Archive for March, 2010

Charter Commission Hearings
March 31st, 2010

The city Charter Revision Commission has decided on a schedule of public hearings to be held during April in each of the five boroughs. The commission said it “will receive testimony from members of the public on any aspect of the charter” part of the general theme that this time around, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg has put it, “every issue will be on the table.”

As to whether the hearings will actually affect the commission’s recommendations, stay tuned. The final meaning, on April 20 in Brooklyn Heights, will precede the commission’s next public meeting.

In other charter commission news, The Staten Island Advance is reporting that Francis Barry, a close aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will get the job.

Like his boss, Barry is a big fan of non-partisan elections, an idea proposed by the 2003 charter commission only to be resoundingly rejected by the voters. Barry served as research director for that commission.

The appointment also could indicate that the charter will take more steps to strengthen the mayor’s office and departments at the expense of local control — something else Bloomberg tends to support (see mayoral control of schools.)

“If they choose someone from inside the mayor’s circle, we are going to get exactly what the mayor wants,” Jeffrey Kroessler, a historian, author and political science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the Advance.

“Someone who is fed by the administration is going to have an awfully difficult time professing his objectivity,” City Councilmember Vincent Ignizio said to the paper. “It’s like a new book on the Titanic. Maybe it’s got some new pictures, but the ending is the same.”

The hearing schedule is after the jump.
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By on March 31, 2010, 7:10 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Governing | 6 Comments »

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Cracking Down on Immigration Services Fraud
March 31st, 2010

Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat announced legislation today that would require private immigration service providers to be licensed and create a database of providers so that customers can find licensed providers. The legislation would also establish harsher penalties for service providers that violate the law.

According to a release from Schneiderman’s office the bill is necessary because of widespread fraud among service providers.

“Across New York, fraudulent service providers are making millions of dollars by ripping off immigrant communities for what they think are rushed or necessary applications for life-altering legal documents: green cards, entrance visas for family members, or the passports to leave and enter the country,” read the release. “In reality, many of these so-called service providers leave immigrant communities with nothing at all, while helping themselves to large fees.

“Many of these providers falsely claim that they are attorneys or have close connections with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, oftentimes using titles such as notary-public or notario to deceive people into believing that they are legitimate,” continues the release. “Victims of these scams not only stand to lose large sums of money, but also are likely to suffer harm to their immigration status.”

The legislation has the support of a number of immigrant rights organizations. As an organization that sees firsthand the immigration consequences wrought by the shoddy work of unscrupulous immigration service providers, the Schneiderman/Espaillat bill will go a long way to protect the most vulnerable immigrants among us,” said Angela Fernandez, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition For Immigrants Rights.

By on March 31, 2010, 2:06 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Immigrants | 1 Comment »

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Jumping the Bloomberg Administration
March 30th, 2010

A report on City Room has been confirmed by the Bloomberg administration: Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler will be leaving City Hall next month.

At his post, Skyler oversaw the fire, police, sanitation, environmental protection, buildings and transportation departments. He even moonlighted as a robber-stopping samaritan. Skyler was also one of Bloomberg’s top aides that reportedly opposed a third term.

He is now moving on to the private sector after serving 8 years with the Bloomberg administration. Skyler is not the first to go.

The full release from the mayor’s office is after the jump.

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By on March 30, 2010, 10:59 am
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Charters, Caps and Federal Money
March 29th, 2010

Prepare for another round in the battle to raise the state charter school cap. New York State — along with 14 other finalists — found out today it would not receive grants in the first round of Race to the Top school funding. The state will almost certainly try again, with applications for the second round of funding due in June.

Charter school proponents have argued New York must dramatically raise its limit on the number of charter schools in order to get this funding from the charter-friendly Obama administration. But a look at one of this year’s winners — Tennessee — raises doubts.
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By on March 29, 2010, 6:09 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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After School Ruling, Another Space Scramble
March 29th, 2010

Now that the judge has ruled the city violated state education law when it moved to close 19 school earlier this year 19 schools, thousands of city eighth graders can learn what schools they will attend in September. But the larger issues surrounding the closing of schools the Department of Education considers to be failing remain far from settled.

In a statement released today, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said the city has now mailed out its high school acceptance, letters, a process that had been halted pending the ruling. Students who had applied to a school originally slated for extinction will be able to attend that school — or the school the department had matched the students with instead.

At the same time, the department is facing a game of musical chairs at some of the affected schools. It had planned to locate 10 new (albeit small) public schools, four charter schools and two other existing public schools into the closed schools. Now it still hopes to launch the new schools, but where will they be?

“The court’s decision relates to the closure of failing schools, not the siting of new schools,” said agency spokesman Danny Kanner in statement. “We have no plans to change course for the creation of new schools.”

As it ponders this space headache, the departments could face another one. Parents at two Lower East Side schools that share space this morning announced that they would challenge the department’s decision to expand a charter — Girls Preparatory Academy — that shares space with the two other schools. Echoing the substance of the school closing suit, the parents from PS 188 and PS94 have charged the administration “violated state law in approving the expansion of Girls Preparatory Charter School, and neglected to account for the serious impact that the expansion will have on students, especially students with disabilities.”
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By on March 29, 2010, 4:45 pm
In category: Education,Law | 6 Comments »

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Weekly Web Wrap
March 27th, 2010

State Failing at Bridge Maintenance
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
Manhattan Ranked as Worst City for Unemployment Pay
Replacing Empire Zones with Excelsior
(Citizens Budget Commission)
New MTA Finance Chief Criticized for Prior MTA Bond
(Bond Buyer via NY Fiscal Watch)
Using the Brooklyn Waterfront to Manage Stormwater
(Regional Plan Association)
Time Warner Launching WiFi Hotspots in City
South Bronx Receives First Green Neighborhood Certification in State
Remembering the V Train’s Controversial History
(Second Avenue Sagas)
Older Adults Must Stay Physically Active, Socially Engaged
(Health Department)
No Progress on ‘No Excuse’ Absentee Ballot
(League of Women Voters of New York State)
Paid Sick Days Effect on Job Growth
(DMI Blog)

By on March 27, 2010, 12:03 am
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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Budget Action
March 26th, 2010

The Senate and Assembly are currently meeting to find common ground between their budget plans. You can watch the hearing here.

The Senate was expected to pass extender bills today to keep the state running in the absence of a true budget but Sen. Rush Hassell-Thompson is out of action. The body is now expected to meet to vote on the extenders at 9 a.m. on Monday. Speaker Sheldon Silver has said his conference will vote on the extenders this evening.

By on March 26, 2010, 5:30 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Budget Action

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A Reprieve for Closed Schools
March 26th, 2010

A State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan has halted the city’s closing of 19 schools, the Times reports .

The judge, Joan B. Lobis, ruled the city violated state education law by not providing the detailed analysis required in the educational impact statement that must be filed for school closings. The increased oversight of school closings put in place by the legislature when it renewed mayoral control of schools last summer.

The city corporation counsel’s office denies that and says it plans to appeal.

The suit had been brought by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP.

(For the judge’s decision, go to Gotham Schools. For background on the closings see, Latest Round of School Closings Sparks Heated Opposition.)

By on March 26, 2010, 3:48 pm
In category: Education,Law | Comments Off on A Reprieve for Closed Schools

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A Right to Be Sick
March 25th, 2010

City Councilmember Gale Brewer, a number of other council members and Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party today officially announced introduction of a bill that would give all workers in New York City paid sick leave. The proponents hope changes to a similar bill introduced in 2009 will enable this year’s council to do what last year’s didn’t — and require that all private employers allow their workers at least five paid days off a year for illness or to take care of a sick child.

(For more on the bill and its prospects, see Sick Leave Back at Council.)

“There are very specific changes in the bill that address the concerns of small businesses,” Brewer said.
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By on March 25, 2010, 6:46 pm
In category: Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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Assembly Looks to Consolidate
March 25th, 2010

The Assembly has released a plan that would merge some state agencies and allow others to share resources. The move is expected to save the state millions of dollars. The Assembly plan includes some consolidation proposals included in Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal but rejects others. The Assembly passed its own budget proposal by a vote of 91-51. All Republicans voted against the proposal.

Here is the breakdown according to a release from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office:

The proposal, which would take effect on January 1, 2011, would:

  • Establish a new Department of Financial Services by merging the Department of Banking and the Department of Insurance;
  • Authorize the use of shared administrative services between the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the Office of Children and Family Services;
  • Authorize the use of shared administrative services between the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services;
  • Merge the Higher Education Services Corporation into the State Education Department;
  • Merge the State University Construction Fund into the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York;
  • Consolidate the Governors Office of Regulatory Reform into the Department of State;
  • Merge the Administration of the Environmental Facilities Corporation programs into the Department of Environmental Conservation;
  • Authorize the use of shared administrative services between the Racing and Wagering Board and the Division of Lottery; and
  • Create a task force to evaluate the consolidation of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the Job Development Authority, the Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority into one authority.

The Assembly has also accepted the following Executive proposals, which would:

  • Consolidate the Emergency Service and Homeland Security entities into a Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services;
  • Merge the Office of Real Property Services and the Department of Tax and Finance;
  • Authorize the use of shared administrative services for the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and the Office of the Welfare Inspector General;
  • Merge the State Fair and the Industrial Exhibit Authority;
  • Transfer the Nutritional Outreach Program and the AIDS Homeless Housing Program from the Department of Health to the Office for Temporary Disability Assistance; and
  • Consolidate the Operation of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the Housing Finance Authority.

Other actions taken by the Assembly in response to the Executives proposal would:

  • Reject merging the Crime Victims Board (CVB), the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) and the Department of Parole and Correctional Alternatives into a single entity;
  • Reject the Executive proposal to merge the Department of Economic Development and the ESDC into the new Job Development Corporation; and
  • Amend the proposed merger of the Public Employees Relations Board and the State Employee Relations Board to make the merger take effect on April 1, 2011.
By on March 25, 2010, 2:19 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Assembly Presents Budget Proposal
March 24th, 2010

The Assembly has unveiled their budget proposal. The Senate approved their version earlier this week. Now both houses will try to sort out the differences in conference committees. The Assembly’s proposal seems to have better news for New York City and restores some of Paterson’s education cuts. The Assembly’s budget contains borrowing aspects of Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch’s financial plan. The Senate resolution does not.

There is just about no chance a budget deal will be reached by the traditional April 1 deadline. Gov. David Paterson is readying an appropriations plan that will keep the state functioning until a deal is reached.

Here is the release from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 24, 2010, 8:21 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Klein on the 'Worst Case'
March 24th, 2010

Class size in New York City public schools could increase by as many as five students across the city if Gov. David Paterson’s proposed budget cuts — largely echoed by the State Senate this week — take effect, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told the City Council Education Committee this morning. Klein used the grim forecast to urge council members to not only support him in trying to get some of the state funding restored but also to endorse some of his long-held goals, including lifting the limit on the number of charter schools in the state and ending the requirement that any teacher layoffs protect more senior teachers.

According to Klein’s calculations, the array of cuts in Paterson’s budget mean a total of $600 million less for the city public schools next year — and that does not include the effect a possible elimination of student MetroCards would have on the system.

In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the governor’s proposed budget would force the city to lay off some 8,500 teachers. Yesterday city budget director Mark Page asked the department to cut its spending by an additional 2.7 percent in case the “worst case” scenario materializes.

The school district has a budget of about $22 billion, but Klein said half of that is “locked down” in debt service, pension costs and other expenses that the city cannot cut. Some $8 billion goes directly to schools, largely for teacher salaries.

Calling the worst case “undeniably severe,” Klein told council members it would force the city “to lay of 15 percent of our math, English, science and social studies teachers.” While the cuts would be spread throughout the city, he said, they would be particularly harsh in some areas such as Community School district 7 in the South Bronx, which could lose 21 percent of its teachers, and district 2 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which could lose almost a fifth of its teaching force.
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By on March 24, 2010, 3:53 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Budget Resolution Approved in Senate
March 22nd, 2010

The senate approved a budget resolution along party lines. Things got a little heated in the chamber as Republicans bemoaned what they said was a rushed process. The Assembly will now put forward their own resolution and the two versions will be reconciled in conference committees.

“Their final budget resolution was given to us just hours ago and they intend to bring it up for a vote today,” said Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos in a statement. ” Its clear they do not want a thorough review of the plan because even a cursory review shows that their priorities are wrong, and their numbers dont add up.” Skelos

Skelos also complained the resolution does not include a spending cap.

Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson defended the resolution before it came to a vote, saying it is, “Just a road map for us to work together.”

Sampson attacked the spending habits of Republicans during previous decades saying they never worked under a spending cap when they were in the majority. Sampson then said the voters don’t care about the past before returning to a bipartisan message saying, “This is a budget we all need to own.”

Sampson also seemingly took a shot at Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch’s fiscal plan, saying that a vote against the budget resolution would be saying no, “to our rejection of borrowing.” In the past few days Democrats who initially favored Ravitch plan have indicated they think it is no longer necessary. “We’ve found enough one shots,” one legislator explained. Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 22, 2010, 5:12 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Jet Blue Calls Queens Home
March 22nd, 2010


Photo (cc) 2008 matt.hintsa

Score one for New York City. Florida — zero.

The Bloomberg administration and JetBlue announced this afternoon that the airliner would not be moving to Florida as it had considered last year. It will be calling Queens, specifically Long Island City, its permanent home.

The Big Apple and Florida had been in a bidding war over JetBlue, which recently built a $734 million terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The airline said last year it was considering moving its headquarters, and it had narrowed its pick down to New York City and Orlando, Fla.

As part of the deal to stay in New York, the city will contribute up to $3 million to JetBlue’s hub at JFK. The airliner was also offered other tax incentives from both the city and state, including up to $7 million in city job growth credits and $6 million in state capital grants for job retention and growth, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.

The airliner, currently in Forest Hills, will headquarter in the Brewster Building, now 1 MetLife Plaza, in Long Island City.
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By on March 22, 2010, 4:47 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Gotham City,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation,Work and Labor | 4 Comments »

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Charter Schools vs. 'My Schools'
March 22nd, 2010

Spending for charter schools represents less than 2 percent of the city’s $11.3 billion five-year capital plan for city schools, but you would not have known that from Friday’s hearing on the capital budget. An unlikely one-two punch of two Brooklyn council members — Charles Barron from East New York and Dominic Recchia from Bensonhurst — used the Education Committee session to voice opposition to the administration’s promotion of the privately run, publicly funded charter schools. Other members quickly picked up the criticism, questioning whether the Department of Education’s failures lie at the root of the charter schools’ alleged success.

The acrimonious exchanges Friday represented just another indication that charters have emerged as one of the hot-button issues in New York.

Defending charters, Kathleen Grimm, deputy chancellor for instruction and portfolio planning, noted some 30,000 students are in waiting lists for the schools.

This prompted an explosion from Recchia. “I could take away that list in one hour,” Recchia said by giving regular public schools — he referred to these as “my schools” — the same rights and advantages the charters get. “Give my school the same funding and the same support,” he demanded.
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By on March 22, 2010, 12:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Education | 1 Comment »

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Senate Democrats Launch Budget Process
March 22nd, 2010

Senate Democrats have introduced their budget proposal thereby officially launching the budget process.

The resolution mirrors Gov. David Paterson’s proposed cuts to health care and education but does away with an assortment of proposed taxes and fees.

The Senate proposal does not include a soda tax or the legalization of wine sales in supermarkets.

Senate Democrats say their plan will close the budget gap with alternative funding sources like refinancing tobacco bonds. Paterson rejected that fund raising measure during deficit reduction discussions late last year.

The Assembly will eventually introduce their own proposal and then the budget will be hashed out in conference committees.

If this doesn’t sound familiar it could be because this didn’t happen last year. Last year, the budget was sorted out almost entirely behind closed doors.

The budget is due by April 1 but there is not much hope of legislators actually meeting that deadline.

By on March 22, 2010, 11:41 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Historic Vote Broken Down
March 22nd, 2010

It’s here. Good or bad, supporter or critic, the United States is on its way to universal health care.

For a local take, check out how the New York delegation voted last night below. Among our representatives, the vote was 24 to 4. In Washington, health care passed 219 to 212.

And to take a look at the floor debate (all three-plus hours) visit here.

Ackerman, Gary, New York, 5th — Ay
Arcuri, Michael A., New York, 24th — No
Bishop, Timothy, New York, 1st — Ay
Clarke, Yvette D., New York, 11th — Ay
Crowley, Joseph, New York, 7th — Ay
Engel, Eliot, New York, 17th — Ay
Hall, John J., New York, 19th — Ay
Higgins, Brian, New York, 27th — Ay
Hinchey, Maurice, New York, 22nd — Ay
Israel, Steve, New York, 2nd — Ay
King, Pete, New York, 3rd — No
Lee, Christopher J., New York, 26th — No
Lowey, Nita, New York, 18th — Ay
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By on March 22, 2010, 11:27 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Health,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Weekly Web Wrap
March 19th, 2010

City’s Water and Sewer Rate Study
(SWIM Coalition)
Espada Doubled Staff Since Leadership Play
(Bronx News Network)
Without Transit Improvements, Growth will Stagnate
(DMI Blog)
Sustainable Waterfront Planning
(Urban Omnibus)
Transit Riders Council Report
(Second Avenue Sagas)
Paterson’s New Tax Cap Even More Porous
(NY Fiscal Watch)
New Uptown Best Buy Hires Under One-Third Locals
( via No Land Grab)
What’s the Best Way to Tax Utilities?
(PULP Blog)
Update on Greenpoint Oil Spill Remediation
How Not to Pass a Budget
(League of Women Voters of New York State)
Planning Ground Zero from the Ground Up

By on March 19, 2010, 3:53 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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Staffer Sentenced in Slush Fund Scandal
March 19th, 2010

Asquith Reid, the former chief of staff of former Councilmember Kendall Stewart, was sentenced to three years probation today for embezzling the City Council’s discretionary funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

Reid was the first person affiliated with the council to be charged in the growing council slush fund scandal. Reid pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of witness tampering in June 2009 — charges that could have come with decades in prison.

As part of his sentence, he will have to spend nine months in a halfway house, will pay restitution and forfeit any income he made from the crime, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Stewart, Reid’s former boss, lost his seat in the council last fall. Many suspect a large part of his loss had to do with this scandal.

By on March 19, 2010, 3:31 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on Staffer Sentenced in Slush Fund Scandal

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Lazio's Top Ten
March 19th, 2010

Rick Lazio issued a top ten list this morning blasting his new opponent for the Republican gubernatorial nomination for being, “A liberal Democrat with a liberal record.” Lazio has his own problems as a growing number of Republicans see him as being incapable of stoking excitement and in turn being unable to raise enough money to challenge the expected Democratic nominee.

Here is Lazio’s take on former Democrat Steve Levy.

1. He voted for the largest tax increase in state history — $3.2 billion in 2003.

2. He voted for massive SEIU union giveaway — $1 billion in 2002.

3. He twice voted to make Shelly Silver the Speaker of the Assembly.

4. In January 2010, he said Andrew Cuomo would make a good Governor.

5. He called the Obama Stimulus package “manna from heaven” that would “save lives”.

6. He’s taken nearly $400,000 from labor unions.

7. He endorsed and supported Al Gore.

8. He endorsed and supported John Kerry.

9. He endorsed and supported Eliot Spitzer.

10. He has said that he will not support Republicans running for office this year.

By on March 19, 2010, 1:05 pm
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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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