Mar 252015
 

Candles-for ClemencyApril 18 Vigil Postponed, Clemencies on the Threshold 

We have good news to report.  After over four years without granting a single clemency to anybody in prison, the Cuomo administration has promised to begin a process of identifying viable candidates for clemency and to begin issuing clemency to those deemed worthy.  This change of heart can, in large part, be attributed to the dedicated work of the people and organizations that joined Candles For Clemency.   We held a rally and a candle light vigil in front of Governor Cuomo’s home last September.  We planned on having a similar, but much larger, vigil in front of his home on April 18.

But the Governor’s office heard of our vigil and asked us to meet with his representatives in hopes that we would postpone the Vigil for at least six weeks so that they could start a clemency process. After a very frank meeting, we have decided, in good faith, to honor that request.

We are eager to see whether clemencies start rolling in come mid-May. We will be monitoring very closely and, if not, we will hold our vigil on Saturday, June 13. So please hold the date, just in case!

We want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who is part of Candles For Clemency for your dedication to the cause.  It shows that people can have their voices heard if they organize and are willing to stick their necks out.

Candles for ClemencyWe especially want to acknowledge the six members of Congress, and our celebrity hosts, who stepped forward to support the incarcerated deserving of clemency.  Many of those listed on the attached list have long been lobbying the Governor’s Office, yet consented to also be part of the effort of Candles for Clemency. And thanks to the organizations and representatives who have been attending our planning meetings. They have made this all possible.

We will keep you informed of progress towards the issuance of clemencies. If you have any recommendations for people deserving of clemency, please let us know. Also, the administration has a created an internal workgroup and an external website to encourage applicants to apply: http://www.ny.gov/services/apply-clemency 

If you know of other organizations and individuals who want to join our list of supporters, again, please let us know. Here is the current list of supporters.

We hope that this effort results in many people behind bars being given a second chance. We hope those worthy of clemency are returned to their loved ones and offered the chance to be respected and productive members of society. 

Thank you for your support,

Allen Roskoff
Founder, and Co-Coordinator, Candles for Clemency
President, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

aroskoff@mac.com
Tony Hoffmann
Candles for Clemency Co-Coordinator
Former President, Village Independent Democrats
tonyhoffmann26@gmail.com
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Mar 242015
 

At VID’s March 12th  General Meeting Small Business Survival received more attention.

small business survival_Wollums-Null

Sharon Wollums and Steve Null. Photographer, Ed Yutkowitz

VID member Sharon Woolums, one of the organizers of the  March 5th Forum and Steve Null, Founder of the Coalition to Save New York Small Businesses spoke more about organizing communities on behalf of the Small Business Survival Act which has lingered in the New York City Council for more than two decades.

Since the well-attended forum, co-sponsored by VID and The Villager, small business survival has been featured in many headlines, the latest from Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, who recently released a study on the state of NYC small businesses and then held a Press Conference at the Halal Guys restaurant on the Upper West Side on March 23rd, to endorse a proposal that would mandate mediation between landlords and commercial tenants.  The Borough President’s proposal differs some from the Small Business Survival Act stuck in City Council chambers – in particular it would not include a 10-year lease requirement.

 

And then there is #SaveNYC, a campaign and website launched four weeks ago by  Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.  Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito seems to be a follower.

You can read The Villager’s coverage of the Forum at Judson Church here


Small business survival_Glick
Also on hand at the March 12th meeting were Deborah Glick and Brad Hoylman who were able to take a break from budget discussions to update VID members on developments in Albany. 
Small business survival_Hoylman
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Mar 072015
 
Saving small business_Panel

Panelists (left to right): Jenny Dubnau, Alfred Placeres, Steven Null, Steven Barrison ,Esq, Lincoln Anderson, Robert Perl and Mark Crispin Miller

 

UPDATE:  On March 5th there was  a small business forum co-sponsored by The Villager and VID, at Judson Memorial Church

On Thursday, March 5th at 7 pm neighbors, local business people, and a panel of experts convened for a Small Business Forum to discuss means to save and protect small businesses.  It was held  at Judson Church, 55 Washington Square South. The forum was organized by Sharon Woolums, long-time VID member and the panel moderated by Lincoln Anderson, Editor-in-Chief at The Villager.

The Issues

Currently landlords determine the destiny of small business owners, their workers, and, ultimately, the character and culture of an entire community.  But two pending legislations, looking at the issue from opposite directions claim to be the solution to save our small businesses.

  1. A new resolution introduced January 22 at City Hall calls upon Albany to pass legislation establishing a property tax credit for commercial landlords who ”voluntarily” limit rent increases upon renewal as incentives to not rent gouge.
  2. In City Council committee: the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, (S.B.J.S.A.) regulates lease renewal process giving rights to business owners to arbitrate fair lease terms and 10 year leases.
  3. OR…is there a better solution?

Panelists:

Steven Null
Owner of three start up small businesses in Manhattan in mid 1970’s. Founder of Coalition for Fair Business Rents in mid 1986, the first citywide advocacy group to stop the high rent increases. Researched and wrote the original Arbitration Bill introduced by former Councilmember Ruth Messinger in 1986.  Appointed to first Mayoral Small Business Advisory Task Force by Mayor Dinkins. Founder of Coalition to Save Small Businesses in 2008 Co Founder of Small Business Congress in 1991.  Help rewrite the Arbitration Bill for Council Member Robert Jackson which became the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. 

Alfred Placeres
Founder NYS Federation Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and former member of USA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chair of eastern US district; member of both City and State advisory committees on small business over the past 25 years.

Jenny Dubnau
Spokesperson for The Artist Studio Affordability Project – coalition of arts groups fighting to preserve our city’s arts and cultural organizations.

Steven Barrison , Esq.
Member of the Board of Directors of the New York Main Street Alliance since 1992.  President and founder of Bay Improvement Group, a local main street coalition based in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; Co-Chair Coalition To Save NYC Small Businesses; Attorney for 25 years representing both landlords and tenants in commercial lease negotiations, citywide.

Mark Crispin Miller
NYU professor of Media, Culture, and Communication. Known for his writing and activism on behalf of democratic media reform; a strong voice and organizer for the Village community’s fight against the proposed NYU expansion; an outspoken critic of overdevelopment and the social consequences of rapid gentrification of a community which follows aggressive unchecked speculation. 

Robert Perl
President of Tower Brokerage, and a real estate specialist in the East Village. Mr. Perl’s company has rented thousands of apartments and stores and have sold scores of buildings and development sites.  He has been active in civic matter affecting the community and appeared on several panels dealing with neighborhood development and has given an accurate assessment of the role real estate plays in changes to a community.

The Options Discussed

1. Small Business Jobs Survival Act
2. Tax incentives to landlords to not raise commercial rents 
3. The use of Zoning reform to stabilize a business strip
4. Create a Small Business Retail Retention Task Force  
 
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Feb 212015
 

Four letters anFour-Letters-and-a-resolutiond a resolution were approved at the February 12th General Meeting.

The membership approved letters, submitted by  VID President Nadine Hoffmann and introduced by Ed Yutkowitz, to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representatives Nadler and Maloney in opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s impending address to Congress.  The opening reads:

We are disheartened that House Speaker John Boehner has breached protocol by inviting Mr. Netanyahu to address Congress just before Israel’s elections and without consultation with the White House.  Further, having the leader of a foreign government attempt to influence a Congressional vote is offensive and dangerous.

You can read a recent rundown on the March 3rd visit at Talking Points Memo and read a letter from 23 Congressional Democrats to  Speaker John Boehner.

 

A resolution, proposed by Tony Hoffmann and introduced by Nat Johnson regarding further actions on the death of Eric Garner was passed after considerable semantic debate.   Here are the final conclusions:

  • Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Village Independent Democrats calls for the appointment of a state or federal prosecutor to investigate the death of Eric Garner, and
  • Be It Further Resolved, that VID calls for the New York State Attorney General to create a procedure to handle all investigations of police officers who kill or seriously injure unarmed civilians, and 
  • Be It Further Resolved, that VID calls on the Mayor and the New York City Council to strengthen the Civilian Complaint Review Board by giving it greater resources and more investigative power, and
  • Be It Further Resolved, that the VID calls on the NYC Police Department to develop policing strategies and tactics that protect and serve so that instances which alienate and humiliate poor and minority communities do not occur, and 
  • Be It Further Resolved, that the VID calls on the NYC Police Department to retrain the entire police force on tactics for dealing with minor crimes so that the chances of these incidents escalating into major confrontations are greatly reduced, and
  • Be It Further Resolved, that VID calls on the NYPD to monitor, retrain, or remove from service police officers with a history of unprofessional, abusive, or violent behavior, and
  • Be It Further Resolved, that the NYPD, the NYFD, and the Mayor of New York review the entire incident to determine whether police officers and Emergency Medical Technicians at the scene followed all necessary and proper procedures, and, if warranted, take appropriate disciplinary action,
  • Be It Further Resolved, that VID calls upon the Mayor of New York and our local public officials to hold town hall meetings and other public forums to allow communities throughout New York City to express their feelings and to offer suggestions on how to improve relations between the police and the public they are sworn to protect. 

The resolution has been distributed to Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton and additional relevant City officials.

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Feb 102015
 

VID’s Feb. 12th meeting will spotlight a report from Councilmember Corey Johnson and a Forum on Rent Regulations

Councilmember Corey Johnson will report on his past year in the Council and what he looks forward to in 2015.

Forum on Rent Regulation

Marlene Nadle, Chair of VID Housing Committee

Marlene Nadle, Chair of VID’s Housing Committee will bring timely discussion, via a special guest speaker from Met Council on Housing, on this year’s legislative debates in a Forum on Rent Regulation.

New York State’s rent protection laws expire in less than five months, on June 15.

They almost certainly will be renewed. The question is how they might be amended by the state legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Tenants throughout New York City and the suburban counties of Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland have a huge amount of work ahead to win changes that will stem the hemorrhage of affordable housing—such as by repealing the 1997 vacancy-deregulation amendments—and prevent the addition of any more pro-landlord loopholes.   Michael McKee, Met Council on Housing

You can also read some extensive coverage from City & State

Closing the meeting will be the introduction of a resolution on the death of Eric Garner, introduced by Nat Johnson and approval for two letters, to Congressman Nadler and to Senator Schumer, introduced by Ed Yutkowitz, addressing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance before the US Congress pertaining tougher sanctions on Iran.

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Jan 142015
 
Climate Justice by Nadine Hoffmann

Nadine Hoffmann,  VID President, submitted this letter to the Villager on Jan. 8th, supporting VID’s stance on Climate Justice

Climate justice, now!

The Villager, January 8, 2015

To The Editor:
At its last general meeting, the Village Independent Democrats unanimously passed a resolution on Government Action Against Climate Change. To those who know V.I.D.’s history and commitment to progressive causes, this will be no surprise.

V.I.D. has been in the forefront in the fight to protect our environment. Our early support of Zephyr Teachout and Timothy Wu in the recent Democratic primary was critical to their success and likely influenced Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking.

V.I.D. has also been a leader in the fight against the Spectra pipeline, whose development unfortunately now allows high-pressure fracked gas to pass very near a playground on the West Village waterfront. 

Climate change poses a grave and imminent danger to our community. Greenwich Village is vulnerable to the dangers posed by rising sea levels.  Indeed, many New York City residents — especially those residing in Manhattan — live in areas that have been designated as flood zones. Rising sea levels and increasingly volatile weather caused by climate change threaten the infrastructure of our city and could severely damage our economy. 

Climate change could even render the city unlivable in the foreseeable future. And the same is true for coastal areas throughout the United States and the rest of the world.   

With our resolution, New York City’s oldest and most progressive political club calls for immediate government action to address the issue of climate change. We urge our fellow Villagers to join our call to protect future generations of New Yorkers.
Nadine Hoffmann

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Jan 142015
 
Talking-Point

Tony Hoffmann, past President of VID published this article which appeared in the Notebook section of The Villager, on January 8, 2015.

Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch and the great V.I.D. split

The Villager, January 8, 2015

BY TONY HOFFMAN    |  The passing of Mario Cuomo is sad. He was a liberal lion who gave us hope. People just liked listening to his voice. He was so eloquent. The fact that he also espoused the progressive values that so many of us deeply believed in was icing on the cake. Mario Cuomo will be missed by all New Yorkers.  He will especially be missed by those of us at the Village Independent Democrats who were involved in electing him governor in 1982.

This story starts in 1981 when Ed Koch was running for re-election as mayor. Even though many of us endorsed Koch in 1977, and worked to get him elected, we were disillusioned with him. His rightward drift and his tendency to divide as a tactic for governing alienated many of us.

When the liberal assemblyman from Brooklyn, Frank Barbaro, announced for mayor, we jumped on his bandwagon and tried to get him a V.I.D. endorsement. However, Ed Koch still had many friends and supporters in V.I.D. and he carried the day. He also easily won the primary and the general election for a second term as mayor.

Mario-CuomoIn 1982 Governor Hugh Carey announced that he wasn’t running for a third term. First, his lieutenant governor, Mario Cuomo, and then Mayor Koch proclaimed that they would seek to become the next governor of New York.

This set the stage for a rerun of the battle between the pro-Koch and anti-Koch forces at V.I.D. It was an epic. In those days, a person could join V.I.D. and had only to wait 30 only days until they could vote. Both sides busily recruited new members. Many of us contacted relatives that we normally only would see at weddings and funerals.

The V.I.D. membership list was scoured with a fine-toothed comb. Dues came tumbling in. Finally, the big endorsement meeting came and went. Even though Mario Cuomo received a plurality of the votes cast, he didn’t receive a majority. “No endorsement” received enough votes to prevent either candidate from receiving a majority.     

Another vote was scheduled for a couple of weeks later. Again, well more than 300 people were in attendance, including a number of reporters. This time Mario Cuomo got a majority and received V.I.D.’s endorsement.

Cuomo’s endorsement was all over the news that evening and for days to come. Not only was V.I.D. the first major political club to endorse Mario Cuomo for governor, but V.I.D. was Ed Koch’s home club. That was news and it gave Cuomo a major boost in his underdog campaign for governor. Cuomo never forgot what V.I.D. did for him and stayed close to us throughout his 12 years as governor.

One of the consequences of the endorsement of Mario Cuomo by V.I.D. was the formation of the Village Reform Democratic Club (V.R.D.C.). Let me explain. In December 1982 V.I.D. held elections for president and three vice presidents of the club. In reality, this election was for control of V.I.D.

The pro- and anti-Koch forces each put up a slate of four candidates. They recruited to such an extent that the auditorium at P.S. 41 had to be rented to hold the meeting. Over 1,000 people showed up to vote.

In the end, the pro-Cuomo people had the larger “family network” and won all four officers. Subsequent to these two losses, the pro-Koch folks left V.I.D. and formed V.R.D.C.

And the pro-Cuomo people changed the V.I.D. constitution to extend the waiting period before a new member can vote to 90 days.

 

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