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Schools Respond to Applied Science Request
March 17th, 2011

From Korea to India to the United Kingdom, universities across the globe want to get to New York — at least according to the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced the city has received 18 responses from colleges and universities that are interested in building an applied science campus in the Big Apple. The city will narrow the pool over the summer and make a final decision by the end of the year, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The city has promised to make a “significant investment” towards the construction of a campus. According to the adminsitration, the proposals expressed interest in sites like the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Governors Island, Farm Colony on Staten Island and other privately-owned areas.

The campus is part of a larger effort by the adminsitration to attract emerging technologies to the five boroughs (we cover the race to attract bioscience extensively here).

Here are the schools that expressed interest:

bo Akadmi University, Finland
Amity University, India
Carnegie Mellon University with Steiner Studios
Cornell University
Columbia University and the City University of New York
The Cooper Union
cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea
New York University, Carnegie Mellon, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, and IBM
The New York Genome Center, with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the Jackson Laboratory
Purdue University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stanford University
The Stevens Institute of Technology
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
The University of Chicago
The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

By on March 17, 2011, 1:45 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Third Term Woes Upon Us
March 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in eight years, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

More than half of New York City voters — 51 percent to be exact — disapprove of the job the mayor is doing, while 39 percent approve of him. His approval rating plummets further on Staten Island, where only 27 percent of voters are happy with Hizzoner and 66 percent are unhappy.

Voters’ vitriol is aimed squarely at Bloomberg. Every other elected official has their highest ratings ever — 44 to 16 percent for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 54 to 16 percent for Comptroller John Liu and 55 to 25 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enjoyed the highest approval rating — 67 percent to 20 percent.

More than two-thirds of New Yorkers rated the administration’s handling of the December blizzard either “not so good” or “poor.”

However, there was some good news today for the mayor.

Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers say where the mayor spends his weekends or vacations is a private matter and he should not have to disclose where he is. But 84 percent said Bloomberg should have to say who is in charge when he is not around.

By on March 16, 2011, 2:31 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Regulation of Bus Companies Questioned
March 15th, 2011

Just hours after officials called for stricter safety regulations for discount buses departing from Chinatown yesterday, another fatal accident took the lives of two more passengers.

A Super Luxury Tours bus headed for Philadelphia slammed into a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and another passenger. The crash came just three days after a brutal accident in the Bronx, which killed 15 people.

Saturday mornings crash was a heartbreaking tragedy and requires us to look closely at the safety regulations in place for the discount tour bus industry, said Sen. Charles Schumer in a prepared statement yesterday. While its vital we get to the bottom of what caused Saturdays crash, we must make sure that the regulations that govern the overall safety of this industry are effective and being followed by operators.

Schumer wants to see the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the entire industry.

According to the release, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced legislation last month that would require these discount bus companies, many of which operate from the curbside in Chinatown, to get permits from the city. They are now regulated exclusively by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. His bill would also designate where they can drop off and pick up passengers.

According to a study from the Department of City Planning, these companies conduct 2,000 trips from Chinatown every week.

We covered the issue last year. For an in-depth look at the controversy, go here.

By on March 15, 2011, 2:07 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Fire Department Cuts to Affect 'Every Community'
March 11th, 2011

truck

Photo (cc) Just Us 3

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano didn’t sugarcoat how fire company cuts would affect the city during a City Council hearing this morning.

“Every community in the city will be affected, not just those communities in the first-due areas of the closed companies,” said Cassano in prepared testimony. “Twenty closures would require us to make adjustments in our operations, which will make it extremely challenging to maintain the same levels of service to the communities we serve.”

To close a multi-billion dollar budget gap, the Bloomberg adminsitration is proposing to shutter 20 fire companies to save $55 million next fiscal year. The adminsitration has already reduced staffing from five to four firefighters on 60 engines — a move fire unions are challenging.

The City Council successfully averted fire company closures for the past three years by plugging the department’s budget with its own discretionary funding. One councilmember this morning couldn’t promise they would be able to do the same this year.

“This council has worked really hard within our body to save these cuts,” said Councilmember Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island. “If [Bloomberg] is relying on the council to put this money back, that’s a lift.”

(We cover the cuts to the Fire Department in depth today here.)

It’s still unclear what companies would be affected. The Fire Department does not have to release a list until 45 days before the companies are scheduled to close.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 11, 2011, 4:10 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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List of Senior Centers to Close Released
March 3rd, 2011

The Department for the Aging released a list of 105 senior centers set to shutter if the city does not receive $25 million in funding from Albany.

According to the department, the state shifted money traditionally allocated to city senior centers to child welfare programs, effectively slashing the senior center budget by a third. If not restored, the cut would close 22 centers in the Bronx, 31 in Brooklyn, 26 in Manhattan, 22 in Queens and 4 in Staten Island.

The department decided to cut each community district by 30 percent. Any senior center that served less than 85 meals per day was selected for slashing.

Now that the list is out, you can imagine state legislators phones will be ringing off the hook. Politically speaking, the list may motivate pols to find cash — any cash — to save their neighborhood center (and potentially those votes).

Here is the list in full:

MARIA LAWTON SENIOR CENTER
KIPS BAY CASTLE HILL SENIOR CENTER
MECHLER HALL SENIOR CENTER
TERESA MOORE
JUDITH WHITE SENIOR CENTER
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By on March 3, 2011, 12:42 pm
In category: Gotham City | 10 Comments »

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Council Approves Clinic Bill
March 2nd, 2011

The City Council approved legislation today to force crisis pregnancy centers to disclose the services they do and do not provide.

It approved the bill by a vote of 39 to 9 with one abstention.

Here is who voted against the measure: Fernando Cabrera, Vincent Gentile, Dan Halloran, Vincent Ignizio, Peter Koo, Darlene Mealy, Eric Ulrich, Peter Vallone Jr., and Jimmy Oddo.

The highly emotional vote brought some surprise ay and nays.

We’ll have more coverage and analysis later.

By on March 2, 2011, 4:00 pm
In category: Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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Clinic Bill on the Move
March 2nd, 2011

Council Speaker Christine Quinn rallied with advocates and members on the steps of City Hall this morning to applaud legislation to force crisis pregnancy centers to disclose what services they do and don’t provide.

Quinn said the bill would force these clinics — there are about a dozen in the five boroughs — to be honest.

“Be proud of what you are and what you do,” Quinn quipped today.

The speaker argues there is no reason for these clinics to be “deceptive” about the services they provide.

Advocates, like Planned Parenthood, have blasted the centers for appearing to look like medical facilities when they aren’t. Pro-choice advocates allege employees at these centers walk around in scrubs and provide inaccurate information to women seeking an abortion.

Those affiliated with these centers charge the bill violates their First Amendment rights. They plan to sue the city following the mayor’s signature.

Opponents of the bill will be rallying on the steps of City Hall this afternoon.

Stay tuned for updates.

By on March 2, 2011, 12:28 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011

billboard

Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.

The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.

One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)

According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”

In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.

When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”

Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.

In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”

When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.

“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.

This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
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By on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 9 Comments »

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Bloomberg Goes After Teachers
February 17th, 2011

In what some have cast politics at play, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce the reduction of 6,166 teaching positions, three-quarters of which would be through layoffs, in his preliminary budget this afternoon.

Some have said the move was made with merit firing in mind — a proposal the mayor has been pushing for in Albany. Bloomberg hopes to get rid of teachers based on their success with students not seniority. To repeal “last in, first out,” the mayor would need approval from the State Legislature.

The head of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, told the Times: “I dont understand why the mayor continues to be talking about teacher layoffs, Mr. Mulgrew said. This is all a politically bogus game on their behalf.

The threat comes as the city announces $2 billion in unexpected tax revenue. That revenue makes up for anticipated cuts from the state and federal government.

We’ll be following the story all day, so be sure to check back for updates.

The mayor’s budget presentation begins at noon.

By on February 17, 2011, 11:08 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Bike Lanes on the Agenda
February 16th, 2011

The latest bike battle is rolling into the City Council today with several pieces of legislation, including a requirement to report bike and pedestrian accidents more frequently.

One bill will force the Police Department to report on its Web site the number of traffic moving violations, crashes and injuries or fatalities on a monthly basis. It will also force the Department of Transportation to study all traffic crashes involving a serious injury or fatality every five years.

In recent months, bicyclists and communities have clashed over the number of bike lanes across the city. Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the package of legislation would help communities and bicycle advocates understand why bike lanes go in certain areas.

“Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is a good thing,” said Quinn. “Bike lanes work great in some neighborhoods and don’t work well in others.”

We’ll report back later on how the council voted.

By on February 16, 2011, 2:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

If today’s hearing is any indication, Walmart will have a next to impossible chance of getting a New York City store approved by the City Council.

Several dozen council members and a standing room only crowd gathered in Lower Manhattan this afternoon to debate how a Walmart store would affect small businesses and communities in the Big Apple. Last month, Walmart kicked off a vigorous marketing campaign to court New Yorkers and convince them to support a New York City store.

Officials from Walmart refused to attend today’s council hearing, arguing they were being unfairly targeted.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn blasted the corporation for not testifying. Their absence, she said, “sadly only leads me to be further skeptical.”

For more than four hours, council members tore into Walmart’s policies, including its labor practices, which have been the subject of several lawsuits. They heard from experts across the country who had studies in hand that argued Walmart would lead to small businesses boarding up.

Not one council member voiced support for a New York City Walmart.

The Walmart issue encapsulates a familiar debate at the City Council – one that last reared its head when the body rejected the development of the Kingsbridge Armory. As Walmart argues it will bring jobs to New York City, advocates and officials question the quality of those jobs, whether they will provide health insurance and whether they will pay a living wage.

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

“Everyone is waving this boogeyman around about how this corporation is going to come in,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist and Walmart supporter. “I will say to you directly, we need jobs for our community.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 3, 2011, 6:53 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Walmart Declines Hearing Invitation... Again
February 1st, 2011

This should come as no surprise, but Walmart once again will pass on testifying at a City Council hearing on Thursday.

In a letter dated today, Walmart‘s Philip H. Serghini attempts to strike down anti-Walmart sentiments wafting through the City Council, arguing the retail giant is committed to healthy foods, diversity and jobs. But Serghini says he could not commit to attending the hearing, because the council is only focused on Walmart and ignores the impact of other big-box stores in the city. You can see his explanation below.

The joint hearing, however, does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart. Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise.

For these reasons and more, we respectfully decline participation in the February 3rd hearing.

Should the committee decide to conduct the hearing in a more comprehensive manner, we would be happy to revisit our decision. In the interim, we do feel a responsibility to better inform the planned discussion and share some facts about the company that the committee can share with participants.

Earlier this year, Walmart kicked off a major marketing campaign to persuade New Yorkers to support a store within the five boroughs. They are sending out mailers, taking out radio ads and have launched a NYC-centric Web site to corral support.

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

By on February 1, 2011, 5:54 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Snow Update from Bloomberg
January 27th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg updated New Yorkers on the progress of snow removal status this morning at City Hall. His remarks, verbatim, are below:

Good morning. Let me bring you up to date on the storm that hit our city last night and this morning. The Police Commissioner is here. He has to go to another meeting, so unless anybody has any real questions for him I dont think you do when he walks out it isnt that he doesnt care, its just that Ive told him do the other meeting.

When the snow stopped falling at about 4:00 AM, the official reading in Central Park was 19 inches. This is roughly twice the amount of snow that yesterdays evening National Weather Service forecast told us to expect. And we have now had the snowiest January in New York City history. We have had 36 inches since January 1st, breaking a record last set in 1925.

The heavy overnight snowfall which amounted to a foot or more of new snow by the early morning hours is why we decided to close schools today. Emergency agencies, like police, fire, and the public hospitals, have remained open. And as I said over the course of a dozen or so interviews with TV and radio stations this morning, as transportation options get better, City employees should come in to work.

The weather emergency that we declared yesterday afternoon remains in effect. Street cleaning and meter regulations will be suspended today and tomorrow. Clearing the streets remains our number one job and to do that, motorists should please, please refrain from driving.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 27, 2011, 11:42 am
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Lobbying Commission Delay Explained
January 18th, 2011

Right as we speak, the City Council is voting to approve four of the five members to sit on a lobbying commission charged with examining the effects of the city’s lobbying law overhaul in 2006.

The panel, however, is nearly three years late.

Chaired by former council member Herbert Berman, the panel was supposed to be called in 2008. When we wrote about it in August, adminsitration officials said the approval of the city’s subsequent pay to play law in 2007, which restricted contributions by lobbyists, delayed its implementation.

Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the delay was attributed to finding the right people.

“We wanted to find a diverse group of commissioners,” said Quinn.

Both the mayor and the council select the commission’s members. Those commissioners include, Berman, Jamila Ponton Bragg, Lesley Horton and Margaret Morton. The final commissioner should be appointed soon.

The commission will likely examine how the lobbying law affects small nonprofits, who have struggled to comply with all of the city’s robust reporting requirements.

By on January 18, 2011, 3:29 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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Crowley Statement on Fire Charges
January 14th, 2011

We already know Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposes charging drivers for accidents that need emergency services — a proposal from the Fire Department in response to budget cuts.

But what does Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley have to say?

Here is her statement delivered at the Fire Department’s hearing on the issue today.

“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule which would impose a schedule of charges for Fire Department motorist services, which is before you for consideration at todays hearing.

In the City Council, I Chair the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the New York City Fire Department. Our first responders not only fight fires and save lives, but also respond to the needs of motorists on the citys roadway accidents.

One of governments most important responsibilities is to keep people safethat is why we allocate taxpayer money to our emergency services. To raise revenue by charging New Yorkers deemed to be at fault in auto accidents is unreasonable, misguided and a simple case of double-dipping. New Yorkers already pay for this service by means of taxes on their income and property. The FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano considers these charges as a fee for service but lets call this fee for what it really is: a double tax.

If the FDNY starts charging for emergency response to motorist accidents, what will they charge for next? Will there be fees for putting out house fires? We cannot begin to go down this dangerous road; therefore, I respectfully request that you withdraw this proposal from consideration.”

By on January 14, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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Bloomberg Issues Weather Emergency Declaration
January 11th, 2011

This just in from the mayor’s office:

WEATHER EMERGENCY DECLARATION

At the direction of the mayor, the public is hereby advised that significant snowfall has been forecast for tonight.

1. The public is urged to avoid all unnecessary driving during the duration of the storm and until further directed, and to use public transportation wherever possible. If you must drive, use extreme caution. Information about any service changes to public transportation is available on the MTA website at http://www.mta.info/.

2. Any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets shall be subject to towing at the owners expense.

3. Effective immediately, alternate side parking, payment at parking meters and garbage collections are suspended citywide until further notice.

4. The Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Sanitation, and Transportation Commissioners will be taking all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being and health of the residents of the City.

By on January 11, 2011, 4:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Winter Weather Alert
January 11th, 2011

weather_lg

As I am sure you and the Bloomberg adminsitration are aware, New York City is expecting a snowstorm this evening.

As of noon, the National Weather Service predicted between 8 and 14 inches of snow and warned that travel would be hazardous.

Here is the latest forecast from the National Weather Service:

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW YORK NY
1148 AM EST TUE JAN 11 2011

…COASTAL STORM TO IMPACT THE AREA TONIGHT AND WEDNESDAY…

WESTERN PASSAIC-EASTERN PASSAIC-HUDSON-WESTERN BERGEN-
EASTERN BERGEN-WESTERN ESSEX-EASTERN ESSEX-WESTERN UNION-
EASTERN UNION-NEW YORK (MANHATTAN)-BRONX-RICHMOND (STATEN ISLAND)-
KINGS (BROOKLYN)-NORTHERN QUEENS-SOUTHERN QUEENS-
1148 AM EST TUE JAN 11 2011

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING
TO 6 PM EST WEDNESDAY…

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING
TO 6 PM EST WEDNESDAY.

* LOCATIONS…NEW YORK CITY…AND NORTHEAST NEW JERSEY.

* HAZARDS…SNOW…HEAVY AT TIMES.

* ACCUMULATIONS…8 TO 14 INCHES…WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS
POSSIBLE.
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By on January 11, 2011, 1:57 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 5 Comments »

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Blizzard Answers At Council Hearing
January 10th, 2011

Deputy Mayor Goldsmith Answers Questions from the City Council--(c) William Alatriste New York City Council

On Christmas Eve, days before snow began to fall on New York City, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty were on the phone.

The winter weather watch had not yet been issued by the National Weather Service. Doherty and Sadik-Khan talked about their options for the looming storm, which at that time was supposed to bring several inches to the Big Apple.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who oversees both agencies, was in Washington, D.C. To this day, it is unclear where Mayor Michael Bloomberg was.

A day later, on Christmas, the National Weather Service upgraded the city’s storm warning to a blizzard at 3:55 p.m. It defiantly told New Yorkers: “Do not travel.” It warned the city could see high winds and up to 16 inches of snow.

On Dec. 26th, two days after their first conversation about the storm, the two commissioners decided not to call a city snow emergency — a rare designation that would force certain residents to move their cars off narrow streets and prohibit driving any vehicle not equipped with chains or snow tires.

They did not tell Goldsmith or the mayor about their decision.

This one decision, officials said today, created a serious snowball effect that ultimately left the city unprepared to deal with the now-infamous Boxing Day blizzard.

“We didn’t want residents to take those cars out, start looking for a parking space — we all know in New York City it’s very difficult to find — and then [create] more problems that we were trying to avoid,” Doherty told the City Council this afternoon at the first of seven hearings on the blizzard response. Every agency head involved and 42 council members attended today’s hearing, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn who normally sits out of the hearing process.

In retrospect, Goldsmith said this afternoon, the decision to call a snow emergency would have acted like a “catalyst,” triggering other agencies to respond with speed and seriousness to the storm. Instead, between Dec. 26 and New Year’s Day, Bloomberg administration officials scrambled to keep up with the 20-inch snowfall, which left ambulances, buses and abandoned vehicles stuck in unplowed streets.

Officials acted without a concrete chain of command and City Hall failed to get a complete picture of how bad the situation really was, Goldsmith said.

“The mayor did not have the information he deserved,” Goldsmith said, contending there was a communication breakdown between city agencies. “I accept responsibility in doing that more rigorously in the future,” he added.

Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis who joined the administration last spring, promised to never let it happen again. As part of that pledge, the administration unveiled a 15-point plan to prevent similar slow responses. (More on that plan here.) They will have an opportunity to test it tomorrow. Snow is expected to start accumulating tomorrow evening, and by Wednesday night we could have another foot on the ground.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 10, 2011, 7:02 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,sustainability,Transportation,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Quinn Gets into Budget Cuts and Snow
January 7th, 2011

Appearing on the John Gambling Show this morning, Council Speaker Christine Quinn outlined her expectations for Monday’s blizzard hearing and reiterated her position on tax increases in the next city budget.

The council and the Bloomberg administration released a mid-year budget agreement yesterday, which staved off the nighttime closure of 20 fire companies and saved nearly 200 positions at the Administration for Children’s Services.

When asked this morning whether Quinn would consider tax increases, the speaker again said no way.

But Quinn did hint at harder times to come (We cover the upcoming budget battle this morning here).

“There arent any ideas that relates to budget cuts that are going to disappear and never come back,” Quinn said. “We are not at a point anymore, and I know New Yorkers know this, where you can say waste, fraud and corruption.”

“We are making choices between things that are good and things that are great,” she added.

The speaker confirmed she would attend Monday’s hearing on the blizzard. Quinn rarely attends public hearings, which points to the significance of the snow showdown.

To listen to the entire segment go here.

By on January 7, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Blizzard Fallout Continues
January 6th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg got testy with the City Hall press corps this afternoon during a briefing on the city’s next big snowfall, which is expected to start Friday.

Bloomberg announced he would pilot GPS systems on 50 city sanitation trucks during tomorrow’s snow and send out the city’s SCOUT teams to monitor the cleanup’s progress. The mayor said one of the problems during the Boxing Day blizzard was a miscommunication between City Hall and those on the snow-covered streets.

But when questions turned to last month’s blizzard, its management and Bloomberg’s whereabouts during the storm, the mayor’s response went frigid. Bloomberg abruptly ended the press conference, leaving the room with reporters shouting questions after him.

When asked where he was during the storm, the mayor said: “I have a right to a private life.”

Bloomberg was repeatedly asked about the performance of the city’s Emergency Medical Service and why chief John Peruggia was the first fallout from the blizzard.

“Last week’s storm exposed problems in the way [EMS is] operated and I decided to make changes in EMS,” Bloomberg said. “[Peruggia] did not give the public the service that the public has a right to expect when it came to ambulances.”

“I though it was time to have a fresh look,” the mayor said.

The city is expected to get two to six inches of snow tomorrow. Bloomberg said today his administration has responded to 70 storms of similar magnitude.

“We plan to do a great job,” the mayor said.

By on January 6, 2011, 7:01 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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