STATE Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. https://www.gothamgazette.com/state 2022-06-24T22:59:40+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Joomla! - Open Source Content Management New York’s Opportunity to Advance Two Great Choices to the General Election for Governor 2022-06-24T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-24T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11405-new-york-governor-election-primaries-citizens-union Randy Mastro rmastro@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/opportunity-great-choices.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Voting is underway (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York is at a crossroad. Our state faces many challenges, including a resurgent virus, rising gun violence, and political turmoil. We need a Governor who is up to those challenges, who can build consensus in addressing them, who can restore ethics and integrity and honesty to our state government, and who can make us proud again.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fortunately, there are such candidates running on both sides of the aisle. That is why Citizens Union, where I am Chair of the Board, prefers Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary and Harry Wilson in the Republican primary for Governor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For 125 years, Citizens Union, New York's preeminent, non-partisan "good government" group, has been endorsing state and local candidates who share its mission of promoting honesty, integrity, ethics, accessibility, transparency, and accountability in government. In 2020, because our democracy was literally at stake, we even chose for the first time in our history to endorse in a U.S. presidential race, recommending Joe Biden over Donald Trump.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And once again, this year, the stakes are high for New York, raising the importance of voters’ choices.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Governor Kathy Hochul stands out in a strong Democratic field. She assumed the office under daunting circumstances, with covid raging and the state engulfed in a political scandal that forced yet another New York governor to resign in shame.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since then, Hochul has proven to be an effective consensus-builder. One of her first promises was to “change the culture of Albany,” and she indeed brought a new style of governing that was sorely needed. Her collaborative approach allowed her to build strong working relationships with the State Legislature and New York City's Mayor, a rarity in New York. And she has assembled a professional team of dedicated public servants to help her achieve her agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul has also taken steps to advance government ethics reforms that had no chance of moving forward in the previous administration, like restructuring the state’s ethics watchdogs. She has signed legislation and committed to pursuing policies to strengthen New York’s democracy, including modernizing the state’s antiquated election administration system and supporting a public campaign finance program.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But there are challenges ahead, like reducing crime, fixing the problems with bail reform, preventing future gerrymandering, and protecting a woman’s right to choose. And there is more to be done to be transparent and maintain the public trust. (Hochul admits, for example, she could have done a better job disclosing the plan to fund the Buffalo Bills stadium project.) She is learning on the job and proving to be a quick study. She understands the issues and seems poised to tackle them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul's Democratic challengers bring vastly different experiences to the race. Tom Suozzi, who has distinguished himself as a Congressman and Nassau County Executive, received support from some Citizens Union board members for his proven record of success as a government executive, his pragmatic approach, and his focus on public safety. Jumaane Williams, New York City's Public Advocate, has been a tireless advocate for progressive causes. But it is Hochul who has built a broad coalition and risen above the field.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Harry Wilson is by far the class of the Republican primary field. An outsider who wants to clean up Albany, he has a proven track record of success in business as a turnaround specialist, something that our state surely needs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He was one of the leaders of President Obama’s auto industry rescue task force during the Financial Crisis and later mounted a very credible race for State Comptroller, which he almost won.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Wilson brings a refreshing perspective to running state government and tackling its dysfunctions. Ethics reform is a top priority for him – he launched his campaign platform with a government reform and accountability plan – and he has proven to be a person of the highest integrity and an independent voice who speaks the truth to power within his own party.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although he differs from Citizens Union on some major issues, such as public campaign financing, Wilson has demonstrated a willingness to cross the aisle and work collaboratively. For example, he would maintain New York law protecting a woman's right to choose. In short, he would be a formidable candidate in the general election.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Governor -- Lee Zeldin, Andrew Giuliani, and Rob Astorino – all continue to follow Donald Trump's lead and spread misinformation about the validity of the 2020 presidential election. That alone should be disqualifying. There's right, and there's wrong. And at this fragile time in our democracy, they are simply wrong. Harry Wilson speaks the truth, and that is why he is Citizens Union's preference in the Republican primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the primaries are decided in the coming days, we urge all eligible New York voters to do their civic duty, exercise their right to vote, and give themselves great options for the general election to lead our state.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union's board and a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn &amp; Crutcher.</span></p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/opportunity-great-choices.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Voting is underway (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York is at a crossroad. Our state faces many challenges, including a resurgent virus, rising gun violence, and political turmoil. We need a Governor who is up to those challenges, who can build consensus in addressing them, who can restore ethics and integrity and honesty to our state government, and who can make us proud again.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fortunately, there are such candidates running on both sides of the aisle. That is why Citizens Union, where I am Chair of the Board, prefers Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary and Harry Wilson in the Republican primary for Governor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For 125 years, Citizens Union, New York's preeminent, non-partisan "good government" group, has been endorsing state and local candidates who share its mission of promoting honesty, integrity, ethics, accessibility, transparency, and accountability in government. In 2020, because our democracy was literally at stake, we even chose for the first time in our history to endorse in a U.S. presidential race, recommending Joe Biden over Donald Trump.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And once again, this year, the stakes are high for New York, raising the importance of voters’ choices.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Governor Kathy Hochul stands out in a strong Democratic field. She assumed the office under daunting circumstances, with covid raging and the state engulfed in a political scandal that forced yet another New York governor to resign in shame.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since then, Hochul has proven to be an effective consensus-builder. One of her first promises was to “change the culture of Albany,” and she indeed brought a new style of governing that was sorely needed. Her collaborative approach allowed her to build strong working relationships with the State Legislature and New York City's Mayor, a rarity in New York. And she has assembled a professional team of dedicated public servants to help her achieve her agenda.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul has also taken steps to advance government ethics reforms that had no chance of moving forward in the previous administration, like restructuring the state’s ethics watchdogs. She has signed legislation and committed to pursuing policies to strengthen New York’s democracy, including modernizing the state’s antiquated election administration system and supporting a public campaign finance program.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But there are challenges ahead, like reducing crime, fixing the problems with bail reform, preventing future gerrymandering, and protecting a woman’s right to choose. And there is more to be done to be transparent and maintain the public trust. (Hochul admits, for example, she could have done a better job disclosing the plan to fund the Buffalo Bills stadium project.) She is learning on the job and proving to be a quick study. She understands the issues and seems poised to tackle them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hochul's Democratic challengers bring vastly different experiences to the race. Tom Suozzi, who has distinguished himself as a Congressman and Nassau County Executive, received support from some Citizens Union board members for his proven record of success as a government executive, his pragmatic approach, and his focus on public safety. Jumaane Williams, New York City's Public Advocate, has been a tireless advocate for progressive causes. But it is Hochul who has built a broad coalition and risen above the field.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Harry Wilson is by far the class of the Republican primary field. An outsider who wants to clean up Albany, he has a proven track record of success in business as a turnaround specialist, something that our state surely needs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He was one of the leaders of President Obama’s auto industry rescue task force during the Financial Crisis and later mounted a very credible race for State Comptroller, which he almost won.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Wilson brings a refreshing perspective to running state government and tackling its dysfunctions. Ethics reform is a top priority for him – he launched his campaign platform with a government reform and accountability plan – and he has proven to be a person of the highest integrity and an independent voice who speaks the truth to power within his own party.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although he differs from Citizens Union on some major issues, such as public campaign financing, Wilson has demonstrated a willingness to cross the aisle and work collaboratively. For example, he would maintain New York law protecting a woman's right to choose. In short, he would be a formidable candidate in the general election.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Governor -- Lee Zeldin, Andrew Giuliani, and Rob Astorino – all continue to follow Donald Trump's lead and spread misinformation about the validity of the 2020 presidential election. That alone should be disqualifying. There's right, and there's wrong. And at this fragile time in our democracy, they are simply wrong. Harry Wilson speaks the truth, and that is why he is Citizens Union's preference in the Republican primary.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As the primaries are decided in the coming days, we urge all eligible New York voters to do their civic duty, exercise their right to vote, and give themselves great options for the general election to lead our state.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Randy Mastro is the Chair of Citizens Union's board and a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn &amp; Crutcher.</span></p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p> Road to the Lieutenant Governor's Office Runs Through the Barrios of New York 2022-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11396-lieutenant-governor-primary-latinos-barrios-new-york Eli Valentin evalentin@gg.com <p> <img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3x1-arch-del-rey3a.jpg" /></p> <p>(l-r) Ana Maria Archila, Antonio Delgado, Diana Reyna</p> <hr /> <p>Until results are officially released, who will win an election is uncertain. But right now, with less than a week until election night in this year’s statewide primaries, one thing is quite certain: the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a Latino name. And yes, that even includes Antonio Delgado, whose racial and ethnic identity has been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/11308-is-antonio-delgado-latino-stand-up-ommunity-lt-gov" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the subject of much debate</a>.</p> <p>The fact that Delgado, Ana Maria Archila, and Diana Reyna are the three Democratic candidates on the ballot for Lieutenant Governor speaks to the growing importance of Latinos in state politics. Indeed, with Latinos now forming almost 20% of all registered Democratic voters statewide, the Latino vote is not one to take for granted.</p> <p>Governor Hochul evidently knows this, as she and the State Democratic Party recently launched the Nueva York Initiative. Jumaane Williams’ campaign and the New York Working Families Party as a key organizational engine were instrumental in launching Archila’s candidacy. And Tom Suozzi asked Reyna to be his running-mate.</p> <p>Having two Latinas as Lieutenant Governor candidates can be a boon for Latino voting participation. Several studies have shown that having a Latino at the top of the ballot does improve voting participation among the group. This was certainly the case in New York City when Fernando Ferrer became the first Latino to win the mayoral nomination of a major political party here. Latino voting participation increased by almost 40% in many of the Latino-majority election districts in his 2005 bid for Gracie Mansion. While the Lieutenant Governor race is not at the top of the ballot, it is right below the top, and can still garner enough attention to make some voters pay attention.</p> <p>Can the candidacies of Archila, Delgado, and Reyna help increase Latino voter turnout across the city and state?</p> <p>It depends. Boosting Latino turnout encompasses a number of things, like investing precious candidate time and financial resources in Latino neighborhoods, speaking to voters on the ground and through the airwaves.</p> <p>It means meeting Latinos where they are. Paying lip-service will no longer work. In recent elections, we have seen numerous Latinos abandon their loyalty to the Democratic Party. Latino voters pay attention. And many more are going to the polls.</p> <p>It also means investing money in Spanish-language TV and radio stations, and local papers. To be sure, voters of  all ethnicities expect and respond positively to personal interactions with candidates. That is especially the case with Latinos, who expect candidates to be uno de ellos/ellas (“one of us”). Latinos enjoy the interaction and the excitement that campaigns generate and want the issues they care about dealt with, from small businesses to education to public safety to affordable housing and more.</p> <p>So far, the potential for excitement is largely missing in Latino communities across the city and state. With just under a week to go before primary election day, the three lieutenant governor candidates have a lot of work to do to generate more buzz among Latinos.</p> <p>It appears that so far only Delgado has bought advertisements on the major Spanish-language TV stations. Naturally, paying for pricey commercials entails having a large campaign kitty. Delgado was able to transfer millions of dollars from his congressional campaign account and, as the governor’s running-mate and current lieutenant governor, will have the most money of the three candidates and thus more resources than others to do so.</p> <p>Of the three, <a href="https://www.anamariaforny.com/endorsements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Archila has the most endorsements</a> from Latino elected officials, with 14. <a href="https://www.delgadoforny.com/endorsements/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Delgado </a>and <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/06/endorsements-2022-democratic-primary-lieutenant-governor/365733/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reyna</a> each have four. Voters are not entirely swayed by endorsements, but endorsements can matter and can mean access to fundraising sources and personnel to launch on-the-ground operations to speak directly to voters.</p> <p>Such endorsements will be pivotal, especially for Archila. Up to now, Archila seems to be running a somewhat similar campaign to Dianne Morales’ in last year’s mayoral primary, in that she appears focused on establishing and fortifying her progressive base as opposed to focusing on appealing to Latinos. While this progressive base has made possible the creation of a much-needed multi-racial coalition, the coalition is mostly driven by a political philosophy not embraced by a good chunk of the Latino Democratic primary electorate, which is more moderate. Moreover, the majority of likely Latino primary voters are 55 years of age and over, and many of these voters tend to be less progressive than younger ones.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Archila’s story is one that can certainly appeal to a broad spectrum of Latino voters. Like many Latinos across the Empire State, Archila immigrated to the United States in her youth — she came from Colombia when she was 17 years old. Undeterred by the challenges immigrants face on a daily basis, she dedicated her life to advocacy, co-founding Make the Road New York, a pivotal group doing important immigrants rights work across the state, and launching efforts to combat economic and racial injustice. Archila became nationally known for directly confronting U.S. Senator Jeff Flake during the Supreme Court nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh. </p> <p>Diana Reyna also has a narrative that can appeal to many Latinos. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Reyna became the first Dominican woman to be elected to a government position in the state of New York when she ascended to the New York City Council. She then became a deputy borough president under then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Yet, Reyna’s lack of financial resources and her inability to identify and energize a natural base for her candidacy will likely lead her to defeat.</p> <p>In the end, the Lieutenant Governor primary race will probably come down to Archila and Delgado. Delgado is formidable, not because he has a Latino surname, but because of his campaign war chest, his access to the state Democratic Party apparatus and many allies in organized labor, and by virtue of currently holding the position, albeit one he has not held for much time, which comes with additional support from Governor Hochul.</p> <p>Delgado’s success or defeat may be determined by Hochul’s coattails, or lack thereof. And when it comes to the Latino vote in New York, he will have a lot of work to do, particularly since 75% of the Latino vote will come from New York City. Delgado is from upstate and is largely an unknown entity, especially among Latinos, in New York City.</p> <p>Does the road to Albany cross through the Latino barrios of New York? Perhaps. One thing is certain—the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a name that is familiar in those same barrios.</p> <p>

***
Eli Valentin is a political analyst and author of the forthcoming book, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Life. On Twitter @EliValentinNY.

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

</p>
<p> <img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/3x1-arch-del-rey3a.jpg" /></p> <p>(l-r) Ana Maria Archila, Antonio Delgado, Diana Reyna</p> <hr /> <p>Until results are officially released, who will win an election is uncertain. But right now, with less than a week until election night in this year’s statewide primaries, one thing is quite certain: the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a Latino name. And yes, that even includes Antonio Delgado, whose racial and ethnic identity has been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/11308-is-antonio-delgado-latino-stand-up-ommunity-lt-gov" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the subject of much debate</a>.</p> <p>The fact that Delgado, Ana Maria Archila, and Diana Reyna are the three Democratic candidates on the ballot for Lieutenant Governor speaks to the growing importance of Latinos in state politics. Indeed, with Latinos now forming almost 20% of all registered Democratic voters statewide, the Latino vote is not one to take for granted.</p> <p>Governor Hochul evidently knows this, as she and the State Democratic Party recently launched the Nueva York Initiative. Jumaane Williams’ campaign and the New York Working Families Party as a key organizational engine were instrumental in launching Archila’s candidacy. And Tom Suozzi asked Reyna to be his running-mate.</p> <p>Having two Latinas as Lieutenant Governor candidates can be a boon for Latino voting participation. Several studies have shown that having a Latino at the top of the ballot does improve voting participation among the group. This was certainly the case in New York City when Fernando Ferrer became the first Latino to win the mayoral nomination of a major political party here. Latino voting participation increased by almost 40% in many of the Latino-majority election districts in his 2005 bid for Gracie Mansion. While the Lieutenant Governor race is not at the top of the ballot, it is right below the top, and can still garner enough attention to make some voters pay attention.</p> <p>Can the candidacies of Archila, Delgado, and Reyna help increase Latino voter turnout across the city and state?</p> <p>It depends. Boosting Latino turnout encompasses a number of things, like investing precious candidate time and financial resources in Latino neighborhoods, speaking to voters on the ground and through the airwaves.</p> <p>It means meeting Latinos where they are. Paying lip-service will no longer work. In recent elections, we have seen numerous Latinos abandon their loyalty to the Democratic Party. Latino voters pay attention. And many more are going to the polls.</p> <p>It also means investing money in Spanish-language TV and radio stations, and local papers. To be sure, voters of  all ethnicities expect and respond positively to personal interactions with candidates. That is especially the case with Latinos, who expect candidates to be uno de ellos/ellas (“one of us”). Latinos enjoy the interaction and the excitement that campaigns generate and want the issues they care about dealt with, from small businesses to education to public safety to affordable housing and more.</p> <p>So far, the potential for excitement is largely missing in Latino communities across the city and state. With just under a week to go before primary election day, the three lieutenant governor candidates have a lot of work to do to generate more buzz among Latinos.</p> <p>It appears that so far only Delgado has bought advertisements on the major Spanish-language TV stations. Naturally, paying for pricey commercials entails having a large campaign kitty. Delgado was able to transfer millions of dollars from his congressional campaign account and, as the governor’s running-mate and current lieutenant governor, will have the most money of the three candidates and thus more resources than others to do so.</p> <p>Of the three, <a href="https://www.anamariaforny.com/endorsements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Archila has the most endorsements</a> from Latino elected officials, with 14. <a href="https://www.delgadoforny.com/endorsements/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Delgado </a>and <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/politics/2022/06/endorsements-2022-democratic-primary-lieutenant-governor/365733/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reyna</a> each have four. Voters are not entirely swayed by endorsements, but endorsements can matter and can mean access to fundraising sources and personnel to launch on-the-ground operations to speak directly to voters.</p> <p>Such endorsements will be pivotal, especially for Archila. Up to now, Archila seems to be running a somewhat similar campaign to Dianne Morales’ in last year’s mayoral primary, in that she appears focused on establishing and fortifying her progressive base as opposed to focusing on appealing to Latinos. While this progressive base has made possible the creation of a much-needed multi-racial coalition, the coalition is mostly driven by a political philosophy not embraced by a good chunk of the Latino Democratic primary electorate, which is more moderate. Moreover, the majority of likely Latino primary voters are 55 years of age and over, and many of these voters tend to be less progressive than younger ones.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Archila’s story is one that can certainly appeal to a broad spectrum of Latino voters. Like many Latinos across the Empire State, Archila immigrated to the United States in her youth — she came from Colombia when she was 17 years old. Undeterred by the challenges immigrants face on a daily basis, she dedicated her life to advocacy, co-founding Make the Road New York, a pivotal group doing important immigrants rights work across the state, and launching efforts to combat economic and racial injustice. Archila became nationally known for directly confronting U.S. Senator Jeff Flake during the Supreme Court nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh. </p> <p>Diana Reyna also has a narrative that can appeal to many Latinos. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Reyna became the first Dominican woman to be elected to a government position in the state of New York when she ascended to the New York City Council. She then became a deputy borough president under then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Yet, Reyna’s lack of financial resources and her inability to identify and energize a natural base for her candidacy will likely lead her to defeat.</p> <p>In the end, the Lieutenant Governor primary race will probably come down to Archila and Delgado. Delgado is formidable, not because he has a Latino surname, but because of his campaign war chest, his access to the state Democratic Party apparatus and many allies in organized labor, and by virtue of currently holding the position, albeit one he has not held for much time, which comes with additional support from Governor Hochul.</p> <p>Delgado’s success or defeat may be determined by Hochul’s coattails, or lack thereof. And when it comes to the Latino vote in New York, he will have a lot of work to do, particularly since 75% of the Latino vote will come from New York City. Delgado is from upstate and is largely an unknown entity, especially among Latinos, in New York City.</p> <p>Does the road to Albany cross through the Latino barrios of New York? Perhaps. One thing is certain—the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a name that is familiar in those same barrios.</p> <p>

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Eli Valentin is a political analyst and author of the forthcoming book, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Life. On Twitter @EliValentinNY.

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

</p>
The Annual Rent Guidelines Board Charade: Why Rent-Stabilized Tenants are About to be Cheated Again 2022-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-20T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11394-rent-guidelines-board-charade-stabilized-tenants-cheated Michael McKee mmckee@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/4-annual-board-charade.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Michael McKee, the author (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Rent Guidelines Board is getting ready to hit tenants in rent-stabilized apartments with a big rent increase this Tuesday, the largest in nearly a decade. </p> <p>In its preliminary vote on May 5, the board voted 5-4 for a “range” of increases: between 2 and 4% for one-year lease renewals and 4 to 6% for two-year renewals. While the board is not locked into this, experience tells us that the final vote will be somewhere in these ranges, which will be harmful to the vast majority of tenants forced to pay the increased rent.</p> <p>This obscure board and its workings are largely unknown to the public, including the 2.5 million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized apartments. But for more than five decades, its decisions have had a direct impact on the pocketbooks of tenants and the profits of landlords.</p> <p>The mayor appoints all nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board. Two represent tenants, two represent landlords, and five are so-called public members. The five public members constitute a majority and in most years the vote goes like this: the two tenant members vote against the rent hikes because they’re too high, the two landlord members vote no because they’re too low, and the five public members come in somewhere in the middle with a “reasonable compromise.” It’s an annual charade; the May 5 preliminary vote broke down this way, as no doubt will the June 21 final vote.</p> <p>Under Mayors Koch, Giuliani, and Bloomberg, most public members were pro-business, and under Bloomberg they were overtly hostile to rent stabilization. Under these mayors the board adopted large rent increases, in some years wildly more than what the board’s data justified.</p> <p>Mayors Dinkins and de Blasio chose more fair-minded individuals with the result that tenants paid less. De Blasio’s rent board adopted a partial rent freeze in four of the eight years he occupied City Hall. This provided welcome relief to tenants who had been slammed by the Bloomberg board. The excessive Bloomberg rent hikes are baked into stabilized rents permanently, meaning tenants are already paying more than they should.</p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams will have the chance to replace all the public members as their terms expire, and his actions so far do not inspire confidence. He has made frequent statements about the need to help small landlords, even though the average landlord owns 21 properties. Recently, Adams appointed a new public member, Arpit Gupta, who has made public comments against rent regulation and looks as if he might as well be a landlord member.</p> <p>Adams is using inflation as an excuse to justify larger rent hikes. But inflation affects tenants as much as, if not more than, landlords. Even a 2 or 3% increase in rent will be harmful to families struggling to pay the ever-rising grocery bill. The median rent in 2021 for rent-stabilized apartments was $1,400 per month. A 2% rent increase at that rent level would be $28 per month, and a 6% hike $84. With median household income for rent-stabilized tenants being $47,000 as of 2020, these monthly increases would create real hardship.</p> <p>The NYC Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 was written by the real estate industry, in collaboration with Mayor Lindsay, and was designed as the weakest form of rent regulation. While many of the bad features of this law have been corrected by the State Legislature over the years, the Rent Guidelines Board process remains the same. It is high time for reform.</p> <p>One concrete example: For four decades legislation has languished in Albany that would require City Council confirmation of Rent Guidelines Board members. Checks and balances are the cornerstone of a functioning government and this bill should have been enacted years ago. </p> <p>Another: Instead of serving a fixed term like the other members, the Rent Guidelines Board chair serves at the pleasure of the mayor, allowing for unwarranted interference in the board’s workings. The current chair, David Reiss, happily went along with de Blasio’s call for a rent freeze, and now seems to be auditioning for a new mayor who has declared that he intends to raise rents.</p> <p>Except for Dinkins, all mayors have tried to influence the board, whether overtly or behind the scenes. Koch and Giuliani were especially controlling; in some years Giuliani even stated publicly what he thought the numbers should be. Establishing a fixed term would give the chair more independence to act outside of political influence.</p> <p>Until this process is restructured, this annual charade will play out over the next four years under a landlord-leaning chief executive, to the detriment of tenants.</p> <p>***<br />Michael McKee is treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/McKeeTenantsPAC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@McKeeTenantsPAC</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/4-annual-board-charade.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Michael McKee, the author (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Rent Guidelines Board is getting ready to hit tenants in rent-stabilized apartments with a big rent increase this Tuesday, the largest in nearly a decade. </p> <p>In its preliminary vote on May 5, the board voted 5-4 for a “range” of increases: between 2 and 4% for one-year lease renewals and 4 to 6% for two-year renewals. While the board is not locked into this, experience tells us that the final vote will be somewhere in these ranges, which will be harmful to the vast majority of tenants forced to pay the increased rent.</p> <p>This obscure board and its workings are largely unknown to the public, including the 2.5 million New Yorkers living in rent-stabilized apartments. But for more than five decades, its decisions have had a direct impact on the pocketbooks of tenants and the profits of landlords.</p> <p>The mayor appoints all nine members of the Rent Guidelines Board. Two represent tenants, two represent landlords, and five are so-called public members. The five public members constitute a majority and in most years the vote goes like this: the two tenant members vote against the rent hikes because they’re too high, the two landlord members vote no because they’re too low, and the five public members come in somewhere in the middle with a “reasonable compromise.” It’s an annual charade; the May 5 preliminary vote broke down this way, as no doubt will the June 21 final vote.</p> <p>Under Mayors Koch, Giuliani, and Bloomberg, most public members were pro-business, and under Bloomberg they were overtly hostile to rent stabilization. Under these mayors the board adopted large rent increases, in some years wildly more than what the board’s data justified.</p> <p>Mayors Dinkins and de Blasio chose more fair-minded individuals with the result that tenants paid less. De Blasio’s rent board adopted a partial rent freeze in four of the eight years he occupied City Hall. This provided welcome relief to tenants who had been slammed by the Bloomberg board. The excessive Bloomberg rent hikes are baked into stabilized rents permanently, meaning tenants are already paying more than they should.</p> <p>Mayor Eric Adams will have the chance to replace all the public members as their terms expire, and his actions so far do not inspire confidence. He has made frequent statements about the need to help small landlords, even though the average landlord owns 21 properties. Recently, Adams appointed a new public member, Arpit Gupta, who has made public comments against rent regulation and looks as if he might as well be a landlord member.</p> <p>Adams is using inflation as an excuse to justify larger rent hikes. But inflation affects tenants as much as, if not more than, landlords. Even a 2 or 3% increase in rent will be harmful to families struggling to pay the ever-rising grocery bill. The median rent in 2021 for rent-stabilized apartments was $1,400 per month. A 2% rent increase at that rent level would be $28 per month, and a 6% hike $84. With median household income for rent-stabilized tenants being $47,000 as of 2020, these monthly increases would create real hardship.</p> <p>The NYC Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 was written by the real estate industry, in collaboration with Mayor Lindsay, and was designed as the weakest form of rent regulation. While many of the bad features of this law have been corrected by the State Legislature over the years, the Rent Guidelines Board process remains the same. It is high time for reform.</p> <p>One concrete example: For four decades legislation has languished in Albany that would require City Council confirmation of Rent Guidelines Board members. Checks and balances are the cornerstone of a functioning government and this bill should have been enacted years ago. </p> <p>Another: Instead of serving a fixed term like the other members, the Rent Guidelines Board chair serves at the pleasure of the mayor, allowing for unwarranted interference in the board’s workings. The current chair, David Reiss, happily went along with de Blasio’s call for a rent freeze, and now seems to be auditioning for a new mayor who has declared that he intends to raise rents.</p> <p>Except for Dinkins, all mayors have tried to influence the board, whether overtly or behind the scenes. Koch and Giuliani were especially controlling; in some years Giuliani even stated publicly what he thought the numbers should be. Establishing a fixed term would give the chair more independence to act outside of political influence.</p> <p>Until this process is restructured, this annual charade will play out over the next four years under a landlord-leaning chief executive, to the detriment of tenants.</p> <p>***<br />Michael McKee is treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/McKeeTenantsPAC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@McKeeTenantsPAC</a>.</p> <p>

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My Son’s Pretrial Incarceration Shows Everything Wrong with the System 2022-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-17T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11392-pretrial-incarceration-bail-reform-rikers P. Mass pmass@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/pretrial-incar-ever.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>"Rikers is a death sentence" (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you listen to </span><a href="https://justicenotfear.org/debunk/nypd-sewell/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">the NYPD Commissioner</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, you would think that after bail reform was passed in 2019, everyone was released from jail and judges lost all power to send people there. I know from painful personal experience that is false.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thousands of people are still incarcerated while awaiting trial in New York State, stripped of their liberty </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">before </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">they’ve had their day in court. One of them is my son. For over a year, he’s been on Rikers Island, where an unaffordable bail can turn into a death sentence – like it did just </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-island-inmate-jail-overdose-death-20220518-75sxf2clezab5fkefsxjeitahm-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a couple weeks ago for Mary Yehudah</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. We don’t need to roll back bail reforms to send more people to jail on unaffordable bail, and despite all the fearmongering, New Yorkers know there are better solutions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son has struggled with mental health challenges since he was a child. Two years in horrible juvenile detention centers upstate only made his problems worse. He’s a young man now, and he’s spent so many of his formative years – </span><a href="http://wtgrantfoundation.org/catching-up-with-science-rethinking-how-our-criminal-justice-system-responds-to-young-adults" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">before his brain is fully developed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> – in one kind of jail or another, exposed to so much violence and so little help. Last year, he had been sleeping on the streets, and was approached by police. The encounter escalated into a confrontation.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At arraignment, his bail was set at $75,000 cash. There is just no way I could pay that amount. I’m a single mother making minimum wage in my human services job. I knew that New York  had passed some reforms to the cash bail system, but I couldn’t see any evidence of that in my son’s case. I learned the law now requires judges to consider the person’s ability to pay. How could the judge have considered my son’s financial situation, or mine, and still set bail at $75,000? That’s not a bail, it’s a ransom. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judges must also offer multiple options for posting bail. One of those options should have allowed me to pay about 10% of the bail and bring my son home, with an agreement to pay the rest if he didn’t return to court. But that option was set at $250,000, over three times the cash bail amount. It was clear the judge was not trying to make sure my son returned to court, he was determined to send him to jail. And he did.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son arrived at Rikers in May 2021, just days before the Correction Commissioner resigned and a federal monitor issued a report saying that “Staff and Supervisors on the unit are simply unwilling or unable to accept and execute their core responsibilities.” The same month, the City Council held a budget hearing and discovered that an average of 1,300 officers were calling out sick on weekdays, and up to 2,000 on weekends. The crisis continues to endanger the lives of everyone incarcerated at Rikers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What this has meant for my son is that instead of making sure he returns to court – the supposed justification for pre-trial detention – being in jail is keeping him from getting to court. He’s missed about ten court appearances during his time at Rikers. These delays have only unnecessarily lengthened his time in jail. Last month, the Department of Correction told me he refused to go. But when I heard from him, he said they never told him he had a court date.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son is far from the only one </span><a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/9/14/22674823/nyc-rikers-jail-staff-shortage-keeps-detainees-from-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">missing court because of the crisis at Rikers.</span> </a><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is in the same jail system where there were </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-island-medical-clinic-lawsuit-legal-aid-20220201-bs5hz7iomzdsbaiu4cs5e4r4aq-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">7,070 missed medical appointments</span> </a><span style="font-weight: 400;">in December, and DOC tried to claim 5,268 of them were missed because incarcerated people refused to go. That’s hard to believe. I know my son’s mental state has deteriorated since he’s been at Rikers. But whether he’s in mental distress and refusing to leave his cell or the guards aren’t showing up to take him, the reality is that </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">being incarcerated is the reason he isn’t showing up in court</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now my son is considering taking a plea. It’s really tempting – he wants to be home, and he especially wants to get out of Rikers. But it’s not fair. My son, like so many others, was harassed by the police for being homeless, held for ransom by a judge, and denied due process by guards who don’t care about doing their jobs. Where’s the justice in that? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the </span><a href="https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nycs-safety-priority-should-be-affordable-housing-not-cops-survey" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">NYC Speaks survey</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> conducted this year, New Yorkers named affordable housing and mental health treatment as the two most important investments for a safer city. If the Mayor and other elected leaders are serious about safety, they should shift their focus from attacking bail reform to investing in these resources that could help my son and many others live more stable and productive lives. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span>P. Mass lives in the Bronx, is an advocate and member of Freedom Agenda.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/pretrial-incar-ever.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>"Rikers is a death sentence" (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you listen to </span><a href="https://justicenotfear.org/debunk/nypd-sewell/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">the NYPD Commissioner</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, you would think that after bail reform was passed in 2019, everyone was released from jail and judges lost all power to send people there. I know from painful personal experience that is false.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Thousands of people are still incarcerated while awaiting trial in New York State, stripped of their liberty </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">before </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">they’ve had their day in court. One of them is my son. For over a year, he’s been on Rikers Island, where an unaffordable bail can turn into a death sentence – like it did just </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-island-inmate-jail-overdose-death-20220518-75sxf2clezab5fkefsxjeitahm-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a couple weeks ago for Mary Yehudah</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. We don’t need to roll back bail reforms to send more people to jail on unaffordable bail, and despite all the fearmongering, New Yorkers know there are better solutions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son has struggled with mental health challenges since he was a child. Two years in horrible juvenile detention centers upstate only made his problems worse. He’s a young man now, and he’s spent so many of his formative years – </span><a href="http://wtgrantfoundation.org/catching-up-with-science-rethinking-how-our-criminal-justice-system-responds-to-young-adults" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">before his brain is fully developed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> – in one kind of jail or another, exposed to so much violence and so little help. Last year, he had been sleeping on the streets, and was approached by police. The encounter escalated into a confrontation.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At arraignment, his bail was set at $75,000 cash. There is just no way I could pay that amount. I’m a single mother making minimum wage in my human services job. I knew that New York  had passed some reforms to the cash bail system, but I couldn’t see any evidence of that in my son’s case. I learned the law now requires judges to consider the person’s ability to pay. How could the judge have considered my son’s financial situation, or mine, and still set bail at $75,000? That’s not a bail, it’s a ransom. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judges must also offer multiple options for posting bail. One of those options should have allowed me to pay about 10% of the bail and bring my son home, with an agreement to pay the rest if he didn’t return to court. But that option was set at $250,000, over three times the cash bail amount. It was clear the judge was not trying to make sure my son returned to court, he was determined to send him to jail. And he did.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son arrived at Rikers in May 2021, just days before the Correction Commissioner resigned and a federal monitor issued a report saying that “Staff and Supervisors on the unit are simply unwilling or unable to accept and execute their core responsibilities.” The same month, the City Council held a budget hearing and discovered that an average of 1,300 officers were calling out sick on weekdays, and up to 2,000 on weekends. The crisis continues to endanger the lives of everyone incarcerated at Rikers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What this has meant for my son is that instead of making sure he returns to court – the supposed justification for pre-trial detention – being in jail is keeping him from getting to court. He’s missed about ten court appearances during his time at Rikers. These delays have only unnecessarily lengthened his time in jail. Last month, the Department of Correction told me he refused to go. But when I heard from him, he said they never told him he had a court date.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My son is far from the only one </span><a href="https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/9/14/22674823/nyc-rikers-jail-staff-shortage-keeps-detainees-from-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">missing court because of the crisis at Rikers.</span> </a><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is in the same jail system where there were </span><a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-rikers-island-medical-clinic-lawsuit-legal-aid-20220201-bs5hz7iomzdsbaiu4cs5e4r4aq-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">7,070 missed medical appointments</span> </a><span style="font-weight: 400;">in December, and DOC tried to claim 5,268 of them were missed because incarcerated people refused to go. That’s hard to believe. I know my son’s mental state has deteriorated since he’s been at Rikers. But whether he’s in mental distress and refusing to leave his cell or the guards aren’t showing up to take him, the reality is that </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">being incarcerated is the reason he isn’t showing up in court</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now my son is considering taking a plea. It’s really tempting – he wants to be home, and he especially wants to get out of Rikers. But it’s not fair. My son, like so many others, was harassed by the police for being homeless, held for ransom by a judge, and denied due process by guards who don’t care about doing their jobs. Where’s the justice in that? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the </span><a href="https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nycs-safety-priority-should-be-affordable-housing-not-cops-survey" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">NYC Speaks survey</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> conducted this year, New Yorkers named affordable housing and mental health treatment as the two most important investments for a safer city. If the Mayor and other elected leaders are serious about safety, they should shift their focus from attacking bail reform to investing in these resources that could help my son and many others live more stable and productive lives. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span>P. Mass lives in the Bronx, is an advocate and member of Freedom Agenda.</p> <p>

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DACA at 10: My American Journey and the Work Ahead for Others 2022-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-16T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11385-daca-american-journey-citizenship-immigrants Luis Rey Ramirez lrramirez@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/my-ameri-journey.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A naturalization ceremony (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ten years ago, the Obama administration announced that people who came to the United States without documentation as children could apply for basic protection on their immigration status. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), including an estimated 30,000 DACA recipients in New York City.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Without DACA, these young people would be stuck on the margins of American life as undocumented immigrants. I know, because I’m one of them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On my 12th birthday I awoke before dawn and gathered my belongings. The streets of my home town in central Mexico were quiet as my mom walked with me. My uncle and I left that day to join my father in New York City. As we walked, my grandfather greeted us. He bid me farewell, and it was the last time I ever saw him.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The journey took two weeks. I was nearly kidnapped in the Arizona desert when we crossed the border in the dark of night. For a young child, it was a harrowing experience, compounded by the culture shock of a crowded South Bronx apartment and enrolling in middle school without speaking any English. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Amid the hardships I was still able to make progress. My dad signed me up for extra classes and took English lessons with me on weekends. Working long hours in construction, he put me through college, and I graduated at the top of my class. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite that success, I was still an outsider. I was a young college graduate with hopes and ambition. But on paper, I was nobody. Most employers wouldn’t hire me. I couldn’t get a driver’s license or a passport. I could not visit my mom and family in Mexico. Any small mishap could lead to arrest and deportation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then DACA was created in 2012. When my application was approved, everything changed. I said </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’m a human here in this country now; I didn’t feel like I was before.” The </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Times</span></i> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/pageoneplus/quotation-of-the-day-for-friday-june-14-2013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">printed the quote</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/pageoneplus/quotation-of-the-day-for-friday-june-14-2013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a DACA recipient</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, I have been able to do things I could only dream of before the policy was introduced. I earned a Master of Public Administration degree and worked in government helping people access the same services that I was once denied. Eventually I became a U.S. citizen and in 2020 I voted to elect a president of the country I call home. Most importantly, I was able to visit my family in Mexico after 15 years away and spent time with my remaining grandparents in their last days.</span></p> <p><b>Looking Ahead<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democrats in Congress pledged to rebuild a better future for all communities. Despite this, immigrant communities have yet to see substantial action as the Biden Administration is now in its second year in office.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">President Biden ran on the promise of a more humanitarian immigration system. He ran on a platform of opposing Trump's actions, establishing our asylum system, protecting and expanding DACA and TPS, and offering a road to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. President Biden has deported and expelled nearly 1.8 million people in his first year in office, despite his vows to safeguard immigrant communities and end deportations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Across the country, millions of undocumented immigrants face imprisonment and deportation without a path to citizenship, many of whom have risked their lives as essential workers to keep us safe, nourished, and healthy throughout this pandemic. With deportations and expulsions on the rise under the Biden administration, President Biden must choose between helping Americans and providing a path to citizenship or leaving millions susceptible to the Department of Homeland Security.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For hundreds of thousands of people like me, DACA changed our lives for the better. It gave us a voice. It provided a bright path forward for us after years in the shadows. It recognized our potential to make a difference in this country, and we have. But still there are millions more undocumented immigrants who have been left behind. They need a path forward too. With positive, innovative policies like DACA, there is no telling what opportunities might lie ahead.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luis Rey Ramirez is a Mexican-American immigrant from Queens. He is an active public servant, artist, designer, and videographer with experience as a leader in the nonprofit sector and supporting state and local government, and a champion for LGBT issues.</span></p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/my-ameri-journey.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>A naturalization ceremony (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ten years ago, the Obama administration announced that people who came to the United States without documentation as children could apply for basic protection on their immigration status. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), including an estimated 30,000 DACA recipients in New York City.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Without DACA, these young people would be stuck on the margins of American life as undocumented immigrants. I know, because I’m one of them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On my 12th birthday I awoke before dawn and gathered my belongings. The streets of my home town in central Mexico were quiet as my mom walked with me. My uncle and I left that day to join my father in New York City. As we walked, my grandfather greeted us. He bid me farewell, and it was the last time I ever saw him.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The journey took two weeks. I was nearly kidnapped in the Arizona desert when we crossed the border in the dark of night. For a young child, it was a harrowing experience, compounded by the culture shock of a crowded South Bronx apartment and enrolling in middle school without speaking any English. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Amid the hardships I was still able to make progress. My dad signed me up for extra classes and took English lessons with me on weekends. Working long hours in construction, he put me through college, and I graduated at the top of my class. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite that success, I was still an outsider. I was a young college graduate with hopes and ambition. But on paper, I was nobody. Most employers wouldn’t hire me. I couldn’t get a driver’s license or a passport. I could not visit my mom and family in Mexico. Any small mishap could lead to arrest and deportation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then DACA was created in 2012. When my application was approved, everything changed. I said </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I’m a human here in this country now; I didn’t feel like I was before.” The </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York Times</span></i> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/pageoneplus/quotation-of-the-day-for-friday-june-14-2013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">printed the quote</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/pageoneplus/quotation-of-the-day-for-friday-june-14-2013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a DACA recipient</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, I have been able to do things I could only dream of before the policy was introduced. I earned a Master of Public Administration degree and worked in government helping people access the same services that I was once denied. Eventually I became a U.S. citizen and in 2020 I voted to elect a president of the country I call home. Most importantly, I was able to visit my family in Mexico after 15 years away and spent time with my remaining grandparents in their last days.</span></p> <p><b>Looking Ahead<br /></b><span style="font-weight: 400;">Democrats in Congress pledged to rebuild a better future for all communities. Despite this, immigrant communities have yet to see substantial action as the Biden Administration is now in its second year in office.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">President Biden ran on the promise of a more humanitarian immigration system. He ran on a platform of opposing Trump's actions, establishing our asylum system, protecting and expanding DACA and TPS, and offering a road to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. President Biden has deported and expelled nearly 1.8 million people in his first year in office, despite his vows to safeguard immigrant communities and end deportations.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Across the country, millions of undocumented immigrants face imprisonment and deportation without a path to citizenship, many of whom have risked their lives as essential workers to keep us safe, nourished, and healthy throughout this pandemic. With deportations and expulsions on the rise under the Biden administration, President Biden must choose between helping Americans and providing a path to citizenship or leaving millions susceptible to the Department of Homeland Security.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For hundreds of thousands of people like me, DACA changed our lives for the better. It gave us a voice. It provided a bright path forward for us after years in the shadows. It recognized our potential to make a difference in this country, and we have. But still there are millions more undocumented immigrants who have been left behind. They need a path forward too. With positive, innovative policies like DACA, there is no telling what opportunities might lie ahead.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luis Rey Ramirez is a Mexican-American immigrant from Queens. He is an active public servant, artist, designer, and videographer with experience as a leader in the nonprofit sector and supporting state and local government, and a champion for LGBT issues.</span></p> <p>

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FDA Not Aggressive Enough as Multiple New York Baby Food Companies Tainted with Heavy Metals 2022-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-14T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11373-new-york-baby-food-companies-metals-fda Jonathan Sharp jsharp@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/baby-food-comp.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Baby food (photo: @kgregory)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On February 4, 2021, </span><a href="https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2021-02-04%20ECP%20Baby%20Food%20Staff%20Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a congressional report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> exposed four major baby food companies for allowing tremendous concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in their products. Naturally, shortly after finding out about the sheer carelessness of the manufacturers, parents nationwide became outraged and began filing lawsuits against the responsible companies.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Among the most recent lawsuits, </span><a href="https://www.classaction.org/news/class-action-says-holleusa-baby-foods-found-to-contain-heavy-metals" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">there is one concerning HolleUSA</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a European baby food company founded in 1934. This manufacturer's products are sold in the United States by Jet Set Go Baby, headquartered in New York City. As is the case of multiple other baby food companies, the class-action lawsuit alleges several products by HolleUSA are contaminated with dangerous heavy metals.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the request of the New York State Attorney General's Office, Brooks Applied Labs tested 18 samples of HolleUSA's products in December of last year for the presence of heavy metals. The lawsuit states that all 18 baby food samples had "varying high levels" of heavy metals. "Not a single sample from Defendant did not contain heavy metals," the case states. The lawsuit accuses the company of "deceptive representations and omissions" for products such as Holle Goat Milk Toddler Drink and Holle Organic Panda Peach, Fruit &amp; Grain Puree.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>Three Other New York Based Baby Food Companies Disregard the Safe Limits for Heavy Metals</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Three companies whose baby food was found contaminated with mind-blowing concentrations of heavy metals by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy are also headquartered in New York – Beech-Nut, Hain Celestial Group, and Nurture. However, </span><a href="https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/beech-nut-nutrition-company-issues-voluntary-recall-one-lot-beech-nut-single-grain-rice-cereal-and" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">once Beech-Nut issued a recall</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on one lot of Beech-Nut Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal, it also exited the baby food market. The baby food company used to have its headquarters in Amsterdam, New York, and one of the most disturbing findings is that it used ingredients with over 900 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic, while the safe limit is 10 ppb.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another baby food company that agreed to participate in the congressional investigation, Hain Celestial Group, is headquartered in Lake Success, New York. It sells baby food under the brand name Earth's Best Organic and was discovered to allow products containing 352 ppb lead to go on the shelves when the maximum limit is 5 ppb. Nurture also has its headquarters in New York. According to the congressional report, this baby food company, which sells products under the brand name HappyBABY, used ingredients with 641 ppb lead.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>Exposure to Heavy Metals and Child Development</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Exposure to such enormous concentrations of heavy metals from infancy </span><a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317754" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">is associated with a risk of autism</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, among other neurodevelopmental disorders and problems. Once inside developing children's bodies, </span><a href="https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/12/2809/4670101" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury act as neurotoxins</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, wreaking havoc on their brain and nervous system. Children are more vulnerable to experiencing the negative health effects of exposure to heavy metals because they have a greater nutrient uptake rate by the gastrointestinal tract and underdeveloped detoxification systems.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since 2007, </span><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267747668_Recent_Studies_on_Genetic_and_Environmental_Basis_of_Autism" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">the incidence of autism has increased by roughly 1%</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and </span><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 in 44 children born in or after 2010 will develop the disorder</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Exposure to heavy metals from a young age is also linked to cognitive damage, a lower IQ, behavioral abnormalities, ADHD, learning disabilities, and speech, hearing, and visual impairment. New York </span><a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2012/01/24/state-special-education-rates-vary-widely" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ranks third among states with the highest special education rates</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, with 17.3% of children enrolled in special education.</span></p> <p><b>The FDA’s Closer to Zero Plan, Not Radical Enough</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Soon after the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy made available the congressional report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) </span><a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/closer-zero-action-plan-baby-foods" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">came up with the Closer to Zero plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, which is meant to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods eaten by babies and young children to as low as possible."</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Nevertheless, the agency's strategy is quite problematic and has numerous shortcomings. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Closer to Zero plan is that it would be finalized in 2024 or later, in the context in which infants and toddlers urgently need clean, non-toxic food.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Closer to Zero plan has four steps, out of which the first two – </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"evaluating the scientific basis for action levels"</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"proposing action levels"</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> – can be skipped. The FDA already knows the safe limits for the four heavy metals from the </span><a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1019/text?r=1&amp;s=4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Baby Food Safety Act of 2021</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. The bill was proposed on March 25, 2021, by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. It will immediately set maximum limits for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in baby food throughout the United States if it becomes law. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Only the third step of the Closer to Zero plan yields some worthwhile action – assessing the achievability and feasibility of the action levels. The FDA should make sure all baby food manufacturers across the country have the means to implement measures that minimize the content of heavy metals in their products, such as sourcing their raw ingredients from crops grown on soil with a low arsenic content and using food strains that are less likely to absorb heavy metals. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other notable shortcomings of this strategy include failing to consider the cumulative impact of heavy metals on children's neurodevelopment and not being consistent in making parents aware that there is no safe lead concentration in children's blood. Many people, as well as authorities, are discontent with the Closer to Zero plan. On October 21, 2021, </span><a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-leads-coalition-urging-fda-accelerate-actions-protect" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">24 Attorneys General petitioned the FDA</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to prioritize establishing safe limits for heavy metals in baby food. They also expressed their dissatisfaction with how the agency is tackling the problem, saying that the FDA should take more aggressive measures.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 - A Glimpse of Hope for Parents</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 would be a much more effective and viable alternative to the Closer to Zero plan, as the safe limits for heavy metals would become effective immediately, and it would also make it mandatory for the FDA to become more involved in supervising the baby food industry. This bill would also oblige facilities that handle baby food to have controls and plans to ensure their products comply with the safe limits on heavy metals. Finally, the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 would have the Centers for Disease Control lead awareness campaigns on the risks of heavy metals in baby food.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at </span><a href="https://www.elglaw.com/baby-food" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. The law firm specializes in toxic exposure and represents clients across numerous other mass torts nationwide. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ELGBirmingham" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@ELGBirmingham</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/baby-food-comp.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Baby food (photo: @kgregory)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On February 4, 2021, </span><a href="https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2021-02-04%20ECP%20Baby%20Food%20Staff%20Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a congressional report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> exposed four major baby food companies for allowing tremendous concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in their products. Naturally, shortly after finding out about the sheer carelessness of the manufacturers, parents nationwide became outraged and began filing lawsuits against the responsible companies.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Among the most recent lawsuits, </span><a href="https://www.classaction.org/news/class-action-says-holleusa-baby-foods-found-to-contain-heavy-metals" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">there is one concerning HolleUSA</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a European baby food company founded in 1934. This manufacturer's products are sold in the United States by Jet Set Go Baby, headquartered in New York City. As is the case of multiple other baby food companies, the class-action lawsuit alleges several products by HolleUSA are contaminated with dangerous heavy metals.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the request of the New York State Attorney General's Office, Brooks Applied Labs tested 18 samples of HolleUSA's products in December of last year for the presence of heavy metals. The lawsuit states that all 18 baby food samples had "varying high levels" of heavy metals. "Not a single sample from Defendant did not contain heavy metals," the case states. The lawsuit accuses the company of "deceptive representations and omissions" for products such as Holle Goat Milk Toddler Drink and Holle Organic Panda Peach, Fruit &amp; Grain Puree.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>Three Other New York Based Baby Food Companies Disregard the Safe Limits for Heavy Metals</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Three companies whose baby food was found contaminated with mind-blowing concentrations of heavy metals by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy are also headquartered in New York – Beech-Nut, Hain Celestial Group, and Nurture. However, </span><a href="https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/beech-nut-nutrition-company-issues-voluntary-recall-one-lot-beech-nut-single-grain-rice-cereal-and" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">once Beech-Nut issued a recall</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on one lot of Beech-Nut Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal, it also exited the baby food market. The baby food company used to have its headquarters in Amsterdam, New York, and one of the most disturbing findings is that it used ingredients with over 900 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic, while the safe limit is 10 ppb.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another baby food company that agreed to participate in the congressional investigation, Hain Celestial Group, is headquartered in Lake Success, New York. It sells baby food under the brand name Earth's Best Organic and was discovered to allow products containing 352 ppb lead to go on the shelves when the maximum limit is 5 ppb. Nurture also has its headquarters in New York. According to the congressional report, this baby food company, which sells products under the brand name HappyBABY, used ingredients with 641 ppb lead.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>Exposure to Heavy Metals and Child Development</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Exposure to such enormous concentrations of heavy metals from infancy </span><a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317754" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">is associated with a risk of autism</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, among other neurodevelopmental disorders and problems. Once inside developing children's bodies, </span><a href="https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/12/2809/4670101" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury act as neurotoxins</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, wreaking havoc on their brain and nervous system. Children are more vulnerable to experiencing the negative health effects of exposure to heavy metals because they have a greater nutrient uptake rate by the gastrointestinal tract and underdeveloped detoxification systems.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since 2007, </span><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267747668_Recent_Studies_on_Genetic_and_Environmental_Basis_of_Autism" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">the incidence of autism has increased by roughly 1%</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and </span><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 in 44 children born in or after 2010 will develop the disorder</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Exposure to heavy metals from a young age is also linked to cognitive damage, a lower IQ, behavioral abnormalities, ADHD, learning disabilities, and speech, hearing, and visual impairment. New York </span><a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2012/01/24/state-special-education-rates-vary-widely" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ranks third among states with the highest special education rates</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, with 17.3% of children enrolled in special education.</span></p> <p><b>The FDA’s Closer to Zero Plan, Not Radical Enough</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">  <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Soon after the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy made available the congressional report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) </span><a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/closer-zero-action-plan-baby-foods" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">came up with the Closer to Zero plan</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, which is meant to </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods eaten by babies and young children to as low as possible."</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Nevertheless, the agency's strategy is quite problematic and has numerous shortcomings. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Closer to Zero plan is that it would be finalized in 2024 or later, in the context in which infants and toddlers urgently need clean, non-toxic food.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Closer to Zero plan has four steps, out of which the first two – </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"evaluating the scientific basis for action levels"</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">"proposing action levels"</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> – can be skipped. The FDA already knows the safe limits for the four heavy metals from the </span><a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1019/text?r=1&amp;s=4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Baby Food Safety Act of 2021</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. The bill was proposed on March 25, 2021, by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. It will immediately set maximum limits for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in baby food throughout the United States if it becomes law. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Only the third step of the Closer to Zero plan yields some worthwhile action – assessing the achievability and feasibility of the action levels. The FDA should make sure all baby food manufacturers across the country have the means to implement measures that minimize the content of heavy metals in their products, such as sourcing their raw ingredients from crops grown on soil with a low arsenic content and using food strains that are less likely to absorb heavy metals. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other notable shortcomings of this strategy include failing to consider the cumulative impact of heavy metals on children's neurodevelopment and not being consistent in making parents aware that there is no safe lead concentration in children's blood. Many people, as well as authorities, are discontent with the Closer to Zero plan. On October 21, 2021, </span><a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-leads-coalition-urging-fda-accelerate-actions-protect" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">24 Attorneys General petitioned the FDA</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to prioritize establishing safe limits for heavy metals in baby food. They also expressed their dissatisfaction with how the agency is tackling the problem, saying that the FDA should take more aggressive measures.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><b>The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 - A Glimpse of Hope for Parents</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 would be a much more effective and viable alternative to the Closer to Zero plan, as the safe limits for heavy metals would become effective immediately, and it would also make it mandatory for the FDA to become more involved in supervising the baby food industry. This bill would also oblige facilities that handle baby food to have controls and plans to ensure their products comply with the safe limits on heavy metals. Finally, the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 would have the Centers for Disease Control lead awareness campaigns on the risks of heavy metals in baby food.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> <br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at </span><a href="https://www.elglaw.com/baby-food" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. The law firm specializes in toxic exposure and represents clients across numerous other mass torts nationwide. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ELGBirmingham" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@ELGBirmingham</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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New York's Democracy is Broken; Albany Leaders are to Blame 2022-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-13T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11374-new-york-democracy-broken-albany-blame Ryder Kessler rykessler@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/democ-leaders-to.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Lonely voting (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our federal democracy is broken. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade; five of nine justices were nominated by presidents who lost the national popular vote. Those justices have thrown their hands up when asked to address extreme partisan gerrymandering, then used their pens to gut what’s left of the Voting Rights Act. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gerrymandering locks in minority power nationwide while the filibuster does the job in the Senate, so widely popular policies like universal background checks for gun purchases are left undone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As we look to Albany to shore up abortion access and gun control, our blue bastion should also be a national model for a healthy democracy. But — traceable directly to a lack of pro-democracy energy in our State Legislature — New York is anything but. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our failure to deliver fair, inclusive, well-run elections makes us a national laggard at the very moment we must be leading, and the consequences are far more than embarrassment. Our impoverished democracy disenfranchises voters and reduces the responsiveness of our legislators to the oversight of New Yorkers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, there is the fiasco surrounding the tossed-and-redrawn Congressional and State Senate district maps and choice to hold two primary days, a court-ordered August primary for those races and a June primary for Assembly, statewide, and other races. Good government groups </span><a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/05/02/new-york-good-government-advocates--move-all-primaries-to-august" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">affirm</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the split primary will disenfranchise voters beyond our already</span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10891-voter-turnout-2021-new-york-city-general-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">dismally low turnout</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a boon to incumbents but a loss to New Yorkers. State leaders chose not to consolidate the primaries in August though they had time to do so after the court order.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The hydra-headed debacle was all of Albany leaders’ own making. Beyond drawing the maps that have been ruled unconstitutional, they’re responsible for the state’s top court being led by a bloc far more conservative than the state is.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chief Judge Janet DiFiore</span><a href="https://www.hellgatenyc.com/what-the-hell-is-happening-at-the-ny-state-court-of-appeals/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">is a former Republican</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> appointed by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. She wrote the decision after the 4-3 ruling against the Democratic district maps, which got its decisive vote from Madeline Singas — a conservative Democrat who Cuomo pushed through. All but ten Democratic state senators</span><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/2021/06/15/democratic-supermajority-tough-on-crime-prosecutor-new-york-court-appeals/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">voted to confirm her</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> over progressives’ objections to her record; with the redistricting decision, those Democrats’ neglect of the courts came home to roost.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But legislators’ anti-democratic actions aren’t limited to making the courts their Lucy with the football of cushy districts. The coming split primaries will happen within a status quo of anti-voter laws and unprofessional administration, thanks to both past negligence and current disregard from legislators. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last year, Democrats</span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/130-opinion/10906-jay-jacobs-new-york-pro-democracy-movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">did nothing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to support the passage of constitutional amendments to enable same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting in New York — critical, common-sense, pro-voter laws that exist all over the country to drive more turnout. Republicans spent money and campaigned against the changes; in spite of Democrats’ 2-to-1 voter registration advantage, the amendments</span><a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/11/03/ny-ballot-proposal-results/6249894001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">failed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by double digits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 2021 election was the latest in a long line of failures of election administration in New York, and in particular New York City. Our Board of Elections</span><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/mayoral-candidates-call-reforms-recounts-nyc-board-elections/story?id=78578998" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">fumbled</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the first tabulation of ranked-choice voting results — undermining confidence in the vote at a moment when flames of the Big Lie are fanned by any lapse in election integrity — after </span><a href="https://gothamist.com/news/after-another-colossal-blunder-nyc-board-elections-send-new-ballots-nearly-100000-brooklyn-voters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">having to replace</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> 100,000 absentee ballots during a mishap in 2020. And the list goes on. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since then, State Senator Liz Krueger has been seeking to professionalize the New York City Board of Elections, but the bill to do so didn’t pass during the just-ended legislative session; </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11367-nyc-board-of-elections-reform-senate-assembly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">it lacked support in the Assembly after passing the Senate</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The session wasn’t all bad. The hard-won </span><a href="https://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/new-york-senate-passes-landmark-voting-rights-legislation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> will serve as a bulwark against discrimination and voter intimidation. On the other hand, a bill to move more municipal elections to even-numbered years to boost turnout </span><a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/05/26/top-new-york-republican--don-t-move-local-elections-to-even-numbered-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">failed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Albany insiders — and especially the Assembly’s establishment, status-quo-biased incumbents — have little incentive to significantly improve elections and boost turnout in New York. Better turnout, and a more informed electorate, might upset their Big Applecart.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Assembly’s undermining of democracy isn’t limited to which bills it won’t advance — it’s also reflected in a lack of transparency. Speaker Carl Heastie has </span><a href="https://twitter.com/m_jfrench/status/1532471381518082060" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">restricted media access</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ZachReports/status/1532479684440645657" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">limited public observation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of the chamber’s proceedings, and his conference hasn’t forced more openness or accessibility.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The picture is dire, and a desiccated democracy isn’t the only consequence of the anti-democratic interests of our Assembly members. Ever since the 2018 election swept new insurgents into the State Senate — ousting the IDC Democrats who gave Republicans control of the chamber — </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/10924-ny-state-senate-outpaces-assembly-ethics-government-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">good laws stall in the Assembly</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, where there is no significant coalition pressuring leadership to step off the beaten path. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Facing a further entrenchment of minoritarian power in Washington, we must demand more from our own legislators. If we want our federal representatives to kill the filibuster, expand the court, codify abortion and voting rights, and more, we must also make bold demands of our state elected officials: draw better districts, appoint better judges, build better courts and elections, advocate better pro-voter laws, and demand better from legislative leadership. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York deserves more from Democrats in Albany, and American democracy needs more from New York.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ryder Kessler led voter protection teams for Democrats during the 2020 presidential election and 2021 Georgia senate runoffs. He is now a candidate for State Assembly in District 66. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ryderkessler" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@ryderkessler</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/democ-leaders-to.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Lonely voting (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our federal democracy is broken. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade; five of nine justices were nominated by presidents who lost the national popular vote. Those justices have thrown their hands up when asked to address extreme partisan gerrymandering, then used their pens to gut what’s left of the Voting Rights Act. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gerrymandering locks in minority power nationwide while the filibuster does the job in the Senate, so widely popular policies like universal background checks for gun purchases are left undone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As we look to Albany to shore up abortion access and gun control, our blue bastion should also be a national model for a healthy democracy. But — traceable directly to a lack of pro-democracy energy in our State Legislature — New York is anything but. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our failure to deliver fair, inclusive, well-run elections makes us a national laggard at the very moment we must be leading, and the consequences are far more than embarrassment. Our impoverished democracy disenfranchises voters and reduces the responsiveness of our legislators to the oversight of New Yorkers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First, there is the fiasco surrounding the tossed-and-redrawn Congressional and State Senate district maps and choice to hold two primary days, a court-ordered August primary for those races and a June primary for Assembly, statewide, and other races. Good government groups </span><a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/05/02/new-york-good-government-advocates--move-all-primaries-to-august" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">affirm</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the split primary will disenfranchise voters beyond our already</span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/10891-voter-turnout-2021-new-york-city-general-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">dismally low turnout</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a boon to incumbents but a loss to New Yorkers. State leaders chose not to consolidate the primaries in August though they had time to do so after the court order.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The hydra-headed debacle was all of Albany leaders’ own making. Beyond drawing the maps that have been ruled unconstitutional, they’re responsible for the state’s top court being led by a bloc far more conservative than the state is.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Chief Judge Janet DiFiore</span><a href="https://www.hellgatenyc.com/what-the-hell-is-happening-at-the-ny-state-court-of-appeals/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">is a former Republican</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> appointed by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. She wrote the decision after the 4-3 ruling against the Democratic district maps, which got its decisive vote from Madeline Singas — a conservative Democrat who Cuomo pushed through. All but ten Democratic state senators</span><a href="https://www.nysfocus.com/2021/06/15/democratic-supermajority-tough-on-crime-prosecutor-new-york-court-appeals/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">voted to confirm her</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> over progressives’ objections to her record; with the redistricting decision, those Democrats’ neglect of the courts came home to roost.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But legislators’ anti-democratic actions aren’t limited to making the courts their Lucy with the football of cushy districts. The coming split primaries will happen within a status quo of anti-voter laws and unprofessional administration, thanks to both past negligence and current disregard from legislators. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last year, Democrats</span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/130-opinion/10906-jay-jacobs-new-york-pro-democracy-movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">did nothing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to support the passage of constitutional amendments to enable same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting in New York — critical, common-sense, pro-voter laws that exist all over the country to drive more turnout. Republicans spent money and campaigned against the changes; in spite of Democrats’ 2-to-1 voter registration advantage, the amendments</span><a href="https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/11/03/ny-ballot-proposal-results/6249894001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">failed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by double digits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 2021 election was the latest in a long line of failures of election administration in New York, and in particular New York City. Our Board of Elections</span><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/mayoral-candidates-call-reforms-recounts-nyc-board-elections/story?id=78578998" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <span style="font-weight: 400;">fumbled</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> the first tabulation of ranked-choice voting results — undermining confidence in the vote at a moment when flames of the Big Lie are fanned by any lapse in election integrity — after </span><a href="https://gothamist.com/news/after-another-colossal-blunder-nyc-board-elections-send-new-ballots-nearly-100000-brooklyn-voters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">having to replace</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> 100,000 absentee ballots during a mishap in 2020. And the list goes on. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since then, State Senator Liz Krueger has been seeking to professionalize the New York City Board of Elections, but the bill to do so didn’t pass during the just-ended legislative session; </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11367-nyc-board-of-elections-reform-senate-assembly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">it lacked support in the Assembly after passing the Senate</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The session wasn’t all bad. The hard-won </span><a href="https://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/new-york-senate-passes-landmark-voting-rights-legislation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> will serve as a bulwark against discrimination and voter intimidation. On the other hand, a bill to move more municipal elections to even-numbered years to boost turnout </span><a href="https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/05/26/top-new-york-republican--don-t-move-local-elections-to-even-numbered-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">failed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Albany insiders — and especially the Assembly’s establishment, status-quo-biased incumbents — have little incentive to significantly improve elections and boost turnout in New York. Better turnout, and a more informed electorate, might upset their Big Applecart.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Assembly’s undermining of democracy isn’t limited to which bills it won’t advance — it’s also reflected in a lack of transparency. Speaker Carl Heastie has </span><a href="https://twitter.com/m_jfrench/status/1532471381518082060" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">restricted media access</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ZachReports/status/1532479684440645657" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">limited public observation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of the chamber’s proceedings, and his conference hasn’t forced more openness or accessibility.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The picture is dire, and a desiccated democracy isn’t the only consequence of the anti-democratic interests of our Assembly members. Ever since the 2018 election swept new insurgents into the State Senate — ousting the IDC Democrats who gave Republicans control of the chamber — </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/10924-ny-state-senate-outpaces-assembly-ethics-government-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">good laws stall in the Assembly</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, where there is no significant coalition pressuring leadership to step off the beaten path. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Facing a further entrenchment of minoritarian power in Washington, we must demand more from our own legislators. If we want our federal representatives to kill the filibuster, expand the court, codify abortion and voting rights, and more, we must also make bold demands of our state elected officials: draw better districts, appoint better judges, build better courts and elections, advocate better pro-voter laws, and demand better from legislative leadership. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">New York deserves more from Democrats in Albany, and American democracy needs more from New York.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ryder Kessler led voter protection teams for Democrats during the 2020 presidential election and 2021 Georgia senate runoffs. He is now a candidate for State Assembly in District 66. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/ryderkessler" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@ryderkessler</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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</p>
Our Path to a Safer New York City Runs Through Affordable Housing and Small Businesses 2022-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11375-safer-new-york-city-affordable-housing-small-businesses Harrison Marks hmarks@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/our-path-safer.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Open for business (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our city has seen better days. You can’t walk a block in Chelsea without feeling like you’re in a graveyard of small businesses — I count six vacant storefronts on my block alone. The streets feel far less safe than they used to — a fight recently broke out next to my wife and me as we exited a coffee shop on 8th Avenue. And every day it feels like there’s more and more trash — everywhere.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, these individual issues are all part of an underlying cycle of reduced street vibrancy that threatens to stick with us beyond the pandemic. Remote work began a process whereby reduced foot traffic in Midtown and the surrounding neighborhoods like Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen led to vacant storefronts and undisturbed piles of trash, which led to reduced street safety, which led to further reductions in foot traffic. And on the cycle goes — unless we act.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fortunately, the Adams administration recognizes this issue of vibrancy. Unfortunately, too large a portion of its attention is directed at forcing a return to work and at a nightlife-focused campaign to “</span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/01/nyregion/01adams-dancing-cabaret.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">let the city dance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.” (Though I should note that I am supportive of some of the less attention-grabbing initiatives introduced by the mayor, such as proposals to make it easier for homeowners to create new rental units without additional parking requirements and for business owners to expand in their current locations.) </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The core issue for communities in the middle of Manhattan is to restore vibrancy by building more livable neighborhoods for residents. The policy prescriptions aren’t easy, but they are achievable if we take three steps: First, we must increase foot traffic throughout workdays, weekday nights, and weekends by making New York’s housing affordable to a diverse array of residents, including young families; second, we need to tackle street safety head-on; and third, we have to fill in storefronts by disincentivizing landlords from accepting long-term vacancies and providing creative solutions to vacant space.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It starts with housing: unless it is possible for people to afford to live in our neighborhoods, then they cannot be livable. An innovative and progressive approach to fixing our housing crisis begins with passage of the Good Cause Eviction state bill that would cap rent increases and give tenants more power in negotiating their lease renewals. In the medium term, the state must continue increasing the supply of affordable housing to bring down prices, doubling down on efforts to convert unused office spaces and hotels into housing. Lastly, we should be on the search for the space and funding to build the next-generation Penn South or Manhattan Plaza </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and ensure we remember the importance of those beacons of affordability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assuming reduced housing costs make it </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">possible</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for people to live here, then the challenge becomes ensuring that people </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">want to</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> live here. And people want to live where the streets feel safe and dynamic. Today, homelessness has reached a crisis level, and our homeless neighbors are making an arguably, and sadly, rational choice to stay out of the unsafe shelter system. That must change, via significant investment in social services and job training to help homeless New Yorkers get on their feet.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s also critically important we take bold steps to keep guns off our streets; just last week, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">gunshots were fired near a Chelsea school, though thankfully no one was harmed</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. I applaud Governor Hochul and Democratic legislators </span><a href="https://nypost.com/2022/06/06/gov-hochul-signing-new-gun-control-laws-after-recent-massacres/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">for acting swiftly to strengthen “red flag” laws and raise the age for purchasing an assault rifle.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> We must do everything we can to stop gun violence and the pipeline of out-of-state guns that flood our streets. The safety of our neighborhood depends on it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And finally, we arrive at solving the problem of vacant storefronts. Proposals like Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s </span><a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=%0D%0A&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A670&amp;term=0&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor%26nbspVotes=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">bill to tax landlords for long-term vacant storefronts</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> are a great start. Landlords should pay for the harm that they incur on neighborhoods when they leave commercial spaces vacant in the long-run by holding out for rents that are too high.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But let’s build off of this bill and ensure that we achieve the purpose of filling in our storefronts while retaining economic viability for mom-and-pop property owners: we can provide those same landlords with the opportunity to waive the vacancy tax if they allow organizations like </span><a href="https://chashama.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ChaShaMa</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to temporarily use the space for free as a “pop-up” art gallery or performance space. Every empty storefront is an opportunity to revitalize our streets, bring in small businesses, and find a mutually beneficial arrangement for the community and its landlords.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We can’t sugarcoat it: the city is in a tough spot. But we have an opportunity </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">right now</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to change an undesirable “new normal” before it solidifies. Let’s stop begging workers to return to offices and let’s start making New York a place that everyone wants to live in again, including its current residents. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Harrison Marks worked in the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama Administration  and lives with his wife and son in Chelsea. He is a Democratic candidate for the 75th Assembly District. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/HarrisonDMarks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@HarrisonDMarks</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/our-path-safer.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Open for business (photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our city has seen better days. You can’t walk a block in Chelsea without feeling like you’re in a graveyard of small businesses — I count six vacant storefronts on my block alone. The streets feel far less safe than they used to — a fight recently broke out next to my wife and me as we exited a coffee shop on 8th Avenue. And every day it feels like there’s more and more trash — everywhere.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, these individual issues are all part of an underlying cycle of reduced street vibrancy that threatens to stick with us beyond the pandemic. Remote work began a process whereby reduced foot traffic in Midtown and the surrounding neighborhoods like Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen led to vacant storefronts and undisturbed piles of trash, which led to reduced street safety, which led to further reductions in foot traffic. And on the cycle goes — unless we act.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fortunately, the Adams administration recognizes this issue of vibrancy. Unfortunately, too large a portion of its attention is directed at forcing a return to work and at a nightlife-focused campaign to “</span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/01/nyregion/01adams-dancing-cabaret.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">let the city dance</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.” (Though I should note that I am supportive of some of the less attention-grabbing initiatives introduced by the mayor, such as proposals to make it easier for homeowners to create new rental units without additional parking requirements and for business owners to expand in their current locations.) </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The core issue for communities in the middle of Manhattan is to restore vibrancy by building more livable neighborhoods for residents. The policy prescriptions aren’t easy, but they are achievable if we take three steps: First, we must increase foot traffic throughout workdays, weekday nights, and weekends by making New York’s housing affordable to a diverse array of residents, including young families; second, we need to tackle street safety head-on; and third, we have to fill in storefronts by disincentivizing landlords from accepting long-term vacancies and providing creative solutions to vacant space.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It starts with housing: unless it is possible for people to afford to live in our neighborhoods, then they cannot be livable. An innovative and progressive approach to fixing our housing crisis begins with passage of the Good Cause Eviction state bill that would cap rent increases and give tenants more power in negotiating their lease renewals. In the medium term, the state must continue increasing the supply of affordable housing to bring down prices, doubling down on efforts to convert unused office spaces and hotels into housing. Lastly, we should be on the search for the space and funding to build the next-generation Penn South or Manhattan Plaza </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and ensure we remember the importance of those beacons of affordability.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Assuming reduced housing costs make it </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">possible</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for people to live here, then the challenge becomes ensuring that people </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">want to</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> live here. And people want to live where the streets feel safe and dynamic. Today, homelessness has reached a crisis level, and our homeless neighbors are making an arguably, and sadly, rational choice to stay out of the unsafe shelter system. That must change, via significant investment in social services and job training to help homeless New Yorkers get on their feet.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s also critically important we take bold steps to keep guns off our streets; just last week, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">gunshots were fired near a Chelsea school, though thankfully no one was harmed</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. I applaud Governor Hochul and Democratic legislators </span><a href="https://nypost.com/2022/06/06/gov-hochul-signing-new-gun-control-laws-after-recent-massacres/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">for acting swiftly to strengthen “red flag” laws and raise the age for purchasing an assault rifle.</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> We must do everything we can to stop gun violence and the pipeline of out-of-state guns that flood our streets. The safety of our neighborhood depends on it.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And finally, we arrive at solving the problem of vacant storefronts. Proposals like Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s </span><a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=%0D%0A&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A670&amp;term=0&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor%26nbspVotes=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">bill to tax landlords for long-term vacant storefronts</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> are a great start. Landlords should pay for the harm that they incur on neighborhoods when they leave commercial spaces vacant in the long-run by holding out for rents that are too high.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But let’s build off of this bill and ensure that we achieve the purpose of filling in our storefronts while retaining economic viability for mom-and-pop property owners: we can provide those same landlords with the opportunity to waive the vacancy tax if they allow organizations like </span><a href="https://chashama.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">ChaShaMa</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to temporarily use the space for free as a “pop-up” art gallery or performance space. Every empty storefront is an opportunity to revitalize our streets, bring in small businesses, and find a mutually beneficial arrangement for the community and its landlords.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We can’t sugarcoat it: the city is in a tough spot. But we have an opportunity </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">right now</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to change an undesirable “new normal” before it solidifies. Let’s stop begging workers to return to offices and let’s start making New York a place that everyone wants to live in again, including its current residents. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Harrison Marks worked in the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama Administration  and lives with his wife and son in Chelsea. He is a Democratic candidate for the 75th Assembly District. On Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/HarrisonDMarks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">@HarrisonDMarks</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p>

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It’s Time to Reform New York’s Judicial Selection Process 2022-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-10T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11372-reform-new-york-judicial-selection Elba Rose Galvan ergalvan@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/its-time-reform.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Judicial oath of office (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I recently wrote an </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11309-judicial-selection-crucial-every-level" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">op-ed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on the need to raise public awareness about judicial selection, inspired by the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion in Dobbs that would reverse Roe and the recognition of women’s reproductive autonomy. As a candidate for Surrogate’s Court Judge, I have been frequently asked about the judicial selection process and hope to advance an open dialogue on judicial reform, independence and the importance of voter awareness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Anecdotally, according to my own recent informal </span><a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/Elba4Surrogate/status/1526972456107446272" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Twitter poll</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a plurality prefers that judges are elected as opposed to appointed, or a combination thereof. But New Yorkers clearly need a better understanding of the process.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judicial selection methods in New York State can be particularly baffling. Some judges are appointed (by the Mayor or Governor), some are elected, and some are “elected” without direct voter participation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For example, candidates for state Supreme Court judge appear on the ballot through a process that is little known and poorly understood by most people. New York's Election Law (§ 6-124) created an alternate method to the petitioning process. In place of a primary election, judicial delegates (who are elected during the Democratic primary) vote at a judicial nominating convention (usually in late summer) for the Democratic Party candidates who will appear on the general election ballot. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">This process not only deprives the voting public the opportunity to directly participate, but it can be fraught with issues of conventional party politics; namely who’s in the know and in control.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In contrast, judicial candidates for other positions must petition for a specified number of signatures from registered voters of their party to appear on the primary ballot. I am running for Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court, also known as probate court, the court that oversees wills and estates, as well as the appointment of fiduciaries, guardianships, and adoptions. For a countywide side seat, I was required to obtain 4,000 signatures from registered Democrats to appear on the primary ballot. However, as a practical matter, a candidate must obtain triple the number of required signatures to withstand a potential challenge by a competitor. The process is made arduous because of the limited time frame to obtain signatures (about a month).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judicial candidates for Civil Court positions also need signatures (1,500) to appear on the primary ballot, a threshold significantly higher than required in races for Congress (1,250), State Senate (900), State Assembly (500) and City Council (450). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An additional incongruity is that Civil Court districts - established in 1962 by state law - are not subject to redistricting laws or the federal Voting Rights Act, so their lines remain static notwithstanding population shifts. Despite the recent focus in New York on gerrymandering and the fairness of districts, judicial lines were absent from the discussion.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Manhattan, district leaders (or “state committee members”), also elected but with few specified legal duties, play a significant role in the promotion of judicial candidates. It’s a lot to ask of voters to find information on these less commonly known seats (judicial delegates, and state and county committee leaders), and research their stance on the judiciary prior to primary day. However, until the system is reformed, these positions continue to play an outsized part in the outcome of judicial races, and voters should at least understand that judicial selection depends on the role these “go-betweens” serve.This is particularly the case as voters rely on the independence of the judiciary, whose impactful decisions are felt first-hand by the electorate.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We need real electoral reform in judicial elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some suggestions include a reduction in the number of required nominating signatures, a cap on the amount that can be spent on judicial races (with strict donation limits), and a re-examination of the function of judicial delegates, district leaders, and judicial districts that have witnessed population shifts. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is nothing wrong with voters choosing who their judges are. The problem is that voters lack the information necessary to make informed choices. In a society always striving for improvement and reform, the judicial selection process should not be last in line. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Elba Rose Galvan is a Surrogate's Court Referee in King's County and candidate for Manhattan Surrogate. She served under Surrogate Margarita Lopes Torrez, and currently serves under Surrogate Rosemarie Montalbano, both considered reformers of the court.</span></p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/its-time-reform.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Judicial oath of office (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I recently wrote an </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11309-judicial-selection-crucial-every-level" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">op-ed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on the need to raise public awareness about judicial selection, inspired by the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion in Dobbs that would reverse Roe and the recognition of women’s reproductive autonomy. As a candidate for Surrogate’s Court Judge, I have been frequently asked about the judicial selection process and hope to advance an open dialogue on judicial reform, independence and the importance of voter awareness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Anecdotally, according to my own recent informal </span><a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/Elba4Surrogate/status/1526972456107446272" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Twitter poll</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a plurality prefers that judges are elected as opposed to appointed, or a combination thereof. But New Yorkers clearly need a better understanding of the process.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judicial selection methods in New York State can be particularly baffling. Some judges are appointed (by the Mayor or Governor), some are elected, and some are “elected” without direct voter participation.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For example, candidates for state Supreme Court judge appear on the ballot through a process that is little known and poorly understood by most people. New York's Election Law (§ 6-124) created an alternate method to the petitioning process. In place of a primary election, judicial delegates (who are elected during the Democratic primary) vote at a judicial nominating convention (usually in late summer) for the Democratic Party candidates who will appear on the general election ballot. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">This process not only deprives the voting public the opportunity to directly participate, but it can be fraught with issues of conventional party politics; namely who’s in the know and in control.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In contrast, judicial candidates for other positions must petition for a specified number of signatures from registered voters of their party to appear on the primary ballot. I am running for Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court, also known as probate court, the court that oversees wills and estates, as well as the appointment of fiduciaries, guardianships, and adoptions. For a countywide side seat, I was required to obtain 4,000 signatures from registered Democrats to appear on the primary ballot. However, as a practical matter, a candidate must obtain triple the number of required signatures to withstand a potential challenge by a competitor. The process is made arduous because of the limited time frame to obtain signatures (about a month).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Judicial candidates for Civil Court positions also need signatures (1,500) to appear on the primary ballot, a threshold significantly higher than required in races for Congress (1,250), State Senate (900), State Assembly (500) and City Council (450). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An additional incongruity is that Civil Court districts - established in 1962 by state law - are not subject to redistricting laws or the federal Voting Rights Act, so their lines remain static notwithstanding population shifts. Despite the recent focus in New York on gerrymandering and the fairness of districts, judicial lines were absent from the discussion.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Manhattan, district leaders (or “state committee members”), also elected but with few specified legal duties, play a significant role in the promotion of judicial candidates. It’s a lot to ask of voters to find information on these less commonly known seats (judicial delegates, and state and county committee leaders), and research their stance on the judiciary prior to primary day. However, until the system is reformed, these positions continue to play an outsized part in the outcome of judicial races, and voters should at least understand that judicial selection depends on the role these “go-betweens” serve.This is particularly the case as voters rely on the independence of the judiciary, whose impactful decisions are felt first-hand by the electorate.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We need real electoral reform in judicial elections.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some suggestions include a reduction in the number of required nominating signatures, a cap on the amount that can be spent on judicial races (with strict donation limits), and a re-examination of the function of judicial delegates, district leaders, and judicial districts that have witnessed population shifts. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is nothing wrong with voters choosing who their judges are. The problem is that voters lack the information necessary to make informed choices. In a society always striving for improvement and reform, the judicial selection process should not be last in line. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Elba Rose Galvan is a Surrogate's Court Referee in King's County and candidate for Manhattan Surrogate. She served under Surrogate Margarita Lopes Torrez, and currently serves under Surrogate Rosemarie Montalbano, both considered reformers of the court.</span></p> <p>

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As Albany Continues to Abandon Homeless New Yorkers, California Considers New Solutions 2022-06-09T04:00:00+00:00 2022-06-09T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/130-opinion/11364-albany-abandons-homeless-new-yorkers-california Robert Mascali rmascali@gg.com <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/as-continues-cali.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Health and housing are tied (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As roughly 50,000 men, women and children sleep in a New York City homeless shelter each night and the number of people living unsheltered on the streets and subways has increased, the powers that be in Albany bear a large portion of the responsibility for the current state of affairs. It is time that we take a long hard look at what state government has done in this regard instead of putting all the blame on City Hall.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the very comprehensive </span><a href="https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/state-of-the-homeless/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">State of the Homeless</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> report published annually by the Coalition for the Homeless, the state government continues, as it has for many years, to receive failing grades on almost every metric. With regard to meeting the needs of unsheltered New Yorkers, New York State received a failing grade on five of the six metrics and a “D-” on the other one. In addition it received similar grades on the operation of the shelter system, housing, and institutional discharge planning.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On this last category, each year since 2015 more than 40% of people released from state prisons to New York City were released directly to shelters. This amounted to an average of about 3,500 a year. </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11353-new-york-prison-shelter-pipeline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Gotham Gazette recently reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, little is being done to help those leaving prison find stable housing, and so many wind up going directly into the shelter system, with some then leaving for the streets.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The homelessness crisis is being seen more and more as a mental health crisis, which it is in part, and once again New York State bears a heavy responsibility for what we now see. The state psychiatric center system that once served 93,000 New Yorkers has now dwindled to an insufficient 2,330 beds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, nothing paints a better picture of how state government has abandoned homeless New Yorkers than how the shelters are funded. As the cost of New York City Department of Homeless Services shelters rose by nearly $1.2 billion between fiscal years 2011 and 2021, the city was left to pick up 95% of the increase for single adult shelters and 32% of the increase for family shelters. While the state covered a mere 4% of the additional cost for single adult shelters and 7% for family shelters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new state budget is somewhat better but far from acceptable. Lawmakers passed a budget that does little to house homeless New Yorkers, according to exasperated advocates and policymakers. “It’s pretty dreadful,” said Legal Aid Society Supervising Attorney Judith Goldiner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During protracted negotiations, the governor and legislators axed </span><a href="https://citylimits.org/2022/03/13/ny-lawmakers-propose-250m-to-launch-section-8-style-rent-subsidy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a proposed Section 8-style rent subsidy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for New Yorkers experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. Governor Kathy Hochul and her budget team </span><a href="https://citylimits.org/2022/04/08/new-yorks-220-billion-budget-light-on-solutions-to-homelessness-critics-say/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said it was too expensive</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While New York City and State are facing this monumental task of substantially reducing homelessness they must be equal partners. In California, which is also facing a homelessness crisis, a new approach has emerged.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">California has a new plan to get people off the streets and into treatment. CARE (Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment) Courts connect a person in crisis with a court-ordered Care Plan for up to 12 months, with the possibility to extend for an additional 12 months. The framework provides individuals with a clinically-appropriate, community-based set of services and supports that are culturally- and linguistically-competent. This includes short-term stabilization medications, wellness and recovery supports, and connection to social services, including housing.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.chhs.ca.gov/care-court/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CARE Court</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> is not for everyone experiencing homelessness or mental illness; rather it focuses on people with schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorders who lack medical decision-making capacity – before they get arrested and committed to a state hospital.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although homelessness has many faces in California and New York, among the most tragic is the face of the sickest who suffer from treatable mental health conditions — this proposal aims to connect these individuals to effective treatment and support, mapping a path to long-term recovery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CARE Court may help thousands on their journey to sustained wellness. Its engagement begins with a petition to the court from a wider range of individuals, including care providers, family members, first responders, or counties, among others. CARE Court may be an appropriate next step after a short-term involuntary hospital hold.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Having served as a Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Department of Homeless Services and as a Vice President for Supportive Housing for a nonprofit, I know it is easy to get caught up handling the day-to-day crises which arise in a system that spends more than $3 billion a year. However, we must set aside time and staff to explore the big picture as California is doing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Robert Mascali is a former Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Homeless Services and a former Vice President for Supportive Housing at Women in Need.</span></p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/as-continues-cali.jpg" width="600" /></p> <p>Health and housing are tied (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As roughly 50,000 men, women and children sleep in a New York City homeless shelter each night and the number of people living unsheltered on the streets and subways has increased, the powers that be in Albany bear a large portion of the responsibility for the current state of affairs. It is time that we take a long hard look at what state government has done in this regard instead of putting all the blame on City Hall.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the very comprehensive </span><a href="https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/state-of-the-homeless/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">State of the Homeless</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> report published annually by the Coalition for the Homeless, the state government continues, as it has for many years, to receive failing grades on almost every metric. With regard to meeting the needs of unsheltered New Yorkers, New York State received a failing grade on five of the six metrics and a “D-” on the other one. In addition it received similar grades on the operation of the shelter system, housing, and institutional discharge planning.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On this last category, each year since 2015 more than 40% of people released from state prisons to New York City were released directly to shelters. This amounted to an average of about 3,500 a year. </span><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/11353-new-york-prison-shelter-pipeline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Gotham Gazette recently reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, little is being done to help those leaving prison find stable housing, and so many wind up going directly into the shelter system, with some then leaving for the streets.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The homelessness crisis is being seen more and more as a mental health crisis, which it is in part, and once again New York State bears a heavy responsibility for what we now see. The state psychiatric center system that once served 93,000 New Yorkers has now dwindled to an insufficient 2,330 beds.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, nothing paints a better picture of how state government has abandoned homeless New Yorkers than how the shelters are funded. As the cost of New York City Department of Homeless Services shelters rose by nearly $1.2 billion between fiscal years 2011 and 2021, the city was left to pick up 95% of the increase for single adult shelters and 32% of the increase for family shelters. While the state covered a mere 4% of the additional cost for single adult shelters and 7% for family shelters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The new state budget is somewhat better but far from acceptable. Lawmakers passed a budget that does little to house homeless New Yorkers, according to exasperated advocates and policymakers. “It’s pretty dreadful,” said Legal Aid Society Supervising Attorney Judith Goldiner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During protracted negotiations, the governor and legislators axed </span><a href="https://citylimits.org/2022/03/13/ny-lawmakers-propose-250m-to-launch-section-8-style-rent-subsidy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a proposed Section 8-style rent subsidy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for New Yorkers experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. Governor Kathy Hochul and her budget team </span><a href="https://citylimits.org/2022/04/08/new-yorks-220-billion-budget-light-on-solutions-to-homelessness-critics-say/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said it was too expensive</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While New York City and State are facing this monumental task of substantially reducing homelessness they must be equal partners. In California, which is also facing a homelessness crisis, a new approach has emerged.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">California has a new plan to get people off the streets and into treatment. CARE (Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment) Courts connect a person in crisis with a court-ordered Care Plan for up to 12 months, with the possibility to extend for an additional 12 months. The framework provides individuals with a clinically-appropriate, community-based set of services and supports that are culturally- and linguistically-competent. This includes short-term stabilization medications, wellness and recovery supports, and connection to social services, including housing.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.chhs.ca.gov/care-court/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span style="font-weight: 400;">CARE Court</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> is not for everyone experiencing homelessness or mental illness; rather it focuses on people with schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorders who lack medical decision-making capacity – before they get arrested and committed to a state hospital.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although homelessness has many faces in California and New York, among the most tragic is the face of the sickest who suffer from treatable mental health conditions — this proposal aims to connect these individuals to effective treatment and support, mapping a path to long-term recovery.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">CARE Court may help thousands on their journey to sustained wellness. Its engagement begins with a petition to the court from a wider range of individuals, including care providers, family members, first responders, or counties, among others. CARE Court may be an appropriate next step after a short-term involuntary hospital hold.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Having served as a Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Department of Homeless Services and as a Vice President for Supportive Housing for a nonprofit, I know it is easy to get caught up handling the day-to-day crises which arise in a system that spends more than $3 billion a year. However, we must set aside time and staff to explore the big picture as California is doing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><br /></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Robert Mascali is a former Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Homeless Services and a former Vice President for Supportive Housing at Women in Need.</span></p> <p>

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