Testimony to NYC Rent Guidelines Board Concerning The Need For A Rent Freeze
Last night was one to remember! I attended a reception at the home of the Irish Consul general, Noel Kilkenny and his wife, Honora. The occasion was the naming of this year's Grand Marshals for the St. Pat's For All Parade. For me, the night was one filled with symbolism. A little over a hundred years ago my mother's family emigrated from Ireland to America, my father's family came a generation before. Like the millions that followed them, they came seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families. Like today's immigrants they received a none too warm welcome. And like today's immigrants there was no immediate better way of life. Their immediate lot was menial, low paying and dangerous jobs. Housing was crowded and inadequate. Respect would have to be earned. For all appearances their arrival offered little hope of a better life, and probably to less stronger folk they had made a mistake in coming. But that was not the case. Slowly and surely they worked at improving their lot in life and at the same time they saw that their children took advantage of the City's educational opportunities. Slowly and surely the dream became a reality not because of a miracle but because of determination and hard work; because, at no time, did they lose sight of their dream or their determination to seize it for themselves and their families. My great aunt, Mary Henry, a single lady, knew well the great houses of the City. She was employed as a maid and a cook. She left the comfort provided by her employment to raise my Mom and her four brothers and two sisters who has been orphaned. She never complained about leaving Fifth Avenue for Brownsville. She and all in that generation and the one that followed never let the bumps in the road keep them from turning the dream into reality. I am in this great house tonight night nit as an employee but as a guest. A guest and a grandson fully aware that I am the recipient of that better life, once dreamed and now realized, because of their sacrifices and determination. May the grandchildren of today's immigrants be as lucky as me!
44 years ago today on a muggy Sunday evening I joined the rest of the world in a mesmerizing moment as we watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The next morning, our usual quiet commute was anything but---the train was abuzz about our common witnessing of history. Well, almost the entire train. Oneman near me raised his head above his folded newspaper and told us it was all a hoax, it wasn't the moon-- it was a back lot in Hollywood, it was a stunt to get increased funding for the space program . We listened for a few seconds, quickly dismissed him and his analysis and excitedly returned to our conversation. There will always be naysayers, haters, deniers of what is so obvious to all but themselves. They will huff and puff and try to blow the house down but they will fail, if not immediately then in a matter of time. Last month the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. A majority of Americans cheered, a daily growing majority. There were others who loathed the moment, who threatened lawsuits, who claimed that God would punish. Indiana---not the entire State, a vocal few-- threatened to make it a felony for a gay couple to even try to apply for a marriage license. At the same time the Attorney General of Pennsylvania announced that she will not defend the State's ban on same sex marriage and the House Republicans said they would abandon their defense of DOMA in existing cases because of the Court's decision in Windsor. The DOMA decision was a game changer and even the majority of the opposition saw that. Voices like those raised in Indiana and other parts have less influence today than they had before DOMA. There is still a long way to go before we reach full equality but hope rather than fear should guide us on the journey ahead. I'll keep an eye on Indiana but I will continue to applaud New York's investment policy and hope that other jurisdictions will replicate it.
Testimony delivered 1/14/13 at LaGuardia Community College on the drawing of new Council lines. CITIZENS UNION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK Testimony to the City Districting Commission, Queens Public Hearing January 14, 2012 Good evening, Chair Romano and other members of the City Districting Commission. My name is Bill Meehan, and I am a volunteer member of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan good government group dedicated to making democracy work for all New Yorkers. I am focusing my remarks on Queens, as other representatives of Citizens Union have previously testified at the Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn hearings. I am a resident of Queens and deeply involved in its civic life: I serve as a member of Queens Community Board 3; I am on the board of the New Visions Democratic Club and a member of the Queens County Democratic Committee; I am a Board Member and Treasurer of the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah; President of Chapter 991 of AARP based in Jackson Heights; Business Director of Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and a founding member of the Jackson Heights Dog Run. I cherish and respect the diversity that makes Queens a unique and wonderful place to live. While Citizens Union recognizes that improvements were made in Queens to keep some neighborhoods together, including Elmhurst, Cambria Heights and Maspeth, there are additional neighborhoods that the Commission should again try to keep whole. District 19 does not include all of Bayside or Oakland Gardens, as was requested by the majority of community members in public testimony, which would unite the Asian American community. There has been a 50 percent growth of Asian American Communities in both of these districts, and we recommend that the Commission fully include Bayside and Oakland Gardens in District 19. We recognize that community members have also noted that the residential neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing is now divided, which used to be wholly within District 19. We urge the Commission to seek to address both of these concerns and to publicly document its decision before it votes on final maps. The South Asian community in Ozone Park and Cypress Hill is divided between Districts 37 and 32. While the Commission stated that it could not create another cross-over district between Queens and Brooklyn, as District 34 already does so, it may be possible to shift this crossover to another area. Testimony at several hearings indicated that the South Asian community has requested this change. We urge the Commission to examine whether shifting the crossover district to these districts is a feasible alternative. For all of proposed council districts, Citizens Union recommends that the Commission provide to the public in advance of any vote on final maps a written rationale detailing its decision-making for each district. For example, the rationale should include how the Commission addressed requirements in the City Charter and specifically address how it handled public requests regarding their own districts. This information is essential to ensure that the public has more information about the choices that were made and potentially more confidence in the end result. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
It was almost the night before Christmas and too many creatures were stirring and pulling in different directions so that peace on earth and good will to all mankind really didn't have a chance. It was almost the night before Christmas and despite all,the efforts of Hallmark and the Charlie Browns amongst us the emphasis was on gift buying rather than gift giving. It was almost the night before Christmas and there was more concern on the number of hours left to shop than on remembering a Baby born long ago. I'm finding it hard to get into the Spirit of Christmas because there are so many distractions that make it difficult to believe in the wonder of a silent night long ago that heralded the goodness of both man and God. Anne Frank wrote "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy". I am trying but it's difficult. Angels we have heard on high.....A group of youngsters from PS 69 sang at an AARP meeting I lead, young, strong, hopeful voices filled the room with holiday cheer. Looking at them it was hard not recall that a group just like them in Sandy Hook was slaughtered just a few days before. There was no room for him in the inn.....the Nor'easter Sandy wreaked havoc on our area and added many to our homeless population. Efforts to provide shelter always fall short and meaningful efforts to prevent homelessness sit low on our list of priorities. We find the resources to build prisons but cannot find the funds for affordable housing. A star in the east will lead you......we look to all sorts of distractions to keep from looking within; we heed voices that are devoid of meaning and offer only false promises. We too readily give into our penchant to be led rather that take on the burden of leading. For unto you a Son is given.....too many who should know better, who are called to proclaim the joy of incarnation try to limit God's acceptance and love only to those like themselves, as if God can not handle diversity when it is only their inability and selfishness that is the basis for their excluding others. "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy" You my friends and loved ones make a difficult time and a troublesome world less fearful and give me hope. Thank you for your friendship. Enjoy the holidays and celebrate your goodness.
Let me begin by stating that one of my best friends drives a bus. In fact, over the years many friends have been bus drivers. And of course Jackie Gleason was a bus driver and who doesn't like him?