrossing presidential election. Though bringing the ninth Democratic presidential debate to Brooklyn might help New Yorkers become more informed voters, it also sadly serves as a timely distraction from the latest setback to progressive governance reforms in the Empire State.

Thanks to the exclusion of any government ethics reform measures in the state budget deal reached last week, New Yorkers will continue to live in a state that offers public pensions for longtime legislators turned felons, loopholes for special interest groups to funnel millions into local campaigns, and no limits on outside income for our part-time legislators.

With wealthy donors this free to inject money into politics, it's easy to understand why in the last decade over 40 New York lawmakers have been arrested or left office after being accused of impropriety, including a notable few from Brooklyn. As such, it’s also not much of a surprise that the Center for Public Integrity has given New York State a D- in its State Integrity Investigation and consistently ranks New York among the worst for government accountability and transparency nationwide.

When the presidential candidates debate national politics in our borough, let’s hope they remember that all politics are ultimately local. If Senator Sanders is committed to taking money out of politics, there are plenty of easy targets right here in New York. If Secretary Clinton cares about building trust with voters, she could be served well by demanding an ethics package in her own state.

New Yorkers are frustrated with business as usual in Albany—a sentiment easily seen in abysmal voter turnout numbers. While a Brooklyn debate will help both campaigns excite their supporters in time for the April 19 primary, supporting reforms to the state’s election laws would ensure that New York voters have their voices heard in all elections.

Common sense reforms like online voter registration, early voting, and same-day party enrollment are commonplace in other U.S. states but denied to New York voters. These reforms would not only increase voter participation for working families but help newer residents still registered in their long-abandoned “home” states have a voice in electing their representatives.

Brooklyn is home to a strong Democratic majority and some promising progressive leaders but we’ve been “led” by entrenched political powers for much too long.

New York and Kings County can become more democratic, but this can only happen through ongoing political engagement on the local level. Before we start celebrating public debates between national candidates in our community, let’s demand public conversations on decision-making in New York State, a modernized electoral system, and state ethics rules with teeth. Whether we vote for our first democratic socialist president or first female president in New York’s primary, let’s not let the revolution stop there.

by Anusha Venkataraman and Rodrigo Camarena on behalf of New Kings Democrats, a progressive, grassroots political organization committed to bringing trans­parency, accountability, and inclusionary democracy to the Kings County Democratic Party.

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An Imperfect Victory for New York Workers

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Millions of New Yorkers are celebrating a deal this week to raise the state’s minimum wage. The deal puts a better future in sight for families around the state and sends a powerful signal to other states considering wage hikes of their own.

The deal is a testament to the power of organizing. Today’s headlines would be unimaginable just a few years ago. When New York Communities for Change organized the first fast food worker strike – almost four years ago – people thought we were crazy.

As the federal government repeatedly stalled on a meaningful increase to the nationwide minimum wage, it seemed that higher wages were out of reach.

In response, fast-food and other low-wage workers rose up to fight for better wages and a better quality of life, sparking a movement that spread to cities and towns across the nation.

It is no coincidence that the Fight for $15 began right here in New York City. The level of inequality in our city has long been one of the worst of the country – and has grown to historic proportions in recent years.

According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the top 5 percent of Manhattan households made 88 times as much as the poorest 20 percent. And as of last year, workers earning minimum wage could not afford median rent in a single neighborhood in New York City.

Wages have long failed to keep pace with the growing cost of living. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute found that the statewide wage of $9.00 per hour was well below what it would be if it had simply kept pace with inflation since 1970. The same study found that, accounting for both inflation and a higher cost of living, the minimum wage today would match its 1970 value if it reached $14.27 per hour this year – nearly the level agreed on by the New York State Legislature.

Governor Cuomo made the right move last year by mandating higher wages for fast-food workers – those on the front lines fighting for reform. But leading industry by industry risked neglecting too many workers. In order to truly create change, the rules must apply equally to everybody. Last week’s deal did that, letting workers across the economy finally dream bigger than the next paycheck.

The deal is a victory for New York City workers. However, it bypasses hard-working families in Upstate New York. While over a million low-wage workers in the city will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by the end of 2018, those in Long Island will only reach $15 in almost six years and those upstate will need to wait five years only to reach $12.50. Although the deal allows wages to rise to $15 after that, the rate will depend on review and inflation and could take years.

It is a painfully long stretch given the growing cost of living north of the city. The New York State Comptroller, for example, has found housing costs skyrocketing, with at least one in five people in every county – including those far upstate like Warren and Monroe – spending more than a third of their salary on rent. In some counties half of residents must spend that much. With added expenses like utilities and food, it leaves little room to save up for college or retirement.

It is imperative that legislators now finish the job and give all New Yorkers a chance at a living wage.

Just days before Albany finalized its deal; California showed us that a $15 wage statewide is possible. Our state must fulfill the promise of Fight for $15 statewide and let all workers adequately provide for themselves and their families. Otherwise New Yorkers will continue doing what they have been doing for almost four years: risking everything to provide a better life for their families.

JoEllen Chernow is Director of Economic Justice at Center for Popular Democracy. Jonathan Westin is Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. On Twitter: @popdemoc and @nychange.

Eviction Bonuses and Preferential Rents, Not 421-a, Should Be the Focus in Albany

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An affordable housing march 

We have long advocated for the elimination of the 421-a tax abatement because it has been nothing but a giveaway to developers masquerading as a means of affordable housing production. This is why affordable housing advocates across the city celebrated when 421-a expired on January 15.

Since its expiration, arguments about its possible revival are popping up more and more frequently, along with lamentations about its demise. How quickly we forget the many published analyses exposing the fact that even though the controversial tax abatement has created little affordable housing, it has cost New York City taxpayers up to $1 billion in lost tax revenue annually.

Only about 1,350 affordable apartments were created over the previous four years of this wasteful program. That is fewer than 350 per year, and with a price tag of $833,000 per affordable apartment created.

Instead of discussing benefits for rich developers, all attention should be on fixing the major loopholes in the rent regulation system that houses 2.5 million tenants in approximately 1 million units with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.

One of the most egregious of these loopholes is the "eviction bonus," which allows enormous rent increases of up to 20 percent in rent-stabilized apartments upon vacancy. This may be the greatest threat to the affordability and retention of rent-regulated housing, which is the foundation of strong and diverse communities and the reason that tenants looking to move are faced with unaffordable rents in every neighborhood in this city. The eviction bonus affects tens of thousands of low- and middle-income tenants – far more than those benefiting from 421-a.

Then there are "preferential" rents, the other much-used landlord tool for driving rents and pushing tenants out of rent-regulated apartments. An estimated 325,000 low-income families are vulnerable to unaffordable rent increases upon lease renewal because the preferential rent system affects 1,000 times as many families than those that benefit from new 421-a affordable units each year.

These were the reasons for a major rally of 300 community folks this week in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick, where Brooklyn residents described the many tactics used by landlords to evict rent-stabilized tenants in order to increase rents.

The rent laws were renewed in June 2015, with nowhere near the reforms necessary to protect tenants in New York. Without strong rent regulations, tens of thousands of tenants will eventually be met with only two choices: end up in homeless shelters or leave the city altogether. Neither is acceptable.

As the state moves beyond budget negotiations into legislative session, rent laws should become the focus of discussion, not the $1 billion 421-a developer giveaway. The millions of low-income tenants at risk of losing their homes and stable communities are more than enough reasons.

[Related: De Blasio Calls for Albany to 'Make Right' on Program at Center of Rift with Governor]

Delsenia Glover is the campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power. On Twitter @TenantPowerNY.

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Key Piece of City's New Housing Deal Will Protect Tenants from Harassment

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Housing plans (photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor)



Last week, New Yorkers learned that a bill creating a new Citywide Certificate of No Harassment program would be part of the city's new housing deal. The legislation, which will be finalized by a new task force before being adopted, will require landlords to get a certificate confirming that they have not harassed their tenants before demolishing or altering a building.

This provision of the housing deal is especially good news for tenants across the city.

As real estate prices have skyrocketed and gentrification has spread, so too has rampant harassment by landlords. All too often, they try to get rid of working-class and low-income tenants, especially those in rent-regulated apartments, so they can renovate units and lease them at much higher prices. This pattern has displaced thousands of tenants and left all too many with nowhere to go.

Take the case of María Elena Khochaiche, a retired, low-income renter who lived in her rent-regulated Bushwick apartment for 40 years. Recently, the value of her apartment rose quickly with the neighborhood's gentrification. Her landlord responded with greed: he tried to get rid of the rent-regulated tenants, including her, because he knew that he could make more with market-rate tenants.

He began by taking them each to court. They had done nothing wrong, but the fear of frivolous lawsuits led several residents to simply give up and leave.

Eventually, all the other tenants left, but María Elena had nowhere to go. She knew she'd never be able to afford another apartment in Bushwick. But that didn't stop the landlord. Instead of letting María Elena stay in peace, the landlord opted to stop making legally-required repairs to pressure her to leave. Broken windows stayed so she could not open them, the bathtub stayed backed up so she could not bathe, and a mouse infestation went unaddressed. For months, the lights in the hallways did not work. Seventy-five-year-old María Elena had to use the light from her cell phone just to make sure that she didn't fall while she struggled to reach her front door.

María Elena followed the rules and filed a housing complaint, but her landlord took advantage of the process and filed numerous motions to bog down the case.

Eventually, María Elena couldn't take it anymore. When the landlord offered her a buy-out to leave, she just couldn't fight on, even though she knew that taking it would mean not being able to stay in the community she loved.

The decision troubled her, but María Elena was one of the "lucky" ones. Her neighbors were forced out without getting as much in return.

María Elena's experiences are all too common for New York City tenants. Landlords harass tenants to try to get them out of affordable housing—often by using threats or legal action, or failing to make repairs that they need to make apartments livable—and then, once the tenants are gone, either renovate or build new market-rate units to rake in as much profit as possible.

The result: many New Yorkers end up with nowhere to go.

Without requiring landlords to obtain a Certificate of No Harassment, unscrupulous landlords will continue to use every trick in the book to cut corners and push tenants like María Elena out. But when landlords are required to get a Certificate of No Harassment before starting renovations or demolition, they will not be able to get away profiting from mistreating their tenants. And if they do, their mistreatment would come to light and subsequent construction or demolition would be blocked unless the landlord provided a "cure" of permanently affordable units.

This "cure" of setting aside permanently affordable units will be critical for making sure no landlord can profit from harassment. And taking away the profit motive will provide a strong disincentive for harassing tenants in the first place.

The Certificate of No Harassment legislation, once finalized and voted into law, will bring greater peace of mind to tenants like María Elena and be a substantial victory in the fight to hold abusive landlords accountable for harassing their tenants.

Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Benjamin Dulchin is the Executive Director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY & @ANHDNYC.

New Yorkers Run for President: History and Insights for 2016

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Donald Trump at a rally (photo: Trump campaign website)

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Even more New Yorkers
If you count vice presidential nominees too, New Yorkers were on major ballots in 15 out of the 29 races from 1900 to 2012.

The New Yorker vice presidential nominees during the period since 1900 were Theodore Roosevelt, R, 1900; James Sherman, R, 1908; Franklin D. Roosevelt, D, 1920; William Miller, R, 1964; Geraldine Ferraro, D, 1984; and Jack Kemp, R, 1996. TR was elected with William McKinley. Sherman was elected with Taft (but died in office in 1912). The others went down to defeat along with the presidential nominees at the head of their tickets.

Of course, the list of New Yorkers in presidential politics gets even longer if you count prominent New Yorkers who were major contenders but failed to get the nomination. That would include Governors Nelson Rockefeller (R), who lost the nomination to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Mario Cuomo (D) who agonized over whether to run in 1988 and 1992 and decided not to take the plunge.

The list would include Senator Robert Kennedy (D), who was assassinated during his quest for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. Rep. Shirley Chisolm, the first black woman elected to Congress (in 1968) campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. New York City Mayor John Lindsay switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party in 1971 and launched a brief but unsuccessful bid for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. Rudolph Giuliani (R), mayor from 1994 to 2001, sought his party's 2008 nomination, losing to John McCain.

Possible insights for 2016
It is always exciting when New Yorkers run for president! But finding parallels or applicable lessons from that history is a challenge. A few tentative insights:

*The New Yorkers who made it to the presidency in the 20th century -- Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt-- were among the nation's strongest presidents, constantly rated by historians in the top tier of our national leaders.

*Defeating a sitting President is difficult, as challengers learned in 1904, 1912, 1936, 1940, 1944, and 1948. On the other hand, running on the legacy of a previous president can help, as it did for Taft in 1908, Hoover in 1928, and Truman in 1948. That pattern may help Hillary Clinton, who can claim to be heir to at least some of Barack Obama's policies.

*Americans seem to prefer an exuberant campaign style over what might be called a judicious, restrained style. That subdued demeanor is sometimes associated with judges who are inclined to weigh and balance and look for nuances, e.g., possibly Parker in 1904, Hughes in 1916, and Taft (a judge before becoming TR's Secretary of War.)

*Red herrings and false issues can derail even a strong, thoughtful candidate, as Al Smith learned in 1928 when he was attacked for his religious beliefs.

*Wendell Willkie, a businessman who had never held political office, made a credible candidate in 1940. But his tenor and message were much different from businessman Donald Trump's today. He was a moderate, compromiser, inclined toward inclusion and accommodation, a unifier who tried to swing his party toward the mainstream.

*There may be a rough parallel between the "Stop Roosevelt!" campaign in the Republican party in 1911 and 1912 and the "Stop Trump!" campaign that some Republican leaders are mounting today. TR had triumphed in most of the primaries in 1912, though only a minority of states had them at that time, and could claim with some justification that where people had the chance to vote, they favored him as the Republican candidate. Trump is racking up primary wins this year. But TR expressed concrete, progressive, well-considered proposals and never resorted to bombast or bullying, which seem to be part of Trump's style.

*Hailing from New York can be a mixed blessing, as evidenced by Senator Ted Cruz' snide comment about Donald Trump representing "New York values." That sort of comment, with the vague innuendo it conveys, is something that Al Smith might have understood.

The New York presidential primaries are Tuesday, April 19; the general election will take place on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

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Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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New Yorkers Run for President: History and Insights for 2016

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Shirley Chisolm for President, 1972



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1932: New York's great depression fighter
Al Smith even lost his home state of New York in 1928, but his friend and colleague, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former state senator, assistant secretary of the Navy, vice presidential candidate (in 1920), and distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, was elected governor. FDR proved an exceptionally capable governor, creating the nation's first state office to combat the Depression which settled onto the country after the stock market plunged in October 1929.

Hoover took limited steps at the federal level, including a program to make loans to sagging companies, but his measures were totally inadequate. Joblessness and despair rose. Hoover seemed indifferent. "Nobody is actually starving," the president told journalists. "The hobos, for example, are better fed than they have ever been." Homeless people lived in cardboard and tarpaper shacks dubbed "Hoovervilles." Hoover was re-nominated by his party but had no chance of winning.

Al Smith sought the Democratic nomination, arguing that Hoover's disastrous policies vindicated his progressive vision back in 1928. But Democrats turned to Roosevelt, an optimistic and capable leader who inspired confidence. FDR flew to Chicago to accept the nomination in person, something no other candidate had ever done. "I pledge to you...a New Deal for the American people" he told the convention.

The slogan "New Deal" stuck. FDR called for novel government methods to meet the unprecedented crisis but he was un-specific and some of his pledges, e.g., reducing federal spending, seemed outright conservative (and proved impossible to carry out). But his call for government action struck a chord among Americans weary of the Depression and Washington's seeming indifference. "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation," FDR said. "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." Voters liked that can-do spirit. FDR carried all but six states.

1936: The New Deal endorsed
Roosevelt pushed through a dramatic array of "New Deal" reform measures in his first four years as president, including the National Recovery Act to help revive business; the Agricultural Adjustment Act to stimulate agricultural production; the Public Works Act to provide federal support for public highway and other public works projects; the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide jobs in reforesting; and other initiatives. As the economy slowly began to revive, he enacted still more reforms, including the Social Security Act in 1935. He proved to be a masterful leader who built confidence and support, even among potential opponents. When he needed a break from Washington, he travelled to his country home in Hyde Park, New York, which became almost an adjunct White House.

Easily re-nominated in 1936, FDR, a master campaigner, promised to extend and consolidate the New Deal. He denounced the Republicans as front men for "economic royalists," entrenched banking and business interests that had brought on the Depression and, given the chance, would root out the gains the New Deal had made for the American people. His administration had been struggling with "business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism [and] war profiteering," he told an enthusiastic crowd at New York's Madison Square Garden near the end of the campaign. "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome that hatred."

Republicans had been challenged to find anyone willing to take Roosevelt on. They nominated Kansas Governor Alfred Landon, a lackluster, somewhat reluctant candidate. Landon actually agreed with much of the New Deal but dutifully attacked it for threatening American institutions, concentrating too much power in Washington, profligate spending, and excessive regulation. Sensing a need for a dramatic issue to energize his campaign, he called the Social Security law "unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted, and wastefully financed," and a "glaring example of [New Deal] bungling and waste." He added that "It assumes that Americans are irresponsible [and] that old-age pensions are necessary because Americans lack the foresight to provide for their old age." Landon's appeal fell flat. FDR carried every state except Maine and Vermont.

1940: Sticking with proven leadership
By 1940, the depression was lifting and public attention turned toward the situation in Europe where war was raging and America's traditional allies, the British and French, were struggling against the onslaught of Nazi Germany. Aggression by Japanese imperial forces in the Far East was another rising concern. President Roosevelt searched for ways to assist the British in particular, but without violating U.S. laws which pledged the nation to neutrality. The Democrats, breaking with a tradition stretching back to George Washington of two-term limits for a president, nominated FDR for a third term. Roosevelt, like Wilson in 1916, stressed both preparedness and a commitment to peace. In one campaign speech, he assured parents that "your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."

Republicans were discouraged -- people liked FDR's domestic policies, which seemed at last to be vanquishing the remnants of the Depression, and saw him as a strong leader needed at a time of international crisis. Party leaders, turning away from experienced politicians who could be tarred as obstructionists for their steadfast opposition to FDR's popular policies, sought a new, fresh candidate without Washington connections. They found him in Wendell Willkie, a public-utilities executive who had come to prominence as a leader in the fight against the Tennessee Valley Authority, a New Deal initiative for flood control and electricity generation in that region.

Willkie had switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1939. He proved to be a magnetic, eloquent campaigner, critical of some New Deal measures but promising to keep most of it in tact if he were elected. He was mostly supportive of FDR's measured approach to international issues, breaking with Republican isolationists and conceding that the U.S. might have to intervene to stop aggression. But Democrats hammered at his lack of government experience, countering the Republican criticism of FDR seeking a third term with the chant "Better a Third Termer Than a Third Rater!" On Election Day, Willkie cut into FDR's 1932 and 1936 landslide majorities but lost by a sizeable margin. The next year, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II. Willkie supported the president's wartime strategies and occasionally served as an informal international envoy for the administration.

1944: New York's capable new governor vs. the champ
Republican Thomas E. Dewey, who had made his reputation as a district attorney prosecuting organized crime figures in the 1930s and early '40s, was elected Governor of New York in 1942. Two years later, he sought the presidency. Dewey campaigned on his executive record -- New York had a budget surplus and the governor was developing plans for postwar business and veterans' benefits.

President Roosevelt seemed tired. He had lost weight and looked haggard. There were rumors that his health was failing. The war effort had gone well -- the allies invaded France on June 6, 1944, just as Dewey's campaign was ramping up -- but the war had spawned over 150 bureaus, many duplicative, adding to the image of too much government in Washington. The Republican platform advocated streamlined, cheaper, and more efficient government after the war. Four more years of FDR's policies, the platform warned, "would centralize all power in the President, and would daily subject every citizen to regulation by his henchman; and this country would remain a Republic only in name."

Dewey, the capable, conservative executive, seemed tailor-made for the job. After twelve years in power, the New Deal had grown "old and tired and quarrelsome," the administration racked by "wrangling, bungling, and confusion." Dewey was vague on his plans for a post-war world but promised to shrink the federal government. Otherwise, "we may slip by gradual stages into complete government regulation of every aspect of our lives," he warned.

Dewey was careful and systematic but also stiff, unexciting, and not very personable. FDR rekindled the likeability and trust that Americans had valued for so long. In a September speech, he went after a Republican accusation that the Navy had been ordered to rescue the president's dog, Fala, from the Aleutian Islands after a presidential trip there. "These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons," the president said at a campaign rally. "No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them."

Democrats piled on: Dewey lacked international experience and knew how to attack and tear down but had little constructive vision for the future. Dewey's final speech -- "let us resolve to put aside these years of cynicism and throw off the nightmare of past years and breathe once more the atmosphere of peace and good will" -- did little to inspire confidence. FDR was the only president many Americans had ever known. He had led the nation through the Depression and now seemed close to leading it to victory in war. FDR won overwhelmingly, with 391 to 140 electoral votes.

1948: New York's accomplished but overconfident governor
Apprehension about FDR's health in 1944 were providential. In April 1945, the president died and was succeeded by Vice President Harry Truman, who had been a Senator from Missouri. Truman was ill prepared for the presidency. FDR had not told him about the secret project to develop an atomic bomb, which Truman, once he understood its awesome destructive power, decided to use against the Japanese to end the war in August 1945.

The Truman administration was beset by allegations of mismanagement. It was struggling to deal with the onset of the Cold War and the menace of communism, particularly in eastern Europe. Truman was nominated for a full term as president but his Democratic party was less than optimistic. Liberals thought him too conservative and established their own Progressive Party (the same name but no relation to TR's 1912 group) and nominated Henry A. Wallace, FDR's vice president from 1940 to 1944, to run for president. Many southern Democrats disliked Truman's civil rights positions and formed the States' Rights Democratic Party, dubbed the "Dixiecrats," and nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for president. Truman's prospects looked dim.

Dewey, re-elected governor in 1946, by contrast, looked stronger than ever. He had maintained New York's budget surplus, signed the nation's first state civil rights bill, initiated the New York State Thruway, established the State Commerce Department to stimulate the post-war economy, and launched the State University of New York. The Republicans decided he deserved another shot at the presidency. As a campaigner, though, he proved to be overconfident (he called his campaign train the Victory Special) and vague, admitting he had "no easy answers" and warning that "the road to a happy future is likely to be pretty rocky."

But Truman, defiant and feisty, launched a vigorous campaign. He went constantly on the attack, warned that the country must not go backwards and that Dewey's election would usher in a return to the vicious cycle of boom and bust. Republicans would undermine labor unions and strengthen entrenched monopolies that threatened free government. The president assailed the "silent and cunning" Republicans who controlled Congress and had "a dangerous lust for power and privilege," and tied Dewey to "this Republican gang" who would "give tax relief to the rich at the expense of the poor" and do "a real hatchet job" on the advances brought under the New Deal.

On the other hand, for their inaction on initiatives he favored, the president was able to denounce the "do-nothing Congress" controlled by Dewey's party. Truman characterized Wallace and Thurmond as extremists on the left and right, respectively, warning that voting for them would just help the Republicans. Dewey continued his dignified campaign, confident of success. Truman won increasing support by being transparent, warmhearted, and genuine. The polls were close. In fact, the Chicago Tribune, buying into Governor Dewey's confident stance, carried a headline of "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" in its early editions the day after the election. But on Election Day, Truman had surged, winning by more than two million votes and an Electoral College margin of 303 to 189. Another New Yorker had gone down to defeat.

Even more New Yorkers have run for President, including the current crop of candidates - READ ON for page 3 of 3.
This is page 2 of 3. Return to page 1.

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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New Yorkers Run for President: History and Insights for 2016


Franklin D. Roosevelt (

The 2016 presidential contest may very well pit two New Yorkers, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, against each other. In the 29 presidential elections from 1900 to 2012, New Yorkers headed major tickets nine times. Two (Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey) ran twice; one (Franklin D. Roosevelt), 4 times. New Yorkers faced each other twice (1904 and 1944), presaging the seemingly likely 2016 matchup.

New York's prominence in national politics is no surprise. Arguably the nation's most historically important state for many years, New York is something of a proving ground for the presidency. Succeeding as New York governor, for instance, demonstrates capacity to lead, address complex issues, manage politics successfully, and get things done. Simply serving as governor or U.S. senator from New York is almost always a guarantee of a high-profile. New York for many years had more electoral votes than any other state and even now has a sizeable number.

New York's significant role in presidential elections has a long and illustrative history.

1904: The judicious judge vs. the energetic president
Theodore Roosevelt (R), New York governor 1899-1901 and then vice president, became president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. Over the next three years, TR compiled a vigorous record, promoting conservation, taking legal action under the anti-trust law to dissolve a powerful railroad consortium called the Northern Securities Company, and supporting a revolution in Panama to achieve independence from Columbia and then negotiating an agreement to build a canal there to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He was easily nominated by his party to seek a full term as president.

Alton P. Parker (D), chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals since 1898, was a proven Democratic vote getter in what was then a predominantly Republican state. His solid, well-reasoned opinions gave him an aura of authority and reliability, an advantage, his backers insisted, over the sometimes impetuous TR. Parker in January 1904 wrote the majority opinion in the case of People v. Lochner, validating a New York law regulating the working and safety conditions of bakery employees. It was an eloquent affirmation of the government's authority to regulate industry, and it helped him secure the Democratic party's presidential nomination in the summer.

Parker resigned as chief judge and, following the custom of the day, did not travel or make speeches beyond a few from the front porch of his estate, Rosemont, in Esopus, on the Hudson River near Kingston. He campaigned on frugality and economy in government, cautioned against foreign adventuring, and accused TR of secretly soliciting campaign contributions from railroad and banking magnates. TR denied the accusation and pointed to his energetic, proactive record as President. Parker generated little enthusiasm. A cartoon in the fall showed him in a rowboat near his dock at Rosemont, leisurely fishing and lamenting, "If I could only hook a real issue!" Americans in the early 20th century were ready for strong presidential leadership. TR won easily, garnering nearly 60% of the popular vote.

1912: the resurgent New Yorker
TR served as president until 1908 and was succeeded by his friend and Secretary of War, William H. Taft. TR had so much confidence in Taft that he easily convinced Republican leaders that Taft was his logical heir apparent. Roosevelt went off on a hunting trip to Africa and when he returned in June 1910, he quickly expressed displeasure at the way his successor had handled things. Taft, amiable and accommodating, had signed a tariff bill that increased rates on imported goods, weakened TR's conservation policies, and given in to Republican conservatives in Congress on other issues.

TR began attacking Taft and articulating a new political philosophy which he called "the New Nationalism." Roosevelt condemned court decisions that nullified state regulatory statutes and declared that "property shall be the servant, not the master, of the commonwealth...The...essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has been, and must always be, to take from one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows." Roosevelt sought the 1912 Republican nomination and won most of the primaries in the handful of states that had them that year. But Taft supporters denounced TR as a dangerous power-hungry radical who if elected might wield unprecedented executive power. They vowed to stop him at all costs. Taft forces controlled many state delegations and the president was renominated.

TR and his supporters cried foul, left the Republican convention, and then formed a new party, the Progressive Party, dubbed the "Bull Moose" party after TR declared he felt as "fit as a bull moose." The Progressive platform included workmen's compensation, old-age insurance, woman suffrage, and federal regulation of business, built around the slogan "Let the People Rule!" TR campaigned energetically, narrowly escaping assassination when a deranged man fired at him in Chicago. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, who had served as a progressive New Jersey governor and before that was president of Princeton University. Wilson campaigned on a platform of "the New Freedom," including strong federal regulation of business. Taft waged a weak, dispirited campaign. With the Republicans effectively split between Roosevelt and Taft, Wilson triumphed easily, Roosevelt came in second, and the hapless Taft carried only two states, Utah and Vermont.

1916: the progressive New York governor and judge
Woodrow Wilson pushed several progressive reforms through Congress, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Act, a strong anti-trust law,, and a lower tariff. But after World War I began in 1914, public attention shifted to the balance between defending American trading rights on the high seas and at the same time avoiding being drawn into the war. Easily re-nominated in 1916, Wilson espoused military preparedness but also pledged to keep the nation at peace, campaigning on the slogan "he kept us out of war."

Republicans, reunited after their 1912 split, nominated former New York Governor and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. TR and Taft both endorsed him. Hughes had been a strong, progressive governor and a moderate, capable judge who favored government regulation. But he was an uninspiring campaigner, his speeches limp, too often laden with platitudes. Hughes so straddled the issue of peace and war that the Democrats dubbed him Charles "Evasive" Hughes.

The result was close in a number of critical states. The election hinged on California. That state's Republican governor, Hiram Johnson, who had been TR's 1912 vice presidential running mate, was lukewarm on Hughes. One day during the campaign, Hughes and Johnson were in the same hotel in Long Beach for several hours, but, due to a scheduling snafu, did not meet with each other. Hughes later apologized but Johnson thought Hughes had snubbed him and gave him only nominal support. Wilson narrowly carried California and the election. (The next year, 1917, Germany began attacking American ships with its submarines, leading Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Hughes later went on to be Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the United States.)

1928: New York's "Happy Warrior"
America was prosperous and at peace in 1928, which many people attributed to the benign, pro-business policies of Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929). When Coolidge announced he would not run in 1928, Republicans selected his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, as their candidate. Hoover, an engineer, had won acclaim for leading relief work in Europe after World War I and promotion of business and prosperity as commerce secretary. He campaigned as heir apparent of the two previous Republican presidents and promised to continue America's sunny prosperity.

People were satisfied, even complacent. It seems unlikely any Democrat could have defeated Hoover in 1928. Democrats selected a strong contender, Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York 1919-1921 and 1923-1928. Smith, the "Happy Warrior," was one of New York's most effective governors, consolidating state government, enacting the modern state budget system, increasing aid to education, and taking other initiatives. But Smith was also a "wet" -- he opposed prohibition, the outlawing of alcoholic beverages, which had been in effect since 1919. He was also a Catholic at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry was strong. Opponents whispered that Smith would be under the control of the Vatican and might even bring the Pope himself to Washington to take charge of the government.

Smith espoused a vision of a federal government which would address the issues facing the nation "along sane, sensible progressive lines." His informal campaign song, "The Sidewalks of New York," reminded audiences everywhere he spoke of his New York roots. That helped in some places but hurt the candidate in other areas which associated New York City with concentrated wealth, urban problems, and overly-liberal values, and associated Smith himself with the New York Tammany Hall Democratic organization. Smith did well in urban areas but he carried only seven states, all but one in the south, which had been strongly Democratic since the time of the Civil War.

READ ON  - this is page 1 of 3 - New York Governor FDR runs for President and much more - Continue to page 2 of 3

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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The Next Step to Helping Immigrant Families Thrive

menchaca idnyc

Council Member Menchaca, a co-author, promotes IDNYC (photo: @IDNYC)

In recent years, New York City has taken tremendous strides forward in supporting immigrants. Many of Mayor de Blasio's signature initiatives—particularly universal pre-kindergarten (UPK), IDNYC, and community schools—have offered vital new services to New Yorkers across the city that have been tremendously beneficial for immigrants seeking to fully integrate themselves into our society and see their families thrive.

Now, there's another critical step that New York City can take to build on these immigrant integration successes: investing in adult education.

New York City has the largest immigrant community of any city in the United States, with three million immigrants from all over the world—that's more than the entire population of Chicago. Immigrants help drive our city—accounting for 45 percent of the workforce and 49 percent of small business owners, and endowing the Big Apple with much of its incredible cultural vibrancy.

New York City has led the way in offering vital services to immigrant communities, in particular to children from immigrant households. But it's critical that we now move forward to ensure that immigrant parents are equally equipped to take advantage of new path-breaking city programs, and that means supporting adult literacy initiatives that help immigrant New Yorkers learn English and ensure basic reading and writing skills.

Adult literacy is crucial for helping parents know how to navigate the city and unlock the power of major policy achievements. To make UPK, IDNYC, and community schools live up to their potential, for example, we need to make sure parents are equipped with the tools they need to access them. English-speaking parents have a much easier time ensuring their children's educational success—for example, by being able to fully engage during parent-teacher meetings—and being able to proactively seek out the indispensable services provided at community schools.

Adult literacy is necessary for our immigrant communities, and more broadly, it's important for the economic well-being of our city. As a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York has found, directing additional resources toward adult literacy will raise immigrant New Yorkers' wages and increase tax revenues.

Take the example of Yanilda, a Dominican immigrant enrolled in English classes at Make the Road New York in Bushwick. Since beginning her classes, Yanilda notes, "I can help my niece with her homework. She's in kindergarten now and when I help her read her books, I learn too." Yanilda is also confident that her steadily improving English will help her get a better job. For her and thousands of others citywide who are lucky enough to have a spot in a free English class, adult literacy programs offer a win-win.

There are 1.7 million and 2.3 million Limited-English proficient residents like Yanilda, in New York City and New York State, respectively, according to the Census, and many others in need of basic literacy courses. Within immigrant communities there is a tremendous unmet need for English classes and adult basic education, with state funding now only sufficient to accommodate one of every 39 New Yorkers who need ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Simply put, adult literacy funding has not kept pace with the need.

That's why we need New York City to dedicate $16 million in its upcoming budget to new investments to help 13,300 students access adult literacy programs, including ESOL, Basic Education in Native Language (BENL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE).

We've made so much progress in expanding services to immigrant New Yorkers since Mayor de Blasio took office. It's time for New York City to take the next step in full immigrant integration by investing in adult literacy.

Carlos Menchaca is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @cmenchaca & @maketheroadny.

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