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Weekly Web Wrap
October 30th, 2009

  • Planning Students Being Integrated Into Community Boards
    (Architect’s Newspaper via Planetizen)
  • Regenerating the Northeast Corridor
    (The Transport Politic)
  • Bloomberg and the City’s Park System
    (Parks and Recreation via City Parks Blog)
  • New MTA Tax to Affect Freelancers
    (Village Voice)
  • Nets Arena Originally Scheduled to Open Today
    (Atlantic Yards Report)
  • Are Residency-Based Toll Discounts Constitutional?
    (Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
  • City’s Bloggers Discuss Local Journalism’s Future
    (FishbowlNY via NYConvergence)
  • Charters Serve More ‘At Risk’ Students than City Averages
    (The Chalkboard)
  • By on October 30, 2009, 4:12 pm
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    Betting on Baseball
    October 28th, 2009

    Not to be outdone by the wager Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter have on the 2009 World Series, Gov. David Paterson just announced that he has a bet with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

    Don’t get too excited; with all the financial doom and gloom these days, this isn’t a particularly high stakes wager. No budget gaps will be mended or risked. The two mayors have agreed to provide a resident of the winning state with an expenses-paid weekend vacation to the losing state.

    I hear the City of Philadelphia is beautiful this time of year, and I expect that, after six games, a lucky winner in New York will get to tour that historic American city. But well make sure theyre back in time for the ticker-tape parade on Broadway, Paterson said. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 28, 2009, 1:28 pm
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    No New Machines
    October 28th, 2009

    levers

    Image (c) lrechis

    Some have shown frustration at the city’s delay in getting newer, electronic voting machines.

    Others don’t want to get rid of the old-fashioned lever machines at all.

    On the steps of City Hall this afternoon, council members Helen Foster, Robert Jackson, Simcha Felder and David Weprin urged the city to keep the lever machines instead of the electronic ones.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Jackson.

    In a nutshell, Foster argued the older machines are about “safety, integrity and the importance of keeping it simple.”

    Foster has sponsored a resolution, which urges the state legislature and the state’s congressional delegation to “take all appropriate actions that may be necessary to enable New York counties to continue using lever voting machines supplemented by accessible voting technology for people with disabilities.

    The state is in the process of moving into an electronic voting system, as required by the federal Help America Vote Act. Foster’s resolution argues the act does not ban non-electronic machines, and the older machines can be used with the newer ones meant to help those with disabilities.

    By on October 28, 2009, 1:24 pm
    In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY | 2 Comments »

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    True Lies?
    October 28th, 2009

    In our ongoing efforts to keep the mayoral candidates (somewhat) honest, we refer you to a fact check on last night’s debate in the New York Times.

    The summary: Bloomberg’s clam that Thompson’s proposals would require massive tax increases is “highly dubious.” His argument that test scores did not go up when Thompson led the Board of Education is outright “false.” The mayor’s claim he doesn’t know whether his wealth has increased or not “strains credulity.”

    Turning to Comptroller William Thompson, his claim that 1 million middle class people have left the city arises from a “misleading” use of data. His boasts about pension fund performance under his watch are “exaggerated.”

    And his account that Bloomberg wanted the now-disgraced Bernard Kerik as his police commissioner? Correct.

    For a more detailed look at many campaign claims, see Campaign ’09: Fact or Fiction and our post on last night’s debate

    By on October 28, 2009, 10:55 am
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    The Last Showdown
    October 27th, 2009

    The second — and final debate — between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Comptroller Bill Thompson featured a number of sharp exchanges between the two men, few flashes of affability or humor — and no lightening round. As Thompson struck a tougher stance and offered a more staccato delivery than he had in their last meeting, Bloomberg stepped up his attacks and often seemed miffed.

    The substance offered little new. Thompson repeatedly slammed the mayor for driving the middle class out of the city. Bloomberg continued to attack Thompson on his record as president of the now defunct Board of Education.

    Closing the Budget Gap

    After ignoring the city’s finances the last time around, both candidates tonight pledged not to raise taxes and, with the city facing a $5 billion budget gap, neither offered specifics as to what they would cut.
    Details on this and other issues after the jump.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 27, 2009, 9:35 pm
    In category: Crime & Safety,Education,Electoral Politics,Governing,Housing,Public Finance | Comments Off on The Last Showdown

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    Condos, Condos Everywhere
    October 27th, 2009

    condo

    Image (c) johnnieutah

    The Right to the City-NYC, a coalition of New York City community organizations, released a new examination of the number of vacant condominium buildings in 10 community districts across the city — a number not exhaustive, but they say has surpassed 600.

    Their count is the latest halted or stalled development inventory, which follows counts by New York Magazine and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. Their numbers are below. Out of the districts they looked at (which did not include the severely stalled Williamsburg) Downtown Brooklyn is leading.

    The group canvassed formerly development prone neighborhoods looking for stalled developments to encourage the city to do more to create affordable housing. Despite Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s proposal to convert some of these empty luxury units into affordable housing, the coalition says that is not enough. As part of their agenda, they want to see the city purchase stalled developments and possibly warehouse spaces and convert them into affordable housing.

    Downtown Brooklyn (CD 202): 126 Buildings
    Lower East Side (CD 303): 116 Buildings
    Bushwick (CD 204): 108 Buildings
    Harlem (CDs 309, 310, 311): 99 Buildings
    South Bronx (CDs 101, 103): 93 Buildings
    W. Village/Chelsea (CDs 302, 304): 59 Buildings

    For more on affordable housing during the Bloomberg years, see our Affordable Housing Not Included.

    By on October 27, 2009, 2:44 pm
    In category: City Hall,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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    Exiting the Empire State
    October 27th, 2009

    A new report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy shows that, between 2000 and 2008 New York suffered the largest loss of residents to other states of any state in the nation.The report found that a majority of the people who left the state resided in the metropolitan New York City area.

    According to the report, New York saw a net domestic migration outflow of 1.5 million, or 8 percent of its population since 2000. More than half of those who left headed for southern states, with Florida being the largest draw.

    The state’s total population has actually grown since 2000, but those moving out of the state had average incomes that were 13 percent higher than those moving into the state in the last year for which data is available.

    E.J. McMahon, who co-authored the report and is the director of the Empire Center, has argued for years that New York’s higher tax burden is a detriment to the economy.

    By on October 27, 2009, 2:31 pm
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    Locked Out
    October 27th, 2009

    Go to WABC-TV’s web site this afternoon and you can see a story on Halloween costumes, a lot of coverage of the rain and – our favorite! — a slide show of Dancing with the Stars. You also get one, eight-sentence AP story on tonight’s mayoral debate.

    Go to Gotham Gazette, and you’ll find an in-depth look at Bloomberg’s record, an article on what the mayor has — and has not done — to improve transportation in the city and a story looking at the fact and fiction behind the campaign rhetoric.

    So, which source of New York City news does not get credentials to attend tonight’s debate?

    Gotham Gazette.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 27, 2009, 1:39 pm
    In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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    Sharpton and Barron for Griffith
    October 27th, 2009

    sharptonbarron

    The Rev. Al Sharpton and Councilmember Charles Barron delivered a message to central Brooklyn’s staple, Councilmember Al Vann, this morning: It’s not you. It’s them.

    Sharpton and Barron went against the Democratic tradition of backing incumbents to endorse insurgent candidate Mark Winston Griffith, who lost the Democratic primary by 735 votes for a City Council seat in central Brooklyn and is continuing his candidacy on the Working Families Party line. Vann won the Democratic ticket with 30.7 percent of the vote.

    Barron, who prides himself with swimming against New York’s political tide, said he stayed out of the race in the primary, because he is (or maybe was) friends with both candidates. “I was torn. I have two friends: Mark Griffith and Al Vann.”

    “This is my way of dealing with a dilemma,” said Barron. “Vann had the primary, and now I want to support my friend in the general.”

    The two officials said their support for Griffith should not be taken as an assault on Vann’s legacy. It is about bringing “change” and youth to the district.

    “This is all about Mark,” said Sharpton. “This is not about Vann, about term limits. I’m not anti-Vann. I’m pro-Mark.”

    Vann, who has served central Brooklyn in the State Legislature and the City Council for 35 years, was set to retire at the end of this term. But once the term limit extension was approved, which he also voted for, he decided to seek a third (and so-called final) one.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 27, 2009, 1:34 pm
    In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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    Campaign Contract
    October 27th, 2009

    With the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration locked behind closed doors negotiating a contract, speculation continues about what a final accord might look like.

    The contract will undoubtedly involve money but will also address work rules and other provisions contained in the approximately 200-page document. Speculation has revolved around whether the contract might institute some kind of merit pay for teachers and more directly tie that pay to test results, or change the procedures for dealing with teachers no longer in the classroom because of school closings, cutbacks or questions about their performance.

    For years, Chancellor Joel Klein has vented about these issues. Just weeks ago, he railed to Steven Brill of the New Yorker about the inequities of the existing system, including the rubber rooms where teachers removed from classroom can remain, collecting salaries, virtually forever. In his fawning article, Brill (who doesn’t seem to understand that many contract provisions exist because mayors, including Bloomberg have agreed to them), said Klein “plans to push for a time limit of nine months or a year for reserve teachers to find new positions, after which they would be removed from the payroll.”

    Christopher Cerf, a former top education official now working for the Bloomberg re-election campaign, told Brill, “This is not about teachers; it is about children. We all agree with the idea that it is better that 10 guilty men go free than that one innocent person be imprisoned. But by laying that on to a process of disciplining teachers you put the risk on the kids.”

    Now though, some observers, particularly conservatives, fear the administration may be backing off on any changes. (To find out why, go to the jump.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 27, 2009, 12:54 pm
    In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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    Paterson Sets a Date With the Legislature
    October 26th, 2009

    Gov. David Paterson seems ready for a showdown with the legislature. Paterson has set Nov 10. as the date for a special session for both houses to address the budget deficit and other legislation that wasn’t taken care of during the regular session.

    Before that occurs Paterson wants a public leaders meeting on Oct. 29 in the city where he is likely to press the leaders for agreement on his deficit reduction plan. Then on Nov. 9 Paterson plans to address a joint session of the legislature t0 “outline the steps that the State must take to ensure its long-term fiscal stability.”

    Paterson spent months trying to nudge the legislature into working with him jointly to come up with a deficit reduction plan before releasing a plan on his own. Since then Paterson has put forward a number of dates for a special session to address the budget cuts only to have the legislature rebuff him.

    Senate Democrats say they are focused on holding hearings throughout the state and are not going to be rushed. “What is most important for us is to get it right,” said Austin Shafran a spokesman for the Democratic majority. You can follow the Senate hearing that is taking place in the city today on the Senate’s Twitter account.

    By on October 26, 2009, 2:08 pm
    In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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    Gotham Gazette and Endorsements
    October 26th, 2009

    It happens every fall. As Election Day nears, some readers and political types ask whether Gotham Gazette endorses candidates. Others wonder about the relationship between Gotham Gazette and endorsements made by Citizens Union.

    The answer is simple: Gotham Gazette does not now and never, ever has endorsed candidates. It would be a violation of our tax status and even if we could endorse candidates, we wouldn’t want to.

    Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation (it says so on the site!). Citizen’s Union Foundation does not endorse candidates either.

    Citizens Union Foundation’s sister organization is Citizens Union, which does endorse candidates. But those preferences play no role — none ! — in Gotham Gazette’s coverage.

    In fact, Gotham Gazette does not take official stands on any of the weighty issues facing our city. We are not for (or against ) the millionaire’s tax or slashing city services. We had no position on mayoral control of schools, Atlantic Yards or what to do with the city’s garbage. And we do not urge City Council to adopt or reject any particular piece of legislation.

    Our only stand — if you can call it that — is to believe that citizens should be informed about their government. That is why we exist — not to influence your vote but to help you get the information you need so you (not us) can decide how to vote.

    By on October 26, 2009, 1:05 pm
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    Bloomberg Gains A Point
    October 26th, 2009

    The latest poll results from Quinnipiac University are out and since last week’s Marist poll Mayor Michael Bloomberg has gained another point over Comptroller Bill Thompson.

    The results have Thompson trailing Bloomberg by 18 points — 53 to 35 percent. Even among Democrats Thompson is behind with 44 percent, while Bloomberg has 46 percent. Only 10 percent of voters are undecided, according to the poll.

    “It’s been shaping up all along, and now the new numbers say it looks like a Bloomberg blow-out,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a prepared statement.

    For more on the mayor’s race, see our digest on the Bloomberg record and our latest feature: Fact Checking the Campaign.

    This news comes on top of a trifecta endorsement weekend for Bloomberg, who landed the Post’s support on Friday, followed by the Times “enthusiastically” on Saturday and the Daily News on Sunday. Crain’s Business News also announced their support for the mayor this morning.

    According to this morning’s poll, the only voting sector that seems to be in Thompson’s corner are black voters, who favor the comptroller by 57 percent versus Bloomberg’s 24 percent. Elsewhere, the mayor has an advantage in every borough, even in Brooklyn, where Thompson was born and bred. There, the mayor leads with 52 percent against Thompson’s 35 percent.

    By on October 26, 2009, 11:11 am
    In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY | Comments Off on Bloomberg Gains A Point

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    Weekly Web Wrap
    October 23rd, 2009

  • Arresting Gay Men for ‘Cruising’
    (Slate)
  • Consolidating the City’s Data Centers
    (GovTech)
  • Fighting for New York’s Urban Forests
    (Utne)
  • Increasing Federal Funds for Mass Transit
    (Huffington Post)
  • Assemblymember Hakim Jefferies Waffling on Atlantic Yards?
    (Atlantic Yards Report)
  • Challenging Bloomberg on the Economy
    (The Nation)
  • Brooklyn’s Green Impound Lot and the Public’s Response
    (Metropolis)
  • The Kingsbridge Armory Generates Unusual Dissent
    (Clawback)
  • Cartoonist’s Take on Cutting the Budget
    (Adam Zyglis)
  • Historic Prospect Heights
    (Brownstoner)
  • Regulations Crushing City’s Small Businesses
    (City Journal)
  • Designing Urban Farms
    (Municipal Art Society)
  • Diversity in the City’s Foundations and Non-Profits
    (Idealist in NYC)
  • Utilizing Neighborhood Internet Domain Names
    (Campaign for .nyc)
  • By on October 23, 2009, 4:01 pm
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    Bloomberg's Turn On the Budget
    October 22nd, 2009

    In a room about three times the size of the space given to Comptroller Bill Thompson and a warm crowd to fill it, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated his economic plan for a third term at a Crain’s breakfast this morning, arguing the city couldn’t afford his opponent’s proposals.

    Like Thompson was asked last week, moderator and Crain’s Executive Director Greg David asked Bloomberg what he would do to close the $5 billion budget gap. Bloomberg responded with cutting agency budgets — except core services like police, fire and teachers — and health and pension costs. Last week, Thompson said he would cut spending, sans specifics, but he has not signed onto the creation of a new pension tier, which Bloomberg has been pushing for for the last several years.

    In response, David took on Bloomberg on a recent ad charging the comptroller with flip-flopping on the millionaire’s tax, which Thompson wants to implement but spoke out against in October 2008. David then reminded the mayor that he too committed to not raise taxes in his first run for mayor only to implement the largest property tax increase less than a year later.

    “It sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black here,” said David.

    The mayor disagreed.

    “No, I don’t think so. Nobody can ever promise for sure that they cant raise taxes. We had a disaster staring at us in the face after 2001 — the terrible tragedy on 9-11. The one thing you cannot do is stop fighting the bad guys.”

    The mayor continued.

    “We did raise the taxes, if you remember, but when the economy improved, we reduced the taxes again,” the mayor added, referring to the property tax rebate implemented in fiscal year 2005 and the 7 percent property tax reduction in fiscal year 2008. “The real problem with my opponents proposals is he proposes spending millions of millions of dollars. He’s committed to not reducing the size of the work force. Where is the money going to come from?”

    Thompson has said he wants to give a tax credit for those businesses under the s corporation tax — a type of double taxation for corporate shareholders — which the Bloomberg campaign alleges would cost $500 million. Thompson has said he considers workforce reductions a last resort. Cutting waste comes first, the comptroller argues.

    Bloomberg this morning committed again to not raising taxes for the next year.

    “I believe in my heart of hearts that we can get through next year without raising taxes,” Bloomberg said. “It will not be easy. We will not be able to do everything we want.”

    By on October 22, 2009, 11:21 am
    In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on Bloomberg's Turn On the Budget

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    A Blow to Landlords
    October 22nd, 2009

    Residents of rent-regulated apartments got a rare piece of good news this morning as the state’s highest court ruled that Tishman Speyer and Black Rock Realty improperly raised rents on thousands of apartments in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

    The tenants’ good news could spell serious problems for the building owners, though. The decision takes them “closer to defaulting on $3 billion in loans they used to purchase Manhattans largest apartment complex,” Bloomberg.com reported.

    The property has a current market value of $1.99 billion, according to one estimate. Tishman and Black Rock bought it for $5.4 billion in 2006. That investment has come to look increasingly unwise as the housing market has collapsed, fewer tenants moved out than the owners anticipated and the partnership faced this legal challenge.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 22, 2009, 10:34 am
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    Envisioning a New Sidewalk Shed
    October 21st, 2009

    The city-sponsored design competition to improve the ubiquitous royal blue sidewalk shed has been narrowed down to three finalists out of 164 submissions. Jurists in the urbanSHED competition selected the Tripod MOD(ule), urbanCLOUD, and the Urban Umbrella. Click here to see a slide show.

    “The winning solutions and the honorable mentions focus attention on how our streetscape can be improved by attention to the basics of architecture: light, air, materials, structure and form,” said Rick Bell, Executive Director of AIANY, which also sponsored the competition.

    The jury made its decision based on the shed’s impacts on pedestrians’ experience, the use of both natural and electric light, and improvements to structural components.

    The finalists will receive $5,000 to further develop their designs, and the ultimate winner will get $10,000. The Alliance for Downtown New York, another sponsor, will build a prototype of the winner’s design in lower Manhattan.

    By on October 21, 2009, 6:13 pm
    In category: Arts,Land Use | 2 Comments »

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    Urban Grime as History
    October 21st, 2009

    Incorporating the aesthetics of the natural reclamation of urban abandonment was part of the intent of the High Line park that snakes its way above the streets of the Meat Packing district. But street art wasn’t considered an essential element of that urban fabric, and graffiti that once adorned the walls along the park was replaced by the city with a solid slate of gray. But the actions have a number of people up in arms, calling it the destruction of history. And some are particularly worried about the “Revs” and “Cost” piece further down the line that remains for the time being. It’s not just graffiti, however. Metal sculptures that were once welded to a rusting cavernous area — now flooded with blue light — have also gone missing. Meanwhile, the city has made steps toward acquiring the High Line past 30th Street.

    By on October 21, 2009, 6:13 pm
    In category: Arts,Crime & Safety,Parks | Comments Off on Urban Grime as History

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    No Rush For Special Session
    October 21st, 2009

    Legislative leaders made it clear to Gov. David Paterson at a leaders meeting this morning that they are skittish about proposed cuts to education and health care.

    Paterson previously said he wanted the legislature back in special session to consider his deficit reduction package on Oct. 28 but now it seems he is willing to wait a bit longer. A special session could now take place in the next two weeks.

    Paterson warned of the financial peril the state faces if the deficit is not reduced by December and asked to address a joint session of the legislature at some future date.

    “We are on board with you,” Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson told Paterson but insisted he wanted to make sure the people of New York state are “on board” with the cuts that need to be made. He was referring to the public hearings his conference has scheduled throughout the state this month.

    “We have to act quickly,” said Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, adding that “Hearings are not going to improve cash flow.” Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 21, 2009, 11:41 am
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    Diaz Slams Monserrate Panel
    October 21st, 2009

    Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. issued a statement this morning slamming the Senate panel charged with punishing Sen. Hiram Monserrate. Diaz says he believes the panel is designed to let Democrats and Republicans “settle the score” with Monserrate for the embarrassment he put both conferences through during the Senate coup.

    “First, it is disappointing to hear Senate Conference President John Sampson saying that he is putting together an independent and impartial Senate Committee to investigate Senator Hiram Monserrate and at the same time sending a message to the committee members by stating As a father and as a husband, I am not only angry, I am also pissed off. That statement alone may be interpreted as a direct order to the committee to get Monserrate. Read the rest of this entry »

    By on October 21, 2009, 11:10 am
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    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.

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