Archive for May, 2008
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Another Crane Collapse [Update]
May 30th, 2008

Correction: A previous version of this post referred to a stop work order from last month and said it was lifted yesterday. The stop work order from last month was lifted that day, and another was lifted yesterday.

A crane collapsed today at 91st St. and 1st Ave. killing at least one and critically injuring at least two. A stop work order was issued at the site last month for operating a crane in an unsafe manner. But the Daily News reports that the site, which is owned by the Department of Education, just had another order lifted yesterday.

[Update: The Department of Buildings released a statement saying that there had been a number of complaints regarding cranes at the site. The crane that actually collapsed yesterday was shut down twice by the department before it began operating.]

The crane crashed onto the roof of a building across the street, and then fell off, shearing the balconies from its face as it plummeted to the street.

The building under construction was The Azure, a project that was approved as part of a deal that had the developer build a new school at its base for free, according to the Daily News.

The collapse comes just days after the city revised its crane safety rules.

By on May 30, 2008, 12:58 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Sharpton Joins Critical Mass [Updated]
May 29th, 2008

onNYturf reported yesterday that the Rev. Al Sharpton will join tomorrow’s Critical Mass bike ride.

“Sharpton is expected [to] highlight mutual complaints about the NYPD and the abuse of civil rights. The reverend has also agreed to work on getting his supporters out for the ride, which could create a bigger and more diverse ride than Critical Mass has seen in a long while. The reverend will join the ride in a pedicab.”

[Update: Gothamist has a good piece about the event, including video; Streetsblog points to the reforms that could happen with the police; and BikeBlog picks up on the controversy within the bike community over Sharpton’s appearance.]

By on May 29, 2008, 3:38 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 1 Comment »

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Gay Rights - It's Nothing Personal
May 29th, 2008

Well that was quick.

The directive from Gov. David Paterson that all state agencies recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is already being challenged by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who is considering suing to block the move, reports the Daily Politics.

But of course, none of this is personal. It’s all about the separation of power in government, and Paterson has overstepped his authority, Bruno says. He also argues he had not received a heads up about the directive, (which the Politicker has posted here). Legal experts tell the Daily Politics that the directive is legally weak, and vulnerable to a challenge.

State Conservative Party Chair Michael Long takes a similar stance. “The California judges overturned the will of the California people and Governor Paterson is apparently trying to do the same thing in New York,” he said in a statement.

But Politics on the Hudson reports that Paterson argues he is actually protecting the state from lawsuits with the directive. He told reporters today that the ruling by a state appeals court in February directed the state to recognize such marriages, and that the state would face lawsuits if he hadn’t acted. Again, it has nothing to do with his personal preferences, he was just performing his legal duty to the state. (Of course, he took a different tact in his video to the Empire State Pride Agenda, where he promoted it as a civil rights issue.)

By on May 29, 2008, 3:21 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Law | 2 Comments »

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Talk About Sustainability (updated)
May 29th, 2008

Join Gotham Gazette and Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning & Development to discuss the city’s PlaNYC for a green and growing New York. To continue the conversation on we began with the launch of Sustainability Watch in April, Tom Angotti, professor in the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs & Planning and Gotham Gazette’s land use columnist, will be available to answer your questions and offer his views about what the plan does and does not do, its strength and its weakness.

What do you want to know? What do you think? If you have questions now, just add them to the comments here. You can ask now or tune in on June 3, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to ask your questions live — and to read the conversation as it takes place. Visit our chat page on June 3 to participate.

By on May 29, 2008, 10:17 am
In category: Community Development,Environment,Land Use | 3 Comments »

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Chancellor or Commissioner?
May 28th, 2008

One sidelight to yesterday’s often acrimonious City Council hearing on the education budget: Is the chancellor really a chancellor.

For the record, the definition of the term is a bit murky as it applies to the city’s schools, since a chancellor is variously described as, “Any of various officials of high rank” such a secretary to a monarch or noble; in Britain the chief secretary of an embassy; “the chief minister of state in some European countries” and, in some cases, a university president.

The current fight over cuts to school spending represents the first real battle over the city’s funding of education since the state government eliminated the central Board of Education and gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg far- reaching (some would say dictatorial) control of the city’s public schools — including the power to name the chancellor.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 28, 2008, 12:39 pm
In category: Education | 5 Comments »

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School Budget Showdown?
May 27th, 2008

In his six years as schools chancellor, Joel Klein has testified before City Council many times, with his comments sometimes met with skepticism if not outright hostility. But Klein received a particularly chilly reception this morning when he went before the finance and education committees to defend the administration’s plan to cut approximately $99 million in classroom spending. (For background on the cuts, go here.)

Klein came armed with a Power Point presentation and with the word “supplant,” which he used frequently and in as many forms as possible (though “supplantation” seemed to be his favorite). Council members came prepared with questions and fervid promises of support “for the children of the City of New York.” Despite repeated admonitions, the audience hissed Klein and cheered his critics. When protestors in the balcony refused to end their chants of “Chancellor Klein, don’t cut a dime,” the sergeant at arms escorted then from City Hall.

Amid all this theater, it became apparent that the dispute over school spending remains a major barrier to the mayor and council reaching agrement on a budget by the end of June.
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By on May 27, 2008, 3:41 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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To Be Poor in New York
May 27th, 2008

Gothamist commenters have plenty to say about Cara Buckley’s recent Time’s piece, written (apparently) in a demographic vacuum, about the suffering (oh, the suffering) of young, white new yorkers trying to get by on a budget. Tight budgets have them making difficult choices like mascara or lip gloss while foraging for B.Y.O.B. brunch spots (making your own waffles is, apparently, as unimaginable as a Saturday morning without mimosas). I double checked: April Fools Day has long passed. A little refresher course: the median income in New York City? $38,293. The suffering of a single guy making that and then half again sounds like the distant wail of one teeny, tiny violin.

One commenter came up with a fairly plausible theory: the Times is trying to stir up their comment boards by offending as many new yorkers in a single article as they possibly can.

For real coverage of New York City demographics, economics and fianance, I suppose we’ll all have to read Gotham Gazette.

By on May 27, 2008, 10:39 am
In category: Demographics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Post-Holiday Crime Roundup
May 27th, 2008

Summer holiday weekends tend to generate crime headlines. The warm weather, time off, and outdoor parties are all likely contributing factors. And newspapers often have little else to fill their pages on slow news days. This Tuesday morning after Memorial Day, the New York Times reports on a string of shootings in Harlem, the Daily News covers a barbeque shooting in the Bronx and a drug induced traffic fatality in Brighton Beach, and the New York Post focuses on a Central Park mugger.

But today there are also several editorials weighing in on the larger issues of crime in the city. The New York Times argues that 35 years is long enough for New Yorks Rockefeller drug laws. The laws, which were supposed to ensnare kingpins, have filled the prisons with drug addicts who would have been better dealt with through treatment programs, the Times writes. And a Daily News editorial calls on the citys district attorneys to stop a legal prison break by as many as 8,400 convicts who it fears might take advantage of a loophole that allows violent offenders to get parole without supervision.

By on May 27, 2008, 8:48 am
In category: Crime & Safety | Comments Off on Post-Holiday Crime Roundup

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Judicial Primaries [Updated]
May 23rd, 2008

The Politicker has been picking up on the movings and shakings this past week of Manhattan’s judicial primaries. The blog posted a primer on the Surrogate’s Court, which basically handles the estates of the deceased. It also has a backgrounder on the candidates in that race and the political operatives that are helping them. Yesterday, they wrote about the results of a screening panel that assessed the qualifications of candidates for Civil Court in Manhattan’s 1st district.

There are other judicial primaries beyond these. The Bronx will have a countywide election for Civil Court judge, as will Brooklyn, which will vote for three judges, and Queens, which will elect two. Also, there are Civil Court elections in the 1st and 4th districts in Brooklyn, as well as in the 4th district in Queens. (Click here to find which district you live in.) [Update: The Politicker now reports that an additional countywide Civil Court seat has just opened up. The vacancy is due to the recent confirmation of Gov. David Paterson’s appointment of Manhattan Civil Court Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich to fill an interim vacancy in the Appellate Division.]

While these Civil Court elections are for specific districts within each borough, once elected, they serve in the same capacity as those judges elected in countywide elections. The Civil Court handles claims of $25,000 or less, in addition to landlord-tenant disputes.

There will also be elections for Supreme Court justices, but voters during the primary will vote for Judicial Delegates, who will in turn pick a candidate for the general election. Voters registered in the Democratic, Republican and Independence Parties will choose delegates in all five boroughs, although there are only Supreme Court elections in Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. Although a federal appeals court had ruled this system unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling at the beginning of the year.

By on May 23, 2008, 1:16 pm
In category: Governing,Law | Comments Off on Judicial Primaries [Updated]

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Ognibene Not 'Duped' By Global Warming
May 22nd, 2008

Sen. James Inhofe’s position that global warming is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” received sustained national attention. Sure, he was chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which made the stance all that much more important.

But when a candidate in the special election to fill a City Council seat in Queens said he hasn’t been “duped” by global warming, it certainly didn’t go unnoticed by those who heard it. The comment was made by Thomas Ognibene at a candidates forum for the 30th district in Queens last night, which was organized by the Historic Districts Council and the League of Preservation Voters. It was the topic of conversation afterwards and the only line to get a laugh from the audience.

“There are scientists that are saying we are actually going through a period of global cooling,” Ognibene said. “Since it’s a political issue, I don’t think it has anything to do with this, and I’m certainly not duped by it, and I don’t care about global warming.”

He did pronounce support for many policies that would help reduce greenhouse gases nonetheless, such as energy efficiency, which he framed as an economic and infrastructure issue.

Still, that wasn’t enough to comfort some voters who attended the forum. Christopher Crowe, an employee at the New York University Bobst Library, said that the comment made Ognibene seem unreliable, and he worried what Ognibene thought about other issues, if he felt that way about global warming.

“If it’s present in the detail, it’s present in the whole,” Crowe said.

But the global warming comment wasn’t the only statement to be challenged.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 22, 2008, 11:26 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Environment,Governing | 5 Comments »

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Donation Saves Church (Update)
May 21st, 2008

The Archdiocese of New York announced today that a $20 million anonymous donation would save the threatened St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church on Tompkins Square Park.

The church closed its doors in 2001 after Cardinal Edward M. Egan deemed the structure unsafe, and members of the adjacent community have rallied for its restoration ever since. Half of the funding will go towards restoring the church, while the other half will be directed to an endowment for the parish and to area Catholic schools.

The structure has towered over Avenue B since the mid-1800s. When some feared the building would be sold and subsequently torn down, a community backlash abounded, which some are now attributing to the church’s salvation.

This church could have been another example of religious property being gobbled up by the city’s lucrative real estate market. For related coverage, check out this week’s feature.
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By on May 21, 2008, 4:33 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Overcrowding Reprise
May 21st, 2008

Though the chambers weren’t packed, the City Council focused this morning on another area of overcrowding: the city’s classrooms.

For two hours, members of the finance and education committees at the City Council — including a few other pols who quickly made an appearance — questioned officials from the Department of Education on its capital budget, and not surprisingly the topic of conversation quickly gravitated towards school overcrowding.

Though the department is in the process of adding more then 63,000 seats before the end of fiscal year 2009, overcrowding still persists. That left some members wondering whether the city should tap the use of eminent domain to create more school space.
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By on May 21, 2008, 2:52 pm
In category: Education,Land Use | Comments Off on Overcrowding Reprise

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Who Has the Power to Develop the West Side?
May 20th, 2008

Last week, the New York Observer unveiled its list of “the 100 most powerful people in New York real estate” – and gave the top spot to Jerry Speyer of the firm Tishman Speyer. Tishman Speyer owns the MetLife building, the Chrysler building, Rockefeller Center, and as the Observer wrote “nearly won the right to develop the West Side rail yards” until the deal with the MTA fell apart.

Today, there is news that the MTA has made an agreement with the Observer’s #3 man on the list Stephen Ross of Related Companies, which keeps the West Side rail yards project alive for now. (Number 2 on the list is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is still hoping the West Side development can be part of his legacy.)

Despite an agreement with a new developer, critics say there are still many obstacles for the projectincluding environmental and land use reviews, competition with other big projects like the World Trade Center site, andan uncertain economy which could take a toll on the amount of money private companies and the governmentwant to pour into theproject. State Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions and is #89 on the Observer’s list,told the New York Times, “Until we get a handle on the level of subsidies involved, theres no way to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal.”

By on May 20, 2008, 3:42 pm
In category: Community Development,Housing,Transportation,Waterfront | Comments Off on Who Has the Power to Develop the West Side?

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The Woman Who Unearthed City Hall
May 20th, 2008

Today, theNew York Times marks the death of Regina Kellerman, an architectural historian who unearthed New York Citys first City Hall. The article states:

“It was in 1970, after five years of work on a doctoral dissertation both in New York and the Netherlands, that Ms. Kellerman was able to pinpoint the exact location on Pearl Street, near Coenties Alley of the three-story building that was used as a stadthuis, or city hall, from 1653, when the city was incorporated by the Dutch, until 1699, when the building was torn down by the English. The site was excavated, and remnants of a building, which were removed, were found right where she said they would be.”

By on May 20, 2008, 3:28 pm
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Quinn Gets Questioned at Crain's (UPDATE)
May 20th, 2008

For nearly half of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s Crain’s breakfast forum this morning, the dominant subject was none other than the council’s budget scandal — despite a concerted effort by her office to mask promote the event as a declaration of her educational priorities.

While the speaker’s address — which lasted about a third of the entire forum — stuck to issues of mayoral control and the Department of Education’s budget priorities, a question and answer period led by the Post’s Dave Seifman and Crain’s Greg David was monopolized by the slush fund scandal and whether or not the speaker would support banning member item funding of groups affiliated with family members.

(To try to navigate your own way through the council’s budget process, check out our new game: The Budget Maze).
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By on May 20, 2008, 11:14 am
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Policing the Budget
May 20th, 2008

Whatever one thinks about city police, almost everyone agrees that a $25,000 starting salary for cops is not likely to entice many. To the approval of Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and with a more grudging endorsement from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — the state Public Employment Relations Board yesterday announced a decision that increases the starting salaries by more than $10,000 to $35,881 a year and gives the recruits a 9.7 percent retroactive raise for 2004 through 2006.

But the good fortune for the young cops, along with other increases in the decision, will cost the city an extra $50 million a year, Sarah Garland reports in today’s Sun, money the city had not anticipated spending. The mayor’s office told Garland it had not yet analyzed the impact of the ruling but earlier this year, Bloomberg cautioned a larger than expected hike for police could threaten the planned 7 percent cut in the property tax rate.

And the money for police could mount up. The deal with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association could prompt New York’s four other police unions to reopen their deals with the city. And the state ruling only applies though July 2006. The cops still have to negotiate a contract for the time since then — to say nothing of the future.

So what if the police pay hike threatens one of your prized programs? Library hours say? What could you do to help? Play Gotham Gazette’s newest game, the Budget Maze, to learn how the process works and to see if you can become a budget master.

By on May 20, 2008, 11:08 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Public Finance | Comments Off on Policing the Budget

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Return to Crown Heights
May 19th, 2008

Two recent attacks on young men in Crown Heights have prompted fears of renewed racial tensions in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Last month Andrew Charles, a 20-year-old black college student, was beaten by two men, both apparently Jewish in the area. Then last week, two men, both reportedly black, jumped and assaulted Alon Sherman, a Jewish teen, stealing his bicycle.

Even in lower crime New York, street attacks like these remain sadly common but the racial dimensions of these assaults, the reaction of some in the community and the history of the neighborhood, which was racked by riots in 1991, quickly ratcheted things up.
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By on May 19, 2008, 5:35 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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Park Slope Paper
May 19th, 2008

Why does everyone hate Park Slope, Lynn Harris asks in yesterday’s Times. Too many over the top parents? Jealousy on the part of those of us who can’t afford to live there? Gentrification run amok?

Here’s a possibility Harris does not mention. Maybe we’re all just sick of reading about the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood in the Times. A search for articles with “Park Slope” over the past 30 days brought 43 matches, far outpacing other well-known New York City neighborhoods. Bedford-Stuyvesant showed up in 17 articles, Washington Heights in 16 and Jackson Heights in 11. Included in the Park Slope total: two lengthy, prominently featured articles on the suspension of alternate side parking in the area’s streets for several weeks. As another paper would say, inquiring minds need to know.

By on May 19, 2008, 12:42 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City | Comments Off on Park Slope Paper

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Issues Discussed in Queens Special Election
May 16th, 2008

While the resignation of Councilmember Dennis Gallagher received wide ranging coverage, the resulting special election for his seat in Queens has gotten less attention – as is generally the case. But a historic preservation coalition recently released a wide ranging voter guide. Although the focus of the guide is decidedly on preservation, it covers a number of development issues, touching on PlaNYC, industrial zoning, eminent domain, and transparency in government.
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By on May 16, 2008, 2:50 pm
In category: Governing | 1 Comment »

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River Crossings
May 15th, 2008

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council yesterday released this map of 2005 river crossing data.

A couple interesting highlights: The Bayonne Bridge has had the biggest increase in use over the past 10 years, with 4.9 percent rise, and the Cross Bay-Veteran Memorial Bridge is the runner up with 3.9 percent more traffic over the last decade. With the exception of the Williamsburg Bridge, all of the Brooklyn river crossings have seen a drop in traffic of about 0.5 percent over 10 years.

By on May 15, 2008, 11:49 am
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on River Crossings

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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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