Archive for May, 2009

Water Rate Increased Today
May 15th, 2009

The Water Board today voted to raise rates 12.9 percent, a slightly smaller increase than their original proposal of a 14 percent hike. The Department of Environmental Protection said the lower hike was possible because they were able to cut operating costs, more people are paying their bills on time and energy costs have dropped. They also softened the regulations for pursuing suspected water thieves.

For more, see Gotham Gazette’s “Gold from the Faucet.”

By on May 15, 2009, 11:27 am
In category: Community Development,Environment | Comments Off on Water Rate Increased Today

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Employment Discrimination for Blacks with Criminal Records
May 14th, 2009

Finding unskilled employment for recently released inmates can be challenging in itself, but it can be even harder for blacks in that situation. According to a recent article published in the journal the Annals of the American Academy, just getting a call back from prospective employers in New York City can be twice as hard for blacks with a criminal record than for their white counterparts. Only 10 percent of black ex-offenders in the study received a callback after dropping off an application, while 22 percent of their white counterparts got one. The difference in callbacks between those without records was much smaller, where 25 percent of blacks did compared 31 percent for whites.

Just over half of inmates in New York prisons are black.

The report – written by Devah Pager, an associate professor at Princeton, Bruce Western, a professor at Harvard, and Naomi Sugie, a PhD student at Princeton – also stresses the importance of building a personal rapport in getting a job. They found that personal contact with a prospective employer improved the chances by 15 percent of those with criminal records in getting a callback or interview.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 14, 2009, 2:02 pm
In category: Crime & Safety | 2 Comments »

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The Integrity of the Commission on Public Integrity
May 14th, 2009

Yesterday Gov. David Paterson called for the 12 members of the Commission on Public Integrity to step down and named Michael Cherkasky to be the new chairman. Cherkasky is a trial lawyer and the CEO of a security company. The move has left some shocked and others satisfied.

Paterson’s call for the commissioners resignations followed a blistering report from Inspector General Joseph Fisch, which concluded that the commission’s director, Herbert Teitelbaum, compromised the investigation into the Troopergate scandal by sharing information with one of Eliot Spitzer’s cabinet members. Teitelbaum has denied any wrongdoing and the commissioners have refused to step down. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 14, 2009, 1:46 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on The Integrity of the Commission on Public Integrity

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Assembly Posts Member Item List
May 13th, 2009

Remember all that talk of state money in the budget for curling clubs, brick museums and yoga classes? Well, here is a list of all the Assembly member items with the names of the legislators who requested them. The Assembly posted the list on their web page this week. The Senate has yet to do the same. The list would fit in perfectly on their pretty new web site. You can review Senate member items from years past here. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2009, 11:11 pm
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Thompson Gets Dinkins
May 13th, 2009

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets an approval rating that’s on the rise.

On the steps of City Hall this afternoon Comptroller William Thompson Jr. got a boost for his mayoral campaign with an endorsement by former Mayor David Dinkins.

Hours earlier, Bloomberg’s re-election campaign got its own vindication from Marist in the form of a 59 percent approval rating, up from 52 percent in February. According to the poll, 81 percent of those surveyed think the mayor works hard for the city.

In comparison, Bloomberg appears to be weaker on education — 51 percent approve of how he has handled education, while 41 percent disapprove.

The new poll numbers overshadowed the Thompson camp celebration of its most high-profile endorsement so far — Dinkins. Realistically, news broke about the Dinkins endorsement more than a week ago. This afternoon, the Thompson campaign sent out an email from Dinkins explaining his support, which appears in full after the jump.

Dinkins was the city’s first African American mayor, and Thompson is trying to be the second.

For an in depth look at the Thompson campaign, see “The Underdog.”

Also today, Bloomberg’s re-election campaign was endorsed by the Rev. Dr. Timothy Birkett of the Church Alive Community Church in the Bronx.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2009, 3:45 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Thompson Gets Dinkins

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Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill
May 12th, 2009

The New York State Assembly passed a bill tonight that would legalize same-sex marriage. The bill passed 89 to 52 after extensive debate with five Republicans voting for the measure. The Assembly passed similar legislation in 2007 by a vote of 85 to 61 only to have the bill die in the Republican controlled Senate. Supporters hope the increased number of votes for the bill will sway senators.

The fight to legalize gay marriage will now go to the Democratically controlled Senate where Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has said he will not bring the bill to the floor until he is sure he has the votes. Smith reiterated his personal support for gay marriage in a statement released earlier today. Word is that supporters of the bill in the Senate need to win around five votes to secure it’s passage.

A press release from the office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver follows: Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 12, 2009, 8:40 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 12 Comments »

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Bills Aimed At Abatements
May 11th, 2009

Almost two years ago, two firefighters died in a blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan.

Today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and members of the Bloomberg administration announced the introduction of 11 bills aimed at preventing similar tragedies. The legislation focuses on abatement and demolition practices as well as standpipe and sprinkler systems.

At the former Deutsche Bank, firefighters were unable to quickly put out the blaze because a standpipe had been disconnected during the deconstruction and abatement of the tower. The abatement process created “maze-like” conditions in the 40-story building, which was being taken down after it was severely damaged in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia died as a result.

Charges have been filed against the contractor in charge of the project, the John Galt Corporation. Three men have been charged with manslaughter for dismantling the standpipe, which would have fed firefighters battling the blaze gallons upon gallons of water.

This afternoon, Graffagnino’s father came to City Hall, standing side by side with city officials, to congratulate them on the legislative package.

“I think this is absolutely fantastic,” said the firefighter’s father, who is also named Joseph Graffagnino.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 11, 2009, 5:28 pm
In category: Gotham City,Health,Law,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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New CFB Database
May 11th, 2009

Explore the world of city campaign finance via the Campaign Finance Board’s revamped database.

I for one am excited you no longer have to download dbf files.

Stay tuned for finance disclosures later this week.

By on May 11, 2009, 4:45 pm
In category: Gotham City,Measuring UP | Comments Off on New CFB Database

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Back from Doomsday
May 11th, 2009

Hikes in subway and bus fares hardly qualify as something to cheer about but straphangers can take some relief in the knowledge that the increases enacted today could have been far, far worse. As expected, following last week’s passage of a bailout plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency’s board voted today to increase fares and tolls but not by nearly as much as had been originally planned. (For a rundown see City Room.)

“Believe me the next best is a far, far, far cry from the worst, which is what we were staring at when we were last sitting at this table,” MTA, chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger reportedly said.

But the troubled agency is not out of the woods. Critics dispute whether the revenue raising measures in the bailout will bring in as much money as anticipated. And no one thinks the package solved the MTA’s many long-range woes. For more on the rescue and what it means for the future of mass transit in New York, see Will the Bailout Plan Save the MTA? in Gotham Gazette.

By on May 11, 2009, 12:53 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Back from Doomsday

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Choose Your Numbers
May 8th, 2009

As expected, supporters of mayoral control of schools see the test results announced yesterday as an argument to leave the mayor in charge. This even though many experts — including the new head of the state Board of Regents — see no clear connection. (See yesterday’s post.) As WNYC’s Beth Fertig has written, all the advances made in the city “mirrored a similar pattern throughout the state.” (For a more detailed analysis of the numbers, see Aaron Pallas’s column in GothamSchools.)

That did not stop Mayor Michael Bloomberg from telling President Barack Obama yesterday, “If the rest of the country wants to actually improve performance” in education, the New York City schools are a blueprint for success. There is no mention of whether the mayor also cited the Buffalo schools.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 8, 2009, 11:08 am
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Measuring UP | 1 Comment »

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Weekly Web Wrap
May 8th, 2009

  • Stringer Proposes ‘FoodStat’
    (Manhattan Borough President’s Blog)
  • City Budget Up in Down Economy
    (NY Fiscal Watch)
  • ‘Co-housing’ Lands in Brooklyn
    (Brownstoner)
  • MTA Rescue: Spineless
    (DMI Blog)
  • Private Operation of Transit Would be Cheaper
    (New Geography)
  • New York National Guard Fires Gay Soldier
    (Daily Gotham)
  • The Delaware Aqueduct Leak
    (Water Watch NYC)
  • New York Lags Behind Connecticut, Jersey in Spending Stimulus
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • New York Times Raises Prices, Again
    (Editor & Publisher)
  • Crimes Rates Drop, Candidates Sound the Alarm Anyway
    (Change.org)
  • Brooklyn Council Candidate’s Positions on Development, Atlantic Yards
    (No Land Grab)
  • City Home Sharing Program Promotes Aging in Place
    (The Brooklyn Rail)
  • Map Graphing Historical Usage of Individual Subway Stations
    (Spark it Up (Frumination))
  • By on May 8, 2009, 7:23 am
    In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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    Spinning the Scores
    May 7th, 2009

    Today marks the annual ritual of release of the test scores and while scores may rise fall or stagnate, one thing remains certain: Everyone involved in the high-pitched debate over education in general — and the running of the New York City schools in general — will spin the numbers to advance their aims.

    In its announcement of results on the standardized state tests for third through eighth grades, state officials pointed to overall gains with 77 percent of students meeting state standards in English this year, compared with 68 percent last year. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills added, though, that the gains could be considered only “moderate” because so many students who achieved proficiency did so just barely, according to Philissa Cramer of GothamSchools .

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who have trumpeted increasing scores as they fight to keep the current system of mayoral control of the nation’s largest school system, came out swinging. “New York City elementary and middle school students made substantial progress in English this year, outpacing gains in the rest of the State at every grade level. This years progress builds on the consistent improvement that has occurred since Mayor Bloomberg was given control of the school system in 2002,” the press release said
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 7, 2009, 9:54 pm
    In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Measuring UP | Comments Off on Spinning the Scores

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    And The New Senate Web Site Goes Live
    May 7th, 2009

    The new State Senate Web site launched today and offers a number of new features. There is individual pages for committees, senators and issues – all of which offer blogs, calendars, press releases and reports that can be subscribed to with RSS readers. You can even find your representative’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

    (To find out what is being written about senators and Assembly members in the media, visit Gotham Gazette‘s state representatives page.)

    Although there isn’t currently options for commenting on the blogs – including the full Senate blog – there is a new bill mark up page [fixed] where users can comment on legislation that is being debated and vote on other comments throughout.

    There is also an ‘Open Data‘ section that will offer plain language versions of legislation and data from other levels of government. The first bill to offer this feature was the MTA bailout.

    But the site is still a work in progress. They are working on a multilingual site, a mobile version and considering transcription technology for the live video stream. A new legislative search function should be rolled out within the next couple months. [UPDATE: The streaming videos are being archived uncut on the Senate YouTube channel.]

    They are also seeking your input on what else can be done. An ‘unconference’ called Capitol Camp is planned for next month so citizens and civil servants can offer suggestions on how to improve the site and discuss ways technology can be used to make New York better. Although that Web site is not up, you can follow capitol Camp on Twitter for updates, and RSVP for the event, which will be held on June 5.

    In the end, all of this is only useful if legislators, staffers and citizens use the new site. “A tool is only a good tool if people make good use of it,” says Andrew Hoppin, the Senate’s chief information officer and head of its new media effort.

    By on May 7, 2009, 12:10 pm
    In category: Albany,Governing,Measuring UP,Tech | 2 Comments »

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    The Final Countdown
    May 6th, 2009

    This could be a long night for legislators. A vote was supposed to take place on a bailout for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at 3 p.m. today. That didn’t happen. Sen. Craig Johnson reportedly needed more assurances that school districts will be refunded for the new payroll tax. With that taken care of the the bill is now finally in writing. Session has resumed and Republicans are hammering the Democrats on the bill. Check it out on SenNet TV.

    By on May 6, 2009, 4:48 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | Comments Off on The Final Countdown

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    Quinn Quiet on Firehouses
    May 6th, 2009

    At her pre-stated press conference today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not take sides on the mayor’s plan to decrease the amount of firefighters on about 64 engines — a proposal the Firefighters Union is stiffly opposing.

    In his executive budget released last week, the mayor has suggested lowering the amount of firefighters from five to four on 64 engines in the city. The city would not layoff any fire fighters, but would redistribute positions through attrition. The union has balked at the idea.

    If it’s not done, the mayor has said, the only alternative would be to close 16 companies, which the City Council will likely oppose.

    When asked about the proposal today, Quinn said, “That’s an issue my colleagues and I on the budget negotiating team will discuss… I want to avoid negotiating each and every one of them in the press.”

    Budget hearings are scheduled to start next week at the council.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 6, 2009, 1:24 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY | Comments Off on Quinn Quiet on Firehouses

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    Yassky at Citizens Union Breakfast Briefs
    May 6th, 2009

    “That’s proceeded, in my view, tolerably well,” David Yassky, council member from Brooklyn Heights, said.

    In response to a question on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, Yassky said the policy has been more good than bad. Despite some complaints about an insufficient supply of affordable housing and the type of development, he views the policy as a success.

    A poorly executed facet of the rezoning is parks development along the Brooklyn waterfront. City government must be held accountable for its failure to build the promised parks, he said.

    “If we can do better, we have to do better,” said Yassky.

    Yassky set this as his campaign’s theme for city comptroller. Government should be judged by what it achieves, not what it spends, he said this morning at a meeting sponsored by Citizens Union and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

    Budget changes must be tied to efficiency and productivity, he said, and the capital projects budget must be controlled.

    He proposed the city budget be written like the federal budget so that each City Council committee could review its part of the budget. “A process like that would encourage the council to dig into the meat of the budget,” said Yassky.

    Government must push innovation forward, he said, and should use tax incentives and zoning to develop new sectors of the economy, improve the environment and preserve the essential character of the city’s distinct neighborhoods. For example, he said, the city can foster growth in bioscience and environmental technology by using tax incentives to encourage the development of new lab space and by coordinating among the city’s research institutions.

    The same policy tools of zoning and tax incentives can be used to preserve and promote small businesses. “Part of what defines the neighborhood is the local commercial strip,” Yassky said. Additionally, neighborhood residents must do their part by organizing ‘buy local’ campaigns. City government is about job creation and economic growth, he said.

    By on May 6, 2009, 12:25 pm
    In category: Economy,Public Finance | Comments Off on Yassky at Citizens Union Breakfast Briefs

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    Last-Second Save
    May 5th, 2009

    The legislature’s long struggle to come up with a plan to save the Metropolitan Transit Authority will likely come to an end tomorrow morning. All three Democratic leaders emerged from behind closed doors this evening to announce they had reached an agreement that will raise $2.26 billion dollars a year for the MTA. Gov. David Paterson will issue a message of necessity to allow both houses to vote on the plan before the bill has aged the required 3 days.

    A working copy of the bill does not yet exist but here is what we know about it: Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 5, 2009, 9:27 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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    Leaders Confident on MTA Deal
    May 5th, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith seemed confident today that a three-way deal on a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bailout was right around the corner. Paterson was so confident that he told reporters after a leaders meeting earlier today, “I think that we are all in the same basic place and actually enough so that we’re actually contemplating perhaps going a little further.” What exactly does “going a little further” mean?

    Paterson just indicated at a press conference about hybrid car batteries that legislators are now discussing increasing the MTA funding from the $1.7 billion in funding in the current Senate plan to about $2 billion.

    Jimmy Vielkind of The New York Observer asked Paterson to respond to Assembly Speaker Silver’s assertion earlier in the day that the rescue plan should provide the MTA with around $2 billion. “I think that’s right. If that’s the case, I think that’s entirely accurate, we just have to try to get everybody to vote for it,” Paterson responded.

    Paterson declined to say how the other $300 million might be appropriated.”I have my own ideas about that, and the legislature has theirs. And that’s what’s being negotiated,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 5, 2009, 2:58 pm
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    Senators Talk Basketball
    May 4th, 2009

    Rather than getting straight to business today the Senate spent about 20 minutes dealing with a resolution to honor the Siena College men’s basketball team “upon the occasion of capturing the 2009 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship.”The legislature has an abbreviated session this week due to the funeral of the late Sen. John Marchi, which took place earlier today, but that didn’t keep Senators from using precious legislative time to voice their approval of the teams performance.

    Albany Sen. Neil Breslin sponsored the measure and Albany area legislators like Sen. Roy McDonald took time to congratulate the team. But even legislators who do not represent districts neighboring the school found time to celebrate the team. “I’m not a Capital District legislator, I never paid for any college tuition at Siena and Im not a Siena graduate,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, before explaining his need to comment on the resolution by saying, “I have to tell you, I’m a basketball nut!”

    The Siena men’s basketball team was in attendance and some of them chuckled through the reading of the resolution. The Senate considered two other pieces of legislation and then adjourned. None of the considered legislation had to do with rescuing the MTA. They might get to that pesky business tomorrow.

    By on May 4, 2009, 6:16 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Senators Talk Basketball

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    Bloomberg Weighs in On MTA Funding
    May 4th, 2009

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out today against Gov. David Paterson’s proposal that legislators deal with the MTA’s short-term funding now and address it’s long term funding later.

    “As discussions for a permanent funding plan for the MTA continue, stop-gap measures that kick the big problems down the road must be rejected,” said Bloomberg in a statement.Transportation advocates voiced their displeasure over the weekend.

    Bloomberg has slowly been ratcheting up his involvement in the push to get the legislature to stave off pending MTA fare hikes and service cuts. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on May 4, 2009, 6:00 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 2 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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