I am deeply saddened and distressed by the killing of yet another young person from El Barrio/East Harlem. In the past three weeks alone, three teenagers from our community have been killed due to senseless and endemic violence in our city.
A young woman, Tysha Jones, gunned down enjoying a day at the beach; a young man, Juan Ortero, shot while walking to a local deli; and now another talented and promising young man, Isayah Muller, stabbed to death on the day of his high school graduation. As we head into the summer, we are seeing far too many lives being cut short due to violence and few communities have felt the impact of these killings more than El Barrio/East Harlem. Though two of these three incidents did not occur in our community, it is no secret that we have also experienced a serious increase in shootings and other forms of violence here in our neighborood, particularly among our youth. We must all continue to come together and reaffirm that this violence must be stopped.
On behalf of my entire community, I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of these three young victims and all youth who have been tragically and prematurely taken from us due to violence.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito released a report today on discretionary expense and capital funds that she has helped secure for organizations and schools in our district in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The budget was adopted by the City Council yesterday. The report, which can be found below, also provides information on the restorations to the Mayor’s proposed budget made by the City Council, as well as Council initiatives.
The adopted FY 2012 budget included critical restorations of cuts proposed by the Mayor to the city’s safety net, in areas ranging from education, parks, libraries and senior centers to HIV/AIDS services, fire engine companies and child protective services workers. Most notably, thanks to the Council’s negotiations with the Mayor and the UFT, the 4,000 plus teachers proposed to be laid off will remain in the classroom. Unfortunately, not all programs could be kept whole in this challenging fiscal environment. Melissa and many of her colleagues continue to push for the need for fair share tax reform and alternative revenue options to avoid further cuts in the future.
Please take a moment to review the report, which is embedded below. You can also download it in PDF format by clicking here.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito is celebrating tonight’s historic passage of marriage equality legislation in the State of New York.
“Today marks a truly historic victory in the struggle for equal rights for LGBT New Yorkers,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. ”Lesbian and gay couples will finally have their love for one another recognized by our state and will be afforded with all of the benefits and protections that they need and deserve. Over the past few weeks, I have been so proud to stand side by side with Latino elected officials and community leaders in pushing for full marriage equality in our state. I want to thank the Governor and all of those State Legislators who supported this legislation, particularly Senator Tom Duane and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, Mayor Bloomberg for his efforts and all of the advocates and community members who have fought so that we could arrive at this incredible moment. I would most especially like to congratulate Speaker Christine Quinn on this momentous victory for equality and justice in our state, which was made possible in large part thanks to her tireless advocacy.”
In recent weeks, Melissa has helped spearhead efforts to highlight the Latino voice in this debate and to demonstrate the strong support for marriage equality within Latino communities.
Criticizes Mayor from Blocking Plan to Save Essential Services
The New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus calls on the Bloomberg Administration to accept the constructive and responsible offer from the Municipal Labor Council – to avoid teacher lay-offs and massive class size increases, the closing of fire companies that put communities at risk, the elimination of thousands of day care slots, of neighborhood libraries, and many other essential services.
Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg is more interested in posturing than in the needs of millions of New Yorkers. He apparently is more concerned with “looking tough on labor” than in the best interests of our city. Mr. Mayor, this is not a competition with Governor Walker, Governor Christie, or Governor Cuomo to wring out the most concessions or look the toughest. This is not a game.
The offer from our city’s public sector labor unions is an extremely generous one. They are willing to contribute more than $260 million that was designated to be used for the health care of their members to the City, in order to keep class sizes low, save fire companies, workers who protect at-risk kids, day care slots, libraries, and cultural institutions. This is not public money, but funds from hard working union members who keep this city going and who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. At the same time, the union proposal would use less than half that amount from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to contribute to union welfare funds, with narrow uses allowed, specifically for health insurance uses. This offer is not only appropriate and reasonable – it is incredibly generous. The Mayor should respect the good faith proposal made by the city’s unions.
Mr. Bloomberg is supposed to be the dollars and cents mayor, but his rejection of the MLC’s offer doesn’t make finacial sense. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently rejected a fair, balanced, and compassionate approach to this year’s budget. Despite the City Time scandal in which his Administration has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, he has rejected reasonable proposals from Speaker Quinn and others to trim out-of-control consultant spending. Despite continued profits on Wall Street, his policies will give millionaires a tax break that will cost the City billions.
Mayor Bloomberg, this is not a time for posturing. Please reverse course, accept the offer from our city’s unions, agree to cuts in contract spending, and help achieve a responsible, balanced, “fair share” budget that does not jeopardize our future.
Progressive Caucus members are: co-chairs Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx); Annabel Palma, from the Bronx; Letitia James and Jumaane D. Williams, from Brooklyn; Margaret Chin, from Manhattan; Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, James Sanders Jr., and Jimmy Van Bramer, from Queens; and Deborah Rose, from Staten Island.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and seven of her Puerto Rican colleagues in government from New York sent a letter yesterday to U.S. Army Secretary John M. McHugh, Secretary and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) District Commander Alfred Pantano to express their strong opposition to the “Via Verde” natural gas pipeline project in Puerto Rico (A copy can be viewed at http://scr.bi/mATdHJ). New York State Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo, Marcos Crespo and Robert Rodriguez and City Council Members Joel Rivera, Sara Gonzalez, Rosie Mendez and Annabel Palma joined Council Member Viverito in citing serious concerns over the potential for an environmental disaster as a result of this project as well as the lack of public process as the Puerto Rican government made its decision to support the project.
“Via Verde” is a 92 mile long cross-island natural gas pipeline project being proposed in Puerto Rico. This project does not comply with the most basic regulatory standards and procedural safeguards for the construction of such a high-risk project. Because the Governor of Puerto Rico declared an “energy emergency,” the project has been fast-tracked, and no public hearings or environmental impact assessments have been conducted. Still, polling data indicates that a vast majority of the Puerto Rican people oppose the pipeline.
The elected officials who signed this letter demanded that a thorough and transparent process be conducted in order to assure that the well-being of the Puerto Rican people affected by this project is preserved. The signers have asked that USACE slow down the process by denying all requests for permits until public hearings can be held and a thorough environmental impact study can be conducted.
The letter can be viewed below:
Please join us at the Fifth Annual Power of Aging Well Senior Health Festival this Thursday, June 23rd from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Jefferson Park (First Avenue between 112th and 114th Streets). The festival will be hosted by the Metropolitan Hospital Center, in collaboration with NYC Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Department for the Aging and other city agencies and will feature entertainment, art, exercise and health screenings dedicated to our senior population.
Please help us to spread to word to all of our local older adults!
Latino elected officials and community leaders united again yesterday to make a final push for marriage equality. Legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry has already passed the New York State Assembly, and just one more vote is needed in the Senate for full passage. The rally and press conference was held at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village. Puerto Rican human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano emceed the event, which also featured Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Rosie Mendez, the bill’s sponsor Senator Tom Duane and actor Wilson Cruz. Two same-sex couples, Maribelle Vázquez and Sophia Pazos, as well as Henry Velandia and Joshua Vandiver, also shared their personal stories to make the case for marriage equality.
Check out all the coverage of yesterday’s press conference:
- Última llamada para ‘Ley de Igualdad Matrimonial’ (El Diario/La Prensa)
- Supporters Of Same-Sex Marriage Bill Hold Rallies Across NYC (CBS NY)
- Same-sex marriage supporters rally in NYC (ABC NY)
- Father’s Day Marriage Equality Rally (Fox NY)
- Comunidad latina se expresa a favor de la igualdad matrimonial (NY1 Noticias)
- Same-sex marriage goes down to legislative wire in New York (Reuters)
New York City Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jumaane Williams and Letitia James issued the following response to comments made by Frank Barry, a spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg, regarding the city’s marijuana arrest policy and pending legislation at the state level (S.5187 / A. 7620) that would de-criminalize the public display of small amounts of marijuana. The comments were published in New York Times’ columnist Jim Dwyer’s piece on Wednesday, June 15th (available at http://nyti.ms/mjjV2I).
“The responses provided by Mayor Bloomberg’s spokesperson, as quoted in The New York Times, provide further evidence of how disconnected Mayor Bloomberg is with Black and Latino communities. No matter how much the administration thinks that arresting youth for what amounts to low-level marijuana violations is helping to stem violence, this could not be further from the truth. These arrests only serve to engender distrust between low-income communities of color and the NYPD, which will only undermine the Police Department’s efforts to address real crime in our neighborhoods. In a time of limited resources, the NYPD should be focusing on violence that impacts our communities, rather than on the overzealous enforcement of low-level marijuana violations, which has already been de-criminalized by the state.
“Efforts are currently underway at the state level to de-criminalize the public display of small amounts of marijuana. In stating that this bill will lead to the proliferation of ‘open-air drug markets’ on our streets and the ‘reversing (of) successful efforts to clean up neighborhoods,’ the administration is employing scare tactics, which should not be tolerated. Let us set the record straight. This legislation will do nothing to legalize the open sale or possession of large amounts of marijuana, but will close a loophole in the law that criminalizes tens of thousands of our young people each year, when they are asked to remove small amounts of marijuana from their pockets, and then arrested on the grounds that it was exposed to public view.
“According to data released yesterday, the NYPD is on target to make 60,000 marijuana possession arrests this year—more than any other year in history. Although statistics show that Caucasian youth make up the majority of marijuana users, almost 90% of those arrested in recent years have been Black and Latino youth. This is nothing short of a race-based policy of enforcement, and it must be stopped. We call upon the Mayor to support the bipartisan legislation introduced in the State Legislature by Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Jeffries.”
Melissa joined Congressman Charlie Rangel and Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez at Claudio’s Barber Shop on 116th Street near First Avenue to show their support as the shop faces eviction, after 60 years of doing business in the neighborhood. Claudio Caponigro, 80-years-old, recently learned that his landlord is seeking to nearly triple the rent for the location, which Claudio says would force him to close his doors.
Melissa would like to see the barber shop stay in the community, and has offered her support as Claudio explores his options. She has also called for a commercial rent regulation program, that would prevent local small businesses from being displaced by escalating rents.
Melissa spearheaded a joint letter sent by 23 Council Members to Mayor Bloomberg yesterday, urging him to take a public position in support of the strengthening and renewal of rent protections for New York City residents. Though there is less than a week left in the legislative session in Albany, the Mayor has remained silent on this pressing issue for millions of our city’s families.
While there has clearly been a strong, consistent chorus of City elected officials and community groups from throughout the five boroughs in favor of rent stabilization, your voice has been notably absent from the debate.
It is disappointing that you have not yet spoken up in favor of rent reform, considering that half of our city’s rental units are covered by rent regulations, translating to over 2.5 million individuals who are able to remain in their homes and neighborhoods as a result of lower rents and eviction protections.
You can view and download the full letter below or by clicking this link: