Social Justice

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 »

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 »

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 »

A progressive City Council gets to work

Four years ago, after my election to the City Council, I joined Melissa Mark-Viverito and nine of our colleagues to form the Council’s first ever Progressive Caucus. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish during that term – banning discriminatory policing, extending paid sick days to more New York workers – but we always knew that the Caucus would be more powerful if it had more members.

Photo credit: William Alatriste, New York City Council

Thanks to a big election, smart organizing, and a lot of help from New York progressives like you, that day has come.

A little over a year ago, several Caucus members and I formed Progressive NYC, in the hopes that we could help elect some progressive candidates to the Council and grow our ranks. Our goals seemed ambitious at the time, but we thought that if we elected 5 or 6 more progressives, to add to the Progressive Caucus’ 11 members, we could ensure that progressives had a seat at the table when forming the new Council, setting priorities, and choosing a Speaker.

So we marshalled volunteers and hosted house parties for a slate of fresh-faced community activists from neighborhoods like Bushwick, Far Rockaway, and the Bronx, who were ready to make an impact at City Hall. And as you know by now, we far surpassed our original goal, and have had a transformative impact on New York City government. We have doubled the size of the Progressive Caucus and played a role in electing Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Melissa Mark-Viverito as the new Speaker. Read more »

A Flood of Compassion … But Not Much Justice

By Lisa Cowan (Red Hook Initiative) and Brad Lander (New York City Council)

One year ago, Hurricane Sandy darkened the skyline and changed the lives of so many of our neighbors.  This week’s anniversary calls to mind the crowds who waited for food and supplies in Red Hook, the cars full of baked ziti and batteries dispatched to Coney Island, Staten Island, and the Rockaways, the gas station lines, and the rows upon rows of cots for hundreds of evacuees at the Park Slope Armory (and so many other places). Read more »