Social Justice

Whenever one group is treated differently or denied protection under our laws, it undermines the foundation on which our country was built. Discrimination, whether against two people who love each other and want to marry, against a family whose only transgression is wanting to make a better life for their children in American, or against a religious institution seeking to locate near one of the most contested sites in the city, is patently un-American. The City Council should act as force against hate and intolerance, as well as fighting to bring those who live in the shadows more fully into our society.

Making Local Progress Toward Equity

I’m in Los Angeles this week, attending the conferences of Local Progress (our national network of progressive local elected officials) and the PolicyLink#Equity2015 Summit. I’m looking forward to joining over 100 local elected officials at Local Progress, and then 3,000 people from around the country at PolicyLink, committed to advancing issues of racial & economic equity, sustainability, and vibrant democracy in our cities and communities. Read more »

Protecting Workers in the “Gig” Economy

More and more workers here in Brooklyn (and far beyond) are being paid “by the gig” – freelance graphic designers, writers, and film producers, Uber drivers, Handy.com cleaners, day laborers, and many more.

In plenty of cases, freelancing and “gig” work makes sense. It can allow consumers to arrange for on-demand services in ways not possible before, allow workers to set flexible work hours or earn extra money, and generate new economic activity.

But there’s a very real dark side. Freelance workers too often get cheated out of the wages and fees they are owed. Day laborers get misclassified and denied their rights as employees. Uber drivers lack the right to organize and collectively bargain with their corporate employer. Working by-the-gig provides much less job security than a traditional career – and it almost never provides health insurance, paid sick days, paid family leave, workforce development, or retirement security.

We urgently need creative thinking, new models, and some new laws to provide for worker protection and security in the emerging economy. Read more »

Whose visions for Gowanus? Come take a look.

You may have seen the recent New Yorker cover on Gowanus, in which artist Adrian Tomine makes fun of “people eating their organic kale and quinoa salads while gazing across the opaque, fetid water.” It’s a funny cover, and it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves (and our neighbors). And there are certainly many ironic contradictions around the Gowanus Canal these days.   

But the issues we face in Gowanus are serious ones: How do we confront the legacy of industrial pollution, and the challenges of climate change and resiliency? How can we create inclusive neighborhoods – with room for working- and middle-class families, for public housing, for artists, for manufacturing – amidst skyrocketing real estate values? What’s the right balance of housing and jobs? Can we preserve, (or even strengthen) the mixed-use, eclectic, creative character of the neighborhood amidst change? Read more »

Your Neighborhood Needs You!

Our 5th year of Participatory Budgeting NYC (PBNYC) is about to kick off, and we need your help! 

The PBNYC process gives New Yorkers the power to decide how to spend tax dollars in our neighborhoods. If you’re not familiar with PBNYC, here’s how it works: Read more »

A great day for the U.S. (and a good NYC budget, too)!

What a day! The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed what Meg and I – and the overwhelming majority of residents of our community – have long believed: that love is love, and that every state must recognize marriage of LGBTQ Americans equally with straight ones. 

I especially liked this part of Justice Kennedy’s decision: “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.” Read more »

Another victory for carwasheros

Through the winter, so many of you stood side-by-side with the carwasheros at Vegas Auto Spa in Park Slope. This spring – thanks to their courage and our community’s solidarity – they won a huge victory: a union contract with better wages, worker protections, and a $1,500 per-person signing bonus. 

This week, carwasheros across NYC (along with their partners at Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change, and the RWDSU) won another big victory for fair wages, better working conditions, and basic worker dignity. Read more »

The democratic promise of our public schools

Nothing is more important to our democracy than strong public schools that offer all kids a genuine opportunity to learn, grow, solve problems, imagine, create, work in teams, get ready for careers, and become citizens of NYC. In just a few short weeks – at 5th grade, 8th grade, and high-school graduations across the district – we’ll have a chance to see and celebrate the magic that happens daily in our public schools.

We’re lucky to have many great schools in District 15. And we’re making some strong steps forward: I’m especially excited about the continued expansion of Pre-K in our community. Next fall, I believe that the majority of four-year-olds in our neighborhoods will be served in free, high-quality, public Pre-K programs. 

Still, we’ve got a long way to go to fulfill the true democratic promise of public education. Across NYC, too many of our schools aren’t providing kids with the education they need. And as you’ve been reading in the news, we are still grappling with many public policy issues (though most of these are set, for better or worse, at the state level) from mayoral control to high-stakes testing to the charter school cap.

I won’t go into all of those here – but I did want to fill you in on some of the work my office has been doing in recent days to strengthen our City’s schools: confronting segregation & improving diversity, re-imagining the middle-school admissions process, the PTA 5k fun-run-for-schools, school crossing guards, and more: Read more »

City Council Passes “School Diversity Accountability Act”

New law will require NYC Department of Education to provide detailed demographic data & steps it is taking to advance diversity in NYC schools, Seen as strong tool for advocates confronting school segregation.

NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Council voted to pass new policies designed to confront segregation and increase diversity in NYC public schools. Read more »

Elected Officials & Families of Seniors Denounce NYS Department of Health for Abandoning 90-Year-Olds, Seeking to Force Their Eviction

NYS DOH Refusing to Advance Funds Needed for Safe Building Operation to Receiver Whose Appointment They Requested

BROOKYLN, N.Y. – Monday morning, Council Member Brad Lander, Public Advocate Letitia James, families of seniors living at Prospect Park Residence, and concerned community residents gathered outside the Brooklyn Supreme Court to denounce the failure of the NYS Health Department and Governor Cuomo to protect the elderly residents remaining in the building. For the past year, NYS DOH has failed to protect residents – despite repeated court orders – from the contemptuous management of owner Haysha Deitsch, who has consistently worsened building conditions (including downgrading security, firing all cleaning staff, and serving spoiled food) while attempting to force residents out, in order to sell the building for luxury housing.

Read more »

Tell Governor Cuomo & NYS DOH that they must not abandon PPR seniors – Protest Monday AM

It’s been a long and frustrating fight for the seniors still living at Prospect Park Residence (PPR), but it’s not over yet. Unfortunately, we learned today that Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Health are proposing to abandon them.

Please join us Monday morning to show your support for our elderly neighbors. Read more »