BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

The Women’s Equality Act Is Not Forgotten

May 7th, 2014

When I think about the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, I find it hard to understand why it is difficult to pass these common sense bills in a progressive state like New York. The women of this state deserve to have their basic, fundamental rights recognized and confirmed by the state government and not treated as just political issues.

In the past, Albany has tackled 10-point Women’s Equality Act (WEA), I controversial legislation by tying multiple, often unrelated initiatives together in a comprehensive package sometimes labeled the “Big Ugly.” Policies ranging from the property tax cap to rent control regulations have all been deemed important enough to be included in these omnibus bills, ensuring that they’ll pass by giving politicians on both sides of the aisle something they want.

The governor and the Assembly embraced this often successful strategy with the Women’s Equality Act. However, the Republican/IDC leadership refused to follow this pattern and broke the WEA apart—ultimately failing to pass what the governor had presented and the Assembly approved.

The failure to pass the entire 10-point package is particularly troubling because the people of New York State overwhelmingly support all 10 of the issues addressed in the Women’s Equality Act. This legislation includes provisions that ensure women will receive equal pay for equal work and recognizes that pay inequality continues to hold New York’s economy back. The WEA would end multiple forms of inequity that women face, including family status, pregnancy discrimination and source-of-income discrimination.

The Women’s Equality Act would also combat sexual harassment in the workplace, strengthen human trafficking laws and provide greater protections for victims of domestic violence. But what has held up the entire package is a political fight over the last point of the WEA, a simple codification of the federal choice provisions into New York State law.

Republican opposition to the 10th point of the Women’s Equality Act is all the more shocking when we recognize that New York actually decriminalized abortion in 1970, prior to federal law, passing choice legislation through the Republican-controlled Senate with 12 Republican senators joining most of their Democratic colleagues in favor of this initiative.

That today not a single Senate Republican would vote for a simple codification of federal choice provisions is distressing. But the fact that this attitude is supported by the Senate Leadership, allowing the entire 10-point Women’s Equality Act to be held up in the State Senate, is inexcusable.

The fact remains that the majority of New Yorkers are women, even though the leadership in Albany does not reflect that. Clearly women’s rights, health and equality transcends the boundaries of partisan politics.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the leader of the state Senate Democratic Conference.


Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health

April 29th, 2014

by Dr. Rob van Dam

Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

The Summary

  • Drinking up to six cups a day of coffee is not associated with increased risk of death from any cause, or death from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
  • Some people may still want to consider avoiding coffee or switching to decaf, especially women who are pregnant, or people who have a hard time controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar.
  • It’s best to brew coffee with a paper filter, to remove a substance that causes increases in LDL cholesterol.
  • Coffee may have potential health benefits, but more research needs to be done.
  • Read more about coffee and tea compared to other beverages.

1. The latest Harvard study on coffee and health seems to offer good news for coffee drinkers. What did the research find?

We looked at the relationship between coffee consumption and overall mortality in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which together included about 130,000 study volunteers. (1) At the start of the study, these healthy men and women were in their 40s and 50s. We followed them for 18 to 24 years, to see who died during that period, and to track their diet and lifestyle habits, including coffee consumption. We did not find any relationship between coffee consumption and increased risk of death from any cause, death from cancer, or death from cardiovascular disease. Even people who drank up to six cups of coffee per day were at no higher risk of death. This finding fits into the research picture that has been emerging over the past few years. For the general population, the evidence suggests that coffee drinking doesn’t have any serious detrimental health effects.

2. So for coffee drinkers, no news is good news? Why is this finding so important?

It’s an important message because people have seen coffee drinking as an unhealthy habit, along the lines of smoking and excessive drinking, and they may make a lot of effort to reduce their coffee consumption or quit drinking it altogether, even if they really enjoy it. Our findings suggest that if you want to improve your health, it’s better to focus on other lifestyle factors, such as increasing your physical activity, quitting smoking, or eating more whole grains.

3. Is there an upper limit for the amount of coffee that is healthy to drink each day?

If you’re drinking so much coffee that you get tremors, have sleeping problems, or feel stressed and uncomfortable, then obviously you’re drinking too much coffee. But in terms of effects on mortality or other health factors, for example, we don’t see any negative effects of consuming up to six cups of coffee a day. Keep in mind that our study and in most studies of coffee, a “cup” of coffee is an 8-ounce cup with 100 mg of caffeine, not the 16 ounces you would get in a grande coffee at a Starbucks, which has about 330 mg of caffeine.

Also keep in mind that the research is typically based on coffee that’s black or with a little milk or sugar, but not with the kind of high-calorie coffeehouse beverages that have become popular over the past few years. A 24-ounce mocha Frappachino at Starbucks with whipped cream has almost 500 calories—that’s 25 percent of the daily calorie intake for someone who requires 2,000 calories a day. People may not realize that having a beverage like that adds so much to their energy intake, and they may not compensate adequately by eating less over the course of the day. This could lead to weight gain over time, which could in turn increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and that’s a major concern.

4. Is there any research that suggests coffee may have some beneficial health effects?

Yes, research over the past few years suggests that coffee consumption may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis. And our latest study on coffee and mortality found that people who regularly drank coffee actually had a somewhat lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who rarely drank coffee; this result needs to be confirmed in further studies, however. This is a pretty active area of research right now, and it’s not at the stage where we would say, “Start drinking coffee to increase your health even if you don’t like it.” But I think the evidence is good that for people in general—outside of a few populations, such as pregnant women, or people who have trouble controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar—coffee is one of the good, healthy beverage choices.

5. Why does it seem like scientists keep flip-flopping on whether coffee is bad for you or good for you?

Often people think of coffee just as a vehicle for caffeine. But it’s actually a very complex beverage with hundreds and hundreds of different compounds in it. Since coffee contains so many different compounds, drinking coffee can lead to very diverse health outcomes. It can be good for some things and bad for some things, and that’s not necessarily flip-flopping or inconsistent. Few foods are good for everything. That’s why we do studies on very specific health effects—for example, studies of how coffee affects the risk of diabetes—but we also conduct studies such as this most recent one looking at coffee consumption and mortality over a long period of time, which better reflects the overall health effect.

Coffee is also a bit more complex to study than some other food items. Drinking coffee often goes along together with cigarette smoking, and with a lifestyle that’s not very health conscious. For example, people who drink lots of coffee tend to exercise less. They are less likely to use dietary supplements, and they tend to have a less healthful diet. So in the early studies on coffee and health, it was hard to separate the effects of coffee from the effects of smoking or other lifestyle choices.

Over the several decades that coffee has been studied, there have been some reports that coffee may increase the risk of certain cancers or the risk of heart disease. But in better conducted studies, such as the one we just published—larger studies that have a lot of information about all other lifestyle factors and make a real effort to control for these lifestyle factors—we do not find many of these health effects that people were afraid of.

6. What is the latest research on the risks of coffee or caffeine during pregnancy?

For pregnant women, there has been quite a bit of controversy over whether high intake of coffee or caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage. The jury is still out. But we know that the caffeine goes through the placenta and reaches the fetus, and that the fetus is very sensitive to caffeine; it metabolizes it very slowly. So for pregnant women it seems prudent to reduce coffee consumption to a low level, for example one cup a day.

7. Should people with high blood pressure consider reducing their coffee or caffeine intake? What about people with diabetes?

We know that if people are not used to using any caffeine, and they start to use caffeine, their blood pressure goes up substantially. Within a week of caffeine consumption, however, we see that the effect is less pronounced—there is less of an increase in blood pressure. After several weeks of continued caffeine consumption, however, a little bit of increase in blood pressure remains. In studies that look at the incidence of hypertension in the general population, drinking caffeinated coffee is not associated with a substantial increase in risk. But if people have hypertension, and are having a hard time controlling their hypertension, they could try switching from caffeinated coffee to decaffeinated coffee, to see if it has a beneficial effect.

With diabetes, it’s a bit of a paradox. Studies around the world consistently show that high consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is associated with low risk of type 2 diabetes. But if you look at acute studies that just give people caffeine or caffeinated coffee, and then have them eat something rich in glucose, their sensitivity to insulin drops and their blood glucose levels are higher than expected. There isn’t any long-term data on coffee consumption and glucose control. But if people have diabetes and have trouble controlling their blood glucose, it may be beneficial for them to try switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee. Making the switch from caffeinated to decaf may be better than quitting coffee altogether, because some research suggests that decaffeinated coffee actually reduces the glucose response.

8. How do you explain the paradoxical findings on coffee and caffeine consumption and diabetes?

It’s possible that there are simply different effects for short-term and long-term intake of coffee and caffeine. And, as I mentioned before, it’s becoming increasingly clear that coffee is much more than caffeine, and the health effects that you see for caffeinated coffee are often different than what you would expect based on its caffeine content.

For example, if you look at exercise performance, it seems that caffeine can be somewhat beneficial, but caffeinated coffee is not. Or if you look at blood pressure and compare the effects of caffeinated coffee to the effects of caffeine, you’ll find that caffeinated coffee causes blood pressure increases that are substantially weaker than what one would expect for the amount of caffeine it contains. The same is true for the relationship between coffee, caffeine, and blood glucose after a meal. It’s possible that there are compounds in coffee that may counteract the effect of caffeine, but more research needs to be done.

9.  Is drinking coffee made with a paper filter healthier than drinking boiled coffee or other types of coffee?

Coffee contains a substance called cafestol that is a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. Cafestol is found in the oily fraction of coffee, and when you brew coffee with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. Other methods of coffee preparation, such as the boiled coffee common in Scandinavian countries, French press coffee, or Turkish coffee, are much higher in cafestol. So for people who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have much lower levels of cafestol than boiled or French press coffee. Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.

10. Do tea and coffee have similar beneficial effects?

One could expect some of the beneficial effects of coffee to be similar for tea, since some of the compounds are similar. A study in China has found that drinking large quantities of Oolongtea—a liter a day—is beneficial for glycemic control in people with diabetes. But research on tea in the U.S. has not shown the type of beneficial effect we see for coffee, probably because people in the U.S.tend to drink tea that is weaker in strength and tend to drink less of it.


1. Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Li TY,Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Hu FB. The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148:904-914. Summary for patients.


New Rental Housing Landscape Illustrates NYC Rental Housing Trends

April 25th, 2014

More than one million households in New York City are rent-burdened, which means they are paying 30 percent or more of household income on rent, and nearly 600,000 of those households are severely rent-burdened, or paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent, according to the newly released NYU Furman Center/Capital One Affordable Housing Landscape.

The Landscape, an infographic released today by the NYU Furman Center and Capital One, provides a detailed look into rental housing affordability trends in New York City from 2000 to 2012 and illustrates how trends in affordable rental housing affected New Yorkers as rents continued to increase, incomes stagnated, and the share of renters paying a high percentage of their income rose.

The Furman Center’s past research has shown that over half of renter households in New York City are rent burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent and utilities. This study delves more deeply into recent trends in rent levels, rent burdens, affordable units, and the gap between the number of low-income households in need of affordable housing and the number of existing affordable units. This analysis is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, including data from the American Community Survey from 2005 through 2012.

To learn more about the Affordable Rental Housing Landscape, please see the infographic and press release.

Officials ‘air’ their plan differences

April 22nd, 2014

When de Blasio administration officials met at City Hall recently to hear a pitch about spurring development in a city where affordable, vacant land is scarce, two top mayoral aides were in their element: Both had promulgated proposals to harness the unused development capacity of landmarked buildings—their “air rights”—to do so.

But their prescriptions, prepared before they joined the administration, were markedly different.

Vicki Been, the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, argued that landmarked buildings should be allowed to sell their air rights not only to adjacent buildings, but also to nearby properties facing wide streets.

The proposal advanced by Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the City Planning Commission, was far more aggressive: It would permit the transfer of air rights clear across town, even to other boroughs.

Any differences in opinion within Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team should be smoothed out by May 1, when his housing policy is expected to be unveiled. To be sure, Mr. Weisbrod’s report does not necessarily reflect his personal view; it was authored on behalf of a private client, Landrex, which wants to be an intermediary in the sale of air rights between landmarked buildings and buyers.

‘Flexibility and fairness’

Ms. Been’s plan, released in March, was done for her previous employer, the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy, a joint research center of NYU’s Law School and its Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. It called for a formulation “intended to balance flexibility and fairness, by defining a reasonably large recipient area … while ensuring that unused development rights are not transferred” to a neighborhood with a different character.

Buyers of air rights would bypass the bureaucratic slog of obtaining a discretionary “special permit,” but would have to build some affordable housing. The proposal could create 66,000 affordable and market-rate units, according to the report.

As the de Blasio administration crafts its proposal to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, the mayor has signaled his approval for allowing higher-density development. Selling air rights from landmarked buildings is one untapped source. Indeed, an estimated 28% of Manhattan properties are landmarked or in historic districts (where landmarked buildings cannot sell air rights under current rules), according to a study last year by the Real Estate Board of New York.

“The old adage ‘Buy land, they’re not making it anymore’ doesn’t apply to air rights,” said Kenneth Fisher, a lobbyist and land-use attorney who partnered on the Weisbrod report and presented its findings at the City Hall meeting. “So as Bill de Blasio’s team tries to scope out its housing and economic development policies, air rights will be part of the conversation.”

The policy Mr. Fisher pitched would deliver $600 million to owners of landmarked buildings (many of which are religious organizations and nonprofits), $800 million in real estate taxes and $40 billion in economic spending over 30 years, according to the report, authored several years ago during Mr. Weisbrod’s time as a partner at consulting firm HR&A.

Open to alterations

In contrast with Ms. Been’s proposal, the rights would be sold only in commercial zones with 20% floor-area bonuses already in place. Those bonuses mean that allowances for further development already have been approved.

Buildings outside historic districts but designated as landmarks are currently allowed to sell their air rights to nearby buildings that have hit their zoning limits. Such arrangements allow the buyers to build upward while providing landmarked buildings cash to maintain their properties.

In practice, though, landmarked buildings have almost never been able to sell their air rights because of burdensome geographical restrictions and red tape. The issue came to the fore last year during the failed midtown east rezoning plan, when St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Bartholomew’s Church and Central Synagogue wanted more flexibility to sell their 2 million square feet of air rights, which could fetch hundreds of millions of dollars.

Whether the de Blasio policy leans toward the approach outlined in Ms. Been’s report or Mr. Weisbrod’s proposal, opposition should be expected. Neighborhood groups and preservationists will likely maintain that it will crowd the city with skyscrapers, despite efforts in both plans to build upward only in areas appropriate for such development.

The Weisbrod-affiliated proposal, as written, would not generate much if any affordable housing, as the report’s authors say they weren’t looking to compete with the city’s inclusionary zoning program. But their plan was developed during the Bloomberg administration, and Mr. Fisher said he would be open to altering it for the new administration, which has made affordable housing the measure by which it judges nearly all development proposals.

“We wanted to test the concept by focusing on commercial districts,” Mr. Fisher said, “but there’s probably a way to include a housing component.”

The City Hall meeting also included a top aide to Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, who has been tasked with delivering a housing policy that accomplishes the mayor’s goals. What she produces could be amended in the coming months amid lobbying and political pressure from the real estate industry, affordable-housing advocates and activists of all stripes.


For Diabetics, Health Risks Fall Sharply

April 17th, 2014


Rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations dropped over the past two decades, federal researchers said.

Federal researchers on Wednesday reported the first broad national picture of progress against some of the most devastating complications of diabetes, which affects millions of Americans, finding that rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations fell sharply over the past two decades.

The biggest declines were in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, which dropped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 2010, the period studied. While researchers had had patchy indications that outcomes were improving for diabetic patients in recent years, the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, documents startling gains.

“This is the first really credible, reliable data that demonstrates that all of the efforts at reducing risk have paid off,” said Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the study. “Given that diabetes is the chronic epidemic of this millennium, this is a very important finding.”

The number of Americans with diabetes more than tripled over the period of the study and is now nearly 26 million. Nearly all the increase came from Type 2 diabetes, which is often related to obesity and is the more common form of the disease. An additional 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes, which means they are at high risk of developing the disease.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who wrote the study, estimate that diabetes and its complications account for about $176 billion in medical costs every year. The study measured outcomes for both Type 1 and Type 2.

Researchers said the declines were the fruit of years of efforts to improve the health of patients with Type 2 diabetes. Doctors are much better now at controlling the risk factors that can lead to complications — for example, using medications to control blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure — health experts said. What is more, a widespread push to educate patients has improved how they look after themselves. And a major effort among health care providers to track the progress of diabetes patients and help steer the ones who are getting off track has started to have an effect.

“These results are very impressive,” said Dr. K. M. Venkat Narayan, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Emory University, who specializes in diabetes and was not involved in the study. “There is strong evidence that we’re implementing better care for patients with diabetes. Awareness has increased tremendously, and there’s been a great deal of emphasis on coordinated care in health care settings.”

Edward W. Gregg, a senior epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the lead author of the study, said researchers used four federal data sets — the National Health Interview Survey, the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the United States Renal Data System, and Vital Statistics — over a 20-year period to give a comprehensive picture of diabetes outcomes.

Dr. Gregg said the study relied on large sample sizes, including hundreds of thousands of diabetics who had heart attacks, and thousands who died from high blood sugar.

“This is the first time we’ve put the full spectrum together over a long period of time,” Dr. Gregg said. He pointed out that heart attacks, which used to be the most common complication by far, had dropped down to the level of stroke, which also fell.

“We were a bit surprised by the magnitude of the decrease in heart attack and stroke,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

Beyond the declines in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, the study found that the rates of strokes and lower extremity amputations — including upper and lower legs, ankles, feet, and toes — fell by about half. Rates for end-stage kidney failure dropped by about 30 percent. The study did not measure blindness, another critical diabetes complication.

Dr. Gregg cautioned, however, that the number of Americans with diabetes continued to rise. “We have to find a way to replicate these successes, to transfer that knowledge into preventing the disease to begin with,” he said.

The declines in rates of complications began around 1995 and continued gradually, but steadily, over time, the data show. What drove the outcomes varied by the complication, Dr. Gregg said. Improved blood sugar control has made a difference, especially in reducing the rate of amputations and end-stage kidney disease. Declines in smoking and the rising use of statins to lower cholesterol and of other medications to control blood pressure contributed to the declines in heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers noted that heart attacks had declined substantially for the general population as well, where the same factors were at work. But while people without diabetes saw a 31 percent decline since 1990, those with it experienced a 68 percent drop.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, attributed much of the improvement to a change in the approach to treatment. Doctors are putting more emphasis on controlling blood pressure and cholesterol — major risk factors for heart disease and strokes — than on lowering blood sugar, he said.

Because cardiovascular disease is what kills most people with diabetes, this shifting priority seems to have paid off. Dr. Zonszein said that certain blood pressure drugs, not available in the past, help protect the kidneys and had helped prevent or at least postpone kidney failure for many patients.

And doctors are paying closer attention. Dr. Narayan ticked off questions about diabetes patients that are now routine in many health care settings: “What proportion of your patients turn up for regular appointments? What proportion of your patients has at least one eye exam a year? What proportion of your patients has good control of glucose, blood pressure and lipids?”

Despite the progress, experts said there were still too many people with severe complications, often because they do not take care of the disease. People with Type 2 need to check their blood sugar regularly, take medications and watch their diet.

“Really, we have two worlds,” said Dr. Zonszein, explaining that educated patients tend to manage diabetes well. “Then we have the other world,” which is far more likely to ignore diabetes until its devastating complications set in, “maybe because of social issues, language issues, access to health care, economic issues.”

Dr. Nathan said that though the study shows that the average person with diabetes faces far lower risks for complications, the broader society still confronts a growing epidemic.

“There’s nothing else in the world that’s increasing as fast as the rate of diabetes,” he said. “As a society, we are still facing an enormous burden.”


“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

March 17th, 2014

(March 17, 2014)  New York — The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage  to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting one week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on the minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States

“The Torah provides the moral imperative:  `Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ In practical terms, that means that we should support a just minimum wage – a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and survive in our society.  And we must partner with others to ensure it happens.

“We in the Jewish Labor Committee are proud to be part of this campaign, whether federally or in New Jersey or Washington DC or Massachusetts, or Los Angeles.  Raising the minimum wage is crucial to reversing the massive income inequality in the United States.  We encourage the wider community to join us in this struggle. It’s the right and just thing to do.”

Additional resolutions passed at the recent JCPA gathering, sponsored by or otherwise supported by the Jewish Labor Committee, concerned* Government Support for Public Higher Education , Combating Human Trafficking , European Anti-Semitism , Reproductive Health , Inclusion and Disabilities, and International LGBT Discrimination .

The JCPA encompasses a network of 15 national and 125 local independent Jewish community relations agencies. The Jewish Labor Committee is a founding member of the JCPA.

~ ~ ~

The Jewish Labor Committee, an independent organization, is the voice of the Jewish community in the labor movement and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community. Whether through its national office in New York or local offices and lay-led groups across the United States, the JLC enables the Jewish community and the trade union movement to work together on important issues of shared interest and concern, in pursuit of our shared commitment to economic and social justice.


* For copies of any of these resolutions, write to


New York Women’s Equality Coalition Applauds Assembly for Passing Women’s Equality Agenda

January 28th, 2014

January 27, 2014 – The New York Women’s Equality coalition is pleased that our legislature has taken the first step in making the Women’s Equality Agenda a reality in New York this year, and we applaud the Assembly Democrats, Speaker Silver, and all those members who voted yes today, for putting women’s equality at the top of their 2014 agenda. Today, the New York State Assembly built on its longstanding commitment to New York’s women and girls by passing the full Women’s Equality Agenda, first introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo. By moving swiftly to prioritize the package of legislation, which was proposed last year and did not become law, the Assembly has made it crystal clear that women’s lives are a priority. Strong majorities of New York voters agree: eighty-nine percent think equal pay for women should be a high priority and 80 percent support updating New York’s abortion law. Despite this overwhelming public support, the State Senate failed to vote on the full Women’s Equality Agenda last year.

The New York Women’s Equality Coalition will continue to advocate until every single measure becomes the law of our state: equal pay, access to reproductive health, and freedom from discrimination and violence are all essential to women’s equality. We cannot let politics stand in the way of women’s lives. The ten million women of New York and their families deserve immediate action to see this legislation enacted this year.


Learn more at

Video: | #UpgradeNY | #WEAreStrong

The NYWEC Steering Committee is comprised of the following organizations:

A Better Balance; AAUW-NYS;

Family Planning Advocates of NYS;

League of Women Voters NYS;

 National Organization for Women – NYC;

New York Civil Liberties Union, NYS AFL-CIO;

NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition;

 NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence;

NYWA/Equal Pay Coalition NYC;

Planned Parenthood Advocates of NY; Sanctuary for Families; YWCAs of New York State

New Building Congress Report Urges Adoption of Dedicated User Fees to Pay for Mass Transit, Roads, and Other Vital City Infrastructure

January 16th, 2014

Report Recommends Uniform Toll Policy, Residential Parking Permits, and Vehicle Miles Fee to Lessen Growing Debt Burden

New York’s increasing reliance on borrowing to fund its capital projects is unsustainable over the long-run, and government officials must institute new, dedicated revenue sources to maintain, grow and strengthen the City’s vast transportation and infrastructure networks, according to a recently released New York Building Congress report.

In How to Save New York City’s Infrastructure: Dedicate Revenues, the Building Congress found that an impressive $18 billion was invested in 2011 by the City of New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and other government agencies to fund the upkeep and expansion of the City’s mass transit network, water and sewer system, public schools, parks and other critical public works.

However, the public sector has relied increasingly on debt financing for its capital funding. The debt burden for the City of New York currently stands at $100 billion and could grow to $109 billion by 2017. Servicing this debt absorbs about $5 billion annually of the City’s general revenues, and should rise to $7 billion by 2015.

Similarly, the MTA devoted approximately 16 percent of all 2011 revenues to meet its debt service obligations and could increase to 22 percent by 2018.

As a larger share of the existing funding pie goes to pay debt service, new sources will be needed for future infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. In its report, the Building Congress recommends that State and City officials carefully examine and work to adopt these or other revenue-enhancement measures.

In 2007, the Mayor and City Council approved a plan to charge drivers for access to Manhattan’s core business districts and dedicate revenues to regional mass transit infrastructure. The plan, however, was shelved by the State Legislature in 2008.

The Building Congress report supports a revised plan that would charge vehicles a more uniform fee for crossing bridges and tunnels within the five boroughs, or for entering Manhattan below 59th Street. The plan could initially lower the cost of many crossings across the City while generating more than a billion dollars of new revenue annually, money which could go directly to vital transportation infrastructure.

The Building Congress also proposes a Residential Parking Permit program which would charge car owners a fee in return for preferred access to a parking spot in their neighborhoods. The report notes that the City possesses up to 4.4 million unmetered on-street parking spaces from which it now derives zero revenue.

Of America’s 10 most populous cities, New York is the only one without a residential parking permit program. Such programs can help reduce congestion, improve residential quality of life, and generate new revenues, which could be dedicated to the $2 billion annual cost of maintaining and modernizing the City’s transportation network.

The Building Congress report recommends consideration of a Vehicle Miles Traveled fee for New York State as a partial replacement for the gas tax. The VMT more accurately measures each vehicle’s actual use of public roads and can generate more stable revenue than the gas tax, particularly as cars are become more fuel efficient.

Today New York State pays for roads and bridges through a Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, underwritten by a variety of fuel taxes. But the Fund is increasingly used to service existing debt and requires a substantial subsidy to meet its other obligations. The Fund is no longer able to support significant new transportation infrastructure investment.

The report also looks to the City’s sanitation department, whose budget has quadrupled in the last twenty years, as another possible revenue source. A Pay-As-You Throw system, which requires residents to pay based on how much household waste they generate, has proven effective in other cities, and could raise substantial revenue while reducing sanitation costs by creating incentives for residents to recycle more and waste less.

The Building Congress also advocates greater use of public-private partnerships (PPP) to permit innovative design, delivery, financing and maintenance arrangements between government and the private sector. PPPs have the potential to reduce design and construction costs, shave time off of projects, and permit creative financing options that can lessen the long-term cost of maintaining an asset after its completion.

In addition, the Building Congress report found that public entities like the New York City Water Finance Authority, created specifically to receive dedicated user fees and devote them exclusively to the operations and capital programs of the water and sewer system, have been effective. The Building Congress urges replication of this model to manage future dedicated revenue sources so they are used for their intended purpose.

Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson said, “Without new, dedicated revenue sources, government will simply not be able to maintain its current level of support for critical capital projects, much less make the additional investments necessary to harden New York City’s transportation network and infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and climate change.”

“The Building Congress has offered a number of options to support continued investment in New York City’s essential infrastructure,” concluded Mr. Anderson. “The City’s elected and civic leaders, starting with the Mayor Bill de Blasio, should seriously consider these and other viable revenue generating alternatives. There is no more pressing policy issue for New York City.”

What you can do:

Contact Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito to urge the Administration and Council to protect the City’s capital program from mounting debt service costs through creation of new revenue sources dedicated exclusively to the maintenance and upkeep of the City’s infrastructure.

Contact Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Legislature leadership, Senators Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein and Assembly Member Sheldon Silver, to reiterate that State-funded infrastructure must have new dedicated revenue sources, particularly the MTA and New York City schools.

Click here for sample letters that you can send to the Mayor and Governor.

Click here for a copy of the report, How to Save New York City’s Infrastructure: Dedicate Revenues.


New York Women’s Equality Coalition Revitalizes Push for Equality Agenda

January 10th, 2014

New York Women’s Equality Coalition Revitalizes Push for Equality Agenda

Applauds Governor for Renewed Commitment to Advancing Women’s Equality 

January 8, 2014 – Earlier this week, the New York Women’s Equality Coalition (NYWEC) reaffirmed its commitment to passing the full Women’s Equality Agenda into law in 2014, including all the provisions that will upgrade New York’s laws on abortion, domestic violence, human trafficking, and gender discrimination.

On behalf of the coalition, Christine Sadowski says, “We are thankful the Governor highlighted the Women’s Equality Act today, especially his acknowledgment that nothing changed for women in 2013. We are hopeful that working together with him, and all legislators, we can move towards greater equality for women in 2014.”

The coalition is enthusiastic about Governor Cuomo’s renewed commitment to advancing women’s equality and preserving women’s reproductive healthcare here in New York State, which he underscored in today’s State of the State address.  Eighty-nine percent of New York voters agreed that equal pay for women should be a high priority for state leaders, and  80% support updating New York’s abortion law.

The coalition, which includes the support of 860 women’s groups, businesses, religious organizations, medical groups, and advocacy organizations from across the state, is united in its efforts to mobilize New Yorkers and push legislators to get the job done in 2014. The measures of the Women’s Equality Agenda reflect the complexity of women’s lives–securing equal pay, access to reproductive health care, and freedom from discrimination and violence are all essential to women’s equality. New York State needs to update and strengthen its laws to reflect the reality of women’s lives today.

Toward this effort, the coalition launched a new statewide digital and grassroots campaign this past fall, unveiling a satiric two-minute video–Illegal or Just Sleazy–along with a new logo, a revamped website, and an online social media campaign calling for an upgrade to New York’s outmoded laws. NYWEC plans to build on the fall campaign and throw its full weight behind advancing women’s rights and making the Women’s Equality Agenda law.

Learn more at

Video: | #UpgradeNY | #WEAreStrong

The NYWEC Steering Committee is comprised of the following organizations:

A Better Balance; AAUW-NYS;

Family Planning Advocates of NYS;

League of Women Voters NYS;

 National Organization for Women – NYC;

New York Civil Liberties Union, NYS AFL-CIO;

NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition;

 NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence;

NYWA/Equal Pay Coalition NYC


Raise age at which juveniles are tried for crimes as adults…

January 10th, 2014

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should raise the age at which juveniles are tried for crimes as adults, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and state Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton write in The Huffington Post: