November 2019 General Meeting

The November 2019 General Meeting Gave Focus to NY County Committee, Surrogacy Legislation and the Productive Work of VID’s Committees

Full Meeting Minutes Here

President David Siffert reported that he had met with Keith Wright, who was nice and friendly, but not much concrete got done.  Keith said that Ben Yee wanted to activate the County Committee, but seemed hostile to Keith, so walls were built.  Keith said he doesn’t do anything without Barry Weinberg’s say-so.  David also said he was trying to set up a meeting with Greg Sumas, co-chair of the County Committee, and wondered if he should meet with Cynthia Dody of the Board of Elections.  A discussion followed.

District Leader Reports

District Leader Jen Hoppe reported that she had discussions with other District Leaders and club presidents, along with David and Ben Yee, about what we want the County Committee to be.  There definitely had to be a more progressive vision for the party.  To amplify, she suggested elected leaders need to adhere to a pledge.

On Election Day Jen went to all 16 poll sites, and was impressed with how seriously people take their jobs as poll workers.  She attended an early voting seminar and early voting went really well.  

She also mentioned that Jumaane was working on a bill, Intro 800, mandating paid vacation time for all NY workers.  She advised us to go the PaidTimeOff.NYC website to sign the petition.

District Leader Arthur Schwartz gave his report.  He touched on the County Committee anomalies, his lawsuit against the 14th Street busway, and the WBAI lawsuit.  He spoke of the City Council approval of the plan to shut down the East River Park for 5-7 years and said it should have been argued in court as “park alienation”.  He cited other lawsuits regarding Harvey the fruit man and a bike rider run over by a cab, in which the police did nothing.  His lawsuit regarding the removal of the 14th Street bus stops is still ongoing.  And he said if anyone was interested in being a Bernie delegate, please speak to him.  He explained the process of being a delegate for any candidate.

November 2019 General Meeting Speakers

Marc Solomon gave a report on surrogacy.  He said New York has virtually no laws regarding legal parentage or surrogacy, and NY laws needed to be modernized across the board.  He cited the bill S2071B/A1071C legalizing surrogacy agreements, and led a discussion on it.  President Siffert made an argument in for a resolution in support of the bill and it passed, with 30 in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstention.

Jim Yates, former judge and member of JCOPE, made a presentation on the repeal of Section 50-a of New York Civil Rights Law, providing confidentiality for personnel records of police officers maintained by the NYPD.  He provided a history of the law and the fact that until 2016 these records were publicly available and argued they should be again, especially because this new interpretation of the law was used to shield Officer Pantaleo after the death of Erroll Garner.  After this speech, a resolution in favor of repeal of Section 50-A was passed with 29 in favor and one abstention.

Committee Reports

Nat Johnson, of the Environmental Committee, gave a report on a letter President Siffert had written to the Draft Remedial Investigation Work Plan of the Brownfield Cleanup Program at 240 Water Street.  This letter, to Project Manager Rafi Alam, asked that the public comment period be extended to March 1st to allow the community more review time.  (250 Water Street is the former site of three mercury thermometer factories, a mercury warehouse, and a gas station.  The proposed luxury tower could expose the community to the toxic chemicals currently underground.)

After this report, it was decided that VID would send the letter, with 22 in favor and none opposed or abstained.

Nat then gave a report on the Environmental Committee, saying the committee will be discussing the NYS Green New Deal bill S2878B at their next meeting and will ask the club to support it.  He also distributed a ten point holiday statement flier advocating a more eco-friendly recycling plan.  Deb Sherman advocated for Tru-Earth, an eco-friendly laundry detergent, available on Amazon or the Tru-Earth website.

David Siffert gave an update on the Animal Adocacy Committee, noting that the bill banning foie gras in NYS passed.

Tony Hoffmann of the Campaign Committee stated that the VID visibility campaign went really well on both the east and west sides, and it will resume in the spring.  He also gave a calendar of the elections and endorsements of the next three VID meetings.  

Grace Price, of the Campaign Finance Committee, said she was focusing on Cy Vance and had sent out a draft of egregious campaign violations.  She said Vance had run out of money but had created 12 new positions, and she asked if anyone was interested in writing a letter to the Comptroller.  This spurred a discussion.

Mar Fitzgerald of the Education Committee spoke on bills for lead testing and diversity plans.  A schools diversity advisory group was formed and Jumaane wanted to make it permanent.  She noted that CB2 had passed a resolution for screening for dyslexia, and said she would introduce a school bus resolution to make mileage shorter for buses to qualify.

Allison Stowell and Deb Sherman started their Gun Reform Committee report by speaking on the shooting in Santa Clarita in which two students were killed.  They reminded everyone of their upcoming forum in which Rebecca Fischer of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence would appear along with a panel of community activists devoted to mitigating gun violence.  They also said their post card campaign was going well.

New Business:

David noted that State Committeewoman Rachel Lavine was hosting a fundraiser for Amanda Farias, running for City Council, on December 10.

Libby (last name?) spoke on the Commission on Campaign Finance Reform with a deadline of December 1.  She said activists were coming to meetings to get action and get the Commission to change course.  She said a phone relay would launch Monday to get it done in 2019.

Keen Berger cited her book launch–a book on grandmothering–at Judson on Sunday the 24th.

Grace Price said Close Rosies is suing the mayor.

Our new members, Analise, Barbara Good, Liz Crotty, and Carol Yost, announced themselves and their reasons for joining.

And Jen Hoppe announced a candidate forum for all women running for office sponsored by Amplify Her.

October 2019 Meeting

VID’s October 2019 Meeting Covered the County Committee, Early Voting, the New York Health Act and a Vote on the Five Ballot Proposals for NYC Charter Revisions.

President David Siffert opened the October 2019 meeting with an account of the recent County Committee meeting, saying the acting chair had refused to count votes, upsetting Arthur Schwartz, the law co-chair of the County Committee and our District Leader, who tried to make the process fair.  There will be no elections for two years, so David warned us we must get our ducks in a row.

Health Care ForumThe New York Health Act Forum was a fabulous success, organized by Alec Pruchnicky and featuring Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and Senator Gustavo Rivera.  Other panelists included: Dr. Mary O’Brien with Physicians for a National Health Program; Kim Behrens, RN with Physicians for a National Health Program and New York State Nurses Association and Dr. Margaret Flowers with Health Over Profit. 

There will be a Gun Reform Forum on November 21st.  The November General Meeting will be about court reform.  The December meeting will cover endorsing a Presidential candidate and electing a VID President and three Vice Presidents.

District Leader Report

Jen Hoppe gave the District Leader report, repeating that the County Committee meeting was a mess and commending those who attended.  A group led by VID and DID attempted to get a rule change on the agenda to prohibit County Leaders from lobbying going forward.  (Keith Wright, the current County Leader, is a registered lobbyist.)  DID President Richard Corman and Vittoria Fariello, District Leader, will be meeting with Kyle Ishmael, First Vice Chair of the County Committee, to discuss this goal.  A discussion followed.

Speakers

Tiffany Townsend, the Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections in Manhattan and a District Leader with the Eleanor Roosevelt Club, led a talk on the new early voting schedule.  Early voting starts October 26 through November 3, with November 5 as the regular voting day.  She said early voting is meant to give people more access to voting.  There is also the option of using an absentee ballot.  Currently nine early voting sites are establlished, with possibly more in future elections.  The Board of Elections is building a new website with more information. 

State Senator Brad Hoylman announced that today we celebrate the passage of a plan to improve safety on the West Side Highway with a new lower speed limit, from 35 to 30 mph.  He emphasized that the Hudson River Park is the most visited park in the Northeastern U. S., and visitors must be protected.  He’s also pushing a ban on floating billboards, with support from the courts.  The Governor recently signed legislation that he pushed with Assemblymember Deborah Glick directing that  State Liquor Authority licenses be published online.  And legislation mandating vaccination has already been introduced and hopefully will pass in 2020.  He urged us to ask every legislator to pass this.

Indiana Porta, Director of Outreach, spoke on the five Charter Revisions which will appear on the ballot this election.  On the First she gave a detailed explanation of Ranked Choice Voting and the other provisions covered.  After her talk, a vote was taken on all five proposed revisions, and all passed.

New York Health Act – Vote to Endorse

Alec Pruchnycki led a discussion on the New York Health Act, with members expressing the pros and cons of the legislation.  At one point Dr. Gil Horowitz made a motion to revisit endorsing the resolution within 60 days.  After discussion, this was defeated with 9 in favor and 25 against.

State Senator Brad Hoylman spoke up for the resolution in favor of the NY Healthcare Act, saying health care is a human right, and we have let down our fellow humans for decades.  He said there will be cost savings, and implored Democratic clubs to be very outspoken in their support.  Now that the Dems are in control of the State Legislature, we have to stand up for the poor.  Brad made the point that he was a co-sponsor of the bill, and urged a vote to support.  The vote was taken, and was successful, with 26 in favor, 6 opposed, and 5 abstentions.  Resolution

Committee Reports

Tony Hoffmann, of the Campaign Committee, announced that there will be a full Committee report at the VID clubhouse on October 15.  On October 19, there will be visibility events at Abingdon Square and St. Marks Church.

Jon Verbalis gave an introduction to his new Enforcement Committee, saying it will address the lax to non-existent enforcement of city laws and codes.

For the Environmental Committee, Nat Johnson reported that there was a forum on October 7 on recycling sponsored by Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman.  Organics collection will be available in all of Manhattan, with pickups three times a week.  On October 20 there will be a tour of the Staten Island compost facility and a meeting with Robert Politzer of the Citizens Compost Lobby.  The committee is working on a resolution against Federal bill HR 763, a carbon tax legislation which will be detrimental to the environment.

Cameron Krause spoke for the Gun Reform Committee, saying there will be a forum on November 21 featuring New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Full Meeting Minutes Here

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

May General Meeting

President David Siffert opened the May General Meeting by thanking everyone for their efforts to help in the Gala, especially congratulating Melissa Carty and Sara Kimbell.

At the May General Meeting on Thursday, May 9th four resolutions passed; six committees gave progress reports and guest speaker, Emily Arsenault, from  Kirsten Gillibrand’s office spoke on gun control.

 

Party Leader Reports

District Leader Keen Berger’s three conclusions:

  1. Support elected officials who are doing good work, mentioning especially Jerry Nadler and Brad Hoylman. 
  2. The importance of the little organizations that are working on good goals like electing good people and correcting gerrymandering. 
  3. She agreed that the 14th Street situation is a mess and she’s glad that Elissa Stein wrote her great resolution in response. 

This sparked a discussion regarding support for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, working on the “double jeopardy” law, pushing to get Trump’s tax returns, and support for Planned Parenthood in the light of the anti-abortion campaign.

Rachel Lavine, State Committeewoman, urged support for the upcoming delegate selection in the State Committee and the need to approve a resolution addressing NY election laws, especially regarding the time frame in which you can register or change your party affiliation. 

She also spoke on local transportation issues and the lack of inclusiveness with the community.   Rachel also said it was imperative that the House impeaches Trump, and that we should have a conversation and inform Nadler.

Ben Yee, State Committeeman spoke of the upcoming vote on the delegates for candidates.  He’s having an event to gain donations to cover the expenses of his Public Advocate campaign.

Arthur Schwartz, the male District Leader offered details on his ongoing case regarding the 14th Street changes, and how changes in the bus routes will affect the elderly and disabled.  He will be bringing another case regarding the vehicular traffic rerouting.  The Beth Israel project is at a standstill.  Then Arthur discussed the Board of Elections knocking people off the ballot.  

Guest Speaker

Emily Arsenault, of Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, gave a Gun Control update.  She expressed frustration at seeing zero progress on this issue, but said it has become a young people’s movement.  She discussed a bill, S730, regarding prior gun trafficking, which Gillibrand re-introduced in March as she does every year.  Emily discussed S42 to expand background checks, co-sponsored with Senator Murphy, and S506, the Extreme Risk Prevention Order Act, which allows family members to petition the court to prevent people with mental illness from acquiring guns.  She also emphasized Ed Markey’s bill to study the effects of gun violence.  

Resolutions

The Resolution Urging Trader Joe’s to Resume Deliveries, by Marlene Nadle with one amendment came to a vote.  Marlene thanked everyone for their help, especially Jumaane Williams, Corey Johnson, and Erik Bottcher, and urged people to call and write and express their opinions.  The reso passed, with 18 in favor and one abstention.  

Rick Braun’s Resolution for a Law Prohibiting the Use of Campaign Contributions for Personal Expenses.  This led to a discussion about what donations can be used for, and a friendly amendment was made and accepted to change some language.  The resolution passed unanimously, 22 to zero.

Rick Braun introduced another resolution calling for the creation of adequate space in Housing Court for clients and attorneys to have private communications, a problem at least since the 80’s.  This passed unanimously, with 16 in favor.

Elissa Stein introduced a Resolution on Proposed Changes to 14th Street .  After discussion, this passed unanimously, with 15 in favor.

Committee Reports

Mar Fitzgerald, chair of the Education Committee now spoke on the first City Council hearing on school segregation, in which Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza spoke for hours.  There was a discussion about the SHSAT and the protocols for admissions for Gifted and Talented students, and the disparities with race and equity.  She said there was a right-leaning faction in danger of taking over the Community Education Council, with anti-inclusive candidates and has a list of the candidates for District 2.  Mar also said she’s the Education Editor for Westview News.

Elissa Stein gave a report on the Gala Committee, saying it was a great success, netting approximately $20,000.  She gave credit to Sara as the workhorse.

David Siffert delivered the report on the Out of District Elections Committee, as Laurie Hardjowirogo was not present.  He said they were in the process of selecting candidates to back.  There will be an upcoming Dustin Reidy fundraiser.  And he mentioned Erik Bottcher’s birthday party on Saturday.

Deb Sherman and Allison Stowell of the Gun Control Committee spoke of their coming postcard campaign to advise Governor Cuomo on what legislation he should back.

Tony Hoffmann of the Campaign Committee was not present, but David commended him on his great work.

David and Deb reported on the Animal Advocacy Committee’s work –they’re working on a letter regarding spaying and neutering of pets which will be sent out in the next few days after approval.  The legislation status regarding puppy mills is unclear.  Corey is involved with banning fur and Carlina Rivera is trying to ban foie gras.

New Business

Katharine Wolpe distributed fliers for the rent control lobby in Albany on the 14th.  She also mentioned that on Memorial Day weekend  Theater for the New City will be hosting the LES Festival of the Arts.  She advocating putting a small ad in the literature, which David will bring to the Executive Committee for a vote.

Alec Pruchnicki brought up the fact that the fourth Monday of the month would fall on Memorial Day, and proposed possibly rescheduling.  He also said the renovation status of the White Horse Tavern was unclear.

David reminded everyone about the upcoming Nadler Forum to be held at the Little Red Schoolhouse with himself and Richard Corman of DID to appear with Jerry.

READ THE FULL MEETING MINUTES HERE