Gov. Cuomo Could Oust DA Vance But They Share A Party — And Donors

Several women have alleged Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was sexually inappropriate with them. Photo: REUTERS

By Josh Keefe and David Sirota for International Business Times – For instance, as IBT reported, in the middle of his office’s investigation into the Trump Soho deal, Vance accepted $10,000 from Elkan Abramowitz, whose firm was helping the Trump defense team. Abramowitz served as Cuomo’s lawyer in 2015 as the governor fended off a federal corruption probe, and Abramowitz has given $17,000 to Cuomo during his political career, according to state campaign finance records. Similarly, Weinstein’s longtime lawyer David Boies gave Vance $10,000 in August of 2015, just a few months after Vance decided to drop an investigation into allegations Weinstein groped a model in Manhattan. Boies, who wasn’t representing Weinstein in the 2015 criminal investigation, has contributed $55,000 to Vance over the years, and Boies together with his son and partners at his firm have given Vance’s three campaigns for DA a total of $182,000. Boies, who has been called “the nation’s most famous practicing lawyer” has also given $75,000 to Andrew Cuomo. President Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who gave Vance $32,000 after the district attorney dropped an investigation into the president’s two children in 2012, also gave $35,000 to Cuomo. Vance returned Kasowitz’s donation last week.

People Of Color Fight For Place In New York’s Money-driven Arts Ecosystem

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By Maya Chung for The Indypendent – A small number of legacy arts institutions are sweeping up vast shares of public art funding, while newer immigrant and ethnic arts groups in New York City are clamoring for the remaining resources. A new coalition of artists and advocates is pushing the city to increase access to arts dollars for those who have been left out. The group has put together a 17-page document called the People’s Cultural Plan to serve as a set of policy recommendations for the city government which, if implemented, would more definitively benefit smaller arts groups — often grassroots organizations run by immigrant or minority artists. The document comes in response to a cultural plan unveiled by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in July 2017. Called CreateNYC, the plan aims to “serve as a roadmap to a more inclusive, equitable, and resilient cultural ecosystem, in which all residents have a stake.” Those behind the People’s Cultural Plan argue that CreateNYC isn’t doing enough. And access to funding is where smaller groups suffer. According to CreateNYC, in fiscal-year 2017, $111 million of the $177 million Department of Cultural Affairs budget was granted to just 33 large institutions. These organizations are members of the Cultural Institutions Group, made up of culturally significant, generally well-established public institutions. This imbalance of funding comes at the expense of smaller, often immigrant or minority-run arts groups, which then face stiff competition for the remaining resources.

New Yorkers Picket Trump Tower In Support Of Puerto Rico


By Ashoka Jegroo for Waging Nonviolence – A crowd of about a hundred protesters picketed outside of Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday in support of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, while also protesting colonialism and the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria. The protest occurred on the same day as President Trump’s first trip to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island two weeks ago. “We’re here denouncing not only Trump’s visit to the island. We’re denouncing what’s going on right now and how politicians from both parties are using Puerto Rico as a ping pong ball. They are not helping my country,” said Norma Perez of Call to Action On Puerto Rico. “Also we want to denounce the payment of [Puerto Rico’s] debt. This is not the time to pay any debt. Just take the debt with you, allow us to be free, and we can move on and be an independent country without the colonialism, without everything they are imposing on us in Puerto Rico.” The protesters, many of whom were Puerto Ricans from the island or the diaspora, demanded an end to the Jones Act, a law imposed by the United States in 1920 that only allows U.S. ships to deliver goods to the island.

The Pros And Cons Of A ConCon?

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By Peter Rugh for The Indypendent – On Nov. 7 voters in New York State will have an opportunity to gamble. Every two decades the option to call a statewide constitutional convention, or ConCon, appears on ballots. It is a chance to enshrine into law new progressive provisions lawmakers are unwilling or unable to enact — campaign finance reforms, term limits on the state legislature and enhanced worker rights and environmental protections. Lawmakers in Albany can enact constitutional changes that are subject to voter approval, but a ConCon is “the only mechanism in New York that bypasses the legislature’s gatekeeping power,” said J.H. Snider, who runs the New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse. He sees this year’s vote on a potential ConCon as a much-needed opportunity to clean up the state’s foundational text. “The constitution needs to be modernized,” Snider said of the 43-page document. “It’s a cesspool. Nobody reads it. It’s way too long. It’s full of obsolete laws.” The ConCon “provides a unique democratic function in New York. People may decide they want to exercise that right or not, but they should understand that right.” If voters give the ConCon the go-ahead this November, the following year they will have the ability to elect delegates, three for each of New York’s 63 Senate districts and 15 statewide. On April 2, 2019 the ConCon would convene in Albany.

Watch: Environmentalists Confront Cuomo’s ‘Energy Czar’

Eelke/ flickr

By Peter Rugh for Indypendent – When it comes to environmental champions in the United States, you might think of Rachel Carson laboring away at Silent Spring in the early 1960s. Maybe present day climate and environmental justice groups come to mind, like Uprose and You’ve got it all wrong. Today’s ecological changemakers wear sports coats, have lanyards around their necks and hope to eek greenbacks out of green energy in the years to come. At least that’s the impression one might get from attending REV Future 2017 at the Marriott in Downtown Brooklyn, where a host of representatives from renewable energy start-ups and New York State regulators gathered on Tuesday to plot the future of New York’s energy grid. “REV” stands for Reforming Energy Vision, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s blueprint to reduce the state’s emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. The folks at Rev Future really do have the power to transform New York’s energy supply under the current REV schema, as outlined by Cuomo’s “Energy Csar” Richard Kauffman — Chair of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Kauffman’s plan includes the creation of renewable energy markets and a green bank to finance new clean energy programs.

After Member Is Deported, New York Teamsters Declare Themselves Sanctuary Union


By Sarah Jaffe for In These TImes – Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We’re now several months into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators about how to resist and build a better world. George Miranda: This is George Miranda. I am president of the 120,000-member Teamsters Joint Council 16. It’s an umbrella group made up of 27 different local unions in New York City. Sarah Jaffe: Let’s start at the beginning. One of your members was deported last week, right? George: Correct. Eber Garcia Vasquez was deported basically because his asylum case was rejected. He has been a Teamster for 26 years and has been working in this country and raising his family on that. He has been reporting in routinely, as he is required to. This time, he went in, and they kept him and scheduled him for deportation. He left behind his family, including three kids. He married a U.S. citizen, and his three kids are U.S. citizens. He was on his way to a green card. Now he is in Guatemala. That is the story. If it happens to him, it could happen to anybody.

NY's Fracking Ban Was Supposed To Set A Precedent -- But Gov. Cuomo Is Going Back On His Word

Anti-fracking protesters gather outside of the auditorium before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his fourth State of the State address on January 8, 2014, in Albany, New York. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

By Ellen Cantarow and Dennis Higgins for Truthout – New York banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) two years ago, in a victory for persistent anti-fracking activists and a potential precedent for other states. Now, however, the state is poised to begin operating a power plant that will make fracking infrastructure fully operational throughout the state, completely undermining the ban. The $900 million power plant planned by Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) in Orange County, New York, requires permits for only two short pipelines before it may begin operating. CPV will be among the largest of New York’s nearly 500 gas- and oil-fired power plants. Like more than half of currently proposed electricity generation in the state, this power plant will burn fracked gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Opponents charge that the plant is not needed and serves only to further push a warming world to the tipping point of climate-change catastrophe. On October 8, 2015, speaking with former Vice President Al Gore, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in the next 13 years, but climate scientists and engineers tell us CPV will emit 7 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent pollution annually and add a full 10 percent from power generation to the state’s current greenhouse gas inventory.

New York Could Launch An Urban Agriculture Plan, Zoning Overhaul

The Battery Urban Farm educational project in Manhattan.
By HildaWeges PhotographyShutterstock

By James Brasuell for Planetizen – New York’s ability to feed itself with locally grown urban agriculture is only being partially realized. Better planning, specific to urban agriculture, would help. “New York City has the largest urban agriculture system in the country, including community and rooftop gardens and greenhouses, as well as ‘vertical farms,’” according to an article by Thomas MacMillan. “But a recent report by the Brooklyn Law School finds new growers are sometimes stymied by confusion over where they fit into city regulations.” An ordinance under consideration by the New York City Council would address that confusion, however, with solid planning: “The measure, introduced Thursday by Councilman Rafael Espinal and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and assigned to the Land Use Committee, calls for a comprehensive urban agriculture plan with updated zoning and building codes and possibly an office of urban agriculture.”

11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Accident Safety Rule

One of five banners entitled The Worker in the New World Order, painted for the founding convention of ICEM (International Confederation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions–now merged into INDUSTRIALL). Dedicated to then-imprisoned Nigerian oil workers. Copyright © 1995.  Mike Alewitz

By Staff of Attorney General of NY – NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 11 state Attorneys General, today filed a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for illegally delaying a vital rule meant to protect communities, workers, and first responders from dangerous chemical accidents. The rule – the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements or the “Chemical Accident Safety Rule” – makes critical improvements to Congressionally-mandated protections against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at more than 12,000 facilities across the country—including over 200 in New York—that store and use toxic chemicals. The lawsuit is led by Attorney General Schneiderman and signed by the Attorneys General of New York, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Click here to read the lawsuit. “Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree. Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

An Undocumented Teen Gains Asylum With The Help Of His Undocumented Lawyer

Attorney Cesar Vargas, right, the first openly undocumented attorney in New York, with his client Ivan Ruiz in Manhattan.

By Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post – NEW YORK ― When attorney Cesar Vargas first met his teenage client Ivan Ruiz, a newly arrived undocumented immigrant from Honduras, he noticed Ruiz seemed to wear the weight of his traumatic childhood on his sleeve. Ruiz, 15 at the time, rarely spoke, returning questions about his life in Honduras with long stares and heavy nods. It was only over the course of a year that Vargas would learn the extent of abuse Ruiz suffered while living with extended family members after his parents immigrated to the United States for a better life. Ruiz was barely fed, forced to work long hours and beaten ― even whipped with tire rubber ― as punishment. The abuse became too much to bear. After trekking through Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, Ruiz crossed the border into the United States in spring 2016. His journey wasn’t over, though, and a year ago he was ordered to appear in immigration court. With Vargas’ help, Ruiz recently won a life-changing victory: He was granted asylum. He now spends his days in summer school, soaking up new English words and the novelty of life with only low-stakes, teenage worries. He recently took two girls to the prom and is delicately balancing the affections of another.

New York Voters And Local Farmers Disrupt Cricket Valley Power Plant’s Breaking-Ground Ceremony

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By Kim Fraczek and Lee Stewart for Sane Energy Project and Beyond Extreme Energy – Dover, NY – The controversial Cricket Valley Gas-Fired Power Plant’s golden-shovel ceremony was disrupted today by a large, golden bell rung by NY voters and local farmers expressing an alarm-bell for regional waters and soil, nearby school children that will breath toxic emissions, decline in quality, local jobs and economy, and a gigantic methane producer at the height of a global climate crisis. Cricket Valley, an 1,100MW power plant not only locks New York into a future of dirty fuels via the plant’s connection to the Dominion Pipeline expansion, but also slates the connected Iroquois Pipeline for flow reversal expansion to export the gas to foreign markets via Canada putting the health and safety risk on the local community for private profit. Although Governor Cuomo has made bold statements about being a climate leader, he sets policy to a different tune. He recently issued a Methane Reduction Plan shortly following his 2017 State of the State address where he said “New York must double down by investing in the fight against dirty fossil fuels and fracked gas from neighboring states.”

Staten Island Climate March Links Economics And Environmental Issues

Marching down the FDR Boardwalk (Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / Union Writer)

By Thomas Altfather Good for National Writers Union – STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — April 29, 2017. On a unseasonably warm Saturday hundreds of Islanders assembled in Staten Island’s Midland Beach, a coastal community ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, to demand Climate Justice from the Trump Administration — linking economic and environmental issues. Workers from several local unions – including CWA Local 1102 and IBEW Local 3 – peace and environmental activists, and members of immigrant rights organizations gathered on Staten Island’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt boardwalk on Saturday. The protesters rallied and marched to demand climate justice from a president who appears to spend more time lounging in Mar-a-Lago and holding victory rallies than addressing pressing issues in a meaningful way. Organized by two local advocacy organizations, Sustainable Staten Island and Move Forward Staten Island, with a broad coalition of labor unions, immigration rights groups, environmental justice, social justice and other community organizations from throughout New York City, the event was timed to coinicide with climate marches held in other cities.

NY Governor’s ‘Free’ Tuition Plan Will Make Student Loan Crisis Even Worse


By Alan Collinge for The Hill – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan last week to provide for free tuition for people taking undergraduate courses at both the state universities (SUNY) and city universities (CUNY) in New York. He unveiled the proposal alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who hailed it as “revolutionary.” Unfortunately, the plan isn’t revolutionary. In fact, it isn’t even good. The plan, dubbed the “Exelsior Scholarship” is similar to schemes proposed by both Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It creates a new pot of money for the colleges to draw from, and apply it to tuition charges. This in itself, would be a good thing for students if all else were equal, but the fact of the matter is that colleges are very good at using public funds such as this without passing the benefit on to students. They can, and certainly will, raise the prices of their other billable items to make up for any decrease in tuition charges.

Another One Bites The Dust: Northern Access Pipeline Defeated In NY

High-carbon industries have no future (credit: Pixabay)

By Skyler Simmons for Earth First! News Wire – Communities in upstate New York are celebrating the recent announcement from the Department of Environmental Conservation that the Northern Access Pipeline will not receive the necessary permits for construction. The $500 million pipeline, proposed by National Fuel Gas, would have brought fracked gas from Pennsylvania to upstate NY. An announcement from the DEC on April 7 stated, “After an in-depth review of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline project and following three public hearings and the consideration of over 5,700 comments, DEC has denied the permit due to the project’s failure to avoid adverse impacts to wetlands, streams and fish and other wildlife habitat.

With Nighttime Raids, Police Wage War On Black And Brown Families In New York

From the Bronx to Harlem to Brooklyn, hundreds of people -- mostly young, poor men of color -- have been rounded up by heavily armed cops and thrown into jails and prisons, leaving their families and communities damaged, divided and even more impoverished. (Photo: Vhmh)

By Ashoka Jegroo for Truthout – This story is the fourth in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children. Paula Clarke and her family found themselves crawling half-naked on the floor of her Bronx home at 4:51 am on April 27, 2016, after multiple heavily armed men broke through her front door and demanded that she tell them where her son was. Helicopters could be heard hovering right about her home.