Posted by Thomas L. Miles - July 9, 2010 | News


(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — July 7, 2010. Supporters of Staten Island’s Midland Beach mosque, attacked by elements of the community and islamaphobic activists, gathered on Wednesday 7 July in front of Borough Hall. Muslim and non Muslim supporters of the mosque, including a diverse group of local clergy, members of Peace Action Staten Island, and representatives of the Island’s thirty thousand strong Muslim American community, met to call on local officials to defend religious liberty for all Islanders.


(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)

While temperatures over one hundred subdued the gathering, several dozen leaders, activists, and community members sheltered in the shade of Staten Island’s government center. Hesham El-Meligy, a longtime interfaith community organizer, spoke on behalf of several groups, and announced the formation of Staten Island’s first inclusive Muslim community council, the Islamic Civic Association.


(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)

Some members of the gathering expressed disappointment with the commercial press’s sensationalist and divisive coverage of the Midland Beach mosque, portraying the Muslim community as outsiders and insensitive to local concerns, and as a conflict strictly between Muslims and non-Muslims. In an attempt to counter this, we reprint below El-Meligy’s speech in its entirety.


Hesham El-Meligy being interviewed by NY1′s Mara Montalbano
(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)


Good morning everyone and thank you for being here. My name is Hesham El-Meligy and I am speaking on behalf of the Staten Island Muslim community. I am a founding member of the Building Bridges Coalition of Staten Island and a member of other interfaith and community organizations, such as the Staten Island Clergy Leadership and the Staten Island Immigrants Council. I lived on Staten Island for more than 10 years and been trying to build bridges of understanding and respect. Other Staten Island Muslim leaders and myself spoke at Churches, Synagogues and Temples in different occasions about Islam & Muslims. We shared in many events with others of different faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds. In spite of all that, I found out that some on Staten Island do not even know that there are Muslims here. I found out that stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims is still rampant within some circles. I know Muslim families who lived on Staten Island since the sixties. In the past few years, the Muslim population of Staten Island doubled and maybe even tripled. Though the census results are not out yet, an estimate of the Staten Island Muslim population ranges between 25,000 and 35,000. 10 percent or more of Staten Island’s medical doctors are Muslim. Muslim owned businesses are everywhere. There are only 5 Mosques to serve this growing population and all are located above the highway on the North shore, while Muslims live everywhere on the Island, from Tottenville to Saint George, and from Midland Beach to Travis. The reaction to the sale of the convent hurts us. We are Staten Islanders. We have the right to have a house of worship anywhere of our choosing according to the law of the land. We don’t want a privilege that no one else has; we just won’t accept being treated as second class. I am a Muslim by choice, no one is forcing me to anything and I am proud to be a Staten Island Muslim. I am proud of the true teachings of Islam as found in the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad {peace be upon him} and all other prophets sent by God. The name of God in Arabic is Allah. Jewish and Christian Arabs use that name in worship. In the Arabic version of the book of Genesis, on it’s first page, there are 17 verses and 17 times the name Allah is there. Allah is the creator and the same God worshiped by Jews and Christians. Although it is clear that the true teachings of Islam criminalize any act of terror, there are some who still are trying to link Islam to terror. There are even some who are asking, why Muslims do not come out and condemn terrorism. Well, it has been done on numerous occasions, but maybe another time won’t hurt. Let it be recorded that Muslims in Staten Island, in the City of New York, In the State of New York, and in the United States of America condemn terrorism in any shape or form, whether it carried out by someone who happens to be Muslim or non-Muslim, whether it is done by an individual or a group or a country. I take the chance today and announce the establishment of the Islamic Civic Association of Staten Island; an organization that will provide services to the growing Staten Island Muslim community and act as the bridge between them and others. Thank you, may God bless you and may God bless America and our world.


(Photo: Thomas L. Miles / NLN)

Posted by Special To NLN - July 6, 2010 | Book Review


The Simple Truth: Tim Sheard’s new novel is a good read…

Review of SLIM TO NONE, A LENNY MOSS MYSTERY, by Timothy Sheard, UAW Local 1981 National Writers Union.

Here’s a page flipper, a murder mystery set in a hospital where the invisible, everyday workers are the key. Written by longtime nurse and writer, Timothy Sheard (www.timsheard.com), we see ‘ordinary people take the stage. Think CSI, but hospital custodians and nurses figure it out, not cops and forsenics. Lenny Moss, a custodian and union steward, is at the center of the action as he and his colleagues take on bosses, ambitious doctors amid corporate downsizing and union busting to figure out who killed a pregnant and beautiful nurse.

Well-written and very down to earth…Lenny and his friends are just as ‘normal’ and quirky as everyone you know and work with. Their practical knowledge, solidarity and smarts solve this confusing case that leads us down all sorts of blind paths with lives on the line.

Just like so many workers who fight the good fight, we learn that Lenny stuck with it because, “He cherished his place in the hospital, the camaraderie with the other workers… Slugging it out in the trenches, that felt right.” Lenny and his friends make it happen and keep it real. When an arrogant doctor says, “You’re not just a simple custodian, are you?”, Lenny replies, ” None of us are simple, doc. All of us have talents and resources you can’t spot just by looking at the uniform.”

Here’s a great read, a complicated mystery, good friends, comradeship in hard times, and union workers shown in full humanity.

Earl Silbar, former steward, AFSCME 3506, City Colleges of Chicago

Posted by TAG - | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — July 1, 2010. On Thursday, New York’s famed Russian Tea Room hosted Israel’s infamous Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who once asserted that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ironically, Livni spoke about securing peace in the Middle East. The protesters outside the eatery weren’t buying it — they’d prefer to see Tzipi discussing war crimes in the Hague.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos From The Event…


(Image: Bud Korotzer / NLN)


Col. Ann Wright (U.S. Army Ret.)
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On June 9 over 300 people braved a torrential downpour and packed the All Souls Church in Manhattan to hear Ann Wright, a former US Army colonel who resigned in protest against the Iraq war, describe her experiences on the Free Gaza flotilla. She was a passenger on one of the smaller ships – the Challenger. Wright began by explaining that the Free Gaza movement did something remarkable in organizing to collect money for ships and, despite the logistics, got people to risk their lives to travel on those ships. The international coalition of 750 people represented the conscience of the world in saying that “we refuse to let this siege stand.”

The attack on the flotilla took place 70 miles from Gaza in international waters. The Israeli military had been meeting with the Knesset everyday long before the flotilla set sail. By 4 AM on May 31st she could see the approach of large high-speed Zodiac (inflatable) boats. Each held 15 – 20 heavily armed men with their faces covered. The Challenger was carrying 4 members of the German parliament and one member of the Swedish parliament. She could also see that the Zodiacs came up to the Mavi Marmara on both sides and the passengers on the Turkish ship had decided that they were “not going to roll out the red carpet.” People on all the ships had talked about what they would do if they were boarded. They were people of peace, they had come in peace, they had no weapons. The passengers on the Challenger stood along the edge of their boat and said, “You are not welcome. These are international waters. Do not come on board this ship.” The commandos threw stun grenades which produce a loud blasting sound, bright light, and smoke. The result is disorientation. 15 commandos boarded each side of the Challenger. The captain stopped moving forward because a large Israeli naval vessel was in front of the Challenger. Wright pointed out that Israel could have stopped the flotilla non-violently by placing vessels in it’s path but the decision had obviously been made to use violence which cost 9 lives.

Once on board the commandos searched all the passengers and confiscated all electronic and photographic equipment – phones, cameras, and computers. Security cameras were removed from the ships. These items were never returned. A total of over $1 million worth of equipment was stolen from flotilla passengers. This includes the property of journalists and documentary filmmakers and their crews. Everyone’s credit cards were also confiscated and not returned. Between the time the ships were boarded and the time they were taken to an Israeli port all luggage was searched. The passengers, including the press, were made to remain in a kneeling position, handcuffed, on the deck in the sun for many hours. Some were not allowed to use the toilet and were told to urinate on themselves.

Everyone was taken to a newly built prison in the Negev and kept there several days. The journalists were also held for several days. Israel was clearly determined to get their version of the story out first. No consular visits were allowed during the first 24 hours.

“Q: Activists have claimed that during the first few hours after the assault the dying and seriously injured were deliberately denied medical treatment.

A: This is true.

Q: the Israelis state that violence was only used against the passengers on the Mavi Marmara who resisted, Do you agree with this?

A: This is a lie. The Israelis used excessive force and violence on all the boats even when no resistance was offered. Journalists were attacked, some activists were beaten so badly that they needed to be hospitalized when they arrived in Ashdod. An Israeli commando stood on my head with his boot and ground my head into the deck until I screamed. I was handcuffed and a hood was put over my head.”

Mel Frykberg interview with Huwaida Arraf

June 8, 2010 — ipsnews.net

“…there is reason for Israelis and for Jews generally, to think long and hard about the dark Hitler era at this particular time. For the significance of the Gaza Flotilla incident lies not in the questions raised about violations of international law on the high seas, or even about who assaulted who first on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, but in the larger questions raised about our common human condition by Israel’s occupation policies and its devastation of Gaza’s civilian population.

If a people who so recently experienced on its own flesh such unspeakable inhumanities cannot muster the moral imagination to understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions and even it’s legitimate security concerns are inflicting on another people, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Henry Siegelman, National Director of the

American Jewish Congress, 1978 – 1994

June 11, 2010 — Haaretz.com

The passenger/activists learned that the people on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara tried to protect the captain’s cabin and prevent the takeover of the ship for as long as possible. After about 20 minutes the captain stopped this defense and told the passengers not to resist. The IDF members that were roughed-up were given first aid and returned to the military. Weapons taken from them were thrown overboard. People who were shot were refused medical aid from the Israelis on the ship. One of the women in the prison lost her husband on the ship, killed by the IDF. No special consideration was given her as a new widow. After she closed her husband’s eyes she was cuffed and sent on deck to kneel in the sun with the others. Almost all the men on the deck were in their 50s, they were husbands and fathers. They were shot in the head and in the back. 30 bullets were fired into 9 bodies.

Turkey flew 3 chartered planes into Israel to take everyone back to Turkey. The Turkish prisoners refused to leave until all the internationals were released so everyone was flown to Turkey and went home from there.

Wright concluded, piracy, kidnapping, murder, and theft charges will be filed against Israel. This is a movement of “great spirit and conscience” and we must continue to move forward.


Adam Shapiro
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The next speaker was Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. He began by asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre. He then announced that they are organizing to have an American ship in the next flotilla. This is not just about delivering humanitarian aid. “We were, very much, intentionally, taking a political act by challenging the blockade itself. Not so much to challenge it and be stopped, but to challenge it and break it.” We were not seeking a provocation – we would have been perfectly happy to get the ships into Gaza. What the Palestinian people want and need most is freedom. That is the basic thing they are denied, their human rights. The political act that we took is a response to the political act that Israel took by creating the blockade. Even before that, the political act of the occupation since 1967 must be challenged if we want Palestinians to live free. The blockade is built on the foundation of a 43 year old occupation. The issue of humanitarian aid is forcing the world to take notice.

“We did change the world this week.” In part due to Israel’s brutal response but also because we were prepared. We got the truth out challenging Israeli lies about what happened. Eyewitnesses eventually got to speak and a film was smuggled out. We showed that Israeli pictures and fake audio recordings and doctored infrared footage were all phony. France, Sweden, Spain, and much of Europe condemned Israel. Obama cancelled a visit with Netanyahu and called the attack “regrettable.

The blockade and the life of Gazans is now an issue before the world. We have to take the next steps. 5 organizations organized the flotilla, many others representing millions of people contributed. It was a global intifada. Israel is not only against the Palestinian people but also against the internationals helping them. We have no ships (Israel has confiscated the ships too) now. The new flotilla will be organized using lessons we learned from this one. Momentum is on our side today, on the side of justice, freedom for Palestinians, and for an end to the siege, blockade, occupation, apartheid, and second class citizenship. But momentum being on our side doesn’t mean that we’re winning. We must raise the funds for an American ship in the next flotilla and we must work on the civil society movement for change, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Israelis supporting BDS will be guilty of a criminal act and citizens from other countries who support BDS will not be allowed into Israel or the West Bank. The cultural boycott has been referred to as “cultural terrorism.” The more we can make this a conflict between Israel and the rest of the world, about Israel as a pariah state and the rest of the world standing up for justice, the faster we will win.

***

A second report organized by Al-Awda and other groups took place on June 17th at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn. this report was to be specifically about the violence unleashed by Israel on the Mavi Marmara. The speakers were to be US filmmaker Iara Lee, British political organizer Kevin Ovenden, and Ahmet Unsal, a former member of Turkey’s Parliament. When the meeting was announced a group calling itself the Jewish Community Relations Council organized a rally in Times Square on June 14th to demand that the State Department investigate the invited speakers for “ties to terrorism”. The attempt to deny the American people the right to hear the truths that the Mavi Marmara passengers have to share with them was shamelessly supported by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Representatives Jerry Nadler, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Mahoney, Charles Rangel, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, all at the Times Square rally. The censorship campaign yielded results. Ahmet Unsal was not allowed into the country even though he has been here several times. It was also announced that 500 people would be picketing outside the House of the Lord Church – less than a dozen showed up. But inside the church there were 200+ people who came to hear the report and see the film made by Iara Lee.


Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who hosted the forum
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Rev. Herbert Daughtry opened the meeting welcoming everyone to his church. He said he supported this cause because he believes in a God who is concerned about the oppressed, not the oppressor and who works for the exploited, not the exploiter. His church has always been about the struggle for freedom, liberation, and a better life. Last summer the church hosted the sendoff of the Viva Palestina convoy bringing aid to Gaza. This is the church where President Aristide came when he was trying to get back to Haiti and where Winnie Mandela spoke when working to defeat apartheid in South Africa. If you are feeling a spirit of continuing the struggle to help Palestine, you are feeling the spirits of freedom fighters in this church, he said. Noting that he has reached his 80th year he said that as his sun goes down in the western sky let the record show that “I’ve been consistent.” It was very unusual for a Black Pentecostal minister to be walking the streets of Belfast when Bobby Sands was dying in prison. Wherever there are human beings suffering on this globe, “that is where I want to be.”

Bill Doar of Al-Awda was the next speaker and he addressed what he called the new McCarthyism, the attempt to label anyone who opposes Israeli apartheid and sending US arms to Israel a terrorist. Liberal Democrats are taking the lead and doing the work of right wing Republicans. “They’re acting like fascists.” Voices of witness to the crimes on the Mavi Marmara will not be silenced. “They risked all to bring life to the people of Gaza and they were murdered in cold blood – shot in the head by a gang of heartless killers who, I’m sorry to say, were paid by our tax dollars.” The politicians who spoke at the rally were walking in the footsteps of Joe McCarthy while supporting every act of terror by the apartheid state against the native people of Palestine. Their hands are “dripping with blood.” They represent not only the Zionist forces but the powerful military-industrial complex who forever wants to see the Islamic world, Africa, Asia, and Latin America ground down and divided. The struggle for Gaza is the front line in the struggle for all of humanity. “And that is why the ships will keep coming” from all over. “The spirit of Rachel Corrie lives on in that ship” that carried her name.


Charles Barron
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

City Councilmember Charles Barron, referred to as “an elected freedom fighter” then spoke of a discussion he had with a rabbi who was critical of his support for Palestine. Barron told him that over the 22 days of Operation Cast Lead (Dec. ’08 – Jan. ’09) 1,400 Gazans were killed, including almost 400 children, and 2,200 homes, hospitals, and schools were destroyed, Gaza has been set-up to be a death camp. Jews have no monopoly on suffering. He concluded, “We only go around once in life so we might as well live it with some spine.”

Kevin Ovenden, who was on the Turkish ship spoke next. He said that the movement had grown but at a terrible price – 9 brothers were taken from us and very many more were hurt by gunshots to the head, abdomen, and limbs. “Their blood is now lapping on the shores of Gaza.” Brothers were shot standing near him and there were no commandos in the area. It is unthinkable to maintain that the people that shot those guns from above were threatened by those standing around him. That was a “complete and utter lie.” It was also a lie to label the shooting death of one man, a photographer holding a camera, who was shot with high velocity bullets in the head, self-defense. The people who were on the flotilla and their supporters are collecting evidence and will be taking legal action in many jurisdictions. Justice will not be denied. Now the question is not if the siege will be lifted but how rapidly. “We are not afraid today.” He compared the Free Gaza movement to the US civil rights movement. The murders of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner that hot summer in Mississippi created a major push forward for the movement for racial equality in the US.

There is a backlash in the press and from Israel condemning the flotilla. We all have to work to refute the charge that what happened on that ship was the fault of the passengers. The commandos were not facing a “lynch mob.” In all legal codes and in religious and moral teachings “victims of lethal violence have an absolute right to defend themselves.” To paraphrase Malcolm X, “We didn’t land on Israel, Israel landed on us.”

Ovenden urged the audience to remember Soweto, Sharpeville, and the murder of Stephen Biko, when apartheid seemed invincible. It was defeated and Nelson Mandela walked free. Public opinion is changing. Israel’s political capital has diminished. Nobody thinks of it as a social democratic paradise anymore. He then enumerated the tasks before the movement and they were in total agreement with the plan laid out by Adam Shapiro days earlier, more boats and more focus on the BDS campaign. He said that a Viva Palestina convoy, the biggest yet, will be leaving London in mid-September, going through Europe to the Middle East, and entering Gaza through Rafah. Simultaneously, a large new flotilla will be sailing through the North Atlantic into the Mediterranean and on to Gaza. The different interlocking elements in this struggle will all work together and reinforce each other.

Ovenden ended by quoting Patty Pierce, an Irishman who spoke in New York on the eve of WW1, “There can be no peace between truth and falsehood, between tyranny and justice, between freedom and oppression. There can only be eternal struggle between them until justice is won and freedom prevails.” This is what we need now. Without justice and freedom there will be no peace in Palestine. If there is no peace there, there will be no peace in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.

Iara Lee, a filmmaker and human rights activist who successfully hid her film of what happened on the Mavi Marmara when the commandos landed spoke next. She said she was appalled by what she saw in Gaza when she visited there last March. The infrastructure was destroyed, people had severe burns on their flesh from the use of white phosphorous against them, and fishermen were being shot at when they tried to fish. She supported the flotilla because she saw it as a way to resist what was being done to the people of Gaza. She and her crew interviewed many on the Mavi Marmara and she kept the camera rolling when they were attacked to provide evidence of how people were massacred. She said that many people took pictures and tried to hide them from the Israelis, but she was the only one who succeeded.

She played a portion of the film for those assembled. It showed blood splattered on the walls, people injured and bleeding being carried below deck by their fellow passengers with many making efforts to stop the bleeding. People were rushing around trying to give first aid. Others seemed to be bleeding so profusely that their fellow passengers didn’t seem to be able to do anything to help them. A helicopter could be seen hovering just above the deck with bright lights shining down on the ship. There were red laser marks on the deck that came from weapon guidance systems seemingly coming from the helicopter. A booklet taken from one of the Israeli commandos, written in Hebrew, had pages that had the names of the different flotilla ships on them along with photos of people. Were they photos of certain passengers? One can only speculate. Someone was walking around with a big sign stating that they were not armed. The film was going to be shown at the UN the next day.

There were several other speakers including Lamis Deek of Al-Awda who said that the Palestinian people want one democratic state in all of Palestine. Jews are welcome to live there as long as they dismantle the Zionist laws and institutions because Zionism = Jewish supremacy.


Danny Meyers
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Messages of solidarity were read from several organizations. Danny Meyers of the National Lawyers Guild said that seeing the helicopter full of armed soldiers descend on the ship reminded him of Attica when helicopters dropped gas that led to the indiscriminate killing of innocents. Sara Flounders, speaking for the International Action Center, said that a tipping point in the struggle had been reached. It is a moment that comes after many years of resistance and struggle. “We salute that tonight.” Strong solidarity messages were also read from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Gabriela Movement.


Noor Elashi
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

There was a lengthy Q and A and Comments session. One person was anxious to start fundraising to get an American ship in the next flotilla and suggested calling it the Audacity of Hope. Noor Elashi, whose father is a political prisoner in a federal prison in Illinois spoke of how the “international solidarity bravery” shown by the flotilla gave him peace of mind, and someone likened Israeli behavior to Nazi behavior. Ovenden disagreed. He said Israel was acting like a typical European settler state using the same techniques used by the French in Indochina and the British all over, police domination, systematic racism, and dehumanization.

Between the 2 meetings presenting reports from the Free Gaza flotilla almost 600 people came to listen, to learn, and to support. Shapiro and Ovenden were in complete agreement on the issues of future goals and strategy. This world-wide movement of true international solidarity is reminiscent of what happened in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 when volunteers came from all over to protect a democratic Spain from fascism. Israeli violence will not stop this movement. When asked if the use of extreme force would prevent future Free Gaza boats from trying to reach Gaza Huwaita Arraf answered, “Quite the opposite actually. We have been inundated with people from all over the world, from various organizations, wanting to participate in future flotillas. People everywhere are outraged by Israel’s behavior. More boats and bigger flotillas until we break the siege on Gaza completely. We’ll be back.” (Frykberg interview with Arraf, ipsnews.net, 6/8/10)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Next Left Notes - | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — June 16, 2010. On Wednesday, June 16, thousands of people showed up at New York’s City Hall to protest the a number of serious city and state budget cuts. Public school teachers, PTAs and students showed up in large numbers. They spoke about schools facing giant service cuts while less than a week ago the news media reported that the top officials in the Department of Education’s headquarters at Tweed Hall gave themselves very extravagant pay raises.

Union leaders and elected officials held the Mayor responsible for the proposed cuts.

Steve Cassidy, of the Firefighters union said “Bloomberg wants us to pay for his mistakes”.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Unions turnout was high. There were crowds of union faithful from the UFT, DC37, AFSCME, Teamesters, TWU Local 100, CWA 1180, SEIU/1199, DC 237 City Housing workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the Professional Staff Congress from the CUNY system, the NY State Nurses Association, and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802. Lively music for the event was provided by Local 802. There were contingents of IBEW members, Lifeguards, and other unions. Norman Seabrook of the COBA, Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, and Pat Lynch of the PBA spoke at the rally. The rally was endorsed by the Central Labor Council. UFT president Michael Mulgrew hosted the event.

The protest was also sponsored by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the NAACP, the NY Labor and Religion Coalition, NY Charter Protection Association, La Fuenta, and many other organizations.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed severe cuts to schools which include elimination of many assistant teachers even in special education classes. He wants the elimination of many school nurses, maintainance workers, and after school and weekend test prep programs. He has repeatedly cut back on the fire department and looks to close firehouses in this crowded city. Aditional cuts may affect the departments of buildings, parks, health, and sanitation. Bloomberg has laid off many city workers and announced plans to lay off many more. In the MTA, hundreds have been laid off recently while the subway stations are desperately in need of cleaning, painting, and major repairs. Speakers spoke about too many service cuts to list.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Over the past 30 years many city departments have privatized large sections of their agencies. Speakers reported that when this was done the politicians said that the city would save money because the private organizations would have lower labor costs. In reality it boiled down to union busting. Often private organizations had much lower labor cost but very high salary and expenses for the owners of the agencies. Speakers reported that the mayor wants to increase privatization and has been hiring more and more consultants to work in the city departments. Often, consultants are paid many times the salary of city employees doing the same job. Many economic studies show that the mayor’s plans will not save money for the city services — however the money may be going to businesses that the mayor likes. The meals on wheels programs would work this way. As the small not for profit charity groups get pushed out of the food delivery service, the mayor wants to replace them with a large business that will make a profit delivering thousands of lunches a day. Bloomberg is also cutting funds for the private agencies. He has announced his intention to completely close the contracts of over 50 senior centers and possibly closing another 75. He wants to eliminate many programs for seniors and the handicapped — including drastic cuts to Access a Ride, cuts to homeless shelters, and preschools.

Many private agencies, such as food pantries and over 260 homeless shelters were started by citizen’s groups because the government was not providing these necessary services. In recent years the number of people using these facilities has skyrocketed. In 2008, every month brought another record breaking number of people applying to homeless shelters. Bloomberg wants to cut money or the help that these groups have started to receive from the government.

The state and city are planning cuts of over one hundred million dollars to the CUNY colleges. The CUNY system has already cut the number of freshmen applications for next year. The SUNY system is also being drastically cut.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Speakers stressed that citizens must fight back against these cuts and urged attendees to call, write and meet with state and city officials. Speakers said to contact our city council members as soon as possible as the next step. Additionally, several speakers urged concerned persons to contact the governor, at 518.474.8390, and state senators and assembly members.

Comptroller John Liu talked about how in this “Great Recession we are in,” it make no sense to lay off people or privatize or cut necessary services .Public Advocate Di Blasio spoke about we can’t morally close down counseling centers, day care centers after school programs, or many of the other cuts the mayor wants. Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer said, ” I am ashamed of what the city is doing” with the lay offs and service cuts. He said the unions have been helping the city by investing in the city but in return the city is turning it’s back on the unions and their families.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

When Mr Bloomberg ran for mayor the first time he promised that he would never spend a single dollar of the taxpayers money on sports stadiums because the city needs to spend the money on schools, and infrastructure. Speakers drew a huge response when they talked about this failed campaign promise.

View Photos From The Event…

Bill Reed, Bud Korotzer and Thomas Good contributed reporting to this article.