Ending Albany’s “pay-to-play” culture through comprehensive campaign finance reform was a core theme of my candidacy. Two months into my tenure in the State Senate, the imperative to implement a system that includes public financing, matched contributions and lower contribution limits for candidates for state offices is clearer to me than ever. Please click here to see my op-ed on the topic, “Reform Albany’s Campaign Finance System,” which appeared in last week's The Villager newspaper.
I heard a lot about Albany’s “pay-to-play” culture before I took office as a state Senator last month. Still, it was a culture shock to see it in action. For example, there is a practice that allows lobbyists to call senators off the Senate floor during session for face-to-face meetings about bills. Talk about being at the beck and call of special interests.
On February 27, I joined Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other members of the Senate Democratic Conference at a press conference calling for immediate action to raise the New York State minimum wage and index future increases to the rate of inflation.
On February 26, I joined “Build Up NYC,” an alliance of public officials, labor unions and advocates, at a rally advocating for safe and responsible development that provides good wages and benefits. Developers who receive public support – whether in the form of public funds, tax abatements or zoning changes – have an obligation to provide safe, good-paying jobs with affordable health insurance and retirement benefits for their employees. The rally, which took place in my district on 54th Street and Eighth Avenue, specifically targeted real estate developer Starwood Capital, which has used non-union labor at a nearby, problem-plagued development site as well as at its other development sites across the city.
On February 20, I joined Manhattan Community Board 3, Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin and other local elected officials in sending a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman John Rhea calling for greater transparency and community engagement in the City’s proposed infill development plan. As you may know, the City has proposed leasing NYCHA-owned land on eight public housing developments to private developers so that they may build private residential housing with modest affordable housing components.
As President Obama so pointedly said in his recent State of the Union address, “corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.” Here in New York, Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour to help address the growing gap between the rich and poor in our state. While I appreciate his support for a long-overdue increase, working families will not see a lasting benefit if we fail to index future increases to inflation.
After sustained pressure from environmental activists and their allies in government, Governor Cuomo’s administration took a positive step this week in the fight against hydrofracking in New York State. Per a request made by the Commissioner of the State Department of Health (DOH), the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it would delay the finalization of its supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on hydrofracking until the ongoing study of the potential health impacts of this dangerous drilling method is completed. Before this announcement, DEC was slated to complete the SGEIS and issue final regulations before the end of this month, officially opening the door to hydrofracking.
On February 13, I addressed a forum on Public Safety in Public Housing organized by the resident associations (RAs) of six lower Manhattan NYCHA developments: Campos Plaza, Baruch Houses, Smith Houses, Rutgers Houses, Vladeck Houses and Fulton Houses. The event brought together NYCHA residents, elected officials, community-based organizations and representatives of the New York Police Department to collaborate on identifying solutions to end the rise in crime within NYCHA developments. I spoke of the need for stronger relationships between residents of public housing developments and their broader communities and the imperative for NYCHAs and their neighbors to share resources.
On February 11, the New York State Senate approved the nomination of City University of New York School of Law Professor Jenny Rivera to the New York Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court. I am proud to have spoken forcefully in support of Professor Rivera at a hearing on her nomination, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
February 10, 2013 : By Jennifer H. CunninghamChelsea officials and neighborhood preservationists are demanding the city block a greedy developer from desecrating the only known Underground Railroad stop in Manhattan.An obscure city board will decide Tuesday whether to allow the owner of the building on W. 29th St. to add a fifth floor to the landmark townhouse, which sheltered countless runaway slaves and hosted prominent abolitionists Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.
Febuary 5, 2013 : by Nick ReismanGovernor Cuomo has nominated Jenny Rivera to serve on the Court of Appeals. But some senators raised concerns about her lack of experience, delaying the judiciary committee's vote on Tuesday. And at least one senator still had questions about why exactly Rivera was picked. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports.ALBANY, N.Y. -- Confirmations for the state's highest court tend to be anti-climatic affairs. The governor makes a nomination to the Court of Appeals and the State Senate reviews the candidate and then confirms them. But not this time.
Recently, my office heard from a number of constituents concerned about the potential sale by the United States Postal Service (USPS) of the Old Chelsea Station, which is located at 217 West 18th Street. They had seen a letter posted in the station’s lobby from USPS to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) seeking input on a Preservation Covenant for the building, which is listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, in the event that it is sold. I confirmed that the aforementioned letter was not, as many had feared, an indication that sale of the building is imminent.
On February 4, I participated in a hearing as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the nomination of Jenny Rivera, Professor at the City University of New York School of Law, to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. Professor Rivera has had a long and distinguished career in public service, including as a staff attorney at Legal Aid Society of New York City, as an Associate Counsel for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and as a law clerk to the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights from 2002 to 2007.