Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NYC mayoral campaign kicks into high gear

As September winds down, politicos and other interested parties can rejoice the fact New York City's mayoral campaign continues to kick into high year.

City Councilmembers Bill de Blasio [D-Park Slope] and John Liu [D-Flushing] won the runoff election for Public Advocate and Comptroller last night, but all eyes have shifted to the race between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and current Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. And so what does all of this expected politicking actually mean?

One can almost certainly continue to conclude Thompson has an extremely uphill battle ahead of him. Bloomberg continues to tap into his massive personal fortunate to fund his campaign, but one of Thompson's main problems is the majority of New Yorkers don't know him. And in addition, one of his principle campaign messages is his opposition to the mayor's decision to change the term limits law. This position is certainly valid, but the challenge that arguably lays ahead for Thompson is to convince New Yorkers he is something more than an opposition candidate.

On the other hand, Bloomberg must convince New Yorkers he is the person who can continue to lead the city through extremely tough economic times. Palpable anger remains over his decision to extend term limits so he could run for a third time. The question remains, however, whether this angst will actually make a difference on Nov. 3. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted from Sept. 15-21 found 52 percent of New York City voters support Bloomberg; compared to 36 percent of those who endorsed Thompson. Anything can obviously happen between now and the general election, but these numbers simply confirm the mayor remains relatively popular among city voters.

Stay tuned for more electioneering... and more ads that feature Bloomberg speaking Spanish!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NYPD investigates allegations officers failed to adequately respond to anti-gay attack

News of yet another anti-gay attack in the city is certainly disturbing enough, but the revelation the police officers who responded to it reportedly failed to take it seriously are nothing short of shocking.

Blake Hayes told EDGE and other media outlets a man outside McCoy's Bar on Ninth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen shouted anti-gay epithets and attacked his two friends early Saturday morning as they walked by. He said the New York Police Department officers who responded failed to arrest the alleged perpetrator--or even take his contact information. And Hayes added officers at the nearby 18th precinct told his friends not to file a report.

"Once they got there [to the scene,] they had already made up their minds they weren’t going to deal with it," Hayes said.

The NYPD confirmed to Boy in Bushwick its Hate Crimes Task Force is conducting an investigation into the allegations. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed her concern in a statement her office released late Sunday.

"One of the most significant tools that have helped us to combat hate crimes here in New York City is having a strong police response to incidents when they occur," Quinn said. "There was a time in our city when victims of hate crimes did not feel that the police were their allies. Any time a crime of this nature occurs, victims need to know they will be taken seriously."

These allegations come two weeks after José Sucuzhañay's family called upon the NYPD to bring Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott to trial. The two men allegedly killed Sucuzhañay on a Bushwick street corner last December as he and his brother Romel walked home arm-and-arm after a party.

Anti-LGBT attacks remain an obvious problem in the five boroughs and around the country. These allegations against the police, if proven true, simply exacerbate an already serious issue.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paterson concedes he never wanted to become governor

Less than a week after the Obama administration reportedly conveyed a message to Gov. David Paterson to suspend his election campaign, New York's embattled governor conceded he had no intentions to become the state's chief executive.

Circumstances obviously dictated otherwise, but Paterson made the confession at an Associated Press luncheon yesterday in Syracuse. The New York Times reported Paterson said he decided to run for lieutenant governor in 2006 based on his hope then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton would have become president and then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer would have appointed him as her successor. Paterson's desire obviously did not become reality. And Spitzer's March 2008 resignation catapulted Paterson into New York's governorship.

The governor made his comments less than three days after Obama delivered a speech in Troy. New York-based pundits and others were quick to opine the obviously awkward moment--and the president's apparent overtures to state Attorney General and presumptive 2010 gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo.

New York First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson criticized the White House's intervention in a series of interviews with local television stations and newspapers, but her husband's comments simply stoke growing sentiment Paterson should step aside.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fire damages Fire Island hotel

Photo courtesy of Larry Lane

A fire damaged more than a dozen rooms of a Cherry Grove hotel early Tuesday morning.

Sources told Boy in Bushwick the blaze broke out inside a housekeeping shed along the north side of the Grove Hotel shortly after 1:30 a.m. Firefighters from across Fire Island--the Grove, the Fire Island Pines, Point O' Woods, Ocean Bay Park, Ocean Beach and Saltaire--and Sayville on Long Island responded to the scene.

Four people inside the hotel evacuated safely, but Grove Hotel manager Ramón Peña-Sierra said the fire damaged 18 rooms.

"The north end of the hotel is completely burned down," he said.

A second fire broke out in the Grove shortly before the hotel erupted into flames. There is nothing to indicate the two incidents are connected. Investigators have yet to determine a cause, but the fire has certainly left those who work in the Grove Hotel and adjacent Ice Palace and local residents shaken.

"I hope to see the Hotel repaired and ready for operation by the beginning of next summer," Grove resident Jim Kelly said.

The complex is scheduled to close for the season on Sunday. Peña-Sierra said he remains confident the hotel's owners can rebuild the damaged rooms over the winter.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

White House asks Paterson to end election campaign

As New York Gov. David Paterson's approval numbers hover around 30 percent, a report the White House has asked the governor to pull out of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign is nothing short of extraordinary.

The New York Times reported today Congressman Gregory Meeks [D-N.Y.] conveyed the administration's desire to Paterson. Newsday said Meeks broke the news to Paterson at a Manhattan dinner on Friday night, but two officials told the Times the White House has grown increasingly concerned about the governor's unpopularity and its potential impact on local and Congressional Democrat's prospects next fall.

Paterson, who took office in March 2008 after Gov. Eliot Spitzer became embroiled in a prostitution scandal and resigned, repeatedly asserted to local media outlets his gubernatorial campaign will continue. He and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are the country's only two black governors, but the White House's apparent intent to dissuade Paterson from his election campaign is nothing short of a stunning shot over the bow that adds even more writing to an already covered wall.

New York politics remains largely based on racial, socio-economic and other identity-driven demographics. Paterson is, in many ways, a product of the city's black political machine. His handling of the process to nominate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's successor to the U.S. Senate and his repeated assertions last month the president would face racially motivated criticisms that are similar to those he contended his opponents have lobbied against him, however, are among the growing list of things that made him something of a pariah or even a persona non grata in political circles on both sides of the aisle.

Paterson's personal story remains an inspiring example of how anyone can overcome exceedingly difficult obstacles, but one can easily conclude his governorship is nothing short of an abject failure. Republicans and Democrats alike will almost certainly continue to urge the governor to put himself out of his own misery and step aside. These calls will almost certainly grow louder and more public. And the White House's desire indicates the end could come for Paterson far sooner than he would certainly like.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carter concludes South Carolina Congressman's outburst "based on racism"

As the fallout over South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's heckling of the president continues to unfold, former President Jimmy Carter told attendees of an Atlanta town hall meeting last night he feels the Republican lawmaker's outburst was "based on racism."

Carter's assessment sparked an almost immediate response from the Republican National Committee. It posted an item on its Web site titled "Consider the Source" that stressed "former President Jimmy Carter claims everyday Americans who object to Obama's health care plan are racist." And RNC chair Michael Steele, who is black, echoed this message in a press release.

"President Carter is flat out wrong," he said. "This isn't about race. It is about policy."

Steele went on to stress he feels this controversy is "a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose."

This latest controversy erupted the same day the House formally rebuked Wilson for his outburst, but the story continues to grow far larger than one lawmaker's unfortunate decision to heckle the president in the middle of his speech. Bloggers on the Huffington Post and other progressive Web sites have repeatedly pointed out his Sons of Confederate Veterans membership to further their assertion he is a racist. Conservatives, on the other hand, have applauded Wilson for what they contend was his decision to challenge the president. It is arguably never wise to draw a conclusion based on one affiliation or vote or even action, but Carter's comments mandate a more in-depth analysis.

It remains an arguable very sad commentary the majority of Americans and especially their elected officials remain woefully unwilling to engage in a constructive debate on race. The president is the first commander-in-chief of color. The country has certainly made significant strides towards racial justice over the last decades, but Carter's comments and the brouhaha they ignited simply underscore the fact actual or perceived racism remains an all too taboo subject in the United States.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze dies

In this age of social networking, the news Patrick Swayze had lost his battle to cancer spread over Facebook and Twitter almost instantly. His untimely death from pancreatic cancer, however, still came as a shock.

I remember watching "Dirty Dancing" as a young child once my sister and I convinced our mother to allow us to watch it. In later years, my classmates and I at the University of New Hampshire routinely watched "To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" inside the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and in our dorm rooms. The movie's three drag queens immediately solidified its campy gay credentials, but Swayze's portrayal of Miss Vida Boheme remains priceless.

Perhaps the song "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" encapsulates Swayze's legacy best as Hollywood and others pay homage to his life. His legacy will almost certainly be great, and may he rest in peace.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

South Carolina Congressman heckles president during health care speech

As pundits and other interested parties dissect President Barack Obama's health care speech on Capitol Hill last night, a South Carolina Congressman's decision to heckle the commander-in-chief as a liar continues to garner attention on both sides of the aisle.

The New York Times described Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst as "a rare breach of protocol." Fox News categorized it as "an extraordinary breach of Congressional decorum." And Dana Milbank of the Washington Post concluded Wilson's outburst brought "the nation's rapidly deteriorating discourse hit yet another low."

Wilson was quick to apologize after U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.,] and a chorus of other lawmakers blasted the outburst as inappropriate, disrespectful and even shameful. The unscripted moment, however, is the latest in a series of incidents--former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's continued assertion the federal government would implement so-called death panels, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank's now famous "On what planet do you spend most of your time? sound bite at a town hall meeting last month and the man who carried a gun outside an Obama rally in Arizona--to underscore the contentious health care debate in which the country continues to find itself. And Wilson's unfortunate outburst simply brought this reality into the House chamber for millions of Americans to see for themselves.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Conservative California lawmakers resigns amid sex scandal

Add former California Assemblymember Michael Duvall [R-Yorba Linda] to the ever-growing list of socially conservative lawmakers who amount to nothing more than self-righteous hypocrites!

Duvall resigned earlier today after a Los Angeles television station broadcast audio tapes of comments he made during a "committee meeting in Sacramento held earlier this summer" about having sex with two younger women. A hot microphone caught them on tape. And KCAL reporter Dave Lopez described both women as "married lobbyists in Sacramento."

Duvall backed Proposition 8, and garnered an endorsement from Capital Resources Institute. The organization was all too quick to distance itself from the scandal-plaque former legislator.

"It is always disappointing when a champion of traditional values does not practice the same in his private life," CRI executive director Karen England said. And this appears to be the case with Assemblyman Duvall. Assemblyman Duvall was one of just a few California legislators to receive a 100% on CRI's annual scorecard. But CRI only tabulates votes. It was left to Mr. Duvall to reveal if those values are part of his own life."

Duvall himself announced his resignation in a one paragraph statement, but Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign has called for state Attorney General Jerry Brown to launch an investigation.

"This isn't just a sex scandal, it's a corruption scandal," Jacobs said. "A vice-chairman of the Committee on Utilities and Commerce was literally in bed with Sempra Energy's lobbyist. Assemblyman Duvall's 'sex for votes' affairs have cheated Californians out of honest government. We call on the attorney general to investigate Mr. Duvall to see if he can be prosecuted for selling his votes."

Jacobs applauded Duvall's decision to resign, but he blasted the conservative organizations that backed him.

"If Assemblyman Duvall is who conservative groups hold up as their ideal legislator, it shows how shallow their standards are," Jacobs said. "While Assemblyman Duvall has been fighting to make marriage a privilege for heterosexual couples only, he's been making a mockery of the institution in the California State Assembly, bragging to other elected officials about raunchy details of his affairs."


Friday, September 4, 2009

Report highlights anti-immigrant hatred in Suffolk County

Local journalists, politicians and residents continue to dissect and respond to the Southern Poverty Law Center's scathing report on anti-immigrant hatred in Suffolk County, but its contents are almost certainly a disturbing wake-up call.

The SPLC's report became public only hours after congregants of a Patchogue church found anti-Latino slurs on their alter. The Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion is near the train station at which seven teenagers allegedly beat Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death last November. And two teenagers allegedly assaulted another Ecuadorian at the same location last month.

The report particularly singles out Suffolk executive Steve Levy.

"[He] isn't the only public official engaging in the verbal immigrant-bashing, or the most extreme," the SPLC concludes. "But he is the highest-ranking, and since he was elected to his first term in November 2003 after promising a crackdown on illegal immigrants, Levy has been acting like the enabler-in-chief."

Boy in Bushwick echoed the New York Times' editorial after Lucero's death that highlighted Levy's anti-immigrant rhetoric. He responded to the report soon after the SLPC released it.

“While we can continue to disagree about policies related to the economic and social impacts of illegal immigration, we can all agree that any violence against a fellow human being cannot and will not be tolerated," Levy said in a

One can arguably question Levy's sincerity based on a series of well-documented previous statements, but the issue is not about someone's documentation. The fact remains immigrants continue to live in fear of harassment and violence in Suffolk. Local law enforcement, politicians and residents alike have a fundamental responsibility to ensure everyone in the county is able to live, work and play without fear. A failure to guarantee this fundamental right is nothing short of an atrocity.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New York City Council candidate's "blood" comparison sparks controversy

With the New York City Democratic primary less than two weeks away, a City Council candidate from Queens has sparked controversy after someone posted comments in which he claims Latino blood is best for Latinos because "the blood of Blacks has problems, the blood of Europeans has problems" on YouTube.

Eduardo Giraldo, who is seeking to unseat Councilmember Julissa Ferreras [D-Corona, Queens,] made the comments during an interview on Al Dia Con Ramirez-Baez on Queens Public Television about a program he said he created at Elmhurst Hospital to spur blood donation among Latinos. Giraldo spoke Spanish during the segment, but the person who posted the clip on YouTube dubbed the exchange into English.

The comments are certainly an extremely unfortunate choice of words that have obviously touched a nerve among some activists in the city. The rather obvious question, however, is who posted this clip onto YouTube and whether he or she had any potentially ulterior motives.

Ferreras' campaign categorically denied any connection to the clip in a statement to New York 1. Jackson Heights resident Nely Diaz perhaps summed up the controversy best as she spoke with New York 1 reporter CeFaan Kim.

"People are running for politics, but we become so involved in the racist thing, but we forget this is about donating blood," she said.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Same-sex couples begin to marry in Vermont

In another example of Green Mountain kitsch, Ben & Jerry's has changed the name of their Chubby Hubby ice cream to Hubby Hubby this month to commemorate the start of marriage for same-sex couples in Vermont.

Vermont became the fourth state to extend marriage to gays and lesbians after lawmakers narrowly overrode Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of the bill in April. Legislators in neighboring New Hampshire and Maine followed suit a few weeks later.

The Green Mountain State became the first in the country to allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions after then-Gov. Howard Dean signed legislation in 2000. The associated debate was quite contentious. And I recall several large signs that read "Take Vermont Back" along Interstate 89 in the weeks leading up to the vote. In less than a decade, however, civil unions has become something of a political benchmark for moderate Democrats and Republicans alike. But LGBT activists and their progressive allies continue to correctly point out civil unions are not the same as marriage for gays and lesbians.

The extension of civil unions to gays and lesbians in Vermont nearly a decade ago brought the marriage equality debate into the forefront. And the Green Mountain State is now among the half a dozen states that allow gays and lesbians to marry. This contentious debate will obviously continue to rage in the coming years as more states move to allow their gay and lesbian residents to tie the knot, but the fact same-sex couples are now able to marry in Vermont represents true progress.