Archive for April, 2008
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Quinn Kicks Public Out (Update)
April 30th, 2008

In the first significant disturbance since the Viola Plummer incident, Council Speaker Christine Quinn ordered the balcony of the council chamber be cleared this afternoon after a large group of Harlem rezoning opponents and supporters created a so-called disturbance.

The council approved the rezoning by a vote of 47 to 2, with members Charles Barron and Tony Avella dissenting.

Quinn’s move was criticized on the floor by several representatives, including Councilmember Helen Foster, who said if they are going to close the meeting to the general public (which is what they essentially did since the only people allowed on the council floor are staff members and press) they should do it for any disturbance — whether it is cheers of approval or heckling of dissent.
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By on April 30, 2008, 5:14 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development,Gotham City,Land Use | 5 Comments »

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Park Battles
April 30th, 2008

In a city where everything is contentious, add another item to the list: parks. The Observer reports on the trend for community groups to fight parks in their midst, often with lawsuits and often with some success.

The groups do not oppose green space and trees but say they object to the “public-private partnerships undertaken by the Bloomberg administration to develop or to change the parks.” This issue has arisen at Union Square, where a lawsuit has at least temporarily blocked plans for a private restaurant, and on Randall’s Island where another suit has halted the city’s plan to give private schools priority in using playing fields.

The opponents also voice a complaint that has come to characterize the Bloomberg administration: They don’t consult with people in the community. “This is the worst situation Ive ever encountered in terms of [dealings with] the community Carol Greitzer, a former councilwoman from the West Village who helped start 250+ Friends of New York Parks, told the Observer. “They come up with a plan. Maybemaybeif youre lucky, you can tweak it slightly, but thats about all you can do.

For more on the administration’s approach to planning, see Is the Long-Term Sustainability Plan Sustainable? by Tom Angotti.

By on April 30, 2008, 9:06 am
In category: Community Development,Land Use,Law,Parks | Comments Off on Park Battles

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Yassky Looks for Budget Reforms
April 29th, 2008

Each day, another council members is cloaked in scandal.

One member, Maria Baez, attempted to dole out her discretionary funding to a supposedly nonexistent tenant organization in her former apartment building, while another, Larry Seabrook, earmarked nearly $1 million to an African American chamber of commerce group which shared his district office’s address.

It seems a plethora of members can barely escape the city’s budget probe — sparked by a Post story early this month that revealed the city council stashed its discretionary funding in phantom groups.

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By on April 29, 2008, 12:53 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Yassky Looks for Budget Reforms

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Sustainable Streets Plan
April 29th, 2008

The Department of Transportation has unveiled a 68-page strategic plan for revamping the city streets. It promises to bring “a green approach to transportation that will simultaneously ease travel conditions in our growing city.” Now that state lawmakers have killed the congestion pricingplan inMayorMichael Bloomberg’s enivronmental agenda, the department is looking for more moderate ways to deal with traffic and pollution.

By 2009, thecity calls for:
-increased rapid bus service
-two new Midtown bus lanes
-5,000 new bike racks
-200 new miles of bike lanes.

Streetsblog, which advocates for mass transit and bicycle usage, says the plan contains “a couple of tantalizing bits about weekend bike-ped corridors and reducing car use in city parks” and notes that more details will be unveiled at an invitation-only event tonight.

By on April 29, 2008, 9:10 am
In category: Environment,Transportation | Comments Off on Sustainable Streets Plan

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Detector Permits Debated Tomorrow
April 28th, 2008

A controversial bill that would create a permit process for companies that possess weapons detection equipment will have a second hearing at City Hall tomorrow morning, and myriad environmental groups are pledging to testify against it.

The bill ( Intro 650) mandates companies get a permit if they have any equipment, which can detect radioactive, biological or chemical weapons. The bill, which was drafted by the Police Department, has been toned down since its original introduction, which was hotly contested.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a coalition of 40 groups oppose the bill because they fear it will impede their ability to test for air and water quality for academic and research proposes. That rests on the assumption that the police department would heavily guard the distribution of its permits.

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By on April 28, 2008, 6:05 pm
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Bell in the Opinion Pages
April 28th, 2008

As Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee, readies to walk the two-plus blocks that were Sean Bell’s last this afternoon, others continue to question why there has not been more rage and dissent among New Yorkers over the detectives’ acquittal.

Is this a different New York, some wondered on The Brian Lehrer Show this morning? Or is the verdict reasonable and just?

Over the weekend, the city’s major dailies opined on what could be the final chapter in this tragedy, which started in the dark rooms of a Jamaica strip club and ended in a courtroom flooded with reporters as three detectives were exonerated of manslaughter charges.

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By on April 28, 2008, 2:18 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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The Text of the Verdict
April 25th, 2008

Following is the text of the verdict statement read in court by Justice Arthur J. Cooperman:

Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. And, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest
level of professionalism and skill.

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By on April 25, 2008, 4:46 pm
In category: Crime & Safety | Comments Off on The Text of the Verdict

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Sean Bell Verdict: Not Guilty
April 25th, 2008

Three New York City police detectives were found not guilty on all felony and misdemeanor charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, who heard the case after the officers waived a jury trial, issued the verdict this morning. Check back for more details as they become available.

By on April 25, 2008, 9:32 am
In category: Crime & Safety | 8 Comments »

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Sean Bell Verdict Expected Today
April 25th, 2008

The verdict in the case against three detectives who shot and killed Sean Bell is scheduled to arrive about 9 a.m. today.

Bell, a 23-year-old man who was celebrating with friends on the day of his wedding, died in a barrage of 50 bullets fired by New York City police officers outside of a strip club in Queens in November 2006. Two officers were charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. The third was charged with reckless endangerment.

The three men pleaded not guilty and waived their right to have their case heard by a jury. State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, who heard testimony in the trail, is expected to issue a ruling today.

For more on the history of the Sean Bell case, read Gotham Gazette’s article 50 Bullets, Many Issues.

By on April 25, 2008, 8:15 am
In category: Crime & Safety | 6 Comments »

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Teenagers and Community Boards
April 24th, 2008

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer began his public career at the age of 16 when he was appointed to his local community board. Given his background, it may come as no surprise that he supports an effort to give teenagers the right to vote on the boards.

While state law allows two members of each board to be under the age of 18, they are not given full voting rights. But a recent bill introduced into the state legislature and a supportive resolution introduced in the City Council aim to change that.

Although many community board committees have yet to vote on the matter, the reaction among community board chairs around the city has been mixed. While some see value in gaining a youth perspective, others don’t feel teenagers would be mature enough to make responsible choices.

The bill has been introduced in both chambers of the state legislature and the city resolution supporting it has five sponsors.
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By on April 24, 2008, 6:45 am
In category: Governing | 3 Comments »

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Working From Home? Get Out Once and a While...
April 23rd, 2008

A common reply to the announcement that you work from home is: “Wow, that’s the life. Rolling out of bed and working.” But a number people that do work from home around the world seem to find something missing with the lack of an office. A common sentiment is the need for community offered by coworkers. There’s the absence of having somebody to chat with at the water cooler about new work ideas or somebody to grab lunch with. And a productive work space is another concern. Having a television five feet away from your desk can be a distraction for some.

In response, home-workers from the Czech Republic to Chicago have increasingly been forming a new type of work collective called “coworking.” And New York City – where about 1-in-25 workers stay at home – has a plethora of its own coworking events and locations. They range from meetings in people’s homes and in cafes, businesses that open up their offices for coworking events, and dedicated coworking office spaces where one can rent a space for a given period of time.
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By on April 23, 2008, 8:05 am
In category: Community Development,Demographics,Economy,nextNY,Tech | 4 Comments »

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Council Slush Fund Story Gets Slushier
April 22nd, 2008

The saga of the New York City Council’s misuse of funds continues.

Today, the New York Post reports that Comptroller Bill Thompson is blocking funds to scores of community groups across the city while he investigates the matter. Also, a Daily News editorialtakes on Brooklyn Councilmember Erik Dilan for directing $187,000 to a Brooklyn community group with only one paid staff member: his wife.

By on April 22, 2008, 3:27 pm
In category: Public Finance | Comments Off on Council Slush Fund Story Gets Slushier

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Lancaster Resigns
April 22nd, 2008

Buildings Department Commissioner Patricia Lancaster has tendered her resignation to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which some say is the first time a Bloomberg administration official has resigned under a cloud.

Lancaster, who was the first woman in the post and has been there for six years, was brought in by Bloomberg to revitalize and clean up the long-deficient agency. After several large scale construction accidents, including the crane collapse earlier this year that killed seven people, her resignation may come as no surprise to some city officials (Check out this commentary featured on Gotham Gazette last month where State Senator Liz Krueger calls for Lancaster to step down).

Here is Bloomberg’s statement:

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By on April 22, 2008, 2:11 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Willets Point Off to Sour Start (Update)
April 21st, 2008

Just as the Bloomberg administration announced it would pursue a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to develop an “environmentally-contaminated” area in Queens, a majority of the City Council went on the record opposing it.

The Willets Point development, which would create a mixed use community, complete with convention center, hotel, office space, retail and affordable housing on 62-acres in northern Queens, would go before community boards, the Queens borough president’s office, the City Planning Commission and eventually the City Council. The proposal has been spearheaded by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which has extensive plans on its website here.

The fact that 29 City Council members are already rallying against the proposal, including the area’s representative Hiram Monserrate, does not bode well for the administration (Granted, the ULURP procedure is just getting kicked off and it is expected that community input and revisions are a given for the process).

A spokesman for Monserrate, who has been vocal opponent of the plan prior to the letter’s release today, said the list of opposition is still growing.

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By on April 21, 2008, 4:44 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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A Member Item Ban
April 21st, 2008

The City Council’s member item mess continued to draw out over the weekend, with both the Times and the Post calling for a series of greater reforms by Speaker Christine Quinn.

Their call follows one from the Daily News earlier this month, which urged the speaker to abolish all member items.

Both the Post and the Times took similar stances – contending the indictment of two council staffers last week who misused funding earmarked for community organizations was indicative of the potential for corruption within the council’s allocation of discretionary funding.

“It is disappointing that Ms. Quinn is not calling for the elimination of the discretionary funds,” read Saturday’s New York Times editorial. “Legislators are elected to pass laws and draw up budgets, not hand out money to favor-seekers.”

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By on April 21, 2008, 1:05 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Economy,Gotham City,Law,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Gallagher's Last Day
April 18th, 2008

While all eyes turned toward Kendall Stewart and his indicted staff members as well as the fictitious group budget scandal whirling around Speaker Christine Quinn, we all forgot about another scandal at City Council that terminates today.

As of close of business today, Council District 30 in Queens is without a representative. That’s right; so long Dennis Gallagher, who resigned last month after he arranged a plea bargain that stemmed from rape charges from 2007.

At City Hall on Wednesday, Gallagher appeared quasi-relieved and not the slightest bit melancholy when asked about his last day.

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By on April 18, 2008, 11:23 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Gallagher's Last Day

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View of the Subway for the Disabled
April 18th, 2008

This minimalist version of the famed MTA subway map eliminates all stops not accessible to the disabled, revealing a rather barren assortment of stations. The map was created by the Smogr urblog earlier this year and rediscovered this week by 2nd Ave. Sagas.

By on April 18, 2008, 4:14 am
In category: Civil Rights,Transportation | 5 Comments »

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Interactive Map of Community Plans
April 17th, 2008

The Municipal Arts Society, in collaboration with the Community-Based Planning Task Force, released its interactive Atlas of Community Based Plans this week. The atlas allows users to click through a variety of community plans dating back to 1989 – from rezoning plans, to transportation plans, to open space plans – all displayed on an interactive map. Billed as “the only publicly-accessible compilation of community-based plans in New York City,” the atlas, in its latest evolution, offers links to documents on all of the plans plotted on the map.

By on April 17, 2008, 5:00 pm
In category: Community Development,Land Use,Tech | Comments Off on Interactive Map of Community Plans

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The Scandal's Afterlife
April 16th, 2008

City Hall was abuzz over the indictment of several City Council staffers today, and many city officials don’t foresee this being the last we’ll hear of it.

Some predict the corruption “runs deep,” while others wonder whether this will spark even more drastic reforms for the allocation of the council’s member item funding.

Others laughed, or even rolled their eyes, when asked whether they thought Councilmember Kendall Stewart knew nothing about his chief of staff’s alleged embezzlement scam.

What this will mean for Speaker Christine Quinn’s reforms proposed last week, much to the chagrin of a majority of the council, we don’t yet know. While her proposal took aim at the speaker’s discretionary pot — which accounts for more than $20 million of the council’s discretionary money — the indictment released today shows it was Stewart’s discretionary money that primarily funded this sketchy nonprofit.

Could greater oversight or control now be sought for individual member item funding? We shall see.

By on April 16, 2008, 5:29 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | Comments Off on The Scandal's Afterlife

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Council Staffers Indicted, Quinn is Without Info
April 16th, 2008

Two council staffers, one the former chief of staff to Councilmember Kendall Stewart, were indicted on federal charges today for allegedly steering public money into their own pockets through an educational nonprofit organization, the Donna Reid Memorial Education Fund.

The former chief of staff, Asquith Reid, and Jocyinth Anderson, a council staffer, could face decades in prison if found guilty of the federal charges, which include money laundering and mail fraud. The indictment was released this afternoon by Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the citys Department of Investigation. Garcia said today the investigation was ongoing.

The release followed a tumultuous week at City Hall, where City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been entrenched in a budget scandal (See related story here). That scandal broke less than two weeks ago, when the Post revealed the council had allocated discretionary funding to fictitious organizations. The funding eventually went to legitimate groups midway through the budget cycle.

According to the indictment, the Donna Reid Fund was a nonprofit organization that provided educational assistance to public school children.
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By on April 16, 2008, 4:47 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | 3 Comments »

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

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