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BY KEEN BERGER | Victory! Victory! Victory! It was a very good year, with three great victories, all many years in the making.
The most astonishing one is the new public middle school at 75 Morton St. Six years ago, local parents and Assemblymember Deborah Glick spotted it — a building belonging to New York State, about to be empty and sold. We rallied, begged and lobbied, but the city’s Department of Education did not bid, claiming neighborhood schools were not overcrowded.
Then came years of disappointments: long wait lists; the state took 75 Morton off the market; we lost our only middle school (on top of P.S. 3), only to have those rooms filled with younger children; politicians told a community board meeting to forget 75 Morton because it was “dead in the water.” But we didn’t forget. And in March 2012 the state and the city — City Council Speaker Chris Quinn, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott — miraculously agreed that 75 Morton would be a city school.
Much more must be done: contracts, lawyers, plans, budget, construction. But parents and the community are pushing hard. (I chair the 75 Morton Street Task Force, co-sponsored by Community Board 2 and the Community Education Council for District 2). Our new 75 Morton school will open by September 2015.
The second victory is national. We will never have to say, “President Romney.” More crucial is the victory in the U.S. Senate. We all knew Kirsten Gillibrand would win (hurrah!). But my favorite prognosticator, Nate Silver, predicted that three Senate candidates I worked for (Tester, Heitkamp and Carmona — that’s Montana, North Dakota and Arizona) would lose. Yet two of them won: I am proud.
I also cheered for my birth state, Minnesota. I knew Senator Klobuchar would win, but I told my daughter — Rachel Stassen-Berger, political reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune — that marriage equality needed to win in Minnesota and that their rigid voter ID proposal should lose. She said, “Mom, I am a journalist, not an advocate. I must be fair.” I answered, “Just report the facts, the voters will do the rest.” She did and they did.
The final victory is also the most personal. Brad Hoylman has been my co-district leader for seven years. Together, we judged judges; we debated issues and candidates; we advocated progressive causes; we attended dozens of events with the Village Independent Democrats, the Village Reform Democratic Club, the Manhattan Democrats, and so on.
I listened when Brad first thought about becoming a father. I admired a sonogram on his iPhone (only a speck, but he thought it was beautiful). I was thrilled at Sylvia’s birth; I enjoy her now, as a toddler.
When Brad decided to run for state Senate, I cheered and worried. I went to his headquarters to give campaign advice and I saw that he was brilliant and dedicated — as usual. No more worries. His victory was no surprise, just another joy. I also am happy that County Committee voted 55-4-2 for Jonathan Geballe as Brad’s replacement as district leader.
So — three victories. I hope for more. We need better Election Day procedures. (Those lines in September were terrible.) We need paid sick leave and a living wage for workers. We need Hudson River Park to thrive without threat of luxury housing or pier collapse. We need to re-elect Jonathan Geballe in the upcoming primary election. But all those past victories make me realize that more are possible. Last year was good. Onward!
Berger is the female Democratic district leader for the 66th Assembly District, Part A