Archive for May, 2010

Charter School Bill Passes
May 28th, 2010

The charter school bill just passed the Senate by a vote of 45-14. The bill more than doubles the cap on charter schools in the state from 200 to 460. Representatives from the Bloomberg administration were involved in last minute negotiations to get a deal between the Senate and the Assembly. The move is meant to bolster the state’s chances of winning $700 million in Federal Race to the Top education funding.

Only republicans voted against the bill, including Sen. Frank Padavan.

Sen. Bill Perkins, an opponent of charter schools voted for the measure, saying it would install more checks and balances. Senate President Malcolm Smith said that he wants people to know that Race to the Top funds would go to the help public schools.

The legislature failed to make changes to the state’s education law earlier this year before the first round of Race to the Top applications were due. Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg support the measure. Opponents say allowing more charter schools will divert resources away from public schools.

The Senate managed to pass a bill that will fund state parks, earlier today.

By on May 28, 2010, 3:41 pm
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Parks Vote (Update)
May 28th, 2010

The Senate is voting on the bill that would open state parks for Memorial Day. Republicans are expected to vote against the bill as a block because they oppose a measure in the bill that will involved taxes and fees. Republicans have pledged not to support any new taxes or fees. The Assembly has already passed the measure. Watch the vote here.

The bill was approved 32-27. The bill passed along party lines, as expected

By on May 28, 2010, 2:33 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Parks | Comments Off on Parks Vote (Update)

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Weekly Web Wrap
May 28th, 2010

Reassessing Lindsey’s Mayoralty
(The American Prospect)
Small School Reform and City Students
Times Paywall to Encourage Linking
(MediaMemo via NYConvergence)
Government Social Media Conversations
(This is going to be BIG!)
Floyd Bennett Field: Recreation in the Wasteland
(Urban Omnibus)
Why Haven’t Green Roofs Caught on?
The Water Underground Documentary
(Places via Freshkills Park Blog)
Subway Lessons from Madrid
(City Journal)
Spending on Charters Rises, Shrinks for Public Schools
(IBO Web Blog)
Cuomo’s Transportation Agenda
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
On Cuomo’s Reform Agenda
Cartoonist’s Take on Cuomo’s Plans for Change
(Matt Davies)
Using Technology for Non-Partisan Redistricting
(Regional Plan Association)

By on May 28, 2010, 1:47 pm
In category: Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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Long Night for the Legislature
May 27th, 2010

Besides having to conference and eventually vote on the parks deal, there is talk the legislature could also vote on a bill that would increase the number of charter schools allowed in the state. Gov. David Paterson said this morning that he was doubtful a deal on charter schools could be reached on time. Of course, anything could happen in Albany. The details of that bill are not yet known. The Assembly was supposed to go into session at 3 p.m. but that has been pushed back two hours. The Senate is likely to meet later this evening as well.

A deal on the budget by June 1 is extremely unlikely.

By on May 27, 2010, 3:37 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Are the Parks Saved?
May 27th, 2010

After a number of almosts it seems a plan has been agreed on to fund 55 parks and historic sites in time for Memorial Day weekend. The plan would take $74 million dollars from the Environmental Protection Fund and also initiate and e-waste recycling program that would create fees that would help fund parks. Both houses would have to approve legislation to make the deal happen. Don’t hold your breath though–anything can happen in Albany.

We worked until about four oclock in the morning and the staffs of the Senate and Assembly and the governors office appear to have resolved the issues about the state parks, Paterson said on the “John Gambling Show” this morning.

Environmental groups are happy that the parks could be open but are enraged that it will come at the expense of the EPF. There are also concerns that the recycling program could meet great resistance from the business community.

It might seem a bit odd that lawmakers are in a dizzy to get parks open when the entire budget is two months late but voters have apparently made it very clear that they want the parks open. Albany Sen. Neil Breslin, who had just returned from the Democratic Convention in Rye, said that he had not been briefed on the plan but said, “It sounds like we are going to do this. I’ve gotten more calls on parks than on healthcare or education, so that should tell you how important this is to voters.”

By on May 27, 2010, 1:23 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Parks | 2 Comments »

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Sandra O'Connor's Games
May 26th, 2010

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was at the Game for Change conference in New York today, City Room reports, to bemoan the lack of civic knowledge among today’s students — she attributed at least some of that to No Child Left Behind — and to promote games as a bit of a solution.

O’Connor is the founder of iCivics, a site with several games “designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy.” A self-described “old grandma” and “not a techie,” O’Connor said she has become convinced children can learn through games.

All we can say is “Hear, hear, Madame Justice.”

And with no disrespect to her games, which let players argue before the Supreme Court, craft laws or pretend to be presidents, we’d like to chime in about Gotham Gazette’s game which can educate students and other New Yorkers about city government and some of the issue facing it.

So, for example, play Switch It On! to plot the city’s energy future. Navigate the Budget Maze to see if you have what it takes to get the City Council to allocate funding for your pet project. In The Garbage Game you can try to keep New York from drowning in its own trash. Other games will let you Plan a Park, try to overcome the absurdities of New York’s byzantine election system — and more.

For a complete list of Gotham Gazette/s games, go here.

By on May 26, 2010, 5:47 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 13 Comments »

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Attacking Fracking
May 26th, 2010

The Working Families Party is looking to connect the dots between the British Petroleum oil spill that is destroying the Gulf Coast and the possibility of gas drilling near New York’s watersheds. Here is a recently deployed WFP e-mail on the matter:

Dear XXX,

We’ve seen the images from the Gulf Coast oil spill. Environmental devastation, lost livelihoods, and broken “safety” promises from the oil industry.

But even as oil keeps gushing, New York might allow an even riskier kind of gas drilling here — one that could contaminate the water supply for millions of New Yorkers.

The EPA hasn’t finished studying whether this new drilling method (called “hydrofracking”) is safe. But energy lobbyists are pushing New York’s leaders to let them start drilling now.

Thankfully, Assemblymember Steven Englebright has just introduced a bill to ban hydrofracking in New York until the EPA finishes its safety study. Will you ask your state legislators to support the ban? Our drinking water could depend on it:

New Yorkers are famously proud of our drinking water — New York City’s supply has even been called “the champagne of tap water.”

This new drilling method could ruin that by blasting millions of gallons of chemical-filled water into New York’s earth, and potentially into our watersheds. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation just put stricter regulations on ‘hydrofracking’ in the parts of the state that supply drinking water for New York City and Syracuse — but those protections don’t ban hydrofracking and don’t apply to the rest of New York State.

The bottom line is that we just don’t know what effects this new gas drilling will have — and we shouldn’t rush to drill before the EPA has finished its safety study.

Will you help protect our drinking water by telling the gas lobbyists to wait? Ask your state legislators to support a statewide hydrofracking ban until the safety verdict is in:


Bob Master, WFP Co-Chair
Dan Cantor, WFP Executive Director

For more on gas drilling on the watershed, check out the Gazette’s past coverage.

By on May 26, 2010, 4:05 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Attacking Fracking

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Term Limits, Take Three
May 25th, 2010

Two four year terms. Three four year terms.

Two for the mayor, but three for the council.

Or get rid of them entirely.

These were some of the opinions thrown out at an issue forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall tonight — the first of five forums the City Charter Revision Commission will host over the next month. While the commission made no decision on what type of term limit proposal it would take up, several commissioners, including Chairman Matthew Goldstein, said some sort of question on the issue needed to be on the ballot this November.

“We need as a commission to be heard on term limits this November,” said Goldstein. “What we need… to decide [is] a direction we want to take.”

The commissioners weren’t the only ones to feel that way. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio urged the mayor-appointed body to take up term limits this November but put off all other matters, including nonpartisan elections, until November 2012. He suggested the commission put the term limits question on the ballot two-fold: Ask whether the City Council and mayor should be stripped of their authority to legislate term limits followed by whether there should be two terms for the mayor, public advocate and comptroller and three terms for the council.

Diving head first into a particularly contentious issue, the commission heard from members of the public and a panel of three experts — two professors and one pro-term limits advocate. Passions were inflamed. Ethos was questioned. And on more than one occasion the crowd applauded a call to listen to the will of the voters.

When a principal architect of the bill to extend term limits took the microphone, Councilmember Oliver Koppell, things got particularly heated.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 25, 2010, 10:43 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | 2 Comments »

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It's Back
May 25th, 2010

The living wage bill, first introduced following the demise of the Kingsbridge Armory last year, is back at the City Council.

It will be officially introduced this afternoon by council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma at the request of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (It’s also the first time I can recall seeing a borough president introduce legislation.) The bill would require any city subsidized development pay employees on the premises a living wage. It includes any tenant of that development project, but would exempt any projects exclusively for affordable housing, cultural groups or social service organizations. It will give the comptroller the power to monitor the bill’s compliance.

The bill defines a living wage as $10 an hour plus benefits.

On hand today, Palma said the bill, which is sure to divide the council and the adminsitration, would get its fair hearing.

“We are creating a workforce lifted out of poverty to self sufficiency,” said Palma today at City Hall. Palma said she hasn’t received a commitment from Council Speaker Christine Quinn that the bill will get a hearing.

But, she added, “I think it will get its due process.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 25, 2010, 3:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off on It's Back

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Big Cuts, Little Drama
May 24th, 2010

Despite the draconian budget cuts in play, today’s City Council session on the Department of Education budget featured few fireworks and little drama.

With the state unable to agree on a budget, the Bloomberg administration is anticipating a $500 million gap in state education aid. With enrollment rising and costs for pensions and special education, among other things, increasing, this translates into a $750 million gap, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. Repeating the bad news in the mayor’s executive budget released earlier this month, Klein told the council members this would mean the loss of 6,400 department staff, mostly teachers.

How that translates in to individual schools remains unclear since the department has not yet sent principals their budgets. But in response to questions, he said class size — which many believe is too big to start with — could climb by two to five students per room, with the increase particularly severe in middle schools. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 24, 2010, 6:52 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education | 1 Comment »

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Term Limits Hearing Tomorrow
May 24th, 2010

Starting off with a bang, the city Charter Revision Commission will host its first issue forum tomorrow in Brooklyn and will hone in on term limits.

Likely to be the most controversial of the forums (or at least draw the largest crowd), the forum will kick off with three expert panelists: Patrick Egan, assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University; Richard G. Niemi, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester; and Gregory Carl Schmid, the general counsel for U.S. Term Limits.

Their bios, courtesy of commission spokesperson Matthew Gorton, are after the jump.

The public will get a chance to opine on term limits after the expert panel. The forum starts at 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 24, 2010, 5:07 pm
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Putting the Governor in the Hot Seat (Update)
May 24th, 2010

Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Michah Kellner want Gov. David Paterson and anyone who serves as governor after him to have to face the legislature once a month during session to answer their questions. The event would be televised. Both legislators say the bill would help break the “three men in a room” process that has led to Albany’s logjam and open up policy and decisions to public scrutiny.

“New Yorkers are sick of the failures that three men in a room have brought them,” said Kellner in a statement. “People want to see an ongoing constructive dialogue between their legislators and the Governor to move our state forward. And having a regular questions hour would do just that.”

Krueger points out that the question and answer format would mirror a tradition in the British Parliament.

“Every once in a while I have time to watch the British Prime Minister answer questions from Parliament on the BBC channel, and am struck by how much information about government is revealed through this back and forth,” said Krueger in a statement. “Wouldn’t it be great to have this type of public, open dialogue between the Governor and NY State’s ‘two houses of parliament,’ Since these sessions would be available for TV and live webcast, we just need to have some better rules than the British about what types of fruit can and cannot be thrown. As I recall, they favor tomatoes.”

Kellner describes a lack of dialogue that is in away shocking. “I think the problem is there hasn’t been a dialogue for years between any governor and the legislature. You cannnot negotiate through press releases with one side saying something to the press and the other responding.”

Here is the full release: Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 24, 2010, 3:28 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Putting the Governor in the Hot Seat (Update)

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A Budget Breakdown
May 24th, 2010

Not all is fair in fiscal year 2011 — at least to the hordes of advocates and politicians vying to save their favorite projects and programs.

Below you can find out how your favorite agency has fared, whether its proposed cuts are deeper than other departments and how much it’s slated to spend this year.

Click on the chart to interact. You can click through agencies on the side and roll over the graphic to view the funding level by fiscal year. If you want an expanded view, you can click on the title.


By on May 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Immigrants,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Paterson to Introduce Legislation to Fund Parks
May 24th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson will submit legislation to fund state parks, historic sites, and the Environmental Protection Fund. The move comes after great outcry around the state and from legislators. This could be seen as a concession to that pressure or an act of good faith to move ahead with budget talks.

“I have heard from my colleagues in the Legislature that funding State parks and historic sites is a top priority, but I have not heard any specific solutions as to how to pay for it,” Paterson said in a statement. “The bill I will send today to the Legislature will provide a funding plan for parks, but will require sacrifice. There is no free lunch. If Legislators want to fully fund the parks, that money must come from a real source.”

The real source is the Environmental Protection Fund which will see a major decline in funding.

Here is the full statement from Paterson’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 24, 2010, 11:57 am
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Power of the Press?
May 21st, 2010

At 4:36 this afternoon, or thereabouts, an email went out from Gay City News highlighting an article on opposition among some in the gay community to the appointment of Brian Ellner, a top aide to schools Chancellor Joel Klein, as chair of Empire State Pride Agenda, the leading gay rights lobbying group in New York.

At around 4:58, another email from Gay City News, this one saying that Ellner had withdrawn.

Did the article cause the withdrawal or was it a symptom of discontent that would have led Ellner to withdraw anyway? Let the speculation begin.

The original article quotes activists criticizing Ellner, an unsuccessful 2005 candidate for Manhattan borough president, for vociferously attacking Michael Bloomberg during the early stages of the 2005 mayoral campaign, wearing a Dump Bloomberg button and denouncing one of his opponents as a “Bloomberg lover.” Ellner then did a 180-degree turn after losing his borough president bid to back the mayor’s re-election. Ellner received (was rewarded with?) his education department job soon after.

As someone who covered Ellner’s ’05 campaign this is a somewhat dim memory –there were nine candidate in the primary for the beep job that year. Ellner’s campaign was a bit unusual, though for a less than all-powerful post: He attracted glamorous supporters in the fashion industry and was compared to a young John F. Kennedy.

I do remember visiting his campaign headquarters to hear him express dismay for and sympathy with all the young people who had been bitterly disappointed by George W. Bush’s defeat of John Kerry in the presidential election only months before. Ellner said that those young people could now find a renewed purpose in the campaign for the office of Manhattan borough president.

Well they both wanted to be presidents of something.

By on May 21, 2010, 5:41 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics | Comments Off on Power of the Press?

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Weekly Web Wrap
May 21st, 2010

St. Vincent’s Was Only Hospital Supporting Home Births
(The Guardian via Serf City)
Panel Blasts State Transportation Department Spending
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
New Entrant to Espada Race
(Bronx News Network)
Analysis of Bloomberg’s Executive Budget (PDF)
(Independent Budget Office)
Gulf Oil Spill Size Compared to New York Region
(Urban Green Council Blog)
Seeking Special Education Data for Charter Schools
Bloomberg Budget Cuts Homeless Services
(Coalition for the Homeless)
Architecture Firms Imagine the Future of the City
Rooftop Farms at Public Schools
(Architect’s Newspaper via Planetizen)
Cartoonist’s Take on Unions and the Budget
(Matt Davies)
Brooklyn’s Mobile, Bike Powered Coffee Bar
Citywide Document Shredding Day This Sunday
(Department of Consumer Affairs)
Low Wage Job Growth Threatens City’s Economic Stability
(DMI Blog)
Reauthorizing State Power Assistance for Certain Businesses
(Citizens Budget Commission)

By on May 21, 2010, 5:15 pm
In category: Gotham City | Comments Off on Weekly Web Wrap

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New Yorkers Disapprove of Budget Handling
May 21st, 2010

Less than half of New York City voters approve of the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg is handling the budget, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

According to the poll, released this morning, 47 percent of voting New Yorkers approve of Bloomberg’s budget tactics, while 44 percent disapprove. The mayor’s overall approval rating fell to 57 from 61 percent in March.

The mayor’s approval rating dip appears to be driven by the city’s budget woes. Earlier this month, the mayor released a $62.9 billion budget that slashes 20 fire companies and could cut 6,700 teachers. At the time, the mayor blamed Albany.

But New Yorkers are taking it out on Bloomberg.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 21, 2010, 1:25 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off on New Yorkers Disapprove of Budget Handling

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Kolb Says Leaders Meeting Sort of Fruitful
May 20th, 2010

Many have said the leaders meeting held on Tuesday of this week accomplished little to produce a budget. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb disagrees, sort of. He says he has established better communication with Gov. David Paterson’s office and is hopeful that conference committees may take place. But he isn’t holding is breath.

“We have more information now than we did before,” said Kolb, “Speaker Silver and John Sampson said they will let us know next week if and when they are having conference committee meetings.” Kolb and Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos have complained bitterly that they have been left out of the budget process and that Democrats are skirting budget law that requires them to hold conference committees about differences both houses have on the budget. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to insist there can be no conference committees without a “fiscal plan.”

Kolb said he was encouraged that Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson has issued a list of his appointments to the conference committees, should they actually take place. Kolb said he has yet to actually see the list.

“The governor’s staff has been in touch with us regarding the list of proposals we submitted weeks ago,” said Kolb, “so it has started some dialogue. Things have progressed but the proof will be in the pudding. We will find out if it accomplished anything next week.”

The Albany Times Union started its own attempt at jump starting budget talks this week by unveiling “New York’s Hall of Shame” featuring Sampson and Silver.

The pair are on the list because they aren’t “making a difference.”

They say Silver’s insistence on using borrowing on his budget plan is holding up the budget process. While they blame Sampson because he and his conference are: “dug in on tax cuts that are simply unaffordable at a time when the state can’t even close a budget gap.”

By on May 20, 2010, 3:15 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Kolb Says Leaders Meeting Sort of Fruitful

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Test Scores Rise
May 20th, 2010

New York City was among four out of 11 big city school districts tested that saw its reading scores for fourth graders increase under the National Assessment for Educational Progress, or NAEP, a national test. This comes in contrast to the results for the state as a whole, which have remained level, prompting critics to say the improvements in scores on New York’s own test were more due to dumber tests than smarter students.

The Department of Education says the scores announced today indicate a narrowing of the gap between the city and the rest of the state.

City eighth graders, though, showed no significant increase in reading, continuing a trend where achievement seems to fall off in middle school. This has continued even though the eight graders who took the NAEP last year have spent virtually their entire school careers in schools controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

As with any education number, there will no doubt be many interpretations and slicing and dicing of the data in the days to come. We’ll try to keep you posted.

By on May 20, 2010, 11:47 am
In category: Education,Gotham City | Comments Off on Test Scores Rise

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Brill vs. the UFT -- Part II
May 19th, 2010

Steven Brill, who took on New York City’s “rubber rooms” in a controversial article in the New Yorker last summer continues his attack on the teachers union in The Teachers’ Union’s Last Stand in the upcoming Times magazine. It sounds many of the same themes as the New Yorker article: blaming unions for what’s wrong with education, crediting Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (referred to as a “patron saint” of reformers this time around) for what’s right, and taking Klein et al’s positions on key issues from teacher compensation to charter schools.

And, as in the previous instance, it can also mean playing fast and loose with the facts. While saying Harlem Success charter serves the same community as P.S. 149, Brill does not look into complaints that charters do not have the same number of challenging students — special ed kids, English language learners and homeless children. He discusses the cost of teachers but conveniently leaves out the cost of administrators, notably Harlem Success’ Eva Moskowitz who makes far more than Klein, and of private management companies. (For a more balanced look at some of these issues, see the recent profile of Moskowitz in New York Magazine.)

And for someone who once made significant contributions to journalism, he fails to follow the basics. He quotes United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew as saying teachers should not be fired at the whim of their supervisors because “teachers are just different” but then does not follow up with the obvious question: Ok, why are they different?
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 19, 2010, 5:53 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Electoral Politics | 7 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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