Posted by Elaine Brower - February 28, 2009 | News

Representatives Mike McMahon and Charlie Rangel with NLN’s Elaine Brower
(Photo: Next Left Notes)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Saturday, February 21st, the Fourth Annual Town Hall Meeting was held at the First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton, Staten Island. The theme of our Town Hall celebration was “Reflecting on the Past to Empower our Future.” All the pews were filled with those who came to not only honor Black History month, but to celebrate African-American heritage with neighbors, family and friends.

The Rev. Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr., the minister of this beautiful church, welcomed all that attended, some members of the congregation and others joining in the celebration. Rev. Carolina, Rev. Barrett-Layne, Min. Marcia St. Juste and many others sang and spoke of a great past, of struggle, sadness, joy and victory. The FCBC choir along with the St. Philips Baptist Church, lifted their voices and everyone in the audience joined in singing praise and love. Ms. Ros Joseph offered a poetry reading of “Heroes, Hopes & Possiblities” while a large screen projected images of those heroes from Paul Robeson to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Barack Obama.

The introduction of the keynote speaker was given by Democratic Congressman Michael McMahon, NY-13, who was previously the New York City Councilman for this same district. Most in the church knew the newly elected Congressman, and referred to him as “Uncle.” Congressman McMahon, though pleased at being included in the family of the church ministry, thought of himself more as a “brother” or “cousin” as he put it. He spent many years in this district and knew Rev. Carolina well, and recounted stories of how he watched some of those in the church grow up. The Congressman then went on to introduce Congressman Charles B. Rangel of Harlem, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He spoke of when he was called to the Capitol for his first meeting with members in Washington, and was to meet with Congressman Rangel. He couldn’t imagine that the illustrious Congressman even knew who he was, and then he recounted that “I was walking down the hall to meet Congressman Rangel and he saw me…he said from across the hallway ‘I have waited 30 years for you, what took you so long!'”

Congressman Rangel spoke eloquently about the time when he marched “54 miles” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he said “I cussed all the way. But I had no idea we were making history.” It had been a long winding road for him to travel, but he said he savored every minute of it, and wakes up each day happy to be serving the people.

Also in attendance was Debi Rose, who is currently seeking the City Council seat that McMahon vacated when he won the election for Congressman. Both Congresspeople acknowledged Ms. Rose for her hard work and dedication to the community. The results of the special election held this past Tuesday, February 24th, are still inconclusive – the Board of Elections will do a full recount on Wednesday, March 4th.

Awards were given, everyone was in an extremely exhuberant mood, and it was great to be involved in a historic day.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - February 24, 2009 | News

Organizer Marquette Elliott reads a poem about murder victim Antonio Watkins
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — February 24th would have been Antonio Watkins’ 35th birthday. But he wasn’t here to celebrate it — his mother buried him on Saturday. Watkins was the fourth homicide on Staten Island’s North Shore in 2009 and the latest victim of New York City’s failed efforts to keep handguns off of the streets.

Early Saturday morning, February 14th, Watkins was shot six times in front of his apartment in the Stapleton section of Staten Island. He died that evening while being treated at Richmond University Medical Center. Watkins, who was known as a talented artist with an infectious sense of humor, left behind a wife, a son and two daughters. The shooter has not been apprehended.

In response to the murder, Shoot Hoops Not Guns organizer Marquette Elliott called a vigil on Friday, February 20, 2009. The vigil was intended to honor Watkins, who had overcome a troubled youth – and to call for an end to the recent spate of shootings. Watkins was well liked and his makeshift shrine, propped against sawhorses and lit by seven day botanica candles, drew over a hundred visiters — despite frigid cold and gusty winds. Many of those who stopped at the shrine paused to read a poem about Watkins written by a family member.

The shrine for Watkins drew a steady stream of well wishers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As darkness fell, Marquette Elliott opened the ceremony, telling the crowd that he was tired of holding vigils after shootings and that something must be done to prevent any further senseless violence.

Elliott introduced the first speaker, local pastor Reverend Maggie Howard, who offered a prayer for peace.

Reverend Dr. Tony Baker of St. Philips Baptist Church, a veteran of several vigils, spoke passionately about the need for the community to come together and take care of its own.

“Let’s wake up…we’ve got to be serious about taking care of our community,” Baker said. “I’ve done enough funerals.”

“It’s all about us,” he added. “If we don’t fix it, don’t look for the city, don’t look for the government. Don’t look for anybody else — because they are not coming,” he said.

Al Peters, host of the local cable show “Live and Direct”, was even more forceful, directing his comments at gang members and those who would emulate them.

“How come you guys are so comfortable with the dark side of your personality? These are the questions I’m asking you cowardly young males, baggy pants young males, in particular,” Peters said.

Peters urged the young women present to stop nurturing what he called the “knuckleheads” responsible for the recent shootings.

Like Baker before him, Peters demanded an end to the vigils – now averaging one a month. “Is it going to stop?” he asked. “Is being Black or Puerto Rican synonymous with killing one another? Is it?”

Peters addressed his “dysfunctional brothers, those who belong to gangs” directly, asking: “Why don’t you take some of that aggression and deal with your open enemy? Your oppressor?”

Despite the emotional tone and harsh criticism offered by Peters, the crowd applauded when he finished speaking – slowly at first and then building into an affirmation of his plea to stop the violence.

The Stapleton Houses – site of the most recent shooting
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After the vigil concluded, organizer Elliott told NLN that he is considering holding a community forum or a march to address the issue of gun violence – rather than waiting until after the next shooting to hold another remembrance.

View Photos/Videos From The Vigil…

Posted by TAG - February 23, 2009 | News

Debi Rose with Tony Cosentino (left) and Tom Curitore (right)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On February 22, 2009 the Debi Rose for City Council campaign held a mid-afternoon press conference at which former rivals Tom Curitore and Tony Cosentino announced that they are endorsing Rose in her bid to win a seat on the NYC City Council.

Candidate Rose is squaring off against Ken Mitchell, chief of staff of Congressman Mike McMahon who vacated the city council seat when he was elected to the Congress in November.

Although McMahon’s political machine wields significant clout – and according to multiple sources is calling in markers – Rose remains upbeat and has amassed an impressive number of endorsements: from the Working Families Party, musician Tito Puente Jr., MTA board member Allen Cappelli, local cultural groups, a large number of trade unions – and now from two former competitors who have bowed out of the race.

A Debi Rose supporter works the phones
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Tom Curitore is the former Department of Transportation commissioner for Staten Island and Tony Cosentino is the first executive vice president of Community Board One which serves the North Shore of Staten Island – including District 49 of the City Council which Rose seeks to represent.

The special election that will decide the race will be held on Tuesday, February 24th. Also in the race are retired police captain Paul Saryian, Reverend Tony Baker and businessman Donald Pagano. John Tabacco was removed from the ballot after his petitions were challenged by Mitchell but he remains a write in candidate.

See NLN’s coverage of the announcement:

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - February 22, 2009 | News

Debi Rose with Tito Puente, Jr.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — What New York City based mambo drummer once played for Brazilian death metal band Sepultura? The answer is the famous band leader Tito Puente Jr. – son of latin jazz and mambo musician Tito Puente.

The same Tito Puente, Jr. who campaigned for city council candidate Debi Rose Saturday on Staten Island’s North Shore – the same Tito Puente who presented Rose with a plaque from the Staten Island Puerto Rican Cultural and Civic Association, “for her outstanding contributions to the Staten Island Latino Community.”

“I’m here to support my very good friend over here…soon to be in office, Miss Debi Rose. And she’s here running for councilwoman of Staten Island,” Puente said. “I’m giving her my one hundred percent support and that’s why I came out here to Staten Island to support the five boros of the place I call home, New York City,” he added.

Puento visited Staten Island’s El Pollo restaurant Saturday – for a meet and greet with fans and to campaign for Debi Rose. The percussionist, who is supporting Rose’s bid for Mike McMahon’s vacant city council seat, broke bread with the campaign staff and signed autographs for an enthusiastic collection of fans.

Headbangers: Tito Puente Jr. and Nathaniel Good
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

As he signed photographs for his admirers, Puente spotted NLN intern Nat Good’s “Kreator” t-shirt. “You know they are coming out with a new album?” he asked. Good nodded and Puente grew animated. “I played drums for Sepultura for about three months…” In response to this reporter’s asking if he really played drums for the famed Brazilian metal band, Puente said, “Yeah, it’s death metal man! And now I play Mambo, funny eh?”

Debi Rose and some of her campaign staffers
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After his meal, Puente posed for photos with restaurant patrons and volunteers from the Rose campaign. Late in the afternoon, a number of supporters gathered outside the Rose for City Council office and Puente joined them for a group shot. Among those present was Raphael Munoz, president of the Staten Island Puerto Rican Cultural and Civic Association – a Puente fan and veteran community activist who helped organize the event.

Staten Island D.J. Tommy Whiteowl supports Rose because of her “work with non-profits and children”.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After the meet and greet at the El Pollo restaurant Puente and Rose – and a number of friends and supporters – climbed onto a festive float decorated with campaign placards and sign reading “Tito Puente – Mambo King”. As the float traveled through Staten Island’s North Shore, people on the street waved and cheered. DJ Tommy Whiteowl provided the music that emanated from the float — he told NLN that he supported Debi Rose “because of her work with non-profits and children.”

The humble but personable Puente and energetic Rose seemed to embody the grassroots, people powered essence of the campaign – which is engaged in what many regard as a David and Goliath struggle. Rose is challenging the stranglehold that the political machine of Congressman Mike McMahon has on Staten Island’s North Shore. McMahon, a conservative, pro-war, Democrat, is actively campaigning for his chief of staff, Ken Mitchell. The Staten Island Advance, the local – and only – Staten Island newspaper, has endorsed the machine candidate, as has often been the case in the past. The paper has gone so far as to predict a win for Mitchell. Despite this, Rose and Puente remain upbeat about their broad base of support – the Rose supporters represent a very diverse constituency. The race will be decided by a special election on Tuesday, February 24th.

Puente is releasing a new album of latin jazz, featuring a tribute to his late father – Mambo giant Tito Puente – in late April. He also has a role in a new movie, “La Familia”, in which he co-stars with Stephen Bauer. The film is due out next Summer. Puente will be touring to support his new album and the tour schedule is available at

David Hernandez contributed to this article.

See NLN’s David Hernandez interview Tito Puente Jr:

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - February 19, 2009 | News

A still from a live video feed originating in occupied NYU
(Photo: Take Back NYU)

NEW YORK — Student activists from Take Back NYU! occupied New York University’s Kimmel Student Center last night at approximately 10 p.m. The students have released a statement and a set of demands:



We, the students of NYU, declare an occupation of this space. This occupation is the culmination of a two-year campaign by the Take Back NYU! coalition, and of campaigns from years past, in whose footsteps we follow.

In order to create a more accountable, democratic and socially responsible university, we demand the following:

1. Full legal and disciplinary amnesty for all parties involved in the occupation.

2. Full compensation for all employees whose jobs were disrupted during the course of the occupation.

3. Public release of NYU’s annual operating budget, including a full list of university expenditures, salaries for all employees compensated on a semester or annual basis, funds allocated for staff wages, contracts to non-university organizations for university construction and services, financial aid data for each college, and money allocated to each college, department, and administrative unit of the university. Furthermore, this should include a full disclosure of the amount and sources of the university’s funding.

4. Disclosure of NYU’s endowment holdings, investment strategy, projected endowment growth, and persons, corporations and firms involved in the investment of the university’s endowment funds. Additionally, we demand an endowment oversight body of students, faculty and staff who exercise shareholder proxy voting power for the university’s investments.

5. That the NYU Administration agrees to resume negotiations with GSOC/UAW Local 2110 — the union for NYU graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and research assistants. That NYU publically affirm its commitment to respect all its workers, including student employees, by recognizing their right to form unions and to bargain collectively. That NYU publically affirm that it will recognize workers’ unions through majority card verification.

6. That NYU signs a contract guaranteeing fair labor practices for all NYU employees at home and abroad. This contract will extend to subcontracted workers, including bus drivers, food service employees and anyone involved in the construction, operation and maintenance at any of NYU’s non-U.S. sites.

7. The establishment of a student elected Socially Responsible Finance Committee. This Committee will have full power to vote on proxies, draft shareholder resolutions, screen all university investments, establish new programs that encourage social and environmental responsibility and override all financial decisions the committee deems socially irresponsible, including investment decisions. The committee will be composed of two subcommittees: one to assess the operating budget and one to assess the endowment holdings. Each committee will be composed of ten students democratically elected from the graduate and under-graduate student bodies. All committee decisions will be made a strict majority vote, and will be upheld by the university. All members of the Socially Responsible Finance Committee will sit on the board of trustees, and will have equal voting rights. All Socially Responsible Finance Committee and Trustee meetings shall be open to the public, and their minutes made accessible electronically through NYU’s website. Elections will be held the second Tuesday of every March beginning March 10th 2009, and meetings will be held biweekly beginning the week of March 30th 2009.

8. That the first two orders of business of the Socially Responsible Finance committee will be:
a) An in depth investigation of all investments in war and genocide profiteers, as well as companies profiting from the occupation of Palestinian territories.
b) A reassessment of the recently lifted of the ban on Coca Cola products.

9. That annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students, starting with the 2009/2010 academic year. These scholarships will include funding for books, housing, meals and travel expenses.

10. That the university donate all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the University of Gaza.

11. Tuition stabilization for all students, beginning with the class of 2012. All students will pay their initial tuition rate throughout the course of their education at New York University. Tuition rates for each successive year will not exceed the rate of inflation, nor shall they exceed one percent. The university shall meet 100% of government-calculated student financial need.

12. That student groups have priority when reserving space in the buildings owned or leased by New York University, including, and especially, the Kimmel Center.

13. That the general public have access to Bobst Library.


We, the students of Take Back NYU! declare our solidarity with the student [sleepovers] in Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as those of the University of Rochester, the New School for Social Research, and with future [sleepovers] to come in the name of democracy and student power. We stand in solidarity with the University of Gaza, and with the people of Palestine.


The students have also released a “Statement of Non-Violence and Abstention from Property Destruction” that reads in part:

We the occupying students of New York University do not support or condone violence against people, nor do we condone or support the destruction of property over the course of this occupation. Such acts undermine our goals of the reclamation of student space, and therefore all participants in the occupation are expected to retain respect for all persons and property throughout the course of the action. We do not intend any harm or damage to any living beings or to private property, and strongly criticize any will to do so.

The NY Times is reporting that Lynne Brown, the senior vice president for university relations, has described the protest as peaceful but has also expressed that the university is attempting to “clarify the exact nature of their complaints.” (Read the NYT story).

View Videos From The Takeover…

Posted by TAG - February 9, 2009 | News

Debi Rose and Allen Cappelli at the Staten Island Ferry
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Allen Cappelli, the only Staten Island resident on the MTA board, endorsed Liberty Partnership Executive Director and Community Board 1 secretary Debi Rose for the NYC City Council Thursday, February 5, 2009, in a press conference held at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Rose is running in the February 24 Special Election to fill Michael McMahon’s vacant 49th district seat. McMahon resigned from the Staten Island North Shore seat to replace Vito Fossella in Congress.

Cappelli, a defense attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall’s campaign manager, replaced Staten Island resident and Republican Congressional candidate Frank Powers on the MTA board after his June death.

“This is big for my campaign,” said Rose. “According to the Census Bureau, year in and year out Staten Island has the country’s worst commute and because of that transportation is among the most important issues for my future constituents. Allen in his short MTA tenure has been the Island’s biggest advocate ever on the board, so an endorsement from him means he is confident that my efforts in the Council will result in Staten Island mass transit service improvement.”

“No one has a better track record solving problems on Staten Island over the last 30 years than Debi,” says Cappelli. “Debi has worked hard for the Island and has an outstanding grasp of the issues, particularly transportation. Debi fought for lowering the cost of the commute and increasing transit options before it became fashionable. Now everyone’s a transit expert. Tangible results achieved by Debi include strongly advocating for the Staten Island discount on the Verrazano and extending North Shore Bus service.”

Debi Rose meeting with seniors at her campaign office
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Rose has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party, Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC).

“Working families in Staten Island need Debi Rose in the City Council,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party (WFP).

“In every election, we interview the candidates and evaluate their positions on the issues that matter most to working families. There’s just no question that Debi Rose is the best candidate for working families in Staten Island. And we’re excited to be a part of her winning campaign,” said Cantor. “Debi Rose has been a strong advocate for working men and women in Queens. On the issues that matter to working families most — protecting Staten Island from budget cuts, quality, affordable health care, and good jobs for people who live in the community,” he added.

Rose supporters (left to right): Ed Josey (NAACP) and David Jones (Peace Action)
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The Special Election is non-partisan and candidates run without any party designation. Rose may have as many as six opponents, including McMahon’s hand picked replacement, Ken Mitchell. Rose was just 170 votes shy of winning the 2001 Democratic Primary for this seat against McMahon — seen by many progressives as a pro-war Democrat.


NLN Video clip: Ken Mitchell on Debi Rose

Next Left Notes endorsed Debi Rose early on — due to her long history of anti-war and civil rights activism as well as her career long commitment to affordable healthcare, quality education and improving public transportation. Recently NLN produced a video clip underscoring the endorsement — and noting Mitchell’s fondness for comparing himself to Rose.


View NLN Photos/Videos From The Campaign Trail…

Clara, a Debi Rose volunteer, braves frigid February temps to campaign
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Marquette Elliott speaks out as Paul Saryian and Rev. Tony Baker look on
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Monday, February 2, four dozen parents, political activists, city council candidates and local clergy attended a vigil against gun violence on the North Shore of Staten Island. What drew the crowd was the January 28th murder of gas station attendant Mohammad Ahmad, a fifty-year-old Pakistani immigrant who was fatally shot without any apparent explanation – no robbery was reported. Ahmad, the latest victim of senseless violence, left behind a widow and a stunned community.

The vigil, like the shooting that precipitated it, was not the first of its kind. It was sponsored by Shoot Hoops Not Guns, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating gun violence. Marquette Elliott, the main SHNG organizer, is a former New York high school basketball all-star, community activist and parent from the Stapleton area of Staten Island.

A young vigiler stands at the sight of multiple murders
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Marquette Elliott has known a number of people on Staten Island who were killed as a result of gun violence, and in 1997 he became involved in organizing a “Shoot Hoops Not Guns” All Star basketball event to highlight the issue and offer youth alternatives. During the planning of the event, Sandy Brock, a Curtis High School basketball star who had been invited to participate, was shot to death while sitting in the back seat of a car.

Brock died in the same parking lot that claimed Ahmad’s life, 11 years later. But Sandy Brock was not the first victim to die at the gas station/convenience store. 19-year-old newlywed John Garnett was murdered in a 1972 robbery. To this day, there are no surveillance cameras or bright lights to illuminate the troubled Tompkinsville location.

Getting lights installed was one of the issues raised by city council candidate Paul Saryian who attended the event. Also present at the vigil was city council candidate Tom Curitore, a former NYC Department of Transportation borough commissioner for Staten Island. Reverend Dr. Tony Baker, who opened the vigil with a prayer for peace, is also running for the city council.

Al Peters, host of cable access’ Live And Direct, spoke of the need for action and urged those present to work together.

Marquette Elliott said that he too was motivated to step up efforts to prevent violence, not being content to hold vigils after someone had lost their life.

Rev. Victor Brown offers a closing prayer
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Candles flickered in the cold wind as the vigil wrapped up and Reverend Dr. Victor Brown offered a closing prayer.

The vigil marked the first time the mother of the murdered Sandy Brock had journeyed to the scene of her son’s death. Caron Brock went to the Tompkinsville gas station where her son, John Garnett, and Mohammad Ahmad were murdered — to join with others in demanding a end to the cycle of violence.

View Photos/Videos From The Vigil…

Posted by TAG - February 1, 2009 | News

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — A protest at the Marquis Marriott hotel in Times Square last Thursday resulted in the arrest of ten activists. The anti-war protesters were blockading the entrance to the hotel lobby when they were dragged off and arrested by police. The Marriott lockdown was held to protest a fundraiser dinner hosted by the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby. According to one witness, some high profile personalities, like Congressman Anthony Weiner, “ducked out” of the dinner shortly after the student activists, physically bound together by lockdown devices, initiated their blockade.

At the time of the arrest, a larger demonstration was being held a short distance away — several hundred demonstrators filled protest pens lining Times Square, in front of the hotel. The demonstrators had gathered to denounce the fact that the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) fundraiser was being held inside the Marriott. The $1500 a plate dinner was meant to be a gala affair, one that would allow the pro-Israel AIPAC to use its financial clout to influence U.S. foreign policy.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The larger demonstration, organized by the Break The Siege On Gaza student coalition, featured speakers and music. However, tension was evident in the permitted protest area. Multiple independent sources told NLN that a reporter for the New York Post was observed baiting protesters in the pens lining Times Square.

In a statement issued after the action, Campus Action Network organizer Amanda Ginsberg alleged that a “fellow activist was hit by a reporter.”

Around 6:30 p.m. a speaker at the permitted protest announced that a group of ten activists were blocking the entrance to the Marriott. The activists had entered an interior courtyard – and positioned themselves in front of the Marriott lobby entrance, directly above the car park. Chanting “free, free Palestine” and joined together by “sleeping dragon” style lockboxes — tubes reinforced with chickenwire and duct tape — the protesters maintained the blockade until a large number of NYPD officers dragged them away from the hotel entrance.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Near the lockdown, police and secret service denied working press access to the site, ostensibly because the Marriott is private property. However, the presence of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians at the event may have influenced police behavior. Perhaps related, police moved protesters out of sight of hotel guests — and the press — before attempting to remove the protesters’ lockdown devices.

All of the activists arrested at the lockdown were taken to the 7th Precinct and arraigned the following day. Most were charged with misdemeanors and given trial dates.

In a phone interview with NLN, two of the arrestees said that they were bruised as a result of rough treatment by the police department.

In her statement, CAN activist Amanda Ginsberg said that during the action, “almost all those involved were treated very roughly by the cops. The cops used pressure points, violence — kicking and stomping on people — and threats. They threatened to break people’s arms and to mace them.”

According to Ginsberg, the police also falsely accused a few of the activists of using “anti-semitic language while they were chanting.” Ginsberg said that the student activists “must be prepared to defend ourselves as anti-zionists, and make the clear distinction between being an anti-zionist against the occupation [ of Gaza ] and an anti-semite.”

AIPAC describes itself as “America’s leading pro-Israel lobby” and is strikingly uncritical of Israeli foreign policy – defending Israel’s “right to self defense”, including the recent attack on the Gaza Strip in which the Israel Defense Force used white phosphorus on civilian targets, including the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In an after action press release, U-Lock Justice for Palestine organizer Colin Dillon said that “the blockade disrupted what the participating activists considered a disgraceful gathering.”

Todd Eaton contributed to this report.

View Photos/Videos From The Action…

Protest Footage

Arrest Footage