Archive for October, 2007
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Tweed's Ghosts
October 31st, 2007

Reporters who cover the public school system have long wondered what the many well-paid people in the Department of Educations public information office do all. Now we know. They help ghost write op-ed articles.

That might be an exaggeration but Elizabeth Greens report in todays Sun makes one wonder.

Yesterdays Post featured a scathing attack by Kathryn Wylde on Diane Ravitch. Wylde is president of the New York City Partnership and an enthusiastic supporter and sometime funder — of Mayor Michael Bloombergs education policies. Ravitch, a leading education historian, professor at NYU and former Bush administration official, has emerged as one of Bloombergs leading critics.

In the op-ed, Wylde cited alleged flip-flops by Ravitch on key education issues. Speculating that Ravitchs position seem more tied to her unhappiness with the personalities in the Bloomberg administration than its policies, Wyle said, It isn’t clear why Diane Ravitch is so intent on discrediting the policies she once championed. What is clear is that, when it comes to public education in New York City, she’s no longer a source we can rely on for fair-minded commentary.

Pretty harsh. But Wylde did not do it all on her own. She had help — and it came from the Department of Education. Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 31, 2007, 9:25 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Home Field Disadvantage
October 31st, 2007

Dont blame Alex Rodriguezs selfishness or Joe Torres managerial style for the Yankees post-season crumble. And dont credit Josh Becketts untouchable pitches and the one-two punch of Big Papi and MannyRamirez for Bostons triumph. The real reason the Yankees had to watch the World Series on TV as Boston swept? Taxpayer subsidies for stadiums.

Thats the somewhat unconventional view of todays Sun. After Beantown taxpayers balked at paying for a new stadium for their beloved Sox, the owners decided to invest their actual own money in improving the old ballpark in the fen, the Sun explains. On the other hand, the editorial continues, in New York City, taxpayers are being forced to shoulder the burdens of new stadiums to subsidize the multimillionaire owners and players of the Yankees and Mets. The Yankee stadium project alone will receive taxpayer subsidies of nearly $800 million, according to Good Jobs New York, a critic of the project.

If taxpayer subsidies really are the 21st century version of the Curse of the Bambino, things do not bode well for New York sports fans. The Mets, who just experienced probably the worst late season collapse in baseball history, are getting subsidies for their new stadium. Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (this explains everything), also gets break on property taxes, according to the Sun. And the future home of the NBA Nets in Atlantic Yards will also benefit from the
largesse
of the city and state government.

By on October 31, 2007, 5:11 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use,Public Finance | Comments Off on Home Field Disadvantage

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A Gift for Testing
October 31st, 2007

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein may have finally found the right formula for admitting elementary school kids to gifted and talented programs, the Daily News says. In his latest attempt to bring fairness to a system that characterizes some kids as gifted and others as not, Klein http://www.nysun.com/article/65464 said the department will guarantee admission to the coveted programs to all kids who score in the top 5 percent on a standardized test. This, according to the News should end inequities in a system where some districts had more gifted programs than others and where influential parents regularly pulled strings to get their little geniuses into the special classes.

But others have concerns. The consensus on the changes is that they will make the programs more equitable in theory but will likely result in far fewer students being offered seats in gifted programs, especially in the districts that have a lively G+T culture, writes insideschools.org. On the other hand, the blog continues, all seem to agree that expanding access for poor students and kids in districts with only a handful or even no programs is a good thing.

My fear is that this policy will lead to even more segregated schools and classrooms — the last thing we need, Leonie Haimson wrote on NYC Public School Parents.

The blog continues with comments by Ellen Bilovsky, a public school parent who questions the whole premise of the classes: The saddest thing to me about gifted programs is the fact that virtually every child could benefit from the advantages that these programs offer.

By on October 31, 2007, 10:06 am
In category: Education | Comments Off on A Gift for Testing

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A Possibly Gloomy Day for the City's Finances
October 30th, 2007

The city’s finances may not look so great come next year.

Numerous state and city officials announced, shall we say, less than optimistic economic forecasts today. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered a hiring freeze for all city agencies, the state budget gap has widened by more than $650 million and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report warning that the recent credit crunch, foreclosure crisis and Wall Street volatility could create a gloomy economy.

All of this comes as New Yorkers might face an electricity rate hike, a water rate hike and a subway fare hike.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 30, 2007, 4:23 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Housing,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Countdown to the 07 Election (Wait, What Election?)
October 30th, 2007

Few New Yorkers know that there actually is an election next week a week from today to be exact. Perhaps more political observers are twiddling their thumbs, anxiously awaiting a citywide contest two years away that already has accumulated several competitive races.

Today the Daily News gives us a little reminder at least about one contest that of Civil Court judge in Brooklyn, where Noach Dear, a former councilman who is heavily advantaged in the democratic-leaning county, is facing Republican candidate Jim McCall. Dear, who is pretty much guaranteed the spot, has not received an endorsement from the citys bar association nor does he appear to have significant experience as an attorney, according to the News. Instead of an election, the News is urging an inquiry into Dears so-called experience, which has been described with varying aptitude by Dear in numerous court and Conflicts of Interest Board filings.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 30, 2007, 9:16 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 3 Comments »

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Green roofs blocked by the historic and the new
October 26th, 2007

While a solar powered subway terminal and a variety of Brooklyn greening construction projects bloom, two buildings have had to cut environmentally-friendly design elements.

First, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a canopy proposed by local architects for the structure’s solar paneled roof because it would be visible from the street and clash with the historic district of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

Several blocks away, elected officials just broke ground on an 80-unit residential development, but shadows from the planned buildings at the Atlantic Yards site would render the planned solar paneled roof unusable.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz praised Governor Eliot Spitzer for proposing new for global warming regulations and “for recognizing that with a little courage, being green is much easier than people think.” But it can be harder with the conventions of the past and shadows from the new.

By on October 26, 2007, 3:53 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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McCarthyism in Brooklyn?
October 26th, 2007

The ouster of Debbie Altontaser as principal of the new Kahlil Gibran Academy in Brooklyn represents an example of the new McCarthyism , according to Larry Cohler-Esses in The Nation.

This movement targets a new enemy for our era: Muslims, Arabs and others in the Middle East field who are identified as stepping over an unstated line in criticizing Israel, as radical Islamists, as just plain radical or as in some way sympathetic to terrorists, Cohler-Esses writes. Under the guise of addressing an undeniable security threat, he continues, the New McCarthyites display cynical indifference to the truth or decency of their charges.

Almontaser had persuaded the Department of Education to establish a small public school devoted to Arab language and culture. The school sparked opposition, much of it directed at Almontaser, a Yemeni-born educator, who has promoted religious and ethnic harmony in the city. The Department of Education
forced her out after she provoked a furor by discussing the definition of the word infitada. Almontaser has since said she would apply to get the job back but the Department of Education has said there is no chance of that happening.

Footnote: One of the leaders of the movement against the Kahlil Gibran International Academy in general and Almontaser is particular has been Daniel Pipes. The Nation writes that Pipes claimed erroneously that Almontaser has denied Muslims or Arabs were involved in the 9/11 attacks. Charging that Arabic in of itself promotes an Islamic outlook, Pipes has written , Imbuing pan-Arabism and anti-Zionism, proselytizing for Islam and promoting Islamist sympathies will predictably make up the school’s true curriculum. He has called for profiling Muslims at airports and scrutinizing American Muslims in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps,” according to the New York Times. In the same article, paper reports that Pipes serves as a foreign policy adviser to Rudolph Giulianis presidential campaign.

By on October 26, 2007, 12:12 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Electoral Politics,Immigrants | Comments Off on McCarthyism in Brooklyn?

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Felder Takes Out the Trash
October 26th, 2007

To keep stoops in Brooklyn from getting cluttered with leaflets and menus, the Boerum Hill Association has created plastic “No Menu” signs for residents who wish to make it clear they don’t want the junk, reports the Gowanus Lounge.

But they may have to wait for the sign to be backed up by any thing, as evidenced by the frustration of garbage guru Simcha Felder. In a press release he sent around, the council member has called on the state to get its business together and pass the legislation needed to curb junk from being dumped on people’s doorsteps. The state passed a law this summer that makes it illegal to drop off a menu or advertisement if a homeowner displays a sign prohibiting it, but Felder said the bill is awaiting an amendment that would delegate which agency will enforce the law.

I am frustrated that the State Legislature was unable to act on an important piece of legislation, but not nearly as frustrated as the New Yorkers who have to clean up the trash that is thrown on their property every day, he said.

He went further in a video interview with the Observer, saying, “It’s about time they got back to regular business. The James Bond movies that are going on in Albany: everyday, there seems to be a sequel… It’s unbelievable it’s so successful… People are sick and tired of reading in the papers what happened yesterday and the next day.”

By on October 26, 2007, 7:23 am
In category: Environment | Comments Off on Felder Takes Out the Trash

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City Raises State's 'Green Ranking'
October 26th, 2007

New York State was ranked as the ninth greenest state in the nation by Forbes Magazine (via the Albany Project). The Forbes report praises the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement between Northeastern states to reduce carbon emissions and set up a cap-and-trade market.

But mostly it lauds the state’s “exceptionally low carbon footprint (fifth best in the country), second lowest consumption of energy per capita and the fewest vehicle miles traveled (again, per capita).” This is due, the report recognizes, mostly to residents here in the city who “rely on public transportation and live and work in tight quarters.”

Indeed, while the city makes up about half of the state’s population and workforce, as well 60 percent of its private sector wages, it only consumes a third of the states total electricity and only about 20 percent of its gasoline.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 26, 2007, 7:23 am
In category: Environment | Comments Off on City Raises State's 'Green Ranking'

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The Cost of War on the City
October 25th, 2007

So how does the cost of the Iraq War break down across the city? According to a new analysis by the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research group that analyses federal budget data, the city covers more than a third of the war’s entire cost to the state and about 3 percent of its cost to the country.

The data breaks down the local bill through fiscal year 2007. Interestingly, the war has brought the largest tab to Queens, which outspent the rest of the boroughs by nearly $1 billion.

The group also looks at the proposed war costs for fiscal year 2008 and how that is dispersed locally.

Here is the breakdown borough by borough for fiscal year ’07:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 25, 2007, 11:41 am
In category: Economy,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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City's Parks Contributing to Global Warming
October 25th, 2007

As you sit on a bench at South Street Seaport and take in the grand view of the Brooklyn Bridge, Tim Keating might like you to think for a second about all of that wood. The wood you sit on, walk on, even the subway ties the trains ride on. Where does all that wood come from?

Keating is the director of Rainforest Relief, and his organization says that all that wood just might make the New York City government the largest consumer of tropical hardwood outside of the tropics themselves.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made cutting the city’s contributions to global warming a signature issue. But while the United Nations estimates that deforestation (which occurs almost entirely in the tropics) causes up to 30 percent of global warming, no attempt has been made to change the city’s policy on the wood it uses in a decade. Gifford Miller introduced a bill in 1997 that would have banned the city or its contractors from using tropical hardwood, and in 1998 a resolution was introduced calling on the Parks Department to use plastic lumber. But neither of those went anywhere and nothing has happened since.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 25, 2007, 7:09 am
In category: Environment | 3 Comments »

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Fight the Hike
October 24th, 2007

Transit fare hikes may seem, as inevitable as death and taxes and just about as unwelcome but opponents of the Metropolitan Transportation authoritys plan to raise fees are stepping up their efforts

The Daily News announced today that is launching a “Halt the Hike” campaign to slam the brakes on the rush to hike the fares. At the very least, the paper hopes to delay the increase until April 15 to give the state time to come up with additional funding for the transit system.

“Surely Governor Spitzer and state legislators can shift priorities to fill the MTA’s gap, which is about two-tenths of 1 percent of the state’s $121 billion budget,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign told the News.

Meanwhile with a week to go before Halloween riders working with the Straphangers Campaign passed out special treats including Gov and Plenty” licorice candies and “Governor, We’re Not from Mars” bars — to press for more state aid for transit.

For more on the rising cost of transit and just about everything else in New York City see Gotham Gazettes Paying the Price for Living in New York.

By on October 24, 2007, 2:55 pm
In category: Albany,Public Finance,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Lobbyists are People, Too
October 23rd, 2007

Lobbyists play a pivotal role in a democracy, and government is better off for it, according to most of the speakers on today’s panel discussion on lobbying, which was organized by Peter Vallone and held at Baruch College. And they weren’t the biggest fans of the new city law that restricts lobbyist’s campaign contributions, either.

Of course, they were all lobbyists.

You can’t point to an incident where money has been an influence, said John Banks, a lobbyist for Con Edison and former chief of staff for the City Council. “Abramoff was a blip,” he continued, referring to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced national lobbyist.

And Sid Davidoff complained that he is now “a second class citizen,” because his neighbor can give money that is matched with federal funds, but he cannot, since he is a registered lobbyist.

“My neighbor can donate 10 times more, but I’ve devoted my life” to politics, he continued.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 23, 2007, 1:54 pm
In category: Governing | Comments Off on Lobbyists are People, Too

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Garbage Cans Brought To You By Your Councilmember
October 23rd, 2007

In response to several Daily News editorials and a statement condemning the practice by Citizens Union (a good government group and sister organization to Gotham Gazette’s publisher) Councilmember Leroy Comrie has now released a letter to the editor challenging the accusation that his district has a superfluous amount garbage cans splattered with his name.

Here is some coverage by the Daily Politics, which I think was the first to point out that some garbage cans had been emblazoned with council members’ names which some say amount to “political self promotion” using taxpayer dollars.

Here is Comrie’s letter in full:
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 23, 2007, 12:45 pm
In category: Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Garbage Cans Brought To You By Your Councilmember

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Racing for Mayor At Breakfast
October 23rd, 2007

In its latest expansion of online activity, the New York Times editorial page is blogging about the citys mayoral race (and about everything else for that matter).

The Board, which was launched last week, recently reflected on past strategies for mayoral candidates, including the ever-popular Bloomberg, and points to the ever-increasing pool of potential candidates eyeing the executive side of City Hall in ’09. From City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to Rep. Anthony Weiner to Supermarket Mogul John Catsimatidis, a race that is more than two years away is as comparably crowded as the Democratic or Republican presidential primaries. It seems like being the chief, whether of the country or the city, is seriously en vogue.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 23, 2007, 9:54 am
In category: Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Racing for Mayor At Breakfast

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Back to Congestion Pricing
October 22nd, 2007

Little hard evidence exists to back up Mayor Michael Bloombergs contention that his congestion pricing plan would produce $390 million a year for mass transit, according to a report in todays Daily News. The plan calls for charging most driver $8 a day to enter Manhattan south of 86th Street on weekdays. In London, though, city officials reportedly had to hike the toll to $16 to meet that citys revenue projections.

Bloomberg administration officials downplayed the significance of making money from congestion pricing. “The true benefits of the plan are derived from reducing traffic-choking congestion, a mayoral spokesperson told the News Adam Lisberg.

Meanwhile, the congestion pricing panel, or as it is officially called, the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, begins holding public hearings this week. (For a schedule, click here.)

State Senator Liz Krueger complains that the public has not received ample notice of the Manhattan hearing, set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Hunter College. I am extremely disturbed by the short notice provided for this hearing, Krueger said in a letter reprinted on Streetsblog.

But residents of other boroughs have it even worse. What’s up with the Bronx hearing on HALLOWEEN? Red comments on Streetsblog. “[Commission Chair] Marc Shaw ain’t kidding about his dislike for the public process. Well, Red, this is a Bloomberg initiative.

While the panel is heavily stacked with congestion pricing supporters, any plan it comes up with still needs approval from City Council and the legislature. Whatever happens, the Times today suggests a few other easy, common-sense changes to bring order to the streets of the Apple. They are: establishing taxi stands, creating residential parking permits and charging for them — and depriving city employees of their free parking permits

By on October 22, 2007, 12:24 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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The Future of the City, Based on the Present
October 19th, 2007

While being close to the ocean was a big advantage for a long time, global warming will change that, said Bill Mckibben. “And the communities that will do well in a stressed environment,” he continued, “will be the ones that are tight knit” and can work together.

That comment laid out the theme continued throughout last night’s panel on the future of New York, which was organized by House & Garden.

McKibben, a staff writer at the New Yorker and author of a dozen books, doesn’t see much community in many areas of Manhattan, with its vast redwood forest of concrete and glass. He calls many of these skyscrapers “vertical suburbs” where residents have little interaction with each other.

Mike Wallace, a professor and co-author of the definitive history of New York, Gotham, chose to focus on communities in Brooklyn. In a whirlwind speech full of military analogies, he described flowing immigration patterns and talked about the variety of ethnic populations and their migrations around the borough seeking to claim a part of land as their own. His story ended in Ditmas Park, where no one group has dominance and many different populations live together. Rather than living in conflict (“Why isn’t the third World War going on?” he asked), they actually have created their own integrated community with its own unique rituals.

But a less vibrant portrait of New York unfolded as the founder of Sustainable South Bronx, Majora Carter, described a situation of segregation and poverty. Poor areas, she says, which are point sources for much of the city’s pollution from trash facilities and power plants, are “regional sacrifice zones” so that rich enclaves can live “a little greener.” We can’t continue to isolate people, she says, “The migrants [expected in the next dozen years] are going to be looking for communities, and we have to provide that to them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 19, 2007, 7:56 am
In category: Community Development,Environment,Land Use | 2 Comments »

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New York Safe as Financial Capital
October 18th, 2007

In an op-ed piece that appeared in the conservative Weekly Standard and London’s Sunday Times, Irwin M. Stelzer writes that New Yorkers concerned London might overtake the title for financial capital of the world shouldn’t worry so much.

He says that Britain, in fact, is actually looking to the American regulatory system as a model to ensure depositors’ money is safe in their banks. Besides, Steltzer says, rising taxes and an expensive currency make doing business there unaffordable for most. And looking at the quality of life in the two cities, he concludes that anybody that could choose would pick New York for its safer streets and better running subways.

By on October 18, 2007, 9:41 am
In category: Economy | 1 Comment »

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Minorities and Subprime Mortgages
October 18th, 2007

With study after study showing how subprime lenders are targeting blacks and latinos, some bloggers and advocates have been calling this the new redlining.

One recent study, by New York University’s Furman Center, found that the 10 neighborhoods in the city with the highest concentration of subprime mortgages had black and hispanic majorities, while the 10 neighborhoods with the lowest number were mostly white. Subprime mortgages – which are at the root of the foreclosure crisis and have high interest rates that can escalate unexpectedly and include steep fees and payment penalties – are generally directed towards borrowers with shaky credit or limited income.

But research by the New York Times found that higher income level black and hispanic borrowers with good credit were still very likely to be steered towards subprime loans.

With all this in mind, the Times editorialized that, in order to find out whether or not subprime lenders have been discriminating against minorities, Congress should force them to disclose their risk profiles of borrowers.

Recent data from PropertyShark.com showed growth in foreclosures around the city to be slowing, leading a couple blogs to say that things are not so bad for the city as a whole. That may be true, but apparently only for white New Yorkers.

By on October 18, 2007, 8:18 am
In category: Demographics,Economy,Housing | 5 Comments »

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More Money, More Transparency
October 17th, 2007

The City Council released today a revised “Schedule C,” which includes allocations for each organization that received a grant through the council’s large, citywide initiatives.

They also released a list of organizations that have received funding from individual council members’ discretionary funds earmarked for projects within the Department of Youth and Community Development as well as the Department for the Aging. That list was not included in the initial member items list released when the budget was approved in June (For a breakdown of those items by member click here).

The release of the items is part of Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s budget transparency initiative.

By on October 17, 2007, 4:29 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off on More Money, More Transparency

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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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