To endorse or not to endorse?

As an official Democratic club, Grand Street Democrats has been asked over the past couple months to endorse upstate Congressional Democratic candidates and outer-borough State Senate No-IDC challengers. The GSD Executive Committee met recently to discuss our process of providing endorsements. After much discussion, we realized that the best use of our time and attention would be to focus our efforts on races in which our members can actually vote.

To officially endorse any campaign, we would need to follow the rules we established in our bylaws for fairness to all candidates: we need to invite candidates to meet with our members, then give members a chance to vote on an endorsement. We will go through this process for all important races that affect us directly, but to do it for every campaign looking for support is not logistically practical.

Nor is it effective — what does a GSD endorsement really mean for a Democrat not looking to represent the Lower East Side? Let’s face it, they’re looking to talk to local Democratic activists outside their district mainly for one reason: money. We can’t vote for them, but we can contribute, and they probably need all the help they can get. “Endorsed by Grand Street Democrats” is not really what they need, so we’re not going to waste your time trying to give it to them.

But contributions are important; so is awareness of races outside our corner of Manhattan. GSD wants to encourage this kind of political engagement. How can we give candidates the attention they deserve?

We will try to do this in a few different ways. First, we’re partnering with Sister District, a national organization whose goal is to direct volunteer energy from deep blue districts like ours toward competitive races around the country. Secondly, we are working with other local Democratic clubs to sponsor a No-IDC forum where you can meet these progressive challengers all at once. We’ll let you know when the details have been nailed down, but we think it will be an exciting, thought-provoking event.

And third, we will help promote events hosted by GSD members for progressive candidates. So if you really care about that race in Brooklyn/Columbia County/North Carolina, and you want to help raise some money for it, host a meet-and-greet and let us know about it — we’ll tell GSD members about it through our growing email list and our active Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

Promoting an event for GSD members to meet a progressive candidate is not an endorsement — but for those campaigns, it’s probably better than an endorsement; it’s definitely more effective and meaningful.

If you have other ideas, please let us know.

GSD rallies to end gun violence in NYC and DC

Grand Street Democrats made it to rallies in NYC and Washington, DC on Saturday. District Leader Caroline Laskow and her family and GSD President Jeremy Sherber and his family joined other members and neighbors on a bus to Washington. GSD Treasurer Daria Segalini with her family lead locals uptown to join the NYC rally.

March with your neighbors for gun safety: March 24

America, finally, is at a turning point. Large majorities of us favor common-sense gun safety legislation, yet Washington has ignored even the most reasonable regulations because of the outsized influence of the NRA. Now there is a growing movement, inspired and led by the survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, strong enough to take on the NRA.

Join that movement on March 24 for the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC. Sign up below for a spot on the Grand Street bus. Space is limited, cost is $50 per seat. (And thank you to East River cooperator Cynthia Pappas for chartering the bus and letting us team up.)

Follow-up letter to DOT on Clinton/Grand jam

District leaders Caroline Laskow, Lee Berman, and Daisy Paez, along with other GSD members, joined a call last month with Luis Sanchez and Sean Quinn of the Department of Transportation to follow up from our Traffic Town Hall in January. There was very little new information on the call. DOT officials said they needed time to gather and analyze data from traffic counters that have been placed in several locations around the neighborhood.

Below is a letter from GSD President Jeremy Sherber to Sanchez and Quinn being sent today. Our goal is to set reasonable deadlines for DOT to deliver data analysis and new plans.

March 5, 2018

Luis Sanchez, Manhattan Borough Commissioner
Sean Quinn, Senior Director, Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs
NYC Department of Transportation
55 Water Street
New York, NY 10041

Commissioner Sanchez and Director Quinn,

Many thanks for continuing to speak with community members about the growing traffic problem around Grand and Clinton Streets.

First of all, I’d like to get a follow-up meeting on the calendar for the week of May 21. That should provide enough time to read preliminary data from traffic counters and for us to have a more meaningful discussion of possible solutions and how to present options to the community.

Are you free Tuesday, May 22 or Wednesday, May 23 at 10:00 am or 11:00 am?

Second, I want to make sure to emphasize a point that I keep hearing from neighbors, and that we tried to convey in our call last month. High-rise development in the area right around the Grand/Clinton intersection has only just started: residents and stores have yet to move in to the three buildings already constructed, two more buildings are underway, and three new developments have been announced all within the immediate area we are discussing. The new buildings will be constructed as-of-right, so DOT may never be asked to weigh in on their impact — but that does not mean they won’t have an impact. Any plan we make now to mitigate the traffic in this area must take into consideration the rapid growth these few blocks are experiencing.

The existing traffic problem creates a noise and safety challenge for our residential neighborhood. New development will only add to the amount of legitimate local traffic and to the people being affected by congestion. Next year’s L train shutdown will undoubtedly create even more traffic on these narrow streets. So the solution we are asking for is one that routes Williamsburg Bridge traffic around these blocks, not through them.

We shouldn’t have to wait years until construction has stopped to plan a better traffic pattern. Drivers need to be directed to major arteries like Houston Street, Essex Street, Allen Street, and Delancey Street. The smaller streets in this residential area are not an appropriate approach to the Williamsburg Bridge — and tweaks to signage and traffic light timing are not going to change that.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jeremy Sherber
President, Grand Street Democrats

March 5 = Pub Night + Civics Trivia

Let’s celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the start of Grand Street Democrats’ campaign to bring progressive, active, local politics back to the neighborhood! Join us Monday night for a drink at Lucky Jack’s and try your hand at our Civics Trivia Quiz.

No cover. Cash bar. $10 quiz entry. Kitschy prizes for the trivia-est in the neighborhood. See you there!

Grand Street Democrats endorses Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)

After speaking with Rep. Carolyn Maloney and her challenger Thursday evening, Grand Street Democrats members voted to endorse Rep. Maloney for re-election in 2018.

We’ll be petitioning to help her get on the ballot starting next week, and encouraging all Democrats in her district to vote for her in the congressional primary on June 24.

Representative Carolyn Maloney with District Leaders Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman.

Rep. Maloney has a strong record of support for women’s rights, gun safety, and affordable health care. She’s fought for years to take care of 9/11 first responders. As a NYC public school teacher and member of the city council before she was elected to Congress, Rep. Maloney has a long history of progressive, active public service.

Special Congressional endorsement meeting for NY-12

Endorsement for Congress NY-12

Thursday, March 1
6:45 – 8:45 pm

Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who represents NY Congressional District 12, is being challenged this year by a first-time candidate, Suraj Patel. We will have a chance this Thursday to hear from both candidates, ask them questions, and then decide whom to endorse for the Democratic primary on June 26.

Please show up at 6:45 pm so we can get started with the first candidate promptly at 7:00 pm. (The meeting is open to everyone, but only GSD members with voting privileges will be allowed to vote on our endorsement.)

Suraj Patel
7:00 pm — Suraj Patel
Patel is an alumni of Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, president of his family’s hospitality company, and a lecturer at NYU’s business school.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney
7:30 pm — Carolyn Maloney
Maloney began her career as a public school teacher and administrator in New York. She served on the NYC City Council for a decade before being elected to Congress in 1992.

GSD supports Lower East Side Historic District

Preliminary Proposed Lower East Side Historic District.
At our regular meeting on February 8, Grand Street Democrats voted to support the designation of an historic district on the lower east side. The proposed district encompasses historically intact buildings south of Delancey Street between Forsyth and Essex Streets (including many of the buildings around the Tenement Museum).

The area has been defined by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, a group of local preservationists who were instrumental in getting parts of the East Village designated as historic districts.

If you want to support this initiative individually, please add your name to the petition for a lower east side historic district.

The text of our letter to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Chair Srinivasan,

Manhattan’s Lower East Side is recognized as America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood with unsurpassed architectural, historical, and cultural significance to our city, state, and nation. Its great variety of age-old tenements, institutional, and commercial buildings not only enrich the streets with architecture based on human scale and beautifully crafted ornament, but have given the community and its residents a cohesive and stable environment with a strongly identifiable sense of history and place.

The only way to effectively preserve the historic streetscapes of this vital neighborhood is through New York City historic district designation. Therefore, we call upon the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark, without delay, the historically intact areas of the Lower East Side south of Delancey Street, as proposed by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and Friends of the Lower East Side.

Grand Street Democrats is a local club of active Lower East Side residents. We have a keen interest in honoring the unique history of our neighborhood while preserving the area’s opportunity to continue to grow and thrive. Please let us know if there is anything more we can do to assist the LPC in this matter.

Jeremy Sherber, President
Grand Street Democrats

#BlueWave starts here: phone bank for Margaret Good

Phone Bank for Margaret Good

Monday, February 12
6:30 – 8:30 pm

Seward Coop (apartment will be emailed to you after RSVP)

Sister District is a national organization created out of the ashes of the 2016 presidential election. Its goal is to harness Democratic energy from deep blue districts like ours to help get out the vote in truly swing districts around the country. Focused especially on state legislative races (which will help determine new congressional districts after the 2020 census), Sister District helped with the tremendous successes in Virginia in 2017, and now is resetting targets for 2018.

First up is a special election for Florida State House in February, where Democrat Margaret Good is hoping to flip this Sarasota District.


Margaret Good
Grand Street Dems launches its 2018 partnership with Sister District with this phone bank for Margaret Good on February 12. Help us make calls and participate in this year’s Democratic #BlueWave across the country.

Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman join Letitia James and Margaret Chin to protect ‘Lifeline’ for 1 million New Yorkers

Today, Public Advocate Letitia James called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect Lifeline, a program that provides subsidized phone and internet services to millions of low-income Americans, including over 1 million New Yorkers. In a letter to the FCC, Public Advocate James urged the Commission to reject a series of proposals that would significantly defund the program, and drastically reduce the number of Americans able to afford basic phone and internet service.

Council Member Margaret Chin said, “Seniors in Lower Manhattan are no stranger to this program, and for many these recipients, Lifeline also serves as a key tool to complete various daily tasks — including paying the bills, applying for affordable housing and completing their annual public housing recertification. I urge the FCC to protect this vital program and support proposals that fight for internet access and equity for every American — regardless of age or income level — and encourage fellow New Yorkers concerned about the future of the Lifeline program to make their voices heard to FCC before the February 21st deadline.”

“The FCC’s current proposals for cutting back the Lifeline program will inflict a cruel blow to low-income households,” said Caroline Laskow, District Leader, Assembly District 65 Part A. “It is a joke to pretend that phone and broadband services are anything but a necessity, whether for work or homework, for education or a job application. Without proper access to the digital world, low-income communities are increasingly left out and left behind. We must protect these consumers who are being unjustly targeted by the FCC with proposals that would serve to literally disconnect and disempower them.”

“Families should not have to worry that they will no longer be able to keep in touch with loved ones, or fear that in case of emergency they can not afford a telephone,” said Lee Berman, District Leader, Assembly District 65 Part A. “Nor should children in low-income families have yet another stumbling block put in their way when trying to learn. Without the ability to participate in the Lifeline program’s broadband discount for participating households, the working poor find it yet again harder to just keep up. Low-income children should have the same access to the internet, to do their homework and to study and research using broadband as the rest of America does.”

The Lifeline program was created in 1985 under President Reagan and serves nearly 13 million low-income Americans, including more than over 1 million New Yorkers. Access to a telephone is not only a key connection to opportunities and loved ones, but also a safety necessity during emergencies. With Lifetime subscribers earning an average of just $14,000 a year, the proposed changes to the program would have significant impacts on their ability to continue affording basic service.