We, as members of the Ridgewood Tenants Union, ask UFT and the NYC Central Labor Council to withdraw their endorsements of Councilman Robert Holden. These endorsements undermine working-class individuals and people of color not just in our district but throughout our city.
As an all volunteer, tenant-led grassroots housing group dedicated to fighting displacement and building tenant power in Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village, we have seen the effects of Holden’s anti-immigrant, anti-homeless rhetoric that tailors to middle class homeowners at the expense of working-class and immigrant communities.
We are shocked that you have directly aligned with these hateful ideas, which include introducing legislation to repeal the chokehold ban, repeatedly referring to our immigrant neighbors as criminals and speaking out against Black Lives Matters protestors, calling them “anarchists” who show up to “stifle free speech.” His rhetoric is dangerously close to our former president’s, prioritizing clean streets and graffiti-free storefronts instead of using his power to fight for all New York City teachers, students and workers.
Robert Holden’s history of peddling in Trump-style politics dates as far back as 2002, when as president of the Juniper Parks Civic Association, Holden honored Serf Maltese, then a Republican state senator, as “man of the year.” Holden likely learned a trick or two on dog-whistle politics from Maltese, who proudly campaigned against low-income housing projects, against busing kids of color into the district, and against LGBTQ rights legislation while complaining of “welfare cheats taking from the real needy” and “illegal aliens taking our jobs and housing.”
Last year, he and two other Republican Council members voted against a bill that would replace the word “alien” with the word “noncitizen” in official city documents and bar the use of the words “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant.” Holden has also aligned himself with conservative civic groups, such as the Glendale Property Owners Association, which once initiated a frivolous lawsuit against the city to fight a school integration plan in 1959. Holden has revived white resistance to school integration in part by employing Charles Vavruska as his constituent services and education director. Vavruska has been relentless in fighting the DOE’s efforts at integration and a culturally responsive curriculum, much like in 1959.
Holden makes no attempts to hide his disdain for homeless people and immigrants, so what do these endorsements communicate to your members and students who are homeless or undocumented?
When he’s not spewing hateful rhetoric, Holden consistently chooses to be complicit in his silence as a response to right-wing supporters and constituents. When a woman declared she hoped someone would burn down the Cooper Ave homeless shelter, he remained silent. When his own deputy chief of staff posts online alleging election fraud, he makes no comment. After the Capitol riots and the arrest of one of his own constituents associated with a white supremacist group, silence. A more responsible elected would take a stand against this dangerous rhetoric. We urge you to withdraw your endorsements.
This op-ed was submitted by the Ridgewood Tenants Union.