Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/662 Mon, 24 Jun 2019 22:22:09 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) The Threat of the Trump Budget to New York City’s Social Safety Net is Very Real https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8501-the-threat-of-the-trump-budget-to-new-york-city-s-social-safety-net-is-very-real https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8501-the-threat-of-the-trump-budget-to-new-york-city-s-social-safety-net-is-very-real children

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Last month, President Trump offered a cynical vision of the future with the release of his fiscal year 2020 budget. If enacted, it would deepen poverty and widen economic and racial disparities by denying millions health care and food, ramping up anti-immigrant enforcement, sabotaging the census, and disinvesting in housing and education. Meanwhile, the proposal prioritizes guns over butter by bloating the military budget and increases tax cuts to high-income taxpayers and heirs to very large estates.

FPWA analyzed the president’s budget by showing both the present danger to New York City and putting the proposal in context with historical funding trends, as illustrated in FPWA’s recently-launched Federal Funds Tracker.

According to our analysis, the proposal would collectively cut federal revenue to a handful of key human service agencies by nearly a half billion dollars (16 percent of their federal revenue) by ending or devastating programs that support the needs of communities, children and older adults, and those who are unable to afford a basic standard of living.

Although the president’s budget is non-binding, it is still of great concern because it is a statement of priorities from the country’s top officeholder, and unless an agreement is made before the coming fiscal year (which begins October 1), Trump’s deep cuts could become reality.

Moreover, a pattern has emerged in which the Trump administration turns to administrative action when its proposals fail to get through Congress, such as the proposed rule that would slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by making it even harder for unemployed and underemployed workers to access food assistance, including 50,000 New York City residents.

We evaluate the impact of the proposal on the nearly 40 federal grants that support the four New York City agencies featured in the FPWA Federal Funds Tracker – the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), Department for the Aging (DFTA), and Department of Social Services (DSS) – and in turn, the nonprofit human service providers who rely on these grants.

These four agencies’ federal grants represented 38 percent ($2.9 billion) of the City’s total federal grants in FY 2018.

fy19 adopted budget by

FPWA analysis of FFIS and NYC CAFR and OMB data, and Congressional Budget Justifications

Trump’s FY 2020 vision extends the economic pain that has endured throughout this decade into the next. Our analysis reveals that, adjusting for inflation, all federal grants to the City fell by nearly $2 billion since FY 2010, including hundreds of millions in support for human services.

In large part, disinvestment over the last decade is due to the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which set caps on defense and nondefense discretionary funding through 2021 and further reduced funding over time through across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

This disinvestment has real life consequences. Federal grants are often passed through from City agencies to nonprofit human-service providers to support the needs of their communities and attract and retain qualified staff.

For example, the Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc. relies on federal support to serve more than 60,000 individuals and families across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. CPC’s federal support would be cut by 44 percent ($2.5 million) under Trump’s budget, driven in part by the proposal to eliminate the Community Services Block Grants.

CSBG – which has already fell by 14 percent since FY 2010 – supports a wide range of community-based activities to reduce poverty, such as CPC’s LEAD program at the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies. The LEAD program helped a struggling high school student assimilate into a new school, improve her language skills, and ultimately go on to be a successful student.

When the federal government abdicates its responsibility, New York City’s commitment to caring for people who are struggling to afford basic needs means that it is often left to fill the gaps. Indeed, since FY 2010, the City has invested an additional $2.2 billion (nominally) to support these agencies. In other words, the money that New York City spends on human services in the absence of sufficient federal support could be spent on other investments equally important to the City’s quality of life, such as transportation, safety, education, cultural institutions, and the environment.

Americans have already endured nearly a decade of federal austerity. Congress – which has begun work on FY 2020 spending bills – should chart a new vision for the new decade by reaching an agreement that not only reverses course on the planned sequestration cuts but also meaningfully increases support for the woefully underfunded programs that serve low-to middle-income families, and that, when properly funded, strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.


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Derek Thomas is Senior Fiscal Policy Analyst and Gaurav Gupta-Casale is Fiscal Policy Associate at FPWA. On Twitter @FPWA.

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The Threat of the Trump Budget to New York City’s Social Safety Net is Very Real Wed, 08 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Manhattan GOP Goes Full Trump, Ruining Chances for Years to Come https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8487-manhattan-gop-goes-full-trump-ruining-chances-for-years-to-come https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8487-manhattan-gop-goes-full-trump-ruining-chances-for-years-to-come usa trump maga

(photo: @RealDonaldTrump)


Well, it’s happened. The barbarians have finally sacked the city.

On February 1, Trump enthusiast Ian Walsh Reilly assumed the leadership of the Metropolitan Republican Club, one of the oldest Republican clubs in New York City. Like Trump, Ian’s the kind of guy who bumps elbows with high-profile racists and unrepentant misogynists like Gavin McInnes, founder of the alt-right nationalist group The Proud Boys.

Ian just couldn’t wait to get Gavin in front of his club’s membership last year, and this epic lapse in judgment resulted in a nearly 24-hour cycle of violence and vandalism – on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side no less.

Then, on April 20, Ian’s lickspittle lackey Gavin Wax and sidekick Vish Burra claimed top spots at the New York Young Republican Club. (Wax is currently facing criminal charges of Forcible Touching and Sexual Abuse, while Burra was charged with felony drug possession in 2015.)

These organizations form the backbone of the Manhattan GOP’s voter and volunteer base, and are now firmly under the control of Trumpist alt-right acolytes, which puts Manhattan Republican Party Chair Andrea Catsimatidis in a bit of a bind.

Trump lost Manhattan in the 2016 GOP Primary to John Kasich, and scored less than 10% of the vote borough-wide on Election Day. For a party organization tasked with recruiting candidates, raising money, and winning elections, I’m stumped as to what their endgame strategy is.

No serious New York City candidate will ever run on a Republican ticket with Trump, and no candidate who embraces Trump will ever win in the city (outside of Staten Island – and sometimes not even there).

Could the ascent of people like Wax, Burra, and Reilly be a sign that local County Committees and their ancillary groups have simply thrown in the towel on ever building a real party apparatus, and have instead opted to simply cash in on the rubes and dupes and Pizzagate pushers that comprise the monochromatic Trump coalition?

Sure seems like it.

If Trump wins re-election in 2020, his personality and policies will undoubtedly reshape the current Republican Party for many years to come. But if Trump is defeated, then the GOP, especially in urban areas, will have a unique opportunity to redefine what it means to be a Republican in the 21st Century.

However, those who embraced Trump, either half-heartedly or with bear hugs, won’t be able to make that case. Sorry, but Trump taint just don’t bleach.

New York City constitutes nearly half the statewide vote, and from day one, it’s been abundantly clear that Trump does not share the city’s values.

But until Manhattan and other borough Republicans disavow, disassociate, and condemn the president, a majority of city voters simply won’t give two cowpats about what ideas we have on public housing, higher education, infrastructure, jobs, student debt, and criminal justice reform.

If our leaders refuse to assert themselves at the grassroots level – or worse yet, co-opt the alt-right message, then the GOP in the Empire State is doomed.

We need our County Chairs and State Party officers to lead, to communicate to young people and veteran activists alike what a winning strategy and message look and sound like. Hint: it’s not Donald J. Trump.

But if they’re either unwilling or unable to do so, then perhaps the time has come for experienced operatives and establishment groups, who have so far largely stood on the sidelines and quietly seethed, to strike back with a vengeance in order to preserve the party of Teddy Roosevelt so that it won’t be spoken of in the same breath as ‘pussy’-grabbers, conspiracy theorists, and xenophobes.

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John William Schiffbauer is a political consultant, and was the Deputy Communications Director for the New York Republican State Committee from 2014 to 2016. On Twitter @JWSGOP.

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Manhattan GOP Goes Full Trump, Ruining Chances for Years to Come Thu, 02 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Trump’s State of the Union, Kavanaugh’s Dissent, and the Coordinated Attempt to Ban All Safe, Legal Abortion https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8274-trump-s-state-of-the-union-kavanaugh-s-dissent-and-the-coordinated-attempt-to-ban-all-safe-legal-abortion https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8274-trump-s-state-of-the-union-kavanaugh-s-dissent-and-the-coordinated-attempt-to-ban-all-safe-legal-abortion gov cuomo womensrepro

(photo: Governor's office)


Last week, new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh showed his true colors when it comes to access to safe, legal abortion. His dissent in the Louisiana case completely disregarded legal precedent and revealed his hostility to Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court cases upholding the law.

Earlier in the week, President Trump used the highest office in the country to continue his misinformed, divisive brand of extremist politics, including by fear-mongering about abortion law in New York. This is not a drill: our constitutional right to abortion is under attack like never before.

There has been a coordinated campaign by anti-abortion extremists to misinform and in fact outright lie about New York’s Reproductive Health Act and what it does. They are falsely citing this bill to promote reckless nationwide restrictions that would leave millions across the country without access to safe, legal abortion.

The anti-abortion minority’s claims about abortion care in New York specifically and the United States more generally are patently false and are solely designed to lie to Americans in order to prevent more progressive legislation protecting abortion rights from being passed in other states. This is a calculated and orchestrated movement built on false facts and fear mongering.

At Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), we worked with partners and supporters for more than a decade to ensure that, regardless of what happens in Congress or the Supreme Court, New Yorkers — and those from outside New York who we may need to serve in the future — will have access to the abortion care they have today and will need in the future.

The attacks on the Reproductive Health Act aren’t actually about later abortions — they are about slowing progress on protecting abortion rights at the state level and ultimately outlawing abortion in the United States entirely.

Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans believe that abortion must remain legal and accessible in the United States. Yet, extreme politicians in the overwhelming minority continue to try to control the conversation with lies about abortion care and those who need access to that care every day. States across the country continue to pass hundreds of laws that restrict people’s ability to receive abortion care.

Yet, here in New York, we were able to pass legislation that would protect, not erode, abortion care, and that is what is at the heart of the most recent attacks — fear that voters and elected officials are fully understanding this extreme anti-abortion strategy and working to reverse it.

New York State legalized abortion back in 1970, three years before the U.S. Supreme Court did so nationally through Roe v. Wade, and New Yorkers consistently supported abortion access in the succeeding years. However, the state failed to update its abortion law, leaving providers and patients without full protection. New York advocates lobbied for over a decade to mirror Roe in state law only to hit a conservative roadblock in the state Senate. On January 22, 2019, this long-overdue legislation was finally enacted into law.

The RHA accomplishes three important things. It makes sure that the federal abortion rights we currently have are protected in New York law in the event that they are lost at the national level — and it’s clear this law came just in the nick of time. The RHA brings the protections of Roe into state law by ensuring that New Yorkers can access needed care throughout pregnancy when their health or life is endangered, or their pregnancy is not viable.

It also recognizes that abortion is health care, not a crime, by moving the regulation of abortion care into the public health law where it belongs. And it clarifies that trained health care providers acting within their scope of practice can provide abortion care. This ensures that more New Yorkers have access to early and safe abortion care.

Across New York City and the country, we at Planned Parenthood will continue to provide high-quality abortion care and fight to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal. We believe deeply in the right of all people — no matter who they are, where they live, or what they earn — to make their own personal decisions about their health, their families, and their paths in life, without political interference.

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Laura McQuade is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. On Twitter @PPNYCAction.

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Trump’s State of the Union, Kavanaugh’s Dissent, and the Coordinated Attempt to Ban All Safe, Legal Abortion Mon, 11 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
The Government Shutdown and Trump’s War on the Safety Net https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8209-the-government-shutdown-and-trump-s-war-on-the-safety-net https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8209-the-government-shutdown-and-trump-s-war-on-the-safety-net levin steve epap

City Council Member Stephen Levin, the author


We have now reached the longest government shutdown in history with no plans for reaching a deal anytime soon. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers’ jobs have been impacted and the shutdown has delayed mortgage applications, caused significant Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) staffing callouts, impacted basic healthcare access for Native Americans, and created waste pile-ups at national parks. Federal employees have even started looking for new jobs after being denied their paychecks last week with no sign of progress.

Worse still to come, the shutdown could put the nation’s safety net in peril. Forty-two million Americans rely on food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps); if the shutdown continues into February, we will see an increase in hunger nationwide as people lose benefits and are forced to turn to emergency assistance at food pantries.  Following pressure, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) committed to funding February SNAP benefits, however, if the shutdown continues, the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities estimates families could see their benefits cut by 40%. In New York City alone, almost 1.7 million residents depend on food stamps, and would be forced to worry if they’ll be able to provide enough food for their loved ones simply because of President Trump’s political game of chicken.

This government shutdown is callous and irresponsible; and we’ve already begun to see the impacts on nutrition benefits. According to Rewire News, over 2,500 grocery stores have stopped accepting SNAP because of paperwork filing issues caused by the federal government. States are also required to apply to issue February benefits by January 20, disrupting recipients’ normal monthly food aid schedule. One SNAP recipient in Brooklyn, Brenda Riley, with the Safety Net Activists said it best: "The president and other politicians who have created this shutdown should sacrifice their own salaries instead of hurting families who are already on soup lines."

Unfortunately, the president’s disregard for SNAP recipients is just the latest attack in a long line of attempts to dissolve the country’s safety net and harm low-income communities. Perhaps most concerning is the proposed executive order published late last month calling for new work restrictions on the SNAP program to cut off basic food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Under the current policy, single adults 18-through-49 are only granted SNAP benefits for three months out of every three years if they are not working more than 20 hours per week. However, longstanding bipartisan rules have allowed waivers to this restrictive policy, recognizing high rates of unemployment in communities and lack of job training access that make work requirements extremely burdensome. Trump’s proposed rule would significantly reduce allowances for job waivers, effectively cutting off the lowest income recipients who are unable to work more than 20 hours a week or who have a difficult time finding a job. This proposal undermines the very notion of a safety net, and unrealistically expects recipients to suddenly afford groceries, maintain stable housing and cover high health costs.

SNAP has been an incredibly successful program and made the difference for millions of families who don’t have to sacrifice groceries to be able to afford their monthly rent. In 2015, food assistance lifted 4.6 million Americans out of poverty, including 2 million children and 366,000 seniors. Adding burdensome work requirements would only make it harder for already struggling New Yorkers to cover basic expenses, and would further contribute to the city’s income divide.

It’s also bad economic policy. In 2017 alone, SNAP helped generate over $5 billion in economic impact in New York City, as every dollar spent through SNAP adds $1.79 to its local economy. The fact is, the vast majority of Americans who receive SNAP already work, and for those who don’t, it is largely due to a disability or circumstance that prevents them from working. These new restrictions reinforce harmful stereotypes in order to discourage participation and public investment in the program more broadly.

The onslaught of attacks on the SNAP program require that we fight back. New York City has long committed to investing in food assistance programs -- such as through passing legislation to increase awareness and enrollment among eligible residents and by making healthy, local food accessible to all SNAP recipients through the City’s GrowNYC’s Healthy Exchange Project. As a result of the Greenmarket partnership, over $1 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at city farmers markets in 2016 alone. But federal restrictions are rolling back public assistance at a time when the need is increasing. Rent continues to rise and New Yorkers are facing stagnant wages and supermarket closures, making it difficult to afford nutritious food.

The government shutdown and recent cuts to SNAP are also impacting our city’s emergency food assistance program — providers have shared they are seeing increased traffic as people are supplementing their SNAP benefits with food pantries and soup kitchens. With recipients’ monthly SNAP benefits running out sooner, many are turning to food pantries to make ends meet, where monthly resources are depleted quicker and providers are struggling to keep up with the demand. If the shutdown continues much longer, New York City will need an emergency assistance contingency plan.

The president’s ongoing attack on food assistance is nothing short of draconian. I encourage New Yorkers to call on the administration and Republican leadership to join House Democrats’ efforts to reopen the government and protect New Yorkers’ access to food aid. And when the Food and Drug Administration’s public comment period on work requirements opens, I will be submitting comments in opposition to the proposed rule. Congress has long maintained bipartisan support of the food stamps program and should not let up now — the 42 million Americans who receive SNAP benefits are counting on us.

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Stephen Levin is a City Council Member from Brooklyn and chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee. On Twitter @StephenLevin33.

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

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The Government Shutdown and Trump’s War on the Safety Net Wed, 16 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Protect New Yorkers from Washington’s Cruel Actions, Oppose ‘Public Charge’ Change https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8030-protect-new-yorkers-from-washington-s-cruel-actions-oppose-public-charge-change https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8030-protect-new-yorkers-from-washington-s-cruel-actions-oppose-public-charge-change jvbramer leads sep

(photo via the New York City Council)


When we look from our community in Brooklyn to the New York Harbor, we see the Statue of Liberty, a tangible symbol of America’s great tradition of welcoming immigrants seeking to make a better life. Every day in Sunset Park, Red Hook, Bay Ridge, and elsewhere in Brooklyn we see the contributions new Americans are making to the economic and cultural vitality of our neighborhoods, just as generations of immigrants before them contributed.

But America’s great tradition of diversity and inclusion is under attack by the Trump Administration. From separating parents and children at the border, to travel bans and demonizing immigrants as “others,” this administration is on a campaign to sow division and disunity. The latest salvo in this war against new Americans is a radical proposal to expand the definition of “public charge” and undermine pathways to U.S. citizenship for new Americans.

If the government determines that a person is likely to depend on the government as their main source of support (in other words, to be a “public charge”), it can deny that person admission to the United States or lawful permanent residence. Under the Trump Administration’s new “public charge” proposal, immigrants’ participation in some of the most fundamental programs essential for families’ and children’s health and well-being would count against their chances to enter or remain in the United States. These basic public benefit programs include, among others, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and housing assistance.

The Trump Administration’s “public charge” policy plan represents an unwarranted cost shift from the federal government to state and local governments, to non-profit charities, and to needy families themselves. Denying federal assistance to people when they are in need in no way eliminates hunger, homelessness or deprivation. Our communities will face new burdens in addressing gaps in services.

It is clear that the Trump Administration’s overly broad definition of “public charge” would have far-reaching effects. One in four American children have at least one immigrant parent. In addition to the categories of individuals directly affected by the policy, fear and confusion would cause most immigrants to forgo benefits for all means-tested federal, state, and local programs.  The dis-enrollment from public benefits would cause disruption in the lives of millions of needy people, harm individuals’ well-being, and undermine local economies here in New York and across the United States.

We all need to raise our voices against this proposal. And we have an opportunity to do just that. The Trump Administration cannot implement this radical change until after it has considered comments submitted by members of the public.  In our democracy, this is an important check on unfettered rulemaking by the executive branch. Help make that check a real one by submitting your comments through regulations.gov by December 10.

Get your neighbors, families and friends to comment as well. Our nation is at its best when people join arms and stand together for the values that have built America.

Join the thousands of people in the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition in speaking out to stop this mean-spirited and harmful potential rules change.

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Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz represents parts of Brooklyn. On Twitter @Felixwortiz.

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

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Protect New Yorkers from Washington’s Cruel Actions, Oppose ‘Public Charge’ Change Tue, 30 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Molinaro Reveals Reason He Didn’t Vote for Trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8017-molinaro-reveals-reason-he-didn-t-vote-for-trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8017-molinaro-reveals-reason-he-didn-t-vote-for-trump molinaro cbs debate

Marc Molinaro during Tuesday's debate (photo via @CBSNewYork)


Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor of New York, has long-insisted that he did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016, saying that he “had significant differences at the time” and decided to write in former Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson for president.

As he’s tried to straddle the Trump divide in the New York Republican Party and appeal to independent and moderate voters in an uphill quest to unseat Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Molinaro has been hesitant to explain what exactly led him to shun Trump two years ago. On Tuesday, speaking with reporters after his debate with Cuomo, during which the incumbent repeatedly tied his challenger to the president, Molinaro at last revealed more specifically what had made him unable to vote for Trump, the Republican nominee at the time and party standard-bearer.

The father of a daughter with developmental disabilities, Molinaro said that Trump mocking a disabled journalist, Serge Kovaleski of The New York Times, during a late-2015 campaign rally was the tipping point.

Like virtually all Republican candidates running this year, Molinaro is regularly asked his opinions of Trump, and he has cited several areas of disagreement, while also saying he is ready to support or challenge the president as necessary to fight for New Yorkers. Molinaro has specifically mentioned Trump’s “both sides” response to the white nationalist and response marches in Charlottesville, VA; the administration’s child separation policy at the Mexico border; and the federal tax reforms that Trump signed into law and effectively raise taxes for many New Yorkers as three areas where he has disagreed with the president.

But all of those are since Trump was inaugurated. Until Tuesday Molinaro had never explained the specifics behind his vote for Gibson, who is now retired from Congress and the chair of Molinaro’s campaign.

During the debate with Cuomo, hosted by CBS television and radio, Molinaro found himself on the defensive as the governor over and over again tied him to Trump, who has low approval ratings in New York. In one particularly stark exchange Cuomo repeatedly asked Molinaro “Do you support President Trump?” which the challenger refused to answer directly.

Molinaro attempted to get the moderators to move along, but Cuomo thundered away. Molinaro gave partial answers about calling it like he sees it and the impressive overall economy, and also repeatedly sought to turn the tables, pointing out past ties between Cuomo and Trump, who has donated more than $60,000 to Cuomo over the years and appeared in a video at Cuomo’s bachelor party (Molinaro has cozied up to the Trump family more recently, as City & State reported this week). 

Curiously, Molinaro did not offer debate viewers and listeners the fact that he did not vote for Trump in 2016, perhaps indicative of the delicate balancing act he’s trying to perform in appealing to the millions of Trump voters in New York and many independents and moderates who disapprove of the president but may be willing to choose someone other than Cuomo.

When he appeared with a group of reporters covering the debate afterward, Gotham Gazette asked Molinaro why he did not offer that piece of information during the debate, as he has during a number of interviews and press conferences throughout his campaign for governor.

“I wasn’t willing to allow the governor to dictate my answer to that question,” Molinaro said, referring to when Cuomo repeatedly pressed him to explain whether he supports Trump, the governor’s own question, not one from the moderators.

“Listen,” Molinaro went on, before pausing to collect himself and continuing with his voice cracking at times, “I don’t know if the president meant it during the presidential campaign, I don’t know it, but when he acted out in a way that discredited a reporter who lived with a disability, I don’t think it was his intention, but I’ve seen it before -- in fact as a kid I probably did it myself -- and as the father of a child with a disability I wasn’t willing to put myself in the position of demeaning what my daughter goes through every day of her life.”

Molinaro then took a question about what upstate voters may have gotten from the debate.

Asked another question about Trump, and whether he sees him as a net positive or net negative for New York, Molinaro was reminded by a campaign advisor to return the focus to his race against Cuomo.

“I’m running against Andrew Cuomo,” Molinaro said. “As I have said and will repeatedly say: I want New York State to benefit from economic recovery, and to the extent that America now is the most competitive economy in the world, New York needs to benefit from that. But to allow this campaign to be about anything other than Andrew Cuomo’s failure, his incompetence, and his corruption is a disservice to the people of New York.”

[Read: Marc Molinaro and The Trump Question]

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Molinaro Reveals Reason He Didn’t Vote for Trump Wed, 24 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Without the Federal Government But With New York, Puerto Rico Endures https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7763-without-the-federal-government-but-with-new-york-puerto-rico-endures https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7763-without-the-federal-government-but-with-new-york-puerto-rico-endures gov puertorican day

(photo via the Governor's office)


Loíza is a town on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, home to almost 30,000 American citizens. For 72 hours last September, as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and other territories in the Caribbean, Loíza and all of its residents became isolated from the outside world when the three main roads that connect this medium-sized town to the rest of the island became impassable. 

The challenges that residents of Loíza faced and continue to deal with are not only emblematic of the lack of resources invested in rebuilding efforts and the crumbling economy hindering the island's recovery, but also of the resilience and resourcefulness of the Puerto Rican people. 

Last March, I returned to my native Puerto Rico to see the impact of the disaster firsthand. I visited six different towns across the island, including Loíza, and with a great deal of frustration and heartbreak, I confirmed what I had feared: the inadequate and anemic responses from the federal government and the island’s central administration have left almost 3 million Puerto Ricans on the island and their local governments to fend for themselves.  

Thousands, especially those in low-income communities, continue to suffer from unreliable electricity and water systems, food and resource shortages, and serious mental and physical health emergencies. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the real number of storm-related fatalities is closer to 4,600 souls, according to a recent Harvard University report, as opposed to the 64 official deaths counted by the U.S. government.      

While the trip was disheartening in many ways, it was also inspiring and hopeful. I met several mayors, nonprofit organizations, scholars, labor leaders, and dedicated individuals whose steadfast leadership in helping Puerto Rico recover has been nothing short of heroic. Together, they have slowly built an important grassroots recovery movement that has made significant progress despite minimal resources. 

For instance, Taller Salud, a Loíza-based nonprofit organization seeking to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of low-income women and girls, saw its mission transform out of necessity, becoming a critical emergency response provider giving out life-saving assistance to thousands.  

To put it plainly, Puerto Ricans do not need or want charity. What they need is our support to further invest in those leaders and communities working tirelessly to implement innovative visions and projects locally. They want to maintain full agency over how their hometowns and infrastructure are rebuilt. We do not need to tell them or show them how to survive or thrive -- what we need to do is augment their ability to do what they have already been doing.

Many states and cities across the mainland United States have stepped up to provide support in the face of the failed response by our federal government. I am proud to say that New York has done this and in spades.

Our State and City governments, along with elected officials across all levels of government, local nonprofit organizations, civic leaders, and many New Yorkers launched an extremely dynamic relief effort, which continues to this day. From millions of dollars in monetary donations, to collecting tons of essential items, to sending highly qualified emergency responders, medical staff, and expert personnel to help rebuild the island’s decayed infrastructure, New York has led by example as to how to coordinate a comprehensive relief response and empower the Puerto Rican people to take the lead in its recovery efforts.

During a recent meeting of Governor Cuomo’s New York Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee, I joined my fellow committee members and Governor Cuomo’s administration to identify a list of priorities and recommendations to help facilitate Puerto Rico’s rebuilding efforts.

01 29 14 rivera hs 009My list of recommendations focuses on counseling and mental health services, access to higher education, employment assistance, accessibility of clean water, and promotion of green energy infrastructure. 

As a result of the recent committee meeting, I penned a letter with members of the Senate Democratic Conference urging SUNY and CUNY to extend their in-state tuition credit program. This program aims to ensure that Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students who relocated to New York are able to continue their higher education for the next academic year. Last week, SUNY extended the program and CUNY is expected to do the same imminently.

Puerto Ricans have not only seen their lives completely torn apart by a natural disaster, but also by the criminal inaction of our federal government. While the road to recovery will be long and filled with challenges, the spirit of my fellow Boricuas remains intact. At a time of such darkness, the clarity of their ideas and their commitment to rebuilding is worthy of support. The goal of the diaspora, and all who seek to help, must be to empower our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to transform and improve their neighborhoods and towns as they see fit. The storm and this administration have dealt a painful blow to Puerto Rico, but the island and Puerto Ricans endure.

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Gustavo Rivera is a state senator representing part of the Bronx and a native of Puerto Rico. On Twitter @NYSenatorRivera.

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

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Without the Federal Government But With New York, Puerto Rico Endures Fri, 22 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Joe Borelli https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7659-max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-joe-borelli https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7659-max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-joe-borelli mxm logo

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


May 7, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Joe Borelli

joe borelli podcast map 277

Joseph Borelli is a City Council member, former state Assembly member, Staten Islander, conservative Republican, and outspoken Donald Trump supporter. On the podcast, Borelli discusses his district, his constituents and their concerns, the fact that he is a "proponent of secession" for Staten Island from the rest of New York City, his take on Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, President Trump, the media, and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy, and this week's guest is @JoeBorelliNYC. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Joe Borelli Mon, 07 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Marc Molinaro and The Trump Question https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7649-marc-molinaro-and-the-trump-question https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7649-marc-molinaro-and-the-trump-question marc molinaro ggbreakfast

Marc Molinaro, left, and Chris Gibson (photo: @marcmolinaro)


The presumptive Republican nominee for governor of New York did not vote for the Republican president of the United States.

One question Marc Molinaro was asked most often in the early weeks of his campaign to replace Governor Andrew Cuomo is whether he voted for Donald Trump in November 2016.

“I did not, I voted for Chris Gibson,” Molinaro told reporters in Albany on April 2, the day of his official campaign launch, naming the former Congressional representative who is now chair of Molinaro’s gubernatorial campaign. It was the second time that day Molinaro, currently Dutchess County Executive, had been asked the question, the first coming in the village of Tivoli, where he grew up, became mayor at the age of 19, and held his first launch event. Both times he answered quickly, and briefly, ready to move on to the next question.

A follow-up question, though: why didn’t you vote for Trump?

“I had significant differences at the time, I didn't vote for him, I voted for Chris Gibson, who would have made a fine president,” Molinaro said in Tivoli. “And this is what I tell people, and I believe it, for those that admire [Trump], they believe he says it the way he sees it, and so do I, but when he doesn't do what is in the best interest of New Yorkers, and New York families, I’ll say it, and when America and the federal government does something in the best interest of New Yorkers I’ll say it too.”

In several iterations of the same answer over the course of weeks, Molinaro has not explained the “significant differences” he had with Trump that led him to write in Gibson.

Molinaro has mentioned two incidents where Trump has disappointed him since taking office -- the president’s response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the federal tax overhaul that severely limits state and local deductions -- but has not provided details of his issues with Trump during the campaign. A Molinaro campaign spokesperson said she thought he had been clear in his answers about Trump and did not provide more detail when Gotham Gazette inquired.

The campaign spokesperson also declined to answer repeated questions about who Molinaro voted for during the Republican presidential primary in New York, in April 2016. Gibson, meanwhile, has been a fairly outspoken critic of Trump, though he said he did vote for the Republican nominee over Clinton because he thought Trump was more likely to clean up Washington, D.C. Gibson has told the Albany Times Union, however, that Trump has not lived up to his promise to “drain the swamp.”

In August 2017, Gibson condemned Trump’s “both sides” response to the Charlottesville rally and counter-protest, writing in the Poughkeepsie Journal, “In moments like these, leadership can make all the difference. We were all counting on President Donald Trump to help us understand what happened, condemn by name the racist organizations involved, mourn the losses, and bring us together to heal. He utterly failed us.”

Molinaro’s lukewarm approach to the president does not seem to have had an impact on his ability to garner the support of key New York Republican leaders in his bid to earn the party nomination and take on the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, where Cuomo is being challenged from the left by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, both painting themselves as essential anti-Trump forces.

The Trump question could continue to prove tricky for Molinaro, who appears to want to discuss virtually anything else. There is no question that his Democratic opponent will attempt to tie him to the president and members of the media will want to know what he thinks of various Trump actions.

On the day Molinaro entered the race, Cuomo said, "They want to run a Trump mini-me in New York -- good luck.”

That same day, Geoff Berman, the executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee, released a statement saying, “it's clear that the New York GOP is intent on pushing an ultra-conservative Trump agenda, and a candidate that has the same positions as Trump with a different hair color.”

While he didn’t vote for Trump, Molinaro is loathe to explain why and hesitant to criticize the president. While Trump is deeply unpopular in New York overall, he retains strong support from Republicans in the state (Democrats hold a significant voter enrollment advantage across New York). Trump, a New York City businessman and television star, won 46 of 62 New York counties in his election against former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, though Clinton still won the state handily, 59 to 36.5 percent, thanks to dominating the population centers, including New York City.

A February Quinnipiac poll showed Trump underwater in New York at 30 percent approval and 65 percent disapproval, though it was actually a slight increase in approval for the president. Within those numbers, though, Trump had a 79-15 percent approval rating among Republicans, and a 5-93 percent among Democrats.

It looks as though Molinaro will not be forced into the difficult task of having to hug Trump in a Republican primary to then distance himself in a general election, where he almost certainly will need to win over many independents and some Democrats to win.

The Dutchess County Executive, who has held a handful of different government positions over more than 20 years in elected office, appears to have secured both the Republican and Conservative Party nominations, and their ballot lines in November. Throughout the process of seeking the backing of different county chairs of each of the two parties, Molinaro has had to answer the Trump question in public and in private.

Asked if he supports the president on the Joe Piscopo Show on AM970 radio, Molinaro said, “I support America, and when the president does something good, I’m going to stand up and say it. A lot of people say this about him and that is, he says it the way he sees it, well so do I. So when he does or says something that I can’t stand for, I have to say it as well. I did that when he spoke out, I think inappropriately, after Charlottesville. I didn’t vote for him last November, but my position is that we need America to succeed and we need New York to succeed.”

He then pivoted to criticizing Cuomo, whom Molinaro has repeatedly said “displays the very attributes he demonizes,” as he tweeted recently about Cuomo and Trump, pulling up just shy of criticizing the president while still being able to take a shot at Cuomo as a hypocrite.

Despite his coolness toward the bombastic president, the seemingly even-tempered Molinaro -- who is basing his run in part on the quality of his character, his ethics, values, and willingness to work across the aisle -- has continued to gain support from Trump backers.

“The bottom line is that I would have preferred him to vote for Donald Trump,” said Mike Long, state chair of the Conservative Party. “Marcus Molinaro’s positions on the issues are in sync with conservative Republicans, and therefore I overlooked it.”

Long said he’s spoken with Molinaro about his lack of support for Trump. “What I found out was: number one, father of young children, he at the time, what was going on in the campaign, he wasn’t comfortable voting for Donald Trump, and he felt his vote in New York wouldn’t make a difference in the outcome here,” Long said in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

“The meter is different, but on the issues they mostly see eye to eye,” Long said of Trump and Molinaro, who says that as governor he would lower taxes, rein in state spending, return more power to localities, clean up rampant corruption in state government, and improve management at the MTA. While he holds many conservative positions, Molinaro has also expressed some more moderate stances on immigration and campaign finance reform.

“Marcus is refreshing, he’s energetic, and I think he can give New York a fresh start,” Long said. “Some people may be disappointed he didn’t vote for Trump, but they’re not going to vote for Cuomo.”

New York City Council Member Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island, was an early endorser of Trump in the presidential race and continues to strongly back the president. He is also vehemently behind Molinaro for governor.

“He is a pragmatic executive, willing to work with all sides, and has a reputation as a problem-solver,” Borelli said in a statement endorsing Molinaro. “Most importantly, he has good character and a strong moral compass that guides his decisions.”

“New York City could benefit from someone like him at the helm of our state,” Borelli also said.

On whether he thinks Trump will be involved in the race personally, Long said he doubts it. “I don’t see the president getting involved at any part of the campaign. I don’t see any need for that happening. The president has his hands full dealing with the anti-Trumpers around the country,” Long said.

“Would he help Marcus? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think it’s necessary that the president get involved.”

[Read: In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make a Character Argument]

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Marc Molinaro and The Trump Question Tue, 01 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
As Trump Pushes Deportations, Volunteers Intensify Immigrant-Accompaniment Program https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7386-as-trump-pushes-deportations-volunteers-intensify-immigrant-accompaniment-program https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7386-as-trump-pushes-deportations-volunteers-intensify-immigrant-accompaniment-program jericho walk 1

A New Sanctuary Coalition "Jericho walk" (photo: Katrina Shakarian)


The day before Thanksgiving, a group of volunteers met Manuel, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, in back of the Dunkin Donuts at 321 Broadway in Manhattan, to accompany him to his immigration court hearing at 26 Federal Plaza.

The volunteers were part of the New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program, which trains people to accompany undocumented immigrants on check-ins with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to immigration court hearings. The program aims to support people caught in deportation proceedings by creating a community that is present with them and bearing witness to the process.

“I think it’s really important that people that show up for a hearing or a check-in know that there are people supporting them,” said Denise Rickles, a retired teacher from Manhattan, who attended Manuel’s accompaniment. “I try to come once a week and I’ve been doing it for a number of months.”

The New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, founded in 2007, is an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals that stand in solidarity with the city's undocumented residents facing deportation. The coalition receives funding through Judson Memorial Church, its fiscal sponsor. In addition to organizing accompaniments, the coalition hosts immigration clinics and leads weekly prayer walks around Federal Plaza in protest of deportations.

In 2017 -- as the national conversation around immigration and deportation reached fever pitch after the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump, who has regularly demonized immigrants and promised crack downs on immigration -- the coalition organized about nine accompaniments a week, said Managing Organizer Sara Gozalo.

Volunteers go on three types of accompaniments: ICE check-ins and court hearings for non-detained individuals at 26 Federal Plaza, and hearings for people who are detained at a location on Varick Street.

“Advocacy without confrontation,” is how Gozalo described the program at a recent volunteer training in a hall of St. Boniface Church in Brooklyn, speaking to about 60 attendees. “Even if you feel like you’re not doing anything, your presence there means a lot. I promise you. It’s much harder to deport someone when people are watching.”

Gozalo’s reassurance, and the support of the coalition’s volunteers, comes at a time of sweeping rhetoric from the White House and increased immigration enforcement by the federal government under President Donald Trump.

Arrests by ICE are at a three-year high, although total deportations are actually down from fiscal year 2016. The discrepancy is due, in part, to the backlog of cases in federal immigration court. There are more than 650,000 pending cases nationally, about 85,000 of which are being heard in New York City courtrooms, according to data from the Transition Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC).

While President Obama was not seen by many immigration advocates as adverse enough to deportations, one of Trump’s first acts as president was signing an executive order that sought to increase enforcement of federal immigration laws.

ICE explicitly attributes its increase of administrative arrests to the direction set forth in Trump’s order. The agency made 143,470 administrative arrests in fiscal year 2017, which it describes as the highest number of such arrests over the past three fiscal years. Fiscal year 2017 ended on September 30, and according to its latest Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, the uptick in arrests began after Trump’s inauguration.

On November 23, seven people followed Manuel out of the Dunkin Donuts and through security at the Worth Street entrance of 26 Federal Plaza. The group piled into an elevator and rode to the twelfth floor where Manuel was scheduled for a Master Calendar hearing -- a short and preliminary hearing at the very beginning of deportation proceedings, months and sometimes years before a final determination is made and enforced.

On this day, Manuel, whose last name is being withheld at the request of New Sanctuary Coalition leadership, intended to bring his asylum application, completed with the help of the coalition, and those of his wife and children, to the attention of a judge.

An undocumented immigrant detected by the federal government is served with a Notice to Appear in federal immigration court by the Department of Homeland Security. The Master Calendar hearing is that person's first appearance in front of a judge, during which they confirm having received the notice and acknowledge the government's case against them.

During Master Calendar hearings, judges inform defendants that they can obtain legal counsel. However, since deportation proceedings are considered civil cases and not criminal, the right to counsel guaranteed by the sixth amendment does not extend to immigrants facing deportation. Many people end up facing government attorneys, litigating their status alone.

On one side of the twelfth floor, the names of judges line a black bulletin board with the day’s caseloads and room numbers printed on white sheets of paper underneath. On the other side are the courtrooms, which on this day had waiting rooms so packed that appointment holders and their families overflowed into the grey and windowless hallway.

At least 30 people lined the walls. One woman held a baby across her chest, others had toddlers in strollers, and some were grown children and teens plopped onto the floor with their backs against the wall. Sections of the hallway’s fluorescent lights had blown out, so most of the crowd waited in the dark.

“The waiting is the worst part,” said Melvyn Stevens, a retiree from Manhattan on his sixth accompaniment with the coalition. “When I got up this morning I already had anxiety. It’s manageable, but given everything, it’s not a good environment. The building is made to make you feel small.”

People showing up for ICE check-ins and hearings often do it alone and with little to no English language proficiency. So, coalition volunteers help them navigate their appointments.

Upon arrival, the volunteer group leader confirms their appointment on the bulletin board, and helps them locate their courtroom. Others on the accompaniment offer small gestures like conversation during the wait, and making a run to the sixth floor cafeteria to buy them a bottle of water or a snack.

The New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program is “very reassuring for people,” said Anne Pilsbury, director of Central American Legal Assistance (CALA) in Brooklyn. “[26 Federal Plaza] is a very confusing place and it’s hard to get information from anyone. The accompaniments humanize a very inhumane process.”  

CALA sends its overflow of asylum seekers to the New Sanctuary Coalition’s weekly immigration clinics for assistance completing applications.

On accompaniments to Master Calendar hearings, such as Manuel’s, volunteers can sit in the courtroom during the hearing. When his case was called, volunteers in the room made their presence known to the judge by standing up when he walked to the respondent’s table, and sitting down when he did.

This is different from accompaniments to ICE appointments, on which volunteers are not allowed in ICE’s waiting room on the ninth floor. Instead, the group waits in the sixth floor cafeteria, and one by one they take turns going to the ninth floor and briefly checking in on the person until they’re called into the appointment. If the outcome is detainment, the volunteers spring into action, contacting the detainee’s family, launching a letter writing campaign in their defense, and in some cases, rallying the press and other organizations in their support.

Back in the courtroom, Manuel’s hearing was brief. His lawyer was not present. An in-house Spanish interpreter translated the judge’s every word, and in turn, Garcia’s responses were translated into English. He submitted a printed copy of his asylum application to the judge and now waits for a decision.

According to TRAC, across the country in fiscal year 2017, “asylum grants increased, [but] denials grew faster.” Its report shows that roughly 60 percent of asylum applications were denied, making it the fifth year in a row that denial rates increased nationally.

The same report cites an increase in the proportion of asylum seekers who go through the process without a lawyer. Ten years ago, only 13 percent of applicants were unrepresented, while in 2017 the figure shot up to 20 percent. Asylum seekers who are not represented by an attorney are denied 90 percent of the time.

There aren’t enough immigration lawyers to keep up with demand, and some people can’t afford them even when they are available.

Recently, in New York City, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and the heavily Democratic City Council, under the leadership of former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, sought to bridge that gap and counter the Trump administration’s immigration policies, by allocating $30 million for immigrant legal services in the city’s budget for the current fiscal year.

The money will pay for legal representation of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, at all stages of the process, whether they are applying for asylum, fighting deportation, or have been detained. De Blasio and the Council have expanded the counsel program, known as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), over the past few years, with additional urgency since Trump’s election.

Immigration proceedings are hardly straightforward. Someone can have one or multiple Master Calendar hearings over the course of several years. Eventually, a hearing for a final judgment does takes place, once a determination on asylum is made, or for those not seeking asylum, once they’ve made some other case for remaining in the United States.

If a judge rules to deport, the case can be drawn out further, as people have the option to file several rounds of appeals.

All the while, ICE has broad discretion over requiring check-ins. For some, check-ins start before or during the Master Calendar Hearing process. For others, there are no check-ins until a final judgement to deport is made.

While a person cannot be deported before an order of removal is final, they can be detained. People in deportation proceedings who are convicted of crimes are generally detained. Those convicted of less serious crimes, however, may be given an opportunity to post bond, explained Edward Cuccia, the attorney representing Riaz Talukder, a beneficiary of the New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program.

Talukder came to the United States from Bangladesh in the 1980s. Today, he is the sole breadwinner for his family of two American-born children and a wife, who is battling thyroid cancer.

In 2010, he discovered there was an 11-year-old deportation order against him stemming from a failed application for asylum years before. That year, he was granted a stay of deportation, and has been checking in with ICE annually every since.

During Obama’s presidency, such deferments of deportation were a courtesy to thousands of people like Talukder who had been living in the United States for many years, abiding by the law, forming families, and establishing their lives.

Under Trump, the directive has changed. ICE officers are under tremendous precious to ratchet up numbers. There are no more courtesies, everybody is a priority, explained Cuccia, the lawyer.

On November 20, Talukder showed up for his second appointment in four weeks. He was granted a temporary stay of 6 more months, an apparently lucky outcome.

"There are a lot of factors determining decisions made by ICE,” said Cuccia.

“Certainly, having a community presence with a client, even a small one, has the potential to influence the outcome positively. For my client, the volunteer accompaniment, the massive press response, and the overwhelming community support, was, in part, what resulted in a favorable decision at his last check-in,” he said.

Similarly, organizers and volunteers at the New Sanctuary Coalition say that the vast majority of judges are happy to see community support in the courtroom. Some judges will acknowledge them during the hearing, and commit their presence to the record.

“For our friends,” as the coalition refers to the undocumented immigrants they support, “often times, for the first time since they’ve entered the whole removal process, people are treating them with respect and dignity,” said Carol Scott, a self-defense instructor in Brooklyn who was the volunteer leader of Garcia’s accompaniment on the twenty-third.

“We’ve had friends send notes after. One person who was in detention said, you didn’t send people, you sent seven angels,” said Scott. “So, the language is just beautiful. Not being alone in a hostile environment is a powerful balm to the soul.”

Earlier in the day, while Manuel waited for his hearing, he was approached two times by people waiting for their own names to be called, inquiring about his entourage. At the end of  each conversation, he handed them a New Sanctuary Coalition business card with a smile on his face.

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by Katrina Shakarian for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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As Trump Pushes Deportations, Volunteers Intensify Immigrant-Accompaniment Program Sun, 07 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000