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Senate Dems "thank" Cuomo for redistricting help
May 23rd, 2012

New York’s Senate Democrats offered up a video response to last night’s Legislative Correspondent’s show — and it’s a bit of a doozy. The video features Sens. Michael Gianaris, Liz Krueger and Kevin Parker sitting around a speaker phone anxiously waiting to speak to the governor about redistricting. Gianaris happily lays down the law on redistricting to a dial tone after an executive chamber secretary insists the governor is not available. That is when the hijinx start. Former Gov. David Paterson makes an appearance with Errol Louis on NY1’s Wise Guy’s segment. Paterson delivers his patented SNL “NEW JEERRSEY!” line. Check it out.

Cuomo famously changed the standards for what kind of lines would earn a veto while Senate Republicans and Democrats held their breaths. In the end, Cuomo came to a deal with Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats that allowed the Legislature to draw district lines one more time in exchange for a constitutional amendment that will change the process the next time around.

By on May 23, 2012, 10:11 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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Cornell tech school to be housed temporarily at Google NY
May 21st, 2012

Cornell University’s new tech school will be housed at Google’s New York headquarters while its permanent campus on Roosevelt Island is under construction. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during a visit to Google’s offices today that the company would donate 22,000 square feet at its offices for use by CornellNYC Tech for nearly 6 years or until its campus is completed. Bloomberg was joined by Google Inc. CEO Larry Page and Corrnell President David J. Skorton for the announcement.

Classes at CornellNYC Tech are scheduled to begin in the fall. 

Cornell beat out other universities, including Stanford, in a bid to establishe a cutting-edge technology and enginneering school on city-owned land. 

By on May 21, 2012, 12:20 pm
In category: Tech | 20 Comments »

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NY proposes regs ending fingerprinting for food stamps
May 17th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has proposed regulations prohibiting agencies from requiring fingerprints from food stamp recipients.

The regulations will most significantly affect New York City, the only jurisdiction in the state that currently fingerprints people who want to receive the benefits.

City Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar said in a statement that fingerprinting “identifies potential duplicate payments and prevents fraud.” He said the policy has “saved more than $35 million over the last decade in a program that now provides services for 1.8 million New Yorkers annually.”

“We remain committed to doing everything we can, consistent with state and federal regulations, to protect the integrity of the food stamp program,” he continued.

There will be a 45-day public comment period before the regulations issued by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance are finalized. Under the regulations, counties will not need a waiver to be exempt from fingerprinting.

The move will leave Arizona as the only state that requires fingerprinting for food stamp access.

The administration and advocates say the practice stigmatizes recipients and makes it more likely that children will go without food.

“There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too long, requiring finger imaging from those eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food off the table for those in need.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma issued a statement praising Cuomo’s decision. “We are confident that the integrity of the food stamp program will be maintained and are pleased New Yorkers will no longer be forced to go through this process,” they said in their statement.

“We’ve found that finger imaging identifies potential duplicate payments and prevents fraud, which saved more than $35 million over the last decade in a program that now provides services for 1.8 million New Yorkers annually. We remain committed to doing everything we can, consistent with state and federal regulations, to protect the integrity of the food stamp program.”
By on May 17, 2012, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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NYPD stop-and-frisk procedures modified
May 17th, 2012

 

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he has instituted a new procedure to regulate how street stop-and-frisk encounters by patrol officers are monitored and supervised.
In a letter sent earlier today to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Kelly said top-ranking officials in each police precinct will now be required to audit reports of street stops by officers. This is in addition to a review undertaken at weekly Compstat meetings by the chief of the department, he wrote.�
“I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel,” he wrote.�
He also said that the department has republished an order prohibiting racial profiling and has created a new training course that “provides personnel with an additional level of clarity in determining when and how to conduct a lawful stop.”
Quinn, who released Kelly’s letter, said in a statement that the changes announced were “an important step forward” but said more needs to be done to reduce the number of stops and “bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”�
A federal judge yesterday granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the city’s stop-and-frisk practices. The lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has systematically targeted blacks and Latinos and trampled on Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.Â�
Over 200,000 stops were made on city streets in the first three months of this year, an increase of over 2011.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he has instituted a new procedure to regulate how street stop-and-frisk encounters by patrol officers are monitored and supervised.

In a letter sent earlier today to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Kelly said top-ranking officials in each police precinct will now be required to audit reports of street stops by officers. This is in addition to a review undertaken at weekly Compstat meetings by the chief of the department, he wrote.

“I believe these measures will help us more closely monitor the daily street encounter activity of precinct personnel,” he wrote.

He also said that the department has republished an order prohibiting racial profiling and has created a new training course that “provides personnel with an additional level of clarity in determining when and how to conduct a lawful stop.”

Quinn, who released Kelly’s letter, said in a statement that the changes announced were “an important step forward” but said more needs to be done to reduce the number of stops and “bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”

A federal judge yesterday granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the city’s stop-and-frisk practices. The lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has systematically targeted blacks and Latinos and trampled on Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

Over 200,000 stops were made on city streets in the first three months of this year.

By on May 17, 2012, 12:58 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety | 3 Comments »

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Judge grants class-action status to stop-and-frisk lawsuit
May 16th, 2012

A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging the New York Police Department has improperly targeted blacks and Hispanics with its stop-and-frisk crime reduction program.
U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who issued the written decision today, wrote that it was “indisputable” that the NYPD has a vast stop-and-frisk program “designed, implemented and monitored by NYPD’s administration.” She said over 2.8 million stops were made between 2004 and 2009.
She wrote that the city had demonstrated “a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”
Police released data Friday showing an increase in the number of stops on city streets between January and March of this year. The data showed there were 203,500 street stops, compared to 183,326 in 2011.
The city’s Law Department said it disagreed with the decision and was reviewing its legal options.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has strongly defended the practicing and, during a City Council hearing last month, pugnaciously argued that the policy had successfully reduced violence among young men of color.

A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging the New York Police Department improperly targeted blacks and Hispanics with its stop-and-frisk crime reduction program.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who wrote the decision filed today in court, wrote that it was “indisputable” that the NYPD has a vast stop-and-frisk program “designed, implemented and monitored” by the department’s administration. She said over 2.8 million stops were made between 2004 and 2009.

She wrote that the city had demonstrated “a deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”

Police released data Friday showing an increase in the number of stops on city streets between January and March of this year. The data showed there were 203,500 street stops, compared to 183,326 in 2011.

The city’s Law Department said it disagreed with the judge’s decision and was reviewing its legal options.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has strongly defended the practicing and, during a City Council hearing last month, pugnaciously argued that the policy had successfully reduced violence among young men of color.

By on May 16, 2012, 4:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights | 3 Comments »

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Is NY ethics commission leaking?
May 15th, 2012

State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is questioning whether information about an ethics investigation into a top member of his party was leaked illegally.

TheAlbany Times Union reported earlier today that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is investigating accusations against Tom Libous,the second-highest ranking member of the state Senate.

Skelos, a Republican, said the information was not supposed to be public. “Whoever from JCOPE is leaking this is committing a crime. They’re committing a crime,” hesaid. He said that any allegations against Libous were “garbage.”

JCOPE’s predecessor, the Commission on Public Ethics, was wracked with internal leaks — especially during the Troopergate investigation. JCOPE was designed to address the failings of the CPI and faced controversy regarding the impartiality of a number of appointees.

“Obviously, there is a letter that goes out that is required by law. Look who sent the initial letter, the mayor of Binghamton, D, Democrat, who was looking to run against Tom Libous. If this is a political stunt, that’s all it is,” Skelos said.

Calls to JCOPE requesting information about the process of notifying parties of an investigation have not yet been returned.

Technically, the public is not supposed to know whether JCOPE has decided to follow up on a complaint until the ethics commission makes its findings public.

“It’s not supposed to be made public. It’s a misdemeanor,” Skelos told reporters. “So whoever from JCOPE is leaking this is committing a crime. They’re committing a crime.”JCOPE’s predecessor, the Commission on Public Integrity, had major problems with leaks during Troopergate. The loyalty of the JCOPE commissioners to the interests of the people who appointed them has been a concern since the commission was unveiled.

According to the Times Union, the investigation into Libous is based on a complaint by Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat. Ryan asked JCOPE to look into statements made by Attorney Anthony Magone that Libous offered to help Mangone’s business in exchange for giving his son a job, the newspaper reported. Mangone made the statements during a federal trial. Libous’ son was hired by the firm. Ryan made his accusation and formal complaint public by sending off the complaint in front of reporters.

By on May 15, 2012, 5:13 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Minimum wage bill on the move in Assembly
May 15th, 2012

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced this morning that his house will likely pass a measure that will increase the state’s minimum wage by $1.25 an hour. Silver made it clear that the move is designed to pressure the state Senate into either voting on the legislation or having to go home during an election year to explain to their constituents why they didn’t vote for the measure.

“I think the rank and file in the Senate are going to have difficulty going back to their voters, including the numbers I showed you from conservatives and registered Republicans, they’re going to have a very difficult time showing up on Election Day saying I’m against this when they are all for it,” Silver told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has called a minimum wage increase, “a job killer.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t come out fully for or against the bill. “Especially in times like now, a minimum wage increase would be in order,” Cuomo told Susan Arbetter host of The Capitol Pressroom, earlier this month. “You can have a discussion about how much over what period of time.”

Silver said that he believes Cuomo now supports his bill and would corroborate his support if asked. The Governor’s office has not yet responded to our inquiry about his stance on Silver’s legislation.

By on May 15, 2012, 2:25 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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NYC Council wants banks to detail efforts in communities
May 15th, 2012

The City Council plans to vote onlegislation that would require banks that receive billions in municipal funds to release information on their lending practices in struggling neighborhoods.

The bill is expected to pass today at the council’s stated meeting. Its supporters, including the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, say it will help policymakers make better decisions about where the city’s money is deposited and encourage banks to invest in communities.

“This bill will make the banking capital of the world the responsible banking capital of the world,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said during the meeting.

Other cities are considering or have passed similar ordinances after a punishing financial crisis. Los Angeles was expected to pass its own today.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg told The New York Times he was wary of putting restrictions on where city money could be deposited. “You would think, between the federal government and the state government, we’d have enough bank regulations,” Bloomberg told the newspaper.

The city currently banks with over 30 major financial institutions, including JPMorganChase, Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Citibank.

At a council hearing in March 2011, the city Department of Finance said it was opposed to the bill, saying it was overly broad and could mislead consumers and businesses into believing it regulates banks.

“When procuring banking services, the city focuses and should continue to focus solely on the financial safety and soundness of each bank, its banking capabilities and its pricing,” said Elaine A. Kloss, in testimony before the committees on finance and community development.

The Department of Finance oversees the city’s money, in conjunction with the city comptroller and the Banking Commission. The commission approves or denies applications from financial institutions seeking to do business with the city.

By on May 15, 2012, 12:08 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Espada Found Guilty of Theft
May 14th, 2012

Former state Sen. Pedro Espada has been found guilty of embezzling from his Bronx health care network.

After finding Espada guilty of theft, the jury continued to deliberate other charges, including conspiracy and fraud.Espada’s son, who also worked at the Soundview network, is also on trial.

The senior Espada, who had long cast himself as an underdog fighter, had blamed his political foes for stirring up the allegations against him.

Common Cause is using today’s verdict to call for more aggressive ethics investigations from the state-level Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said in a statement thatEspada is “the poster child for corruption and the wholesale flaunting of our campaign finance and ethics laws.”

Espada was at the center of the 2009 state Senate coup that left the body paralyzed for a month. He was eventually named senate majority leader as part of a deal that allowed him to return to the Democrats.

A good number of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle refused to even speak to Espada while he carried the title. Before the coup, Espada had wracked up thousands of dollars in unpaid fines from the state and city board of elections. He also faced accusations he didn’t even live in his district.

In early 2009, just before the coup, Espada granted the Gazette a rare interview and took us on a tour of his alleged Bronx residence and one of the health clinics. At the time, Espada mocked and challenged then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to come after him.

After five years of investigating me in his own tenacious way he should have said, to remove the taint that he himself had helped develop over me, he should have said he investigated Soundview and regrettably several people did bad things but Sen. Espada is absolutely not guilty of any wrongdoing. If I had been, I would have been charged. I’m sure personally he regrets that because what goes around really does come back around.”

Espada lost his seat in a primary election to Gustavo Rivera in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 14, 2012, 5:03 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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A new, digital Green Book for NYC
May 11th, 2012

NYC Green Book

New York City’s Green Book has gone digital.

The city announced today an updated online edition of its widely used directory of city, state and county agencies.

Its the first time the directory has been made available as a digital application, viewable from any modern-day browser.

Created in 1918, the book has a storied history, but hasnt been published since 2008. Dog-eared copies of older editions of the book still sit on the desks of researchers, journalists and policymakers, even though many of the phone numbers are outdated and agency heads have long since changed.

The new edition will still be available in print, available exclusively from CityStore in late June.

Continuing with the green theme of the directory, the new edition sports the citys environmentally conscientious mascot Birdie, holding a compact fluorescent light bulb and wearing a Statue of Liberty crown.

The online directory is searchable and will be updated on an ongoing basis. The new directory is a project of the citys Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Link: www.nyc.gov/greenbook

By on May 11, 2012, 11:33 am
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Cuomo visits Westchester to call for agency for disabled
May 10th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the College of New Rochelle in Westchester County today to push for legislation that would create a new agency to investigate reports of abuse of the disabled.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York state protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve.”

Cuomo announced the legislation on Monday.

Last month, Cuomo told reporters he thought the legislative session would be relatively quiet. However, Cuomo has made it clear the new agency is a major legislative priority and that he will lobby legislators and the public on the issue until he is able to sign it into law.

Both legislative leaders have said they expect to be able to pass the law by the end of the session, which ends in June.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York State protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” said Governor Cuomo. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve. I urge the Senate and Assembly to pass this bill so we can start implementing these reforms as soon as possible.”Cuomo said earlier this week that the legislation is a legislative priority for him and the leaders of both legislative houses said they thought they could pass the legislation by the end of the season. The legislation is designed to address what has been called a corrupt, abusive system by a number of observers. Earlier this year Cuomo told reporters that he expected a quiet legislative session because he had achieved the majority of his legislative agenda. But now Cuomo appears geared up to lobby and legislators and the public on the legislation until he is able to sign it into law.

Advocacy groups have generally been supportive of the legislation, though the father of a 13-year-old autistic boy smothered to death by a caretaker has criticized the legislation for not being more proactive. The boy’s father, Michael Carey, told The New York Times he felt the state should invest in cameras and training and limit caregiver overtime.

More about the Justice Center can be found at www.Justice4SpecialNeeds.com. A report by the governor’s special advisor on vulnerable persons is available here.

By on May 10, 2012, 3:33 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Health | Comments Off on Cuomo visits Westchester to call for agency for disabled

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Neighboring Bronx Dems split on nutritional standards bill
May 9th, 2012

Two Bronx Democratic legislators with bordering districts are on different sides of a debate over a bill that would require higher nutritional standards for any meal packaged with a toy.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, whointroduced the legislation earlier this week, told the Gotham Gazette today that the new standards are designed to get children accustomed to eating a healthier diet.

“If parents want to feed their kids horrible stuff, god bless America, they can do that, but we know kids develop their eating habits early on and they should be given the chance to eat healthy,” he said.

But fellow state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., disagrees. In an email sent to the press and his constituents, he wondered how elected officials had the right to “tell moms how they should feed their children.”

“Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children,” he said in his email.

How can these same two officials think they have the right to tell moms how they should feed their children or what to what restaurant they should take them?
Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children.  If they want to cook at home, they can. If they want to go out and eat, they can

A 2009report by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand found that 62 percent of Bronx residents are overweight or obese.

Other cities have looked at ways to control the sale of toys with meals. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently passed a law banning toys with meals, and the Center for Science for Public Interest is leading a national charge to push for similar laws.

McDonald’s Happy Meals may be the most well-known food products accompanied by toys. But the company said efforts to regulate the products as part of a strategy of tackling the problems of obesity are misplaced.

“We don’t think removing a toy will reduce childhood obesity,” said Cheryl Forsatz, a spokeswoman for the company. “The issue is much more complex and we are committed to giving families choices.”

Rivera said he has yet to talk to the Republican majority about his legislation, but said he expects it to be included in a package of mostly health-related bills that he called “common sense legislation.”

State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, also a Democrat,introduced a similar bill. He did not return a phone call earlier today requesting comment.

By on May 9, 2012, 4:41 pm
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Bloomberg: Obama support of same-sex marriage is civil rights 'turning point'
May 9th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for same-sex marriage “a major turning point in the history of American civil rights.”

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people — and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” Bloomberg said in a statement today.

President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage during an interview earlier today with ABC’s Robin Roberts. The president’s official announcement of his evolution on the matter came a day after he visited Albany, N.Y., accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor, who championed the landmark passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York last year, told reporters in Albany earlier today that he did not discuss the subject with Obama.

Bloomberg has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Though the billionaire mayor has not announced whether he will endorse a candidate in the presidential race, his support would be valuable for attracting independent voters.

By on May 9, 2012, 3:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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MMA Beaten by Assembly
May 8th, 2012

Yesterday Assembly Democrats decided not to advance a bill that would legalize and have the state sanction mixed martial arts. The Senate has passed the bill a number of years only to see it stall in the Assembly. One of the bill’s most outspoken opponents, Assemblyman Bob Reilly has announced his retirement this year and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was torn about the legislation so boosters thought this might be their year.

They were wrong. In a closed door meeting yesterday the bill was shelved–meaning it won’t come to a vote this year. The Ultimate Fighting Championship–the largest organization that puts on MMA fights and has a television contract with FOX–said the Assembly was acting in an “un-American” fashion.

The controversial sport where men and women use multiple types of martial arts to knock each other out, submit each other with jiu jitsu or win on points, is now legal in every state except New York and Connecticut. The UFC has promised that the state will reap major financial rewards and see tourism boosts in west and upstate New York where the economies are flagging. But the UFC’s real goal is to hold an event at Madison Square Garden. Such an event would be seen as a coming out party for the UFC as a legitimate, mainstream sport.

How important is it to the UFC? The merchandise stands at the I-Zod center in New Jersey where they held an event this past weekend were stocked with shirts that read UFC NYC in a fashion aping the classic red and black RUN DMC shirts.

Madison Square Garden has made it clear that they want UFC to come to town. But legislators like Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari say the sport is “brutal” and goes against the anti-bullying and messages of tolerance. However the UFC insists the struggle to have the sport legalized in New York is actually tied to labor unions in Las Vegas that are upset with the UFC’s owners the Fertitta brothers who also own Station Casinos.

By on May 8, 2012, 4:15 pm
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Liu Weighs in on GENDA
May 8th, 2012

City Comptroller John Liu is all for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act that has been passed in the state assembly and introduced in the senate by Sen. Daniel Squadron.

All people deserve equal protection from discrimination. New Yorks Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act is a necessary and overdue extension of civil rights that will ensure that people cannot be fired or otherwise subjected to bigotry based on gender identity or expression,” said Liu is a statement. “We are grateful to Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and State Senator Daniel Squadron for pushing forward this legislation.

According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, “GENDA would extend basic civil rights protections to all New Yorkers based on their gender identity and expression.”

By on May 8, 2012, 2:44 pm
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Obama in Albany
May 8th, 2012

The Capital Region is abuzz about President Barack Obama’s visit to UAlbany’s School of NanoScale Science and Engineering. Obama will deliver a speech on the economy. For those of you who don’t know–the nanotech school is attached to the UAlbany campus and it has been gradually, or should I say, quickly expanding over the years. The high-tech building it resides in looms over the road to Albany’s biggest mall like some sort of alien space craft and now construction has begun on a major expansion with a cool bridge doohickey that will eventually allow gear heads to safely cross over mall traffic in space age comfort.

Anyway it is all pretty neat and the President will certainly get to have the opportunity to pose with funky head gear/head covering as the building features clean rooms and workers routinely wear neat-o space suit looking things.

Last time the president visited the area local businesses broke out the stops to try to attract his attention. His patronage of Five Guys in DC had local chain restaurants crossing their fingers. But this time it is a strip joint called Shenanigans that is trying to lure in Secret Service members.

Of course no one is as excited to have Obama in town as the politicians themselves. Democrats and Republicans are tripping over themselves to take credit for the nano college.

This dry press release may not convey his joy but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is definitely amped by the President’s visit.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 8, 2012, 1:16 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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