Grand Street Democrats recommend ‘Yes’ on Proposal 2

On November 7 there will be three state proposals on your election day ballot. Grand Street Democrats voted Monday to recommend a “Yes” vote on Proposal 2.

It’s hard to believe, but elected officials convicted of corruption charges get to retire with full benefits in the state of New York.

A 2011 state law allowed for judges to reduce or revoke the public pension of officials convicted of crimes related to their office, but because the state constitution protects public pensions as contracts, only officials elected starting after the law went into effect are subject to its restriction. Ballot proposal 2 would amend the state constitution to give judges the power to punish officials even if they were elected before 2012.

There are still two caveats to this proposal, even if it passes:

First, as with the existing state law, pension forfeiture would not be automatic but rather would be at the discretion of a judge.

Second, this amendment would apply only to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018. That creates a hard-to-resist window of opportunity between November 8 and December 31 of this year when veteran law makers can go all-out on corruption without worrying about risking their pensions. It also means that a certain neighbor of ours, even if re-tried and re-convicted, will continue to receive $79,222 per year from New York taxpayers for his many years of service.

On November 7, don’t forget to turn your ballot over and vote “Yes” on Proposal 2.

It’s official! Grand Street Democrats approve bylaws and elect officers

Monday night in the Seward Community Room, Grand Street Democrats founding members approved bylaws for our new local Democratic club, and inaugural club members elected officers to help guide the club for its first year.

Jeremy Sherber … President
Nina Watkins … Vice President
Daria Segalini … Treasurer
Judith Wind … Secretary

Bylaws will be posted soon to this website, and we’ll have a formal announcement soon about our first public meeting on November 13.

Laskow and Berman defeat Silver’s political club on Lower East Side

Lee Berman and Caroline Laskow, Democratic District Leaders, Assembly District 65 Part A (Photo credit: Larry Bercow)

Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman scored a major upset Tuesday over the Harry S. Truman Democratic Club, a longtime base of support for disgraced former Assemblymember Sheldon Silver.

Their Grand Street Democrats running mates also won 16 out of 22 Democratic County Committee seats. These victories give this new political organization immediate relevance in the selection of a new State Senator, following Daniel Squadron’s abrupt resignation.

In the six months since its founding, Grand Street Democrats has earned a wide base of grassroots support from Lower East Siders looking for an active, inclusive, progressive political community.

Caroline Laskow said, “Trump’s win last year was a call to action for anyone with a political ethical conscience. The Truman Club’s silence in the face of Trump’s campaign and administration signalled not only their apathy but complicity. Our community deserves better, and voters today made clear they are looking for new local leadership ready to organize resistance to Trump’s radical agenda.”

Lee Berman said, “Locally, this is big news. Silver and his allies have acted as gatekeepers to local officials for decades. We are determined to celebrate the diversity of our neighborhood and make sure that everyone has equal access to their elected officials, from City Hall to Albany to Washington DC.”

Grand Street Democrats plans to hold regular open meetings, neighborhood events, and forums with elected officials for the entire community.

For more information follow @grandstreetdems on social media.

Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club endorses Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman for District Leaders

New York’s premier citywide LGBT political club has endorsed Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman for Democratic District Leaders in Assembly District 65 Part A representing the neighborhoods of Grand Street and the Lower East Side.

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, named for the legendary gay rights pioneer Jim Owles, was formed in 2004 as a citywide political activist club with a mission to secure human rights, dignity, and freedom for all people.

Laskow and Berman earned their endorsement because of their strong commitment to LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, and social justice causes.

Caroline Laskow said, “Our local Democratic Party should be organizing local progressives to join the fight for social justice everywhere. We can hold our elected officials accountable to make your progressive voices heard in City Hall, Albany, and Washington. I’m so proud to be on the same side as the great Jim Owles.”

Lee Berman said, “Our incumbent District Leaders have been invisible, controlling access to our elected officials and forfeiting any leadership in the resistance to Trump. We need to elect new District Leaders who are committed to protecting civil rights.”

Caroline Laskow is a documentary filmmaker and author who has lived in Seward Park Co-op since 2003. Her two children attend NYC public schools. Lee Berman is a lifelong resident of East River Co-op, current member of Community Board 3, and has been a member of school leadership teams and PTAs for nine years at his daughters’ public schools.

Laskow and Berman are challenging incumbent District Leaders from the Truman Club, the “base of operations for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.” (link)


One week to go … five ways to help

For our final campaign push, can you lend a hand again? Here are 5 ways you can help:

  1. Volunteer to distribute flyers this week. We have three rounds of distribution to cover today through Sunday. One tower takes 20-30 minute. Just email us so our volunteer coordinator can set you up with material and an apartment list.
  2. Volunteer for election day. We’ll need volunteers on the street all day — 6:00 am to 9:00 pm — to make sure Democrats remember to vote. Again, just email us if you are available on Tuesday, September 12. (Bonus: you’ll get a t-shirt!)
  3. Email your neighbors. Many of your friends may be tuning in this week for the first time and may not even know about our campaign for District Leaders. Please take a minute to tell them why you are supporting us, and ask them to take a look at our website to learn more:
  4. Pledge your vote. Visit to pledge your vote and then use the share buttons on that page to ask friends on Facebook and Twitter to join you.
  5. Chip in $25 or $50. We have a few last-minute expenses this week — additional flyers, advertising — and could use a little more cushion in our campaign account to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned. If you can, please make a final donation of $25 or $50.

We know you’re busy. School starts this week. We’ve all got a lot on our plates. But we’ve got only one more week to create a more open, honest, active, progressive Democratic party on Grand Street — and that’s not going to happen without you. Please do what you can to help!

Trump supporters endorse Blatt & Goldman

Jewish Press 2016:

“We urge readers to come out on November 8 and vote for Donald Trump for president of the United States. He represents America’s best hope for reversing the calamitous course on which elected officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties have led us.”

Jewish Press 2017:

“We strongly support the reelection of Karen Blatt and Jacob Goldman as Democratic district leaders on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.”

Given that The Jewish Press endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016, we’re not surprised or disappointed that they have given their blessing to Karen Blatt and Jacob Goldman in our local election for District Leaders this year.

But we strongly reject their attempt to smear our campaign with outright lies along the way.

They don’t even name us in their editorial, yet pretend to know so much about us. What they claim could not be further from the truth.

We are Jews, and we are Zionists. We strongly support Israel’s profound place in the world, and are raising our children to do the same. We are also American progressives who are pro-immigrant, pro-religious freedom, pro-LGBTQ, pro-women’s rights, pro-choice, pro-public schools, pro-environment … and anti-Trump. Contrary to these lies, we think those are excellent credentials for a Democratic Party position on the Lower East Side!

It’s time for Democratic District Leaders who tell the truth and attack Trump, not support him. It’s time for real progressives who will work for you.


Truman Club and its candidates continue to violate campaign finance laws

Candidates for Democratic District Leaders with ties to Sheldon Silver continue to violate campaign finance laws by failing to disclose political contributions and expenses as required by state law.

Last month the New York Post reported that the Truman Democratic Club and its candidates had not filed financial disclosure forms for at least 18 years, despite clear legal requirements to do so. Disclosures of expenses from other candidates who have attended Truman Club fundraisers show evidence of more than $91,000 amassed by the Truman Club. But since private donors and corporations do not disclose their donations, the Truman Club is likely hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Subsequent to that report, District Leader Karen Blatt registered a re-election committee with the Board of Elections. This week Committee to Re-elect Blatt disclosed a single in-kind contribution from the Truman Club for $1,689.25, which is above the $1,000 legal limit for contributions in this race. Blatt, who was appointed by Sheldon Silver to her position as co-executive director of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment, also ran for office in 2015 without making any financial disclosures.

Jacob Goldman, a local real estate agent also running for District Leader with support from the Truman Club, waited until after financial disclosures were due to register with the New York State Board of Elections, despite participating publicly in fundraising activities and distributing printed campaign material during the past three months.

NY1 reported this month that Judy Rapfogel, Sheldon Silver’s former chief of staff, who was “considered Silver’s enforcer and gatekeeper in Albany,” “has been very active and is currently involved in the race for district leader.”

An official complaint has been filed with the New York State Board of Elections Division of Election Law Enforcement, asking that an investigation of the Truman Club’s finances commence immediately. The complaint said, “Voters have the right to know who is supporting political activity in our neighborhood, and how that money is being spent.”

District Leader candidate Lee Berman said, “When you ask your neighbors for their votes, you have to start by following the law. You’d think after Silver’s convictions, even the Truman Club would get that. Instead, their candidates continue to act as though the law does not apply to them.”

Caroline Laskow, also running for District Leader, added, “As a first-time candidate, I made sure to register with the state and file proper financial disclosures. Why wouldn’t the incumbents do the same? What are they spending all that money on?”

Downtown Democrats deserve a voice in the selection of a new State Senator

Daniel Squadron

State Senator Daniel Squadron resigned abruptly last week. The process for selecting his successor is still unclear. A special election will probably happen on November 7, along with other city-wide races like for Mayor and City Council. But since it’s too late to get names on the September 12 primary ballot, there are a couple options for how the Democratic candidate will be selected. The Lo-Down had a good summary of these options last week.

Caroline and Lee are sending the following letter to Chairman Wright, co-signed by all 22 Grand Street Democrats candidates for county committee, urging him to convene the county committee after September 12 so Democratic voters — you! — have a chance to select new county committee members who will participate in the nominating convention.

County Leader Keith Wright
New York County Democratic Committee
108 West 39th Street, Suite 1201
New York, NY 10018

Dear Leader Wright,

We write regarding the selection process of a Democratic nominee for the 26th State Senate district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, following Daniel Squadron’s recent resignation.

We want to make sure you are aware that there are contested races for County Committee in AD65 Part A covering eleven election districts on the Lower East Side. These party positions will be determined by Democratic voters only four weeks from now — that’s why we recommend you set a date after the September 12 primary for a nominating convention.

As Sen. Squadron himself said in a letter to you last week, “It is important that the vacancy for this seat be filled in the most transparent and fair way possible.” Sen. Squadron also wrote, “I strongly urge you to make this process as democratic as possible.”

In this spirit of fuller democratic participation, we urge you to hold a full vote of County Committee members after the upcoming primary. Any decision made before this time would deprive local rank and file Democrats of the chance to participate in the selection our next State Senator — and diminish that candidate’s credibility and support in the general election.

As the members of Grand Street Democrats, a new political club seeking to bring fresh progressive engagement on the Lower East Side, one of our primary goals is to energize Democrats in our community to increase their participation in local politics. Our County Committee candidates, and more importantly the voters who will support them on September 12, deserve to be heard at this critical juncture.


Lee Berman
Democratic State Committee Member, AD65
Democratic District Leader Candidate, AD65 Part A

Caroline Laskow
Democratic District Leader Candidate, AD65 Part A

Candidates for Democratic County Committee:
Joree Adilman
Lisa Arbisser
Moira Brennan
Anthony Brownie
Heather Cousens
Allison Gordon
Lauren Forsch
Peter Herb
Martha Hornthal
Brett Leitner
Tommy Loeb
Mark Lynch
Michael Marino
David Pass
Mathew Quezada
William Rockwell
Daria Segalini
Melissa Shiffman
Hariette Skidelsky
Michelle Stern
Wei-Li Tjong
Kenneth Wind

NY1: “Silver’s enforcer and gatekeeper” campaigning for Truman Club candidates

For those of you steeped in Grand Street politics, this will come as no surprise. For everyone else, here are two minutes from NY1 that might open your eyes:

There are important local issues to fight for in this campaign: traffic mitigation, more reliable public transportation, and improved public schools. And local Democrats are looking for ways to engage directly local elected officials, so that we can impact decisions made in City Hall, Albany, and Washington.

But part of this campaign is also about wiping the neighborhood clean of disgraced former assemblyman Sheldon Silver and his allies. As Lee Berman says in this report, “What we are trying to do is fight against the Truman Democratic Club, which is a machine that has been in power for 40-plus years. It is ostensibly controlled by Judy Rapfogel, Shelly’s former chief of staff.”

Reporter Zack Fink rightly calls Rapfogel “Silver’s enforcer and gatekeeper in Albany” and reminds viewers that “her husband, Willie Rapfogel, was convicted of stealing millions of dollars from a Jewish charity, and served nearly three years in prison.”

We’ll say it again: Grand Street needs new Democratic leadership.

Here’s the original NY1 story.