January 7, 2014
By Steven Wishnia
In a ceremony to mark her taking office, Upper West Side City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal pledged to “raise standards” for the city’s lowest-paid workers and to stand with Mayor Bill de Blasio in “taking dead aim against inequality.”
Speaking at John Jay College Jan. 5, Rosenthal said her priorities would include women’s rights, food justice, environmental sustainability, affordable housing, and gay and lesbian rights—and doing this with a balanced budget. More specifically, she said she was looking forward to expanding the city’s paid-sick-days law and that she wanted to relieve overcrowding at the Beacon School. She also denounced the Continental Hotel homeless shelter on West 95th Street—where the city pays more than $3,600 a month to rent cubicles in a former single-room-occupancy hotel that “a notorious real-estate family” converted to a shelter—as a “trifecta of disappointment” and a microcosm of the failures of the city’s homeless policy.
The crowd of more than 200 people included Senator Charles Schumer, Rep. Jerry Nadler, several state legislators, and at least 10 of Rosenthal’s cohorts in the Council’s liberal bloc.
State Senator Liz Krueger was one of several speakers who lauded Rosenthal’s knowledge of the city budget. She said that the Upper West Side, perhaps New York’s most politically involved neighborhood—Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer observed that the 7th District had by far the highest turnout in the city last year, with 28,000 votes cast—invariably has primaries packed with qualified candidates, and that’s a good thing.
“She understood government, she knew why she wanted to run,” Krueger said. “She’d lived through ten years of community board meetings.” She also said she was pleased to share a stage with the three women who’ve represented the Upper West Side in the Council for the last 25 years, with Ronnie Eldridge, Brewer, and now Rosenthal.
Eldridge, who served in the Council from 1989 to 2001, swore Rosenthal in. Brewer said Rosenthal was would carry on their legacy.
Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito thanked Rosenthal for being an early endorser of her candidacy for speaker, and praised her level of commitment, thoughtfulness, and “vision of progressive politics.”