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Fare Increase Not a Bargaining Chip?
April 29th, 2011

Asking for a fare increase as city officials are trying to get a new class of cab in the outer boroughs isn’t playing hardball, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told Gotham Gazette today.

It’s merely about timing.

“It’s generally not a negotiation ploy by us,” Desai said, citing the increased cost of gas. “For us, the fare proposal has been in the works, because we know next month it will be seven years since we’ve had an overall raise. Driver income has not been at a livable standard.”

The alliance announced this week it will be asking the Taxi and Limousine Commission for an approximately 25 percent fare increase. The proposal will not be finalized until Wednesday, but Desai said it would likely ask for the waiting rate to increase from 40 to 50 cents and the mileage rate to go up to $2.50 from $2. The alliance will also ask for increases in taxi surcharges for rush hour and late night.

The request comes as the Bloomberg administration attempts to drill down a proposal to get more cab service in the outer boroughs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech in January he would propose legislation to allow livery cabs in the outer boroughs to pick up people hailing on the street — prohibited under current law.

After a backlash from city officials and the taxi industry, the administration is considering creating another class of yellow cab that would be limited to outer-borough pick ups instead.

Desai said the alliance isn’t opposed to servicing the outer boroughs, but as it stands now it’s not economical. Drivers cannot cruise residential streets for street pickups without losing money, she said. A fare increase would help convince drivers to go to Brooklyn or Queens, Desai added. She also suggested creating cab stands in commercial areas of the outer boroughs.

On his radio show this morning, Bloomberg said he was sympathetic to the cab industry’s qualms.

Above all else, Desai said she wants to make sure the yellow cab reserves the exclusive right to pick up New Yorkers at the curbside.

“We don’t want to see more vehicles on the road,” she said. “It’s going to increase congestion and increase competition in a field where it’s already competitive.”

By on April 29, 2011, 4:44 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Immigrants,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Another Black Eye for Ed Dept. Tech Effort
April 28th, 2011

The Times is reporting that a former Department of Education consultant has been charged with stealing $3.6 million from the city. Federal prosecutors say Willard Lanham persuaded subcontractors to overbill the city for their work and then kept the difference for himself.

Fernanda Santos writes, “Verizon and I.B.M., the largest of the vendors involved in the projects, played a role in the scheme and profited from it, according to the citys special commissioner of investigation, Richard J. Condon.” Verizon said it would “return any inappropriate profits.”

Lanham, who reportedly already made $200,000 a year, supposedly used the money to buy fancy cars and Long Island real estate. He has denied any wrongdoing. The crime allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2008.

The projects involved were supposed to provide internet access in city schools. The case — assuming the charges are true — involves a number of issues that continue to prove extremely nettlesome for the Bloomberg administration.

(What those problems are — and some connecting of dots — after the jump.)
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By on April 28, 2011, 5:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Tech | 1 Comment »

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'Success' Battle Goes to Court
April 27th, 2011

Since this is New York it’s not surprising that one of the hottest issues in the debate over charter school is not over whether they should exist but where they should exist. As the city has moved to place charter schools in its own buildings, acrimonious disputes have broken out across the city.

None though seems more pitched than the fight over the Department of Education’s plan to put the new Upper West Side Success Academy in the Brandeis High School campus, home to five high schools. Although the Panel for Educational Policy approved the move (no surprise there!) in February, the dispute shows no sign of abating.

Earlier this month parents filed suit against the city to stop it from placing Upper West Side Success — part of Eva Moskowitz’s expanding Success Academy empire — in the Brandeis building. They charge that the city violated its own procedures and has not supplied accurate enrollment figures for the high schools in Brandeis. Some also fear the new school will limit possible expansion of the new high schools at Brandeis and question the wisdom of putting kindergarteners in the same school building as 18-year-olds.

Yesterday lawyers for Harlem Success struck back with papers asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss the suit. The city also is expected to request a dismissal.
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By on April 27, 2011, 4:22 pm
In category: Education | Comments Off on 'Success' Battle Goes to Court

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DiNapoli's Office Says Cuomo's Pension Regs Are Redundant
April 26th, 2011

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office just released this statement from his director of communications Dennis Tompkins in reaction to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement on pension regulations:

“Comptroller DiNapoli banned placement agents in April 2009. As long as hes Comptroller, that ban will stay in effect. The Comptroller welcomes todays regulations, and he continues to advocate that his placement agent ban along with the pension forfeiture bill he proposed earlier this year and his other pension reforms be made into law.”

There was tension between the DiNapoli and Cuomo camps during last year’s election season because Cuomo refused to endorse DiNapoli. Some took it as a sign that DiNapoli was being investigated by then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and that he could be ensnared in the same scandal that brought down his predecessor former comptroller Alan Hevesi. Cuomo eventually announced DiNapoli was not being investigated by his office and DiNapoli was of course reelected.

By on April 26, 2011, 4:07 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo Emerges
April 26th, 2011

People have been wondering if Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been resting up since his big budget win. Legislators have been out of Albany for over a week–working in their districts–and Cuomo has been just about as out of sight as they have. “Why isn’t he spending is political capital?” some wondered. But fear not–Cuomo has returned with some major policy initiatives.

Cuomo’s office just announced a ban in the insurance department on any lobbyist, elected official or placement agent from pension fund business and announced a program bill that would prohibit, “any state employee or elected official convicted of a felony in relation to their office from receiving their taxpayer-funded pension.”

The bill is in reaction to the sentencing of former comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 26, 2011, 2:39 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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NYPIRG Delivers Anti-Fracking Petitions
April 26th, 2011

The New York Public Interest Group delivered 10,000 signatures from New Yorkers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, urging him to protect New York’s drinking water from the dangers of hydrofracking.

New York must not allow the same shoddy level of water quality protection that Pennsylvania has, said Brendan Woodruff, NYPIRGs hydrofracking campaign organizer. The supposed drilling boom in Pennsylvania is looking more like a boondoggle and the students and citizens who signed these petitions call upon Governor Cuomo to ensure that lax regulations and limited enforcement are not permitted in New York.

Last week an accident in Leroy Township Pennsylvania created a spill of thousands of gallons of chemical-tainted waste water from hydrofracking.

The battle over hydrofracking is heating up as the state’s moratorium on fracking comes to the end and the DEC is schedule to present a new draft environmental impact statement for public review. Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 26, 2011, 1:54 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Greens Have Earth Day Challenge For Cuomo
April 22nd, 2011

As the battle over hydrofracking heats up thanks to a chemical spill in Pennsylvania and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s impending draft environmental impact statement the Green Party is challenging Cuomo to support a ban on hydrofracking. That of course is not all they want of Cuomo. They would also like him to immediately shut down the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, Nine Mile Point and Fitzpatrick. Check out their full list of demands: Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 22, 2011, 11:17 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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A Less Controversial PlaNYC
April 21st, 2011

To celebrate Earth Day — and his own environmental achievements — Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced an update to his much touted sustainability program, PlaNYC2030.

The presentation in a gatehouse that houses Harlem stage offered a fair amount of glitz — free water bottles with New York’s tap water, a thick and glossily illustrated book replete with testimonial from attractive reportedly average New Yorkers, a panel discussion and then the speech by the mayor to an overwhelmingly adoring audience. Bloomberg pronounced New York under his administration as the leader in making cities environmentally friendly — and most in the crowd apparently agreed.

Bloomberg’s speech and to a lesser extent his plan offer nothing as bold or controversial as the congestion pricing proposal he advanced last time around. He did advance some new initiatives — 132 by the mayor’s count, some old and some new. Many, though, had either been issued or reported previously — allowing car services to accept street hails in the outer boroughs, for example, launching an East River ferry services and reducing the use of highly polluting heating oil to cite a few.

Much of Bloomberg’s speech focused on cleaning the air pollution spewed out by buildings. This would involve phasing out use of dirty grade 6 and 4 heating oil by 2015 and 2030 respectively. The relatively small number of buildings using the oil, Bloomberg said “produce more pollution than all the cars and trucks in New York City combined.”
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By on April 21, 2011, 3:03 pm
In category: Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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Turn Off That Cigarette
April 20th, 2011

Michael Mandelkern filed this post.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone, who represents Astoria, has proposed a local law to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and prohibit anyone from smoking electronic cigarettes in certain public areas.

“People should start getting the word out there about these cigarettes,” Vallone said. “It’s absolutely not a healthy activity.”

Vallone has noticed tobacco shops in Astoria selling electronic cigarettes to minors, and although he is not sure how widespread sales are across the city he seeks to nip their availability to children in the bud. He has no qualms about adults who buy electronic cigarettes under the impression that they are safer than regular cigarettes, but he is concerned that the flavors, such as strawberry and vanilla, will entice youngsters to develop nicotine cravings before adulthood.

“There’s no reason for a child to smoke,” Vallone said. “We are trying to get out in front of the potential problem.”

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices filled with nicotine or other chemicals that turn into vapor when lit by a heating element. The federal Food and Drug Administration has not conclusively determined whether they curb nicotine addiction.
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By on April 20, 2011, 1:28 pm
In category: City Hall,Health | 9 Comments »

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Schneiderman Threatens Fracking Suit
April 18th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is concerned about hydraulic fracturing near the Delaware River Basin. The Basin includes the New York City watershed. Schneiderman is so concerned that he is threatening suit against the federal government if it doesn’t review the regulations regarding fracking in the area within 30 days. Here is the release from his office:

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today pledged to sue the federal government if it doesnt commit in 30 days to conducting a full environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling including the potentially harmful “fracking” technique in the Delaware River Basin. The Basin includes the New York City watershed and portions of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Green, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan Counties, and provides approximately 50 percent of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents and visitors every day. Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 18, 2011, 3:23 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Schneiderman Threatens Fracking Suit

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Special Elections Preview
April 18th, 2011

More than two month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo named him CEO for Homes and Community Renewal, Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns has finally submitted his letter of resignation from the legislature.

Meanwhile, on April 1, longtime Assemblymember Nettie Mayhersohn of Queens announced her resignation at age 86.

This mean residents of their districts will choose new Assembly members in a special election — though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet set the date.

In Meyersohn’s district, her chief of staff, Michael Simanowitz, has expressed interest in succeeding her and stands a good chance of getting his wish.

Many special elections in New York– especially in districts where one party has an overwhelming advantage — are little more than a formality. With no primary, party leaders choose their candidate and voters have little option but to ratify that choice.

In 2007, Citizens Union (whose sister organization publishes the Wonkster) found that almost a third of sitting legislators had first won their seats in usually noncompetitive special elections and then parlayed the advantage of incumbency to hold on to the post in future years.

Interestingly, though the race to follow Towns has attracted a list of candidates, with more possibly on the way. The contest has shaped up as a showdown between two politically powerful Brooklyn clans: the Towns family, including Darryl’s dad U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, and the Dilans, whose members include State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan and City Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan. Possible candidates include Darryl Town’s sister Deidra Towns and the council member’s chief of staff Rafael Espinal.
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By on April 18, 2011, 2:17 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | Comments Off on Special Elections Preview

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It's Official
April 18th, 2011

As we reported earlier today, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has named New Yorker Jean-Claude Brizard CEO (yup, that’s what they call it there) of the Chicago schools.

By on April 18, 2011, 12:33 pm
In category: Education | Comments Off on It's Official

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Brizard to Chicago?
April 18th, 2011

Jean-Claude Brizard, who spent 21 years in the city public school system as a teacher and administrator before becoming schools superintendent in Rochester, is apparently likely to head Chicago’s public school system, according to various reports this morning.

The move, which newly elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce, today will be a huge step up for Brizard, a native of Haiti who launched his career by teaching junior high school science. The Rochester schools have 32,000 students; Chicago has the nation’s third largest system with about 410,000 students in 675 schools.

Brizard served as a regional superintendent and as executive director for secondary schools in New York City. He holds masters degrees from City College and Queens College, as well as a bachelors degree in chemistry from Queens College. Brizard most recently made news in the city when he served on the panel that advised state Education Commissioner David Steiner against granting an unconditional waiver to allow Cathie Black to become city schools chancellor.

Rochester reaction after the jump.
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By on April 18, 2011, 11:32 am
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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Silver Says Cuomo Needs to Weigh in on Rent
April 12th, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says that Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to throw his weight around the get the Republican-controlled Senate to renew and strengthen rent control laws set to expire on June 15. “We need him (Cuomo) to join us and use his clout to bring together the relevant stakeholders to make it happen,” Silver said yesterday.

His comments echo those of tenant advocates who say they lost their leverage in the battle for stronger rent laws when the measure was not made part of the budget. The Assembly passed a bill yesterday to strengthen and renew the rent laws but the bill is unlikely to go anywhere as the Senate Republicans are heavily supported by real estate interests.

By on April 12, 2011, 5:13 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | 1 Comment »

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Walcott Speaks
April 12th, 2011

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told reporters today that he did not discuss altering the first in last out law with legislators today. He and Mayor Michael Bloomberg plan to continue speaking out about their position on teacher seniority despite a lack of urgency among legislators. He also denied that two deputy chancellors departed their posts because of their displeasure with Cathie Black. Walcott said that teacher layoffs, likely over 6,000, will be announced before the end of June.

By on April 12, 2011, 4:31 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Walcott In Albany
April 12th, 2011

New Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is in Albany today meeting with legislators, reintroducing himself in his new role. Walcott is not exactly an unfamiliar face in Albany–he was a major player in negotiating a renewal of mayoral control in 2009.

Meanwhile State Education Commissioner David Steiner, the man who granted Cathie Black a waiver to be schools chancellor despite her lack of education experience, has announced that a nine member panel will meet on April 13 to decide whether to recommend granting Walcott a waiver. The decision to grant a waiver is ultimately Steiner’s.

Walcott is expected to get a Waiver. Although he does not have experience as a school superintendent, or the qualifications to be given a superintendent’s certificate as is required for the job, the law allows Steiner to grant a waiver if the candidate is “exceptionally qualified.”

Walcott has a master’s in education and taught kindergarten for two years.

Steiner announced he would be stepping down from his post on the same day that Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Black’s departure and Walcott’s appointment.

By on April 12, 2011, 2:24 pm
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Advocates Protest SWMP Delays (UPDATE)
April 12th, 2011

Five years after the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to a solid waste management plan for the five boroughs — one that spread out the city’s garbage burden — council members and environmental justice advocates say the adminsitration is backpedaling.

In its preliminary capital budget, the adminsitration has delayed the construction of four waste transfer stations, three of which are in Manhattan. The cut, said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council, could delay funding for these facilities between five and eight years. Advocates fear the stations will never occur. Five years from now, there will be a new occupant in City Hall — one perhaps with different priorities.

“We are very troubled,” said Goldstein.

The waste transfer stations are a crucial part of the 2006 solid waste management plan, which attempts to get garbage off of diesel-spewing trucks and onto rail cars and barges instead. The plan was also meant to spread stations throughout the five boroughs to ease the burden on communities inundated with city waste — like the South Bronx, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The delayed stations in Manhattan are the only ones slated for the borough, which currently sends the vast majority of its trash to New Jersey.

We are waiting for a response from the Department of Sanitation.

Advocates also decried the administration’s recent exploration of waste-to-energy — a controversial technology that typically involves burning or heating trash to create electricity (We reported on it here two weeks ago). Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group decried the move.

“The types of technology they want to pilot have not been proven successful commercially anywhere in the country,” said Haight. “We believe this is a waste of energy.”

A conversation on the equal distribution of these types of facilities is occurring right now at a hearing of the Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses Subcommittee. Councilmember Brad Lander, the committee’s chair, blasted the adminsitration for refusing to testify (his letter appears below).

“We’ve concentrated those facilities in low-income communities, in communities of color,” Lander said this afternoon on the City Hall steps.

A spokesperson for the Bloomberg adminsitration said they would not send a representative, because “fair share,” as it’s commonly referred to, is currently the subject of litigation.

UPDATE: We just got this response from City Hall spokesperson Jason Post:

Because of the economy, the City has been forced to reduce all of its expenditures, including its capital program.

The preliminary capital budget for the Sanitation Department includes deferred spending on four Marine Transfer Stations.

The Administration remains fully committed to SWMPs principles of borough equity, using rail and barge to transfer solid waste, relieving the burden of waste receiving from certain communities, strengthening our recycling infrastructure and piloting new technologies to derive clean energy from waste.

We have made great progress on SWMP alreadylong term rail contracts are in place and two marine transfer stations are under construction, as is the Citys new recycling facilityand we are exploring cost-effective alternatives to expedite the construction schedule outlined in the preliminary capital plan. We will make a decision before the Mayors executive budget presentation.

CM Lander Letter to Mayor Bloomberg Re Fair Share Hearing(2)

By on April 12, 2011, 2:22 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,nextNY,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Assembly to Tackle Rent Laws
April 11th, 2011

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hasn’t wasted much time since the budget passed to get to work on another one of his conference’s major concerns:renewing and strengthening rent regulations. The Assembly is expected to pass a bill later this evening that according to Silver’s office would:

“-Repeal vacancy decontrol, which permits landlords to remove apartments from regulation by charging rents at or above $2,000 a month
-Reduce allowable rent increases after a landlord makes individual apartment improvements from 1/40th to 1/60th the cost of the improvement
-Cap the amount that can be collected for a major capital improvement to the actual cost of the improvement
-Bring certain units that were deregulated due to vacancy decontrol on or after Jan. 1, 2007, under the protection of rent regulation
-Cut in half the percentage increase by which a landlord can raise rents after a vacancy
-Increase the high income and high rent deregulation thresholds to $300,000 and $3,000 respectively
-Permit NYC to strengthen rent protections beyond what the state allows”

Tenant advocates hoped that these reforms would be part of a budget deal and put considerable lobbying energy into achieving that. Now that the budget is passed they are concerned the Assembly does not have the leverage by itself to strengthen the rent laws. They say they expect Senate Republicans to wait till as close to the the June 15 deadline as they can and then introduce legislation that weakens the rent laws. The Senate Republicans received major financial backing from the real estate industry last fall. Senate Republicans say they plan on taking up rent law renewal but want the Assembly to pass a property tax cap before they address rents laws.

Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party released this statement supporting the legislation and putting pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate to take similar action:

Todays forthcoming Assembly vote to extend and strengthen rent regulation laws is the first step in guaranteeing housing security to millions of working and middle-class New Yorkers. We thank Speaker Silver and Chairman Lopez for their leadership today.

In a time of stagnating wages and job insecurity, the government has an obligation to make sure it doesnt make a difficult situation even more perilous for struggling families. Failure to strengthen and extend the rent laws would indeed put many hardworking and vulnerable New Yorkers in peril, with thousands of affordable housing units at risk for destabilization.

With the Assemblys action today, the Governors support, and a majority of both Democratic and Republican voters in favor,* we are confident that the Senate leadership will agree to strengthen the law and protect renters.

By on April 11, 2011, 5:01 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | 3 Comments »

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Fracking's Future
April 11th, 2011

Protesters from around the state came to Albany today to protest hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. The moratorium on hydrofracking is set to expire and the oil and gas industry is pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to start issuing permits to allow drilling.

Meanwhile a group of Senate Democrats are pushing for rules that would put tighter restriction on on the practice. It is unlikely that any of them will pass.

Here is a release about the legislation they want:

“As new information continues to surface on the dangers of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, particularly in relation to the wastewater produced during the hydrofracking process, Senators Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), Ranking Member of the Environmental Protection Committee Tony Avella (D-Queens) and Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) have introduced a package of bills that aim to keep New Yorks water clean against the effects of hydrofracking. First and foremost, the package calls for a ban on hydrofracking. While working towards this goal, the package installs a series of necessary, common sense measures that would implement stronger regulations and heightened scrutiny that will keep New Yorkers, and their water, safe.

A series of articles produced by the New York Times has revealed that studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency show that the wastewater produced in hydrofracking is far more dangerous than previously reported. Even before it enters the ground, the frac fluid used in drilling poses serious threats to the environment and human health, as it is made of a combination of undisclosed chemicals that often contain carcinogenic materials. However, as reported by the New York Times, wastewater produced in hydrofracking grows even more dangerous once its blasted through rock thousands of feet below ground. There, the frac fluid picks up salts and radioactive elements, like radium, that are naturally embedded in the Earth.

To address these issues, the first three bills in the Clean Water Package will implement tighter regulation and ensure transparency so the public can be assured that proper precautions are in place to monitor both frac fluid and the resulting wastewater. The bills providing for increased regulation are absolutely necessary to provide immediate and necessary oversight to keep the public and environment safe while ample political support is gathered to establish an all out ban, which has been proposed by Senator Avella. Senator Kruegers bill (S.425) is currently on the agenda to be voted on in the Environmental Conservation Committee on Tuesday, the 12th.

The bills in the Clean Water Package are:
S.425 (Krueger) Would provide greater regulation of the use of hydraulic fracturing fluids used for oil and gas drilling, including prohibiting the use of frac fluids containing chemicals that pose a risk to human health.
S.2697 (Avella) Would provide for comprehensive regulation of oil and natural gas operations.
S. 4251 (Addabbo) Would require treatment works to test waste from hydraulic fracturing operations for radioactivity.
S.4220 (Avella) Would prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing in the process of drilling for natural gas and/or oil.

Senator Liz Krueger said, I dont see it as that great of a request to require these gas companies to inform the public on what chemicals theyre blasting into the Earth. They want us to just fall into line and not ask any questions, to just trust them. Well, we saw what they did with Pennsylvanias trust, and I say no. Not here, not in New York. I tend to believe that if you guard a secret with your life its not because youre hiding something good or harmless, its because you know that whatever youre hiding will bring negative consequences for you if it comes to light.

Senator Avella added, Perhaps our greatest resource as New York City residents is the clean, unfiltered and refreshing water we receive every time we turn on our faucets. It is clear to me, that until we can be assured that the practice of hydrofracking presents absolutely no threat to New Yorks residents and their drinking water, we must completely ban fracking.

Senator Addabbo said, Today, I join my Senate colleagues, Tony Avella and Liz Krueger, to support their respective bills, which together with mine, would amend the environmental conservation law, requiring new regulations from the DEC. My new bill authorizes the DEC Commissioner, after hosting a public hearing, to force regulations requiring treatment facilities handling wastewater to test for radioactivity levels. The DEC will identify tests to be performed on the water, including ingredients found within the hydrofracking fluids, and would prohibit the acceptance, treatment or discharge of hydrofracking-produced waste. This was in response to EPA and drilling industry studies that concluded radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

There are many ways this wastewater puts human health and the environment in danger. In other states, wastewater is often stored in open pits until transported for ultimate disposal, but chemicals evaporate from these open pits, contributing to air pollution. Even prior to fracking, the trucks are carrying the fluids in high concentrations, and are subject to leaks and spills, causing contamination of surface waters. The fracturing fluid left underground can migrate or seep through fractures in underground formations, cracks in well-bore casings or through abandoned wells, polluting groundwater.

Senate Democratic Leader John L. Sampson said, Clean drinking water is one of the most valuable and most vulnerable resources New Yorkers depend on to survive. Taxpayers should not be asked by the energy industry to trust their drilling practices are safe and clean. We need to look no further than the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to recognize the importance of fully understanding the impact of drilling before breaking ground. I applaud my colleagues for introducing common-sense legislation which would enact responsible regulations that keep our water supply safe and ensure continued access to clean, drinkable water for all New Yorkers.

As has been made clear by a number of incidents related to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, high-volume hydrofracking continues to present unacceptable risks. New York State must adopt new regulation, like those presented in the Clean Water Package to keep its residents safe and healthy.”

By on April 11, 2011, 3:46 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Fracking's Future

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Walcott Visits the Council
April 8th, 2011

In his first visit to the City Council as the schools chancellor designee, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott was informed, cordial and calm.

Most council members lauded him. All of them offered congratulations.

“You are much more knowledgeable than Cathie Black,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “You are much more accessible.”

And that praise came despite the fact Walcott was the bearer of bad news. Toeing the administration’s line, Walcott slammed state budget cuts to the five boroughs, claiming the city was treated unfairly. While the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was supposed to give the city its fair share of education aid, Walcott said city revenue would cover 61 percent of non-federal education spending in next year’s budget. The state would only cover 39 percent.

Walcott claimed the vast majority of controllable costs at the Department of Education go to teachers’ salaries. The only way to close a $1 billion budget gap, he said, would be to lay off teachers.

“That means, with a budget shortfall of this magnitude, a reduction in headcount is unavoidable,” Walcott said.

There was some dispute between Walcott and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson on the administration’s proposal to repeal the city’s last in, first out policy — which requires the city lay off teachers based on seniority. The policy’s repeal is a major goal of the Bloomberg adminsitration this year.

Walcott said the city has incentives for principals to keep teachers based on skill instead of how much their salary is. Jackson, however, said the repeal of LIFO could spur discrimination — with principals getting rid of the more senior, expensive instructors in favor of cheaper, younger ones.

Ultimately, Jackson said, the issue is moot.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 8, 2011, 3:32 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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