BK Lawmakers Applaud NYC Council’s Little Haiti Designation
Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Ditmas Park, Flatbush) and Council members Jumaane D. Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood), Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights), Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend), and Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York) celebrated the New York City Council’s presentation of a proclamation designating the region of Little Haiti in Flatbush, Brooklyn last week.
On Thursday, the Council passed a resolution designating Little Haiti within the boundaries of East 16th Street, Parkside Avenue, Brooklyn Avenue, and along Church Avenue between East 16th Street and Albany Avenue.
New Yorkers from the Haitian community represent a significant part of the City’s cultural landscape. Brooklyn is home to the largest percentage of foreign-born Haitian residents in New York State, with more than 40% of the foreign-born population residing in Flatbush. According to 2015 data from the Migration Policy Institute, Brooklyn had the second highest concentration of Haitians in the United States with an estimated 156,000 Haitian Americans.
“This step, as momentous as it is, is just the first step in a multi stage process that will bring revitalization to our neighborhoods and businesses. I view this move by the City Council as a direct challenge to the bigotry emanating out of the White House towards communities such as the Haitian diaspora, and I thank the Council for its solidarity,” said Bichotte.
“Haitian culture has been and continues to be extremely impactful and beneficial- in this community, in this city, and around the country. Particularly as the President and his administration attack Haiti and its people, it is even more vital that that this culture and people are celebrated,” said Williams.
“The distinct identity of Haitian culture is rooted in and influential to the American experience, and this allows us to honor the history, culture, and contributions of the Haitian people. I am so grateful for how the Haitian community continues to contribute to Brooklyn and our city as a whole, and am thrilled to be able to highlight that with this designation,” said Cumbo.
“This signals the beginning of critical investments and quality of life improvements for our Haitian community, which has contributed richly to the fabric of our city,” said Treyger.
Savino Denounces Union Leader’s ‘Zombies’ Comment
State Senator Diane Savino (D-Coney Island, Staten Island) denounced a long time Democratic union leader’s derogatory remarks about her fellow Senators last week.
Hector Figueroa, leader of the building workers union local 32BJ, referred to Democrats in the state Senate who had aligned themselves with Republicans as “zombies” last Thursday when he endorsed candidates challenging four of them, according to the New York Post. One of the challengers endorsed by 32BJ is Alessandra Biaggi, who is challenging Bronx Senator Jeff Klein for his seat this year.
Savino alongside a group of fellow lawmakers was part of the now defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which was formed back in 2011 after Klein’s resignation as the Democrats’ deputy leader. The group of eight breakaway Democrats previously caucused with Senate Republicans, forming a ruling coalition with the majority Republican chamber. The group consisted of Senators Jesse Hamilton (Central Brooklyn) and Savino, Klein, Tony Avella, Marisol Alcantara, David Carlucci, David Valesky and Jose Peralta.
“Hector Figueroa’s tone deaf rhetoric in today’s hostile and increasingly violent political atmosphere deserves condemnation in the strongest words. On the same day as another tragic mass shooting he chose to compare members of the Senate to zombies who deserve to have their heads blown off. His use of words are not in line with what I hear from the hardworking members of 32BJ,” said Savino.
“During this time of increasing attacks on labor we should be working together with our union brothers and sisters to organize, not succumb to the political discourse that Donald Trump has incited,” added Savino.
Hamilton Issues Call To Protect Oceans, Lakes
State Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to protect New York State’s oceans and lakes last week.
On Friday, Hamilton urged Cuomo to push back against the Trump Administration’s recent “Executive Order Regarding the Ocean Policy to Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States” revoking Obama-era protections of oceans and Great Lakes. The order was signed on June 19, the same month as National Ocean Month, that is marked by spreading awareness of the Earth’s oceans, marine life and coasts.
The executive order does not contain the words “conservation,” “climate change,” “acidification,” “biological diversity,” or “social justice,” as noted by Hamilton. The Central Brooklyn lawmaker is calling for the Governor to convene the New York State Ocean & Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council in order to protect against erosion of the historical bodies of water.
“Climate change and ocean acidification will not wait for new policies on the federal level. They will not wait for the last climate denier to acknowledge the realities we face. They will not wait to impose their destructive consequences on us, our children, and our grandchildren. Thus, we must not wait to make serious commitments and shift away from destructive practices towards sustainability,” said Hamilton.
“Some might say, ‘Why should a landlocked, Central Brooklyn lawmaker be concerned with the Great Lakes and oceans?’ I say: Everyone should be concerned with the health of our oceans and Great Lakes. And as New Yorkers, we have a special obligation to be conscientious about the well-being of the Great Lakes Basin,” added Hamilton.
Menchaca Denounces ICE Policy Preventing Detained Immigrants Heard Via Video Conference
City Council member Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park) denounced the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s decision to have the cases of detained immigrants heard via video conference and not in its Lower Manhattan court last week.
According to the new policy, immigrants in detention who are facing deportation hearings in New York City will have to do those hearings through video or audio conferencing instead of being brought in person to a judge’s courtroom. The sudden decision was made last Wednesday, in the wake of a protest at the courtroom off of Varick Street by Occupy ICE New York. The agency claims the new policy is based on safety concerns and not a move to deny immigrants their rights.
“Due to attempts by certain groups to disrupt ICE operations through spreading misinformation and advocating violence against ICE employees, ICE decided to suspend transport of detainees for the foreseeable future.” The agency added, “This decision was made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees,” per an ICE statement.
In recent years, the City has provided pro-bono legal representation for immigrant residents who are detained and facing deportation. Legal representation in the immigration system is not a guaranteed right, but it’s been shown that having a lawyer can have a sizeable impact in the disposition of deportation cases.
“ICE is feeling the pressure and, as a result, they are using our community’s protests as an excuse to deny due process rights to immigrant New Yorkers by prolonging detention and restricting access to legal counsel. But this isn’t a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness.One of the few things left is to prevent detained individuals from accessing the legal resources necessary to fight their detentions. As New Yorkers, we will fight this injustice just as we have fought everything that has come before,” said Menchaca.
Cymbrowitz Files FOIL Request For Swan Slaughter Answers
Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach) is demanding answers regarding the recent slaughter of a family of mute swans in upstate New York.
Last week, Cymbrowitz filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requesting information on the incident and whether similar incidents have taken place since his legislation prohibiting DEC from killing the swans was signed into law in late 2016.
On June 18, an entire family of mute swans – two adults and four cygnets — in Oneida, NY was killed by U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife staff after a kayaker reportedly complained to state DEC about an “aggressive” male swan. In a scathing letter to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Cymbrowitz expressed his outrage at the incident including DEC’s deliberate circumventing of the no-kill law by directing a federal agency to exterminate mute swans on its behalf.
In the same letter, Cymbrowitz expressed concern about the apparent disappearance of seven mute swans from Prospect Park Lake. Currently, the lawmaker is still awaiting a formal response from DEC.
“I find it outrageous that DEC is actively circumventing the ban by enlisting another agency to kill the birds. This deceptive behavior violates the spirit of the moratorium and, equally important, erodes any shred of trust that the public may place in DEC to act appropriately and humanely regarding the mute swans,” said Cymbrowitz, member of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee.