Pol Position: Brooklyn Dems asleep at the wheel

Last Tuesday night was supposed to be a red wave. But the only place it actually showed up was in Brooklyn – the county with the highest amount of democratic voters – of all places.

And it’s the party’s own fault.

At the time of publication, Peter Abbate Jr., who reps parts of Bensonhurst is trailing by 151 votes and Coney Island Assemblymember Mathlyde Frontus is trailing by 797 votes. Sheepshead Bay Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz lost handily by over 4,000 votes and State Senate Candidate Iwen Chu has a narrow lead of around 200 votes against her Republican opponent.

As New York State Focus reported, the county party did practically zilch in terms of Get Out the Vote Operations or phonebanks.

“There was no one to talk to. The executive director was gone; the county leader was having a baby,” Abbate told New York Focus. “I kept telling them they had to watch out.”

Maybe fewer galas and a little more canvassing? Or phonebanks that don’t start a week before the election? Or anything that actually resembles an actual party apparatus?

It seems like the party made more concerted efforts to stymie the reformers within the party than they did to actually win the general election. 

The party really needs to get its affairs in order if they don’t want a repeat of Republicans gaining in Southern Brooklyn in the upcoming spring City Council elections as the area has been swinging more conservative in recent years. 

In Our Opinion: Replace Jay Jacobs

In one of the traditionally bluest states in the nation, the Democratic Party is in shambles. 

New York elected its first woman governor, but only with a measly seven-point lead. Republicans are on track to pick up three seats in Brooklyn. And congressional Republicans have picked up four seats statewide, including Hudson Valley’s Sean Patrick Maloney, who was in charge of Democrat’s national operation to elect congressional representatives.

Across the country, Democrats had a historic night, fending off challengers in a midterm election amid high inflation and an unpopular president. Pundits predicted a red wave but Democrats have held onto the Senate, while the balance of the House of Representatives remains to be seen — even if they take control, it will be by slim margins.

But Democrats across the Empire State are calling on Jay Jacobs, the Cuomo appointed head of the party, to resign. We concur. 

Several hundred electeds, politicos and organizations signed onto a letter shared with BQE Media calling on the chairman to resign following last week’s election results.

“The New York State Democratic Party is better than this. We, the undersigned, are ready to work with Governor Hochul to elect a real party leader who embodies actual democratic values and is – as our party website clearly states – ‘committed to building a party that ensures New Yorkers have progressive, fair, and dedicated leaders at every level of government,” the letter reads. 

Despite having powerful clout across the state, the party has misstepped – like Cuomo’s reported support of the Independent Democratic Conference,  a consortium of conservative Democrats who worked with State Senate Republicans over New York City Democrats.

Fighting within your own party, or actively blocking wings of your party, is not going to create a solid governing coalition. And the party brass that has been running the Dem’s operation for the last few years have been doing just that. It’s time for them to clear house if they want to sustain wins in the future and not elect a Republican governor the next cycle around.

In Our Opinion: Suspending Kyrie is right move

The Brooklyn Nets have suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games after he failed to apologize after sharing an anti-semitic documentary on Twitter – it’s the least they could do.

“Hebroes to Negroes: Wake Up Black America” is a three-hour “documentary” that espouses the philosophy of extremist Black Israelites: promulgating beliefs that Jewish people stole the true identity of being the descendants of Black Israelites, that there is a global Jewish conspiracy theory to defraud black people and that the Holocaust was falsified in order to conceal their own power, per the Anti-Defamation League. 

The anti-vax, flat-earth-believing point guard is not new to controversy, but his bullheadedness to double down on hateful conspiracy theories – while repping Brooklyn of all places – is a new low. 

On Oct. 30 Iriving doubled down in a press conference, saying “There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have over top of the adultery of, you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?”

The deflection was beyond childish and neglected to take any responsibility. Saying “there’s things posted every day” negates his power and influence as one of the world’s best-known players and shows his inability to take the issue seriously.

On Nov. 2, The Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie and the Anti-Defamation League released a joint statement, announcing that both Kyrie and the Nets will each be donating $500,000 to “eradicating hate and intolerance in our communities.” 

When there was an actual cost to his actions, Kyrie took some ownership.

“I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day,” Kyrie Irving said in the statement. “I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.”

It reads nothing more than damage control, and Kyrie should have to demonstrate true evolution on the issue before getting back on the court.

Meyers Leonard, an NBA player for the Miami Heat at the tim,e who lacks the star power Kyrie has, was suspended indefinitely for using a jewish slur in a livestream.

In Brooklyn, the home to many Jewish people, shouldn’t the punishment be at least equal to Leonard’s? 

People should be able to grow, and careers shouldn’t be wiped away from a single comment, but amidst the rise in anti-semitic hate crimes, the Nets need to tread carefully and actually demonstrate that Kyrie has legitimately evolved – not just a slap on the wrist and a donation.

North Brooklyn electeds rally for Prop 1

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

North Brooklyn pols have two things in common: they want you to vote for the Environmental Bond Act and want you to vote for Kathy Hochul.

At a Friday November 4th rally, North Brooklyn electeds and advocates like the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance and Newtown Creek Alliance, stumped for the ballot measure and Governor Hochul at Bushwick Inlet Park.

If passed, Proposition 1 on voters’ ballots would unlock $4.2 billion in spending, by taking on debt, for at least $1.1 billion for flood risk and restoration, up to $1.5 billion for climate change mitigation, up to $650 million for land conservation and at least $650 million for water quality improvement. 

“This is a great investment for families to be able to enjoy our waterfront, to come to these areas, clean up brownfields throughout the state, and develop and construct and build beautiful parks like this one, we deserve better,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

Brownfields are former industrial areas potentially damaged by industrial pollution. The state has been studying ways to remediate the potential damage in North Brooklyn since at least 2017, in order to give them new life and possible devlopment in the future. 

“We are the first generation to really truly feel the effects of climate change,” Governor Hochul said at the rally, emphasizing the importance of the bond measure. “We’re also the last generation to do anything about it before it’s too late.”

Brooklyn Beep Antonio Reynoso highlighted the long-term fights North Brooklyn politicians have had to go to bat for: like the decade-plus years of advocacy for Bushwick Inlet Park in an area with one of the highest asthma rates in the city. 

“It’s an unfortunate reality, that we grow up needing to fight for the environment, that you need to fight for North Brooklyn. But it is who we are. It’s what defines us,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso emphasized that the measure would help North Brooklyn by gaining more greenspace without having to spend as much time fighting and advocating for it.

“So prop one means so much to us, because we don’t want to have to fight for these things for environmental justice and equity in North Brooklyn,” he continued. “Why do we have to come out every single time to fight for these things? Voting prop one takes a little bit of a burden away from our advocacy, and allows us to focus on other things like enjoying the parks that we fought for.”

“In the Assembly I have been so grateful to have an ally like the Governor in office, she is really standing firm on climate,” Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher said. “And I’m really looking forward at what needs to happen to move us away from fossil fuels and towards a resilient New York State.”

Schools won’t lost money due to enrollment declines: officials

By Matthew Fischetti

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City officials announced this week that education budgets are not going to be facing further cuts, despite mid-year enrollment declines.

In a joint statement on Monday Nov. 7, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks announced that the budget would be offset by the use of COVID-19 stimulus funds.

“The decision to hold school budgets harmless is about prioritizing the needs of the nearly 1 million children served by New York City public schools every day,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “We know that our entire school community was and still remains deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But under our administration, we are committed to ensuring that every school has the resources needed to provide the highest quality education for students to thrive.”

Mid-year adjustments are part of the city’s Fair Student Formula Funding process, which gives more money to schools with increased enrollment rates and institutes cuts to schools with decreased enrollment rates. New York City public schools have lost over 130,000 students over the last five years according to a June 2022 report from the Department of Education.

While stimulus funds will be used to cover the budget shortfalls for this upcoming year, the administration said in a statement that schools should plan to the typical mid-year adjustment period if enrollments decline or increase. Schools that were projected to receive an increase in funding this year will still gain them.

The funds will result in a $200 million increase in school budgets and the adjustment process will begin later this month and continue through midwinter, according to a release from the New York City Department of Education.

Comptroller Brad Lander released a statement on Monday, commending the decision by the administration after criticizing the decision by hizzoner and the city council to approve cuts back in June. The city council has since passed a resolution back in June, calling on the administration to restore the cuts by using federal funds.

“Holding schools harmless for enrollment declines so that they can provide the instruction and support our students need after these hard pandemic years is exactly the purpose of COVID relief funds,” Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement. “I’m glad that the administration and the Chancellor have finally come to the same conclusion.”

Advocates and parents groups across the city decried the decision back in June, which the Comptroller’s office has estimated to total $469 million.

“While this commitment to hold school budgets harmless from mid-year cuts for enrollment declines is a step in the right direction, it does nothing to repair the damage and restore the funding that was cut from public schools in the city’s budget last summer,”  Matt Gonzales of New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools (RJPS) said in a statement.

On the record: Evelyn Herbert

By Jessica Defreitas

Evelyn Herbert, 62, of Richmond Hill is the administrative assistant at the Academy Charter Elementary School on Long Island.

Herbert, who is past her retirement age, believes that work stops when your ability to do so does. 

The mother of three has five grandchildren, who she adores more than anything in the world. 

As a principal’s assistant, her week is filled with developing relationships with the children at her school and keeping them in a nurtured environment.

“I take my administrative position seriously, but I also love to give counsel,” Herbert said.

When she is not taking care of office duties, she loves to listen to the students’ troubles and offer comfort.

She feels very happy that the students come to her when they need help. 

Herbert believes that being among children every day is her calling.

She said, “Before working at the school, I never worked anywhere that felt like a family, and it makes me feel appreciated.” 

Herbert thinks of her job as more of a life calling than a source of income. 

She and her husband are the backbone of their family, according to her.

She insists on teaching her kids and grandkids to be grateful for the simple things in life.

When she is off from work, she loves to go for walks and go shopping.

Because of her passion for taking care of others, she hopes to see her kids and grandkids model that same behavior.

 

Progressive Caucus debuts policy platform

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected] 

The New York City Council Progressive Caucus unveiled their formal policy platform, dubbed the “Progressive Agenda” last Thursday: focusing on issues related to criminal justice reform, zero waste, providing affordable housing and economic reform.

On the steps of City Hall, members of the 35 member caucus (which represents a majority of the 51 person body) stood with advocates to support their agenda which is comprised of bills already introduced this year.

“We are the largest Progressive Caucus in New York City History. 34 members deep. You know what’s special about the number 34? Veto proof,” said Lincoln Rester, co-chair of the caucus (City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is a technical member of the caucus, due to her position as speaker.)

The caucus was originally formed in 2009 with only 12 members but now represents a majority of the council. It ranges in ideological identity from members of the Democratic Socialists of America to more traditional Working Families Party style liberals – which Restler referred to as “big tent” progressive caucus in a previous interview with the Brooklyn Downtown Star.

At the top of the agenda is banning solitary confinement,which was introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. The issue has been a wedge between members of the council and the Mayor who has defended the program since before he was even sworn in.

The next two items of priority in the agenda are two sets of bills introduced by former vice chair of the caucus and current Majority Leader Keith Powers. 

The first bill would prohibit would prevent housing discrimination on the basis of a criminal record while a second group of bills would help lay the ground work for establishing a public bank – an issue progressives have fought for years, arguing it would better allow them to better invest money in accordance to issues like racial justice and finance projects that the commercial sector may not engage in.  In order for the city to set up a public bank, the state would need to pass legislation giving municipalities the authority. 

The next major plank of the agenda are a suite of six bills dealing with police transparency. The bill package would require reporting of use of force incidents by police using motor vehicles (introduced by Councilwoman Crystal Hudson); preventing the police from using the strategic response unit, which is used for civil unrest and counterterrorism for non violent protests (introduced by Councilman Chi Ossé); requiring the police to submit reports on complaints of police conduct (introduced by Councilwoman Cabán); requiring the NYPD to report on instances in which an individual denied an officer consent to a search; requiring cops to report on police-civilian investigative encounters (introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Alexa Avilés); and abolishing the gang database (introduced by councilwomen Carlina Rivera and Althea Stevens.)

The next set of five bills aims to achieve the Zero Waste initiative, which aims to prevent waste going to landfills by 2030. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio spearheaded the initiative but fell dramatically short of his goal as POLITICO reported. The legislation includes establishing a citywide residential curbside organics program, mandating that the 2030 goals are achieved and enforced, as well as requiring the Department of Sanitation to establish at least one community recycling center in each community district. The pieces of legislation are sponsored by co-chair of the caucus Shahana Hanif, Sanitation Committe Chair Sandy Nurse and Majority Leader Keith Powers. 

Another three bills in the agenda look to to create permanently affordable housing. The first of three are the Community Opportunity Purchase Act, introduced by Rivera, which would give qualified entities the opportunity to submit the first offer on residential buildings ; the second is the “Public Land for Public Good”, introduced by Restler, which would give non-profits and community land trusts first priority when the city seels land for affordable housing; the third bill, introduced by City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, would establish a land bank tasked with acquiring land with property on it to develop and rehabilitate affordable housing.

The last piece of the agenda, sponsored by co-chair Hanif, would expand New York City’s paid sick leave law to gig workers depending on whether they meet criteria such as working over 80 hours a calendar year among others. 

Brooklyn art exhibit honors victim of gun violence

By Billy Wood

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The Melquain Jatelle Anderson Foundation (MJAF)  held the “Disrupting the Hate” art exhibit at the Central Brooklyn Library from Oct. 21-25. 

The event is held on those days because Anderson was born on Oct. 21 and was murdered on Oct. 25 outside Faragut Houses at  26-years-old.

“I wanted to do an art exhibit to show people disrupting the hate through artistry because you can actually heal through art, whether you are the observer or the artist,” said Michelle Barnes- Anderson, his mother, founder, and chief executive officer of MJAF. 

The MJAF is a community service organization in Brooklyn where they provide both support and comfort to victims of gun violence along with their loved ones. 

Black Boy Magic by Monae Benet

There is also a scholarship and fund in support of undergraduate students at John Jay College of Criminal Studies in the memory of Anderson. He was a Brooklyn Knight and John Jay Student.

The foundation did a one day art exhibit in 2019 at the Brooklyn Museum. This year’s event had about 33 different forms of art from painting, drawings, poems, and lyrics. They received artwork from daycare children all the way to more established artists.

While all of the art resonates with her because it reminds her of her son from his early ages of drawing in grade school to him becoming a fashion designer, there was one exhibit that she felt was important and that was done by the daycare called “My King and I.” 

It shows pictures of the fathers with their children surrounded by their young ones’ paintings. 

“It’s really about the fathers. And I wanted to uplift our black young fathers in the neighborhood,” Barnes-Anderson said. “That was so important to me to make sure we have the daycare because they need to know that their love, they’re needed in the community.”

This year’s exhibit took place at the Central Brooklyn Library and throughout the five day event there have been over 400 people that have attended.  

“I wanted the experience for people being in the art exhibit and also utilizing other things that the library has because it’s a wealth of information,” said Barnes-Anderson. “We need to exploit that with the library so people can know this is not something that you just come to for research.”

The library hosts a full slate of different exhibitions, marquee and signature programs; however, this one was unique.

“We really feel like it’s important to give back to the community,” said Cora Fisher, the curator of visual arts program at the Central Brooklyn Library.  

“There’s a lot going on in the world relating to these issues, which feels very timely,” Fisher said.  “I mean it’s been really a special, a special experience.”

She is always advocating that visual arts is a form of material knowledge and this exhibit is an example of that. She is excited by the whole spectrum of this showcase  as it is  multi-generational. 

“To see babies and toddlers all the way up to elders making work in a responsive way I think is very powerful,” Fisher said.

Barnes-Anderson said she honored and blessed for the library to have hosted the event for her this year. She is hopeful that she will be able to do it again there next year if there is space available. 

The MJAF will be hosting an event on Oct. 30 to celebrate their fifth annual scholarship recipients, NYPD and honorees award ceremony.

For more information on that event and the MJAF organization please visit their website at https://mjascholarship.org. 

“Untitled Self Portraits” — artwork from Fort Greene Preparatory Academy

 

Pol Position: Zeldin is making the race close

While New York is traditionally seen as a blue state, Long Island Representative Lee Zeldin seems to be making a real push for the governor’s race against Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Zeldin came out strong in the first half of last Tuesday’s NY1 debate against Governor Kathy Hochul – sticking to his usual stump of “saving the state” by repealing bail reform and instituting tax cuts. 

For the first twenty or so minutes, Hochul seemed asleep at the wheel, playing the defensive while Zeldin acted like he shotgunned a can of Monster.

The debate focused on major issues like crime (which multiple polls ahve shown is the top concern on New York’s mind), abortion, affordable housing, gun control and more. 

While Zeldin came out strong in the first half, Hochul was able to bounce back putting Zeldin in a bind over whether he supported Donald Trump (his answer waffled on working with Donald Trump on issues) and attacking Zeldin on his abortin record (which is smart politics for Hochul, trying not to hemorrhage support of liberal women concerned about crime.)

Overall Zeldin stayed on the offensive all night and it worked for him – clearly winning the debate.In recent years, there have been questions about the effectiveness of polls and if they have any real bearing on swinging undecided voters. While Zeldin can make clips out of them to post to social media, it’s not clear whether it will help move the needle for him. 

Regardless of the debate’s effect, polling has shown that the race is tighter than most would have imagined over the last two months. While the polls differ in voting spreads, they all show a tightening race.

Emerson College had Hochul leading by 15 percent in September, while their October poll had her only up by 7 percent. Sienna College had Hochul leading by 17 percent in September but their October poll has Hochul leading by 11 percent. And Quinnipiac’s sole October poll has Hochul only leading by 4 percent. 

Even though the polls differ they all show that Zeldin is making a closer play than republicans have in recent years, where they fell behind 20 plus percent in the statewide vote. 

Guest Op-Ed: Lessons never learned; Protect our children

By John J. Ciafone, Esq.

Almost weekly, we hear about gun violence in our schools.

The massacres that have occurred in our schools whether it be Uvalde, New Mexico or Sandy Hook, Connecticut – not to mention college incidents, have not raised the eyebrows of our elected officials to move forward toward action.

Gun control legislation is not enough. We need metal detectors in all our schools. 

Whether you go to a sports game, a concert or any major event, you are expected to go through metal detectors as a matter of course.

Yet, why don’t we have metal detectors in our schools? Metal detectors are relatively inexpensive and extremely effective in catching guns and knives.

Gangs that prey on our children bring these weapons into our schools to further initiate and recruit naive children. 

A middle school in my neighborhood, IS 126 in Long Island City, housed a cache of confiscated guns and knives in the principal’s office, under lock and key, all in an effort to keep it secret. How many more children have to be slaughtered and sacrificed by our leaders who fail to protect our most precious assets – our children and the future generation. 

I proudly served on Community School Board 30 as a member, treasurer and president.

During my time, we fought for more school safety officers, security cameras and police presence outside troubled schools. 

Through the devastation of the Sept. 11 attacks, we have learned the importance of metal detectors and screening within our airports that have resulted in a huge success in thwarting hijacking and terrorist attacks on our planes. 

The same efforts must be employed in our schools to prevent guns and knives from threatening the lives of our children, staff and teachers.

What’s more alarming is that some City Councilmembers, who have police protection and metal detectors in City Hall, want to remove school safety officers in our schools. 

I am shocked that the Teacher’s Union, which is perhaps the strongest lobbyist in New York, has no interest in protecting our children or their own members. 

We have a major upcoming election ahead of us and yet no candidate is speaking about protecting our children and our schools. 

At a minimum, our elected officials have an obligation and duty for the position that they were elected for and that is to protect our children, who are our future.

Elected officials need to wake up and do their jobs to be proactive and prevent any future tragedies. 

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