Archive for August, 2008

An Imam in the House
August 14th, 2008

Just three days after our story highlighting the lack of religious representation during the City Council’s pre-meeting prayer, or formally its invocation, an imam made an appearance at the head of the City Council chamber this afternoon.

Saying Speaker Christine Quinn invited him, Imam Malik Sakhawat Hussain of Coney Island’s Al-Mahdi Foundation recited a prayer from the Koran then added a little political commentary.

Hussain is the first imam to give the invocation in more than a year (maybe more) at City Hall. Some groups who advocate for the abolishment of such prayer services, which, frankly, are given by most legislative bodies in the country, say the prayer in part disenfranchises citizens because certain religions are rarely represented.
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By on August 14, 2008, 6:22 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Law | Comments Off on An Imam in the House

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NY Techie Deported from China
August 14th, 2008

Noel Hidaglo, a fixture in the local tech scene here, brought his interest in activism and technology to China for the Olympics recently. But apparently the government there isn’t a fan of that sort of thing. After filming a protest held by Students for a Free Tibet, in Tiananmen Square, he posted it online.

He was then deported.

But that wasn’t his only experience there. His posts to FaceBook detailing his status during his deportation were being mysteriously removed. He says FaceBook is investigating. During his time in China, Hidaglo witnessed a journalist from ESPN being accosted for covering a banner drop, and he himself was shooed away from taking pictures of the banner by Chinese security. He also caught on video the pick-pocketing of a CBC journalist’s passport.

In related news, Gothamist reports that the International Olympic Committee is using the copyright on its logo to get YouTube to take down protest videos that include it.

By on August 14, 2008, 2:42 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Tech | Comments Off on NY Techie Deported from China

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Green Roofs, Walls, and the Sewers
August 13th, 2008

Advocates concerned about sewage overflowing into the city’s waterways are pleased with the new state law passed last week incentivising green roofs. Green roofs consist of vegetation and soil which absorb rain water, keeping it from overburdening the sewer system – among other benefits such as energy conservation and a reduction in the urban heat island effect. The law grants a tax abatement of up to $100,000 a year for certain buildings in the city that install such roofs.

“Each 10,000 square foot green roof can capture between 6,000 and 12,000 gallons of water in each storm event,” said Paul Mankiewicz, Gaia Institute executive director. “This is rainfall that will never enter the combined sewer.”

Some city agencies are already getting into the act. The Parks Department has started a pilot green roof project that has 12 systems, each of which has a different growing medium, plant type, or installation model.

So what’s next?
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By on August 13, 2008, 4:03 pm
In category: Environment,Land Use,Parks,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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How Do You Measure a Summer Stroll?
August 12th, 2008

Last weekend marked the debut of Summer Streets, an experiment to ban motor vehicles from nearly seven miles of streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 72nd Street for three Saturdays in August. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that if the event is a success, the city may look to expand it. But exactly what would constitute a “success” is unclear.

Today, the New York Times editorial page weighs in, calling the experience “serene” and “therapeutic” and claiming that “New Yorkers are voting with their feet in favor of more chances to displace the cars, trucks and taxis for a day, and go for a stroll.” (The New York Times blog message board is also filled with mostly positive reviews of the event.)

The blog Gothamist has a roundup of differing opinions on Summer Streets, including complaints from business owners, cab drivers, residents, and pedestrians who thought cyclists were riding recklessly.

The blog Commuter Outrage writes: “Please tell me that success is defined a little more concretely than people having fun”

By on August 12, 2008, 8:36 am
In category: Environment,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Graduation Rate Climbs
August 11th, 2008

So now that the Bloomberg administration is allowed to count high school graduates who receive their diplomas post-summer school in its graduation rate — the endgame of all education measures — its seen its score increase by an extra three percentage points.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this afternoon that the city’s rate had climbed to 55.8 percent in 2007. Excluding the summer school graduates the rate is 52.2 percent. In 2006, that rate was 49.8 percent and 46.5 percent in 2005.

In the mayor’s press release, CSA Executive Vice President Peter McNally and Randi Weingarten of the United Federation of Teachers praised the new stats.
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By on August 11, 2008, 6:16 pm
In category: Albany,Education | Comments Off on Graduation Rate Climbs

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Billions Eyed for Cuts
August 11th, 2008

Gov. David Paterson got out his red pen this morning to slash millions from the state’s Medicaid system, the City University of New York and the legislature’s own “pork barrel” spending in order to save $2.6 billion over fiscal year 2009 and 2010.

The proposed cuts came two weeks after the governor told the state in a rare public address that it had to cut back — big time.

The cuts will take more than $500 million from state Medicaid, including lowering hospital rate reimbursements by 7 percent, discontinuing funding for nursing homes that have identified alternate funding sources and ensuring insurance company savings are passed onto the state.

Paterson hopes to save $132 million by slashing new programs by 6 percent and more than $100 million from cuts to CUNY. He also wants to reduce this year’s member items by $100 million.

(You can listen to the conference call where the governor laid out his plan here.)
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By on August 11, 2008, 4:59 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Health,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Mail Order Homes
August 8th, 2008

Although there’s no word on the exhibition of the winners from the Office of Emergency Management’s post-disaster housing design competition, the Museum of Modern Art has got its own display of pre-fabricated housing on display in their Home Delivery exhibit. One of the homes, the System3, was erected at the exhibition site in six and a half hours. Another building, designed specifically for New Orleans, is estimated to cost just $40,000 apiece if produced in large quantities. Each of the five buildings, on view in the museum’s adjacent vacant lot, has its own journal on the exhibit’s Web site.

Scribe Media video via Inhabitat.

By on August 8, 2008, 4:22 pm
In category: Arts,Housing,Tech | 1 Comment »

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End of the Week Web Wrap
August 8th, 2008

  • State considers moving 421-a boundaries again.
    (The Real Deal)
  • Is North Brooklyn’s Industrial Business Zone effective?
    (Neighbors Allied for Good Growth)
  • A history of Brother Islands.
    (Gowanus Lounge)
  • Gallagher spent leftover warchest on pricey meals.
    (The Forum via Politicker)
  • Beautifying blight.
  • Local stations’ new initiatives to reach viewers.
    (Broadcasting and Cable via NYConvergence)
  • Buffalo cartoonist’s take on Albany’s budget situation.
    (Adam Zyglis)
  • Lawn litter signs for download.
    ( and
  • Internet sales tax is a ‘Ponzi Scheme,’ says policy group.
  • By on August 8, 2008, 2:31 pm
    In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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    Verizon's Plan to Meet Electrical Codes Questioned
    August 7th, 2008

    Verizon failed to meet electric codes at certain locations when laying its FiOS service in the city, it was revealed last month when the franchise for the company’s cable service came up for approval at the New York State Public Service Commission. According to the Public Utility Law Project’s blog, which reported on the hearing, some of their installations weren’t properly grounded and could have put the public or workers at risk.

    One commissioner, Patricia Acampora, actually voted against the franchise. She said she wan’t provided with enough time to look over Verizon’s plan to address the revelation and monitor compliance – which was delivered the day before the vote. Another commissioner, Cheryl Buley, voted in favor of the franchise with the understanding that there is a clear requirement for the company to meet all applicable codes. It passed four-to-one.

    The PULP blog also pointed out that Common Cause submitted a joint statement with a number of other groups that the public was not being given enough notice for such a large deal. But the commission’s staff countered that it had followed all rules regarding public comment periods.

    By on August 7, 2008, 4:50 pm
    In category: Tech | 1 Comment »

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    Council Special Elections on the Horizon? (UPDATE)
    August 6th, 2008

    Five weeks and counting.

    That’s how long we have until the primary, scheduled for September 9. And while the Senate and Assembly races may be the focus for now, these contests could spark a series of special elections for City Council seats if a few get to claim victory.

    Seven term-limited members will make an appearance on the ballot next month, mostly for seats upstate, including: Michael McMahon for the 13th Congressional district, James Gennaro for State Senate in Queens, Miguel Martinez for an Assembly seat in Upper Manhattan, Joe Addabbo for State Senate in Queens (More on his race here), Hiram Monserrate for State Senate in Queens and Kendall Stewart who is running for State Senate in Brooklyn against Simcha Felder (and a few other non-council candidates).

    (All of this information is available via our handy, dandy election tool: Who’s Running for What.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 6, 2008, 4:13 pm
    In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 2 Comments »

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    Is Public Service a Part-Time Job?
    August 6th, 2008

    Lawmakers often work long hours talking to constituents in the neighborhood, attending community events, and campaigning for their next election. But for members of the State Legislature and City Council, public service is technically part-time work. And many lawmakers have second jobs.

    Today, the New York Times reports that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a trial lawyer in his free-time, has lent at least $50,000 to help finance law firms that specialize in personal injury lawsuits. The issue, the article states, is whether an outside job creates a “substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest” or “raise suspicion among the public.” Silver maintains that his private sector work does neither.

    In an effort to help lower public suspicion, State Senator Martin Connor has introduced a bill that would give a $52,000 bonus to lawmakers who agree to serve full-time and drop outside sources of income. Daniel Squadron, his opponent in a Democratic Primary, isn’t impressed. And a New York Sun article questions if Connor’s bill is a way to get Governor David Paterson to approve a pay raise at a time when the state budget is unstable.

    Members of the State Legislature, who earn a base salary of $79,500, havent had a raise in a decade. Members of the New York City Council, who earn a base salary of $112,000 a year, voted themselves a pay raise in 2006, when the economy was good.

    By on August 6, 2008, 3:47 pm
    In category: Albany | Comments Off on Is Public Service a Part-Time Job?

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    Addabbo Skirts a Challenge
    August 5th, 2008

    Joseph Addabbo Jr., the Democratic institutions choice to defeat state Sen. Serphin Maltese and wrest the Senate majority from the Republicans, has sidestepped a blow from rival Democrat Albert Baldeo that threatened to nullify his candidacy with the Working Families Party.

    Baldeo teamed up with an insurgent WFP employee to bring a lawsuit to the state Supreme Court yesterday accusing Addabbo of collecting invalid signatures. But Judge Lawrence Cullen threw out the charges late yesterday afternoon, and the Addabbo campaign can breathe a quick sigh of relief in what has been a heated campaign.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 5, 2008, 3:48 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 6 Comments »

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    Burger Ban?
    August 5th, 2008

    Los Angeles may be famous for all those incredibly toned Holly wood bodies but in the less celebrated district of South Los Angeles, the obesity epidemic looms, with 30 percent of children considered obese. (In the city as a whole about a quarter of children weigh in as obese).

    In response the Los Angeles City Council last week unanimously banned any new fast food restaurant in the area, home to some 500,000 people.

    Faced with its own onslaught of obesity and diabetes, New York has taken on fast food as well, banning trans fats in restaurants and requiring chain restaurants to post calories contents. Indications are that most city restaurants have complied with the menu posting requirement, though as Sara Jerome reports in Gotham Gazette this week, the veracity of what they post (chocolate doughnuts with a mere 80 calories, apple tarts at 140) is open to question.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on August 5, 2008, 11:47 am
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Burger Ban?

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    Is the State in Crisis?
    August 4th, 2008

    So how bad is the state’s fiscal situation. It depends on who you ask?

    “Few budget analysts, though, consider the current shortfall to be a crisis, though they are concerned that the long-gathering global economic gloom could cause the state’s outlook to worsen considerably,” Danny Hakim writes in today’s Times. Hakim goes on to explain that, when viewed as a percentage of the overall budget, the state’s projected shortfall for the next three years, $26.2 billion, is not nearly as great a percentage of the overall budget as the gap the state
    confronted during the recession of five years ago. And while the one-year shortfall of $6.4 billion sounds like a lot it has to be put in the context of a budget of almost $130 billion.

    But the Daily News disagrees. Slamming the state legislature for not taking any action, the paper’s editorial says, “New York is in full-blown financial crisis. The national economic downturn – especially the layoffs and plunging profits on Wall Street – are decimating the state Treasury.”

    Even if it’s a false alarm, Felix Rohatyn, an architect of the plan that saved the city during the 1970s fiscal crisis, applaud Gov. David Paterson for sounding it. He “has no choice but to try to act. He’s right to try to do something,” Rohatyn told the Times. “I’ve always felt you manage for the worst and hope it gets better, but you don’t manage on the hope it gets better.’

    By on August 4, 2008, 5:44 pm
    In category: Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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    'Acting' State Supreme Court Justices
    August 1st, 2008

    Forty-four percent of the city’s Supreme Court justices are ‘temporary’ appointees, according to the latest article in Judicial Reports. Of those 137 temporary justices, 41 have held those seats for over 10 years.

    Supreme Court justices are supposed to be elected. But to handle the case load of the court, the Chief Administrative Judge can appoint these justices from the ranks of lower courts. Some are even appointed to the Court of Claims with the sole intention of moving them onto the Supreme Court.

    It seems that this situation is caused by the state constitution, which limits the number of judges per 50,000 residents of a judicial district.

    Click here to read the whole article.

    By on August 1, 2008, 11:18 am
    In category: Governing,Law | Comments Off on 'Acting' State Supreme Court Justices

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    Week's Best on the Web
    August 1st, 2008

  • State Bans Smoking at Addiction Recovery Centers.
  • Empire Center’s New Web Site Tracks State Spending.
  • What to Do About Those Rising Construction Costs?
    (The Real Estate)
  • Mayor, Speaker Ask Nonprofit to Form Green Codes Taskforce.
    (Green Buildings Council, New York Chapter)
  • New Business Provides Health Care for Uninsured Via Internet.
    (Gowanus Lounge)
  • Solar Enterprise Zones?
    (City Room)
  • Owens Trying to Raise $10,000 for Judicial Delegate Seat.
    (Daily Gotham)
  • Interview With Twin Corrections Officers from Rikers Island.
    (Mother Jones)
  • By on August 1, 2008, 10:39 am
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Week's Best on the Web

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