Archive for February, 2010

Schneiderman Reacts to Monserrate Ruling
February 19th, 2010

Sen. Eric Schneiderman, chair of the select committee that recommended Monserrate be expelled, is hailing the court’s decision to deny Monserrate’s request for a stay of his expulsion.

Here is Schneiderman’s statement:

“I am pleased that the Court has upheld the determination of our Committee, rejected Senator Monserrate’s claims, and accepted his expulsion by the Senate. It is clear that due process was followed and justice was served.

“An overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats from every part of the state came to the conclusion that Senator Monserrate’s unlawful conduct damaged the integrity of the Senate, and rendered him unfit to serve.

“Its time to move forward and get back to the peoples business.”

By on February 19, 2010, 1:27 pm
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Monserrate's Expulsion Stands
February 19th, 2010

Hiram Monserrate was denied a temporary stay against the Senate resolution that expelled him. US District Court Judge William Pauley basically said that if Monserrate wants to retain his seat he should run in the scheduled March 16 special selection. Monserrate has said in the past that he would consider that option. Monserrate could appeal.

The ruling is likely to add more anxiety to legislators who are terrified by the precedent set by Monserrate’s expulsion. An increasing number of legislators have found themselves at odds with the law as of late. One of those legislators, Sen. Kevin Parker, voted against expelling Monserrate and was so angry about the possibility of expelling him that he was nearly involved in a violent incident during closed door debate of the issue.

By on February 19, 2010, 1:03 pm
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CCRB Agreement Victory for de Blasio?
February 19th, 2010

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio made reforming the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board a pillar of his campaign last year.

His first recommendation as a candidate was to give the board, which (just like it sounds) investigates complaints of police misconduct, independent power to prosecute the cases it substantiates. Currently, whenever the board substantiates police misconduct, it hands over the case to the Police Department, which prosecutes it at its own discretion.

Reports today reveal the department and the board have agreed to a pilot program that will allow the CCRB to prosecute some of its cases. So far, it is unclear how many of these cases the board’s attorneys will be allowed to prosecute.

The move, however, did not completely satisfy the newly minted public advocate.

In response to the agreement, de Blasio released the following statement this morning:

We respect and appreciate this step as an acknowledgment of the need for change at the CCRB. But another pilot program is not enough. It is already abundantly clear that the city needs a more independent, responsive, and effective CCRB. When I was elected to office, I pledged to substantially reform the CCRB and help establish its power to conduct thorough, timely investigations and prosecute all appropriate cases. In the months ahead I will continue fighting to achieve that goal.

Citizens Union, the sister organization to Gotham Gazette’s publisher, also recommended the CCRB independently prosecute cases in a report released in 2008.

By on February 19, 2010, 11:56 am
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | 2 Comments »

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The Times Profiles Paterson
February 19th, 2010

The New York Times has followed up its portrait of Gov. David Paterson’s aide David Johnson with a scathing look at the governor himself. While not dropping any major scandal in Paterson’s lap the story does present the picture of an increasingly remote governor who relies on aides he feels comfortable with to run his administration, rather than qualified professionals.

The story is a familiar one as these criticisms of Paterson have dominated conversations about the governor for months. However, as Casey Seiler of the Times Union puts it: “To be sure, its not the sort of piece a candidate wants at the top of the public mind when hes less than 48 hours away from kicking off his campaign.”

Paterson is set to hold a series of events this weekend to jump-start his campaign for governor–a campaign observers feel the governor isn’t exactly committed to, or prepared for. A number of observers expect Paterson’s commitment to his run to hinge on the turnout he gets this weekend.

Here is a response to the Times story from Paterson’s director of communications Peter Kauffmann:

“After weeks of expectations, and a circus-like atmosphere fed by the worst of Planet Albany, the New York Times article finally published today offers no explosive revelations about Governor Paterson. Despite a nasty and seemingly coordinated effort to attack the Governor based on nothing but rumor and innuendo, what we are left with is a profile of a sitting governor tackling historic challenges in a time of crisis for our State. It should not be news to anyone who has followed Governor Paterson’s fight to reform Albany and bring fiscal discipline to State government that the special interests and chattering classes are opposed to his efforts. These attacks will not stop Governor Paterson from standing up to the special interests and fighting for the people of New York.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 19, 2010, 7:48 am
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Assembly Members Demand MTA Save Student MetroCards
February 18th, 2010

Twenty four Assembly members have signed on to a letter demanding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority preserve funding for student MetroCards. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the program costs them $214 million a year and a current budget shortfall means they have to phase out the program. The Assembly members reject that notion and claim the funding provided by the state and city is enough to keep the program running.

The MTA says it faces an $800 million hole in its operating budget and a $10 billion gap in its five-year construction plan. Here are some of the highlights from the Richard Brodsky penned letter:
“While the MTA asserts it needs $214 million in additional state and city aid to preserve the program, the actual cost of free and discounted student fares is close to zero. We reject the MTA’s assertion that the program must be valued at the ostensible lost revenue, and point out that state and city funding for the program actually exceeds the cost of providing the service.”

“We understand the use of political tactics in budget controversies. But there are limits, and the decision to put students and families out as a pawn in the struggle to increase City and State funding crosses a line.”

Gene Russianoff of New York Public Interest Group’s Straphangers Campaign disputed Brodksy’s claim that providing students transportation costs almost nothing.

“I am disappointed in Richard,” said Russianoff. “He has done good work watching over authorities and passing important legislation this year, but I don’t think he is adding anything constructive to the conversation.”

Here are comments made by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz on the situation: Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 18, 2010, 4:53 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 6 Comments »

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Paterson Defends Aide
February 17th, 2010

The New York Times’s long-awaited story rumored to be threatening to Gov. David Paterson’s political future has not lived up to the rumor-mongers’ hype. Instead the Times story details the rise of Paterson’s “body man,” David Johnson. Johnson has quickly gone from assistant to top adviser despite the fact that he had faced felony drug charges as a teenager and has allegedly been involved in altercations with women.

Paterson was quick to issue a statement:

“When I was a State Senator serving a district torn apart by the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, I dedicated myself to restoring the community and providing opportunities for young people struggling to find their way. We took interns in our office who wanted to dedicate themselves to getting an education and giving back to the neighborhood. One of these interns was so successful that he became a member of my staff working his way up from a driver to a constituent service provider, to become a key intergovernmental relations advisor and a trusted friend. David Johnson’s growth as a political professional has surprised even his greatest advocates, and I am proud that he has demonstrated what someone can accomplish when given a second chance. Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 17, 2010, 8:53 am
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Charter Schools with Clout
February 15th, 2010

With schools of all stripes scrambling for money in a tight economy, the Daily News reports today that the key to getting city funds may not be what you teach but who’s doing the teaching. The paper’s Rachel Monahan found that, according to the city’s capital plan, three politically connected charter schools are slated for millions of dollars in money for new buildings.

The schools are: Harlem Promise Academy and PAVE Academy in Brooklyn, which reportedly will share $72 million, and Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Queens, which will receive an undetermined level of funding.

Each of the schools has its own politics ties.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 15, 2010, 1:01 pm
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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Chairman Lauder?
February 12th, 2010

Add another name to the list of those rumored to lead the mayor’s promised charter revision commission — and this one promises to be the most controversial yet. Judy Randall of the Staten Island Advance reports that the mayor will appoint his fellow billionaire, businessman Ron Lauder to the post.

The source, who Randall did not name but described as someone who “has the administration’s ear,” explained why: “He was the architect for limiting terms but raised no objection when the mayor wanted to do away with them.”

To refresh your memory, Lauder, the person most responsible for the city having term limits, originally seemed on track to oppose Bloomberg’s bid to extend them and seek a third term. But as Adam Lisberg reported back then, “After meeting with Bloomberg in Gracie Mansion last week, [Lauder] caved. He cut a deal and agreed not to bankroll a campaign against it in exchange for a seat on a Charter commission that will turn the matter over to the voters in 2010.”

The rest, as they say is history. Or at least it was until now.

Earlier this week, two other names surfaced: Anthony Crowell, a senior counselor to the mayor, and City University Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

By on February 12, 2010, 2:55 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
February 12th, 2010

A Closer Look at Disclosure Exemptions
(ReformNY)
Study Reveals How Bedbugs Travel Between Apartments
(Brick Underground via Curbed)
Sen. Gonzalez Withdraws Guilty Plea
(Bronx News Network)
Health and Cost Benefits of Electronic Medical Records
(IBO Web Log)
Councilmember Lander Maps Stalled Construction
(Brownstoner)
What’s the Impact of Nets Area’s Alternate Entrance
(Atlantic Yards Report)
Cartoonist’s Take on Paterson Rumors
(Matt Davies)
Artists’ Take on Brooklyn Gentrification
(Urban Omnibus)
Jacob Javitz Plaza to Get Redesign
(Architect’s Newspaper via The Dirt)
Artificially Propped Up Municipal Finance
(NY Fiscal Watch)
Efficient Transit Takes More than ‘Spiffy’ Tech
(Regional Plan Association)

By on February 12, 2010, 2:09 pm
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Quinn on Seabrook
February 11th, 2010

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she expects indicted councilmember Larry Seabrook to step down from his position as the chair of the Civil Rights Committee today. Seabrook, however, failed to show up at the council’s meeting this afternoon.

Seabrook’s demotion follows a 13-count indictment released Tuesday that charges the councilmember with money laundering, fraud and extortion.

Seabrook allegedly directed millions of dollars in the council’s discretionary funds to nonprofits he controlled and where family members and a girlfriend were installed as staff. Seabrook is also charged with inflating expenses and rent payments.

Most of the charges are directly related to the council’s slush fund scandal in 2008. Following the scandal, Quinn enacted several reforms at City Hall to make sure the council’s discretionary funding was not misused again.

Quinn said today all misuse of funding, which also resulted in the resignation of councilmember Miguel Martinez last year, occurred before the council put its reforms in place. Those reforms included making sure nonprofits slated for funding were registered with the attorney general’s office and internally vetting every group.

Quinn said today any system can always be reformed more, and she would be open to having that conversation. But, she added, she would not support doing away with discretionary funds entirely — as the Daily News suggests.

“If you look at the list of organizations that are funded, they are good organizations,” said Quinn. “They are little leagues and senior center.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 11, 2010, 4:50 pm
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Broadway Walkway Here to Stay
February 11th, 2010

For all you Times Square revelers, the Bloomberg administration is going to give you a little more room to stretch your legs — permanently.
broadway
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced this morning the pedestrian plazas at Times and Herald Squares were here to stay. When the plazas were first announced in February last year, the administration said they would be made permanent if they improved traffic flow on 6th and 7th avenues and if it made the areas safer for pedestrians.

The results, according to the administration, will allow tourists and New Yorkers alike to sit back and relax in the plazas colorful furnishings for years to come.

According to the Department of Transportation, travel speeds for trips north in West Midtown improved by 17 percent from fall 2008 to 2009, compared with 8 percent in East Midtown. For trips south in West Midtown, travel speeds fell 2 percent. East Midtown had an increase of 3 percent, according to the transportation department.

Before this morning’s announcement, some speculated that the results would not be good enough to keep the plazas. A report in the New York Times said officials found the results “disappointing.”

Disappointing or not, Times and Herald Squares have officially been taken over by pedestrians.

Pictured above is Times Square now and below is a video from the transportation department about the project.

By on February 11, 2010, 11:56 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,nextNY,Parks,Transportation | Comments Off on Broadway Walkway Here to Stay

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It Got Really Ugly
February 10th, 2010

Liz Benjamin of The Daily Politics has info on where all that swearing was coming from last night during the closed-door Democratic conference.

Benjamin is reporting that Sen. Kevin Parker, who is known for his temper, charged Sen. Diane Savino while swearing at her during discussions of Monserrate’s fate.

Sen. Jeff Klein reportedly came to Savino’s defense which lead Parker to ask Klein, “You want a piece of me?”

Liz Reports that Parker was physically restrained by Democratic Majority Conference Leader John Sampson and others.

Parker left the deliberations a few times and appeared quite agitated. Parker voted against Monserrate’s expulsion.

As Liz Points out, the deliberations on how to deal with a senator charged with physically abusing a woman apparently could have lead to violence against a female senator.

By on February 10, 2010, 3:03 pm
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Diaz on Warpath
February 10th, 2010

Sen. Ruben Diaz is still steaming mad about the expulsion of his friend Sen. Hiram Monserrate. Last night Democratic Majority Conference Leader John Sampson was the target of his ire. Today Diaz is focusing on Sen. Malcolm Smith. But Diaz indicates that he is set on exposing questions of ethics faced by other members of the Senate. Here is Diaz’s statement:

” The decision of the New York State Senate to expel Senator Hiram Monserrate has brought many other questions to my mind.

During the four hour Democratic Conference in which we decided Senator Monserrates fate, I heard so many of my Democratic Party members express themselves by saying how Monserrate brought shame to this honorable body. From Tom Duane to Liz Krueger to Diane Savino to Neil Breslin to Brian Foley to Eric Schneiderman, etc., etc., they all expressed how Senator Monserrate has put the New York State Senate to shame.

It is true that we have to condemn and reject Hiram Monserrates actions in the strongest way. But nonetheless, I have to ask myself the following questions.

1) Is it not also shameful for the Senate to have a president that is being accused of being involved in a very shaky deal whereby he used his powers to get a multi-million dollar contract for his friends?

2) I again ask myself, Is it not also shameful for the Senate body to have a president being accused of raising money for the needy people affected by Hurricane Katrina and the money never reached the people for whom it was intended?

3) I ask myself, How come when Senator Marty Markowitz declared himself guilty of a misdemeanor for money-laundering, he was received as a hero by a member of this chamber and the Senate Democrats in turn supported him in his campaign to became Brooklyn Borough President? Werent Markowitzs actions shameful for this body? How come there was never a committee formed to investigate him and expel him from the Senate? Are we selective in what is shameful for this body?

With these questions and many, many others that I will continue to expose in the future, I hope that the so-called Distinguished and Honorable members of this Senate body, who felt so ashamed for what a Hispanic Senator did, will feel the same level of shame and be inclined to initiate similar measures toward expulsion when others commit shameful actions such as the ones already mentioned, regardless of a persons ethnic background.”

By on February 10, 2010, 11:33 am
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Charter Chatter
February 10th, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg may finally be getting closer to naming the charter commission he promised in his 2008 State of the City speech and when he overturned the city’s term limits law in fall 2008. At least there are rumors — conflicting ones – about who he might name to that commission.

City Hall is reporting that Bloomberg has chosen Anthony Crowell to chair the commission and will make that — and the full membership — official within two weeks. Crowell, a senior counselor to the mayor, played a key role in the term limits maneuver.

While praising Crowell as a “straight shooter,” Gene Russianoff of NYPIRG told City Hall he would “much prefer someone like the way Richard Ravitch was in 1987 or Fritz Schwartz was in 1989 with their own reputation for independence.”

On the other hand, a report in the Daily News pegs City University chancellor Matthew Goldstein as the “leading candidate” to chair the commission. Unnamed sources also express doubts about his independence, given the close relationship between CUNY and the city government. The News story has Crowell serving as a member of the commission, along with Francis Barry, a speechwriter for the mayor and proponent of nonpartisan elections.

In 2003, the charter commission proposed nonpartisan elections — a pet project of Bloomberg — but voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea.

By on February 10, 2010, 10:37 am
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The Times Responds (Sort Of)
February 9th, 2010

The Times finally, via a post on City Room addressed — a little bit anyway — the rumors that it would soon publish a salacious story on Gov., David Paterson.

The posting, which unlike most on City Room did not have a byline, called the furor over the possible story “a self-feeding, self-referential frenzy, and it has managed to get Mr. Paterson pretty worked up, too. Hes been asked questions by reporters about a story the reporters dont know exists, and he has denied rumors about what that story that he doesnt know exists might say.”

The Times, of course, professes total innocence. The anonymous blogger quotes the paper’s metropolitan editor Joe Sexton who said: Obviously we are not responsible for what other news organizations are reporting. Its not coming from The Times.

By on February 9, 2010, 8:38 pm
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Paterson vs. the Times
February 9th, 2010

For the past few days, Gov, David Paterson has left it to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio to go after the New York Times for letting the governor twist slowly in the wind while its reporters prepare a devastating story on him. But this afternoon that changed.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the governor’s office released a copy of the letter Paterson’s secretary, Lawrence Schwartz, sent to the paper’s public editor or ombudsman Clark Hoyt asking him to conduct an inquiry into the paper’s actions.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 9, 2010, 7:20 pm
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Monserrate Waits
February 9th, 2010

As 6 p.m. came and went, the Senate had still not begun debate over possible expulsion of Sen. Hiram Monserrate. Late this afternoon, Gotham Gazette’s David King reports, Monserrate emerged from Sen. Malcolm Smith’s office to complain that he was being excluded from the discussions in the Democratic conference about what to do about his. As Democrats weighed the matter behind closed doors, Monserrate complained he had been asked to leave.

“Ive been excluded, he said. “I dont think anybody should be excluded. He and his staff then sat in a restricted access conference room near the Senate chambers.

But was Monserrate really shut out? One of his staunchest allies, State Sen. Ruben Diaz, denied that the Democrats has excluded Monserrate from their talks.

By on February 9, 2010, 6:41 pm
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Slushgate Reforms Revisited?
February 9th, 2010

Before the ink is dry on the indictment of Larry Seabrook, fellow Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is reiterating his call for a ban on giving discretionary funding to any groups that “employ family members, staff members or former staff members who have been employed by the council within the prior year,” according to a press release from his office.

As weve seen all too often, not-for-profit groups established by elected officials, which then employ family or staff, are often the source of abuse. Preventing city money from flowing to these groups is a necessary step toward reform, Vallone said in a prepared statement.

This morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District released a 65-page indictment charging Seabrook with fraud, extortion and money laundering. Part of the indictment alleges Seabrook directed discretionary funds to nonprofits that he in fact controlled. Seabrook then installed family members and friends as staff at the nonprofits, effectively funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to those closest to him, according to the indictment.

When the slush fund scandal first came to light in 2008, Council Speaker Christine Quinn enacted several reforms at the council to make sure groups that received discretionary funding were properly vetted. The reforms did not prevent council members from directly funding groups that employ their family or friends. Council members must disclose conflicts of interests, and their discretionary funding cannot go directly towards paying a family member’s salary.

Vallone floated his proposed ban immediately after the slush fund broke. But in the last session it received no traction.

By on February 9, 2010, 5:06 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Public Finance | 4 Comments »

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Monserrate's Meeting
February 9th, 2010

There’s still no word on whether, when tomorow dawns, State Sen. Hiram Monserrate will be a former state senator or merely a chastened one. Gotham Gazette’s David King reports that, as the governor held a press conference on snow removal, Monserrate was ensconced in Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Smith’s office. Monserrate asked his staff to join him there.

The Senate supposed to make a decision on Monserrate’s fate today with Republican leader Dean Skelos threatening to bring an expulsion measure to the floor today if the Democrats do not act.

By on February 9, 2010, 4:00 pm
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A Packed House
February 9th, 2010

The anticipated vote on the fate of Sen. Hiram Monserrate has made the Capitol just a little bit weirder today. The building hasn’t quite been enveloped by the circus atmosphere that existed during this summer’s Senate coup, but there is a sense that people are ready to see a show.

The viewing galleries are at overflow capacity and interested parties sit ducking their heads to get a glimpse through windows. A state trooper is posted in the Senate chamber to assist the sergeants at arms. Lobbyists and good government activists exchange quips like, “He’s toast,” and “Let’s get this over with,” and “What is this, a public hanging?”

But they are all in for a long wait. The Senate is currently debating a resolution that would call on the Obama Administration to move the terror trials out of Manhattan. The debate from both sides of the aisle has been passionate and long.

Senators are expected to finish voting on a schedule of legislation and then return to conference to discuss exactly what to do about Monserrate. A vote would follow later, probably much later today.

By on February 9, 2010, 1:40 pm
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