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The Screening Panel of the 504 Democratic Club met on the following dates and locations:
All candidates received an invitation and questionnaire by e-mail. Virtually all received follow up telephone calls and e-mails. Some candidates didn't respond despite repeated contacts. This report and our ballot are limited to those candidates who appeared for an interview and/or submitted a questionnaire.
Our thanks to the following individuals whose support made this possible: Edith Prentiss, Jo Anne Simon, Mike Schweinsburg, Jamin Sewell, Kenny Agosto, Maureen Green, Alan Goldblatt, Chris Noel & Marvin Wasserman.
The panel met after every session to make recommendations, which appear in BOLD print. Where none appears, the panel makes no recommendation
6th Congressional District (Queens): We interviewed Rubin Wills, former Chief of Staff to State Senator Shirley Huntley, and who previously worked for Council Member Leroy Comrie. He has no significant endorsements and is running because he believes that the incumbent, Gregory Meeks, is pushing his
8th Congressional District (Brooklyn/Manhattan): The long-time incumbent, Jerrold Nadler, has been a long-time supporter of our issues and a previous recipient of our FDR Award. He was not able to appear at our screening, but submitted a questionnaire. As Chair of the Sub-Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, he held hearings and was instrumental in the passage of the ADA Amendments Act. He is a supporter every major piece of legislation advanced by our community. He has been a life-long sponsor and supporter of our community and we look forward to his continuing to serve in Congress for many years to come.
10th Congressional District (Brooklyn): We interviewed Kevin Powell, a poet and essayist who is challenging long-time incumbent, Ed Towns. He spoke of growing up in a dysfunctional matriarchal family in Newark. He has been in therapy for over twenty years. He is supported by many feminists despite acknowledging that he is a
13th Congressional District (Staten Island/Brooklyn): The disgraced Republican incumbent will not stand for re-election. There is a Democratic primary between Council Member Michael McMahon and the last Democratic candidate in the district, Steve Harrison.
14th Congressional District (Manhattan/Queens): Carolyn Maloney, the long-time incumbent and friend of 504 has no primary opponent, but submitted a questionnaire and sent a surrogate to speak in her behalf. She was unavailable because she had an event in connection to the release of her new book. She has pushed our agenda and is on all the bills that we support. She mentored former 504 officer and current Assembly Member Micah Kellner.
17th Congressional District (Bronx, Westchester, Rockland): The long-time incumbent, Eliot Engel, submitted a questionnaire. He has been a supporter of our issues. He was a co-sponsor of the original ADA, Christopher and Dana Reeves Paralysis Act, Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity, CCA, and ADA Amendments Act. He has no Democratic primary opposition.
10th State Senatorial District (Queens): The one-term incumbent, Shirley Huntley, submitted a questionnaire. She was unable to appear in person because her husband was in the hospital. We are very impressed that, despite her lack of extensive legislative service, she is thoroughly familiar with and a strong supporter of our issues. She's the ranking of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, and has a strong background in disability services prior to her election.
15th State Senatorial District (Queens): We interviewed Albert Baldeo, a lawyer serving the Caribbean and South Asian immigrant community, who narrowly missed unseating the incumbent Republican two years ago, despite having little institutional support. He is very impressive and supportive of our issues. He has been a strong voice for the new American community in Queens, representing them in court and in seeking empowerment.
21st State Senatorial District (Brooklyn): We interviewed Council Member Simcha Felder, who spoke from his heart about his life-long involvement with our community. He unsuccessfully sought to Chair the Disability Committee of the Council, and now serves as an active member of the Committee. As Chair of the Government Operations Committee, he has devoted considerable resources to assessing the BOE's response to HAVA. After tours of every Council District, he found the response to be inadequate and termed it
25th State Senatorial District (Brooklyn and Manhattan): While not known for his support for our events, incumbent Marty Connor spoke about his 30 year history in the Senate and the many pieces of legislation he supported for our community. As the most senior member of Senate, should the Democrats win control of that body in this election, he would be the ranking member. With his legislative know-how, he would be well-placed to deliver for his district and our community. He passed the legislation providing for personal care workers to ride free in public transit, rather than forcing the consumer to pay the fare, and then objecting that it was not being enforced. He has a severely-disabled older brother, a disabled daughter, and has employed disabled members of his staff at all levels from messengers to a former press secretary who was deaf. He stated that he appointed a person with a disability as his Deputy Minority Leader, who later became Governor. He has fought for presumptive Medicaid eligibility for inmates upon their release.
26th State Senatorial District (Manhattan): The incumbent, Liz Krueger, has no primary opponent and submitted a questionnaire. First elected in 2002, she has been a strong supporter of all our issues.
29th State Senatorial District (Manhattan): The long-term incumbent, Tom Duane, has been one of our biggest champions in the legislature. Deservedly, he has no primary opponent. He submitted a questionnaire.
31st State Senatorial District (Manhattan/Bronx): The incumbent, Eric Schneiderman, was unable to participate in our interview because he will be undergoing orthopedic surgery. However he was ably represented. He is knowledgeable and supportive of our issues. He was the attorney opposing the MTA fare hike. He's on the Health and the Mental Health Committee.
32nd State Senatorial District (Bronx): Despite the glowing recommendation of his surrogate, we are not impressed with State Senator Ruben Diaz, Jr. His reputation is not solid with respect to support of the Democratic Party nor our issues, nor other civil rights issues we care about. We had hoped that he would change our impression of him, but he failed. With one vote short of obtaining a Democratic majority in the State Senate, so that it would be easier to pass our legislation, Senator Diaz refuses to divulge which party he will align with in the next session.
33rd State Senatorial District (Bronx): State Senator Efrain Gonzalez was ably represented by his former staff member and 504 Executive Committee member Kenny Agosto. Senator Gonzalez is sincere and cares deeply about providing quality services for his constituents.
22nd Assembly District (Queens): The first-term incumbent, Ellen Young, was interviewed. She participated despite a recent bicycle accident with a car, and appeared in crutches after initially using a wheelchair. She knows our issues well We endorsed her two years ago, and it isn't often that we see an incumbent gain some complex understanding of our issues in such a short period of time. Ten of the 44 bills she introduced were passed by the Assembly and five were signed into law. These included requiring wheelchairs and scoters to be repaired or replaced in a timely manner regardless of payment source (waiting for Governor's signature) and protecting seniors and PWDs from domestic violence, and permitting non-residents of nursing homes to use the facilities.
23rd Assembly District (Queens): We received a questionnaire from the incumbent, Audrey Pheffer, the long-term incumbent. Prior to being elected, she volunteered with AHRC to create after-school programs. She worked with Gateway National Park to assure accessibility. She sponsored numerous pieces of legislation to advance disability. She worked with the Board of Education Occupational Training Center.
34th Assembly District (Queens): We interviewed Michael Den Decker, a District Leader and City Council facility staff member, who is replacing the incumbent, Ivan Lafayette, on the primary ballot. Assemblyman Lafayette is accepting a position with the Paterson administration. Mr. Den Decker openly stated that he has no knowledge or opinions on our issues, but would be
40th Assembly District (Brooklyn): Six candidates are running for this open seat. The only candidate who participated in our screening was Inez Barron, who retired after thirty years as a teacher and principal in the public schools. As principal, she shared the facility with a special educational program, which she says gave her the experience to recognize
44th Assembly District (Brooklyn): We interviewed long-time incumbent Jim Brennan who has always been a strong champion of our issues, and has been before us and attended our events many times. With no primary challenge, he joined us to update us on our latest term. He has received two national awards for disability rights work, chaired the Assembly Mental Health Committee, won NYC Transit eligibility for half-fare for persons with mental disabilities was lead sponsor of the Work and Wellness Act, won 5,000 units of NYNYII supportive housing, and many other awards. He supports the Presumptive Eligibility Medicaid bill and housing expansion for PWDs, which he believes can be accomplished through the zoning process. Recently, he provided funding to make a subway station in his district fully accessible (including bathrooms) twelve years ahead of schedule.
52nd Assembly District (Brooklyn): Incumbent Joan Millman was out of town at the time of our interview, but submitted a questionnaire. She has been a long-time advocate for PWDs and a supporter of 504. She was last year's recipient of the FDR Award at our annual dinner. She was a leader in the fight for the introduction of the B-51 bus connecting her district with City Hall in Manhattan before there was any subway access for PWDs. More recently, she is the prime sponsor of the Visitabilty bill, which would require all new housing construction of less than six floors have basic accessibility features on the first floor.
55th Assembly District (Brooklyn): We interviewed Bilal Malik, who is challenging incumbent William Boyland, Jr. Assembly Member Boyland did not participate in our screening procedure. Mr. Malik believes that a legacy of over 30 years of being represented by various members of the Boyland family have not served his community well. He became aware of the many obstacles and the lack services for persons with disabilities when his mother had a stroke. He cited inaccessible transportation, inaccessible buildings, and elevator breakdowns among the many barriers facing PWDs. He is assisting a person to obtain a wheelchair and is running a humanitarian campaign for all of Brownsville. As a veteran, he expressed concern for all disabled vets, particularly those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a well meaning individual; however, he is not conversant with state policies or programs. We look forward to seeing him again in the future.
57th Assembly District (Brooklyn): We interviewed first-term Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, who is running unopposed in the primary. He has appeared before us a couple of times in the past, and we have supported him. Although his district office is accessible to PWDs, he also has evening
59th Assembly District (Brooklyn): We interviewed Alan Maisel, the incumbent, as well as H. R. Clarke, his challenger.
64th Assembly District (Manhattan): We interviewed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his two challengers Luke Henry and Paul Newell.
65th Assembly District (Manhattan): The newly-elected Assembly Member, Micah Kellner, who submitted a questionnaire is a former officer of 504 and a strong advocate for disability issues. He is perhaps the only current legislator with a physical disability and represents the largest disabled community in the state. He will be introducing a bill to require a 100% accessible taxi fleet in NYC. His bill to create a Disabled Riders Council for the MTA has passed the Assembly. He introduced a bill to require daily inspections of MTA elevators and improved oversight for repair, and is a strong advocate of expanding EPIC and DRIE/SCRIE parity. He has no opposition in the primary. He has regularly met with disability community advocates.
67th Assembly District (Manhattan): Linda B. Rosenthal, has no primary. She was interview but did not submit a questionnaire. Before being elected in a 2006 special election and reelected that fall, she was Jerry Nadlerís Manhattan District Director and Director of Special Projects for thirteen years. She has made the transition to the State Assembly ably and continues to serve her constituency. She is well informed on our issues and supports our positions.
73rd Assembly District (Manhattan): We interviewed the incumbent, Jonathan Bing, whom we have long supported. He introduced the D.R.I.E. parity bill in the Assembly. As Chair of the Mitchell-Lama subcommittee, he worked to keep landlords from selling out of the Mitchell-Lama program. He authored legislation to create licensing for vision rehabilitation therapists that would ensure the safety of persons who are blind or partially sighted to ensure the rehab professionals who work with them to restore their independent functioning.
75th Assembly District (Manhattan): We received a questionnaire from the long-time incumbent, Richard Gottfried, who is the Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. He has written and co-sponsored many bills that have been very important to our community such as implementing full mental health parity to the Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus and the Disabled Advocacy Program (DAP) and has worked to keep it funded. His strategy for moving legislation is to write to the Speaker and governor and to work with advocates and legislators.
79th Assembly District (Bronx): We interviewed Sigfredo Gonzalez, who is challenging the incumbent, Michael Benjamin, for the second time. Gonzalez believes that most parts of his community are being ignored by the Assembly Member Benjamin. Mr. Gonzalez is supportive of our issues, but without real knowledge or depth.
81st Assembly District (Bronx): We interviewed the incumbent, Jeff Dinowitz, who is one of the few elected officials in the Bronx who regularly appear before us. He is weak on some of our issues, but he has been generally supportive of our issues. He co-sponsored all the major Assembly disability bills.
40th District (Queens): We interviewed Elizabeth Crowley, who is unopposed in the primary and is running against the newly minted Republican incumbent, to whom she lost by a narrow margin in the recent special election. Although weak on our issues, she has demonstrated a willingness to learn. She is very supportive of D.R.I.E. parity, and is aware that our community is even less able to afford rent increases than seniors. She is very solid in her support for 100% taxi accessibility and also supports livery accessibility.
Civil Court, County-wide (Brooklyn): We interviewed Alice Fischer Rubin, an incumbent who is running for re-election. She is unopposed and appeared before us as a courtesy. Ms. Rubin was born and raised in Brooklyn. She has experience with making accommodations for PWDs. She reported that she has no vision or hearing on her right side, which makes her very sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities who appear before her. She will get off the bench to speak with people who are having difficulty with physical access. She extends the same consideration to individuals who have difficulty in communicating in English. She would not discharge a juror because of limitations. Her criteria are that the person be fair and have sufficient language ability to understand the evidence presented, as well as sufficient capability to see the evidence.
Civil Court, 1st District (Brooklyn): We interviewed Devin Cohen, who is a Life Member of 504. He reports having had more surgery before he reached kindergarten than most people do in a lifetime to lessen orthopedic birth defects. He is First Vice Chair of his local Community Board. He learned martial arts as a child because his parents didnít want him to be isolated as a disabled child, and now holds three Black Belts, is an EMT instructor and serves on his local Community Emergency Response Team. He enjoys the law, which he is extremely knowledgeable, and has won the well-deserved support of the local leadership in his community. We look forward to having him serve on the bench because of his insight into our concerns.
Civil Court, 4th District (Brooklyn): Lisa Ottley, who has served as Alice Fisher Rubin's court attorney for the last eight years, submitted a questionnaire. Judge Rubin stated that Ms. Ottley shared her sensibilities. On her questionnaire, she reported that she has a younger brother who is disabled and has been very active in her campaign. She has served as an arbitrator in cases with individuals who use wheelchairs. She does so by sitting at the table rather than on the bench. She believes that a person with disabilities can serve as a juror, but the final decision should rest with the individual.
Civil Court, County-wide (Manhattan): We interviewed Michael Katz and his opponent Nancy Bannon.
Civil Court, County-wide (Bronx): We interviewed Maria Matos, an attorney in Bronx Civil Court and President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. She is quite active in Bronx community affairs and her and her sonís parochial school. She recognizes that there are major accessibility issues in many of the city courts, especially the Bronx courthouse.
Surrogate (Manhattan): We interviewed all three candidates in this highly competitive race.
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