Amid many frustrations, one shining celebration

Keen Berger.

Keen Berger.

BY KEEN BERGER   |  With so many political problems — among them, locally, fracking and healthcare; nationally, police and income disparities; internationally, Iran and Israel — I am often frustrated. I want to make things right; that is what district leaders are supposed to do. Yet, apart from attending an occasional rally, I am doing nothing on these problems.

I try to remember that I am one of two unpaid district leaders for a small piece of Manhattan. With 6 billion people on Earth, but just 30,000 registered Democrats in the 66th Assembly District, Part A, I cannot make everything right by myself. Moreover, thousands of local people (including you, dear reader) are working on these issues. I can only do a small part, I must focus.

When I was elected district leader, I chose three concerns, a local one, a national one and an international one — namely, public schools, Election Day processes and immigration. My progress report is about those three. The other reports in The Villager this week will show that hundreds of people are working on dozens of other issues.

On public schools, the great news is that our new middle school, 75 Morton, which was called “dead in the water” five years ago, will open for hundreds of students in September 2017. This coming Mon., May 11, at 6:30 p.m., the School Construction Authority will show the plans to the community. Everyone can come. It will be at the L.G.B.T. Center, on W. 13th St., between Seventh and Eighth Aves.

The school’s design is beautiful. The 75 Morton Alliance, the Community Board 2 Education Committee and local politicians Corey Johnson, Brad Hoylman and Deborah Glick are shepherding, advocating and deciding with great success. The latest victory: retractable seating, so the that the gym and theater can both be used every day.

There is much more to be done for 75 Morton, including getting a visionary, powerful and practical principal by September 2016. But I am thrilled at the rise of this phoenix and grateful for hundreds of parents. On the other hand, I’m sad that Governor Andrew Cuomo is so wrong, and furious at Eva Moskowitz. I want to tell those two that the tests are more harmful than helpful, that charters steal from our children, that Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina knows far more than they do. When Andrew and Eva see our world-class middle school, maybe they will learn.

On elections, there’s some good news. We four district leaders in the 66th A.D. had an open process to select our state committeeman to replace Alan Schulkin, who is now Manhattan’s Democratic Board of Elections commissioner. We chose Buxton Midyette to join state Committeewoman Rachel Lavine in representing us statewide. I have high hopes for all three. We also have a new deputy for Manhattan elections, William Anthony Allen. I haven’t met him, so only have vague hopes so far. Lots more needs to be done. If anyone is a registered Democrat and wants to be a poll worker ($200 for making democracy work for one very long day), e-mail me at [email protected]


As for immigration, this is the most frustrating of my triad. Locally, there have been some victories. Working with New Sanctuary, we got “ICE out of Rikers,” we saved some people from deportation, and we accompanied some undocumented immigrants to their hearings. But there’s no DREAM Act yet in New York State, national policy is a disaster and literally millions of immigrants in our nation are threatened. I want to understand how our nation of immigrants became so anti-immigrant. If I understood it, I could change it.

Back to the first paragraph — that is what a district leader does: change things! Progress is much smaller, slower and more limited than I want, but I am on it. I am not always frustrated. Come on May 11 to celebrate with me!

Berger is Democratic district leader, 66th Assembly District, Part A (Greenwich Village)

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