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Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

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Friday News Round-Up!

This is our first September news round-up. This week kids went back to school in New York City (and many, many other places to probably.) Other things also happened:

  1. Richard Florida at The Atlantic Cities, with the help of Paul Romer and the NYU Urbanization Project makes a case for City-Sponsored Visas, temporary with the possibility of renewal and a path to citizenship. Of course, employers already sponsor Visa Applications, as do colleges. Read more. We think this is a really creative idea that could make a big impact in opening doors to  immigrant communities.
  2. Our favorite speeches from the DNC: Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. (Does Biden tear up at the end of this one?) Michelle Obama and her husband were also good.
  3. Check out New York Mag to read more about Vito Lopez, the ever-deepening scandal and what it means for Sheldon Silver. And of course, Power-Hungry Andrew Cuomo possibly taking advantage of this moment. However, Silver will not be investigated by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. And the New York Times talks about the trouble with saying “NO” to Brooklyn Kingmaker Vito Lopez. And don’t forget to vote on September 19th for Mr. Lopez’s replacement. Governor Paterson says Brooklyn should look for young Brooklyn democrats to replace Vito Lopez as county chairman.
  4. That’s My Issue at The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC is a great way to let other audience members know why the issue you are most passionate about is important, politically or personally. A couple weeks ago Brian Lehrer had a call-in “That’s My Issue” about homeownership and how it has shaped your politics.
  5. At City Limits, NYCHA Residents Seek More Power. City Limits responds to investigations of NYCHA on the part of the New York Daily News.
  6. It’s official: The Rent Is Too Damn High. The Council for Community and Economic Research in Washington, DC released a report proving Brooklyn is the 2nd most expensive place to live in the country, topped only by…anyone care to guess?…Manhattan. The Center for New York City Neighborhoods responds to what this could mean for Brooklyn’s black communities. Read more at Colorlines.

“How Big a Scandal Could This Become?”

That’s the question Brian Lehrer asked Azi Paybarah of Capital New York this morning on WNYC, in reference to the sexual harassment charges against New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Lopez has been censured by the New York State Assembly, forced out of his job as Chairman of the Housing Committee, and has announced that he does not plan to run for re-election to be leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. As more information about previous harassment charges and subsequent settlements emerges, the implosion of Mr. Lopez’s career may have implications for other NYS Democrats: Sheldon Silver, Tom DiNapoli, and even Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Sexual harassment is just one example of how Mr. Lopez is totally unfit for public office. A notoriously corrupt machine-era politician, Lopez used his power to direct subsidies and steer developments as he saw fit. (The story of the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg is a good example.) As Chairman of the Housing committee, Mr. Lopez wielded considerable power in the city’s subsidized housing industry. His non-profit, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, has been wrought with charges of corruption since its inception.

Some affordable housing developers we have spoken with since the implosion of Vito Lopez’s career are pleased with what this may mean for the affordable housing community in New York City. And on Friday, a community organizer based in North Williamsburg commented to us, “You should see Brooklyn right now – it’s like Christmas.” This may be a liberating moment for the borough that has been rigorously controlled by Mr. Lopez for years.

A lot of information, some of it quite descriptive, is available about the charges filed against Mr. Lopez and we do not need to go into it here. But our question is: what took so long? Without trivializing the scarring experiences victims have suffered at Mr.Lopez’s hand (or mouth, or eyes), at times it can seem like everyone knows someone who the Assemblyman has acted inappropriately with. His corruption and his heinous behavior have been an open secret for quite some time; there are entire websites dedicated to exposing it.

Now powerful New York politicians are lining up around the block to call for his resignation. But they are answering the wrong question. Of course Mr. Lopez should resign, but it is not challenging anything to publically call for his resignation now that this scandal has been a breaking news story for nearly a week. New York pols should be telling us how this was allowed to happen, for so long, and why they looked the other way. They should also be answering WHY these sexual harassment charges are so much worse than the laundry list of things that this man has done wrong. By all common sense, this man should not have been allowed to hold office long enough to have been given the opportunity to prey on his recent victims. New York politicians should be apologizing to Mr. Lopez’s victims for waiting this long to take action and in so doing enabling him to exploit that power, again and again, on women, on neighborhoods, on Brooklyn, and on New York State.

If this is a liberating day for Brooklyn, it is a sad day for Albany — a day that illustrates the desperate need to change the status quo in New York State politics.

Remapping Debate: “Gov. Cuomo’s faux victory on behalf of NYC Renters”

Remapping Debate provides a good breakdown of how yesterday’s decision on rent regulation and reform is in fact a continuation of long standing policy that hurts low-income renters.

June 22, 2011 — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may describe a tentative deal on extending rent regulation for millions of New York City tenants as one representing “significant progress,” but the reality is that he has left the trigger points at which apartments are deregulated worse for tenants than they were 14 years ago, when then-Governor George Pataki first orchestrated legislative changes designed to destroy rent regulation. The fundamental levers of deregulation that Pataki put in place are untouched by Cuomo’s paltry efforts.

Read more at Remapping Debate.

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