Archive for August, 2007
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No School in My Back Yard
August 31st, 2007

Nearly two weeks after the Department of Education recognized the success of transition schools in getting potential high school dropouts back on track, Councilmember James F. Gennaro and residents of a Queens neighborhood are planning to protest a new location for one.

According to a story in The New York Times nearly two weeks ago, students attending transition schools or institutions who cater to older high school students at risk of dropping out are increasingly getting their high school diplomas, albeit in five, six or seven years.

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By on August 31, 2007, 12:26 pm
In category: Education | Comments Off on No School in My Back Yard

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Making it Easier to Buy - and Sell - Locally
August 31st, 2007

The popularity of farmers markets – and locally grown, organic foods in general – has been rapidly rising for some time now. With its environmental friendliness, positive health implications, and economic benefits, the movement has many backers. And now, one its biggest supporters, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York City has launched a web portal called Market Maker to help organize the people involved in this area. The site brings together all parts of the supply chain, connecting a farmer upstate with a food coop in East New York.

Say a chef in the Lower East Side is looking to buy locally grown tomatoes, for example. He can log on and find out Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 31, 2007, 9:21 am
In category: Community Development,Economy,Environment,Health | 1 Comment »

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The Path of Welfare Reform
August 31st, 2007

In 1995, then Mayor Rudolph Guiliani enacted expansive welfare reforms that tightened welfare eligibility requirements and expanded a “workfare” program called the Work Experience Program. In order to receive benefits, workers needed to seek and find work. By the time he left office, the welfare rolls had been more than halved.

But this initiative was an anomaly at the time, and it happened a year before federal reforms changed the nation. For such a thing to happen in a large urban environment made it all the more exceptional. So why did this happen here?

John Krinsky, an assistant professor at City College, writes in the Urban Affairs Review that events and actors outside of the city had a lot to do with it, and those actors turned around and used the example of New York to further change the face of welfare nationally.

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By on August 31, 2007, 8:28 am
In category: Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Look at Me--Please!
August 30th, 2007

The New York Times views the latest in legislative silliness from City Councilmember Peter Vallone and can only say “jeepers.” Concerned about voyeurs in subways stations, Vallone wants to make it illegal to ogle a persons “sexual or intimate parts.” In the Times’ view, this shows how out of touch the man from Astoria is. After all the Times observes, “New York is a city of exhibitionists [and]. a city full of spectators.” It’s one reason the editorial board believes, “the newest, fanciest most expensive apartment buildings are made of the newest, fanciest and most expensive glass.”

By on August 30, 2007, 7:29 am
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City | Comments Off on Look at Me--Please!

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How They'd Collect Congestion Pricing Fees
August 29th, 2007

Streetsblog has a rendering up and a link to the city’s Request for Expression of Interest. The Streetsblog article shows the system IBM created for Stockholm, which features a rather prominent (and ominous) 7-11 kiosk–an odd bit of advertising as it is the only brand visible in IBM’s nifty interactive piece about how it all works. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 29, 2007, 3:28 pm
In category: Gotham City,Tech,Transportation | Comments Off on How They'd Collect Congestion Pricing Fees

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Who Says Miller was Immature? Not WikiPedia - Anymore
August 29th, 2007

In other techiness, Boulden at Daily Gotham has some fun with a new program called wikiscanner, which allows you to track changes to Wikipedia entries by organization or location. He finds some interesting changes coming from City Council computers to the Yvette Clark entry, as well as to Gifford Miller’s.

By on August 29, 2007, 8:50 am
In category: Tech | 1 Comment »

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All Hail Google
August 29th, 2007

Will James, who makes digital maps for his blog, onNYTurf, is attempting to make a new transit map that would include the operating times for subways. With it, readers could map out a trip on the subway that would include the time it would take to get from point A, to point B. But he cannot get any of the transit agencies he has contacted to give him the data. He has sent Freedom of Information Requests to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as to the relevant agencies within it, such as New York City Transit, but is not getting much help.

While he has gotten some data from Long Island Bus and Metro-North, the transportation authority has told him that what he is looking for doesn’t even exist in the form he seeks. (While it is available as a PDF, that format is a “nightmare to cull data from,” he writes.) And the city’s transit agency has not even responded for over two months, well beyond the statutory deadline that gives agencies 20 days to respond to a request.

What makes this even more questionable is that Google is making a similar map, and will require the same data James is seeking, he says. If Google is going to receive the schedule data, it should be released to the public as well, James argues.

“After all we all pay for it with taxes and fares.”

By on August 29, 2007, 8:27 am
In category: Tech,Transportation | Comments Off on All Hail Google

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Watchdogs' Take on the MTA
August 29th, 2007

While both the city and state comptrollers have been focusing on what the Metropolitan Transit Authority can do to avoid a fare hike next year, a pair of budget watchdogs have also proposed a way for the authority to bring its entire fiscal house into order. But it includes raising fares.

The piece in the Stamford Review, penned by Charles Brecher and Selma Mustovic, both from the Citizen’s Budget Commission, offers some tough suggestions to cover huge budget gaps and also adequately fund the system’s upkeep.

191st St. Tunnel – Docdrumming’s Flickr Stream

They propose a funding plan, dubbed “50-25-25,” that would lessen the percentage that transit riders would contribute to the agency’s budget. Fares would account for only 50 percent of the budget – as opposed to the current 58 percent – while the other half would be equally split between driver fees and government subsidies.

But hikes across the board will be essential to dig the agency out of debt, the authors argue. Increases in Metrocards would be coupled with higher bridge and tunnel tolls, steeper motor vehicle fares, and even a rise in gas taxes. They also support congestion pricing fees.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 29, 2007, 4:19 am
In category: Public Finance,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Bat Ban Gets Federal Boost
August 28th, 2007

Next week high school students gearing up to go back to school will have to leave one piece of sporting equipment at home: metal baseball bats.

A federal judge upheld a metal bat ban approved by the City Council earlier this year, contending the ban was within the council’s power to protect the health of residents, especially adolescents. The ruling, given by U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl, rests on the council’s presumption that balls go faster and farther with metal bats, which could exacerbate the risk of injury.

Several metal bat makers and high school sports associations brought on the suit.

The ban was part of a crusade by Council Minority Leader James Oddo , who would no doubt find today’s ruling a clear victory.

The ban had been vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and deemed “dumb” by The Post. But, either way, the council persisted by overriding the mayor’s veto and seeing the ban through.

By on August 28, 2007, 2:15 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Health,Law | Comments Off on Bat Ban Gets Federal Boost

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What About Scoppetta?
August 28th, 2007

The latest news coming out of the Deutsche Bank fire the reassignment of three top fire officials has gotten The Post somewhat disgruntled. In todays editorial, The Post calls for the resignation of Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, stating he needs to take personal responsibility for the departments failure to inspect the building inspections that could have revealed the disastrous conditions inside 130 Liberty Street.

The News disagrees, stating the commissioner has performed excellently throughout his tenure, and it would be unlikely the departments superior officer would know of such mishaps within the departments lower ranks. Even so, they add, the city must continue to forge ahead with a full investigation to clear Scoppettas name.

By on August 28, 2007, 8:05 am
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A Trip To London, 'Lame' Idea, Medallion Monopoly
August 27th, 2007

The Times editorial encouraged the 17 members of the newly formed congestion pricing commission to book flights for the whole team to London and Stockholm, two cities that have come to embrace a system of congestion pricing as good for commuters and good for business.

The New York Post called Councilmember David Weprins idea to create a commission to assess the city’s infrastructure lame.

Weprin’s idea might make sense – if Mayor Mike hadn’t just completed this very task, wrote the Post, referring to his PlaNYC 2030.

A strike by taxi drivers will give the city an opportunity to end the taxi medallion monopoly once and for all, argued The New York Sun.

If the 10,000 taxi drivers don’t want to work next Wednesday and Thursday, plenty of other drivers are available to pick up the slack.

By on August 27, 2007, 12:47 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on A Trip To London, 'Lame' Idea, Medallion Monopoly

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Lessons Learned from 130 Liberty
August 27th, 2007

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce today that smoking was the likely cause of a fire that killed two firefighters at the Deutsche Bank building on August 18.

That announcement should follow another Deutsche-related revelation from the Fire Department today: Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta demoted several fire officials in response to media accounts that revealed inspections supposed to be conducted every 15 days at a building in the process of demolition hadnt been done in nearly a year at 130 Liberty Street.

Work has reportedly resumed at the site, which was flagged last week and shut down after another construction accident, which injured several other firefighters.

This week in the Gotham Gazette, we have Community Board 1 Leaders Julie Menin and Catherine McVay Hughes respond to the events leading up to the fire and where the community would like the project to go from here. In another commentary on the Deutsche Bank fire, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer calls for a communication plan that would prevent confusion and catastrophe during similar emergencies.

By on August 27, 2007, 12:42 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health | Comments Off on Lessons Learned from 130 Liberty

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From Montana to 9/11
August 24th, 2007

What does a mine in Montana have to do with the air quality after the World Trade Center collapsed? According to the Missoula Independent, a lot.

In a 4,500 word article, the paper connects the dots between a mining disaster in Libby, Montana, and some of the events of 9/11. And the connections and similarities are plentiful.

Some of the asbestos in the Twin Towers came from the mine in question and the company that operated that mine lobbied for the federal standards that allowed a limited amount of asbestos to be used as an insulator. Furthermore, their disaster – which also released a toxin laden plume – happened just days before September 11th. Staff at federal Environmental Protection Agency from Libby’s region even offered to help with clean up in New York, although that help was reportedly refused.

The article juxtaposes the steps taken to clean up the Libby incident with those at Ground Zero and shows how people involved in the clean up at both sites tried to use the other as an example to change their own standards. The efforts on the West Coast were more intensive in many respects than in New York. So, while the Manhattan efforts were used as a precedent in an attempt to water down clean up standards in Montana, advocates in New York are trying to use the example set in Libby to strengthen clean up standards here.

[Via SoHo Journal.]

By on August 24, 2007, 8:35 am
In category: Environment | 4 Comments »

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The People's 311
August 24th, 2007

People In response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Scout initiative, which will send out a patrol to document quality of life issues such as potholes and graffiti, a new community run effort to document the same thing has been launched. Called the People’s 311, it is reaching out to New Yorkers, asking them to upload photos of problems they encounter. The goal is to supplement the new city workers.

The project was started by Carrie McLaren, founder and editor of Stay Free! magazine and Steve Lambert of the Anti Advertising Agency.

By on August 24, 2007, 7:41 am
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Chastising the Congestion Commission
August 23rd, 2007

The 17 individuals selected to sit on a congestion pricing commission charged with reviewing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan have sparked outrage from some City Council members and have left some questioning whether they could eventually support the plan at all.

No one on the congestion commission hails from Staten Island or the Bronx, an editorial in the Staten Island Advance points out, which could potentially be two of the most affected boroughs if congestion pricing is adopted. The move has angered several Staten Island legislators, including Minority Leader James Oddo and Councilmember Michael McMahon.

At the City Council’s stated meeting yesterday, those from boroughs outside of Manhattan also expressed rage regarding the commission, claiming it was stacked and its appointees would merely rubber stamp the mayor’s plan.

“This commission is a sham,” said the council’s Assistant Majority Leader Lewis Fidler of Brooklyn, while calling for alternatives to congestion pricing from his colleagues. “The members of this commission have signed, sealed and delivered Mike Bloomberg’s plan I want to state for the record that I think congestion pricing is morally wrong.”

If this opposition continues, the mayor may have more trouble swaying the council toward congestion pricing than previously anticipated.

By on August 23, 2007, 10:51 am
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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5 Years and Still in School: Klein
August 23rd, 2007

Sunday marked Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s 5th anniversary. So how did he do? Well, I was going to compile a wrap up of the opinions on the web, but the Inside Schools blog got to it before me.

Also, here’s a video of Klein’s interview with Charlie Rose, for those of you interested:

By on August 23, 2007, 7:41 am
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Just A Bump in the Road for Columbia?
August 23rd, 2007

A Manhattan community board’s 31 to 2 vote against Columbia University’s expansion plans is exactly the type of thing that keeps New York’s bloggers at their computers. The university stumbled in the beginning stages of its approval process for its plan to take over 17 acres of Harlem for an expansion of the school’s campus. But what, exactly, does that mean in the long run?

The Real Estate blog writes that the vote includes some points that Columbia might still address in order to garner community support. Among those issues, the biggest sticking point, RE says, is the use of eminent domain, which the university might need to utilize if it cannot buy all of the property it needs. At the moment it owns 85 percent of the area in question.

In response, Richard Lipsky blogs that the inclusion affordable housing – not eminent domain – will most likely be the catalyst for the rezoning’s success or failure. Lipsky is lobbying on behalf of Tuck-It-Away, a storage company refusing to sell its properties to Columbia.

But Lipsky rubs the Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder the wrong way. Lipsky was also a lobbyist in the Atlantic Yards scuffle, but was on the developer’s side in that case. Now that he is on the side of community opposition, he is arguing points that he disputed in the earlier rezoning debate, Oder says.

For all the dabate, though, Curbed has dubbed the vote meaningless. Since the vote is non-binding, community boards alway vote against development, and because Columbia is buying its way into the area, they write the whole thing off in their typically snarky fashion.

The school’s next step is to gain approval by the City Council’s Land Use Committee followed by the City Planning Commission.

By on August 23, 2007, 7:27 am
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Green Government Buildings
August 23rd, 2007

While the environmentally friendly renovations planned for the United Nations’ headquarters received attention from the likes of Business Week, a city government building is breaking records on the municipal level.

The new home of the city’s Office of Emergency Management
in Brooklyn was recently awarded a silver LEED rating, which denotes its level of sustainability, the Brooklyn Eagle reports. And this federally funded building is the first city government building in the nation to do so, the paper writes.

(The Green Buildings NYC blog caught this Eagle article.)

By on August 23, 2007, 6:17 am
In category: Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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A Show and A No-Show
August 22nd, 2007

At the City Council’s stated meeting today Viola Plummer was a no-show, Councilmember Dennis Gallagher did show and Speaker Christine Quinn said the council still intends on overriding Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto on its cell phone legislation.

At its last stated meeting earlier this month, the council temporarily stripped Gallagher of his leadership position and his committee assignments after he was charged with several counts of rape and assault. At that meeting, Gallagher didn’t show face.

But today, Gallagher spent much of the afternoon as he usually did pre-rape charges – greeting and meeting with other members on the chamber floor.

Although there was speculation in City Hall that Councilmember Charles Barron’s Chief of Staff Viola Plummer, who was banned from the chamber floor by Quinn after the staffer allegedly threatened another councilmember, would make an appearance, Plummer was nowhere to be seen.

And prior to the full stated meeting, Quinn reaffirmed her commitment to cell phone legislation approved by the council in July and vetoed by the mayor earlier this month.

“In the future we will be voting on the mayor’s veto of the cell phone legislation,” said Quinn. “I anticipate based on the overwhelming support that the bill had when it was passed that we will be able to override that veto.”

If the council does bring the legislation back, then it would make it the sixth veto override in Quinn’s tenure as speaker.

By on August 22, 2007, 3:59 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on A Show and A No-Show

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Heated Criticism on Bank Fire Response
August 22nd, 2007

Until fire marshals’ investigation into the cause of the Deutsche Bank building fire on Saturday is completed, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot begin to reseal the building to keep in hazardous toxins. And that is likely to take weeks.

That development was called “unacceptable” by Congressman Jerrold Nadler at a packed Community Board 1 hearing last night, where scores of residents hammered federal, state and local officials on what they told community residents during the fire and how they are going to protect residents from now on. On Saturday, as the fire raged, no one came to people’s doors or directed them on whether an evacuation was necessary.

Most residents compared officials’ responses to what occurred during and following the September 11 attacks . Then too, residents said, officials assured the community that the air quality in the area surrounding the World Trade Center was fine. But later, many found out that was not the case.

“Lower Manhattan is under a toxic cloud of uncertainty,” said one hearing attendee who described himself as a September 11 first responder. “Why as a precaution did you not evacuate the neighborhood pending the results that are not in yet?”

Representatives from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center are posting air sampling results on their websites.

Residents also urged officials to suspend the high-rise’s deconstruction until a communication and neighborhood evacuation plan were established. Others said work should not continue until Bovis Lend Lease, the contractor dismantling the building, is replaced. Although Bovis representatives received an invitation from Community Board 1 members to attend the emergency hearing, they did not show up.

“There is no excuse for what happened here,” said Kimberly Flynn of
9/11 Environmental Action . “We are tired of incompetent contractors.”

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Chairman Avi Schick assured residents that work would not continue until the state was confident it could be done safely.

Both the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general are reportedly taking up investigations into the fire.

By on August 22, 2007, 10:39 am
In category: Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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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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