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Women New York Must Honor

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In the city’s bid to increase the number of statues of women, there will be one erected for the late Congressmember Shirley Chisholm in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Chisholm was the first black woman to serve in Congress and the first woman — in 1972 — to seek the Democratic nomination for president. Chisholm deserves a statue; she broke many a barrier.

In 1972, at the height of her campaign, our community was gathering support for the New York City gay rights bill from candidates, including those running for president. Chisholm was standoffish initially but her prominent supporter Gloria Steinem stepped in and successfully convinced her of the bill’s importance as a civil rights issue.

I am confident that Steinem, a living legend and a trailblazer for women’s and LGBTQ rights, will, in years to come, be taught about as part of American history. Steinem testified for passage of the gay rights bill each and every time it was brought up for a vote at the City Council. Contrast this with her contemporary Betty Friedan, who did what she could to make lesbians invisible out of fear that all feminists would be perceived as lesbian.

For the past decade or so, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club has been advocating for a federal building to named for the late Bella Abzug, who meant much to us in the early movement days. Abzug was a foremost leader of the women’s movement, an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, and an activist in the anti-war movement.

Abzug represented roughly the district now represented by Jerry Nadler. Though the city recently co-named Bank Street, where she lived for many years, after Abzug, her name adorns no public buildings. There is one named after the late Representative Ted Weiss, who left no sort of legacy and is remembered by few. Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan, who defeated Abzug by 1.1 percent in the 1976 Senate Democratic primary, is getting Penn Station named after him.

Moynihan was the architect of benign neglect, meaning letting blacks fend for themselves, while he served as an advisor to President Richard Nixon — yes, President Richard Nixon. He described “a virulent form of anti-white feeling” among “black lower classes” and even “portions of the large and prospering black middle class.” Given his notorious habits as a “serious” drinker — and often a nasty one (I witnessed that on numerous occasions) — I think it suitable that there be a huge bar erected in the new Penn Station in honor of the late senator. What he has done to merit the naming of Penn Station after him boggles the mind.

To his credit, Moynihan did surprise us by voting against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. His future Senate colleague Chuck Schumer, then a Brooklyn congressmember, disgraced himself by voting the other way.

The entire community board review process for the LGBTQ-friendly affordable senior housing project Haven Green in Little Italy is a complete sham. It makes a mockery of legitimate democratic processes and better resembles a NIMBYist, Trumpian tragedy put on by a community theater in the most red-state, white-privileged gated community in the country.

The crowd at a recent sub-committee meeting of Community Board 2 in the Village was forced to witness former chair Tobi Bergman close out the meeting aggressively shouting at city House Preservation and Development Deputy Commissioner Leila Bozorg in order to push the discredited plan to put the LGBTQ seniors a mile away on a busy nonresidential street in the West Village. That option would locate the seniors on a Department of Environmental Protection lot that contains critical water supply infrastructure and is across from an ICE detention center. Clearly these opponents do not want us integrated into “their” community. There was not one gay person on the community board’s sub-committee dealing with this issue.

Opponents of Haven Green are jeopardizing housing for low income people and have gone after Habitat for Humanity for its role as a partner in the project, stooping so low as pressure international donors to pull funding. Perhaps not so coincidentally Habitat’s local CEO is an out lesbian woman.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, also an out lesbian, made a rare appearance in the district to speak out against the Haven Green project. Stridently anti-nightlife, Glick considers these community board members her prime constituents — rather than the LGBTQ community that was her original avenue to public office. [Editor’s note: The original posting of this article incorrectly stated that Glick lives in a rent-stabilized apartment. After publication, the assemblymember took issue with the characterization of her public remarks about the Haven Green project, explaining that her comments focused on the city’s inadequate engagement with the community on the issue of preserving the Elizabeth Street Garden.]

Unsurprisingly, former Community Board 2 chair Teri Cude is against the housing and has raised the canard that gay applicants for the housing would be given “preference” at Haven Green. She knows full well that would be illegal. Outreach and advertising to LGBTQ-friendly organizations, however, is not — and seniors served by those groups face serious housing instability. That outreach is appropriate and will take place, no matter how much it riles Cude up.

Updated 6:24 pm, January 4, 2019
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