June 18 - DSCC West Side Fundraiser

Please join
Shelly and Rory Butler
for a
DSCC Reception

To support the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the
only organization solely dedicated to keeping a Democratic
Majority in the U.S. Senate.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Home of Shelly and Rory Butler
Address Provided Upon RSVP
New York, NY
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

RSVP Here: http://www.dscc.org/-/nycjune18

$50 GUEST | $100 FRIEND | $250 HOST

November 26 - West Siders Coming Together: A Benefit For Typhoon Haiyan Survivors

Community Free Democrats

Congressman Jerry Nadler • Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer • Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal

Council Member Gale Brewer • Senators Brad Hoylman, Adriano Espaillat and Jose M. Serrano • Assembly Members Richard Gottfried, Daniel O’Donnell, Deborah Glick and Dan Quart • Council Members-Elect Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Corey Johnson

Citizen Action of New York City • West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce • Ansonia Independent Democrat • Park River Independent Democrats • Three Parks Independent Democrats • Broadway Democrats • IGiveMore • Manhattan Young Democrats • Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century • Barack Obama Democratic Club

Democratic Party leaders Marc Landis, Joan Paylo, Nick Prigo, Shari Gottheim, Cory Haber, Earl Scott, Georgette Gittens, Gerald Kahn, Debra Cooper, Paula Diamond-Roman, Curtis Arluck, Cynthia Doty, Bob Botfeld, Daniel Marks Cohen, Lynn Thomas, Jeffrey Todd Schulman (list in formation)

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West Siders Coming Together
A Benefit For Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

The Parlour, 250 W 86th St (Just west of Broadway)
Tuesday, November 26th, 7-11pm

Suggested contribution levels: $25 $50 $100 $250 $500 $1000

Bid on silent auction items from Spring Natural Kitchen, Renaissance Fine Wines, Barney Greengrass, Russian Tea Room, Gotham Comedy Club, Silver Moon Bakery, Bella Luna, Vosges Chocolate, Manhattan Theatre Company, NY Giants tix and others

Suggested minimum contribution of $25 to any of the registered 501(c)(3) charities listed below. We encourage you to donate in advance, and turn in a printed copy of your contribution at the door; you can also pay by check or cash at the door.

Music generously provided by
The Breakup Artists and The Jump Kings

First drink “on the house” generously provided by The Parlour

RSVP Online or to nprigo@gmail.com
Questions?  Contact marclandis@gmail.com or (212) 724-8300

Contributions Support
Catholic Relief Services
Doctors without Borders
International Rescue Committee

In what may be the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall, typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

Gusts of wind up to 235 miles per hour and a 20 foot storm surge killed 1,000s.

Just over one year ago New Yorkers weathered Hurricane Sandy, and now we come together again in support of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe.

Bloomberg’s Parting Gift

This Op-Ed appeared in the West Side Spirit

A misguided effort to privatize our public assets, build new luxury high-rises

By Nick Prigo

Author's Note: Responding to tremendous community opposition, the Department of Education has announced that it will not be targeting the Upper West Side school sites for private development.

In this final year of the Bloomberg administration, the Upper West Side has been targeted for another round of massive development. Simultaneous proposals from the Department of Education (DOE) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) are looking to lease public land to facilitate the private construction of multiple new high-rise buildings. The agencies point to budgetary problems that necessitate the 99-year land leases.

When did we decide that we are no longer willing to actually pay for the programs we value most? For decades we have been decrying our deteriorating education system and our inability to protect our fast-shrinking stock of affordable housing. Now, instead of making the real investments in education and affordable housing that we need, the Mayor is wasting some of our most valuable assets to provide a temporary band-aid to our larger structural problems.

In a highly controversial move, the DOE initiated the possible demolition of PS 191 on West 61st Street, PS 199 on West 70th Street, or another school on East 96th Street. This plan would permit a private developer to build a high-rise tower with a new school included in the base of the building.

NYCHA is also pushing ahead against intense criticism to permit developers to build 14 luxury high-rises in Manhattan. Three of these buildings are slated to be built at the Frederick Douglass Houses between West 100th Street and West 104th Street.

Massive development touches on so many critical issues in our community. When high-rise residential towers are built, we all suffer from construction and safety issues, an overwhelming of our already strained public infrastructure, and the permanent loss of what little open space we have left.

This irresponsible development can also end up inadvertently shifting costs from one city agency to another. For example, if NYCHA’s plan moves forward, the back of the envelope calculation is that 80 new school seats are needed to accommodate the residents of the new buildings. These seats would have to be located in a district so crowded that students are already taking classes in trailers in school parking lots.

At the absolute least we need to make sure that any development on publicly owned land goes through the existing Uniform Land Use Review Process – known as ULURP. This process was designed specifically to ensure that the community has a voice in what is being built. Currently, neither proposal is required to fully go through ULURP.

Outside of these requirements, we need to realign our public policy to match the values that we hold dear. If education and affordable housing are actually our priorities, then we should be willing to make a real and lasting financial commitment.

With historically low interest rates and an economic recovery only benefiting the rich, there is no better time than now to make investments in our city’s infrastructure. NYCHA especially should consider other revenue generating measures besides simply handing over our land to private developers. If NYCHA would meaningfully engage and actually listen to their tenants and community stakeholders, then maybe there could be a proposal that would address their budget deficit, protect affordable housing, and improve life on the Upper West Side.

Nick Prigo co-chairs Community Board 7’s Housing Committee and is a Democratic District Leader.

Lever Machines Might Be Back: But Chaos Still Reigns in How We Vote

We want to thank the more than 650 Upper West Siders that signed our petition to help address the unacceptably long lines, jammed ballot scanners, and chaotic poll sites many of us experienced on Election Day. Voting reform in New York City has quickly become one of our core issues, and we are working to improve the process of voting in our community.

One of the most common refrains we keep hearing from West Siders is the desire to return to the tried and true lever machines. Bizarrely, it looks like we might get our way, at least temporarily. It turns out it takes longer to count the votes from the new electronic machines than it does with the lever machines. This year, with a tight Mayor’s race we are likely going to have a run-off election three weeks after the September 10th primary election.

Three weeks isn't enough time to count the vote and prepare the electronic machines for the run-off. So the state legislature passed a law allowing New York City to temporarily use the lever machines. It could be we return to the new scanning machines as early as the General Election this November.

The CFD District Leaders also testified at Councilmember Gale Brewer’s Committee on Governmental Operations. She held a hearing in the wake of the election to brainstorm ways to improve Election Day administration. Both Joan Paylo and Marc Landis presented testimony.

Overall, we’ve been pursuing two types of reform. The petition is advocating for improvements to our state’s voting laws, including the adoption of early voting, same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and non-partisan election administration. Many other states have implemented these and other reforms already with success. Washington and Oregon have gone as far as to conduct their entire elections by mail.

At the same time we’ve been working to improve the specifics of poll site operation on the Upper West Side. We held a forum with 70 hard working, local poll workers and developed a 29 point plan to improve poll site operation. We produced a report synthesizing our findings.

Residents Rally to Save Food City

April 16 - West Side Spirit

April 17 - West Side Rag

Last Sunday, hundreds of residents gathered outside of Food City at 705 Columbus Avenue, joined by City Council Member Gale Brewer, members of Local 338 Retail Wholesale Department Store Union and United Food and Commercial Workers (RWDSU-UFCW), to show their support for the grocery store with over 40 years of doing business on the Upper West Side. Food City has not been given a lease by the owner of the building since 2004 and may be forced to close as a result.

"It's hard to believe that in this community which is still largely home to working families and retired elderly, we are threatened with the loss of yet another accessible source of affordable food and fresh produce," said Nick Prigo and Joan Paylo, local Democratic District Leaders from Community Free Democrats. "We ask the LeFrak Organization to be the best of good neighbors by offering a reasonable, long-term lease to Food City so that it can update its equipment and services to our community."

Photo by Matt Jiggins.

CFD District Leaders Release Blueprint for Election Administration Reforms

Election-Admin-Reform-2013-coverDuring the Presidential Election, the voting experience of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers was tarnished by huge lines, jammed ballot scanners, chaotic poll sites, and unqualified poll workers.

We have been vigorously advocating for reforms in the wake of this difficult election. And as part of our advocacy effort we are releasing a report title "End Election Day Chaos: Fix New York's Voting Procedures." This report outlines common sense on-the-ground improvements that can be made to improve the administration of poll sites in our city.

This report complements the other work we have done on election reform. Late last year we sponsored a petitionadvocating for reforms at the state level. This petition, signed by more than 650 Upper West Siders, seeks to institute early voting, "no excuse" absentee ballots, same-day voter registration, and non-partisan election administration.

The contents of this report, the petition signatures we gathered, and our testimony have already been delivered at the New York City Council Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Councilmember Gale Brewer.

If you have any questions, comments, or additional ideas feel free to contact nprigo@gmail.com and let us know what you think.

Marc Landis, Joan Paylo and Nick Prigo
District Leaders, Community Free Democrats

2013 is a Big Year for Upper West Side Politics

Due to term limits we are going to have an unprecedented turnover in our city’s leadership. In 2013 we will be electing a new Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, and potentially up to half of the City Council’s 51 seats are open due to term limits.

As Upper West Siders we shouldn’t be shocked to hear that we are good voters. We’re not just good voters, we are great voters, fantastic voters… we turn out in droves. Our Assembly District has one of the largest voter turnouts in the entire state. Because of our civic engagement we are used to seeing candidates in our community. But this year is shaping up to go beyond the normal level of campaigning. We have no local candidate running for Mayor, and only one for Public Advocate, and both races have well funded multi-candidate fields. Candidates are going to be practically tripping over each other to collect votes in our neighborhood. It very well may be that the winners of these races will be determined by our community.

Be on the look-out for the traditional Mayoral forum that the Community Free Democrats will be organizing. This event, most likely happening in late April or early May, will be a great opportunity to hear – and question – our city’s next leader.

When referencing the Mayor and Public Advocate you may have noticed that I skipped over Comptroller, the third city-wide position. This is because favorite son, Borough President Scott Stringer, appears to be running completely un-opposed for this critical position. We are both active and passionate supporters of the Borough President and look forward to having him in this office.

The City Council races on the Upper West Side are just as important. District 6 and 7 have hard-working, multi-candidate fields. Borough President is going to be another interesting and close race, with four candidates competing, including the Upper West Side’s Coucilmember Gail Brewer. But all of these races deserve their own posts at a later date.

Remember Newtown

The Upper West Side recoiled in shock after the unspeakably horrific mass-shooting in Newtown, CT. Within days of the atrocity we had organized, sponsored, and supported multiple efforts expressing the need for national laws to help reduce gun violence. For us, and we suspect for many UWS activists, these activities were more than just a critique of national policy. They served as a way to come together as a community in a moment of tragedy, to grieve for those that were lost, and to channel the anger that we felt towards productive ends.

It didn’t take long for change to come. Governor Cuomo deftly ushered the country’s strongest gun control measures through the State Legislature and President Obama just released a significant array of gun regulations and mental health provisions, some of which will have to pass Congress.

After the shooting, it was only a matter of hours before CFD had organized a candlelight vigil to end gun violence. Led by Marc Landis, we organized speakers, set ourselves up in front of the multi-faith Church of Saint Paul & Saint Andrews , and turned out more than 100 sad and angry Upper West Siders. After the vigil, Marc was featured on CNN Headline News about the tragedy and the purpose behind the vigil.

Next, we sponsored a petition calling for the restoration of the assault weapons ban, to close the gun show loophole, to mandate background checks on gun purchasers, and to increase funding for public health approaches to reduce gun violence. We look forward to continuing our advocacy, harnessing our decades of expertise in organizing our neighborhood, and being a force for positive change in how we regulate our guns.

If there is any tiny sliver of redemption that can come from this event, it is the national awakening we are seeing on gun issues. For much of the last twenty years there has not been a serious national discussion on firearms that didn’t involve making them easier to obtain. But today, the NRA is in an increasingly weak and indefensible position. They have degenerated to the point of holding video games responsible and recommending the placement of armed guards in our schools. Truly there can be no more pathetic and morally bankrupt response than this. Hopefully, in the aftermath of this mass shooting and the dozens that have come before it, we are finally at the tipping point where sensible regulations can triumph.

CFD and the City; Poised for 2013

CFD has had such a tremendously successful 2012, and I am proud to be a part of such a hard-working, progressive, unified team as we enter 2013. We should all be ecstatic for the CFD renaissance that we have all helped bring about.

Membership is growing. Our Obama Headquarters was superb. We had 500+ volunteers and made more than 30,000 phone calls. Our three petitioning seasons were all conducted effectively, with members collecting many 1000s of signatures in support of our endorsed federal, state, and local candidates.

2013 is shaping up to be an amazing year for our club. First, and foremost, we have one of the most important city-level election cycles in years. Our city will have a new Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate. Both City Council Districts that include significant portions of the Upper West Side will have new leaders as Gale Brewer and Robert Jackson are term limited.

We are poised for a new New York City Council that will be radically reshaped almost overnight. Nearly half of the City Council will be new, allowing for significant – and positive – changes to occur in how our city is governed.

CFD is going to have some great candidates to consider in these city races next year, two of them die-hard Upper West Side activists and CFD leaders. Our long-time champion and progressive workhorse, Borough President Scott Stringer, has only just announced his candidacy for City Comptroller. He has immediately become the overwhelming favorite to win that race and bring some Upper West Side values to this critical city-wide position.

For City Council, among the five candidates currently announced, we have our own District Leader Marc Landis running to replace Gale Brewer in the 6th Council District. A progressive Democrat, with 25 years of activism and community leadership under his belt, Marc is uniquely poised to be productive right from the beginning and to be part of the new leadership class in our next City Council.

There is more on the ballot this year than just municipal elections. It is also a Democratic Party leadership re-election year. When we petition for our endorsed candidates, we will also be petitioning for ourselves. In addition to a slew of judges, we will also have our full County Committee and District Leader slate to get on the ballot.

Amazingly, depending on what happens in Albany, petitioning for all of these candidates could be as soon as March! As of now the primary election is still scheduled for September, meaning we would be petitioning in the normal time over the summer. But rumors are swirling and the primary may be moved into the summer. It is certainly an exciting time to be an Upper West Side Democrat.

Learning from the Primary, Preparing for the General

Despite significant challenges caused by redistricting, poll site changes, election district renumbering, long shifts and overheated gymnasiums, the Primary Election was conducted largely successfully by very hard-working, underpaid Upper West Siders. But will we be ready for the hordes of voters on November 6th?

As anyone who went to the polls this past September 13th will know, we as a club can help ensure a smoother General Election. We’re working for a huge turnout of people who are eager to vote for President Obama and Congressman Nadler, but we don’t want their patience to wear thin because of preventable snags in the process.

CFD District Leaders cover approximately a dozen poll sites between West 80th and West 100th Street. On Primary Day, your District Leaders made the rounds to all of our sites to help where we could and catch problems before they got out of control. In observing our sites and talking with our approximately 200 poll workers, we picked up on a lot of things we can do now to help improve the experience for our voters in November.

We heard of numerous instances of people not knowing that they now vote at a new location. For example, after 8:30 p.m., at PS 166 on West 89th between Columbus and Amsterdam, Joan witnessed a woman come into the poll site, only to be told that her ED had been moved to West End and 86th! With briefcase and oversized handbag in tow, the exhausted businesswoman was going to try to race six long and dark blocks to cast her vote. Soon after, a mother with two young kids and a baby in a stroller came in the door. Having just encountered the previous voter, she was panicked about where her poll site was. Fortunately, although her ED number had changed, she still had a chance to vote there, at her old site, before 9.

So, compounding the change in poll sites, most of us have new Election District numbers, which means that even when you are at the right site, you have to be sure that you are at the right table. Help the workers deal with the crush by knowing where you’re going ahead of time.
Likewise, part of our job at CFD is to make sure that our neighbors are also well-informed. This year is going to be especially important to have a good communication effort. We want everyone to be well-informed about location and procedures beforehand. As incomprehensible as it may seem to us political activists, many people haven’t voted in four years, when we were using the old machines!

First, when you talk to your neighbors, remind them that things have changed because of the once-a-decade redistricting.

Second, we need your help posting “Hall Cards” to inform voters precisely where their poll site is. We want to cover as many buildings of the hundreds in our territory as we can. Anyone who has a printer at home can help. Just contact District Leader Nick Prigo at nprigo@gmail.com and we’ll make sure you get a customized document you can print and put in the right locations in your building.

Third, suggest that they visit the newly-designed (finally) Board of Elections website, http://vote.nyc.ny.us/. There, they can look up the status of their registration, which election district they live in, where they vote, and thanks to Councilmember Gale Brewer, they can now view their ballot ahead of time.