Archive for March, 2009

Smith on Conference Committees
March 12th, 2009

The Senate Majority has always intended to hold conference committees as part of this years budget process, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said in a recent statement. Smith’s statement reinforces what Smith’ s spokesperson told the Gazette yesterday. However, it is still uncertain whether both houses will participate in the committees and how many there will be. Dan Weiller, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, did not comment but pointed to comments made by Silver earlier today.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 12, 2009, 3:16 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Smith on Conference Committees

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


State Budget Confusion
March 12th, 2009

The three men in a room can’t get their message straight about whether they are actually doing away with conference committees as part of the budget process this year.

Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon silver said yesterday that the big three would be hashing out the budget by themselves and skipping single house bills and conference committees.

Good government groups and Republicans say the Democrats are making the budget process secretive and that skipping conference committees is actually illegal.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 12, 2009, 12:26 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Finally! Breathing Life Into the Fulton Mall
March 12th, 2009

That was a joke, for anyone who hasn’t roamed Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall recently: most Saturdays the strip is as crowded as Times Square, and with 100,000 shoppers per day it ranks among the most successful commercial stretches in the five boroughs. Nonetheless, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the local BID collaborated to develop plans to spruce the strip up. Renovations are proceeding apace on Albee Square, the plaza at Fleet and DeKalb, set to open next spring. Yesterday’s Brownstoner writeup of the plans has readers in a tizzy over the curiously Caucasian crowd in the renderings (which are also curiously free of street vendors and city vehicles skirting the bus-only rules).

By on March 12, 2009, 12:02 pm
In category: Economy,Land Use | Comments Off on Finally! Breathing Life Into the Fulton Mall

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


New Yorkers in Poverty
March 12th, 2009

The New York State Community Action Association has released a report on New York’s poverty rates. Statewide, 14 percent of the population lives in poverty, compared to 13.3 percent of the nation as a whole. But in New York City, the gap is much wider. The federal poverty line, which is the definition the report uses, is an annual income of $18,310 for a family of three.

Here’s some of the more striking highlights from the five boroughs:

The Bronx poverty rate, at 28 percent, is double the state average. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of children live in poverty there. In Manhattan, which has a poverty rate of 18 percent, blacks and Hispanics are three times as likely to live in poverty than whites.

Both Queens and Staten Island have lower rates than the state and national averages, with poverty rates of 12.1 percent and 10.1 percent respectively. And in Queens, the racial disparity in poverty rates is much less pronounced than the other boroughs; there are less blacks in poverty there than the national average for the general population. But in Staten Island, nearly four times as many blacks are in poverty compared to whites.

The report’s authors note that while the data is as recent as possible, it “is still too old to reflect the current economic conditions facing New Yorkers”

By on March 12, 2009, 9:44 am
In category: Albany,Community Development,Demographics,Economy,Measuring UP | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Budget Process to Become More Secretive?
March 11th, 2009

See update after the jump.

It is hard to imagine, but Albany is about to get more secretive. Anyone who was waiting for individual budget proposals from either side of the legislature can stop holding their breath.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters today that he, Gov. David Paterson, and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith are hoping to come to an agreement among themselves rather than produce individual budget proposals and then run them through joint budget conference committees, as is customary.

Observers have wondered how the Senate could possibly meet a self imposed deadline to come up with a budget proposal this week. Besides the fact that the Senate majority is still understaffed, insiders say there is a lot of disagreement among Senate Democrats over the budget. So they are going to try to skip all that one-house budget proposal nonsense, and the three men in the room are going to cozy up together and hash it out themselves.

The importance of an on-time budget apparently trumps transparency.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 11, 2009, 5:52 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Bigger Nuisance
March 11th, 2009

Education advocates reacted to Gov. David Paterson’s announcement that he would use $1.3 billion of federal stimulus money t0 do away with a proposed number of “nuisance taxes” by asking Paterson and the legislature to turn their attention to restoring proposed cuts to education.

How do they think Paterson should go about doing that?

By combining stimulus funds with the proceeds of a tax on the wealthy.

Legislation for such a tax is pending in both houses of the legislature but Gov. David Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith still seem opposed to it. However, Paterson has recently stated that if the state’s fiscal situation gets any worse the tax might be unavoidable.

The remaining federal stimulus dollars combined with Fair Share Tax Reform can provide the resources needed to protect our school children and our communities from devastating cuts,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education in a release. “One hurdle to getting a fair and on-time state budget was eliminated today, now the state can shift its focus from discussing hair cut taxes and I-Pod taxes to deciding on how we can best protect the education of our school children.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 11, 2009, 3:45 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Bigger Nuisance

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


The Council Bites Back
March 11th, 2009

Photo via Wiki Commons

Photo via Wiki Commons


They live in the crevices of your mattresses and attack in the middle of the night.

Bed bugs are back and in full force throughout the city.

“One thing people need to understand about bed bugs is it’s equal opportunity,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a press conference this afternoon. They can infest a penthouse on the Upper East Side or a New York City Housing Authority project.

To exterminate them, the City Council is about to approve legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Gale Brewer, this afternoon that would create a task force to study the epidemic. The task force will train and educate professionals, track infestations and give recommendations for treatment.

We will keep you posted on the legislation’s progress.

By on March 11, 2009, 12:50 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Health,Housing,nextNY | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Tax Free
March 11th, 2009

Albany’s three men in a room announced today that the numerous taxes and fees Gov. David Paterson proposed in his budget in December will not be necessary, thanks to funds from the federal stimulus package.

That means no fat tax on sugary soft drinks, no entertainment tax on bowling, movies and other such delights, no tax on digital downloads, and no tax on gym memberships. The taxes and fees were estimated to plug $1.3 billion dollars worth of the state’s budget gap.

Some say that this is a move pushed by the Governor’s office to garner good press. However, in the long run, critics say, removing the tax proposal now takes away some of the Democrats leverage during future budget negotiations.

Irene Jay Liu of the Albany Times Union, points out that Paterson is using federal cash that was supposed to be used for Medicaid relief. Liz Benjamin of the Daily News writes that President Obama was very specific in telling governors that the cash should only go “towards helping struggling Americans keep their healthcare coverage.”

Needless to say, the health care lobby is furious at Paterson.

Paterson was greeted by a general backlash when he announced the taxes in December. But let us not forget the good things created by Paterson’s fun taxes.

Like what?

Like the anti iTax song and website produced by Assembly Minority Leader and candidate for the 20th Congressional District Jim Tedisco.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 11, 2009, 11:38 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Avella Looks to Ban Lulus
March 10th, 2009

The one councilmember who doesn’t accept his stipend for chairing a council committee (in this case, it’s a subcommittee) doesn’t want anyone else to either.

Councilmember Tony Avella, a mayoral candidate and chair of the council’s zoning subcommittee, plans on introducing several bills at tomorrow’s stated meeting that would ban the stipends (or lulus) members receive for heading up committees. Most stipends are $10,000, though they can go as high as $28,500 for the speaker and as low as $4,000 for certain subcommittees, like senior centers.

For a more detailed look at lulus, participation and attendance at the City Council, check out our issue of the week: A City Council Scorecard: Who’s Engaged and Who’s Not?

But Avella isn’t stopping there.

The mayoral candidate says he also wants to empower the chairs of those committees. Contending that it’s solely the speaker who controls committee agendas, Avella plans on introducing a bill that allows both the speaker and the committee chair to set what legislation is heard or what oversight matter is discussed.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 10, 2009, 3:57 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | Comments Off on Avella Looks to Ban Lulus

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Brooklyn Trash Taken By Train
March 10th, 2009

game

Check, northern Brooklyn.

The Bronx and Staten Island. Check, check.

These boroughs are now transporting their trash by rail or barge as part of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan approved by the City Council in 2006. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in East Williamsburg this morning that about 950 tons of waste from Brooklyn Community Boards 1, 3, 4, and 5 will be taken by rail from the Varick Avenue transfer station daily. All of that trash had previously been taken by tractor trailers, which spew out far more noxious and harmful fumes in the area.

We took an in depth look at the city’s garbage plan with The Garbage Game. See if you can design the city’s solid waste management plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 10, 2009, 12:44 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Health,Parks,sustainability,Transportation | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Gov. Paterson is Mr. Freeze
March 9th, 2009

Gov. David Paterson has followed up his announcement that he will take a 10 percent pay cut by initiating a pay freeze for all of his Executive Chamber staff. Paterson said the freeze is designed to help address New York’s fiscal crisis.

Paterson recently faced criticism for giving sizable raises to his staff. It was only a few months ago that Paterson initiated a state wide hiring freeze and asked state workers to do without three percent raises.

Paterson defended the raises by insisting some staff had taken on more work.

Paterson’s popularity has been in a downward spiral since the beginning of the year.

The full release from Paterson’s office follows:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 9, 2009, 6:30 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Gov. Paterson is Mr. Freeze

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


More for Fair Share Tax
March 9th, 2009

Tomorrow, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence will call on Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature to close the state’s budget gap by raising the income tax on those making more than $250,000 a year. Advocates want tax money from the rich to replace program cuts.

The NYSCADV says that thanks to a 25 percent cut to the Hoyt Trust Fund, victims of domestic violence will have fewer resources at their disposal. They say 28 programs that work to prevent child abuse, domestic violence and, elder abuse will be negatively impacted by the planned budget cuts.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 9, 2009, 6:10 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Funding for Other Trains
March 9th, 2009

Gov. David Paterson, along with a great number of New York State officials and politicians, gathered at the Rensselaer train station this morning to announce the release of the 2009 New York State Rail Plan.

The plan would create high speed rail lines across New York State, increase freight car usage and give modern rail cars access to New York City and Long Island. Supporters say the plan will be a boost to New York’s economy.

The 2009 plan is the first update to New York’s rail strategy in 22 years. The plan would be implemented over 20 years and would cost $10.7 billion. Paterson hopes to secure federal funding from the stimulus package for the project.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said: From Albany to Rochester and from Poughkeepsie to Plattsburgh, we must update and reinvent our rail network to unclog the transportation arteries cutting off potential economic growth Upstate.

The state’s other senator, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, said: High-speed rail is one of my top priorities. It is a key component of Upstate New Yorks economic development and will spur job growth throughout the state. The development of high-speed rail throughout New York will create an economic development engine for decades.

A press release from Paterson’s office follows:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 9, 2009, 2:43 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Transportation | Comments Off on Funding for Other Trains

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Lacking Funding, Not Acronyms
March 9th, 2009

Budget hearings at the City Council are kicking off with alphabet soup.

There is FMAP. Then there’s AIM. And finally CHIPS.

Translation: federal medicaid funding, municipal revenue sharing and street and highway funding (respectively) — funding whose fate is at the whim of Albany.

These funds were just part of the conversation this morning at the first of what will be more than two weeks worth of preliminary budget hearings at the City Council. Kicking off with testimony from the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mark Page said that although the federal stimulus package has given a one-time bailout to the city, they are “not out of the woods.”

City officials, he said, are looking to Albany for help closing a $5.77 billion gap for the next fiscal year. Their strategy so far, he added, is talking.

“Short of going up there with small arms, which the administration is not in favor of, talking is really all we have,” Page said.

It’s the state government who has the power to control how much funding the city will see from the stimulus package, Page added, which is likely to come in the form of the aforementioned acronyms. That didn’t quell City Council members concerns, though, who — at times — struck a combative tone with the administration’s budget czar.

After getting grilled by Councilmember Letitia James, Page threatened to leave the hearing. He eventually calmed down and stayed put.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 9, 2009, 2:35 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Electoral Politics,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on Lacking Funding, Not Acronyms

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


The MTA Bailout Hold Up Continues
March 9th, 2009

There was talk over the weekend that a deal for a Metropolitan Transit Authority bailout was near. However, today a deal seems far away as ever as opposition to the plan in the Senate has solidified in the form of at least 5 Senators who stand against it.

Majority Leader Malcolm Smith played down concerns that a few members were holding up the plan. Smith insisted that the Senate does not have a full plan in place for members to decide on yet. “We’re still going over the plan itself,” Smith told reporters at a press conference this morning.

Smith and Paterson say that there is still time for a plan to be reached before the March 25 deadline. On that date the MTA says that it will have to make major cuts to service and increase fares if it has not received a bailout.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 9, 2009, 1:36 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | Comments Off on The MTA Bailout Hold Up Continues

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Weekly Web Wrap
March 6th, 2009

  • New Pension Plan Wouldn’t Save What Bloomberg Says
    (I.B.O. Weblog)
  • Architects, Planners, Authors, Intellectuals Weigh in on Broadway Plan
    (Room for Debate via Planetizen)
  • Closing Roads Can Reduce Congestion
    (Newsweek)
  • Is Thompson’s Tax Amnesty Plan a Good Idea?
    (CityEconomist)
  • Why Did the Times and News Run Carrion Stories Now?
    (Bronx News Network)
  • The Regional Bus Authority: Probably Not Good for City
    (Room Eight)
  • Pro-Atlantic Yards Candidate Opposes Councilmember James
    (Atlantic Yards Report)
  • New Weather Service Alerts Bikers About State of Bridges
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • City Certifies Flatbush Rezoning
    (Campaign for Community-Based Planning)
  • Croudsourcing Bus Locations
    (Regional Plan Association)
  • City Ranked Worst for Unemployment Pay
    (Forbes)
  • Wall Street Bonuses and Housing Prices
    (Creative Class)
  • An Endangered Garment Center
    (Huffington Post)
  • Gowanus Lounge Founder Dies
    (Gowanus Lounge)
  • The Ordeal of David Paterson
    (Governing Magazine)
  • By on March 6, 2009, 5:19 pm
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

    | More

    RSS Feed RSS Feed


    Advocates Unhappy With Assembly Drug Reform
    March 6th, 2009

    “This is not what we have been fighting for,” said Caitlin Dunklee, the coordinator for Drop the Rock. “This is being portrayed as full repeal when it is really a half step. Dunklee said that the drug law reform bill passed by the Assembly on Wednesday is a half measure that still denies judges sentencing discretion in about half of all future drug cases.

    Advocates are concerned that the bill leaves intact mandatory sentencing for A1 and A2 drug offenders, who are labeled “kingpins,” as well as for offenders who were involved in a violent incident or who sold drugs to minors. Those pushing for changes note that press coverage has painted the Assembly bill as a “complete victory” and “total repeal of the laws” when it is not. Dunklee said that so far the press have ignored her organization’s insistence that the Assembly bill is not a complete victory. She hopes to change that.

    On Tuesday, Dunklee and about 350 activists will visit Albany to make their point. They plan to present Gov. David Paterson with 30,000 signatures demanding full repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws. Advocates will lobby both houses of the legislature and push the Senate to consider “broader” changes to the drug laws. They also plan to ask the Assembly to consider revisions to the reforms it passed earlier this week.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on March 6, 2009, 2:58 pm
    In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Health | Comments Off on Advocates Unhappy With Assembly Drug Reform

    | More

    RSS Feed RSS Feed


    Who's Protecting Whose Wallet?
    March 6th, 2009

    Three Democratic state senators who have blocked the plan to charge tolls on the East River bridges and so prevent transit service cuts and fare hikes say they simply want to protect their constituents.

    But which constituents?

    Last year, in the midst of the congestion pricing debate, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Pratt Center for Community Development took a legislative district by district look at where people work and how they get there. This data does not directly translate to the toll debate, since the tolls would affect anyone who crosses a now-free bridge to Manhattan while the congestion pricing proposal, in its final incarnation, only charges drivers south of 60th Street.

    It provides some indication, nonetheless, and makes the stands of Sens. Ruben Diaz, Pedro Espada and Carl Kruger somewhat baffling.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on March 6, 2009, 12:29 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Who's Protecting Whose Wallet?

    | More

    RSS Feed RSS Feed


    Drug Law Reform Repackaged in Senate
    March 6th, 2009

    The Assembly passed a major drug law reform bill on Wednesday. Now in an attempt to get the bill through the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has announced drug law reform will be considered as part of their budget proposal.

    With a small majority and a few rogue members, Smith seems to hope drug law reform will be a less contentious issue if presented as part of the budget and as a money saving initiative.

    At least one member of the Senate Majority has publicly opposed drug law reform. The Times Union reported that Senator Craig Johnson of Long Island has his “reservations.”

    The statement from Smith’s office follows:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on March 6, 2009, 12:15 pm
    In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Health | 2 Comments »

    | More

    RSS Feed RSS Feed


    Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Lending Laws
    March 5th, 2009

    The city comptroller yesterday filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to enforce national banks’ compliance with state laws against discriminatory lending. The brief used data from the comptroller’s office showing the need for such enforcement in New York City.

    “In New York City, African-American and Hispanic home buyers and owners, at all income levels, have been the victims of disparate and unequal treatment by home mortgage lenders, including national banks and their affiliates, Comptroller William Thompson said in the brief.

    Using data from his office’s Foreclosure Prevention Helpline, the comptroller’s office found that homeowners in danger of facing foreclosure are concentrated in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, regardless of the areas’ income levels.

    “This starkly disparate outcome appears to result from the exact issue [Cuomo] had attempted to investigate before being enjoined: that ‘a significantly higher percentage of high-interest home mortgage loans are issued to African-American and Hispanic borrowers than to white borrowers.'”

    The data adds to numerous other studies that come to similar conclusions from the Furman Center, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project and the New York Times.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on March 5, 2009, 8:03 pm
    In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Demographics,Economy,Housing,Law | 3 Comments »

    | More

    RSS Feed RSS Feed


    Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

    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.

    RSS Feed