We regret to inform you of the passing of NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm’s mother, Mary Audrey Gallagher, on Thursday. She died peacefully after having spent a wonderful holiday season with her family and friends.
La presidenta del Concejo Municipal tuvo este martes su último día en el organismo legislativo al que perteneció por 12 años, y se despidió entre asomos de lágrimas y aplausos
Por Elena Astorga
Publicado en El Diario el 19 de Diciembre 2017
Hace casi 12 años Melissa Mark-Viverito llegó por primera vez al Concejo Municipal, representando al distrito de East Harlem, y aunque ya era una activista social conocida que defendía a los inquilinos y a “los viejitos”, de política no tenía mucho.
Eso lo confesó la propia puertorriqueña este martes, durante su discurso de despedida, con el que le dijo adiós al organismo legislativo, en el que hizo historia al convertirse en la primera mujer hispana en ser presidente del Concejo durante los últimos cuatro años.
Y con asomos de lágrimas en los ojos, Melissa le dijo “adiós” a sus colegas y se fue con el sabor del deber cumplido.
“Me voy sin arrepentimientos, porque así haya cosas que no nos dejen totalmente felices, cada oportunidad que tenemos nos sirve para crecer… logramos hacer una ciudad más equitativa”, comentó la ahora expresidenta del Concejo Municipal, quien para presidir su última plenaria llegó muy elegante, en un vestido rojo y un cinturón de cuero, que acompañó con unos sencillos zapatos de tacón negros.
“Yo no he logrado todo lo que he querido, pero no tengo razón para quejarme, pues sé que esta ciudad hoy es una mejor ciudad, por el trabajo que hemos hecho nosotros, y que yo he liderado, y quiero que eso siga hacia adelante y que siga siendo una ‘ciudad santuario’ y adelantando proyectos de ley que sigan apoyando a los inmigrantes y la reforma al sistema de justicia”, dijo la boricua de 48 años, visiblemente emocionada.
Pero la emoción no invadió solamente a Melissa, sino también a la gran mayoría de sus colegas, quienes en varios momentos le entregaron aplausos que parecieron interminables, con ella en el centro de la plenaria. Muchos hasta se salieron del protocolo para manifestarle su admiración.
“Gracias por todo. Te amo”, le dijo el concejal Ritchie Torres, uno de los pupilos favoritos de la boricua, y el concejal Ben Kallos agregó: “No hay nadie como usted y nunca va a haber otra como usted”.
El concejal de Jackson Heights, Daniel Dromm, no pudo esconder su tristeza ante la partida de su amiga y colega, y la definió como “una mujer que le dio voz a quienes antes no la tenían”. “Ella defendió los derechos de los inmigrantes, de la comunidad LGBT y de los prisioneros y eso es importante. Además lo que hizo, le nació del corazón”, dijo Dromm.
Y con el rostro compungido, tratando de hacer un evidente esfuerzo para que su corazón no se reflejara en el rostro, al caer la noche y luego de decenas de abrazos y besos de sus colegas, Melissa Mark-Viverito le dijo “adiós” al Concejo y se fue, no sin antes promover una resolución a favor de los jóvenes de DACA, cuyo futuro ahora está en manos del Congreso, a cuyos miembros les pidió actuar con responsabilidad y compasión.
“Queremos reconocer los valores que nosotros tenemos como ciudad para decir que estamos pidiendo que ese proyecto (el acta de los soñadores) se pase a nivel federal”, dijo la política, a quien muchos de sus simpatizantes esperan ver de regreso muy pronto, tal vez en una futura contienda por la Alcaldía de la Gran Manzana. “Uno nunca sabe, pero no cierro ningún camino”, dijo Melissa, dejando el camino libre a un nuevo presidente del Concejo que se elegirá el 3 de enero entre 8 aspirantes.
Leer más aquí.
Concejales neoyorquinos aprueban legislación que ahora pasará a las manos del alcalde Bill de Blasio
Por Pedro S. Frisneda
Publicado en El Diario el 4 de Diciembre 2017
El Concejo Municipal de la Ciudad de Nueva York aprobó el jueves un proyecto de ley que prohíbe la llamada terapia de conversión que apunta a cambiar la orientación sexual de una persona. El Comité de Derechos Civiles del Concejo ya había aprobado la misma legislación el miércoles.
El proyecto de ley, que la presidenta del Concejo, Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) y el concejal Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) presentaron en junio, prohíbe a cualquier persona cobrar por servicios de terapia que intenten alterar la sexualidad de una persona (por lo general gay) o cambiar su identidad de género para que coincida con su sexo asignado al nacer.
De ser convertido en ley por el alcalde Bill de Blasio, el proyecto, que fue aprobado con 43 votos a favor y dos en contra, impondría multas a los infractores por un monto de $1,000 por la primera ofensa, $5,000 por la segunda ofensa y $10,000 por cada ofensa subsiguiente.
“Nos aseguraremos que todas las personas vivan sin temor a la coacción para convertirse en alguien que no son. La terapia de conversión es bárbara e inhumana, y aquí mismo, en la ciudad de Nueva York, seguiremos siendo el modelo de aceptación en todo el país, ya que prohibimos la terapia de conversión de una vez por todas”, dijo Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Por su parte, el concejal Dromm, quien es abiertamente gay aseguró que “la terapia de conversión es una forma de tortura psicológica, claro y simple”. “Tan ridículo como pueda parecer, la práctica aún persiste incluso en Nueva York”, agregó Dromm.
En febrero del 2016 el gobernador del estado de Nueva York, Andrew Cuomo, tomó medidas para prohibir que las compañías de seguros cubran la terapia de conversión, pero los esfuerzos para prohibir la práctica en sí se han estancado en la Legislatura estatal.
Actualmente, nueve estados en el país y el Distrito de Columbia han prohibido la terapia de conversión de alguna manera, según el Centro Nacional para los Derechos de las Lesbianas. Otros 21 estados están preparando normas o proyectos de ley en el mismo sentido que buscan proteger principalmente a niños y adolescentes.
No es un problema mental o emocional
Según explica la Asociación Americana de Psicología (APA), en su portal de internet, más de 35 años de investigación científica objetiva y bien diseñada han demostrado que la homosexualidad, en sí misma, no se asocia con trastornos mentales ni problemas emocionales o sociales. Esto es apoyado por la mayoría de psicólogos, psiquiatras y otros profesionales de la salud mental en EEUU.
En 1973, la Asociación Americana de Psiquiatría confirmó la importancia de una investigación nueva y mejor diseñada y suprimió la terminología “homosexual” del manual oficial que detalla los trastornos mentales y emocionales. Dos años después, la APA promulgó una resolución apoyando esta supresión.
Durante más de 25 años, ambas asociaciones solicitaron a todos los profesionales de la salud mental que ayuden a disipar el estigma de enfermedad mental que algunas personas todavía asocian con la “orientación homosexual”
También, el Colegio Americano de Médicos (ACP), la segunda mayor organización médica de EEUU, se posicionó en contra de estas terapias.
No cambian la orientación sexual
“Aún cuando la mayoría de los homosexuales viven vidas felices y exitosas, algunas personas homosexuales o bisexuales pueden buscar un cambio en su orientación sexual a través de la terapia, a menudo como resultado de coacción por parte de miembros de su familia o grupos religiosos. La realidad es que la homosexualidad no es una enfermedad. No requiere tratamiento y no puede cambiarse”, indica la Asociación Americana de Psicología.
Leer más aquí.
Originally published by the United Federation of Teachers on February 18, 2016
More than 230 teachers participated in the 56th annual Greater Metropolitan New York Social Studies Conference sponsored by the Association of Teachers of Social Studies/UFT at UFT headquarters on Feb. 6. Awards were presented to civil rights leader and union activist Norman Hill and to Queens City Councilman Danny Dromm, a former teacher who now heads the Council’s Education Committee.
Read more here.
By Merle Exit
Originally published by the TimesLedger on January 15, 2016
Frederick Wiseman was a no-show at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards Jan. 5.
When Susan Sarandon, born in Jackson Heights, presented the award for best non-fiction film for Wiseman’s latest “In Jackson Heights,” the director was in Europe, shooting his next movie.
However, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who appears in the highly acclaimed project, was in attendance to do the accepting.
“I was extremely honored to be asked to accept the award for this documentary,” Dromm said. “I was very pleased to receive the award from Susan Sarandon. As Ms. Sarandon and I both stated at the event, ‘In Jackson Heights’ has a lesson of tolerance and acceptance to teach to the rest of the world. What an honor it was to be among so many important people.”
What makes this epic three-hour documentary different from most is noticeable within its first 10 minutes.
There is not any narrator, or anyone being interviewed. Wiseman simply takes his camera and travels around the area as if he is just dropping in, with everyone seemingly oblivious to the fact that being filmed is not something that happens to them every day.
Dromm calls Jackson Heights “the most diversified community in the whole world. We have 167 languages spoken here.”
In fact, so many languages are spoken in the film, that English subtitles are provided.
“There are communities of people from every country in South and Central America as well as large groups of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Nepal and Tibet,” Wiseman said in a statement. “They live together with the descendants of earlier immigrants to America — Italian, Jewish and Irish. The area is a true American melting pot reminiscent of the Lower East Side of New York City at the end of the 19th century.”
Those many languages are just one example of the wide variety of people and cultures who appear in the film. From Muslims praying and teaching, to Latino groups, East Indians, seniors and the largest LGBT community in Queens, the film examines the many sides of the neighborhood, as well as the issues that concern them.
Those issues, however, are not simply a Jackson Heights topic but one that much of America deals with.
There is no “town hall” here. In fact, it appears that the local Jewish Center is the largest gathering venue, particularly for seniors and the LGBT population.
A gay Latino bartender, Julio Rivera, was the victim of a brutal hate crime in 1991. It could have been brushed off by the police if the neighborhood hadn’t taken active steps to address this as a community.
Another issue involves a transgender Latina who launches a boycott of a Greek-owned pizzeria that she believes is guilty of discriminating against her and her transgender friends.
You may want to turn away when chickens at a live-poultry farm have their throats slit. You will hear the Muslim workers doing solemn prayers for the lives that are about to be taken. Business Improvement Districts become a hot topic as the livelihoods of Latino neighborhood residents are threatened by the effects of gentrification, with real-estate mongers buying out long-time “Mom and Pop” storefronts. Priced out of areas such as Long Island City, they see Jackson Heights appearing to be the next “trendy” neighborhood.
The immigrant experience is one of the largest topics of the movie. We become a part of a meeting held by a group called Make the Road, NY as its leader asks for someone to talk about their experiences of crossing the border. Celia, a middle-aged Mexican illegal immigrant, shares an approximately 10-minute-long narrative about how her daughter was abandoned in the desert by the coyotes, guides who help people cross the border, with the promise of helping her. If not for two “acts of God,” she says her daughter would have died in the desert. One of those acts involved a blinding white light in a hazy horizon; the other a sudden rainfall.
“In Jackson Heights” also has a less serious side, showing us concerts in the street, people playing instruments in a Laundromat as well as other uncommon venues, and the cheering or non-cheering of Latino groups as they watch soccer games.
“The Jackson Heights depicted in the film is a large part of the Jackson Heights that I know and love and is the Jackson Heights that people travel from around the world to visit,” Dromm said. “Jackson Heights is hot.”
If you go:
“In Jackson Heights”
When: Through Jan. 31
Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria
Cost: $12/adults, $9/seniors and students, $6/children
Contact: (718) 777-6888
Read more here.
By Andy Humm
Originally published by the Gay City News on December 10, 2015
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues pushed through an “unprecedented” bill December 7 to have city government pick up yet another function of private and religious schools — security — allocating almost $20 million in taxpayer funds outside the normal budget process for “safety officers” in any school with more than 300 students that wants one.
Mark-Viverito had the support of the vast majority of elected officials, including three of the six out gay members of the Council: Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, despite the fact that it is a direct subsidy to schools mostly run by anti-gay religious groups that made up the bulk of those lobbying for it.
Intro 65-A was vigorously opposed by out LGBT Councilmembers Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, a former public school teacher and head of the Education Committee, and Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side, who said in a joint statement, “Yeshivas, private schools, and parochial schools — unlike public schools — are not subject to Council oversight or much of the NYC Human Rights Law. Too often their leaders embrace homophobia, transphobia, and other horrific ideologies, and subject our young people to them on a daily basis in the classroom. It is our duty to protect LGBTQ students in every school. We must not bankroll hate with tax dollars. Lamentably there is no mechanism in this legislation to prevent such a thing from happening.”
Out Councilmember Corey Johnson of Chelsea also voted against it as did Inez Barron of Brooklyn, a staunch advocate for public education, but it passed 43-4 with the support of all three citywide elected officials — Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James — as well as otherwise liberal officials such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
While the mantra of supporters was that the legislation was for the “safety of children,” none explained why they have gone through their entire public lives without advocating for such safety officers before, leaving these kids in such ostensible peril for decades.
More ominously, supporters of the bill also repeatedly refused to answer the question of what they saw as the limits to government funding for religious schools, expressly forbidden in the New York State Constitution. Indeed, the number one goal of religious schools is securing $250 million in state funds annually, an allocation that is supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo but was stopped by the Democrat-led Assembly this year. New York’s Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has vowed his church will continue to push for it.
While de Blasio’s police department opposed an earlier version of Intro 65 in April as encroaching on the NYPD’s discretion by mandating police-supervised school safety officers for any school that wanted one, de Blasio worked with chief sponsor Councilmember David Greenfield of Brooklyn in crafting the revised bill to allow reimbursement for private schools that hire their own security guards, who are supposed to be trained, unionized, and paid a living wage. The negotiations did get Greenfield’s request down to just under $20 million in the first year — with escalator allowances for more in the future — from a $60 million request in April.
While the city requires social service arms of religious groups that receive government contracts to pledge not to discriminate on any prohibited basis including sexual orientation and gender identity, no such restriction was placed on this funding. Most of the groups supporting it are from religions that teach that homosexuality is evil, restrict the role of women in leadership, and often lobby against LGBT rights. These groups include Agudath Israel of America, the Sephardic Community Federation, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the Islamic Schools Association, and the Muslim Community Network. No progressive organization endorsed the bill, with the exception of SEIU 32BJ, which will organize the workers.
In Ireland, education is carried out primarily by Catholic schools that are totally state-funded, and this week that nation’s parliament moved to bar these schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In New York City, religious institutions are exempt from the human rights law in most respects and not required to hire or include anyone they believe would compromise their religious mission.
Opposing Intro 65 were the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which called it “unconstitutional,” Make the Road, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Stonewall Democrats of New York, and others.
Allen Roskoff, president of the Owles club, said, “While red states fight to pass laws allowing religious discrimination, we provide special monies to bigoted organizations like the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, and Agudath Israel.”
Eunic Ortiz, president of Stonewall, wrote, “Any school in NYC — public, private, charter, or otherwise — that face a serious threat will and do receive sufficient NYPD-appointed security that is funded by the city. To provide staff to all private — meaning mostly religious — schools without a proper review of which facility has a need for this kind of security is an expensive way of going around constitutional prohibitions against using taxpayer funding for religious institutions.”
The Urban Youth Collaborative called the bill “an unprecedented step to subsidize private education using the public’s money,” noting in its release that according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, “New York City schools are owed $2.3 billion” under court judgements against the city and state for not providing a minimum adequate education in the public schools. The bill was also opposed by Class Size Matters, which fights for reasonable class sizes in the city’s overcrowded public schools.
De Blasio called the bill “fiscally responsible,” but State Senator José Peralta told Gay City that he and other elected officials in Queens have been begging the administration for increased funding for crossing guards — something that would demonstrably aid the safety of public and private school students — only to be told that there is no money for it.
Common Cause/ New York and the Citizens Budget Commission, in a joint statement, said, “Providing staff to private schools, including rules concerning salaries and work requirements, would be an inappropriate, indeed probably unconstitutional, use of government funds and regulatory oversight for non-public, religious purposes. We are also concerned about this blatant subversion of the public budget process, apparently in response to political pressures.”
What might those political pressures be? Councilmember Greenfield, a former vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, heads an outside organization that is dedicated to securing government funds for religious schools, and he boasts in his online Council bio that he has been successful in securing $600 million in tax credits for parents of school children not in the public schools. Part of his sway over his fellow Council members may stem from his chairing the powerful Land Use Committee that they all have vital business before.
A highly-placed government source told Gay City that de Blasio reversed himself on the bill to court Greenfield’s support as chair of the Land Use Committee for his faltering mass re-zoning plan that includes affordable housing. Greenfield vehemently denied that and a de Blasio’s spokesperson, Wiley Norvell, said there “is not a shred of truth” to that allegation.
The New York Times reported that de Blasio promised the private school security jobs to 32BJ to win their support for his re-zoning plan, an allegation Norvell said there “was no truth whatsoever” to. Hector Figueroa, head of the union, did nevertheless endorse key elements of the mayor’s plan. A spokesperson for the union told the Times “there was no quid pro quo.”
Most Council members had two unstated reasons for supporting Greenfield in using tax money to fund religious schools: they either have constituents who would like their choice to send their children to these schools to be further subsidized or they want to buy themselves good will with the increasingly powerful and cohesive blocs of Orthodox, fundamentalist, and Catholic voters should they decide to seek higher office.
Kenneth Sherrill, an out gay political science professor emeritus at Hunter College, told Gay City News in June, “I think the decline of traditional party organizations has magnified the ability of traditionally conservative religious organizations to turn out voters, sometimes enabling them to dominate primaries with no runoffs as well as to be able to deliver swing voters in closely contested elections. Just as old line political machines controlled jobs, the religious organizations use government funding to hire people who are highly motivated to campaign for someone who will allow them to keep their jobs.”
But publicly, it was all about concern for “the safety of children,” though none explained how the LGBT children will be protected from anti-gay religious teachings that foster self-hate and have driven many from their homes and to suicide.
“Students across our city deserve a safe learning environment, no matter what community they come from or where they attend school,” said Mark-Viverito, but like all her colleagues she refused to clarify what has suddenly changed that mandates the government now stepping in where it never has before. Some cite rising fears about terrorism, but the agents hired under this bill will not be allowed to carry guns.
“Claims that this legislation will protect students are specious at best,” wrote Dromm and Mendez. “The fine print reveals that security guards would still be required to contact the NYPD should there be a threat to students’ well-being. It is clear that Intro 65 is simply a ruse orchestrated by well-paid lobbyists.”
City officials swear allegiance to the US Constitution, the New York State Constitution, and the New York City Charter, but the bill’s supporters did not talk about the explicit prohibitions on this kind of funding in the State Constitution. Article 9, Section 3, approved by the voters in 1938, states: “Neither the state nor any subdivision thereof, shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught, but the legislature may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or institution of learning.”
That prohibition has been chipped away at through the funding of books on secular subjects and school nurses in private schools.
Mark-Viverito insisted that the new funding would withstand any legal challenges on constitutional grounds. Norvell, the de Blasio’s spokesperson, wrote in an email, “This legislation, which applies to both religious and non-religious schools, is directed at enhancing the safety of the city’s school children and staff, and not at aiding religion. As such, we believe it is consistent with legal precedent.”
That conclusion ignores the fact that any money these schools don’t have to lay out for their own security increases the amount they can spend on promoting their religious activities. De Blasio also reversed Bloomberg-era policy that banned churches from using public schools for regular Sunday worship at nominal cost — something mostly taken advantage of by the right-wing Christian fundamentalist “church planting” movement.
Mark-Viverito’s press office pushed back at questions about why she was “pushing through” this bill. While she declared herself “proud” to be backing the bill, she made that statement in a release dumped late the evening before Thanksgiving, the text of the substantially revised bill was not immediately available, and the meeting of the Public Safety Committee on December 4 that took up the bill was not announced until the day before. Despite the complete overhaul of the bill, no public testimony on it was permitted at the committee meeting.
Johanna Miller, advocacy director of the NYCLU, said in a statement, “The City Council’s practice of giving inadequate and untimely notice before so-called public hearings is undemocratic and virtually guarantees participation will be limited solely to professional advocates and lobbyists.” In this case, not even these professionals had any chance to offer input other than through the press.
At the committee meeting, Ritchie Torres acknowledged “severe criticism” he had received from members of the LGBT community for whom he said he has respect. “Even though I find the content that might be taught in some or many of these schools to be offensive and deeply contrary to who I am, that doesn’t mean that these schools aren’t entitled to some basic standard of school safety,” he said. “I do not see this as an issue of LGBT concern.”
Dromm told Gay City that one of the real problems in the public schools is “abusive” security agents, and he said if the Council can afford $20 million for private schools they should appropriate an equal amount for “restorative disciplinary practices” for such security personnel in the public schools as well as for many more guidance counselors. This year, he was able to secure $200,000 to advance the integration of LGBT issues in curricula, far from the millions that will be required to bring all schools up to speed in this area and make them safe for LGBT students and staff.
Full disclosure: In covering this bill this year, I came to strongly oppose it myself. When the Council honored me in June at its LGBT Pride ceremony I told them, “Protect religious groups from specific threats by all means. Protect all New Yorkers. But before this Council caters to anti-gay religious constituencies with something they have no right to, please show some respect to the right of our kids to a roof over their heads.”
Religious institutions used to be wary of government support because it meant complying with secular regulations that they would otherwise not be subject to. The New York City Council is providing this funding with no strings attached.
“This is a clear example of pork for religious communities and it is not consistent with the progressive values our Council is supposed to stand for,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.
For those who feel that the Constitution’s Establishment Clause is not in danger, it’s worth considering an op-ed that Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, wrote in the Washington Times this week. It’s title: “The Wall Separating Faith and Public Life Must be Torn Down.”
“Private schools have every right to exist,” veteran Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote this week about this Council bill, “but not at public expense.”
Read more here.
By Katie Honan
Originally published by DNAinfo on December 7, 2015, 9:17 am
JACKSON HEIGHTS — A local middle school’s pioneering dual-language program will serve as a model for others across the city and will use a $10,000 prize to invest back into the students.
Intermediate School 145, the Joseph Pulitzer School, was the first in Queens to offer a dual-language program 10 years ago to help Spanish-speaking students and those wishing to learn the language.
Last week it was selected as one of 15 schools recognized as the Chancellor’s Citywide Model Dual Language programs, where it will help other schools build their own programs.
“I am so honored to be recognized,” the school’s principal, Dolores Beckham, said outside the school Friday, surrounded by some of the program’s more than 180 students.
Dual-language classes teach every subject in English and Spanish, alternating days on which language is used. It’s costly, requiring books in both languages to meet the Common Core standard, according to Ivan Rodriguez, an assistant principal.
But the school has never questioned its importance, and made the program a priority, he said.
“We are celebrating the beauty of mastering two languages,” he said, adding that “being bi-literate is an honor.”
They recently had a science teacher from Spain conduct a lesson, and the inclusion in the program — and the $10,000 grant in support of it — will help them continue to grow, he said.
Councilman Danny Dromm said the need for dual-language programs is high in his district, and hopes it can be brought to more schools.
“[The programs] are so vitally important to our economy,” he said.
Read more here.
By Juan Gonzalez
Originally posted in the New York Daily News
Thursday, December 3, 2015, 10:07 PM
City Hall, as well as Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, suddenly announced last week a compromise agreement to provide nearly $20 million annually for security guards, at up to 300 private and religious schools across the city.
Their plan, announced before Thanksgiving, replaces an even more expensive proposal the Council has been considering for months that would have earmarked $50 million for additional NYPD public school security agents and deploy them to any of more than 600 private schools.
That proposal was opposed by the NYPD and civil liberties groups. The compromise, however, has overwhelming support in the Council and is virtually certain to be approved next week. It would take effect in April.
But someone needs to ask: why in the world should the taxpayers of this city foot the bill for security guards at religious and independent schools?
That’s a service they should be paying out of their own tuition.
“We’re giving away $20 million to these private and religious schools when that money is desperately need for our own public school pupils,” says Danny Dromm, chair of Council’s education committee and one of the opponents of the plan. The bill’s supporters obviously disagree.
“This first-of-its kind program is going to help keep more of our children safe, regardless of what type of school they attend,” Mark-Viverito said.
The city already pays for textbooks and computer supplies for private schools, noted Mayor de Blasio’s spokesman Wiley Norvell. It also pays for special education services and school bus transportation for their pupils.
“Those are services mandated by the state,” Dromm countered. “Security guards are not a mandate.”
City Councilman David Greenfield is the bill’s prime sponsor. Greenfield represents Brooklyn’s Midwood and Borough Park sections, centers of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, where many yeshiva administrators worry about the potential for terrorist attacks on their schools.
But even in the unlikely event of such an attack, opponents of the bill say, unarmed private guards would provide little in the way of extra security.
Moreover, there’s the risk of opening the door to a whole new city expense that could quickly skyrocket.
The compromise bill “caps the first year cost at $19.8 million,” Norvell noted. It also restricts eligibility to private schools with more than 300 students, and it requires each school to submit an application and agree to pay prevailing wage rates to their security guards before the city will approve it for reimbursement.
But the bill also allows city administrators to increase future budgets to account for rising costs of the prevailing wage and for new schools that become eligible.
There are more than 700 private schools in the city. Under this bill, even the wealthy independent schools with $25,000-a-year tuition could ask for city-financed security guards.
“I predict they [the private schools] will be back next year to ask for more money,” Dromm said.
The $19.8 million in the compromise bill would fund training and salaries for 350 security guards — each at annual pay and benefits of $49,000.
That means the guards at some religious school will be paid as much as the teachers they protect. A new labor contract at city Catholic schools, for example, calls for a $46,000 salary for new teachers next year.
Private schools have every right to exist — but not at public expense.
Read more here.
BY SADEF ALI KULLY
Originally published in the Times Ledger
Sunday, November 22, 2015
The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown in Elmhurst, the borough’s oldest church, celebrated its 363rd anniversary Sunday by paying homage to the church member who donated the land to the Presbyterian Church in 1715.
The church displayed its oldest records, including the original sheepskin deed from 1715, the year it began record-keeping. Those records included documents of baptisms, marriages, deaths, natural disasters, slaves becoming members of the church, and the disciplining of church members who had sinned.
According to the church historians, the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown at 5405 Seabury St. is the oldest Presbyterian church in New York City and the fourth oldest Presbyterian church in the United States.
The first building, erected in 1652 by Purtian settlers, was a combination church, town hall, parsonage and courthouse. It was located on present-day Broadway around Dongan Street in Elmhurst.
In 1715, land was given to for what would become the Presbyterian church today by member Jonathan Fish, an early Newtown settler.
Michael Perlman, chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Coumcil, said, “[It} was founded in the wilderness of the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. It is remarkable how the congregation survived war, invasion, and religious and political persecution. The first pastor was Rev. John Moore, who was a signer for the purchase of Queens, west of the Flushing River from the Indians. This area was known as Newtown as of 1665, but later became separate villages, which today are known as Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Rego Park, etc.”
Perlman said it was an engineering marvel. In 1924, the city announced plans to widen Queens Boulevard. The city raised the 5 million-pound church by 125 feet into the air onto greased logs turned by hand winches to move it from the middle of Queens Boulevard to its current location.
“The spirit of God moved the first Christians to act. When the Fish family donated the land, the people had a vision and they had faith. Look at us now,” the Rev. Anette Westermark said to the congregation. “In 1965, this congregation was the largest, diverse congregation in the world.”
After the Sunday sermon, Westermark led the congregation, which even today boasts members from over 25 countries, in prayer for the lives lost in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
“Let us be thankful for what we have now,” she said.
Visitors came from across the city to celebrate unveiling a memorial stone dedicated to Jonathan Fish’s gift to the Presbyterian church with elected officials Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing). Stavisky said.
“As I was sitting here, imagining the 363 years of what has transpired over the last 363 years. If these church walls could talk what would they say?”
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull
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