Monday, April 30, 2007

Honor the Peacemakers

Congratulations go out to the Capital District WFP Chapter. The Chapter honored Congressman Michael McNulty, Albany District Attorney David Soares and Community Activist Charles LaCourt last week at their annual fundraiser. The keynote speaker was Anne Mulderry from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

An extra round of applause for the Fundraising Committee. This team of members made the night a HUGE success - turning out 227 Chapter members, local elected officials, labor leaders and peace activists and raising $20,000. Here they are:
  • Mike Iannone for countless hours of phone calls.
  • Ed Hennessy for his dedication in reaching out to labor and proofreading all the honoree bios.
  • Steve Redler for his wealth of experience and willingness to impart all that he knew knew to the rest of the committee.
  • Anita Thayer for her poise under pressure and stressful situations.
  • Nina Esaki for her constant optimism amidst adversity - and willingness to do turnout calls even while at the airport!
  • And "Mike" Michelson who dedicated every spare second to making this event a success, even though she wasn't even ON the committee. Her relationships in the peace community helped with turnout and delivered a phenomenal keynote speaker.
And I want to share the closing lines Anne Mulderry keynote speech:
"I have hoped that the great blessings of freedom that we have been given as citizens of the United States would not be abused, but would be vibrantly employed to urge the citizenry ever further toward our country's highest ideals. The Working Families Party marches under that banner.

I thank you all for doing what you do, and I thank you, too, for inviting me here tonight to be a part of what you do."
It's worth reading the whole speech.

For me, the highlight of the event was when the young lady tending the bar approached me after the program. She told me she hed been moved by our program and asked how she could sign up to become a member. We welcome Yolanda to our Chapter with open arms!

The New York State Working Families Party Spring Gala is this Thursday, May 3rd. Buy your ticket today!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jobs and Energy Forum in Upstate NY - Tomorrow!

Tomorrow's the day. The Center for Working Families is hosting a Jobs and Energy Forum for elected officials in Upstate New York. The forum will bring together local and county elected officials and legislative staff with a panel of policy experts to talk about local legislation ranging from green building codes to renewable power standards to energy efficient purchasing standards.

Here's a list of elected officials coming to the event:
  • Adam McFadden, Albany City Council
  • Ray Joyce, Albany County Legislature
  • David Dempsey, Auburn (City)
  • George Farenthold, Aurora Town Board
  • Dominic Frongillo, Caroline
  • Daniel Schuster, Cayuga
  • Jessica Zambrano, Cicero Town Board
  • Richard Keller-Coffey, Dutchess
  • William Pauly, Erie
  • Russ Carey, Fenner
  • Elizabeth Moran, Madison
  • John Heindorf, North Syracuse
  • Mark Atkinson, North Syracuse (Village)
  • Rose Ann Convertino, Oneida
  • William Morehouse, Oneida
  • Frank Puma, Oneida
  • Tom Buckel, Onondaga
  • Luz Encarnacion, Onondaga
  • Dale Sweetland, Onondaga
  • Sam Laguzza, Onondaga County Legislature
  • Fred Beardsley, Oswego
  • Leonard Ponzi, Oswego
  • Philip Durkin, Otsego
  • Tom Wood, Plattsburgh
  • Angela Petty, Rome
  • Mike Giarusso, Salina Town Board
  • Thomas David, Seneca Falls (Town)
  • Jim Williams, Skaneateles
  • Bill Simmons, Syracuse Common Council
  • Mike McMahon, Syracuse Common Council
  • Tom Seals, Syracuse Common Council
  • Kathy Luz Herrera, Tompkins
  • Pamela Mackesey, Tompkins
  • Duane Tyke Randall, Tompkins
  • Clem Campana, Troy City Council
  • Frank Dart, Ulster
  • Daniel DiBella, Utica
  • Joel Tyner, Duchess
Speakers include:
  • Mike Allen, UAW
  • Steve Bellone, Town of Babylon Supervisor
  • Lisa Donner, Center for Working Families Co-Director
  • Rhea Jezer, LCV and Cazenovia College
  • Josh Mason, Working Families Party
  • Bob Muldroon, Sierra Club
  • Gay Nicholson, NYSERDA
  • Rick Opedesiano, UAW and Central New York WFP Chapter Chair
  • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Apollo Strategy Center, Madison WI Alderperson
  • Deirdre Schifeling, Center for Working Families Co-Director
  • Bill Simmons, Syracuse Common Council, Public Works Committee Chair
and a keynote address from Rick Fedrizzi, President of the National Green Building Council.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Queens Borough Meeting

Last night a diverse coalition of tenants and affordable housing advocates met at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens as part of the Queens Affordable Housing Borough Meeting.

Marilyn Charles captured the mood of the crowd with her story:
"I have lived in Queens for over 30 years. As a longtime resident, I fear the impact that bad rent laws and sky-high rents are having on me and my community. We need an affordable place to live."

The New York is Our Home citywide campaign is organizing tenants to fight to preserve affordable housing in New York by changing unfair rent regulation laws.

Marilyn's story is already to common. From 2002 to 2005, rents increased citywide by 10 percent. And if we don't act now, it will become even more common. Over the next ten years, the City will lose an estimated 300,000 affordable apartments. There's a looming exodus of working families from New York City.

The Queens Borough Meeting was one in a series of meetings happening across the city, all leading up to a massive rally May 23rd expected to draw thousands of New Yorkers that will highlight these troubling trends. The May 23rd rally is at the Stuyvesant Town public housing development in Manhattan. Rally participants will demand protections for the rapidly dwindling City supply of affordable housing.

I'll give the last word to Julie Miles of Housing Here & Now, Director of the New York Is Our Home Campaign:
"Securing the hundreds of thousands of affordable units that we are losing is the most important action government leaders can take to solve the affordable housing crisis."

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Queens Borough Meeting

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Affordable Housing Borough Meetings Happening Now

Queens Affordable Housing Borough Meeting details
Wednesday, April 25 - Tonight!
Queens Borough Hall in Room 213, 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens
Meeting in Spanish and English
Tenants, affordable housing advocates, clergy, Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Jose Peralta and Councilman Joseph Addabbo are meeting tonight as part of the Queens Affordable Housing Borough Meeting. We'll talk about increasing rents and the decreasing number of available affordable apartments and discuss ways to preserve affordable housing in New York by changing unfair rent regulation laws.

Tonight's Queens Borough Meeting is part of a series of Affordable Housing Borough Meetings going on now. Over 200 people came to the Bronx Affordable Housing Borough Meeting last week. I've posted pictures from the meeting to the right and on flickr. If you've got pictures of your own, share them with everyone by posting them on flickr and tagging them "NewYorkIsOurHome"

Some of the groups that came to the Bronx Borough Meeting include the Working Families Party, CASA, NWBCCC, Tenants & Neighbors, CVH, NYCAHN, ACORN, CB #4, Sheridan Ave Coalition, Twin Parks TA, MOM, Bronx Pentecostal Food Pantry, Zion Faith D.L.U., Concourse Village Inc. Mitchell Lama Residents, POTS, 1889 Sedgwick Ave TA, BHNCC, PTH, NIDC, Picture the Homeless, RAIN, NYC Labor Chorus, Skyview TA, Youth CAHN, UHAB, Nos Quedamos, CB #2, Housing Council Pct, Soundview Senior Center, United We Stand Tenant Association, South Bronx Action Group, Janel Towers TA, and the National Alliance of HUD tenants: Low Income Housing Coalition. Elected officials in attendance included NYC Councilmember Joel Rivera, NY State Senator Jose Serrano and staff from Assemblymember Jose Rivera's office, Public Advocate Betsey Gotbaum's office, Assemblymember Aurelia Greene's office, NYC Councilmember Anabel Palma's office and Councilmember Maria Carmen del Arroyo's office.

There are three more upcoming Borough Meetings, all leading up to a May 23rd "Hands Around Stuy-Town" rally where thousands of New Yorkers will demand protections for New York City's rapidly dwindling supply of affordable housing.

Which Borough Meeting are you coming to?

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Bronx Borough Meeting

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Iraq Supplemental: What Next

Congress is scheduled to vote this week on the final version of the Iraq supplemental budget bill. The bill stops short of using the power of the purse to limit the use of funds to protecting our troops' safety and bringing them home, which is the Working Families position. But it still takes steps toward bringing our troops home. That's enough for Bush to threaten to veto the bill. And that means we're approaching another moment of truth in the debate over Iraq.

Rep. Jim McDermott gets it right when he says:
"My feeling is at a certain point we're going to have a 'come-to-Jesus' moment in the caucus and talk about whether you fund (the war) or not."
Exactly right. Now is the time to hold fast to our principles.

Tell your U.S. Representative to limit the use of funds to protecting our troops' safety and bringing them home now.

Congratulations to the Fingerlakes WFP Chapter

After 3 months of work, the Fingerlakes WFP Chapter held their chapter elections last week.

Congratulations to the Fingerlakes Steering Committee members:
  • Rosemary Rivera from Metro Justice
  • Mike Patterson from Metro Justice
  • community activist Mazie White
  • Dan Power from CWA
  • Frank Besser from PEF
  • Eric Martin from UAW
  • Kevin Kolb from UAW
  • Patrick Christopher from UAW
  • Renee Simmons from UAW
  • Jesse Lenney from Unite HERE!
  • Frank Gehan from Unite HERE!
And a big thank you to Dan Maloney, Tony Bernardo, Eric Martin, Dan Power and Bob Trowski for their leadership in the rebuilding process.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bloomberg Proposes Congestion Pricing

Mayor Bloomberg was the story this Earth Day as he made official his congestion pricing proposal.

The basics of congestion pricing are to charge an $8 toll for driving in the most congested part of Manhattan during the day. The money raised would be used to expand mass transit so it runs more frequently and to more places. You can read more details in the Daily Politics and the Politicker.

Reaction has been come quickly. What do you think?

Update: Read Bloomberg's speech or watch it on video.

WFP Calls for Judicial and Legislative Pay Raises

The Working Families Party agrees with the growing call for judicial pay raises. Calling this an issue that is "fundamentally about valuing government," Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor spoke in support of both judicial and legislative pay raises:
"It's not just that New York State judges haven't gotten a raise in eight years, although that's bad enough. The issue goes deeper.

Public service – both in the judiciary and in our state legislature – is critical if we are going to successfully address the shared challenges that New York faces. Through government we work together to address collective issues, from growing income inequality to climate change, from the crisis of affordable housing in New York City to job loss upstate. And it's through government that we express our common dreams for a decent and just society. So while those who serve in government shouldn't get rich doing it, they should receive compensation that matches the importance of their work.

We have high standards for our government officials, and we'll hold them accountable to those standards. But we also believe in the value of government, and raising judicial and legislative salaries appropriately is fundamentally about valuing government."

Friday, April 20, 2007

'08 Congressional Races Heat Up

This week saw the 2008 New York Congressional races heat up. Here's a recap:

NY-3 : This far before the election, fundraising is the measure of an incumbent's commitment to their next election. So people will be asking questions about Rep. Peter King, who spent $115,690 and raised only $99,005 in the last quarter. That's right, King went in the hole to the tune of almost $17,000 - good news for any potential challenger. He's still got $287,090 in the bank, but all eyes will be watching to see if King can turn things around and regain lost support.

NY-19 : It was campaign launch week for Republican challengers, with millionaire Andrew Saul announcing he was running against John Hall. Hall raised $350,061 and has $342,401 in cash on hand. That's right - Hall is ahead of the much more senior Peter King. Still, expect a fight here.

NY-20 : Look for this to be an expensive race. Kirsten Gillibrand led the pack when it came to fundraising with $668,000 raised, more than any other first-term Rep. But she also picked up a millionaire opponent, Sandy Treadwell. Treadwell was Pataki's Secretary of State and then Chairman of the New York GOP. He made his fortune as an heir to the General Electric fortune. Guess we know where he'll stand on inheritance tax cuts.

NY-25 : This one's a rematch: Dan Maffei is running against James Walsh. Walsh raised $105,091 and has $131,636 in cash on hand. Maffei did surprisingly well in a Democratic year, expect his higher name recognition to translate into a stronger run this time around.

NY-29 : Another rematch: Eric Massa is making a second run against Randy Kuhl. Kuhl raised $115,746 and has $103,559 in cash on hand. Netroots hero Eric Massa will benefit from his increased name recognition and track record as a candidate.

Walsh and Kuhl are being held accountable for their blind support of Bush in Iraq. From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
"Some politicians lead and others follow, and President Bush has been leading the country into an abyss, and Randy Kuhl has been following," said Ted Wilcox, a Metro Justice member. "And we're here to say that he should follow the public, which wants to go a different way."

Walsh and Kuhl voted against an Iraq war funding bill last month that set deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. troops, saying that Congress should not micromanage the war. Kuhl reiterated his stance Thursday, saying the troop buildup in Iraq that he supported earlier this year has had positive results.
Your turn. Take the poll:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Weather Bad Enough For You?

Global warming is the great challenge of the 21st Century, a crisis at the global, national, state and local levels. Human activity is transforming the climate of the whole planet in ways that endanger economic growth, political stability and human civilization itself.

Just look at our recent weather. Winter seemed like summer. Now our spring is more like winter. And we just got hit with record rain. If we don't get serious about global warming, things will get worse.

But it's not all threat. There's also opportunity.

The WFP is starting local. Local governments actually have an important role to play in dealing with global warming. Local building codes determine the energy efficiency of office buildings and homes. Local governments are major energy consumers. And local governments control many of the daily activities that determine the amount of energy and waste generated by our communities.

Working Families Party members are lobbying local and county elected officials to pass legislation that will reduce carbon emissions and also stimulate the local economy to create good jobs in new "green" industries here in New York. We're pushing policies like green building codes, renewable power standards and energy efficient purchasing standards.

Sign a petition telling your local legislators that good jobs and clean energy is a winning combination.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Global Warming Threatens New York

This weekend's record-setting storm throws into stark relief the need to take action on global warming. Otherwise, we're in for worse. The New York Observer has a must-read article on the topic.

The article includes quotes from Princeton Geosciences Professor Michael Oppenheimer:
"This is exactly the type of event that we'd expect to see more of in the future - this kind of gully-washing, incredibly intense downpour."

"The storm was kind of a preview of things to come."
From Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research Climatologist Radley Horton:
"We think climate change is going to threaten New Yorkers' health and wealth through a cocktail of higher temperatures, higher seas and possibly changes in precipitation patterns. Those are the three main variables."
More on the threat to New York from rising water levels:
As global warming heats the earth, the waters of the seas and oceans expand, elevating water levels across the planet. In New York, this means that by 2020 - just 13 years from now - rising sea levels will have raised the waters around the city by three to four inches; by 2050, the waters will have crept up a total of eight to 10 inches; by 2080, 14 to 19 inches.

Those numbers may be conservative, because they ignore the whole troubling and uncertain issue of the polar ice caps.
. . .
According to the latest models, New York neighborhoods that currently flood every 100 or so years - victims of what is known as the 100-year storm, in climatologist-speak - can expect to experience this kind of dousing as frequently as every four years by 2080, in a worst-case scenario.
And more on the threat to New York from higher temperatures:
Afterward, New York will get heat: the kind of intense, smoggy swelter that will sap energy, strain the power grid and wreak unimaginable havoc on certain types of female hair. It will also kill people.

Already, over the past century, climate change has pushed the city's average annual temperatures up nearly two degrees Fahrenheit, while a deceptively bland-sounding phenomenon known as the "urban heat-island effect" - a heat-trapping effect that turns cities like New York into giant hot-air bubbles - has boosted it another degree. Along the way, winters have become warmer and the number of 90-degree scorchers has doubled from roughly seven to 14 days a summer - a trend, scientists say, that does not bode well for the future.
But it's not all threat, there's also opportunity.

That's the message of our Jobs and Energy Forum, taking place upstate on April 28th. The Jobs and Energy Forum will bring local and county elected officials together with policy experts to talk about legislation that local governments can pass to provide jobs AND increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution.

More to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jobs and Energy Forum in Upstate NY

It's time to start dealing with global warming. We know how to fight global warming in a way that benefits the environment, saves taxpayers money, and creates new "green" jobs.

While a lot of attention is focused on federal and state level policies on global warming, local governments also have an important role to play. Local building codes determine the energy efficiency of office buildings and homes. Local governments are major energy consumers. And local governments control many of the daily activities that determine the amount of energy and waste generated by our communities.

The Center for Working Families is hosting a Jobs and Energy Forum for elected officials in Upstate New York on April 28th. The forum will bring together local and county elected officials and legislative staff with a panel of policy experts to talk about local legislation ranging from green building codes to renewable power standards to energy efficient purchasing standards.

The forum will feature a panel of environmental experts from the New York State League of Conservation Voters, Apollo Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and more. Experts will provide technical assistance and guidance on legislation that city, town and county legislatures can pass to provide jobs AND increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution.

And local elected officials who have experience passing landmark environmental legislation on municipal and county levels will be on hand to share their experience and useful information.

Read about specific policies we're talking about.

If your elected official is concerned about global warming or you're an elected official who wants to stimulate the local economy, here's the event flyer (pdf) and invitation (pdf).

More to come as we get closer to Earth Day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global Warming Threatens National Security

This weekend brought another reminder of the threat posed by global warming. And no, I'm not talking about our latest bout of extreme weather (does anyone else feel like winter and spring have switched places on the calendar?).

Six retired admirals and five retired generals with the CNA Corporation, a national security think-tank, laid out the "serious threat to America's national security" from global warming (via CNN).
Global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could affect Americans at home, impact U.S. military operations and heighten global tensions, according to a study released today by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals.

The report says that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. "The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism"
. . .
They warn of a future of rampant disease, water shortages and flooding that will make already dicey areas - such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa - even worse.
From former U.S. Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan:
"Climate change is a national security issue . . . We found that climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.

People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections . . . But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.

There is a relationship between carbon emissions and our national security . . . I think that the evidence is there that would suggest that we have to start paying attention.

Carbon emissions are clearly part of the problem"
From former commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni:
"It's not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.
. . .
We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll."
The report also suggests solutions:
"the path to mitigating the worst security consequences of climate change involves reducing global greenhouse gas emissions."
There's plenty we can do in New York. It's time to act. More on what you can do later this week.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekend Entertainment

If you're looking for something to do this weekend (and if you're reading this blog on a Friday night then trust me, you're looking for something to do this weekend) you should check out Armed & Naked in America: A Naked Angels Issues Project.

Armed and Naked in America is 14 established and emerging playwrights' responses to life during wartime America. They're presented together on one stage over two weeks in April by the New 42nd Street at The Duke Theater.

Week 1 (April 11-15) features eight plays, including
  • Naked Angels company member Theresa Rebeck
  • Academy Award nominee Jose Rivera (Motercycle Diaries)
  • Arab-American playwright Betty Shamieh
  • Itamar Moses (Bach at Leipzig)
Week 2 (April 18-22) features six plays, including
  • Tony and Drama Desk Winner David Rabe
  • Tony Award Winner Warren Leight
  • Will Eno
  • Naked Angels company member Pippin Parker
As an added bonus, short videos by some of the city's hottest sketch comedy groups, music performances and special guests from the worlds of politics, media and entertainment will compliment the theatrical performances.

Buy your tickets online or call 212-239-6200.


A little late, but good for a Friday afternoon: ABC News did a piece last week on New York's shrinking middle class that featured the WFP.

Watch the ABC News clip.

If you want to read more, a good place to start is the newly released Drum Major Institute study entitled Saving Our Middle Class.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Affordable Housing in Westchester County

From Lower Hudson Online:
Using federal subsidies and state programs like Mitchell-Lama, developers built large complexes around New York, some with thousands of units in New York City and perhaps a few hundred in places like Ossining, Greenburgh, Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

But those subsidy programs had 20-, 30- or 40-year lifespans and, for several years now, buildings around Westchester County have been hitting the expiration dates.
. . .
Claremont Gardens in Ossining is raising rents to market level as tenants move out.

Claremont tenants such as Robert Smith, 59, a retired postal worker, are already feeling the effects. His rent went from $600 to $735 a month.

"I can afford the rent, but I can't afford it going higher," Smith said.

Thousands of units in Westchester have already converted to market rates, and many more buildings in the coming years will reach the end of their affordability programs, throwing their tenants into uncertainty over the future of their homes.

Thomas McGrath of CPC Resources, an affordable-housing developer, has said that almost 4,000 units in some 25 complexes in the county could be taken out of subsidy programs designed to keep them affordable for low- and moderate-income people in the next several years. In New York City, the sale of the middle-income enclave of Stuyvesant Town and the proposed sale of Starrett City in Brooklyn, each with thousands of units, sparked huge controversy that led the federal government to reject the initial Starrett deal. Without the drama of one huge complex, Westchester faces the same questions 50 or 100 units at a time in buildings around the county.

"We need more than what's currently available and yet we're losing what we have currently available," said Pepi Powell, a tenant activist in Ossining and Peekskill.
Tell your Assemblymember to be part of the solution and pass the "Save Starrett City Law", Assembly Bill 795.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Maybe Rudy Giuliani Buys Milk at the Dollar Store

Well, that would be one explanation. From the mouth of Rudy Giuliani:
But when asked about more mundane matters - like the price of some basic staples - Giuliani had trouble with a reporter's question.

"A gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30," he said.

A check of the Web site for D'Agostino supermarket on Manhattan's Upper East Side showed a gallon of milk priced at $4.19 and a loaf of white bread at $2.99 to $3.39. In Montgomery, Ala., a gallon of milk goes for about $3.39 and bread is about $2.
Look, does anyone really expect a guy who made $80,000 from a tsunami relief fundraising event to buy his own milk?

Update: Rudy's hungry for more:
"The mistake that I made was that I mixed up the gallon or the half gallon but you never - or I never - buy a gallon because you can't fit it in your refrigerator," the former mayor said on KRIB in Mason City, Iowa, yesterday.
Does anyone really think Rudy Giuliani has a tiny fridge? Probably the same person who thinks he buys his own milk.

What You Can Do: Assembly Bill 795

Will working families be able to live in New York City or will we be overwhelmed by luxury condos? If you live in New York City, you care about the answer to that question. The proposal to buy Starrett City and turn it into luxury condos has thrown that into stark relief, and given us momentum for a larger fight over affordable housing.

The City of New York has committed to create 94,000 new affordable units and preserve 71,000 existing units. But even with that commitment, we're losing our existing affordable housing faster than we're building new affordable housing. And nearly 1.5 million existing affordable units are still at risk. We need to do more.

Tell your Assemblymember to be part of the solution and pass the "Save Starrett City Law", Assembly Bill 795.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Save the Date: Affordable Housing Borough Meetings

Millions of New Yorkers cannot afford a decent place to live. The most recent City data shows that 26% of New York City renters pay at least half of their income for rent. Thousands of affordable units in Mitchell-Lama, Section 8, and public housing are being lost every year, and hundreds of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments are decontrolled when they hit the $2000 rent level.

I've been blogging about Starrett City because that fight is a high profile example of the affordable housing fights going on all over New York. What the Starrett City fight does, since it's so big and so many people live there, is focus attention and light a fire under our elected officials that we need to act to increase the housing covered by rent regulations and protect the affordable housing we have now.

An unprecedented coalition including the Working Families Party, labor unions, and nearly every housing organization in New York City have joined forces to do just that. We'll be hosting Borough Planning Meetings across the city starting later this month, all leading up to a massive affordable housing rally on May 23 at Stuyvesant Town.

You're invited: find the closest Affordable Housing Borough Meeting and mark it down on your calendar. Let's do all we can to make sure working families can afford to stay in New York.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Starrett City Still Under Siege

As predicted, past rejections haven't stopped Clipper Equities and David Bistricer from putting a new proposal on the table to buy Starrett City and turn it into luxury condos.

First, a quick recap: The Clipper Equities development group led by David Bistricer proposed buying Starrett City, home to 14,000 people, for $1.3 billion. Analysts agree that a price tag that high means Bistricer intends to convert Starrett City to luxury condos. The proposed sale quickly became a proxy fight over affordable housing, and was derailed by an outpouring of community outrage. More detail here.

Bistricer's latest proposal shamelessly calls for tens of millions of dollars in new public subsidies to Clipper Equities. In return, they'll convert Starrett City to luxury condos slowly instead of doing it right away.

Governor Spitzer and Senator Schumer both came out against Bistricer's new proposal to purchase Starrett City. From the New York Times:
Mr. Bistricer's latest plan to buy Starrett City for $1.3 billion has already received a chilly reception from Governor Spitzer, who spoke out in support of the tenants early on. In a letter last night to the Bistricer group, Mr. Spitzer's housing commissioner, Deborah Van Amerongen, said the plan "failed to adequately ensure that Starrett City would be preserved as viable affordable housing in the future, and would be unworkable under existing statutory law."
. . .
Senator Charles E. Schumer also sent Mr. Bistricer a letter this week saying he had "serious concerns" that the proposal "shifts a significant burden to the federal government, while not doing enough to protect the middle-class character of the development."
. . .
"I will do anything I can to keep it middle class," Mr. Schumer said of Starrett City. "But I'm not going to fight for more subsidies so the seller can make a bigger profit."
This is a major victory, but it's still a temporary one. The proposed sale of Starrett City and the sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village needs to light a fire under city and state officials to protect our existing affordable housing.

Starrett City won't be out of the woods until the New York State Legislature and Governor Spitzer pass legislation to keep Starrett City rent stabilized and repeal vacancy decontrol. That will be a lasting victory for Starrett City and affordable housing throughout New York. Until then, Starrett City residents have to live with the threat of eviction hanging over their heads.

Sign the petition.

(crossposted at New York Is Our Home!)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Are Ford's Executives Looting the Company?

Is there a better example of corporate greed - and a better argument for taxing the superrich - than Ford CEO Alan Mulally? Ford posted a record $12.7 billion net loss in 2006. But Mulally was just paid $28 million for four months of work.

Actually, former Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr might be a better example. Billy said in May 2005 that he wouldn't accept any pay, bonus or stock until the company started making money again. But now it turns out he got $10.5 million in 2006 and $13.3 million in 2005.

And who pays when executives loot the company till? You guessed it. Ford wants to cut 30,000 jobs and is demanding more concessions from their unionized workers. What do you think the chances are that they'll cut Mulally's pay?

Tell Governor Spitzer that we need a statewide discussion about progressive taxation.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Investigate Bob Mirch

The Working Families Party is calling for an investigation into Bob Mirch.

Who is Bob Mirch? Mirch's day job is Commissioner of the Department of Public Works in Troy, a political appointment he got through his real work as a Troy-area political boss. Mirch is nicknamed 3-Job Bob: that's because he's also Republican Majority Leader for the County Legislature and Political Liason for Joe Bruno.

It's as a political boss that Mirch is accused of coercing an employee into recording two fradulent autocalls attacking a pair of City Council candidates. From the Troy Record:
[Colleen Regan] said Mirch, also the Legislature's majority leader, picked her up at the county building in a city vehicle and took her to Crawley's office in City Hall shortly before the 2005 election.

While there, she was made to make two phone calls. In one she pretended to be "Tonya" and said she was sexually harassed by Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4, while the two worked at the state Dormitory Authority. In the second she said council candidate Dan Doran stood by while a city staffer stole thousands of dollars.
More here.

We'll know soon if a County Judge will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Mirch, but it looks unlikely that the majority of the Troy City Council will hold Mirch - who helped them get elected - accountable.

The Troy Polloi has (much) more.

Tonight: Representative Nadler on Iraq

The Columbia University Working Families Party Chapter is cosponsoring an event tonight featuring U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler and Todd Gitlin, a 60s activist, author and Columbia Journalism professor.

They'll talk about ending the war in Iraq and what withdrawal means for Middle East geopolitical stability.
Thursday, April 5, at 8pm
Columbia University
Barnard Hall, Room 304
Cosponsored by the Columbia University Working Families Party Chapter and the Columbia Coalition Against the War.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WFP on the New York State Budget

This year's state budget battle is over. The final budget increases education spending and reduces the health care cuts - both good outcomes.

The flaw in the budget debate – and it's a serious one – was on the revenue side. New York continues to have not just high taxes, but highly unfair taxes.

The wealthier you are in New York State, the less you pay in taxes as a percentage of your income. Look at all the taxes a person pays – income, payroll, sales, property, capital gains – and you find that the middle class and working class pay higher percentages of their overall income in taxes than the wealthy. Here's a chart of the effective tax rate in New York State from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (via the Fiscal Policy Institute) that illustrates this point:

NYS effective tax rate vs income

Sooner or later, we have to face this. New York State government has the good fortune to be rolling in money, and so they increased spending and cut property taxes at the same time. We may not be so lucky in next year's budget.

A responsible government – like a responsible household – must inventory its needs for both the short and long term, and then make decisions. We didn't really do that in Albany this year. The passion for an on-time budget got in the way of a more serious exploration of the state's fiscal situation.

The Working Families Party remains committed to just such an exploration. We live in a rich state, but the distribution of income, security, opportunity, and peace of mind is truly screwed up. It's a topic that deserves the attention of our elected leaders.

Tell Governor Spitzer that you think we need a statewide discussion about progressive taxation.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Real Estate Prices Rising

The April release of quarterly real estate data shows the New York City real estate market is getting less affordable. From a New York Times article focused on Manhattan and Brooklyn (via Gothamist):
the average price of an apartment in Manhattan rose to $1.22 million in the first quarter of this year, up from $1.14 million in the last quarter of 2006
. . .
Buyers also seemed more willing to pay higher prices for new condominiums in Brooklyn. Corcoran said the average overall prices in Brooklyn rose 22 percent, to $628,000 in the first quarter of this year from $514,000 in the first quarter of 2006.
And prices are only going up:
"In the second quarter, I think we're going to see more appreciation because of the high level of activity" early this year, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm.
. . .
"People were holding back a little bit more a year ago,” said Hall Wilkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens, though he added, "Anybody who was holding back, isn't."
But there's also an increasing willingness to take on and solve this problem. Witness yesterday's conference by the Drum Major Institute asking, "Is New York City still a middle-class town?" Alongside discussion by a number of mayoral candidates (here and here), DMI released a survey entitled Saving Our Middle Class. From their report:
"Affordable rent" tops the list of the middle class's biggest challenges. Two out of three respondents describe affordable rent as one of the top three middle-class concerns in the city and it is the only one to get a majority response.
. . .
New York City leaders agree: building more government-funded affordable housing and increasing funding for k-12 education would be very effective at strengthening and expanding the city’s middle class.
And there's this blog post on Room 8 by State Senator Serrano on reforming the 421a tax exemption:
The 421a tax exemption looms somewhere on the Albany horizon, and it's not yet getting the attention it deserves.

Created in the 1970s to fuel development in a depressed city, the exemption program has been periodically reformed to help protect affordable housing in a now booming market.
. . .
I believe there is room for improvement in the city proposal
You can get involved. Find the Affordable Housing Borough Meeting nearest you.

And read more about what New York Is Our Home! would like to see happen.

(crossposted at New York Is Our Home!)