Gotham Gazette Thu, 09 Apr 2020 11:17:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) New York’s Private Sanitation Workers Deserve Fairness office depart san award promo

(photo: Spencer T Tucker)

Each January, we have the opportunity to take a day and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every passing commemoration to the life and legacy of Dr. King is a reminder to rededicate ourselves to advancing social and economic justice in New York and across the country. This year, as New York’s commercial waste industry is facing potential overhaul, it is particularly fitting to reflect on Dr. King’s often overlooked work helping sanitation workers in their fight for fair wages and higher safety standards.

If implemented, the New York City Department of Sanitation’s waste zones plan could leave a significant number of sanitation workers – the vast majority of whom are people of color – jobless. The livelihood of workers should not be used as collateral to score political points, which is why the NAACP New York State Conference supports reform to the city’s private waste industry that would vastly increase oversight and efficiency, without costing anyone their job.

Commercial waste is one of the few industries in our city that gives formerly incarcerated men and women a second chance to hold down a steady job with good wages, provide for their families and, most importantly, regain their sense of dignity. In a sense, the private waste industry has been able to service the formerly incarcerated as the second chance worker program New York doesn’t really have. However, DSNY’s waste zone plan stands to overhaul the industry while possibly causing significant job loss, which we know would disproportionately harm formerly incarcerated workers of color.

That is why we continue to stand firmly opposed to DSNY’s proposal to create commercial waste zones, and it is why we strongly support new legislation by City Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., known as Intro. 996, which would bring much-needed reform to the commercial waste industry without implementing a zone-based system. Job loss, especially among our most vulnerable populations, should not be taken lightly.

Intro. 996 will increase worker safety and hold bad actors accountable, without causing hundreds of workers to lose their jobs. On the other hand, DSNY’s proposal permits only a small number of companies to operate in each zone. Many private waste companies – particularly the smaller mom-and-pop ones – will be forced to consolidate or go out of business, leaving hundreds of workers without a job.

Council Member Cornegy’s legislation would give the city’s Business Integrity Commission the authority to establish safety standards for industry employees and private waste carters. Under Intro. 996, BIC would have far more power to guarantee companies are properly training their employees and hold bad actors to account.

Additionally, the legislation would, for the first time, require industry-wide reporting on demographics data for workers across the commercial waste industry. This will allow the city to have a better sense of who is working in the industry—including second-chance workers of color—to ensure that their progress is tracked and they are effectively protected under any new rules and regulations.

The vast majority of the private waste industry’s formerly incarcerated workers were already failed once by misguided policy – and we can’t let them down again with the administration’s waste zones plan.

The NAACP New York State Conference hopes other members of the City Council join us in supporting Council Member Cornegy’s fair and equitable proposal to reform the private waste industry.

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes is president of the NAACP New York State Conference.

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Note: this column has been updated to clarify language about potential job losses as a result of the city's plan; it is unclear what job impact the plan will have.

New York’s Private Sanitation Workers Deserve Fairness Sun, 20 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Eva Moskowitz’s Privileged ‘Bipartisanship’ Gotham Gazette: Eva Moskowitz

(via @MoskowitzEva)

There's a reason why New Yorkers reject Eva Moskowitz's "bipartisan" defense for her photo ops and meetings with the governing Republican Party in Washington, D.C.. While Ms. Moskowitz touts her registration as a Democrat, her actions are inconsistent with the Democratic Party's position on civil rights and political reform. And, as Democrats across the country resist the Trump administration's disconcerting policies damaging to working and middle class families, Ms. Moskowitz participates in friendly meetings with her allies across the aisle.

It takes a lot of privilege for Ms. Moskowitz to somehow believe that the policies that Democrats and the Resistance across the country represent somehow do not apply to her students. Individuals across the country, including some of the families of Success Academy students, are at marches, town halls, and community rallies challenging Republicans' refusal to support transgender children in court, a deadly American Health Care Act, reduced funding for the U.S. Education Department, including cuts to student loan programs that are undoubtedly resources used by the families of children at Ms. Moskowitz's charter schools.

Ms. Moskowitz fails to disclose that the reason families chide her outreach with Republicans across the aisle is because she and other charter school leaders have a record of working behind the scenes with wealthy donors to directly and continually mislead the public. It was only a couple of years ago that billionaire donor Eli Broad, who just awarded Ms. Moskowitz’s network a $250,000 prize, was exposed as the money behind a secret campaign to charterize half of Los Angeles Unified School District's schools. Meanwhile charter leaders, like Ms. Moskowitz's colleagues in Los Angeles, repeatedly publicly denied those accusations. Similarly, a short distance away from New York City, in Newark, N.J., the public's pessimistic relationship with charter school leaders was justified after they had witnessed state officials and charter school operators move forward with plans to expand the presence of charter schools, despite public opposition.

Ms. Moskowitz has a habit of attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in her demand for more funding and autonomy for her charter schools. However, it seems strange that Ms. Moskowitz repeatedly attacks the mayor, a fellow Democrat, for budgetary reasons yet she doesn't criticize the federal secretary of education, a Republican, who is proposing cuts worth more than $9 billion to national education programs and resources.

While congressional Republicans consider slashing funds to community meal programs and even debate changing how kids get free or reduced lunch, Ms. Moskowitz remains silent. Yet, the charter school CEO has no problem inviting them to her schools for photo ops while bashing Mayor de Blasio, who has challenged charter schools in court for greater transparency and public accountability.

Black organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the N.A.A.C.P.), afters years of internal debate, in October called for a moratorium on charter schools, like the charter network Ms. Moskowitz runs in New York City. In response to the N.A.A.C.P. moratorium and report, Ms. Moskowitz attacked the N.A.A.C.P.’s credibility and authority to speak on education for black children. Despite the fact that Ms. Moskowitz's schools have come under scrutiny for controversial admissions policies and disciplinary practices, which Ms. Moskowitz usually leaves to be resolved by her private consultants and lobbyists.

While Ms. Moskowitz hides behind the cloak of "bipartisanship" to advance her own personal agenda, millions of Democrats across across the country are fighting for our middle class and our children's welfare. And, while Ms. Moskowitz's Success Academy schools serve less than 2% of New York City's 1.1 million students, New York's families would expect her to stand up and speak out for the students she represents. Her students and their families depend on it.

We need bipartisanship in our city halls, state capitals, and in Washington, D.C. now more than ever. Bipartisanship doesn't mean sitting silently and idly as our national leaders fuel bigotry in classrooms, take children’s access to free or reduced school lunch, and strip health care benefits away from kids and their families. It means speaking out and participating in a respectful civil debate that empowers us to resolve the issues. It also means listening when some of our nation’s oldest civil rights organizations call for a public dialogue and a national pause on schools that present a threat to communities’ civil rights.

Ms. Moskowitz can’t hide behind a self-serving and privileged version of bipartisanship.

Kenneth Campbell is a public affairs consultant and a former Hope Fellow at the Democratic National Committee. On Twitter @KennCampbell.

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Note: this article has been corrected after misidentifying Eli Broad as a Republican. Mr. Broad is a Democrat, according to his office.

Eva Moskowitz’s Privileged ‘Bipartisanship’ Mon, 31 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
'New York Values' in Historical Perspective ted cruz

Ted Cruz (photo: @SenTedCruz)

Stereotyping New York in political debate
In a Republican presidential debate in January, Senator Ted Cruz tried to score points, saying of Donald Trump, "Donald comes from New York and he represents New York values." Cruz went on to say that "everyone in the country knows exactly what New York values are and I've got to say they're not Iowa values or New Hampshire values." New Yorkers are "socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage and focus on money and the media," he said.

Cruz repeated the message, with variations, in his campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Senator Cruz was using an old political gambit, playing on stereotypes of New York (particularly New York City) as excessively liberal, corrupt, money-grubbing, and out of step with the rest of America.
New Yorkers get their backs up when their city or state is stigmatized or attacked.

After the January debate, Governor Andrew Cuomo retorted that Senator Cruz "doesn't know what New York values are because New York is in many ways the epitome of what formed this nation and what keeps it strong....We do believe in E Pluribus Unum, out of many come one, and his rhetoric is the exact opposite." Several other prominent New Yorkers weighed in, including Donald Trump, who suggested that New York's heroic response to 9/11 revealed its deepest values.

Cruz's comments provoked many other New Yorkers to express their opinions (mostly positive) about their city. The New York Times asked a cross-section of city residents their opinion on what constituted "New York values" a few days after Cruz's attack. Their responses: New Yorkers are diverse, friendly, ambitious, curious, tolerant, competitive, impatient, hustling and determined -- "we keep our heads high, no matter what."

A New York Daily News front page on January 15 put it more directly with a headline of "DROP DEAD, TED."

New Yorkers have seen it before
Cruz is certainly not the first politician to try to cast New York as a place of wanton ways with values at odds with those of the rest of the nation.

Republican attacks on New York Governor Al Smith when he ran unsuccessfully for president in 1928 focused on his Catholic religion, opposition to prohibition, and subservience to the New York City Democratic organization Tammany Hall, all allegedly emblematic of his hometown, New York City. Smith's campaign theme song, "The Sidewalks of New York," and his "New York accent" in campaign speeches confirmed how ingrained New York City's culture and folkways were.

In 1960, conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater expressed a wish that "we could tell New York to kiss our [expletive] and we could really start a conservative party." In 1963, he suggested the nation would be better off if the east coast could be sawed off and floated out to sea. But everyone understood that New York, with its liberal politics, cultural influence and economic power, was his main bugaboo.

The next year, Goldwater won the Republican presidential nomination over New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, whom Goldwater labeled a liberal New York spendthrift. His supporters sniped that Rockefeller was immoral for having divorced his first wife and remarried, something they vaguely insinuated had to do with loose New York morals.

Historical views of "New York values"
Fending off attacks is easier than defining precisely what New York's values are. That's no surprise, given New York's long history, complexity, and our proclivity for vigorous debate among ourselves.

In 1939, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia assailed critics who asserted that his city was "a money mart...a synonym for Wall Street...New Yorkers are impolite." New York is "a warm-hearted and generous community," he insisted. But with a touch of that New York pride bordering on arrogance that can irritate outsiders, the mayor added that his city was so far superior to others that "we could afford to stop for the next twenty years and we would still be slightly ahead of the procession."

Historian Milton Klein wrote in 1978 that New Yorkers could be thought of as "cosmopolitan Americans: energetic...materialistic and brash but also convivial, humane, tolerant and idealistic. That one state alone should be able to encompass in itself so many of the virtues and limitations of the American people is a measure of New York's unique role in the nation's history."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a statement to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, eloquently described his city's cosmopolitan pre-eminence:

To people around the world, New York City embodies what makes this nation great. That's a function of our status as the world's financial capital, driven not only by Wall Street but [also] our international prominence in such fields as broadcasting, the arts, entertainment and medicine. Such is New York's importance that to a great extent, as goes its economy, so goes the country's. If Wall Street is destroyed, Main Street will suffer. Beyond that, New York embraces the intellectual and religious freedom and cultural diversity that makes us truly the world's second home. We are a magnet for the talented and ambitious from every corner of the globe. In short, we embody the strengths of America's freedom.

Governor Mario Cuomo (1983-1995) saw enlightened, progressive public policies as New York's defining trait. He defined "the New York Idea" as "government using its resources to help create private sector growth, then requiring those who benefit from that growth to share some part of it so that hope and opportunity are extended to those who have not been as fortunate."

Andrew Cuomo, the current governor, emphasizes that New Yorkers are exceptionally energetic, innovative, determined, and resilient. "At every difficult moment in our nation's history, New York has emerged as...the progressive leader in the nation," he explained in his inaugural address in 2011. "In New York, we may have big problems, but we confront them with big solutions," he said in his State-of-the State message the next year. He often includes in his speeches a quotation from essayist E.B. White: "New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village, the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up."

Two sets of "New York values" seem to stand out
Of course, historians may differ on what New York's most important values are. But looking back over our history, two sets of values seem to stand out.

One is openness, inclusion, and tolerance. Since colonial times when the Dutch controlled the city, the emphasis has been on diversity, valuing individual differences, letting people alone, and providing opportunity for work, advancement, and getting ahead.

New York has been open, welcoming, accommodating, and supportive of newcomers. Over time, more immigrants have come in through New York than any other city. Our city and state have been at the forefront of social justice campaigns and civil rights reforms. For instance, the NAACP was founded in New York City in 1909 and New York passed the nation's first state civil rights law, in 1945. New York City probably has the most diverse population of any major city in the world.

A second is optimism and resilience. New Yorkers are undeterred by setbacks, springing back from adversity and continuing forward progress. It dates back at least to the origins of the state. The Revolutionary New York provincial congress were rebels-on the run, moving from New York City to White Plains to Fishkill to Kingston ahead of advancing British troops. They finished hastily drafting New York's first state constitution in April 1777.

When the British threatened Kingston, the new government became a government-on-the run, simply dispersing, reassembling later at Poughkeepsie, and keeping the fledgling state intact. The first governor, George Clinton, calmly took the oath of office in August 1777 and then hurried off to lead a battle against the enemy where he barely escaped capture.

New Yorkers keep going and are known for against-the-odds triumphs. For instance, mockery and stonewalling by the power structure inspired New York's great women's rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton on to more tenacious campaigning. Denied the right to vote, she defiantly ran for Congress from New York City in 1868, losing but making a point about women's political stature. Jackie Robinson was undeterred by racist taunts and threats and became the first black man to play professional baseball, with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and later an inspirational civil rights leader.

The New York City Fire Department mourned its dead after 9/11 and then got right back to work, creatively revising its mission, policies, and training to meet the new threat of terrorism.

New York City not only survived the attacks but came back more resilient and stronger than ever.

The debate over "New York values" is likely to continue
New York mirrors the nation in its complexity and resists tidy categorization. Its values are hard to pin down but its history is rightly a source of inspiration and pride, with tolerance and resilience at the core.

Activist, writer, and New York City First Lady, Chirlane McCray, refuted Ted Cruz by citing the city's steadfastness in challenging times."That fighting spirit, that gut instinct to join together in times of hardship, that refusal to leave behind the most vulnerable among us -- these are the values that have defined New Yorkers from the very beginning."

As the presidential campaign moves along, we can expect to hear more about "New York values." When we do, we need to keep historical insights and perspectives in mind.

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

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'New York Values' in Historical Perspective Tue, 16 Feb 2016 01:24:03 +0000
Public Advocate Files Brief to Expedite Garner Case Appeal tish james city hall

Public Advocate James at a rally at City Hall (photo: @JaviLacayo)

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James will file a brief today with the New York State Supreme Court seeking expedited appeal hearings against the denied petitions to release grand jury transcripts and evidence in the Eric Garner case.

After a Staten Island grand jury decided in December not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July chokehold death of Eric Garner, a request for disclosure of the transcripts and evidence presented to the grand jury was brought before the court by Public Advocate James, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and The New York Post.

But on March 19, State Supreme Court Judge William Garnett refused to unseal the evidence saying in his opinion that the petitioners had failed to show a "compelling or particularized need" for the evidence. James had then vowed to appeal the decision.

Today, James will file a motion to expedite the appeal, which itself will be filed sometime this week. "Without [the motion to expedite] it'll likely take a year for it to be heard," she said in a phone interview this morning. "A decision in about a year is unacceptable."

The motion's justification is simple. A speedy appeal is necessary since the case implicates a "pressing and time-sensitive matter of deep public concern," the motion states. It also says the appeal will have direct bearing on legislation and policy reform that is currently being considered.

"There's a crisis of confidence in our criminal justice system," said James. "But we're undaunted in our quest for justice. The secrecy of the grand jury process is not sacrosanct. This is bigger than the Garner case, bigger than one borough, bigger than one individual. it's about restoring confidence in our criminal justice system."

Grand jury evidence is protected by state law, and New York has strict laws about concealing most information from grand jury proceedings. After the Eric Garner case decision, there was widespread outrage against what people saw as a failure of a broken system, sparking weeks of protests in the streets. The release of evidence would bring more transparency to the system, James said. "The public has a right to know."

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who presided over the Pantaleo grand jury and is now running for Congress, urged the court to deny the petition for disclosure and later called Judge Garnett's decision "well-reasoned."

But James argues that Donovan set the precedent for their appeal. He had originally filed a motion for limited disclosure of the evidence and it was granted. "We're arguing the same law," James said.

by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette

Public Advocate Files Brief to Expedite Garner Case Appeal Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:34:57 +0000