Monday, July 6, 2009

Assessing the Albany Coup and Enjoying Henry Hudson's "Failure"

Just days after celebrating the birth of our nation with uplifting ceremonies and arresting fireworks, we are now back to reality. The New York State Senate remains in chaos.

Also, two days ago, we celebrated the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's first trip on what is now the Hudson River by moving New York City's July 4th 30-minute fireworks show from the East River to the Hudson River. Those of us in Manhattan can trace the start of the development of the Manhattan we know to the "failure" of Henry Hudson's 1609 voyage to discover a "northern passage" from Europe to Asia.

Closer Look at the Albany Coup

Tom Robbins wrote an insightful column in the Village Voice last week that addressed the underlying motivations of Tom Golisano and the Republican Party as they moved to elevate Democrat Pedro Espada to the Presidency of the New York State Senate in early June. The Republican Party and other powerful interests around New York State became fearful that the new Democratic majority would turn their progressive agenda into legislation that would ultimately become law. The Democratic majority in the State Senate had already proven to be the key ingredient in the successful effort to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws after decades of seeing the repeal effort fail because of Republican control of the State Senate. That same Democratic majority in the State Senate was poised to take on other powerful interests, and those interests initiated a coup that has caused a stalemate in Albany and undermined the will of the electorate in the last election.

As Robbins correctly points out - in describing the nature of the effort to destroy the Democratic majority:

The threat to power here was the slim Democratic majority that won control of the Senate last fall for the first time in more than 40 years. Consider the timeline: The plotters launched their coup on June 8, the day before the Senate's housing committee was due to consider legislation—given a good chance of passage—that would curb rent hikes on hundreds of thousands of city apartments. Worse, it was even possible that the new majority might vote to give control over New York City housing policies to the city itself. Imagine that? Home rule! For the real estate and landlord lobby, which had long held full sway in the Senate, this was an impossible state of affairs. A pair of renegade Democrats were recruited at a still undisclosed price. The rebels stepped across the aisle to vote the Republicans back into power, thus ensuring that there would be no further incursions into the business of real estate profit or any other sacred Albany cows.

Robbins focuses on reality of the Albany coup as an attack on progressive public policy rather than the caricature of foolish mismanagement of public affairs that has been presented by most of the local media when addressing the Albany coup. We encourage Manhattan Viewpoint readers to read Robbins' column in its entirety.

This analysis reminds us that elections have consequences and that we must all keep on fighting, even after an election ends with results that please us. Because of the coup, legislation that would keep us safer, legislation that would improve our economy, and efforts that would ensure that powerful business interests must abide by the laws already in place have all be put on hold. The fight in Albany is just beginning.

Henry Hudson's "Failure"

As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first trip by Henry Hudson up the Hudson River, we are reminded of how the Manhattan we enjoy today got its start with Hudson's failed attempt to travel from Europe to Asia by traveling northward. Though Hudson died viewing his efforts as failures, his trips led the way to the control of Manhattan by the Dutch (Hudson was British but was employed by the Dutch), and that Dutch control started Manhattan on a journey that continues to our era. Underneath the abuses of the Native Americans, the long period of slavery, and the support of the Confederacy during the Civil War, a wonderful city grew into what is the greatest city in the world today.

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