Archive for September, 2011

Two Assembly Seats Decided
September 13th, 2011

One barely had to wait for the results given the apparent lopsidedness of the contests but enough unofficial returns are in to call two of the four Assembly seats up for grabs in the city.

East Side Republicans extended their losing streak (decades ago this was GOP turf) as the Democrat, community board member and attorney Daniel Quart bested another attorney, Paul Niehuas, to fill the seat from the 73rd Assemby District. The seat became vacant when Jonathan Bing stepped down to take a state post.

With 25 of 113 precincts reporting, Quart was besting Niehaus by a 2-to-1 margin.

In Queens’ 27th district, Michael Simanowitz handily defeated Republican Marco DeSena to take the seat previously held by his old boss, Nettie Mayersohn. With about a third of precincts reporting, Simanowitz had 74 percent of the vote with DeSena at 26 percent.

By most accounts, Simanowitz had left little to chance. Mayersohn ran for re-election last fall and then suddenly decided a few months later that she wanted to spend more time with her family and resigned. That left the job of picking the Democratic nominee for her seat to party bosses –rather than the party rank and file. And when one Democrat did try to take on Simanowitz, the Board of Elections knocked him off the ballot on a technicality.

A little known onetime political aide, DeSena had little name recognition and even less money.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:15 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | Comments Off on Two Assembly Seats Decided

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Dead People Trying to Vote in the 9th?
September 13th, 2011

Colin over at The Brooklyn Politics, has a copy of a court order impounding all absentee and provisional ballots in the race for the 9th Congressional District. The order was requested by Republican Congressional candidate Bob Turner.

Grant Lally, the attorney who filed the petition for Turner, told me that he submitted to the courts 5 ballots that were sent to dead people

“We have direct evidence that 5 ballots were mailed out to people who are dead. One person who never applied for an absentee ballot received a ballot. It means the Board of Elections is sending out absentee ballots based on false information or on incompetence.”

“We have impounded all paper ballots– mail in ballots–those will come before the court and be subject to the court’s supervision. The court will decide whether these are living valid people who have cast valid votes.”

I asked Lally if he thinks these votes will be a deciding factor in the election (I know, he does not have a crystal ball.)

“I think we will know that answer in about four hours time,” he told me.

David Weprin’s campaign has accused the Turner campaign of sending out a text requesting supporters to flood the phones at Weprin headquarters with calls–something Turner’s people deny.

Not sure how many non-regular ballots are out in the race but I plan to find out.

By on September 13, 2011, 4:33 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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A Poorer State
September 13th, 2011

One in six New York state residents — more than 3 million people — live in poverty, according to statement by theNew York City Coalition Against Hunger on census figures released this morning.

The figure 2009-10 represents an 11 percent increase from 2007-2008, the coalition said. The numbers become particularly striking when one considers just how low an income a family must have to be seen as living in poverty - less than $18,310 for a family of three.

In its statement, the coalition anticipated a rise in poverty for New York City alone, although it noted those numbers are not yet available. In 2009, more than one in five New York City residents lived in poverty, with experts saying the level would have been higher without the federal economic stimulus program.

While critics have warned of increased need in the city longer lines at food pantries and the like — the Bloomberg administration has maintained that poverty remained relatively constant during the recession and the weak — if that — recovery.

“To a large degree, economic stimulus programs and policy initiatives aimed at bolstering family income succeeded in preventing a rise in poverty in New York City,” concluded a report issued in March by the mayors Center for Economic Opportunity.

What no one can deny, though, is that the disparity in wealth in the city has increased. The wealthiest 1 percent of city residents has 44 percent of all income in New York, nearly four times as much as they did just 30 years ago, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:58 am
In category: Demographics,Economy,Gotham City,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Espinal Gets Endorsement--From Himself
September 12th, 2011

Thanks to City Hall News and The Brooklyn Politics Blog for breaking and sharing this!

You know that guy Rafael Espinal? The candidate in the 54th Assembly District who has the Democratic and Conservative lines? The guy whose campaign demanded I agree not to ask questions he didn’t like before an interview, threatened a walk out and then ran out of the room after I approached the candidate for the interview and promised he would be right with me? Well he is up to some more crazy hijinks. Read our original story about the race here.

In case being backed by power brokers like Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Sen. Martin Dilan wasn’t enough to ensure his victory Espinal’s campaign seems to have sent out campaign literature in the form of a newspaper–the “Prime Time News”–is flush with an editorial board that evaluates all three candidates in the race for the 54th AD–Deidra Towns, Jesus Gonzalez and Espinal and surprisingly–this fictitious editorial board arrives at the decision to endorse Espinal.

Colin over at The Brooklyn Politics transcribed the entire faux editorial here. Colin has been cataloging the creative campaign literature he is finding all over Bushwick.

One piece of campaign literature accuses Jesus Gonzalez–the man who has received editorial endorsements from the Daily News and El Diario–of saying he would welcome sex offenders into the community at a town hall meeting in Cypress Hills earlier this year. Colin and I were there. Colin took video and points out that Gonzalez did not say he “would welcome sex offenders into our community.” I checked my recordings of the affair and I can also confirm he did not say that. Head over to Colin’s site and check out the video of the meeting.

I recommend following Colin on Twitter at @bkpolitics and checking in with his blog if you are interested in tomorrow’s special election. Also, don’t forget our Guide For the Last Minute voter.

By on September 12, 2011, 3:34 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Fitch Downgrades MTA Revenue Bonds
September 8th, 2011

Fitch Ratings has downgraded $14.3 billion on outstanding Metropolitan Transportation Authority transportation revenue bonds from an ‘A’ to an ‘A-plus.’ The agency also downgraded the long-term rating of Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority general subordinate bonds.

Fitch said the move came because of escalating operating costs and foretasted deficits.

Just like in Washington, decisions made by our elected officials in
Albany caused this downgrade, said Paul Steely White, Executive
Director of Transportation Alternatives.

The States raids on public transit funding have forced the MTA to pay for subways and buses with debt. Now, it will cost more for the MTA to run the system, and this will hit New Yorkers where it hurtsfare hikes and service cuts; unless our elected officials in Albany find secure revenue for public

The downgrades come as the agency waits for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pick a new director to replace outgoing chairman Jay Walder. Transportation advocates are concerned about Cuomo’s interest in the city’s mass transit system and have been pushing Cuomo to pick someone with experience with a large transit system. Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 8, 2011, 6:29 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Fracking and Flooding
September 8th, 2011

Flooding is a new major point of contention for environmental groups as they look over the fracking report or environmental impact study just released by the Department of Environmental Conservation. As upstate New York faces devastating flooding this week and rivers, streams and lakes continue to overflow, environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council are concerned that the Department of Environmental Conservation does not propose a complete ban of all fracking related activities in flood plains.

The DEC does propose banning well development in flood plains but it would seemingly allow holding ponds and other infrastructure to be located on them. Environmentalists worry that could lead to catastrophe if flooding occurred and toxic fracking materials escaped into the general water supply.

This does seem like an issue that might be able to be resolved during the public comment period that lasts until Dec. 12. However, environmentalists point out that the DEC plans on proposing draft rules to oversee fracking before their environmental review is complete. Those rules will be issued in Oct. and public comment will be open on them until December as well. Advocates insist that the comment period on the recently released environmental impact study is meant to inform the writing of the rules that oversee fracking and that they should not be taking place concurrently.

By on September 8, 2011, 4:53 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Environment,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Beer with Bloomberg
September 8th, 2011

Maybe Mayor Michael Bloomberg should not try folksy. His offer to sit down over a brew or two with the City Council member and political aide detained by police on Monday seems to have generated as much enthusiasm as a flat, warm mug of Keystone — or as President Barack Obama’s often ridiculed beer summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge, Mass., police officer

On Wednesday, Bloomberg described the police stopping and handcuffing of the councilmember, Juamaane Williams, and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as probably “just a misunderstanding.” And he told reporters, “Hopefully every once in a while if there’s a misunderstanding, you have a beer together and work it out.”

Williams apparently does not drink beer. But the council member and Foy have more substantive problems with the mayor’s invite. While saying they appreciated the gesture, “this is bigger than the three of us over a beer,” the two men said in a statement. Instead they suggested a meeting with Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly “where young African American and Latino New Yorkers can talk openly and directly about their experiences with stop and frisk and other police interactions.”

Reactions from other City Council members after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 8, 2011, 4:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | Comments Off on Beer with Bloomberg

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More Impressions on Fracking Report
September 8th, 2011

“A new report out of Albany yesterday confirms what most folks already know: Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will bring huge benefits to New York — with scant chance of environmental harm,” reads the opening line of the NY Post’s editorial on fracking this morning. Guess what? The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Green Party don’t buy it.

Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council has a blog up detailing what he sees as the major missing elements of the Department of Environmental Conservations new environmental study of fracking.

“Our first impression of the new draft environmental study is that it has left a boatload of unresolved issues and unanswered questions in its wake,” writers Goldstein.

What does the NRDC think is missing? Like he said–a boat load.

1. The report fails to address how to deal with fracking in flood plains–an issue made all the more poignant by tropical storm Irene.

2. The report fails to propose how to protect small communities from “rapid industrialization”–such as pollution, heavy machinery etc. when fracking takes off.

3. The report is vague on what will happen to millions of gallons of toxic waste water from fracking.

For more of what the NRDC thinks is misgiving check out Goldstein’s blog.

Meanwhile the Green Party just wants to throw the entire study in the trash and demands that Gov. Andrew Cuomo institute a ban on fracking. See a snippet of their statement here: Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 8, 2011, 8:13 am
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DEC Backtracks on Public Meetings
September 7th, 2011

Environmental groups are responding to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s fracking report and they continue to say that the public comment period should be extended. The DEC does seem to have extended the comment period to over 90 days but not to the requested 180. Environmental groups say that New Yorkers are still recovering from tropical storm Irene and need more time to process the report. A press release from a coalition of environmental groups called New York Water Rangers demands the DEC add two more public meetings.

Originally the DEC website said there would be 4 public hearings. “The meetings will be held in Broome, Steuben and Sullivan counties, as well as New York City. Dates and locations will be announced shortly,” read the website.

However, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis e-mailed me earlier to say, “To clarify, no final decisions have been made on the locations of the public hearings. The hearings will be held in counties within the Marcellus Shale region, as well as New York City. Exact dates and locations will be released in early October.” The original statement seemed fairly clear.

Anyway, the Water Rangers’ response is fairly blistering: Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 7, 2011, 2:30 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Environment,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Gas Industry Responds to Fracking Report
September 7th, 2011

The Independent Oil and Gas Association has released its response to the DEC fracking study. The synopsis? They aren’t so happy about the extended comment period and they plan on reading the report.

Commissioner Martens has demonstrated his willingness to provide opportunities for serious dialogue on this important energy and environmental matter,” said Brad Gill.

“While the energy industry believed the previously announced 60-day comment period to be sufficient, it has been determined that extending it to 90 days will ensure a more detailed review and evaluation of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).

IOGA of NY will fully review the additional elements and content of the revised SGEIS and looks forward to sharing its point of view with state officials at the upcoming hearings.

In addition, we know that New Yorkers are open-minded about the benefits that natural gas exploration can bring to the state; and as an industry, we remain committed to practices that have resulted in a long-term record of safety and stewardship.”

By on September 7, 2011, 1:57 pm
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Fracking Study Out, Start Your Commenting
September 7th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation has released its revised report on hydraulic fracturing and the 90 day comment period has now started. That’s right it seems the DEC has extended the comment period by 30 days. Environmental groups have insisted that the comment period should be extended to 180 days, while the gas industry has said 60 days is plenty.

For those interested in commenting the DEC offers these rules:

“Written comments will be accepted through the close of business December 12, 2011 by two methods only:

Electronic submission using a web-based comment form available on DEC’s website (preferred method); or
Paper submission mailed or delivered to: Attn: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway,Albany, NY 12233-6510. Please include the name, address, and affiliation (if any) of the commenter. Paper submissions also will be accepted at the public hearings listed below.

Due to the expected volume, comments that are faxed, telephoned, or emailed to the DEC will not be accepted for the official record. This is to ensure that all comments are captured properly and can be included during the review process. Please use DEC’s web-based comment form to provide your input.
Public Hearings

DEC plans to hold four public hearings during the comment period for the SGEIS and regulations in November. The meetings will be held in Broome, Steuben and Sullivan counties, as well as New York City. Dates and locations will be announced shortly.”

By on September 7, 2011, 11:44 am
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Jumaane Williams and the Police
September 6th, 2011

Anger and dismay over the police handcuffing of a City Council member and a top political aide following yesterday’s West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn today morphed into a call for changes in police stop and frisk polices and other procedures that target young black and Latino men.

At a crowded press conference on the City Hall steps the council member, Jumaane Williams of East Flatbush, and the aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Kristen John Foy, described their being stopped, handcuffed and briefly taken into custody as they tried to go to the Brooklyn museum yesterday afternoon.

By all accounts, the two men were attempting to enter a restricted or frozen zone after the parade. Both had identification and Williams was wearing a lapel pin indicating his membership on the City Council. They reached two checkpoints and the officers at them — probably senior, given that they were wearing white shirts - allowed them to go through. But, Williams said, police stopped them at a third checkpoint, despite their credential.

“I was actually handcuffed while on then phone with the chief of police telling him what was going on,” Williams recounted.

Both were taken across the street to a synagogue where they were held for about 30 minutes until police established their identities and let them go. Neither man was charged with any wrongdoing.

Police have maintained that during the incident, someone punched a police officer, an account Williams vehemently disputed.

“I defy the NYPD to find one shred of evidence of any police officer being punched in the face,” he said, adding that report was “a bald-faced lie.”

While not criticizing overall police policies, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn echoed Williams on his conduct. “There is nothing, nothing, to indicate the Council member or Mr. Foy did anything wrong, ” she said.

Foy said he was shoved down and cuffed because “in retreat, they [police] decided I wasn’t moving fast enough, in retreat, I wasn’t complying enough.” The reports of the punch, Foy said, showed the police “making up a story to cover themselves.”

The police department has said it is investigating the incident, and, according to Williams, Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for it.

Putting this incident in a larger context — after the jump
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 6, 2011, 1:38 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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A Precedent for the Mayor
September 2nd, 2011

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly dodges venues where he might face questions abut his handling of the resignation of former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg might be wondering how he might have done things differently. Well, given the mayor’s reluctance to doubt himself, maybe not.

But if he does have second thoughts, he might want to consider his own handling of a previous problematic resignation.

In 2008, the city’s then commissioner for the aging Edwin Mendez-Santiago, abruptly resigned. His departure came amid a heated debated over plans to revamp the city’s services for the elderly, and some wondered if that explained his sudden resignation.

But it soon emerged that, like Goldsmith, Santiago-Mendez had left under a cloud. About a week later, Mendez-Santiago’s former secretary filed suit against him, charging the former commissioner with sexual harassment and discrimination.

While the mayor and his staff did not address this explicitly in announcing Mendez-Santiago’s departure, they also did not say anything that was out and out deceptive. Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser told reporters only that Mendez-Santiago was leaving for personal reasons.

In his release, Bloomberg thanked Mendez-Santiago for his services, said he had served the city’s older resident well and gave no explanation for the departure.

Later he showed a bit of the legendary Bloomberg loyalty, but still did not seem to stray from the truth: Mendez-Santiago “left for totally personal reasons, and it had nothing to do with any policy whatsoever of the Department for the Aging,” Bloomberg said days later when he announced Mendez-Santiago’s successor. Never even came up. He did a good job. Im sorry he chose for personal reasons to resign.

Now contrast that with the comments on Goldsmith, who it now turns out resigned after he was arrested in the District of Columbia on a domestic violence complaint.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 2, 2011, 12:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo's Hurricane Schedule
September 2nd, 2011

Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union writes today about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used the power of the governorship to respond to the crisis caused by hurricane Irene. Cuomo has dashed across the state via helicopter, plane, car etc. from one town to another.

Just as stunning as his use of power was his office’s sudden use of transparency. His press office has helpfully alerted reporters not only to exactly when and where Cuomo was going to be but which public officials would be with him and who he would speak with. For some reporters and good government advocates, this has been a refreshing change.

During his campaign last year Cuomo promised that he would make his work schedule public with details such as which legislators and lobbyists he met with.

“Mr. Cuomo, whose aides told one newspaper last week that his office had not kept a formal detailed schedule during Mr. Cuomo’s first two years as attorney general, pledged if elected to post his entire work schedule online, including meetings with lawmakers and lobbyists,” the Times wrote after an interview with Cuomo in October 2010.

But it is hard to say that Cuomo has lived up to that promise. The Times says he hasn’t. In that same article they note that Cuomo used his finesse to court lawmakers to “tame Albany.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 2, 2011, 11:46 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Governing | 2 Comments »

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The Goldsmith Fallout
September 1st, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handling of the hurricane/tropical storm last week gave him a respite from the media criticism that has plagued much of his third term.

That probably came to an abrupt end this morning when the New York Post reported that Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith suddenly resigned last month not because he saw tempting opportunities in the private sector and not because of his botched handling of the last big storm you remember, the blizzard but because he spent two nights in a Washington, D.C. jail arising from a domestic violence complaint.

The Bloomberg administration knew the former mayor of Indianapolis, darling of the privatization crowd and high-level city official had spent time in jail. And, as the Wall Street Journal wrote today, “Goldsmiths arrest precipitated his sudden departure from City Hall.”

Charges were dropped. In a statement released today, Goldsmith said he was innocent, and a statement by his wife seems to support that, calling the arrest “a big mistake.” (That may well be true, but it also is true that that many battered women later deny the violence ever took place.) Despite all that, Goldsmith said he resigned so as “not to be a distraction to the mayor and his important agenda for the city.”
At the press conference announcing Goldsmith’s departure, neither Bloomberg nor Goldsmith breathed a word about Goldsmith’s domestic travails. Instead Bloomberg praised his former right-hand man, saying, “As New Yorkers, we were extraordinarily lucky to have Steve Goldsmith make our city government more innovative and efficient.”

The way Bloomberg handled Goldsmith’s departure is now coming under criticism.

Who and what they’re saying after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 1, 2011, 1:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 6 Comments »

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