Archive for September, 2007
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Floating Garden
September 28th, 2007


Inhabitat, a sustainable design blog, chose to bring our attention yesterday to the Science Barge. Currently floating off of Pier 84 in Hell’s Kitchen, the barge grows vegetables at a rate seven times more productive than crops grown in fields. It produces no waste or carbon emissions and recycles all the water it uses – which comes from whichever river it happens to be floating from. Its founder, Tom Caplow, created the barge as a way to educate people about urban farming.

By on September 28, 2007, 3:23 am
In category: Environment,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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Entertainment, Not Civics, On Demand
September 28th, 2007

The Bloomberg Administration unveiled Monday the new NYC TV On Demand, an online companion to the popular municipal television channels. You can now go online and choose which channel to watch and what show to watch.

Just don’t expect to see a policy discussion. You can watch “Secrets of New York,” a series of Discovery Channel-like documentaries about the city’s infrastructure. But if you type “Michael Bloomberg” or “City Council” into the website’s search function, it finds nothing for you. You’re more likely to find a show about hot dogs.

Councilmember Gale Brewer, chair of the council’s technology in government committee, has been critical of the content on the channels for some time.

“You could do shows about restaurants,” suggests Councilmember Gale Brewer, “but what is the policy behind them? What are the issues with labor? Where do they get their food? Health issues. I get those questions all the time.”

While NYC TV’s programming has been hailed for its innovation, Brewer thinks the dearth of educational and civic content is inappropriate for a municipal television channel. “All we get is flash, flash, flash.” she says.

By on September 28, 2007, 1:20 am
In category: Tech | Comments Off on Entertainment, Not Civics, On Demand

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Thanks for Joining Us!
September 27th, 2007

We hope you enjoyed today’s chat with Furman Center directors Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen. Far more questions were submitted than we had time to answer, but we’ll follow up and try to get answers to many of your questions.

Look for a transcript next week in Measuring Up.
Some of the questions we didn’t get to?

From Elizabeth:

What can rent-stabilized tenants do to change the New York State laws regarding major capital improvements? These laws are patently unfair and discriminate against rent-stabilized tenants as a class. Tenants have no equity in these buildings and should not be forced to pay for ‘improvements’ for which landlords get a tax break and which frequently are desperately needed repairs ‘disguised’ as improvements. My tenants’ association uncovered out and out fraud in the previous owner’s MCI application for a $404,000 “roof,” etc. The onus should not be on us to discover this. Why isn’t DHCR tracking these landlords and following the money trails?

From Denise:

Given the reported increase in homelessness in the city, what are the solutions? Do you see a large need for more transitional housing, section 8 housing and low-income housing? You mentioned that HPD has targeted housing for people who make below 50k, but there seems to be a great need for the lowest income bracket.

From Nelson Alexander Smith:

It sometimes seems that most of Manhattan has been enclosed in scaffolding for two or three years now. Aside from market forces, were there any regulatory, political, or other changes that account for the extraordinary levels of reconstruction and exterior renovation?

From Lauren Harrison:

What is the best option for “affordable housing”in Manhattan: Rent-stabilized, Single Room Occupancies, or Co-ops? What are the benefits/negatives of these options?

Are there other questions you wish you’d had a chance to ask the Furman Center?

By on September 27, 2007, 4:11 pm
In category: Community Development,Housing,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Sidewalk Constellations of Gum
September 27th, 2007

PolishSausageQueen’s Flickr Stream

Design blog Core 77 brings us an interesting case of design trumping policy: non-stick gum that is “removed within 24 hours by natural events.”

Courtesy of a firm called Revolymer.

By on September 27, 2007, 3:17 am
In category: Tech | Comments Off on Sidewalk Constellations of Gum

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End of Democratic Hegemony?
September 27th, 2007

Did Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election victory, by historic margins for a Republican candidate in the city, finally mark the end of the Democratic Party’s unilateral control over the city, asks Jeffrey Kraus, a professor at Wagner College in an article for The Forum, a political science journal.

Opponents to this theory, the professor notes, may stress the fact that Bloomberg, as well as former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was a moderate Republican and former Democrat who failed to cultivate Republican leaders to succeed him. They also point out that Democrats are losing ground only in mayoral races.

But the “party clubhouse has declined in most neighborhoods, and the organizations are weak, content to control court patronage and positions at the Board of Elections,” Kraus says. Also, he points to the new New Yorkers, who have lived with such a long, uninterrupted Republican mayoralty, they “may not come to see [Democratic hegemony] as the ‘natural order’ of the citys politics.” And he notes that the concept of using the Republican organization as a way to avoid the Democratic primary will probably continue, adding to its strength.

By on September 27, 2007, 1:09 am
In category: Governing | Comments Off on End of Democratic Hegemony?

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Talking about Housing
September 26th, 2007

Every year the people at NYU’s Furman Center put together a report crammed with information about New York’s housing and neighborhoods. This year’s report, for example, documented many of the conditions that have led to a rise in foreclosures in parts of the city.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, the center’s Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen, will answer your questions in a live on-line Gotham Gazette chat. To join in the discussion, log on from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. To find out more, or to submit questions in advance, click here.

By on September 26, 2007, 8:12 pm
In category: Community Development,Housing,Land Use | Comments Off on Talking about Housing

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Fair Fare?
September 26th, 2007

Newspapers, and transit mavens have had a complicated and varied response to the Metropolitan Transportation Authoritys complicated and varied ideas for raising transit fare.

Local Motion said everyone knows the fare will rise. So the MTA should get to the real issue: service. No one wants to pay more, the blog wrote, when the authority is giving 21st-Century New Yorkers a 20th-Century transportation system with 19th-Century reliability and service.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 26, 2007, 8:30 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Congestion Commission Meets
September 25th, 2007

This afternoon will be the first meeting of the city/state’s New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Committee at 2 p.m. at Baruch College’s William and Anita Vertical campus.

The event is open and could be the first glimpse into what the commission might recommend for Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan. A little reminder of what we have done here on the subject: our City Council congestion pricing poll, how they compromised and our Sustainability Watch, which includes numerous commentaries on congestion pricing.

For the commission’s members go here.

By on September 25, 2007, 11:09 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Gotham City,Health,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Congestion Commission Meets

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Free Speech or Free Platform?
September 25th, 2007

New Yorkers just can’t get enough of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well not literally.

Although many loathe the man and have berated Columbia University for extending its hand to his jaded tirades, urbanites continue to debate whether his presence on the Ivy League campus yesterday was an example of free speech or whether it was instead a free, uninhibited platform for a rogue dictator.

Here is what the papers are saying this morning about it: Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 25, 2007, 10:57 am
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on Free Speech or Free Platform?

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Ahmadinejad's Speech
September 24th, 2007

This entry is corrected. Contrary to the original posting, Sheldon Silver apparently did not attend the Sunday rally at Columbia.

Along with protesters, bloggers were out in force for todays speech at Columbia by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Columbia Journalism students provide their account, along with an on-line survey and photos, here. On the City Room, Sewell Chan offers his minute-by-minute account. A few nuggets:

Ahmadinejad denied Iran is developing nuclear weapons but said, referring to the U.S., If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and tested them already, what position are you in to question the peaceful purposes of others who want nuclear power? He said he wanted to go to Ground Zero to show my respect and, according to Chan, was puzzled that people considered his proposed visit (vetoed by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly) an insult. And, when asked about the treatment of gays and lesbians in Iran said, We dont have homosexuals like in your country. We dont have that in our country. (In case you were wondering, an international gay rights group says this is not true.)

Opinions continue to run high on whether Columbia should have allowed Ahmadinejad there in the first place.
The Columbia Spectator is reporting, according to the Daily Politics, that the university is now being flooded with congratulatory phone calls for hosting the event, at which Columbia President Lee Bollinger told Ahmadinejad: Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.”

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have condemned Columbias invitation, with Giuliani saying it is not even a close question and Quinn joining a protest near the UN. David Weprins opposition has landed him on Hardball and CNN, pretty heavy stuff for a City Council member from outer Queens. Weprin, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has indicated the city and state governments should consider punishing Columbia by withholding public funds from the university, thereby ushering in an era when the three men in a room will have veto power over who speaks at universities.

Not everyone opposes Columbias allowing the Iranian president to speak. If the university thinks its educational, President George W. Bush said, I guess its OK with me. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly criticized those trying to silence Ahmadinejad saying, I can’t stand this guy. But to go and to give the terrorists what they want – and to give the people who dislike this country ammunition – by saying we don’t even have the freedoms that we preach is just not real smart.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 24, 2007, 3:54 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Electoral Politics | 6 Comments »

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Grading Rudy
September 23rd, 2007

While many newspapers including the New York Times on Friday, have focused on Mayor Rudys Giulianis record on and immediately after September 11, 2001, the Los Angeles Times recently zeroed in on Giulianis record on education as mayor. And in a conclusion that will surprise virtually no one who had direct contact with the schools during that period, they give him a fairly dismal report card.

New York City schools went through eight years of political chaos during Giuliani’s terms, writes Ralph Vartabedian. His bare-knuckle tactics contributed to the departure of three chancellors, according to interviews.He left behind an expired union contract, an army of angry teachers and a school system that by his own admission was still delivering inferior educations to hundreds of thousands of students.

Vartabedian reviews battles familiar to many New Yorker: fights with chancellors Joseph Fernandez, Ramon Cortines and Rudy Crew, the demonizing of teachers, budget cutbacks, the take no prisoners style To those of us who live there the article offers a reminder of why many people are so enthusiastic about Mayor Michael Bloombergs stewardship of the school system. For Americans in general, though, the Times article said, How Giuliani handled education provides a window into his potential political skills as a U.S. president, especially in terms of the way he managed people and his refusal to compromise on issues big and small.

By on September 23, 2007, 8:36 pm
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Weprin Boos Iranian President's Columbia Visit (UPDATED)
September 21st, 2007

City Councilmember David Weprin has joined Council Speaker Christine Quinn in opposing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University scheduled for Monday.

Weprin will host a rally at Columbia at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, where he will be joined by other “elected officials, community groups and civic leaders” to voice their opposition, according to a press release.

Weprin, by the way, is an announced candidate in the 2009 city comptroller race.

Earlier today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg hesitated to criticize Columbia for inviting the Iranian president. Earlier this week, however, the mayor did say the president would not be allowed to visit Ground Zero, despite an earlier request. The Bloomberg administration has barred Ahmadinejad from the World Trade Center site for security reasons.

What do you think? Should the Ahmadinejad be permitted to visit Ground Zero? Do you support his visit to Columbia?

Update: In related news, Quinn is now scheduled to appear on CNN’s “The Situation Room” at 5 p.m. and on Fox News’s “The Big Story with Gibson and Nauert” at 5:02 p.m. today, regarding the appearance of the Iranian president in New York City.

By on September 21, 2007, 2:05 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | 6 Comments »

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MTA Looks to City; City Could Look Better
September 21st, 2007

Many of the solutions offered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday to keep storm water out of the subways follows the lead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC. The city dumps about 27 billion gallons worth of sewage and waste into its waters because the sewers get overwhelmed by heavy rainstorms. To address that problem, the plan calls for piloting a series of projects to test ways to avoid the overflows and creates a mayoral task force to make the issue a priority for all city agencies.

Solar One’s Flickr Stream

These programs are what the transit authority is looking to (other than the raised subway entrances and sidewalk vents that act as street furniture), and has said it would work with the city on its diversion projects. But many environmental organizations think the city could do more.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 21, 2007, 12:25 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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Undocumented Immigrants Get Driver's Licenses
September 21st, 2007

Undocumented immigrants in New York will be allowed to apply for drivers licenses without Social Security numbers, according to a new rule announced by Governor Eliot Spitzer. Since 2004, the Department of Motor Vehicles has required applicants to provide valid Social Security numbers , making thousands of illegal immigrants ineligible for the licenses. Under the new rule, the department will accept foreign passports, birth certificates, previous state driver’s licenses and other verifiable proofs of ID.

By on September 21, 2007, 11:56 am
In category: Immigrants | 10 Comments »

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Free WiFi for Williamsburg?
September 21st, 2007

The eight foot tower perched on top of the Capla Kesting Art Gallery in Williamsburg was a small sight to behold, but the much larger shadow it projected onto a nearby wall hinted at the true size of its implications. It captured, amplified, and rebroadcast unprotected wifi signals from the area to be used freely by anyone. But the signals routed through the antenna are easily monitored, so users needed be wary not to do things they wouldn’t want someone else to see.

The project was part joke, part public service. On the one hand, it poked fun at government surveillance by pronouncing it would keep an eye out for homegrown “terrorists,” like the pilot of the mock submarine prank in the East River. On the other, it strove to raise awareness about privacy concerns in a wireless world as well as the feasibility of cheap broadband access.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 21, 2007, 7:44 am
In category: Arts,Tech | Comments Off on Free WiFi for Williamsburg?

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My Park is More Important Than Your Parking Space
September 20th, 2007

Tomorrow, if you’re a driver, and you notice that your parking space has become a miniature park – don’t worry, it’s not a part of the mayor’s plan to make sure every New Yorker lives within a ten minute walk of a park. Although some might like it to be.

The parking spaces are being reclaimed as parks for the day as part of a global event called “Park(ing) Day.” It’s something akin to Critical Mass, when a group of bike riders take over streets for bicycles, although there won’t be police on scooters monitoring these parks.

There will be nearly 25 mini-parks around the city, mostly in Manhattan. Some public officials are even involved. City Councilmember Gale Brewer is promoting a park organized by her office as a way to “encourage people to imagine rebalanced public streets in favor of increased community interaction, renewal and the facilitation of safe and sustainable transportation.”

For more on this, see our Park Topic Page

By on September 20, 2007, 3:53 am
In category: Land Use,Parks,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Issues at a Polling Place
September 20th, 2007

Tuesday’s primary was a sleepy election, and luckily so for at least one polling place in Brooklyn, which had a rough start for the day. While the polls are supposed to be open at 6 a.m., the coordinator for the site at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts in Park Slope failed to appear until 10 minutes after opening time. One machine, for the 48th Election District in the 52nd Assembly District, wasn’t set up until around 8 a.m. Since only about 60 people came to vote there, not many were inconvenienced.

But at least one woman who showed up to vote shortly after 6 a.m. was turned away. Although the rest of the machines were ready a few moments after the woman left, there was also only one desk available for all of the poll workers at the site to set up at for. The Board of Elections delivered the 7 extra tables and chairs needed some time after 8 a.m.

When asked why signs announcing rules for electioneering were not posted in front of the polling place, the coordinator said no such sign existed. Later, some time after 11 a.m., when observers showed up and asked the same thing, she found them.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 20, 2007, 2:52 am
In category: Governing | Comments Off on Issues at a Polling Place

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Primary Lessons
September 19th, 2007

As little noticed as yesterdays primary was, some observers are drawing lesson from the judicial races in Brooklyn. (For the latest results, including winners of party posts, go to Gotham Gazettes 2007 primary results.) The Politicker sees it as a split decision yesterday for Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, Noach Dear, who won his Civil Court seat, and Shawndya Simpson, who lost her bid for Surrogate Court judge.

Democratic consultant Scott Levenson told the blog that the winner in that Surrogate Court race, Diana Johnson, proved victorious because she was more qualified and not the machine candidate, giving hope to other insurgent candidates. (Given Johnsons ties to the former Brooklyn party leader, Clarence Norman, this might be a bit of a stretch.)

The Politicker quotes anothe bbserver, identified as Kilgore Trout who notes that the candidates endorsed by the New York Times lost both the races. Brooklyn is completely up for grabs by the non-institutional players, according to Trout. Neither the Times nor the party hold enough sway to be deciding factors these days. Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 19, 2007, 12:28 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 6 Comments »

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Schools Win Kudos
September 19th, 2007

The News, Post and Sun all offer their hearty congratulations to the New York City schools for winning the Broad Prize for being the nations most improved urban school district. Along with bragging rights, the award brings a half a million dollars the city can use for scholarships.

School Chancellor Joel Kleins reforms, the Post says, in particular, his emphasis on accountability among teachers and principals, move the schools in the right direction. The News agrees: The award is testament to how far the schools have come as Bloomberg and Klein ended social promotion, raised expectations and gained control over a huge bureaucracy.

The Education Election goes so far to think the award could help a Bloomberg candidacy for president (if, of course, there is a Bloomberg candidacy for president).

Of course, praise has its limits. Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 19, 2007, 8:15 am
In category: Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on Schools Win Kudos

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Election Results
September 18th, 2007

Most New Yorkers probably didn’t notice the primary but for those of you who did: Diana Johnson was the day’s big winner. She won the Democratic contest for Surrogate Court judge in Brooklyn, defeating Shawndya Simpson with about 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns. The race was marked by controversy over whether Simpson really lives in Brooklyn and which candidate was tied to what political boss.

In the Civil Court race from Brooklyn’s Fifth District, Noach Dear defeated Karen Yellen. It broke a losing streak for Dear, who has become a kind of perennial (and perennially unsuccessful) candidate since term limits forced him from City Council in 2001. And it proved endorsements do not always count for much. Legal groups and newspapers found Dear unqualified to serve on the bench. He got almost 60 percent of the vote anyway.

By on September 18, 2007, 9:47 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Governing,Law | 6 Comments »

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Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

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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