Archive for July, 2010

Weekly Web Wrap
July 30th, 2010

The Reinvention of Al Sharpton
High Line Mini Video Documentary
(Monocle via Planetizen)
Historic Maps Layered Onto the Current Street Grid
More Issues from 33rd Senate District Candidates
(Bronx News Network)
The State’s Thermal Solar Plan
Free Broadband for 400,000 Bronx Homes
(IP Communications via NYConvergence)
An Alternative to Domino’s Community Benefits Agreement
(DMI Blog)
City’s Current Infrastructure Maintenance Budgets ‘Disappointing’
(Citizens Budget Commission)
Thousands of Non-Profits at Risk from New Tax Law
(Idealist in NYC)
Cyclists Ticketed for Not Using Blocked Bike Path
(Bike Blog NYC)
Demographics of Bed-Stuy Cyclists
City’s Long-Term Unemployment Rate Outpaces Nation
(IBO Web Blog)
New York’s Tea Partiers: Not Bigoted White Guys
(NY Press)
The Harlem Children’s Zone Revisited
(Brookings Institution)

By on July 30, 2010, 7:44 pm
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Revisiting the Achievement Gap
July 30th, 2010

Earlier this week we reported the state’s new method of figuring tests results has widened the achievement gap and also hit English language learners and special ed students particularly hard. Today Juan Gonzalez takes that reporting further and finds that, by the new measures, the achievement gap among ethnic groups actually has grown since Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein took control of the city’s school system eight years ago.

“Back in 2003, 73.3 percent of white fourth-grade students met state standards, compared with only 46.3 percent of black pupils. The gap between the two groups was 26.9 points. This year, the gap between black and white fourth-graders increased to 31.7 points,” Gonzalez writes. “For Hispanic fourth-graders, there was a smaller rise, from 29.7 points in 2003 to 30.3 this year — but a rise nonetheless.”

Of the students who scored at the lowest level — Level 1 — 85 percent went black or Hispanic, according to Gonzalez..

With Bloomberg and Klein often portraying their battle to change the city schools as a civil rights crusade, the alleged reduction in the achievement gap has been one of their proudest achievements.

By on July 30, 2010, 1:06 pm
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Another Candidate for the Board of Elections
July 30th, 2010

After six months, the city Board of Elections’ fitful and secretive search for an executive director goes on. Now City Hall reports that former State Sen.
Serphin Maltese — the Queens Republican whose defeat in 2006 led to Democrat’s taking control of the State Senate wants the job.

And Maltese knows it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. His email bidding for the jobs reportedly tells the commissioners, “I can assure you that I have the confidence and backing of my Queens County chairman, the Honorable Phil Ragusa, our Queens County Republican commissioner the Honorable Judith Stupp and my former Senate colleague Senator Marty Golden,.

Deputy executive director George Gonzalez and Republican J.C. Polanco, the Bronx Republican commissioner, also have expressed interest in the post which has been vacant since January, Meanwhile a leaderless board grapples with budget woes and the city’s switch to new voting machines in September.

By on July 30, 2010, 1:02 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Governing | 4 Comments »

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Espada's Challenge
July 29th, 2010

A war of words — as well as a battle over filing petitions — has broken out between State Sen. Pedro Espada and one of his opponents, Gustavo Rivera.

Espada is challenging the signatures on Rivera’s petitions in an effort to get him booted off the ballot, a move that Rivera’s camp called “disgusting” and a sign of “how scared Mr. Espada is.”

Not so, said Daniel Pagano, Espada’s election lawyer in a statement. According to Pagano, Espada’s people conducted a line-by-line review of Rivera’s signatures and “found considerable evidence that the petition signatures Mr. Rivera filed with the Board of Elections are invalid. Challenging them, the statement continued, “is good government at work. If Mr. Riveras petition signatures cant stand up to scrutiny and meet election law standards … he deserves to be removed from the ballot because he is not a valid candidate.

By on July 29, 2010, 6:26 pm
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Outside City Hall
July 29th, 2010

Today marked the first time the City Council met in its temporary gathering space in the Emigrant Savings Bank building at 51 Chambers Streets. While the 100-year-old structure offered some amenities — no plaster falling from the ceiling, for one and light fixtures surrounded by stained glass, to name two — the transition came with some glitches.

Chief was noise. The pre-meeting press conference took place in a makeshift curtained-off space that, thanks to the crowds assembling for the council meeting, was so noisy that hearing was difficult even for those a few feet from the podium. In the cramped space, City Council Speaker Quinn worried that her podium might crush the toes of a sandal-shod reporter, while television crews worried about the light pouring into the room.

At the full meeting, Leroy Comrie, who was presiding, repeatedly had to ask council members to speak up so he could hear how they cast their votes. And Quinn’s standard pleas to unruly council members for quiet were even more urgent than usual. Council staff and a reporter had a tiff over how to plug in tape recorders and why, amid all the technology, no one had an extension chord.

The council will use 51 Chambers for meetings and 250 Broadway as office space for an estimated 12 months as the city makes repairs to the council side of City Hall. (The mayor’s side already got a fix up.)

While praising the council’s “home away from home” as she called it, Quinn made it clear she does not want the current digs to become permanent. In a year, Quinn said, “Im going to go back and pull up a folding chair next to Mayor Bloomberg if its not done.”

One possible explanation for Quinn’s impatience: She said she’s OK with her offices at 250 Broadway but her father does not like them.

By on July 29, 2010, 5:31 pm
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Rivera Camp Blasts Espada
July 29th, 2010

The Daily News is reporting that Sen. Pedro Espada is challenging the petitions of his main challenger Gustavo Rivera in an effort to get him kicked of the ballot for the Sept. 14 primary. Espada’s lawyer issued a statement calling the action “good government at work.”

Rivera’s campaign is not taking the challenge lightly.

Horacio Gutierrez, chief campaign strategist for Rivera, called the act “disgusting.”

“This just shows how scared Mr. Espada is,” Gutierrez said. “It is disgusting to try to disenfranchise the thousands of voters who signed for Rivera. Espada doesn’t know the meaning of good government!”

This is disappointing but not surprising,” Gutierrez continued. “It shows that Espada has given up on the people he is supposed to represent. Thousands of people across the district signed for Rivera. Thousands have said enough with Espada. It shows that he is running scared. He is trying to use his funds to make sure Gustavo isn’t on the ballot with a barrage of lawyers but come Sept. 14 Gustavo will be on the ballot.”

Rivera has emerged as the main threat to the scandal ridden Espada. Rivera has earned the endorsement of the Working Families Party and the New Roosevelt Initiative. Fernando Tirado and Daniel Padernacht are also challenging Espada.

By on July 29, 2010, 3:07 pm
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Test Score Fallout
July 29th, 2010

In the less than 24 hours since the release of new test scores and the state’s new definition of educational proficiency, it seems clear that, however much Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein might like this to go away — it won’t.

For years Bloomberg and Klein saw their reputations soar based on rising scores in elementary and middle school standardized tests. People who cast doubt on the gains — from noted education historian Diane Ravitch to teachers to mayoral candidate William Thompson to City Councilmember Charles Barron — saw themselves dismissed and even ridiculed by the administration and its sycophants on newspaper editorial boards, in much of the nonprofit community and across the city. Other school districts and the Obama administration rushed to embrace the kinds of change Bloomberg and Klein had wrought.

Today, the Neighborhood Retail Alliance reminded us, “Remember all of the hoo-ha last year over the need, the absolute compelling need, to maintain mayoral control of the schools? Sure you do. The need devolved from the fact, the absolute and compelling fact, that there was a Bloomberg educational miracle that needed to be preserved.”

What a difference a new set of data makes.

In his lengthy press conference at Tweed Courthouse yesterday, Bloomberg quibbled about the definition of “proficiency” — it depends whether you want to run a restaurant or be a nuclear physicist, he said. He told the reporters they were going to be “writing a story about a change in definition” — not about changes in achievement.

Certainly the state’s increase in the score that students must attain to be considered proficient means that thousands of kids once viewed as meeting standards no longer do. But the changes did not fall evenly. They disproportionately lowered the results for black and Latino students, special education students and English language learners.

While “all the arrows that had been trending up for years suddenly took a nosedive,” WNYC’s Beth Fertig found, “they didn’t fall quite as much for white and Asian students and wealthy districts as they did for low-income districts, black and Hispanic pupils, English Language Learners and special education pupils.”

More reaction after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 29, 2010, 12:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Parsing the Test Scores
July 28th, 2010

New York State raised the bar on education yesterday, and many city students stumbled on it. But even though the new standards means far fewer city public school kids now qualify as meeting state standards in English language arts and math, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said at a press conference this afternoon that the city schools under their years of leadership have made enormous progress. If you have any doubts, they said (repeatedly) just ask Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Following years of charges that the state standardized tests had become too easy, the state education department raised the cutoff score for achieving a level three or four — the two levels that indicate a child meets the standards and can go on to higher levels of work.

The increase made state and city proficiency levels plummet. But that, Bloomberg said, does not mean students are doing worse. Instead, he told reporters, “you’re writing a story about a change in definition.” Any other take, he continued, might tell “the teachers, the principals, the parents and most particularly the students, that all the work theyve done is for naught.”

In the state, 53 percents of students met the new standards in English and 61 percent in math, as opposed to 77 percent and 86 percent, respectively, in 2009.

In the city, using the new scale, only 54 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 met the standard for math and far less than half — 42.4 percent — did so for English, according to numbers released by the city.

More results — and the achievement gap — after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 28, 2010, 4:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Eye on Albany | 3 Comments »

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Diaz to Fight Back NY: "You Are Making Me Stronger"
July 28th, 2010

Sen. Ruben Diaz had some pretty strong words for Fight Back NY the PAC that is targeting legislators who voted against legalizing same-sex marriage this year. They started a campaign today asking “What’s in Ruben’s Closet?”

“Sen. Ruben Diaz has spent the last few years showing that he will stop at nothing to attack and insult LGBT New Yorkers,” begins the release from Fight Back. “When we asked you to vote on which senators you wanted us to send packin’, Diaz topped the list. We heard you. Now Fight Back New York is gearing up to build the case against New York’s most notoriously anti-gay state senator.”

Fight Back plans to hire “expert political researchers” to dig up dirt on Diaz.

But Diaz says he welcomes the groups involvement in the race:

“The people of my district are very smart people they aren’t going to change senators from one who brings them housing and resources for a person who is just going to bring them gay marriage. It’s stupid– what they doing is making me stronger and i love it. They make me stronger, they should keep on doing it.”

Unlike controversial Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada, Diaz has the support of Democrats despite the fact that he hasn’t exactly been reliable in providing his vote when they need it. His Democratic opponent Charlie Ramos will try to take advantage of Diaz’s reputation as not being a team player when they face off in the September primary.

By on July 28, 2010, 2:30 pm
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Diaz: Special Session "Just Another Joke"
July 28th, 2010

Sen. Ruben Diaz is not pleased about Gov. David Paterson’s special session and as always he is voicing his opinion.

“Its another joke,” said Diaz. “We all know that nothing is going to happen. This is just going to addd to the deficit. Nothing is happening, we don’t have the numbers. Stop this mockery! But like I’ve said before I’m just a pasty.”

It is expected that Senate Democrats won’t have enough bodies in chairs to actually pass anything and besides that there is no deal in place to make them want to pass the remaining budget measure. There is already talk that the senate is preparing to return next week to try again.

By on July 28, 2010, 2:16 pm
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Paterson Report Out
July 28th, 2010

Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s report on Gov. David Paterson is out. Kaye was given the task of investigating Paterson’s involvement in contacting the Sheruna Booker who claimed Paterson’s aide David Johnson had abused her. The woman did not pursue charges against the Johnson after Paterson contacted her.

The report does not find any criminal wrongdoing. It simply finds Paterson made the wrong call in contacting the woman.

The Independent Counsel finds no evidence that the State Police or the Executive Chamber interfered with the NYPD response to the October 31, 2009 domestic incident. However, evidence revealed errors in the NYPD response to the incident and errors in judgment following the incident by the headof the Governors State Police protection detail, by Johnson and by another close aide to the Governor, and indeed by the Governor himself.

There were numerous telephone contacts between the Governor and Booker, some that he initiated even after he became aware of the serious nature of her accusations, and even just after he referred this matter to the OAG.

Regardless of any good faith reasons on the part of the Governor for contacts that he initiated, these were errors of judgment.

The report leaves open the possibility of criminal charges against Johnson.

You will recall that this entire scandal led to Paterson dropping his bid for governor.

By on July 28, 2010, 1:45 pm
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New Direction for the GED
July 28th, 2010

Nationwide, more than seven out of 10 people who take the test to receive a high school equivalency degree pass. In New York City less than half do. Experts cite a variety of reasons s, including a confused and chaotic systems for preparing for and taking the test to receive the state’s General Equivalency Diploma. (For more, see Poor Preparation, Confusion Lead Many to Fail GED Test.

Yesterday the City Council, city agencies and the New York Community Trust announced efforts to change that — and boost New York’s pass rate. A new website, GED Compass, is aimed at providing people with information on how to prepare for the test and where and when they can take it. A program locator, for example, allows people to type in their ZIP code and the type of course they need to get a list of appropriate and convenient classes. The site also offers lots of basic information such as the length of the test — a taxing seven hours — and the various sections in the exam.

Other sections still seem to be works in progress. At 11:15 a.m. today, for example, the seat reservation system that allows registered users to sign up for the test was “currently disabled.” And the section on the official practice test simply refers visitors to a program locator (with the link missing this morning).
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 28, 2010, 11:49 am
In category: Community Development,Education | 11 Comments »

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Reaction to Race to the Top
July 27th, 2010

State Democrats are weighing on New York’s position as a finalist for Race to the Top education funding.

Here is a release from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office:

The U.S. Department of Educations selection of New York State as a finalist for Race to the Top (RTTT) funding is welcome news for our school children and our school districts, and is a clear acknowledgement of our strong commitment to ensuring that each and every one of our public-school students receives the finest possible education.

I commend Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan, all of our Assembly colleagues, the Governor, the Senate, Mayor Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew for the concerted effort which made possible the sweeping education reforms enacted earlier in this legislative session.

We applaud our State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, State Education Commissioner David Steiner, and Senior Deputy Commissioner John King for their leadership in crafting an RTTT application worthy of serious consideration for federal funding.

I firmly believe that New York State is positioned to receive the maximum award, which will fortify our mission of improving student performance and closing the achievement gap.

Here is a release from NY Senate Dems Executive Director Josh Cherwin:

“For over four decades Senate Republicans have been a roadblock to progress at every level. Today, Senate Democrats scored another point for reform, despite a majority of Republicans standing in the way.”

“This is another undeniable example of why New Yorkers are supporting a stronger Democratic Majority, why 68 percent of New Yorker reject GOP-rule, and why donors are backing Democratic Senate candidates throughout the state.”

“New York needs a Democratic Majority that will fix our schools and create jobs. An educated workforce is the foundation of creating economic opportunity for New York’s hard-working families.”

By on July 27, 2010, 3:08 pm
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New York Finalist in Race
July 27th, 2010

New York State is one of 18 finalists in the quest to win up to $700 million in Race to the Top Federal education funding.

Don’t get your hopes up though–New York was a finalist in the first round and lost out on the funding. The legislature did react to that loss by passing legislation designed to up the state’s chances. They raised the limit on charter schools and allowed test scores to be factored in to teacher evaluations.

New York’s competition includes: Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

By on July 27, 2010, 1:45 pm
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Finally -- Something to Rally For
July 26th, 2010

Never moved to march against the want in Iraq? Uninspired by unfair immigration laws? Blas about budget cuts.
Well do we have a cause for you — assuming (no guarantee!) that this is for real.

Tomorrow you can join with other fans of Lindsay Lohan to agitate something really important: her immediate release from prison. And just to give the event the pathos is deserves, they will tie a ribbon and tell Lindsay they love her.

Organizer of the event, Beach Bum Tanning Salon (cancer causer to the stars?), hopes to “draw awareness to the harsh punishment inflicted on Lohan due to her celebrity status.”

Remember, you read it here — not TMZ — first.

By on July 26, 2010, 3:54 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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New York and Its Mosques
July 26th, 2010

Plans to build a mosque and Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero continue to attract comment from afar.

This morning, Canada’s premiere English-language newspaper the Globe and Mail weighed in accusing Sarah Palin and others who oppose the project of “flirting” with religious hatred. In a hats off to us, the editorial noted, “New Yorkers … dont seem to mind” the proposed mosque, it said, noting, “The proposal was convincing enough to lead a community board to vote 29 to 1 in favor of the project, which is also supported by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. … The area already includes churches, sex shops and department stores.”

The Chicago Tribune drew a similar distinction. Noting Newt Gingrich’s comment that there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” the paper commented, “It’s an interesting innovation to suggest that American freedoms should be no greater than those of repressive nations. What’s next? No political protests in Washington until political protests are allowed in Pyongyang?”

But while the project has caused some “Republicans to take leave of their better judgment,” the Tribune said, “The proposal hasn’t aroused much opposition among residents of the neighborhood. The local community board approved the center by a 29-1 vote, partly because it will provide amenities the area sorely lacks.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 26, 2010, 3:09 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development | 4 Comments »

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Weekly Web Wrap
July 23rd, 2010

Smart Grid Battles the Heat Wave
(GOOD via Planetizen)
Sheridan Study is Questionable
(Tri-State Transportation Campaign)
33rd Senate District Candidates on the Issues
(Bronx News Network)
Why the City is the World’s Marijuana Arrest Capital
Bloomberg Risks Creating More Homeless
(Coalition for the Homeless)
If the World was as Dense as New York City
(Urban Omnibus)
Subsidies for Healthy Firms, Cuts in Services for Poor
City Unveils Real-Time Water Metering
Cartoonist’s Take on the MTA Budget Gap
(Matt Davies)
Palin Criticizes Ground Zero Mosque
Schumer Most Active Member of Congress
(US News and World Report)
Cuomo’s Run Sans Labor Support
(The American Prospect)

By on July 23, 2010, 5:51 pm
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Paterson Sets Another Budget Deadline
July 23rd, 2010

Gov. David Paterson is calling a special session for Wednesday at 6 P.M. to have the legislature consider his legislation that would close the budget process and address the loss of Federal Medicaid funds. If the legislature does not address the budget on Wednesday Paterson will call them back again the following day.

The legislature has gotten missing deadlines, and ignoring Paterson down to a science– so this may not mean much of anything. Here is a statement from Gov. David Paterson’s press person Morgan Hook:

“The State budget is 15 weeks late, we have yet to close our $9.2 billion current year deficit or reduce our out year gaps, and have no plan to address an additional billion dollar problem that may arise if the Federal government does not provide FMAP contingency funds. New Yorkers cannot afford to wait any longer for a final State budget. That is why Governor Paterson will call the Legislature into extraordinary session on Wednesday, July 28, at 6 p.m., to consider legislation required to complete the State budget, as well as other critical policy issues that were not addressed in the regular session of the State Legislature. If the budget plan is not resolved on Wednesday, the Governor will call special session for the following day.

“Governor Paterson repeatedly has said that he will do everything in his power to protect New York’s fiscal health. As it stands today, the State has no budget and no plan to address a billion dollar loss in Federal support. Governor Paterson has proposed legislation that would address these issues and would provide certainty to the millions of New Yorkers and New York businesses that are currently operating on a day-to-day basis without answers from their elected officials. State government has a responsibility to the people and businesses of New York; finish the work that Governor Paterson started in January when he proposed his budget plan.”

By on July 23, 2010, 1:13 pm
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Keep Your Friends Close...
July 23rd, 2010

Ed Koch’s New York Uprising has released its friends and enemies list. Their friends include anyone who signed their reform pledge; their enemies anyone who didn’t.

One of their friends happens to be Sen. Pedro Espada–the man who helped launch the coup that so enraged Koch to begin with. Espada is such a fan of reform and transparency that he canceled a town hall meeting scheduled for yesterday evening because he was afraid that people his office did not hand pick might show up. His office says the event was canceled due to safety concerns.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver takes a different approach at questioning the credibility of Uprising’s list.

“For decades, Republicans controlled the State Senate and blocked every single piece of reform legislation proposed by the Assembly and Democrats in the Senate — campaign finance reform, election reform, ethics reform and budget reform,” said Silver in a statement. “For Ed Koch to call Senate Republicans reformers and ignore our record undermines the credibility of the pledge and his entire campaign.”

By on July 23, 2010, 1:17 am
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Commission Split on Grandfathering Council Members
July 22nd, 2010

Council members will have to hold their breaths.

At a hearing in the Bronx last night, the majority of members of the city Charter Revision Commission said they want to ask voters to consider rescinding the three-term limit approved by the council in 2008, going back to two terms. But the commission was split on whether that provision, if it is approved by the voters this fall, should apply to the current council.

“Frankly, I could go either way: to allow currently elected officials to continue for 12 years or to cut short the 30 members of the City Council,” said Commissioner Katheryn Patterson.

We covered this issue last week. See our story here.

Currently, 32 members of the council are either in their first or second term. If the proposal applied to the current class of legislators, 13 of them would be kicked out of City Hall after 2013.

While some commissioners said applying the measure to the current class would be “punitive,” others said it was hypocritical not to.

“This seems like the easiest question of all,” said Commissioner Hope Cohen. “Absolutely the change in term limits should apply to the current incumbents… It flies in the face of the whole argument for prospectivity,” she added. If the commission plans to put a question on the ballot to restrict current council members from extending their own term limit, Cohen said, than any change in the law should apply to the current council.

In the end, no decision was made on the issue last night. Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein argued more discussion is needed.

“I think the issue about implementation is complex, and I think it certainly needs more discussion,” Goldstein said. But, he added, “I dont like the idea of punitiveness at all.”

By on July 22, 2010, 5:38 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY | Comments Off on Commission Split on Grandfathering Council Members

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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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