Photo via former City Council member Dan Garodnick’s Twitter.
Change is in the air at City Hall, where the new City Council is expected to elect Corey Johnson as the next council speaker tomorrow. Locally, Carlina Rivera is now on the job as Council member in District 2, which includes sections of the Lower East Side (her inauguration takes place later this month).
But before we become completely embroiled in the politics of 2018, let’s acknowledge the service of Rosie Mendez.
She just finished up a 12-year tour of duty in District 2 (Mendez faced term limits this past election cycle). In this neighborhood, Mendez was seen during her three terms as a strong advocate for public housing tenants and for affordable housing in a rapidly gentrifying community. Mendez was chair of the public housing committee during the first part of her City Council career. She also spoke up frequently on civil rights issues. Before leaving the Council last month, Mendez noted that the chamber would be without a lesbian representative after her term ended.
During the past several weeks, Mendez’s colleagues, constituents and political allies paid tribute to her in different ways. Rivera, a former staff member in Mendez’s office, will celebrate her inauguration Sunday, Jan. 21, 3 p.m. at Middle Collegiate Church, 112 Second Avenue.
The mayor attended a town hall on the Lower East Side in June.
Mayor de Blasio has been holding town hall meetings this year (a re-election year) in just about every New York City neighborhood. Next week, he’s coming to the Lower East Side to host a public Q & A session in collaboration with District 2 City Council member Rosie Mendez. Co-sponsors include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and local settlement houses.
The town hall will take place Thursday Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., at P.S. 188, 442 East Houston St. If you want to attend, you need to RSVP by Oct. 10 (that’s Tuesday). Here’s the link.
The mayor has faced some criticism about his town hall meetings. As NY1 reported, “The frequency of these town hall events is raising questions about whether the line between government work and politics is blurring as we near Election Day.” The mayor held a similar meeting with City Council member Margaret Chin in June.
In our story recent story on this year’s appointees to Community Board 3, we noted that one member, Anne Johnson, was not reappointed. We have more details about that today.
Community board members are selected by the borough president, and half of them are nominated by local City Council members. Johnson, one of the longest-serving members of CB3, was an appointee of District 2 Council member Rosie Mendez.
In an interview with Mendez yesterday, she explained that the borough president’s office raised a concern about a potential conflict of interest regarding her appointment of Johnson to another term. For many years, even before she was elected to the Council, Johnson has prepared Mendez’s taxes through her accounting business. Mendez said it had not occurred to her in the past that there could be an issue, but that the borough president’s legal counsel weighed in with an opinion that there was indeed a conflict. So Mendez made the decision to remove Johnson from her list of appointees.
Separately, Mendez asked the Conflicts of Interest Board for an opinion. She told us the board disagreed with the borough president’s counsel, finding that the appointment of Mendez’s tax accountant did not rise to the level of a conflict. “Maybe it’s a conflict and maybe it isn’t,” said Mendez, but “if there’s an appearance of a conflict, that’s just as bad, and I wasn’t comfortable with it.” She added that it’s always been her practice to “over-share” and “over-disclose” information relevant to her public service.
Johnson only found out about the problem last Wednesday, the same day the appointments were announced. Mendez said she regrets not having spoken with Johnson about the issue in advance (Mendez was traveling to Puerto Rico on family business during the time period). Mendez said she hopes there’s a way to reappoint Johnson to CB3 in the future. She’s spoken with the borough president about it. Down the road, Mendez might have someone else handle her taxes. The Council member, finishing up her third and final term, mentioned that her successor could reappointment Johnson to the board.
In an interview, Johnson said she would have fought the decision if she’d known in advance about it. She’ll wait until January and then, “make a big effort to get back on the board.” Johnson has no interest in displacing any board member, but there are often vacancies. She hopes to rejoin the board when a vacancy occurs.
Johnson was first appointed to CB3 in 1982. She was off the board for about a five-year period, but has served continuously for many years. She was board president from 1988-1990.
A spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declined to comment, saying it is her policy not to speak publicly about specific community board appointees.
State Assembly candidate Paul Newell was endorsed by City Council member Rosie Mendez last week, in his bid to replace Sheldon Silver in Albany.
Supporters huddled on the porch Thursday afternoon as the storm clouds opened up at City Hall. But it didn’t keep Mendez and fellow Council members Ben Kallos and Mark Levine from speaking up for Newell, a district leader for the past seven years.
Mendez said, “I am proud to throw my support behind the only person who had the temerity to run against Speaker Sheldon Silver about 10 years ago. He is not afraid to take on the heavy guns and he will do that again as a member of the Assembly come November. I am going to work every day to help him realize that goal for our district.”
Several candidates are competing in the Democratic Primary, which takes place Sept. 13. Alice Cancel currently holds the office in the 65th Assembly District (she won an April special election). Leading up to the first election, both Mendez and Council member Margaret Chin endorsed Cancel. Mendez’s decision this go-around was expected after her political club, Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA), voted to back Newell. Chin is supporting Gigi Li, another candidate in the running.
The contenders faced a deadline this past week to submit petition signatures for the September ballot. There was also a fundraising disclosure deadline. We’ll have more about that in the next day or two.
Mendez represents Council District 2, which covers an area mostly above East Houston Street. Silver, of course, was forced from office after his conviction last year on federal corruption charges.
Good Companions Senior Center.
It took almost a decade to complete, but everyone was all smiles at the Good Companions Senior Center Friday for the unveiling of a new ramp leading into the facility.
The center, located at 334 Madison St., is in the Vladeck public housing development. It’s run by Henry Street Settlement. Back in 2006, City Council member Rosie Mendez paid a visit to the Vladeck Houses, noticing that the ramp was very steep. “That incline was bad on my knees,” she explained, “so I know it had to be a challenge for our seniors.” The first round of funding for the project came in fiscal year 2008 from both Mendez and the Manhattan Borough President’s office. Over time, Mendez allocated about $965,000 for the project. The ramp was redesigned and there were, of course, the usual NYCHA bureaucratic delays.
On Friday, Mendez was joined by City Council member Margaret Chin, NYCHA officials, Henry Street Settlement head David Garza and Nancy Ortiz, tenant association president of the Vladeck Houses. As part of the project, new lighting was installed alongside the ramp. More improvements are ahead at the senior center, including ADA-compliant bathrooms and a revamped kitchen. “This is going o be an incredible center when it’s complete,” said Mendez, “and that’s what our seniors deserve.”
The Good Companions Senior Center is part of a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC).
We’ve spent a lot of time covering the District 1 City Council race, but the District 2 contest between Council member Rosie Mendez and challenger Rick Del Rio is also heating up.
106 Rivington Street.
At last night’s Community Board 3 meeting, City Council member Rosie Mendez took a few moments to address the controversy surrounding a new restaurant coming to 106 Rivington Street. The State Liquor Authority will soon rule on an application from operators Jose Rodriguez and Robert Payne for a full bar. Members of the LES Dwellers neighborhood group oppose the permit, saying Rivington Street is already overburdened with nightlife establishments. In a close vote, CB3 chose not to support the application, although it did sign off on a beer/wine permit for the Latin-style restaurant.
At City Hall yesterday, City Council member Rosie Mendez, along with fellow lawmakers and public housing residents, blasted the New York Daily News for a series of articles critical of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
In the past, many of those gathered before TV cameras and microphones have themselves been highly critical of NYCHA red tape and incompetence. But during the midday news conference, Mendez and others defended the agency, saying Chairman John Rhea had made major strides during his short tenure. They said there’s real concern that continued bad press will jeopardize federal funding for public housing, which has been decimated in the past decade.
Campos Plaza housing complex on East 12th Street.
Yesterday we were at the Campos Plaza Housing public housing complex, where elected officials announced the creation of an after-school recreational program. Community activists, who have repeatedly called for more programs aimed at keeping kids off the streets, were clearly pleased.
During a news conference, they also praised the police department for stepping up patrols in the aftermath of the murder of teenager Keith Salgado in the housing project’s courtyard back in October. “It’s sad to say it took a murder, but I’m glad there’s better security,” said Dereese Huff, Campos Plaza’s tenant association president.
For many years, residents have urged the New York City Housing Authority to install security cameras at Campos. In this year’s city budget, Councilmember Rosie Mendez allocated $400,000 for cameras at the development. Huff has said she’s convinced the cameras would be a strong deterrent to crime and drug dealing — and she’s expressed frustration that it’s taking so long to complete the project.
Borough President Scott Stringer spoke during the ribbon cutting at the LES Jewish Conservancy's Visitor's Center this past spring.
Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called on the City Council to reform the way it awards grants to community organizations. The grants, known as “member items,” are seen by many as pork-barrel spending, tools elected officials use to repay political supporters. Others view the “discretionary” fund as an essential lifeline to the city’s many non-profit social service and cultural institutions.
Stringer released a report detailing which Council districts get the most money. The unsurprising conclusion?
The analysis, the most comprehensive study to date, reveals deep inequities within the current system over the last four fiscal years and recommends that these taxpayer dollars—totaling $49.6 million in this year’s budget—should be transferred to mayoral agencies for distribution, to take politics out of the process… Under the current system, some districts receive more than four times the amount of discretionary member items than others. The Borough President’s report notes that the adoption of a uniform, across-the-board distribution of member items would have given added funding to 32 districts across the city.