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A New Day for Community Based Planning?
December 21st, 2007

One City/One Future – a collaboration between New York Jobs with Justice, the Pratt Center for Community Development, and the Brennan Center for Justice – organized over 150 advocates, planners, scholars, organizers and concerned citizens last month, all in an attempt to develop a set of economic development principles to guide the city. The six principles they came up with are: Strengthen neighborhood character and diversity; Give all communities a stake and a chance; Tie public actions to public benefits; Create good jobs for a strong economy; Make and keep housing affordable; and Grow the city greener. These principles will lay the ground for a blueprint for development in the city, which they plan to release in 2008.

Also, the Municipal Arts Society has created a new blog called The Campaign for Community Based Planning. One of the more interesting pieces from the blog is a post on the budget cuts that community boards are facing. It says that the boards have been directed by the Office of Management and Budget to cut $5,000 from their budget this year, and another $5,000 next year. In response, the society sent a letter to elected officials, stating that “the future ability of community boards to perform their charter-mandated responsibilities will be thrown into serious jeopardy if these cuts are allowed to go forward.”

By on December 21, 2007, 7:58 am
In category: Community Development,Land Use | 4 Comments »

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The Columbia Vote
December 20th, 2007

For the City Council, a 35 to 5 to 6 vote is a divisive one (the body usually votes in one block unanimously behind Speaker Christine Quinn).

But yesterday’s approval of Columbia University’s 17-acre West Harlem expansion, estimated to cost $7 billion, was one that brought out catcalls and claws – well, for the usually compliant City Council, anyway.

Members questioned the timing of the expansion’s approval, which had a Jan. 15th deadline and many expected to occur after the New Year. Others disapproved of the application because the Ivy League institution has not ruled out the possibility of eminent domain for commercial properties to make way for the Manhattanville campus. And others still harbor resentment over Columbia hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 20, 2007, 4:55 pm
In category: Community Development,Education,Gotham City,Land Use | 2 Comments »

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New Site Memorializes Fallen Bicyclists
December 20th, 2007

To document and memorialize those killed while riding their bicycles, New Yorks Street Memorial Project has launched a new Web site called GhostBikes.org. (Via BikeBlog.) The site lists all of the white bikes erected around the city that mark the spot where somebody has died, and offers a map of those locations as well. But GhostBikes.org is an international project, and offers pages for locations from Toronto to the Czech Republic. Using press accounts, the site says there have been 23 deaths in New York City this year.

By on December 20, 2007, 8:41 am
In category: Health,Transportation | Comments Off on New Site Memorializes Fallen Bicyclists

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PATH in Your Pocket
December 19th, 2007

A new cell phone program will help commuters using the PATH train figure out when their next train is coming. ChoRong Hwang, a student at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, has developed an application called Mobile PATH that users can download to their cell phone. She says it can tell them how long until their next train arrives by within 40 seconds. The program places a timetable in your phone, which syncs up to its clock. While this means that somebody in a subway station could use the program because it doesn’t require a signal, it also means that if there is some kind of delay, it would not show on the phone. Currently, the program only works for the Journal Square/33rd St. line, and cell phones must be “Java Powered.”

By on December 19, 2007, 8:14 am
In category: nextNY,Tech,Transportation | Comments Off on PATH in Your Pocket

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Green Building: the Next Steps
December 19th, 2007

New high-performing and environmentally sensitive skyscrapers increasingly grace the New York City skyline. But for the city to truly benefit from the energy savings, health benefits and reduction in carbon emissions from green buildings, the next step will be to retrofit existing buildings and build cleaner power plants, said a panel of experts organized by the the Green Building Council of New York on Monday evening.

Developers are increasingly aware of the economic benefits from building green, but retrofitting buildings to meet industry standards for green buildings doesn’t yet make economic sense for them, said William Rudin, president of Rudin Management. “How do we get to the point where small, medium and large sized businesses do the right thing? I don’t have the answer,” he wondered out loud.

But Ashok Gupta, an energy economist from the NRDC, countered that when one flips the question to ask whether it makes sense for tenants and the city as a whole, it changes the whole equation. This will decide, he said, how much government money goes into energy efficiency programs.

Shifting the discussion, Rudin pointed out that while everybody talks about buildings’ effect on the environment, it is the power plants providing energy for them that are the root cause of most of the pollution. He called for the construction of new, efficient power plants and Gupta agreed.

But Ed Ott, a labor leader who heads the NYC Apollo Alliance, a coalition designed to link labor and environmental issues, noted that power plants are historically imposed on low-income neighborhoods. To gain the support of the working class, he said, new plants would need to be equally spread throughout the city. “If we are going to have an energy efficient society, we are going to have to share the burdens,” he declared.

By on December 19, 2007, 8:14 am
In category: Economy,Environment,Health,Land Use | 3 Comments »

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Hearing on Tax Break Gets Time Out (Updated)
December 18th, 2007

That tax credit repeal for the Garden may no longer seem like such a slam-dunk.

Someone in City Hall may be backing down against a head-on charge by Cablevision to keep its $11 million annual tax exemption for Madison Square Garden.

Earlier this year, Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as other council members, said they wanted to cancel Cablevision’s property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden.

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By on December 18, 2007, 12:55 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Hearing on Tax Break Gets Time Out (Updated)

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Gridlock Alert
December 14th, 2007

Correction: This item originally stated that gridlock in Albany stalled legislation extending the program to provide tax breaks for construction of affordable housing in the city. That is incorrect. A revision and extension of the so-called 421-a program passed the legislature and was signed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer in August.

The State Senate came back to Albany yesterday to confirm a judge’s appointment, pass a bill raising salaries for the state’s judges and debate increasing their own pay. And, according to the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin that could well be the end of the legislature’s 2007 work year. The infamous Albany gridlock apparently has become so bad that the three men in the room cannot even agree when to meet. State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno blamed the Assembly for leaving so many issues unresolved as the year ends. “I am dismayed, disappointed, frustrated, exasperated that the Assembly for the fourth time since we left in June is not here to do the people’s business,” Bruno told the Press.

According to the Associated Press, Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office says the Assembly could still meet before the end of the year. But Bruno has indicated his members are done until January.

Unless something changes that means 2007 will end without a new state campaign finance bill, raises for judges and legislators, and a deal for running thoroughbred races at Aqueduct and Belmont. A number of important city issues hang in the balance as well, including the construction of a recycling facility on Manhattan’s Gansevoort pier — key to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s solid waste program.

“The gridlock here now is worse than I’ve seen it in decades,” Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters, told the Daily News. “It’s all because of the toxic atmosphere these people are functioning in.”

By on December 14, 2007, 2:25 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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And the Doctor is Off! (A Wrap Up)
December 13th, 2007

A week has now passed since Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, announced his resignation, and hardly a day has gone by without ink being spilled over his departure. While many of the stories try to cast an unbiased eye across his legacy, many of of the words written have fulfilled the expectations of a heady debate over his tenure. The Wonkster presents a compilation of the news below.
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By on December 13, 2007, 12:04 pm
In category: Land Use | Comments Off on And the Doctor is Off! (A Wrap Up)

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New Council Web Site Gets Mixed Reviews
December 12th, 2007

Last week, the City Council revealed its new Web site after months of delay. While most agree that it is a step in the right direction, the site has received mixed reviews from people dealing with the intersection of technology and government.

The council’s new site is meant to be more stable than the old site, which was notorious for crashing. It offers more details on committee hearings, including direct links and briefings. An RSS subscription is now available for committee calendars, and there are plans to add RSS features throughout the site in the future. Council members also have the ability to update their own pages as they see fit and can add such features as voting records, calendars and press releases if they choose. The council’s communications office is training staffers and even council members on how to do so.

Cathilea Robinett, the executive director of the Center for Digital Government, said the new web site is very sophisticated for a council site. “This is an excellent use of technology with several innovative features. Congratulations to the New York City Council for a citizen-centric and citizen-friendly site.” The center publishes a yearly survey ranking American cities on their use of technology to reach out to constituents. (New York City has not been in the top 10 large cities since 2002, when it ranked fourth.)

Councilmember Gale Brewer, chairwoman of the Technology in Government Committee, was happy about the new site as well. She says that it is now much easier to find legislation and finds the additional information available for committee hearings useful. But her enthusiasm was tempered by what the site does not have.
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By on December 12, 2007, 10:07 am
In category: nextNY,Tech | 3 Comments »

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Flashing Fines Could Become Mouth (or Pants) Dropping
December 11th, 2007

Flashers beware.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she intends on moving forward with a bill introduced earlier this year that will drastically increase the penalties for public lewdness.

Initially introduced in April by Councilmember Peter Vallone, the bill was subject to some criticism when gay rights advocates said it would also apply to gay or bisexual men who were caught publicly having sex.
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By on December 11, 2007, 5:24 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Surprise, Surprise: Congestion Comes from Jersey
December 11th, 2007

As the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission continues to mull over traffic-calming proposals, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, the city’s Independent Budget Office released a report this morning revealing those Manhattan-bound commuters will at least be able to afford the possible toll.

The report (available here) states that the majority of commuters entering the proposed congestion zone, which is below 86th Street in Manhattan, are not New Yorkers, and those that are driving private cars make 30 percent more than other commuters.

More than 25 percent of all car commuters come from the Garden State. It looks like New Jersey sends us their vehicles, while we send them our garbage.

By on December 11, 2007, 12:48 pm
In category: Demographics,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Quinn and Bloomberg at Odds for Once
December 10th, 2007

With the release of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s fare hike plan this morning, (available here) a barrage of statements from politicians appeared in inboxes across the five boroughs blasting or quietly condoning the idea.

And for the first time since the cell phone skirmish, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn are at odds.

Quinn has joined the voices blaring against the hike, which would raise unlimited monthly metro cards from $76 to $81 but keep the single fare at $2, while Bloomberg has joined Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s chorus, chiming that the hike is necessary to maintain service.
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By on December 10, 2007, 4:20 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Broadband for All Citizens in New York
December 7th, 2007

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Gov. Eliot Spitzer yesterday announced a plan to deliver affordable broadband access to every New Yorker. In a speech (via the Albany Project) on the importance of agriculture to the upstate economy, Spitzer said, “Infrastructure means something different than it once did. Fifty or seventy-five years ago, infrastructure meant access to a paved road, electricity or a phone line. Today, it means access to the information superhighway – and all of the economic opportunity that comes with it.”

“Nearly two-thirds of people living in New York City lack access to affordable high-speed broadband,” he added. “Some neighborhoods – like Sunset Park, Red Hook and Hunts Point – don’t even have affordable access beyond a dial-up connection.”

The governor has committed to a goal of providing 24 hour access for every resident of major metropolitan areas to broadband at speeds of 100 megabits per second by 2015. It only takes about five megabits per second to deliver high definition video with some versions of free software. The rest of the state would have access to speeds of 20 megabits per second.
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By on December 7, 2007, 10:19 am
In category: Albany,Economy,Tech | 2 Comments »

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Quit Bloomberg to Join Bloomberg
December 6th, 2007

Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, is leaving the Bloomberg administration at the end of this year. A video message has been sent out to Bloomberg L.P. employees this morning that Doctoroff will be their new boss.

Here is a look at some of his ambitious plans (remember that 2012 Olympics?).

By on December 6, 2007, 12:57 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Quit Bloomberg to Join Bloomberg

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Cutting Federal Funds to 'Sanctuary Cities' (Such as NYC)
December 6th, 2007

One recent report finds immigrants to be “central” to the economy here – even illegal ones. And another finds that while one in ten immigrants in the U.S. come to New York, only 13 percent of them are actually illegal, compared to 65 percent in Arizona. Still, decisions like that of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau – who would protect illegal immigrants victimized by crime – do not sit well with many of the presidential candidates (or voters for that matter). As such, a majority of the GOP candidates and one Democratic candidate have shown support for cutting federal funds to cities like New York that shield illegal immigrants from the detection of federal authorities. The Next American City elaborates on the situation here.

(Although this is certainly relevant to New York City, this post is a bit of self promotion, seeing how I wrote the American City piece. I have started a weekly column there covering the presidential candidates positions on urban issues. Click here to subscribe.)

By on December 6, 2007, 11:48 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Immigrants | Comments Off on Cutting Federal Funds to 'Sanctuary Cities' (Such as NYC)

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Mapping Out Future Transportation Improvements
December 6th, 2007

Whatever necessary backroom deals have been made, and $35 billion in federal transportation funding for the metro region is back on track. And now, New York City residents can see exactly where the funds would go. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, the municipal planning organization that addresses regional transportation issues, has posted the improvements planned for 2008 to 2012 on Google maps, and breaks it down by borough.

By on December 6, 2007, 10:04 am
In category: Transportation | Comments Off on Mapping Out Future Transportation Improvements

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Flatbush Residents Don't Find Their Borders So Ambiguous
December 6th, 2007

An attempt last week by the New York Times to boil down the “ambiguous” boundaries of “Flatbush proper” was met by a bit of derision and laughter from some of the local bloggers. The Brooklyn Junction enjoyed the attention lavished on the area by the Times, but called their map “neighborhood gerrymandering.” The Junction notes that the Times’ map doesn’t even include the Flatbush Development Corporation, and the blog posts some other maps that offer a different idea of what Flatbush comprises.

The Junction also has a good wrap up of the online reaction to the article, which includes a post by Flatbush Gardener that has an informative take on the issue. The Gardener posts an historic map from 1873, points out that the Times has “confused” the area’s boundaries in the past, and notes a physical demarcation in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden of the old Township of Flatbush.

By on December 6, 2007, 9:35 am
In category: Demographics | Comments Off on Flatbush Residents Don't Find Their Borders So Ambiguous

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The Best Disinfectant?
December 5th, 2007

Political junkies, intrepid reformers and others who want to figure out how Albany works — or does not work — got a holiday gift today from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. A new Web site, Project Sunlight allows voters to find out more about legislators, campaign donors and lobbyists and how they interact in the state capital.

The project takes previously impenetrable and sometimes inaccessible databases and make them easier to use. For example, one can find a legislator and then go to a list of bills that legislator sponsored, member items and campaign contributions. From the list of legislation, you can proceed to more details on the measure and lists of who lobbied on it. (Maybe we’re being dense, but we could not figure out whether the lobbyists in question were for or against the measure. Are we missing something?) Going to the lobbyists page will enable you to find out who hired lobbyists and what measures those lobbyists worked on.

The site is still obviously a work in progress (as some comments on the Daily Politics make clear), and glitches remain, but good government groups have reportedly hailed the effort. It also, the Daily Politics reports, won acclaim from someone not normally viewed as a reformer: State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who initially tried to block funding for the project. Now, Bruno hails it as ” part of the states successful effort to increase transparency, disclosure and accountability.” We hadn’t noticed.

By on December 5, 2007, 4:02 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing | Comments Off on The Best Disinfectant?

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'Tis the Season to Fight Gridlock
December 5th, 2007

It’s moved off the front pages but, as City Room reminds us, the debate over congestion pricing continues in this the season of gridlock alert days. Today’s salvo, from Environmental Defense and the Pratt Center for Community Development, is a report comparing the mayor’s proposal to charge drivers in parts of Manhattan to other traffic mitigation plans put forth by opponents of congestion pricing. It concludes the rival plans fall short in their ability to cut traffic in a timely way and provide funds for mass transit.

By on December 5, 2007, 3:25 pm
In category: Environment,Transportation | Comments Off on 'Tis the Season to Fight Gridlock

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Felder Takes Attendance and Notes Tardiness
December 5th, 2007

Councilmember Simcha Felder runs a tight ship.

Not only did the chair of the Governmental Operations Committee refuse to allow an attendee to give testimony at an oversight hearing this morning – the attendee came twenty minutes after the start of the hearing, which is a no can do for the Brooklyn-based legislator – but he also suggested cracking down on tardy members.

Felder said he often sees members slip into a meeting to be counted as “there,” but clandestinely sneak out mere minutes later. Not exactly the kind of constituent service some were hoping for?

“You attend many hearings you’ll find that many hearings dont get started on time unfortunately,” said Felder. “And they become sort of like a circus.”

Though not specifically, the councilman alluded to one council member, specifically Domenic Recchia, who walked in more than an hour and a half late.

Felder thinks the attendance record should reflect what time a member walks in and what time a member walks out. That way his or her contribution to the meeting will be a public record.

By on December 5, 2007, 1:19 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | Comments Off on Felder Takes Attendance and Notes Tardiness

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