Village Forum Focuses on Reducing Gun Violence

“Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough”
Village Forum Focuses on Reducing Gun Violence

Reducing Gun Violence

The following post is excerpted from an article written by Edward Yutkowitz

At a forum on reducing gun violence, coordinated by Gun Reform Committee co-chairs Deb Sherman and Allison Stowell and presented on Nov. 21st by Village Independent Democrats (VID) and several other Manhattan Democratic clubs, the focus was on what community groups in violent neighborhoods are doing to reduce demand for guns. Said Debra Sherman, one of the forum’s organizers,  “We want to spread the word on how all New Yorkers can support that work.”

The discussion, held at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, was moderated by Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, which is perhaps best known for fighting to regulate firearms.  But this forum emphasized that the answer isn’t more police, but rather public-health solutions to reduce violence of all kinds.

Dr. Rob Gore, an Emergency Physician and the founder of Kings Against Gun Violence, or KAVI, suggested that the problem of violence be reframed as one of trauma, not just guns.  “Environments that have a legacy of racism, poverty, violence, and lack of economic opportunities are constantly stressful and create long-term trauma.” 

Few are as close to the front lines of gun violence as Man Up, Inc., which operates in the East New York, Brownsville, and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn.  Its representatives, known as “interrupters,” have their ears to the ground and are often able to intercede in volatile, potentially violent, situations and stop them before they escalate.  As former gang members, they have the respect of the community and have achieved great success in reducing gun violence.  As Man Up interrupter Jeremy Arse, who’s known by his street name, Brother Curley, put it, his community work emphasizes that, “Love is just as powerful as violence.”

The Director of Education for NYAGV’s ReACTION Youth Program, Shaina Harrison, talked about working with high-school students to reduce gun violence.  “These are kids who often resort to violence because they feel they have no other means and don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with the difficult, often brutal, circumstances in which they live.”

First Deputy Public Advocate-Policy, Nick Smith talked about the work of The Crisis Management System, which helps oversee many of the community groups working to reduce violence in New York City.  Funded with $36 million from the De Blasio Administration and the New York City Council, CMS coordinates a network of non-profit providers in 22 police precincts that offer a range of services, from mediating conflicts on the street, to job training, employment opportunities, and mental health services.  The CMS programs coordinate and complement each other, working not just with kids but their parents. 

VID has long advocated for common-sense gun regulation, but stepped up its efforts two years ago, after the epidemic of mass shootings.  “We saw how the students organized after the Parkland shootings, and felt that we had to get involved,” says Allison Stowell, co-organizer of the forum.

In June of 2018, the club started a campaign to send postcards signed by members of the community to urge Governor Cuomo to support ERPO.  This “red flag” bill will restrict gun possession by potentially violent family members.  The campaign sent 1300 cards to the Governor, who signed the bill into the law in May of this year. 

“When we think of fighting for regulating guns, we often think of large organizations that already have big dollars behind them,” Sherman adds.  “We have to make sure that grass-roots organizations in our communities are recognized, appreciated, and most of all properly funded.”

VID provided attendees at the forum with a list of practical suggestions for New Yorkers to help reduce gun violence.  These include educational resources and information on grass-roots groups that are working on behalf of communities throughout New York City.  To learn more about these ideas, contact allison.stowell@gmail.com or drsconsulting.us@gmail.com

Health Care Forum

The Future of Health Care in New York: A Forum

The New York State Senate and Assembly will take up the New York Health Act, a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Dick Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera. The New York Health Act would implement single-payer healthcare in New York, ensuring every New Yorker will have reliable health insurance coverage.

Learn How This Bill Could Affect You and Your Family!
Sunday, October 6
2:30pm Doors Open, 3pm-5pm Program, 5pm-6pm Open Q&A
Elisabeth Irwin High School
40 Charlton Street

Free with RSVP: https://forms.gle/4UV8RfZyM3TvvnEm9

Featured Speakers:
• State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair, NYS Senate Committee on Health
• Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Chair, NYS Assembly Committee on Health

Prominent elected officials and leading public health professionals will also participate.

List of Sponsors (in formation): Village Independent Democrats, Coalition for a District Alternative, Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club.

For more information, contact president@villagedems.org or go to www.villagedems.org.

Download the Flyer

The Path to Freedom: Decarceration in Trump’s America

Decarceration Forum
Join us in discussing how to reduce the number of people
incarcerated in our prisons.

Saturday, September 14, 2019
3:00pm to 6:00pm (Doors at 2:30pm)
Elisabeth Irwin High School, 40 Charlton Street
Free with RSVP: https://forms.gle/aij3VUGBkn6HEUjg9

A panel discussion with:

Moderator: Justice (ret.) Emily Jane Goodman

  • Hon. Helen Rosenthal, Councilmember, 6th District
  • Mark Shervington, Statewide Community Organizer, Release Aging People from Prison
  • Lucy Lang, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge, Legal Aid NYC Criminal Defense Practice

Introductory remarks by David Siffert, President, Village Independent Democrats; Allen Roskoff, Co-Chair, Candles for Clemency and President, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club; and Kathy Slawinski, Recording Secretary, Village Independent Democrats.

Sponsors (in formation): Coalition for a District Alternative, Downtown Independent, Democrats, Gramercy-Stuvesant Independent Democrats, Hell’s Kitchen Democrats, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, United Democratic Organization, Village Independent Democrats.

For more information, contact president@villagedems.org or go to www.villagedems.org.

FLYER

June General Meeting

The June General Meeting covered NYC funding of abortion access, NYS support for gestional surrogacy, prostitution legislation and the Green New Deal. And, a thank you to Jerry Nadler for a very informative forum.

Party Leaders

District Leader Keen Berger’s report opened with a thank you for re-electing her for the last fourteen years.  She will be super-ceded by a new District Leader, Jen Hoppe, after the Primary on June 25th.  Keen mentioned two issues important to her:

  1. Social justice issue:  the fact that the 75 Morton Street middle school provides less after-school programs than any other school in District 2.  She hopes that VID can write a letter or do some other action to help rectify this. 
  2. Measles epidemic.  Keen mentioned that Dick Gottfried was sitting on the fence on this issue of requiring everyone to be inoculated and doing away with religious exemptions.  This is a public health issue, and since the Hell’s Kitchen Dems had written a letter on the issue she suggested perhaps VID could, too.  (Later in the meeting it was announced the bill had passed.)

District Leader Arthur Schwartz reported the County Committee meeting would be in the first part of July–within 3 weeks, and the Judicial Convention would be on August 12.  Arthur followed this with an update on The Beth Israel suit; it has been argued in court before Judge Hagler, who was totally on our side.   He said added that he would shortly be filing suit on the 14th Street plan.

Guest Speakers

Prostitution Legislation

Sanctuary for Families made a presentation in favor of partial decriminalization of sex workers–criminalizing users and not sellers.  They offer extensive services for those who wish to leave the sex trade, and Melanie spoke of her experiences of being trafficked at age 12.  They urge reform of the criminal justice system and provide medical, dental, and psychiatric services to their clients.  Member Grace Price provided a handout of statistics regarding prostitution arrests in New York, and a discussion ensued.

Green New Deal

Sunrise Movement made a presentation about the Green New Deal (GND).  They were inspired by a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office last year demanding people get serious about climate change, and social and economic justice.  Justine emphasized getting fossil fuel money out of politics, and alerted us that Hakeem Jeffries, Chuck Schumer, and Max Rose are not on board with the GND.  She said Cuomo was cautiously optimistic about passage of the Climate and Community Protection Act.  Justine said the GND seeks to provide good-paying union jobs and restore economic inequities along with providing help for natural disasters.  Q and A followed.

Decriminalization of Sex Work

Jared Trujillo and Nina Luo of Decrim NY, a group which advocates for full decriminalization of sex work,  are pushing the Trafficking Victims Record Relief Bill, which has passed the Assembly.  Jared,  spoke of a package of bills called Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act which would decriminalize consensual sex acts, trafficking, or children.  He emphasized that there were consequences to the way sex workers were treated and wished to make these workers safer.  Some additional bills were mentioned:  Brad Hoylman’s bill, ending “loitering for prostitution”, also known as walking while trans, and Dick Gottfried’s bill, to decriminalize buying, promoting, and engaging in the sex trade.  

Letters and Resolutions

David Siffert introduced a vote on the Resolution Supporting City Council Funding of Abortion Access.  This passed unanimously.

He then read a letter to Assembly Members O’Donnell and Glick urging their support for S2071B (the Modern Family Act) regarding gestational surrogacy.  This passed with 18 in favor and 2 opposed.

Jim Yates brought up the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the loophole deeming police officers telling lies outside the jurisdiction of the Board and asked the Executive Committee to consider a resolution addressing this.  A motion was made and was passed unanimously,  22 in favor.

Committee Reports

David Siffert mentioned the possibility of moving the annual Gala date to earlier in the year because of the judicial calendar, and noted we garnered about $20,000 net this year, which is excellent considering fewer judges attended.  He said the postcarding for Dustin Reidy was very successful, with over 500 postcards signed, and reminded everyone of the July 19 fundraiser for Andy Kim.

Deb Sherman gave a short report on the Gun Reform Committee, recounting last week’s Brooklyn Bridge march garnered about 660 postcards, even though the turnout was disappointing.  That brings the postcard number to about 1200.

Tony Hoffmann of the Campaign Committee reminded everyone there would be no primary in the 66 AD.  The County Committee needs people who live in the 66 AD to volunteer.  Jerry Nadler will have a fundraiser at the Grand Soho Hotel Monday.

Mar Fitzgerald of the Education Committee was next, saying she attended a protest at the headquarters of the Education Department which targeted segregation in public schools and it went great.  There was also a smaller rally to increase diversity in PTAs.  DeBlasio provided a $2M fund for school districts to develop diversity plans, and 64 of his 67 recommendations were adopted.  Mar also wrote a story for Westview News on the 75 Morton Street middle school.

David Siffert spoke for the Animal Advocacy Committee, saying they had sent a letter advising spaying and neutering for sold pets at four months.  Linda Rosenthal had an anti-declawing bill with exceptions. The declawing bill passed without exceptions. VID is planning to propose that the legislature add a narrow exception for individuals who are diagnosed with an illness after getting a cat such that they would have to choose between declawing the cat or turning the cat over to a shelter — this is true of some people with diabetes, for example. The anti-fur bill was very controversial, and Carlina has a bill banning foie gras.  Mike Gianaris sponsored a bill making it illegal to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores in New York State.

New Business

David mentioned articles in the Villager on the Gala and Nadler.  He announced that the club will hold two debate watch parties for the Democratic presidential candidates, on June 26 and 27, at two location, to be determined.  There will be ten candidates on each night. 

On July 17 there will be a VID picnic at a park to be determined.

Sharon Woolums mentioned the passing of Ben Green, former chair of CB2 and neighborhood activist, with an obituary in the Villager.  She wants to do a memorial for him at Judson in September and needs volunteers to participate.

Jen Hoppe said Ranked Choice Voting was passed by the NYC charter commission and would likely be on the ballot of charter proposals.  Susan Dess, a VID member, would be hosting a talk on Anti-Semitism and How To Combat It Tuesday at Phillips Nizer LLC, admission free.

Grace Price, a 9/11 survivor, was having trouble getting psychiatric help from the Victim Compensation Board and needed help.

Jen brought up a Saturday demonstration at Foley Square by Move On to Impeach Trump.

Cameron Krause advised us the Carolyn Maloney bill to extend funding for the 9/11 survivor fund passed after John Stewart appeared before Congress.  He advised people to call Mitch McConnell to facilitate passage in the Senate.  David also advised approaching Chuck Schumer.

Katharine Wolpe noted that every Thursday for the next two months there will be free concerts at 12:30 at 10th Street and Second Avenue, St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery.

FULL MEETING MINUTES HERE