Borough Park

Still and always, grateful

Some years, gratitude is closer to the surface. Some years, it takes a little more digging.

Four years ago, as Thanksgiving came, we were recovering from a natural disaster.

Hurricane Sandy had taken the lives of loved ones, and battered our city. There were 500 nursing home evacuees living on the drill floor of the Park Slope Armory. But we found – no, together, we made – a “paradise built in hell” (the title of a brilliant book by Rebecca Solnit, about the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster). With food, music, art, volunteers, bathroom-cleaning, doctors, donations, smart organizing, love, and a deep sense of purpose, we turned that Armory into a place (as described by evacuee Miriam Eisenstein-Drachler) of “courtesy, gentleness, and goodness beyond description.” Even if it could not hold back the hurricane, she said, “it makes one feel more secure and very, very grateful.”

Today, as Thanksgiving comes, we are trying to recover from a political disaster. While the lives lost and damage done by Hurricane Sandy cannot be directly compared, the experience of loss for many of us is still real. Not just that we lost an election, though that will have profound consequences. What feels especially painful to me today is the risk that we’ll lose a vision that we’ve been so proud to hold up for our kids – of a country called to its best self, rooted in compassion, embracing difference, with a real belief (even when we don’t make it real) that everyone deserves a more equal chance across all our lines.

That very dream, and the effort to make it real, provoked a sharp back-lash (a “white-lash”, as Van Jones rightly called it). At this moment, it seems easier to mobilize the darker, more closed, more resentful, sides of humanity – rather than the hopeful, open, embracing ones. I’m afraid, honestly, about what that means for being human.  

Still and always, gratitude is a critical part of the way forward. Not as a way of “feeling better” (although gratitude turns out to be good for your health). And not only because bitterness can consume us (although John Lewis reminds us that hearts full of love will do a lot better to sustain us for a long-term struggle). But also because gratitude for what we do together, for what we can’t do alone, for the ways we need each other, is at the heart of creating an inclusive community. “Organized compassion” is not only how we fight but what we are fighting for.

So, in that spirit, here’s some of what I am so deeply grateful for, still and always: Read more »

We are Orlando. So let’s do something about it

Even two days later, it’s hard to make sense of the brutal tragedy in Orlando.  There’s something truly incomprehensible – about so many lives lost at once, about raising our kids in a world where mass shootings have become horrifically normal, about the polarized political response, and about our galling failure to act.

First in our hearts are the lives lost and the families torn apart. Last night, outside the Stonewall Inn, thousands of us stood together to read their names.

Tonight at Grand Army Plaza, Public Advocate Tish James with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and community leaders from Brooklyn’s diverse communities will come together to join for a unity vigil to remember the lives lost in Orlando and stand together in the face of hatred.

Unity Vigil to Honor the Lives Lost in Orlando
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn NY
7:30 PM, Tonight (June 14)

As we remember and begin to heal, we are learning more about the 49 people – mostly young, LGBTQ, and Latino – killed while dancing and celebrating together.  Read more »

Some new candidates on the (PBNYC) ballot!

PBNYC Vote Week is underway – and there are some new candidates on the ballot!

For the first time ever, we’ll be offering a brand new voting opportunity. In addition to voting on how to spend $1.5 million on the “capital projects ballot” (with 13 great projects like those from prior years), you’ll also get to vote on how to spend $50,000 on our brand new “program ballot.” 

Every year, during the PBNYC brainstorming phase, we hear many great ideas that don’t meet the criteria for “city capital” funding, which has to be for “bricks-and-mortar” projects.

So this year, we are offering an entire second ballot of projects that qualify for city “programmatic” funding that lets us really take advantage of all the creativity we see in PBNYC.  I’m proud to say we are the only district in NYC piloting this new opportunity. Read more »

PBNYC 2016 Ballot is here: What will you choose?

You’re going to get a lot of chances to vote this year – the Presidential primary in April, the State legislative primary in September, and the General Election in November.

But only one ballot contains 13 fantastic local projects to improve our schools, parks, libraries, streets and transit: the PBNYC 2016 ballot for our district is here, and its time to get ready to vote on how you want to spend $1.5 million. Read more »

Hey, did you hear it might snow?

You might have heard somewhere these past few days, but we’re expecting a bit of snow this weekend. We’ve seen what happens when we under-prepare, as well as what happens when we over-prepare. But the bottom line is we just don’t know how much snow we’re going to get – so it’s best to be ready.

Side note: For those of you who want to learn more about the surprisingly fascinating world of weather forecasting, Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise has a great chapter on the topic that I recommend while you’re sipping your hot cocoa this weekend.

Since the Snowpocalypse of 2010 the City Sanitation Department and the City Council have done a lot to make sure NYC is ready for whatever winter weather comes our way.  New York City has set up a great Severe Weather Update website which is the best source for up to the minute information on city operations (and you can even track the progress of City snow plows). Read more »

Protecting Freelancers from Getting Stiffed

New York City is the freelance capital of the world, with over 1.3 million freelancers, so many of them right here in Brooklyn. More and more people are working “by the gig” (as graphic designers, film producers, for-hire drivers, nannies, and much more), rather than for a regular paycheck.

But despite the rapidly growing percentage of workers who are paid this way, our laws have not kept up with our changing economy. As a result, gig economy workers don’t have the protections and benefits of traditional employees.

One consequence: more than 70% of freelancers report having been stiffed out of payments they were owed – by being paid too late, too little, or not at all – to the tune of $6,390 every year, on average. I’ve heard stories from individuals who were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars they were owed.

Everyone deserves to be paid for their work, on time and in full. So on Monday, in partnership with the Freelancer’s Union, I introduced the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.”  Read more »

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. Read more »

Caring for our Seniors – Community events coming up!

From facing hard decisions about care giving needs, to finding enough money to pay rent and medical bills on a fixed income, life can be challenging for our senior citizens and those who care for them. Fortunately, there are policies and programs that can help our elderly neighbors and loved ones make the most of their later years.

Next week some great senior focused organizations in our community are putting on informative events to help you make sure you or your loved ones know how to take part in these programs and get the highest level of care possible. Read more »

Hope, Not Hate

The following are remarks from Council Member Brad Lander at the Brooklyn Vigil for Paris, November 15, 2015:

Article 1. Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.

Article 4. Liberty consists in the power to do anything that does not injure others.

Article 9. Every man being presumed innocent until he has been pronounced guilty.

Article 10. No one should be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not upset the public order established by law.

Article 11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.

Article 12. The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen requires a public force; this force then is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the personal benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.

We defeat terrorism by re-asserting our values. As we mourn the victims of Paris, Beirut, and Kenya, and remember those of Lower Manhattan, there’s no place better to start tonight than the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, written in Paris in 1789. Read more »

NYC ID card sign up coming to our area!

Almost a year ago New York City made history by launching IDNYC, our city’s new municipal ID card program. Since then, over half a million New Yorkers have signed up, and IDNYC is now the largest municipal ID program in the country.

If you haven’t had time to get your card yet – I’ve got some great news for you! IDNYC is coming to us. Read more »