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.

Victory at the Carwash!

I’m very excited to share with you some good news from the carwasheros at Vegas Auto Spa. Earlier today, they announced a landmark new contract and the end of their four-month long strike. The workers will be off the picket line and back at work on Monday.

The new contract includes wage hikes, strong worker protections like paid time off, sharing of hours and overtime, protections for immigrant workers, and a $1,500 per-person signing bonus. The owner also agreed to settle a suit the workers filed for wage and hour violations. It’s an all-around win for the brave workers who so courageously put their jobs on the line, and another win for low wage workers everywhere. When workers stand up for better treatment, their actions have echo effects that stretch far beyond their shop. Read more »

Continuing Our Fight Against Discrimination

When we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery earlier this month, we were reminded of the scourge of discrimination, and of the historic work of the civil rights movement to make fundamental change. And we were called – by Congressman John Lewis and President Obama – to continue that fight today. While we are not called to risk our very lives as the Selma marchers courageously did, we are called upon to do all that we can to root out discrimination.

While we’ve made real progress, there is a long way to go– even here in New York City. NYC’s Human Rights Laws provides some of the strongest civil rights protections anywhere in the country against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. But for the past 20 years, we have too often failed to enforce them. NYC’s Human Rights Commission has been allowed to shrink to a shadow of its former self, leading New Yorkers facing discrimination to wait a year or more for meager investigations, and with no pro-active investigations to combat systemic discrimination. Read more »

Why I was arrested today

Over the past few months, our community has supported the struggle of the carwasheros at Vegas Car Wash on 19th Street in Park Slope. We have stood with them as they have demanded repayment of $1 million in wages stolen from them, organized to form a union, and demanded a simple, fair contract (to read about the unfair practices these workers are protesting, read my previous post or this  WNYC article).

They aren’t demanding anything extravagant. Even with a contract, these will still be low-wage jobs. They just want – no, they just insist – on being treated like human beings, with some basic dignity.

After seeing the carwasheros newly-formed union denied, their conditions worsen, and their presence day-in-and-day-out at the picket lines throughout a freezing cold winter, I can no longer remain on the sidelines. Read more »

Update from the Car Wash Picket Line

The car wash workers at Vegas Auto Spa in Park Slope are still on strike – but today they have some good news to share. This afternoon (in an official election moderated by the National Labor Relations Board) the workers unanimously voted to unionize. This is an important step forward in their struggle for fair wages, better working conditions, and being treated with dignity. Read more »

Dark days, and brighter ones

The waning days of 2014 have been dark ones for New York City. The killing of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu made real the worst imaginable fears for those who put their safety on the line to serve our communities. Reactions to their murders highlighted tensions among New Yorkers – around how we understand the challenges of public safety and policing – and have risked setting us against ourselves.

Just a few weeks earlier, here in the 39th Council District, we lost 14-year-old Mohammad Naiem Uddin in a traffic crash that reminded us that our efforts to improve traffic safety and reduce speeding have not yet done enough.

Still, as the year turns, I remain truly grateful for what we’ve done together. Democracy can be messy, even painful. We don’t all agree on how to understand the problems, and certainly not on the solutions. But I am genuinely glad about what we’ve achieved together in New York City in 2014. While much of the rest of the country is stuck in a place of political polarization, we have moved forward in tangible ways to make lives better for many New Yorkers. Read more »

Contribute to support the workers at Las Vegas Car Wash

The fight for dignity and fair pay for low-wage workers has made it to our doorstep – or at least to our neighborhood car-wash.

The car-wash workers (or “carwasheros”) at Las Vegas Auto Spa (on 19th Street & 7th Avenue) have been cheated out of $600,000 in overtime and wages by owner Marat Leshehinsky, threatened, and denied their right to organize and form a union. So they took the brave step to go out on strike, and have been on the picket line since Thanksgiving.

We have a very concrete role to play: I am asking every one of us who cares about workers' rights to make a contribution to the strike fund so these courageous workers can get through the holidays.

Read more »

Thanksgiving reflections during a trip to St. Louis

I’m starting this Thanksgiving weekend with a heavy heart. We look to Thanksgiving as a time to count our blessings, reunite with family, and recharge. But a good meal and fellowship don’t feel adequate this year – in the wake of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, or the death of Mohammad Uddin in Kensington. Read more »

Support needed for car-wash workers on strike in Park Slope

Update (12/10/14): This Sunday, December 14, the workers will be marching through the community to kick off a rally for their rights. 

March in Support of Striking Carwasheros

Sunday, December 14 at 11am

Start: F/G station at 7th Ave and 9th Street

End: Las Vegas Auto Spa (555 Seventh Ave) 

I will be taking part in Sunday’s march to show solidarity and support for these workers, and I hope that you will join me. Together, we will show this owner that our community will not stand for abusive and unjust labor practices. I look forward to seeing you there.

Read more »

Seniors, Electeds & Community Stand Up Against Deplorable Conditions at Prospect Park Residence

BROOKLYN, NY -- Senior citizens, their families, elected officials and outraged community members gathered in front of the Prospect Park Residence on Saturday morning to protest unlivable conditions designed to drive the elderly residents from their homes.

Protesters including NYC Council Member Brad Lander, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer decried the owner’s cruelty, as well as the inaction of Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Health, accusing the State of failing to protect the health and safety of residents in the building, as required by law.

Read more »