Well kudos to WestView Publisher George Capsis for believing that St. Veronica’s on Christopher Street, which had been closed by the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, could be converted into a community concert hall. WestView sponsored a classical music concert at St. Veronica’s on Saturday, November 25th and George was correct. The sanctuary was not only beautiful, but acoustically perfect. So begins the campaign…
For reasons beyond my control, my much-labored-over “Have You Heard” column did not make it into the November issue of WestView. The most important issue for me was the Constitutional Convention. I was in favor of passing the amendment. My principal reasons were as follows:
Clean up the corruption scandal in Albany: Bring back real transparency and end the Three Men in a Room Rule, which gives them the power to decide what passes and what does not in the State Legislature. After seeing two of these men recently get indicted for corruption and convicted, I felt it was time to make a serious change and stop the Democratic machine politics that bowed to the power trio.
Home Rule: If the Constitutional Convention had called for Home Rule and the voters had approved the recommendation, politics as usual would have ended for NYC. Matters like the MTA, hospital closings in the City, business taxes, educational policies, real estate special treatment, environmental policies, etc. would no longer be controlled exclusively by the State Legislature. Issues related solely to NYC would be decided by local, elected officials.
A campaign organized by the large labor unions, and supported by many of the so-called “progressive” Democratic machine clubs, uses a tactic that worked for Trump. Rather than leading a campaign that would have educated voters as to the conditions that maintain the status quo, fear was used to manipulate voters emotionally. Left in place for the next 20 years are the same rules and practices that created systemic corruption in the State Legislature. The same ‘three men in a room’ will now continue to hold the keys to the future of NYS and ensure power over NYC despite the Mayor and City Council Members who are elected by NYC voters.
The alternative now is to replace the members of the State Legislature. It is possible, but highly improbable. It will be extremely difficult given the nature of the Democratic machine, with its rogue Independent Democratic Conference (IDC)—eight elected Democrats who have been voting with Republicans to stop change. They are the reason we do not have a form of single-payer health insurance in NYS; this was supported in the Assembly and lost in the Senate because of IDC members. It is easy to call for change when it is just rhetoric in the wind, but come the opportunity to actually make change, watch what those who rallied against corruption actually do. C’est la vie…cha cha cha.
We are in a crisis that will affect all those who use the internet. Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and former General Counsel to Verizon, announced that he would move forward with killing Net Neutrality. ‘Net Neutrality’ means open and free internet access for anyone who wants to use it. The change will allow corporate control of the internet. Corporations like Verizon and Spectrum will be free to charge different rates for different levels of access determined by content and speed. This signifies the end of free access for all and the privitizing/proftizing of the internet.
The last time this was proposed, millions of people objected formally to the FCC. Peoples’ action saved a free and open internet. A new call has gone out from every corner of, not only NYC, but the whole nation to preserve Net Neutrality. There are five members within the FCC: Two of them, both women, will vote against the proposal. Three Republicans are thought to be in favor of it. (Read about them here: latimes.com/business/la-fi-net-neutrality-fcc-20171122-htmlstory.html.) We ALL need to email the Republican members and tell them “No.” If enough of us do, hopefully one will vote against this proposal. Tell them that freedom of speech and public access to information on the internet is NOT for sale. Here are their email addresses:
Mr. Ajit Pai: Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov
Ms. Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov
Mr. Michael O’Reilly: Mike.O’Reilly@fcc.gov
Mr. Brendan Carr: Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov
Ms. Jessica Rosenworcel: Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov
Cobblestone streets in Downtown Manhattan and parts of gentrifing Brooklyn are a real estate agent’s dream sales pitch. They excite the imagination of what old NYC was like before cars, trucks, and buses. Horse-drawn buggies were the means of transportation on cobblestone streets. Enter automobiles and streets were made smooth to accommodate the wheels used to transport.
Today, we have streets in highly gentrified communities like the West Village/SoHo/TriBeca which contain cobblestone streets. Most of them are in disrepair. They are dangerous to humans and hard on motor vehicle wheels, as well as bikes. Have you ever watched a senior with mobility issues try to navigate the cobblestones in the Meatpacking District in a wheelchair or using a cane or a walker? It is dangerous. Or seen a woman in spike heels on a hot summer night get her Manolo Blahnik heel caught between the cobblestones and fall or break her heel off? Or seen a mother/nanny try to push a stroller across a cobblestone street? Or watch a bike rider come onto the sidewalk because the road is too bumpy and he/she doesn’t want to risk flipping over or losing control of the bike?
I have seen all of these cobblestone street scenarios. When I testified at a City Council hearing, the Speaker actually said that she had gotten a heel caught in a street within the Meatpacking District. One City Council woman from a very gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood said that she agreed about the dangerous legacy of cobblestone streets. She also said that she would not bring this issue before her constituency because they liked the “quaint” nature of the cobblestones. At a Community Board 2 (CB2) meeting, I was laughed at by some of the board members. Dangerous or not, cobblestone streets are still being built and not properly maintained.
I recently went to a demonstration in front of the Gristedes on 8th Avenue. I was not aware that the former Republican candidate for Mayor and Gristedes CEO, billionaire John Catsimatidis, had withdrawn his grocery chain from participating in the federally mandated WIC program. WIC is a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal-assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for the healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under the age of five. Their mission is to partner with other services that are key to childhood and family well-being. The basic eligibility requirement is a family income below 185% of the federal poverty level. Most states allow automatic income eligibility, where a person or family participating in certain programs (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) may automatically meet the income eligibility requirements.
Currently, WIC serves 53% of all infants born in the United States. Gristedes has not participated in this program since August 2017. I just now learned about it. Yes, local electeds did sign a petition calling for reinstatement but, in my view, failed to educate their constituencies on how this serious matter affects low-income families that live in their district. The health of babies is at risk. At the rally, I heard that undocumented babies and breastfeeding mothers were eligible for this program. Perhaps this is what motivated this cruel act. (Note: Gristedes is not an inexpensive grocery store. Many of the items that I have found at Gristedes are even more costly than at Whole Foods.)
Last month, I wrote about how Mount Sinai, in their new doctors offices on 23rd Street, have instigated a policy of not accepting Medicaid. This is a disastrous policy that will impact the health needs of low-income, Medicaid-qualifying people in the neighborhood. Will I soon see signs sprouting up saying “Low-income people not welcome”? I have for years heard that real estate people were salivating over the property that public housing now occupies in Chelsea. If they could get hands on land that a hospital was built on…
Good News: Our neighbor Roberta Kaplan, the civil rights lawyer who defended Edie Windsor in her history-making Supreme Court lawsuit that sought equal protection under the law for same-sex couples and won, has with her law firm, Kaplan & Company, filed suit on behalf of the people injured by the white supremacist in Charlotte.
Thank you Robbie, your wife Rachel Levine, and your family for being fabulous role models and representing who lesbians and gay people actually are.
Contact Jim Fouratt at firstname.lastname@example.org.