Assembly Speaker Heastie, Bronxite, Must Do the Right Thing on Raise Recommendation

14 Dec

10.14.18 — Most city residents don’t know who their state legislators are. It’s just a fact. I don’t know of a poll in this regard, but I bet a tiny, tiny fraction of us Bronxites know that an assemblyman from the northeast Bronx, Carl Heastie, is the speaker of the Assembly. A pretty important job especially considering that he and his Democratic colleagues could get some critically important legislation passed, now that the state Senate will be led by Democrats on Jan. 1.

So, Heastie has the power to do good. But there’s word that he might, well, do something very bad. A group of current and former city and state comptrollers was given the power to come up with recommendations regarding whether and how to increase state legislators’ pay from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1 and eventually to $130,000 in 2021. That would be the top pay for state legislators in the country. The critical caveat the comptroller-team put forward was that legislators’ outside income can only be 15 percent of what they earn in the Assembly or state Senate. That’s because so much of the vast corruption in Albany is related to hidden handshake money deals on legislation that is connected with lawmakers’ non-government gigs.  U.S. congressmen/women and  senators in D.C. are prohibited from doing other work while they’re in Congress for this exact reason.

So making $50,500 more than they make right now is a perfect incentive to do the right thing. Right?

Well, it seems many state legislators don’t think so. If the legislature does nothing (something we want for a change!) in terms of the comptrollers’ recommendations, all of the good stuff they proposed will take effect on Jan. 1. But according to a New York Times editorial today, Speaker Heastie is thinking of what the current State Senate majority leader John Flanagan is thinking: staging a vote in both chambers before Jan. 1 to get their big raise but also to keep allowing a ton of outside money to interfere with the critical government jobs voters hired them for.

Speaker Heastie, a Bronxite and like the second or third most powerful person in state government, needs to to do the right thing: vow publicly that he won’t allow a vote to undercut the comptrollers’ excellent and desperately needed small-‘d’, democratic good-government proposal.

If you agree, give Heastie a call at his office and tell him to the let his pay raise go forth the way the comptrollers recommended. So essentially, no more decision making or voting on this. It should be done, which would be good for democracy in our state. His office number is 718-654-6539 and/or email him at Speaker@nyassembly.gov.

-Jordan Moss

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Day 1: Getting Dangerous Summit Place Step Street Fixed and Eventually Replaced in Kingsbridge, Bronx

13 Dec

So the beginning of the title to this post means that I’m beginning today to count the days it takes to replace the unsafe step street between Bailey Avenue and Heath Avenue, which heads right into Summit Place. I know many of us have expressed concerns in various ways about this before, but here I’ll start afresh, with no complaints, just a more focused effort to get this done. The next meeting of Community Board 8’s Traffic and Transportation Committee is on Thursday, Dec. 20 at Amalgamated Houses, 74 Van Cortland Park South, at 7 p.m. I’ll be there and I hope that others who care about this can attend too.

In a recent email exchange with an incredibly helpful member of Community Board 8, Laura Spalter, I learned that replacing this step street is number 6 on the board’s Fiscal Year 2020 capital priorities list, which begins July 1, 2019. (The current list on the CB8 site needs to be corrected or updated, since the step street is not on that list at all.) We need to learn how long it will take to get to #6, and whether the city will adhere to that request at all.

But regardless off whether it becomes a city-authorized capital project plan — which means it would be completely replaced — it would take at least two or three years to plan and complete I’m figuring, maybe even more. But in the meantime, it definitely needs to be repaired. Here are some photos I took the other day:

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This is what so many steps look like on this step street. And aside from all the cracks, many of the steps are uneven in height, exacerbating the potential of tripping and falling. 

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The worst step on the step street. Dangerous! 

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Just a wider look at all the damage. 

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Many of the rail posts, like this one, indicate to me that there were once lights on them. This step street is poorly lit, which makes the cracked, uneven steps even more dangerous. 

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See the big stone block near the beautiful, new graffiti post on the side of this store? Well that’s from one of the posts on the step street. It’s been like that for a long time but the city has done nothing about it. 

Again, if you are concerned about any of the above I look forward to seeing you at the next gathering of the Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting of Community Board 8 (info above). There’s a Facebook site called Friends of Summit Place Step Street. If you have any questions or concerns related to the step street, you can post them there and I, or someone else, will get back to you. Thanks!

—Jordan Moss

 

 

 

 

Indian Restaurant Opens in KINGSBRIDGE (Bronx)

11 Dec

This new Indian Restaurant, Riverdale Indian Cuisine, is now open at 308 W. 231st St. in … Kingsbridge. As mentioned earlier, its name unfortunately relates to the neighborhood up the hill rather than where it’s at, but as a resident of restaurant-lacking Kingsbridge Heights I’m excited to see it arrive in our neighboring nabe nonetheless. I look forward to checking it out. If you have already been there I’d love to know what you think. My family is hoping to check it out tonight.

We Need Local Civic Education in the Bronx and Beyond

3 Dec

12.3.18 — “One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a vast public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government. The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote; protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and debate skills, along with strong civic virtues.” This is from a recent article at NEAtoday.org 

And Horace Mann, a famous public education advocate, stated something similar in the mid-1800s, according to an article in The New York Times the other day: He “wrote in 1847 that education’s purpose was to foster ‘conscientious jurors, true witnesses, incorruptible voters.'”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the above during, and since, the most recent local election for the New York State Senate. I volunteered in the campaign for State Senator-elect Alessandra Biaggi.  The level of civic awareness and activity was encouraging, invigorating, and inspiring. More people voted in a mid-term election (between the presidential races) than they had in about the last half a century.

But this will not continue if it’s just us over-50 folks that get more involved. There will be fewer and fewer of us as time goes on, so, yes, high school students will play a key role in our near future whether they are politically engaged or not. And maybe even us middle-agers won’t stay so focused in the near future. Trump got us to the polls (on both sides) but he ain’t gonna be around forever (thinking this is the only way I can stay sane).

So, to interest young people in getting involved and having an impact, what’s more important than high school students learning about what city and state governments do (and don’t do!) and what students can do to have an impact. Elected officials are only going to know what their young-adult constituents are concerned about if high school students connect with them.

So civic education is critical. I’m no expert on this but I’d be surprised if more than a few high schools in the Bronx, and beyond, focus on that. Even if they do, it’s probably rather brief.

There are some efforts to teach teens civics but the results aren’t promising. As NEA today reports: “Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the “proficient” standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.  White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Black and Hispanic students from low-income households to exceed that level. Here’s why: Students in wealthier public school districts are far more likely to receive high-quality civics education than students in low-income and majority-minority schools.”

Beyond learning who their elected officials are, high school students should learn about what they can do to act on their own concerns. How many students (and adults too) know that they can go to a NYC website to check out what their landlord isn’t fixing, what the level of crime is in their communities, where their local community board office is and how they can get involved. And they should also learn about local community organizations that may be working on issues they’re particularly concerned about.

Norman Wechsler, a Bronxite and former great principal of DeWitt Clinton High School (long before it was chopped up into several separate entities under the same roof) shared this thought with me: “It would be great if there were a requirement for students to actually meet all of their government representatives — at the city, state, federal level (Congressmen/women, Senators), to identify an important issue with which each is engaged, and to write a letter to each advocating for a matter important to them.”

That’s a great idea. Students could also work together on an issue they think is important in their own communities. That could lead them to connect with elected officials, attend community board meetings, and more.

Wechsler also says that there is “one required semester of Social Studies, usually in the 12th year, is P.I.G.- Participation in Government.” I wonder how much, if at all, that class focuses on local politics and community issues.

The lack of civics education is a problem nationwide, according to a recent Times article about how students in low-income communities learn almost nothing about government and politics, and that Rhode Island has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that that’s unconstitutional.

Above are just some thoughts and facts about the need for civic education. I’d love to know what you think, especially if you’re a student or a teacher. The State Senate, newly empowered with Democratic leadership is about to take office. It’s a perfect time to tell them what you think they should take on.

—Jordan Moss

New Indian Restaurant to Open in Kingsbridge/Bronx (I swear!)

20 Nov
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Site of what will be a  new Indian Restaurant on W. 231st. St. in Kingsbridge.  Photo by Jordan Moss

11.20.18 — In August I screwed up by reporting that a former deli on West 238th Street was going to be home to a new Indian restaurant in Kingsbridge. There have been none in the neighborhood for like a decade, so I was kinda excited, and so were many of you when I reported it. But I was freakin’ wrong. I asked a man working there what it would be and “Indian Restaurant” is what he told me. I took his word for it. But we learned soon after that, thanks to neighbors who went by the place too, that it’s going to be a pizza place. (Didn’t think the journalistic rule of 2 sources was necessary here 🙂

But now, a storefront undergoing gutting and redesign (it was recently, and very briefly, a Mexican joint I think) at 308 W. 231st St., right between the corners of Tibbett and Riverdale avenues, simply has a sign saying what it’s going to be: “Riverdale Inidan Cuisine.” I’ll forgive the owner for using “Riverdale” when it’s in Kingsbridge. I’m just looking forward to some Indian food that many of us miss very much. Let’s make sure to go whenever it opens and spread the word far and wide.

4 Days to Go — Voters on THURSDAY, Sept. 13 Can Put an End to the IDC

9 Sep

You, or people you know,  may think the state’s IDC (Independent Democratic Conference) is done and gone. Yes, State Senator Jeff Klein, its founder and leader, no longer has the fancy office or leadership positions handed over by his GOP pals, who wouldn’t be leading the NY State Senate without his help. But Klein and other IDC political pals use IDC money for their campaigns even though they’re not supposed to. They’re still using money that was raised for the IDC. Take a look:

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So this has been reported before, but more voters should know that the IDC is indeed still functioning campaign-wise and it’s just one of the many ways Klein has used — and still uses —  the IDC to benefit his current campaign and those of his entire tawdry team.

According to an article in City & State, Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement office of the New York State Board of Elections, recently issued a letter arguing that, “in order to be in compliance with a June court ruling, members of the IDC must return hundreds of thousands of dollars that was funneled through a finance account to the members from the state’s Independence Party. Of the $2.5 million that the IDC raised in conjunction with the Independence Party, Sugarman pinpointed more than $1.4 million that needs to be refunded.”

Meanwhile, Alessandra Biaggi is getting incredible endorsements and grassroots from so many organizations, unions, and elected officials (including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has come to the Bronx to campaign for her several times). And all of that is great, but what’s even more critical to her campaign is your support financially and volunteer-wise. Just go to her website and do whatever you can! (Oh and here is the recent endorsement of The Daily News.)

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State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi, a real Democrat, at a forum for State Senate candidates, organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Coalition last month. Klein didn’t show up. Photo by Jordan Moss

22 Days to Go: Biaggi Will Attend Bronx Town Hall Tonight for State Senate Candidates. Will Klein?

22 Aug

With only 3 weeks (+ a day) to go before the critical primary vote on Thurs., Sept. 13 for staten senator, in the 34th Senate District (and others all over the city), the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition is hosting a Town Hall tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Monroe College, 2501 Jerome Ave. (near Fordham Road) for Senate candidates interested in representing a few northwest Bronx districts. Alessandra Biaggi will be there. I heard that her opponent, incumbent Jeff Klein has not RSVP’d. Anyone interested in learning where candidates stand on many critical issues — health care, housing, schools, jobs, etc. — are welcome to attend.

Don’t Miss Tonight’s Debate at 9 p.m. – Biaggi vs. Klein for State Senate

13 Aug

Care about the Bronx? Your neighborhood? State politics?

Well, watch tonight’s BronxTalk debate, hosted by Gary Axelbank, between state Senate candidates Jeff Klein and Alessandra Biaggi! at 9 p.m. on BRONXNET – Cablevision channel 67 or Fios channel 33 (will be aired again through Friday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.) Here’s an advertisement for the debate in the Daily News today.

For some reason the above ad doesn’t mention Axelbank, the lifetime Bronxite who has hosted critical debates like this for a couple of decades. Here’s a photo of him: