Archive for April, 2007
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What Theyre Saying This Morning
April 30th, 2007

The federal government is planning to fund Mayor Michael Bloombergs congestion pricing plan, but there is one bump in the road Albany, said a New York Times editorial. The plan will also help create revenues, as much as $500 million a year in fees. Congestion pricing is just one piece of the mayors visionary agenda for sustaining New York. He is right to try to seize this moment to advance the idea, the paper says.

The Daily Newss editorial argues that the police department should be able to videotape mass demonstrations because it would be an effective tool in safeguarding protesters from terror attacks. Videotaping of this kind is constitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the New York Police Department is a notable exception thanks to a federal court case that has gone on for more than a quarter-century.

The Post editorial recommends that Bloomberg use a record-setting $4.4 billion surplus to pay off the 1970s-era debt that the state took off the city’s hands after 9/11: It’s also a rare chance for City Hall to do the fiscally prudent – and morally correct – thing.

By on April 30, 2007, 1:16 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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A Park With No Enemies
April 30th, 2007

The High Line, a project to create a greenway along an abandoned elevated rail way on the West Side, is no longer just a successful, innovative park project, according an article in New York Magazine, it will soon become a brand name adorning buildings, restaurants, and even nightclubs, like the recently opened High Line Ballroom.

Everyone in New York City has been so supportive of the High Line, Josh Wood, organizer of the High Line Festival (an arts project curated by David Bowie) told the magazine. Its probably the one public-works project that no one has anything bad to say about.

The magazine also feaures a history of the elevated railway and the quest to turn it into a park and a look at a half a dozen new luxury apartment buildings and condos going up along the parkway.

By on April 30, 2007, 10:45 am
In category: Parks | 1 Comment »

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New Transportation Chief
April 29th, 2007

After months of speculation well in transportation circles, at leastMayor Michael Bloomberg has announced the appointment of Janette Sadik-Khan as his new transportation commissioner, winning even more praise from alternative transportation advocates already cheering his congestion pricing plan. She will replace Iris Weinshall, who has been increasingly under attack for being too focused on accommodating cars in the city, at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists.

New York Magazine called Sadik-Khan, a senior vice president at the international engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, the environmentalists’ preferred candidate. And so she seems to be.

Ms. Sadik-Khan’s appointment is a decisive statement that the city is committed to carrying out the transportation components of PlaNYC, which are essential to improve the mobility and quality of life of all New Yorkers, said a statement by Transportation Alternatives. The groups executive director, Paul Steely White, went on to say, “Ms. Sadik-Khan has two things that her predecessors have lacked: solid experience in planning for transit oriented streets, and perhaps more importantly, a mayoral mandate to relieve congestion and create sustainable, greener streets.”

And the Straphangers Campaigns Gene Russianoff said, By appointing Janette Sadik-Khan as city transportation commissioner, Mayor Bloomberg signals his willingness to try new solutions to tame city traffic for drivers, pedestrians, bikers and all New Yorkers.

So why is she so popular? Planetizen notes that, during the Dinkins administration, Sadik-Khan headed an office, disbanded by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, that was responsible for long-term transportation planning and the coordination of the various agencies and authorities with power over New York City transportation policy and infrastructure. The Sun previously reported that her biggest asset, according to transit experts, is her ability to pull in big federal dollars to fund local transit projects. She oversaw a $4 billion capital budget when she worked for the federal Department of Transportation.” But, according to Planetizen, Said-Khans biggest and most important qualification for the DOT commissioner’s job is what is not on her resume. Sadik-Khan is not a traffic engineer.

By on April 29, 2007, 8:05 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Transportation | 4 Comments »

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Praising the Mayor's Budget
April 27th, 2007

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his $59 billion budget for fiscal year 2008. The Daily News praises the mayor’s decision to use much of the $4 billion surplus to pay off future debt. “History teaches that these remarkable good times will not last forever, and there are worrisome signs on the horizon,” the paper writes.

And the New York Post agrees with Mayor Bloomberg, who said that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is refusing to sit down and negotiate a police union agreement in good faith.

By on April 27, 2007, 7:55 am
In category: Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Anti-Smoking Campaign Frightens Bloggers
April 27th, 2007

The Bloomberg administration which instituted the smoking ban, raised cigarette taxes, and has accused the tobacco industry of murder has launched a new effort to help New Yorkers quit smoking. From now through May 15, the Health Department will offer nicotine replacement at no cost to smokers who request it through 311. The Health Departmenthas also launched an advertising campaign featuring Ronaldo Martinez, a former smoker who lost his voice to throat cancer at age 39.

The point, of course, is to get people’s attention. And based on numerous local blogs, the scare tactics are working.

GOP and The City writes that the “Ronaldo Martinez Commercials Are Freaking Me Out!”

Gawker has dubbed Martinez the “man who made us switch to Marlboro Lights.”

Geek Soap Box writes, “Can we please please please please please take the ads off of the TV for just a little while…? In fact, here’s my ultimatum: Take them off the airwaves NOW or I’ll actually START to smoke in retaliation!”

New York Magazine’s blog concludes, “What a caring, and ever-so-slightly creepy, city we live in.”

By on April 27, 2007, 7:20 am
In category: Health | 4 Comments »

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What They're Saying
April 26th, 2007

The Daily News hails New York City students, teachers administrators for the increase in percent of students graduating from high school in four years by the states reckoning, that number went from 44 percent in 2004 to 50 percent last June. The paper credits the drive by Bloomberg and Klein to hold everyone in every school accountable for producing results, as opposed to moving students along on a conveyor belt of failure. It’s very basic, and it’s working.

The citys latest budget surplus is another victory for supply side economics, the Sun says, providing evidence that cutting taxes unleashes economic growth that, in turn, causes government revenues to climb. And so, the paper says, to keep the citys economic engine purring, the mayor should cut income taxes, unleashing new growth that will put the city, and its individual taxpayers, on a still sounder financial footing for years to come.

The Post, not a big fan of City Council in general, now goes after the citys legislative body for implementing a dress code for staff. Commenting on Council Speaker Christine Quinns edict again t-shirts flip-flops and the like even on dress down Fridays, the paper says, No one should be surprised, of course, to see yet another category of items deemed contraband by the council. In just the past 18 months alone, it has sought citywide bans on: trans-fats, aluminum baseball bats, unregulated pedicabs, foie gras, fast-food eateries in poor areas, lobbyists at the council, mail-order medicine, cell-phones in upscale restaurants, pork products from Tar Heel, N.C., candy-flavored cigarettes, Wal-Mart and the circus. (To name a few.)

By on April 26, 2007, 12:23 pm
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on What They're Saying

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Congestion Pricing Scorecard
April 26th, 2007

For more on what politicians are for it (not many), who’s against it (lots) and who’s waffling (lots), see the Polticker’s latest listing.

By on April 26, 2007, 11:45 am
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Transportation | Comments Off on Congestion Pricing Scorecard

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The Next Transportation Commissioner?
April 26th, 2007 is reporting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has picked Janette Sadik-Khan as his next Transportation Commissioner. Sadik-Kahn is currently the Senior Vice President of Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international engineering firm. She was Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation under Mayor David Dinkins.

The other top candidate is reportedly Michael Horodniceanu, Chairman and CEO of Urbitran, a planning, engineering and architecture firm.

By on April 26, 2007, 10:34 am
In category: Transportation | Comments Off on The Next Transportation Commissioner?

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More on Congestion Pricing
April 25th, 2007

Anyone cynical about politics will enjoy watching politicians, including those interested in higher office (and isnt that just about all of them?) react to the mayors PlaNYC2030. Many applaud the big vision as long as it does not require any possible voter to change their ways.

Gotham Gazette City Council reporter found little rush to speak out on the proposals for a more environmentally friendly city among the very same council members who clamored to demonstrate their political courage by condemning Don Imus 10 days earlier.

Streetsblog surveys the political reaction. Take Christine Quinn, normally an ally of the mayors. The likely 2009 mayoral candidate goes way out on a limb on congestion pricing: Whether you’re for it or against it, it’s a serious proposal and it deserves serious attention. Outer borough politicians including mayoral contenders Anthony Weiner and Adolfo Carrion and Marty Markowitz (whos reportedly running for something) were more outspoken. Carrion wonders about another hidden tax on working people (the same working people who pay $15 an hour to park), Marty Markowitz would support congestion pricing provided it doesnt apply to people driving to work and Weiner, applauds long-term planning — but thinks congestion pricing is a sure thats worse than the disease. Councilmembers David Weprin, who is reportedly mulling a bid for city comptroller, and Lew Fidler came out against the plan before the mayor even proposed it.

A few politicians have endorsed the fee to drive into Manhattan. Although he does not like Mayor Bloomberg, State Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem told The Politicker he thinks congestion pricing can work: ”There is no question in my mind that you can do what he wants to do without it being a tax on the middle class and the poor,” Perkins said. And Nassau County Executive The Nassau County Executive, Thomas Suozzi, many of whose constituents drive to Manhattan, admitted, Peoples first reaction is they dont want to pay. But, he added, getting them to switch to mass transit benefits us all.

Maybe more politicians will join in. After all an unscientific-online poll by Crains found more than half of the respondents backed Bloomberg’s proposal for congestion pricing.

By on April 25, 2007, 11:59 am
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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What Theyre Saying This Morning
April 25th, 2007

While conceding Albany needs to be fixed, the Post criticizes Governor Eliot Spitzers latest tactic for reforming it: curbing campaign contributions. The answer isn’t to deprive individuals of the right to participate in the political process by backing political candidates, the editorial says. Instead of going after donors, the paper wants politicians who take the money, accepting quid pro quos (read bribes) to be tried, convicted and packed off to Attica.

Expressing great confidence in the police, the Sun says it is time for the judge overseeing police surveillance of political activity to let the police videotape at will. New Yorkers have not for a single second forgotten that they are the number one target of terrorists and so should have Police Commissioner Ray Kelly not a judge deciding when to tape and when not to tape.

And the Sun uses the tentative contract agreement between City Hall and the principals union to reiterate its call for merit pay for teachers.

By on April 25, 2007, 8:27 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on What Theyre Saying This Morning

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Pension Funds Flex Their Muscle
April 24th, 2007

Major corporations – like the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, and oil company Chevron – have agreed(pdf format) to start disclosing online their political contributions to candidates, parties, committees, and so-called 527 organizations.

The motivation for this came from the New York City Public Pension Funds.

The city’s pension funds have lots of weight with many large companies, such as these, because of the enormous amounts of money they invest in them. In an effort to harness that clout, the Washington based Center for Political Accountability persuaded the funds to offer shareholder resolutions to force the companies to disclose their donations. The center began its effort in 2003, and 31 companies now reveal their political contributions.

As a direct result of talks with the city’s pension funds, five companies – Lockheed and Chevron, as well as the health insurer Cigna, information management company EMC, and clothing company Limited Brands – have started reporting their contributions.

City Comptroller William Thompson announced in December that six similar resolutions were also filed with Entergy, Lyondell Chemical, Charles Schwab, Halliburton, Union Pacific, and Wal-Mart.

By on April 24, 2007, 2:22 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing,Public Finance | Comments Off on Pension Funds Flex Their Muscle

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The Rerun Election
April 24th, 2007

Residents probably not very many of them of the 40th City Council district go to the polls today to try, once again, to elect a City Council member. The ballot is simple one race, three names (Mathieu Eugene, Harry Schiffman and Wellington Sharpe) and at my polling place, crowds were light

Sharpe or at least an electronic version of him was out early, with a recorded telephone message reaching my house around 8. On the street, there may have been more leafletters mostly representing Eugene while Schiffman himself wandered up and down Rugby Road looking for voters. At mid morning, he did not find many.

By on April 24, 2007, 11:04 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on The Rerun Election

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Tuesday's Editorial Pages
April 24th, 2007

The New York Times praises a bill from Governor Eliot Spitzer to legalize same-sex marriage, but questions whether the governor is really interested in passing it; if he is going to make a real difference, rather than simply checking off a box to fulfill a campaign promise, he will have to fight for the law vigorously.

The Daily News thinks the agreement between the principal’s union and the Bloomberg administration a “good deal” for principals and the city. The New York Post agrees, but urges the mayor to push for more concessions. “While Tweed may have gained the right to offer principals some carrots for good performance,” the paper writes, “who knows if it will use these carrots wisely?”

The Daily News also blames failed attempts at campaign finance reform in Albany on the “hidebound legislative leaders, who see nothing wrong with such a system as produced such brilliant lights as themselves.”

The New York Sun urges the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to accept a proposal to update the New York Historical Society. “The society’s plan would add ramps for handicapped access, improve fire safety by making exits wider, and create a new entrance oriented to Central Park West that would join the Museum of Natural History’s storied steps as a gateway to knowledge and entertainment,” the Sun writes.

By on April 24, 2007, 7:28 am
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Tuesday's Editorial Pages

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Spring in NYC
April 24th, 2007

(Photo: Flickr)

By on April 24, 2007, 7:06 am
In category: Parks | Comments Off on Spring in NYC

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Reacting to Bloombergs Green Vision
April 23rd, 2007

The local newspapers respond today to Mayor Michael Bloombergs Earth Day speech and his 127 ideasfor buildinga greener, greater New York. The mayor proposed planting trees, building on brownfields, creating new parks and playgrounds, expanding mass transit, and even charging New Yorkers to drive south of 86th Street.

A New York Times editorial calls it a broad, complicated and exciting blueprint and said that New Yorkers are fortunate to have a mayor willing to expend his energy and political clout to make their home a more livable city.

Despite referring to the mayor’s proposals as hubristic and a crapshoot, the New York Post still believes New York needs to give his plan a fair hearing.

The Daily News says everyone who cares about this city should focus attention on the sweeping plans Mayor Bloomberg unveiled yesterday for tackling the gargantuan challenges ahead, but also hopes that it sparks other ideas as well. If elected officials, including those who would be mayor after Bloomberg, have better ideas for keeping the city livable, let’s hear them.

And the New York Sun even supports the idea of congestion pricing, but only if it leads to smaller government If the money is going to be used as the mayor indicated yesterday in mass transit schemes it will expand total government revenues and outlays and give congestion pricing a socialistic coloration,” the Sun writes. “But if revenues from congestion pricing were used to reduce taxes on those that pay the most taxes in the first place, then it would be a step in the right direction.

Click here to read the mayor’s full speech

By on April 23, 2007, 11:58 am
In category: Environment,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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The High(er?) Cost of Driving
April 20th, 2007

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not formally made a proposal for charging motorists a fee to drive into parts of Manhattan but whatever form it takes apparently, Councilmember David Weprin is against it. The Queens councilmember, who has adapted Senator Charles Schumers penchant for Sunday press events, sent out a release today announcing he would be moderating a transit forum in Queens on Sunday where he will be making a major policy statement opposing City Halls proposal for a congestion pricing charge. Weprin will also unveil his own alternative proposal.

Meanwhile, a mayoral push for some kind of congestion pricing seems increasingly likely. Following press reports today that he would announce such a plan in his much-awaited speech on planning for a sustainable future in the city, Bloomberg defended congestion pricing in his weekly radio appearance. According to quotes on Empire Zone, the businessman turned mayor said, Using economics to influence public behavior is something this country is built on, its called capitalism. As to complaints by Weprin and others that the fee would place an unreasonable burden on outer borough residents, Bloomberg said, Lets put some of this stuff in perspective here. The cost of parking here in the city, people who drive into the city generally you have to be careful not to say everybody … it tends to be people who can afford it, because otherwise theyll take mass transit.

In trying to push through a plan sure to face opposition, Bloomberg faces a political quandary, the Empire Zone observes: On the one hand, if a congestion charge only applied to nonresidents, Mr. Bloomberg could probably get the support of city lawmakers, only to face the opposition of Albany. On the other hand, if the congestion charge applied to everyone driving into Lower Manhattan, Mr. Bloomberg would have an easier time in Albany (which might not even have the power to intervene) but would face the wrath of politicians from the other boroughs.

Sure Bloomberg faces a tough fight, writes Larry Livermore, as he will confront the wrath of hordes of motorists who seemingly would need to have their cold, dead fingers pried from their steering wheels before giving up their God-given right to clog the streets and foul the air. But Livermore continues, Bloomberg’s success with the smoking ban might augur well for his chances with congestion pricing: widely derided at first, it’s now almost completely accepted.

By on April 20, 2007, 1:42 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 8 Comments »

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What Theyre Saying This Morning
April 20th, 2007

A diverse group of editorials this morning, with the New York Sun looking to history and supporting, with a couple of caveats, a move afoot in the legislature to have the state apologize for slavery. The resolution before the state legislature is another step in the direction of historical accuracy, reminding New Yorkers that, even though we are a Northern state, slavery existed in colonial New York and New York State for more than 200 years, the paper says.

And the paper takes sides in the continuing battle between the city and the Critical Mass bicycle rides, applauding a judge for ruling that the city does indeed have the power to regulate such mass bike rides.

The News ridicules divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, who, as the editorial puts it, made the sublimely stupid decision to co-author a tome titled ‘Schmucks’ with his old buddy Jackie Mason. The books attempts at humor have been branded biased and demeaning not befitting Felders role as chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. And so, it is time, the News concludes, for the schmucklehead to quit.

By on April 20, 2007, 7:38 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Gotham City,Law,Transportation | Comments Off on What Theyre Saying This Morning

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The Push for School Reorganization
April 19th, 2007

When somebody sits at the table with their daughter, about to send her off to their local public school, Representative Anthony Weiner said recently, they are not thinking about the nuances of the reorganization of the school system.

Maybe so but a lot of the activity in education circles this week has concerned reorganization, as the Department of Education has revealed more about its plans for grading students, principals and teachers; changing the school funding formula; eliminating the new educational regions; and creating support organizations for principals.

The additional information has not mollified some City Council members who, unhappy thought they might be, cannot do much about reorganization beyond complaining about it. According to the NYC Public School Parents blog, a resolution, authored by Councilmembers Robert Jackson and John Liu, outlining objections to the plan has been joined by a broad swath of the council. Individual members have weighed in with their own reservations.

Since mayoral control was instituted, Bloomberg and his education department have resisted most attempts by council, parents or just about anyone else (business groups and high priced consultants excepted) to influence school policy. But todays News thinks there might be a thaw. It reports the administration is trying to talk to the teachers union yes the same group he recently likened to his arch nemesis the NRA and parents to win support for the plan How much is the mayor willing to budge. Not much apparently. There were crumbs for everybody,” a person who attended one meeting told the paper.

By on April 19, 2007, 3:13 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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What They're Saying This Morning
April 19th, 2007

With information on the Virginia Tech murderer and yesterdays Supreme Court ruling on abortion dominating the headlines, there is not much local opinion in todays papers.

The Sun sees progress in its campaign to institute term limits for state officials, noting that Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has come out in favor of such limits for the governor, other statewide officials and legislative leaders but not individual lawmakers. We don’t think term limits are a panacea. But they are a pathway to reform, the paper says.

In the Post, Diana Fortuna of the Citizens Budget Commission also looks to Albany. Reviewing this years state budget process, she faults it for not bringing nearly enough change. And so, she says, Albany should start work ASAP on opening up the process and on reducing the growth in spending.

Here in the city, Steve Cuozzo chronicles a list of construction and demolition projects, some worthwhile in his eyes, others not, that will disrupt Downtown Manhattan in the coming months and even years. Calling it prolonged horror show of disruptions, Cuozzo asks, Can Downtown survive what it’s being put through before it ever sees a single finished piece of work?

By on April 19, 2007, 9:04 am
In category: Albany,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on What They're Saying This Morning

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Pedaling Toward an Override
April 18th, 2007

With City Council set to vote Monday on whether to override the mayors veto of a bill regulating pedicabs onNYTurf is tracking which council members support the override and who would uphold the veto and thereby defeat the bill in its current form.

The blog makes no secret of where it stands: City Council Speaker [Christine] Quinn wants to run for mayor. To please her taxi medallion and theater owner benefactors she is trying to kill the pedicab industry. But it seems she has the votes. The current count, according to the blog is 37 council members siding with Quinn in favor of the bill and 11 taking the mayors position that the bill is flawed. Thirty-four votes would be needed to override a mayoral veto.

The speaker has managed to convince some of City Council’s most progressive and pro-environment members to go along with her, writes Streetsblog. Pedicab industry representative Chad Marlow tells the blog that Quinn is using the power of the purse to convince the members to go along. ” May is budget month. Going along with the speaker’s program ensures that ‘member items’ will be approved,” Marlow reportedly said. ( member items are those so-called pork barrel requests that council members submit for special projects in their districts.)

For transportation analyst Bruce Schallers discussion of the issues at stake in the pedicab battle, see Future of Pedicabs Remains Uncertain in Gotham Gazette.

By on April 18, 2007, 12:36 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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