What a difference 50 years makes – from the
Stonewall Uprising when the forces of government were marshaled against the gay
and lesbian community, to today, when government officials and even members of
New York City’s Police Department, flocked to take part in WorldPride NYC 2019,
the largest Pride event in history.
US State Senator Charles Schumer, with his familiar
bullhorn, declared,, “I was the first US Senator to march, and I won’t be the
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, revved up the crowd
to chant “ERA, ERA” and Congressmembers Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez joined
New York State officials were there in force,
including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appropriately crowed about the gains a
progressive legislature accomplished, NYS’s first black woman Attorney General
Leticia James, Comptroller Thom DiNapoli, and a score of state senators and
Governor Cuomo did not come empty-handed:
he used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay
and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge
to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State
of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019
Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the
Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative
session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly
failed to take up this year.
and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia
and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and
inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press
conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy
isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward
LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious
legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is running for the
Democratic Nomination for president, marched with the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray.There were also the
NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer with his family, Public Advocate Jumaane D.
Williams, members of the City Council including Speaker Corey Johnson,
There were contingents from just about every city agency, from Sanitation to Transportation, the Department of Social Services, to the Bar Association and teachers.
“In the month of June,
we celebrated 50 years of Pride here in New York State and around the
world,” stated New York’s Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. “We marched in
parades from Buffalo to Albany, and finished the month with World Pride in New
York City this past weekend.
“We celebrated how far
the LGBTQ+ community has come since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, and
reflected on the progress we still have to make.
legislative session over the last six months, we made history. GENDA is now the
law of the land, ensuring permanent protections for transgender New Yorkers.
Young people are now protected from the barbaric practice of conversion
therapy. Finally, with the stroke of a pen, we ended the legalized hatred that
was once allowed by the gay and trans ‘panic’ defense.
“I am always proud to
stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and continue the fight for
of thousands of marchers and supporters turned New York City’s Fifth Avenue
white and blue for this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the 55th
annual parade which has become one of the biggest events in a city known for
its fantastic parades and festivals. Among the dignitaries and elected
officials who marched to show support was Governor Andrew Cuomo who used the
occasion to denounce anti-Semitism and announce he will soon make a visit to
Israel to show solidarity.
Andrew Cuomo, who marched with his mother, Matilda, daughters Michaela and
Cara, and administration officials, government leaders including State Senators
Anna Kaplan and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember David Welprin and Council
Member Ben Kallos, as well as the Israel General Consul Dani Dayan, noted his special
guest, Devorah Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in honor of her son
Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic attack; this week,
an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is Coming.”
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn. I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Cuomo said the rise in bias and hate crimes was akin to a “cancer
of the American body politic.”
“Cancer of the American body politic has been the new way.
Cancer because one cell attacks another. When you have Jewish people being
attacked, gays, members of the LGBTQ community being attacked, with
anti-Semitic sayings just last night, anti-Muslim, anti-African-American.
This is a cancer of hate that is all throughout our country and unfortunately
even in our State of New York.
“There was a time when we could have political differences, but
it didn’t turn into hate. We’ve always had political differences, back to our
founding fathers we had political differences. But we tolerate them and we
understand them. We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine,
that’s what makes democracy that debate. But when did the strongest four letter
word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what’s most troubling. And
that is what is now going on. These anti-Semitic attacks are personal to the
Cuomo family. We have many friends who we grew up with who are of the Jewish
faith. I have two brothers in law who are Jewish, my mother has two sons in
law, my daughters have two uncles – Howard and Ken – who are Jewish. These
anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally. Every family in New
York takes personally.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism
is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also
illegal. And we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish
people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity
right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join
us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish
today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New
York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being
done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the
hate crime penalties all across the state. We are working on more
understanding, more communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law
because it has reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent
increase in the state of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi
groups. And by the way, I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups
for what they are. They are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this
is not part of the democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they
attack and every politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi
groups and call them for what they are.”
Cuomo made his remarks
just before starting the march, the gaggle collected on the street which turned
out to be across from Trump Tower. When a reporter pointed that out, Cuomo
said, “I didn’t even notice that until you mentioned it.”
Asked about the Pride flag that was burned at a downtown bar, Cuomo said, “Same thing. I call it a cancer that is spreading in this country. Why a cancer? Because cancer—one cell in the body attacks other cells and that’s what you’re seeing in this country right now. You’re seeing white versus black, Christian versus Muslim, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ the other night. This is destroying America. Because America is diversity and once we start attacking each other for our diversity, that defeats America and who we are.
“We are a pluralistic society. Emma Lazarus, a great Jewish New Yorker who wrote the words for the Statue of Liberty. That’s the founding of this nation. George Washington visited a synagogue in Rhode Island and said, the Jewish people are here, free to celebrate their religion. It was freedom of religion. And now we are demonizing each other’s religious preferences? This is not America. This is not who we are. And we’re going to make the opposite statement in the state of New York. Let’s march, thank you.”
55th Celebrate Israel Parade
year marks the 55th anniversary of what has become one of the largest events in
New York City, known for mammoth parades and festivals, growing exponentially
each year in attendance and excitement since its founding in 1965 by Ted Comet.
40,000 marchers representing some 250 organizations from throughout the New
York metro area, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, dignitaries and musical
guests, 30 floats, 15 marching bands including the famed Mummers from
Philadelphia, groups of rollerbladers, motorcyclists, dance groups, juggling
clowns, marched from 57th
Street to 74th Street, with
the theme, “Only in Israel,” to highlight the positive impact the Jewish and
democratic state of Israel has on people in New York and around the world.
Celebrate Israel Parade broadcast is sponsored by Friends of Maimonides Medical
Center. Parade Co‐Chair
Judy Kaufthal remarked, “The Celebrate Israel Parade is the world’s largest
expression of support for solidarity. It’s breathtaking to see Fifth Avenue
filled with people of all ages celebrating Israel and its culture.”
Parade is produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐NY), in
cooperation with UJA‐Federation
of New York and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community Relations
Council of New York (JCRC‐
NY) said, “The Celebrate Israel Parade acts as a convener each year for
international communities to stand together to promote unity on a global scale,”
Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community
Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐ NY) said.
A. Mermelstein, Founder and CEO of One & Only Realty and President of ZAKA,
the Grand Marshall, said, “As an
immigrant New Yorker and a proud Jew, walking up Fifth Avenue as the grand
marshal of the Celebrate Israel Parade is the pinnacle of the American dream. I
am so proud to stand with Israel.”
addition to the Grand Marshal Edward A. Mermelstein, honorary Grand Marshals
Ted Comet, Founder of the Celebrate Israel Parade
Siggy Flicker, Author and TV Personality
Sid Rosenberg, Co-Host of Bernie & Sid in the Morning
Stephanie Butnick, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Liel Leibovitz, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Elizabeth Savetsky, @ExcessoriesExpert Instagram Influencer
Israeli Public Officials included: Consul General Dani Dayan; Deputy Consul
General Israel Nitzan and Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon
American Public Officials included:
Cuomo, NYS Governor, Attorney
General Letitia James and NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
US Senator Charles Schumer
US Congress Members Eliot Engel, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney
de Blasio, NYC Mayor andCity
Comptroller Scott Stringer
Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
District Attorney Darcel Clark and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and NYS Assembly Members Steven Cymbrowitz, Nicole
Malliotakis, Helene Weinstein
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and NYC Council Members Margaret Chin, Chaim Deutsch, Vanessa Gibson, Barry Grodenchik, Mark Levine, Mark Treyger, Eric Ulrich, Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, Joseph Borelli, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca.
Here are more highlights from the Celebrate Israel Parade:
Long Island will have the first stand-alone
large-scale anaerobic digester – a type of food waste recycling center that
converts waste into energy – in the New York City metropolitan area. When operational
in 2020, It will produce four megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse
gas emissions on Long Island by 85,000 metric tons a year, the equivalent to
removing 18,000 cars from the road.
The Board of Trustees of the Long Island Power Authority voted to approve the project which directly supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal, a clean energy and jobs agenda that puts New York State on a path to a carbon-free economy and supports the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
“New York State continues to lead the way
with clean energy initiatives and innovative solutions that benefit both our
neighborhoods and our planet,” Governor Cuomo said. “By implementing this
groundbreaking technology on Long Island, we can not only produce clean energy
and reduce greenhouse gases, but also spare our landfills and keep our
communities cleaner and greener for decades to come.”
The project will create at least 10 full-time jobs and help retain more than 100. The facility provides a lower cost waste disposal option for food service businesses such as supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, commercial food processers, cafeterias, catering halls, and hotels. The Town of Brookhaven will also have the capability to divert 10,000-15,000 tons per year of food waste to the project from the more expensive disposal options currently used.
The project, to be operated by American Organic
Energy (AOE) at Long Island Compost in Yaphank, will process approximately
180,000 tons of local food waste per year. This waste would have otherwise been
transported by gas and diesel-powered trucks to distant landfills, along with
30,000 tons of fats, oils and greases (FOG). Working with GE Water and Scott’s
Miracle-Gro, AOE will collect, separate, pre-process, break down, and transform
Long Island’s food waste into convertible energy, electricity, fertilizer, and
nutrient-rich clean water.
Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be
reduced by 85,000 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to removing 18,000 cars off
the road. It will also reduce truck traffic on Long Island roads by 1.4 million
miles per year, compared to current landfill disposal practice. In addition,
Long Island Compost will convert certain stationary equipment from diesel
to electricity, which is expected to reduce diesel fuel consumption by an
estimated 200,000 gallons per year.
Anaerobic digestion is a biological process
that occurs when organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of
oxygen. During the decomposition process, the biogas released can be recovered,
treated and used to generate energy in place of traditional fossil fuels.
The agreement also establishes annual and hourly limits on the delivery of energy to LIPA. The average residential bill impact would be approximately $0.10 per month, competitive with pricing of other comparable clean energy facilities under contract to LIPA. The anaerobic digester is expected to be operational by December 31, 2020.
The project is also supported by New York
State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener
Communities initiative, which provided $1.35 million and also was chosen for a
$400,000 Empire State Development award by the Long Island Regional Economic
“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New
York continues to find innovative ways to produce and deliver clean energy to
consumers,” Tom Falcone, LIPA’s Chief
Executive Officer, said. “Turning food waste into energy here on Long
Island diverts waste from Long Island landfills, reduces carbon emissions, and
helps LIPA meet New York’s aggressive clean energy goals.”
“By transforming waste into energy,
digester projects like this will reduce harmful emissions and material going
into landfills, while providing economic and environmental benefits to Long
Island residents,” Alicia Barton,
President and CEO of NYSERDA said. “NYSERDA is proud to collaborate with
LIPA to advance clean energy solutions that support New York’s nation-leading
clean energy goals under Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.”
“This project, the largest this side of
the Mississippi, has many societal benefits including creating renewable
energy, reducing solid waste and reducing truck traffic,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the
Citizens Campaign of the Environment said. “Today the project is cutting
edge, tomorrow it will be standard operating procedure. This transformational
project was seven years in the making, the permits are now completed, and we
are thrilled the construction can begin.”
Empire State Development President,
CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Clean energy projects like this facility aren’t just good
for the environment, they’re good for the health of our communities and help
build a greener economic future for our entire state.”
Executive Steve Bellone said,”Governor Cuomo understands the
importance of investing in renewable energy initiatives to ensure a sustainable
future for our communities and communities across the state. We are focused on
expanding our efforts to create a cleaner, more efficient Long Island, and I
thank the Governor for his continued support in making projects like these
“Through this partnership, Brookhaven
will continue to move forward with our plans to create an energy park at our landfill
as we cap and close this facility, piping methane to this anaerobic digester to
produce an estimated 1.5 megawatts of energy,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “Using food scraps and
other organic matter in this facility to create compost and energy is an
important part of our overall strategy to reduce our waste stream on Long
Island to benefit our environment. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his
support of this important an innovative clean energy project.”
Todd Kaminsky said,”For a sustainable future, Long Island must stop sending
excess food to landfills, and instead utilize state-of-the-art technology that
turns waste into clean energy. The future is now, and the approval of this
large-scale anaerobic digester is a breakthrough that marks the beginning of a
new, green era.”
Sammy Chu, CEO,
Edgewise Energy, and Chairman, US Green Building Council – Long Island Chapter
project represents a very exciting opportunity for Long Island. It not only
supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of decarbonizing our electric supply but also
addresses our growing regional waste crisis. This is the type of creative
solution that we need right now.”
President, and CEO of the Long Island Association said, “The anaerobic digester is the most
sophisticated food waste processing facility in the region. This technology
will digest food waste taken from supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals and
turn this material into a source of clean energy. The LIA is in full support of
this project which will benefit Long Island’s economy, environment and energy
Executive Director of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute said,”This project addresses the
interconnection of energy, food and carbon emissions. This anaerobic digester
helps with the solid waste problem on Long Island by reducing food waste, while
also generating electricity. Biogas is a renewable form of energy that should
be put to work for us, rather than causing emissions issues in landfills and
President, New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) said, “We are in full support of this
effort to deploy technology and solutions that can help New York State achieve
its ambitious climate, clean air, and economic development goals. We
applaud LIPA and look forward to continued efforts to help Long Island develop
a robust organic waste-to-fuel industry.”
New York State’s Green New Deal
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal, the nation’s leading
clean energy and jobs agenda, will aggressively put New York State on a path to
economy-wide carbon neutrality. This initiative will provide for a just
transition to clean energy, spurring the growth of the green economy and
mandating New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040, one of
the most aggressive goals in the U.S. The cornerstone of this newly proposed
mandate is a significant increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy
Standard to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
As part of the unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy, New York has already invested $2.9 billion into 46 large-scale renewable projects across the state as it significantly increases its clean energy targets, such as: quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to a nation-leading 9,000 megawatts by 2035; doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025; and deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. To support this ambitious work, NY Green Bank intends to use its expertise in overcoming financing gaps to foster greater environmental impacts per public dollar by raising over $1 billion in third party funds to expand climate financing availability across New York and the rest of North America.
New York State Governor
Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t sign the state budget unless it makes permanent
the property tax cap.
“The highest tax in the state
is the property tax and it is a killer,” Governor Cuomo said.”We want to reduce economic
pressure on families by making sure government is not aggravating the problem
with increased expenses. We’re going to cut your state income tax and
we’re going to cap your property taxes so you know it’s not going higher than 2
percent. And I will tell you this as sure as I am before you today: if we do
not have the permanent property tax cap in that state budget, this hand will
never sign that state budget until it’s in there.”
From the very
beginning, I have objected to this trampling off local control with an
arbitrary and unreasonable constraint designed to hamstring and ultimately
destroy local governments. Cuomo’s original intent was to force school
districts and other local governments to cannibalize their reserve funds; the
second was to force consolidation and dissolution of local governments and the
third was to use local taxes as the bogeyman, so politicians could appear to be
on the side of taxpayers.
Of course the
property tax is the largest state tax and of course school taxes are the
largest component. Something has to be “largest”. What should be? But local
property taxes are spent where they are used, and local people have the
greatest ability to participate in spending decisions. In fact, school and
library taxes are the only taxes we taxpayers directly vote.
What the property
tax cap does, though, is remove local control. Communities should have the
right to decide if they want to improve their schools or parks. The property
tax cap which basically keeps the annual increase to 2% or the rate of
inflation whichever is less says: we
don’t want any growth or improvement or new investment in your community. We
want the status quo, and if that means deterioration, so be it. (Little known
fact: the property tax cap incentivizes bonding because the debt service isn’t
counted toward the cap.)
Somehow, and fairly
ingeniously I think, the Great Neck Public School district has managed to
continue to be among the best in the country and still average only 1.8 percent
increase in the tax levy since the property tax cap was implemented in 2012,
despite increasing enrollments and unfunded state mandates. This year, though,
through the complicated formula, the school district could have raised taxes by
4.09 percent and still fall within the cap, is only seeking 1.94 percent
I resent the
property tax cap by which the Governor and state legislators can declare
themselves champions of reducing or controlling taxes.
But here’s the
thing: New York State’s property taxes are not the highest in the nation; Nassau
County’s taxes are not the highest; and both of these do not take into account
that Long Island and New York’s incomes and our housing values are higher.
According to a survey by Wallethub, a financial services company, New York State ranks 8th (not first) in property taxes. New York ranks 43rd in its real estate tax rate, at 1.68 percent. You know which states are higher? Nebraska (1.80), Texas (1.83), Vermont (1.83), Wisconsin (1.94), Connecticut (2.07), New Hampshire (2.20), Illinois (2.31), and New Jersey (2.44) (See the study: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/)
Even so, do you
want to be Alabama, which is #2 on the list for lowest taxes, where the median
home value is $132,000 and the tax is $558 (0.42%), or Louisiana, #3, where the
median home value is $152,900 and median tax is $795 (0.52%)? Louisiana ranks
51st in health care, Alabama is 48th. New York is 17th
(fourth most physicians per capita)
USA Today ranks New
York’s public education 9th noting, “Between 2003 and 2015, the
achievement gap between eighth graders living in poverty and their wealthier
peers narrowed by the largest amount of all states…Annual public school
funding totals $18,665 per pupil in New York, the third highest expenditure of
all states.” (Top three are Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont). Alabama
ranks 43rd (14th lowest in public school spending at
$10,142). Louisiana is 46th, Mississippi is 48th.
Yes, total taxes
are high: New Yorkers spend 17.07 percent of income on taxes, second highest after
Connecticut (17.65 percent). But New York State is spending billions on a
21st century infrastructure and racing toward 50:50 clean energy by
2030. This is where I want to live. So do 20 million others, a number that is
increasing, even as unemployment rates are at the lowest ever and the number of
jobs is at an all-time high.
We pay a lot in
taxes because our incomes are higher and our housing values are higher, what is
more, we get more for our money, making for a higher quality of life.
The states that
don’t charge an appropriate amount of state and local taxes – that is related
to the cost of providing services and public investment – depend on federal
handouts. New York is one of 11 states that send more money to the federal
government than it gets back, in fact the #1 donor state, sending $36-$48
billion more to the federal government than it gets back. Alabama is 4th
“most federally dependent state”; Louisiana is 10th.
New York sends the
second highest amount in federal taxes, $133 billion (California sends $227
billion), and is fourth in the average amount of federal taxes per adult
($8,490), behind Connecticut $10,279), Massachusetts ($9,445), and New Jersey
(Here’s an idea: New York should do
what tenants do in a landlord dispute and put that $36 billion into escrow
until the SALT deductibility issue is fixed.)
But we shouldn’t be
punishing our localities because of the criminality of Republicans to use the tax
code as political weapon – according to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli, the
SALT deduction cap has driven down tax receipts by $2.3 billion, as wealthiest
New Yorkers choose other places for primary residency.
But the tax cap is also a
larger objective is to eliminate local municipalities entirely – to force villages
to consolidate into towns, towns into counties, school districts into larger
school districts. But the fallacy in that is all that it saves is a few
administrative positions. Villages and school districts already have
cooperative purchasing, mutual aid; school districts even cooperate on
transportation where feasible. Our school district spends 4 percent of its
budget on administration, the lion’s share, 75 percent, on instruction (12
percent on building, grounds & capital projects, 6 percent on
transportation). (To see where your schools spend every penny, come to Great
Neck South High School this Saturday at 9:30 am for the line-by-line budget
The state boasts that since
implementation the tax cap has “saved” taxpayers $24.4
billion statewide – that works out to $1000 per capita, divided by 7 years, or
$142 a year. I’m not sure that’s worth giving up local control.
But just as Cuomo
and the Congressmembers decry Trump’s disparity in federal spending for blue
states versus red states and the attack on state control over its ability to
raise revenue and spend, it is the same thing with local spending: there is
gigantic disparity in the level of state
aid to school districts, with the result that New York City only has to raise
50 percent of its school budget from property taxes, while Great Neck, which
gets just 4 percent from the state, has to raise 95 percent through property
taxes. Here’s another measure: Roosevelt, with 3270 enrolled students, gets $53
million in state aid; Great Neck, with 6399 enrolled students, gets $10 million
– the difference made up from property taxes. That’s just the way it is.
What the property
tax cap means is that virtually all Great Neck’s school spending is governed by
the cap; other districts have much less that is controlled by the tax cap.
for determining if our elected representatives are properly handling our tax
appropriations is on the community, not an arbitrarily selected cap enshrined
We see what our
school taxes (and park and library and sewer district) pay for and I don’t want
the state – or some politician looking to score points – deciding we can’t have
low class size or a robotics club or a fencing team or an opera performance
(Great Neck South High marks its 50th anniversary full-scale opera
production, April 12). This community has decided these things are just as
important to our district’s mission of helping every child fulfill their full
potential as cramming the latest incarnation of ELA and math or operating
school buildings as if they were prisons. Our mission has been to instill a
love of life-long learning. And the investment this community has made in
public education has brought solid ROI day after day.
Environmentalists are hailing energy and environmental legacy initiatives in New York State proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his his annual State of the State and budget address.
“Governor Cuomo made historic commitments today
supporting the advancement of clean energy throughout the state,” stated Lisa Dix, Senior New York Campaign Manager
for the Sierra Club. “With a mandate to source 70 percent of the state’s
energy through renewables by 2030, doubling New York’s distributed solar target
and quadrupling the current offshore wind targets, the Governor has proven that
he is a national leader determined to make New York a 21st century, renewable
energy, economic powerhouse. Through massive investments in offshore wind ports
and clean energy job training centers, New York will be the regional hub for
the offshore wind industry. Working with the administration, climate-affected
communities and labor, we will create long-term, family-wage jobs, while
supporting a robust supply chain and multiplying economic development
opportunities for New Yorkers.”
The initiatives include commitments to:
New York’s “Green New Deal”: The Governor restated his December
goal of making New York 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. The Administration
will map how New York will achieve carbon neutrality, while providing a just
and fair transition for communities and workers. This initiative includes a $10 billion “Green Future Fund” that supports
climate priorities and emissions reduction goals and $70 million to provide
initial funding for communities affected by the clean energy transition.
Increased Clean Energy Standard Target: New York is now the second state after Hawaii with the most
ambitious clean energy targets in the nation, with a new goal of sourcing 70
percent of New York’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030, including the
most ambitious off-shore windpower program in the country. This doubles the
current targets for energy storage, distributed solar, large scale solar and
wind and quadruples the offshore wind targets.
Increased Green Infrastructure and Jobs: With the Governor
committing to building nearly four times more offshore wind by 2035 than he
initially stated, this is the most ambitious offshore wind generation
commitment in the country. New York will nearly triple the offshore wind
commitment any state has made before. Additionally, about $200 million of the
budget will be invested in building offshore wind ports and clean energy job
Clean Transportation and Congestion Pricing: The Governor urged
the legislature to pass congestion pricing legislation to make the Metro
Transit Authority (MTA) more reliable for years to come. Through congestion
pricing, the state would make $15 billion to invest back into the MTA. The
Governor also committed to over $3 billion in funding for clean energy and
clean transportation infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging
infrastructure. The Governor, however, fell short in setting an enforceable
commitment to reducing emissions from New York’s transportation sector, the
economic sector responsible for the most climate/carbon pollution in New York
In an inaugural address worthy of a president, Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for his third term as Governor of New York State, pledged to fulfill an ambitious, progressive Justice Agenda: voting reform, strengthening gun laws, protecting health care, legalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system. The venue was key to his message: the great hall at Ellis Island where millions of impoverished immigrants, the forebears of so many New Yorkers, escaped poverty and persecution to pursue the American Dream, and standing as the greatest symbol of difference with the federal administration.
setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government,
forced by Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall across the
length of the southern border with Mexico, has caused a cascading series of
closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep
the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open, and he used it as a symbol of what
the state stands for and would strive for, and as a parable for the different
approaches to leadership and governance.
“Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left,” he declared.
“When they write the history books about this time and place, I
believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A
time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in
search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens
frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new
doubts about where our country is headed.
“There is now a
fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant
that created our nation’s founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right
here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated
by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you
to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry
you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise
grounded on the theory that we would work together.
“This sacred compact has
held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and
economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we
built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can
threaten us. America’s only threat is from within: it is the growing division
amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or
native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or
straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.
“And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People’s frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.”
added, “It may surprise you,
but I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and
frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure
of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for
manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own
He said, “The hard, but true path is to confront
and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to
blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who
are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our
differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our
greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E
Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be
difficult, we knew it.”
setting out his progressive agenda and to counter the skepticism that it could
be accomplished, Cuomo noted that now that both houses of the Legislature are
Democratic, “I feel liberated. I felt
like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat
mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political
posturing only aggravates the frustration…
“New Yorkers know the
difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real
solutions that restore hope and progress in people’s lives or we fail. It is
that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn’t work. Either
the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don’t deliver, we
fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.”
Cuomo, who has in his prior two terms done bold things on the scale of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was New York State governor, in fact, invoked FDR, saying, “Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers’ frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda – advancing social racial and economic justice – and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda – not a regressive agenda – an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.”
He laid out an ambitious
agenda: “Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic
Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.
“From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman’s right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform – we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.”
Cuomo declared, “We will
get it done. And it won’t just be what New York got done at this defining moment,
but how we did it. The way we’re going to do it is by bringing people together.
Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us
together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided
by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and
interdependence come from our essential goodness.
“It is New York’s duty,
it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead
the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New
York, that’s what we will do together.”
setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government has
caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New
York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.
One after another of the state leaders sworn into office – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Latisha James – referred to immigrants and their own origins, coming from humble circumstances.
Cuomo reemphasized the point: “we believe the promise that attracted 5000 people a day to come
from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis
Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining
beacon for a better tomorrow.
“Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.
“This is the place, and
this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget
that. It doesn’t matter how high one is raised, or what office one’s occupying.
Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because
this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in
Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.”
“This is the harbor
where Frederick Trump [Drumpf] arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would
become President of the United States. Don’t you tell me Ellis Island isn’t
real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because it does,”
he said in the only part of his address in which he referred to Trump by name.
Referring to his father,
Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1 four years ago, he said, “he would
implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and
that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up
New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he
would be right.”
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued the following statement in honor of Donald Trump’s visit to New York State:
“Mr. President, welcome back to New York, the progressive capital of the nation.
“Despite being a native New Yorker, since you took office, you have attacked our healthcare, passed a tax law that punished New York in order to fund corporate tax cuts, ripped immigrant New Yorkers from their families, launched an assault on our environment, and undermined the basic values on which this state and this nation were built.
“You say you want to make this country great again, but you have clearly forgotten what made this country great in the first place. Perhaps you can use this trip to New York to help you remember what truly makes this state and this nation great.
“While in Utica, I urge you to meet with the immigrants and refugees who are breathing new life into the city, which has a higher proportion of immigrants than any other city in upstate New York.
“I urge you to visit Seneca Falls, where women first fought for equal rights—a legacy New York is fighting to uphold against your administration’s ongoing attacks on women.
“I urge you to visit Westchester, where jobs are on the rise and the economy is booming despite your partisan and punitive tax policies that are directly responsible for home sales dropping 18 percent.
“I urge you to visit the new Buffalo, where an economic renaissance is transforming the city without resorting to harmful tariffs or trying to revive the industries of yesterday.
“I urge you to visit the beautiful Long Island beaches and thriving marine economy that are threatened by your administration’s reckless proposal to drill off our shores. In New York, we are advancing the strongest environmental program in the nation, and we say no way, no how to your continued assault on our planet.
“I urge you to meet with Mr. Pablo Villavicencio, a father, husband and aspiring American citizen who was torn away from his family and locked away for 53 days because of your anti-immigrant agenda. I was proud to fight for his freedom and will always stand with our immigrant communities against your un-American policies.
“I urge you to visit the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, a symbol of New York’s proud building spirit, constructed by the men and women of organized labor, that today is setting the example for your administration that pledged but failed to follow through on your own rebuilding efforts.
“And I urge you to visit the Leadership and Public Service High School in New York City, where I joined students there who, along with others across our state and nation, are calling for action on gun safety. While your administration remains beholden to the NRA and ignores the young people crying out for change, New York is proud to be taking on the NRA and moving to strengthen our nation-leading gun safety laws to keep our communities safe.
“Mr. President, I urge you to visit the Statue of Liberty in our harbor to remember the American promise made to your grandfather when he first came to this country as an immigrant—the promise of equality, hope and opportunity for all.
“Perhaps then you will remember what made this country great.”
Little Neck, Queen’s presented its 91st Memorial Day Parade, considered one of the largest, longest Memorial Day parades in the nation, with 161 entities participating.
This year’s parade commemorated the centennial of World War I, 65th year since the Korean War ceasefire, 50 years since 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War. Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy, the featured branch, “protecting our shores for 243 years”. The Honorary Grand Marshal was Deborah Crosby, who in 2015, retrieved the remains of her father, Frederick Peter Crosby, USN, from Vietnam.
Among the dignitaries: US Senator Charles Schumer, US Congressman Tom Suozzi, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, NYC Public Advocate Leticia James, the Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General.
Also, First United States Volunteer Cavalry “Rough Riders’” Color Guard; Grand Marshal Brigadier General William Seely, USMC representing the Department of the Navy.
“At a time when this country is so divided, when there is tension, we have a day where we can come together and remember what our freedom, our democracy is all about.
“This Memorial Day, as we spend time with friends and loved ones, we remember those New Yorkers, from the North Country to Staten Island, who gave their lives for our nation, our values, and our way of life. Our nation’s armed forces have displayed extraordinary courage and made unimaginable sacrifices answering the call to serve, and we owe our eternal gratitude to them and their families.”
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my sincerest thanks to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. On this day – and every day – we commemorate those selfless heroes who laid down their lives to protect our freedom and our democracy.”
New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.
It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.
As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1, “The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”
Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.
Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September.This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.
New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.
In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.
New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.
But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.
“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.
“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”
“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.
Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.
Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.
Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses; encourage more use of flexible work schedules.
Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.
Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.
“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”
It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”
“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”
What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.
Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.