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Sweet Result for Domino Developers
June 29th, 2010

Alana Horowitz filed this post.

A six-year battle over the fate of the former Domino Sugar factory site neared its close today as two key City Council committees unanimously approving its redevelopment. A vote by the full council is expected later today.

The zoning subcommittee and Land Use committee voted 9-0 and 23-0 respectively in favor of the plan, which would replace the old buildings with high-rise residential towers. The ayes included the district’s council member, Stephen Levin, who had previously opposed the project, which has the enthusiastic backing of the Bloomberg administration.

Levin had criticized the development proposed by CPC Resources as “too big” and worried that the 660 units of affordable housing — 30 percent of the total — would not be enough to meet his community’s needs. He wanted the project’s highest towers to be reduced from 40 stories to 28 and the project to include additional low-cost housing.

But last minute negotiations seemed to satisfy the Williamsburg lawmaker. The plan still includes only 660 low-cost units, but the towers are now capped at 34 stories.

“The goal has always been to bring the maximum number of affordable housing units to the Williamsburg community,” said Levin.

Councilmember Diana Reyna, a longtime supporter of the project, was thrilled with the council’s decision.

“I believed in this project, my community believed in this project,” she said. “We’re very happy.”

Councilmember Charles Barron also voted for the plan, but said he was frustrated over the amount of affordable housing.

“You’re talking about 70 percent luxury now and that could change the complexity and direction of the community,” he said.

Though the developer expects the project to create over 1,000 jobs for local residents, Barron expressed skepticism. “This project needs to be monitored,” he said, or the contractors could just employ their own laborers.

The council agreed to create a community advisory board to oversee the development, as well as a shuttle service between the site and the Marcy Avenue subway station.

Besides new apartments, the project also will include a school, parks and a waterside walkway. Construction is set to start next year and last about a decade.

Any changes to the aforementioned community facilities will have be to made through the city’s land use review process.

Several council members commended Levin’s efforts during the negotiation process. “He made a difficult project much better than its original version,” said Councilman Vincent Ignizio.

By on June 29, 2010, 5:43 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Housing,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Domino Moves Forward
June 29th, 2010

The large Domino Sugar factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront was just unanimously approved by the City Council’s zoning subcommittee.

The controversial project was supposed to be approved this morning, but further negotiations between the council and the developer held up the vote.

Councilmember Mark Weprin, the chair of the zoning subcommittee, said the changes to the application include: the two 40-story residential towers will be reduced to 34 stories, there will be a dedicated shuttle bus from the project to the Marcy Avenue station, any change in use to the project’s slated community facilities will have to go through the land use review process, and a community advisory board must be created to oversee the project.

By on June 29, 2010, 2:56 pm
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Education Advocates React to Paterson Veto
June 29th, 2010

Over $400 million worth of education funding was the first target of Gov. David Paterson’s veto stamp last night after the legislature passed their budget agreement. Needless to say education advocates are not pleased. Here is a release detailing their displeasure:

Statement of Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education:

“As a senator, David Paterson was a champion of public education, but as governor he has repeatedly sought to slash school funding. If his veto stands, David Paterson will leave a legacy as an anti-education governor. The Legislature’s proposed education budget would restore a portion of the governors $1.4 billion cut and would mean fewer students will lose teachers and programs, but the Governor’s veto threatens to take every penny possible from our school children.

In 2010, the Assembly has been the primary force standing up for all of our public school children and insisting that any restorations in school aid be available for educating students. The Senate has been a house divided, some Senators supported restoring some of the cuts to all of our classrooms, others specifically sought to block these funds from reaching the classroom. The result was the Legislature’s compromise that restores a percentage of teachers and programs that have been cut in high need districts while blocking these funds from reaching classrooms in other districts. In high needs school districts across the state this compromise budget offers a critical margin of protection to the quality of education. The Governor’s veto, if it stands, will hurt the neediest students in the state the most.”

Statement of Geri D. Palast, Executive Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity

“Governor Paterson’s veto of the Legislature’s effort to prioritize modest school aid restorations as well as accommodate the demand for property tax relief is an abandonment of the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education for every public school student in New York. The Assembly took the lead in restoring school aid. The compromise on property tax relief with the Senate does ensure that high needs districts can use these funds to restore school cuts, however it compels average and low need districts to use these funds for property tax relief, and denies these districts the option to restore school aid. While we are deeply disturbed with this outcome, the Legislature did put forward an alternative that makes tough choices while working to maintain one of the core purposes of state government-educating our children so that they help themselves as well as our nation compete in the global economy and participate as knowledgeable actors in civil society. The Assembly and the Senate proposed to balance the needs of children and property tax payers with the need to raise revenues. The Governor’s wholesale rejection of this approach, thus proceeding with deep school cuts and a property tax cap that will starve schools long term, must be rejected in turn. We urge the Assembly and Senate to override the veto and to ensure that educating children is not sacrificed on the altar of election year politics.”

Statement of Glynda C. Carr, Executive Director of Education Voters

“Governor Paterson chose to veto the education bill and jeopardize the educational future of millions of school children in this state. The economic investment that quality education provides ultimately stabilizes the future of our communities and our state. It is very telling that a former champion for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court case and its parity is now a loser in the race to ensure a better life for the future of the youngest New Yorkers.”

By on June 29, 2010, 2:29 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 9 Comments »

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1:30 and Waiting
June 29th, 2010

It wouldn’t be a budget day without delay.

It’s 1:30 and the council chamber is… well, empty. That is besides a few random reporters twiddling their thumbs waiting for the day’s hearings. This morning’s 11:30 a.m. zoning committee has yet to commence (they are scheduled to approve the massive Domino Sugar factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront).

And it would be safe to say the 1:30 finance committee hearing won’t be occurring anytime soon.

Stay tuned.

By on June 29, 2010, 1:47 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Waterfront | Comments Off on 1:30 and Waiting

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Paterson Hits the Airwaves
June 28th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson will have some time tomorrow in his busy veto schedule to take to the air to explain why he vetoed the additional spending the legislature added to his budget. This week is sure to feature a back and forth between Democratic legislators and Paterson.

Here is Paterson’s schedule:

Governor David A. Paterson is in Albany and New York City.

7:20 AM Live Interview on 930 WBEN Buffalo – Early News with John Zach & Susan Rose

To listen, please go to: http://www.wben.com.

7:40 AM Live Interview on WOR 710 – The John Gambling Show

To listen, please go to http://www.wor710.com/.

8:10 AM Live Interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box

12:05 PM Live Interview on WXXI – 1370 Connection

To listen, please go to: http://interactive.wxxi.org/.

By on June 28, 2010, 11:14 pm
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Paterson To Initial Over 6,000 Vetoes
June 28th, 2010

If Gov. David Paterson didn’t have carpel tunnel syndrome before he is sure likely well on his way to acquiring the ailment now. Paterson has to initial 6,900 times because he is vetoing every line of spending added to his budget proposal by the legislature. The first to get the axe was the legislature’s addition of $419 million in education aid–$177 million of which would have gone to city schools.

“I never take any joy in vetoing education money, health care, services for the poor and the indigent,” said Paterson at a press conference this evening. “It breaks my heart to do this. The only reason Im am doing this is because I think that otherwise we are proverbially kicking the can down the road and creating a greater problem.” Paterson said he is still open to negotiations with the legislature.

The legislature can attempt to override the vetoes but it seems unlikely the Senate will be able to muster the percentage of votes it needs to accomplish the task, being that every Republican voted against the budget agreement.

The office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued this statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 28, 2010, 10:20 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Health/Mental Hygiene Budget Bill Passes With Diaz's Help
June 28th, 2010

There was a brief bit of drama on the floor of the Senate when Sen. Ruben Diaz stood to explain his vote as the Senate took up its mental health and hygiene budget bill. Diaz had said he would vote against the budget bill. He said there were $5 million in cuts to programs for the elderly that someone tried to sneak by him. Diaz is the chair of the Senate committee on aging.

“I am the black guy with kinky hair and broken English. I am stupid.” Diaz said attacking whoever slipped the cuts into the budget thinking he would not notice. But Diaz announced he would vote for the bill out of respect for Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson. The bill passed along party lines.

By on June 28, 2010, 7:32 pm
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Dicretionary Funding Released
June 28th, 2010

The City Council has released its coveted schedule c — the list of discretionary funding slated for approval by the body tomorrow afternoon.

The document has to be released 24 hours before the council approves the final budget.

Take a look and let us know if you see anything interesting.

FY2011.Schedule

By on June 28, 2010, 6:44 pm
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Senate Passes Education Budget Bill
June 28th, 2010

The Senate Democrats were able to pull together their conference to pass the education, labor and family assistance piece of their budget deal with the Assembly. All Republicans voted against the bill.

Sen. Bill Stachowski was the last hold-out. He wants to see Gov. David Paterson’s plan to allow SUNY and CUNY to raise their tuition by a certain percentage each year. He appeared with Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson before the vote to say that by supporting this budget bill he would give Sampson the leverage he needed to push the Assembly to support the resolution.

The Assembly already approved all of the components of the two-way budget deal.

By on June 28, 2010, 6:12 pm
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Shutdown Bound?
June 28th, 2010

The legislature rejected Gov. David Paterson’s budget extenders and are scheduled to vote on their budget bills today.If they don’t pass either by the end of the day, state government will shut down.

The problem is that Senate Democrats are not all on the same page when it comes to the budget deal their leaders reached with the Assembly. With such a thin majority it is again unclear whether they will be able to pass the bills today.

Some legislators privately say they support Paterson’s extender because of its property tax cap. The legislature’s deal also contains Sen. Eric Schneiderman’s measure that would count inmates at their residences rather than where they are incarcerated, and a clause that would allow gay couples to file joint tax returns. Both those measures could cause some Democrats to vote against the bill.

The legislature is scheduled to vote on their budget bills sometime today but are hanging out until Wednesday. They will vote on their revenue plan tomorrow because it will have aged properly at 12:01 a.m. and will vote on a chapter amendment to their budget bills that addresses school funding, on Wednesday–if everything goes to plan.

You can watch the Senate debate the budget bills here. Session was supposed to start at noon but conference went long and as previously stated it is unclear where all the Democrats stand.

By on June 28, 2010, 1:50 pm
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Legislature's Revenue Bill
June 27th, 2010

Here is a release from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office with some details about the legislature’s revenue plan:

ASSEMBLY AND SENATE INTRODUCE REVENUE BILL

After Making Deep Cuts, Revenue Bill Helps Provide Relief to School Property Tax-Payers and Keeps the College Dream Affordable

The New York State Assembly and Senate have come to a two-way agreement on a revenue plan that will help to close the states $9.2 billion budget gap (A.9710-C). The legislation would increase revenue by $954 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year and help close out-year deficits by increasing revenue $1.725 billion in 2011-2012. The revenue figures are based on the same financial plan as the Governors last emergency budget extender legislation.

The Assembly and Senate do reject the Executive proposal for selling wine in grocery stores.

The major provisions in the legislation include:

* Sales tax on clothing and footwear under $110: The sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear under $110 would be temporarily suspended from October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011. Beginning April 1, 2011, the exemption would be reinstated at $55 until March 31, 2012. The exemption would revert back to $110 on April 1, 2012. Local governments would be given the option to maintain their current exemptions, or opt into the exemption schedule spelled out in this part. This provision will increase revenue by $330 million in the current fiscal year.

* Business tax credit deferral: For tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012, taxpayers with more than $2 million in aggregated business tax credits would be required to defer the amounts above $2 million until 2013. The total amount of credits deferred under this proposal would be paid back to taxpayers over tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015. This provision would raise $100 million this year and $970 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

* Reducing itemized deductions for those with New York Adjusted Gross Income (NYAGI) above $10 million: The bill reduces the amount of charitable contributions allowed as a New York Itemized Deduction from 50 percent to 25 percent for taxpayers with a NYAGI above $10 million. This provision would be in effect for taxable years beginning on or after 2010 and before 2013. The limitation is expected to raise $100 million in the current fiscal year and $135 million in 2011-12.

* Restructure the New York City personal income tax rate reduction for the New York State School Tax Relief Program (STAR): The bill would alter the STAR property tax exemption program to limit the benefit of the personal income tax rate reduction in New York City to the first $500,000 in income. In addition, homeowners with homes valued at $2 million or more would not be eligible for the exemption in the 2010-11 school year. Beginning in 2011-12, homeowners with incomes above $500,000 annually would no longer be eligible for a STAR exemption. These provisions are estimated to generate $140 million in savings in the 2010-11 fiscal year and $210 million in 2011-12 and thereafter. The Executives proposal to increase the STAR floor adjustment was denied.

* Empire State film production credit: This bill would provide an additional $420 million annually over tax years 2010 through 2014. Seven million of the annual allocation would be available for a separate post-production tax credit. These provisions would not impact revenue in 2010-11.

By on June 27, 2010, 10:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Monday Budget Showdown
June 27th, 2010

To avoid having to vote for Gov. David Paterson’s mother of all budget extenders, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson came up with their own budget plan this weekend. The legislature’s plan restores $300 million in school aid proposed in Paterson’s plan and excludes a number of revenue raisers Paterson favored, including a sugar tax.

In response, Paterson called a special session to have the legislature vote on parts of his proposal that they aren’t keen on. Those measures include SUNY/CUNY reforms and a plan that deals with federal medicaid funding.

Legislators responded, and headed to Albany today but they did not vote on Paterson’s bills. The Senate gaveled in and out in three minutes–it took the Assembly six. Silver and Sampson say that negotiations are continuing with the governor and they would rather pass a three-way deal. However, tomorrow is the deadline. They can pass Paterson’s extender, pass their two way deal, or shut the government down.

Paterson held a presser after the two non-sessions and said that the legislature must pass his emergency extender to make sure the the budget is truly balanced. “Im saying that without it, that Ill veto everything,” Paterson said after demanding the legislature deal with the medicaid funding issue.

It isn’t clear if Senate Democrats have enough votes to get their plans through. The showdown starts at high noon tomorrow–it should be a show.

.

By on June 27, 2010, 9:24 pm
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Weekly Web Wrap
June 25th, 2010

Open Data Standards for City Agencies
(Urban Omnibus)
State Passenger Rail Costs Set to Soar
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
The High Cost of Free Parks
(Next American City)
Out and About with Espada’s Opponent Rivera
(Bronx News Network)
Bloomberg Looks to Wall Street to Save Economy?
(DMI Blog)
Wikineighborhoods
(Campaign for .nyc)
Cartoonist’s Take on the New Cigarette Tax
(Matt Davies)
Is Flushing Commons Worth It?
(greenbuildingsNYC)
Looking to Suspend Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit
(Municipal Art Society)
The End of a Balanced Budget of the City?
(Citizens Budget Commission)
Bronx HIV Testing Exceeds Goals
(Health Department)
City’s Growth Compared to Other Major Cities
(The Atlantic)

By on June 25, 2010, 6:33 pm
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48 Hours
June 25th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson is ready to force the legislature to either approve his remaining budget proposals or shut down the state government. He will give legislative leaders the weekend to continue negotiations but without a major break legislators will have to choose between Paterson’s plan and a government shutdown.

The Times Union has more on what is in Paterson’s budget extender.

Here is Paterson’s statement:

In January, I put forward a budget proposal that reflected our time; a budget of necessity, not of choice. In my budget, I made the difficult decisions that we all know are necessary for New York to emerge from this crisis and build a strong fiscal and economic foundation.

Today, I am taking the final step toward enacting a budget and closing the deficit. When taken with the other portions of the budget that have already been passed, the final budget will fulfill the core principles of my initial proposal: shared sacrifice combined with recurring spending reductions and responsible budgeting.

The final budget does not borrow money to fund general operating expenses; it closes the budget deficit primarily through deep but necessary spending reductions, and includes responsible new revenue streams. This budget will help our State turn the corner toward a more hopeful and optimistic future.

While the final budget addresses the challenges we currently face, it also provides a method for alleviating future economic duress should any unforeseen circumstances arise and jeopardize this balanced plan.

As I have said for months, I am willing to listen to alternative solutions to New Yorks budget crisis, and will continue to listen to suggestions from the Legislature over the next 48 hours. However, while the door remains open for negotiation, it will not be on Albany time, where deadlines only exist to be extended or ignored. Absent a negotiated agreement with the Legislature, the emergency extender I will propose will be submitted to the Legislature for an up or down vote. New Yorkers are entitled to a final budget and they will get it on Monday, just as I promised.

Here is a statement from Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran:

Working with the Assembly and Governor, we have made the smart cuts and tough choices necessary to reach the final stages of a budget New Yorkers can afford. While having not yet seen the Executives bill, we will continue negotiations, meet our obligation and pass a fair budget by Monday.

Here is the statement from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

My Assembly colleagues and I are working with the Senate and the Executive to complete the state budget. We recognize that New York faces extraordinary fiscal challenges, and that this budget will include billions in cuts. However, we are committed to sparing our schools from the most devastating cuts, ensuring that our higher education system remains accessible to all New Yorkers, and providing much-needed property tax relief. We are also committed to acting responsibly to complete this process and to continue the operations of government.

By on June 25, 2010, 6:29 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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CUNY and the Budget
June 25th, 2010

One of the sticking points in budget negotiations is Gov. David Paterson’s insistence that his “Empowerment Act” for SUNY and CUNY be part of any deal.

The Senate is mostly OK with the plan but the Assembly doesn’t want any part of it. The boards and presidents and of SUNY and CUNY are in favor of the plan because it will allow them greater control over tuition levels, among other things.

Student groups and unions oppose the idea. They say it will lead to higher tuition and alienate poor students. For more on the issue, see Paterson’s Plan for SUNY and CUNY Draws Criticism.

The Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents CUNY’s faculty and staff is steadfastly opposed to the Paterson’s plan. They say the plan lets the state off the hook when it comes to providing funding and instead places the burden on students.

The proposal strips CUNY and SUNY of public investment while limiting access for students,” said Dr. Barbara Bown, president of the Professional Staff Congress. “Under the governors proposal, tuition could go up by more than 9 percent per year, every year, and could rise even higher for certain colleges and academic majors. ”

This cynical proposal would accelerate the under-funding of CUNY while purporting to enhance the University. It is accompanied by devastating budget cuts to both CUNY and SUNY. If the proposal is enacted, the governors legacy will be public universities that are weakened and increasingly stratified by income and race. Lower-income students will inevitably be channeled toward the less expensive colleges and even to less expensive academic majorsa result that runs absolutely counter to CUNYs historic mission. The Empowerment Act has no place in the State budget; we call on Albany to drop this ill-conceived proposal and concentrate on restoring desperately needed funds for public higher education. What CUNY needs is more public funding, not less.

By on June 25, 2010, 4:28 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Chasing Paterson
June 25th, 2010

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson met today on the budget without Gov. David Paterson. Both legislators are now headed to the city where they hope to meet with the governor whose current location is unknown. The leaders would like to avoid voting on Paterson’s extender that is will purportedly be crammed with his budget proposals

Paterson has promised that if there is no deal by Monday he will introduce the remainder of the budget as part of an emergency extender bill that must be passed on Monday in order to keep the state running. It is expected that Paterson will release his extender legislation later this evening but it is so far unclear what it contains.

Unfortunately, while we hear the governor is preparing a major emergency bill, we have not been briefed, he has not talked to us about it at all, Silver told reporters after the meeting with Sampson. A deal could break on the budget between now and Monday, or Paterson could force the legislature to vote on his budget package as part of the budget extender–basically daring them to shut down the state.

If a deal is reached with Paterson and the Monday showdown avoided, the Assembly will have to return to Albany as they have already headed home. The Senate is still in session.

Does this seem like bad slapstick comedy to anyone else?

By on June 25, 2010, 2:12 pm
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Where was Crowley?
June 25th, 2010

Noticeably absent from last night’s late night budget announcement was Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, the chair of the council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee.

Since a key piece of the budget agreement was saving 20 fire companies from closure, we wondered why the councilmember wasn’t there.

We just checked in with her spokesperson Meredith Burak, who said Crowley had to run back to her kids and had several night events. Crowley’s office did have time to send out a release before Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the budget deal. The release had this headline: “CROWLEY DECLARES VICTORY OVER SAVING FIREHOUSES.”

By on June 25, 2010, 12:10 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Crowley Declares Victory on Fire Companies
June 24th, 2010

We just got this from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley’s office:

“Our top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe and by finding the money to save firehouses, we succeeded today,” said City Council Fire & Criminal Justice Chair Elizabeth Crowley. “When we started this fight, 62 fire companies were on the chopping block – now all will remain open. The City has negotiated a budget that will restore the $37 million to keep our fire companies open. Thanks to the efforts of firefighters, elected officials, community leaders and thousands of New Yorkers from every borough, we won this fight for our fire protection.”

As Chair of the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley led a citywide campaign to save New York City’s fire companies. Since Mayor Bloomberg proposed 62 fire company closures in his preliminary budget announcement, Council Member Crowley mobilized thousands of taxpayers from every corner of the City and held a total of 15 rallies (which included five in Manhattan, three in Brooklyn, four in Queens, two in the Bronx, one on Staten Island).

By on June 24, 2010, 7:07 pm
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Seizure Power
June 24th, 2010

The state’s highest court this morning cleared the way for Columbia University to build a new satellite campus new campus north of its existing enclave in Morningside Park. The Court of Appeal unanimous ruling overturned a lower court decision that had blocked the state from using its power of eminent domain to take seize slated for the campus.

The ruling is the latest victory for the state and city as they have declared property blighted so that another private owner can develop it for another, purportedly better use. In earlier rulings, the courts also upheld the state’s use of eminent domain in clearing the way for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards complex in downtown Brooklyn.

Faced with such decisions, some advocates have called for legislation to change the eminent domain law. For more on the issue, see Eminent Domain Changes Seek to Limit State’s Power to Seize Property.

By on June 24, 2010, 3:12 pm
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HASA Cuts off the Table
June 24th, 2010

As the City Council and the Bloomberg administration get closer to a budget deal, we know of at least one controversial cut taken off the table: a decrease in HIV/AIDS workers at the Human Resources Administration.

Earlier this week, housing advocacy group Housing Works took the city to court over a proposal to slash 248 HIV/AIDS case workers (we reported on the cut here). We just got word from them that the city backed away from the decrease this morning.

We’re waiting to hear back from the Human Resources Administration.

Keep checking back with Gotham Gazette to see what’s in and what’s out of this year’s budget.

By on June 24, 2010, 1:48 pm
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