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A Walking Town No Longer?
January 29th, 2007

New Yorkers may have a reputation for being walkers, but Robert Sullivan writes in today’s New York Times that the city needs to change its ways if we expect it to stay that way.

New York is lagging behind Albuquerque, which is replacing car lanes with bike lanes, and Grand Rapids, which is purposely limiting parking to discourage drivers, and Indianapolis, which is building walking and biking trails to link inner-city neighborhoods. Not to mention London and Paris.

“We have lost our golden pedestrian touch in New York mostly because we still think about traffic as though it were 1950, and we needed Robert Moses to plow a few giant freeways through town to get the cars moving again,” writes Sullivan (a day after the Times ran a piece about efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of the often derided Moses).

Streetsblog couldn’t agree more; it provides a version of Sullivan’s story with hyperlinks backing up every one of his claims.

By on January 29, 2007, 12:22 pm
In category: Gotham City,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Juvenile Justice and Prison Reform
January 25th, 2007

Mandatory minimum sentences have taken their toll on the United States, the New York Times writes in an editorial this morning. The country is spending $60 billion a year on corrections and “has created a growing felon caste” with more than 16 million members, the paper writes.

The Times editorial recommends that Congress pass a law called the Second Chance Act, which would give more support to people leaving prison, and lists a series of other actions that could be taken in Washington.

The prison issue is gaining traction nationwide (The Times Magazine wrote last month about how right-wing Christians are increasingly interested in prison reform).

New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws served as the national model for severe mandatory minimums, and the state’s recent reforms were not as thorough as others who have eased. (Gotham Gazette’s Book Club recently discussed the issue at length).

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his state of the city speech that his administration will look for alternatives to incarceration among one particular population of offenders: juveniles. Juvenile crime is on the rise in the city, and almost half of the juvenile offenders who ended up in custody in 2006 were repeat offenders.

On Gotham Gazette today, Asadullah Muhammad, the head of Each One Teach One, a 15-week youth leadership program that trains and educates teens who have been incarcerated, responds to the mayor’s plans.

By on January 25, 2007, 11:39 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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State of the City: Tax Breaks
January 18th, 2007

The Times is skeptical of Mayor Bloomberg’s tax cuts, questioning whether he is putting political calculations ahead of the city’s fiscal prudence by choosing them as a major focus of his State of the City address.

But the Daily News said the mayor is simply seeing that money gets back to its “rightful owners“, by sharing the surplus with homeowners, and also by helping low-income New Yorkers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit but have not been collecting to navigate the bureaucracy.

Temporary tax cuts won’t have as great an effect as permanent ones would have, writes Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute in the New York Post. Because Bloomberg has made clear the property tax break is only for one year, she says, property owners will be likely to put their money away in case the rate goes back up, rather than spending it.

By on January 18, 2007, 8:28 am
In category: Public Finance | Comments Off

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State of the City: Education
January 18th, 2007

The New York Post has kind words for the education reforms that Bloomberg laid out in his speech, which, it writes, “may be the most sweeping changes in education since [the mayor] bludgeoned Albany into handing control of the schools to City Hall.”

The Daily News also praises “reforms that will eliminate gross inequities in school funding and raise the quality of the teaching corps” in an editorial. It also gets John Podesta of the Center for American Progress to explain Bloomberg’s proposal for “fair student funding“, a program he advised the city on.

Podesta insists that fair student funding is not simply a back door way towards school vouchers, but the New York Sun writes that the plan could “lay the groundwork for vouchers [which would] be an achievement in and of itself.” The Sun does chafe a bit, however, at Bloomberg’s constant tinkering with the school bureaucracy.

Eva Moskowitz writes on Room 8 that “our public schools are still not remotely customer service oriented. Parents have to fight as hard as ever to get their kids a good education. Mayoral control of the school system was a golden opportunity to get these things right, but time is running out.”

By on January 18, 2007, 8:27 am
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Rebutting the Council's Bat Ban
January 11th, 2007

George Heppner, owner of DePhillips Sports in Bayside, argues against the City Council’s proposed ban on aluminum baseball bats in high schools in the New York Sun today.

Heppner gives a rigorous history of the rise and subsequent vilification of the aluminum bat, and concludes that they might actually be safer than wooden bats. Then he suggests that debating the relative merits of baseball bats might not be the best use of the council’s time.

“If City Council wants to get involved in our schools, there has to be a more pressing need than baseball bats,” he writes. “If City Council wants to get involved in the national pasttime, improving fields, building more practice space, and providing equipment and uniforms should take priority.”

By on January 11, 2007, 7:28 am
In category: Education | Comments Off

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Reactions to Spitzer's State of the State
January 4th, 2007

Daily News Editorial: Spitzer’s ideas for Albany reform are “overwhelmingly matters of common sense that would shake the place to its very foundations … Start the revolution.”


Post Editorial
: “Lawmakers in Albany applauded yesterday as Gov. Spitzer told them the party’s over – their party, that is. Odd behavior, frankly. Do the legislators know something Spitzer doesn’t?”

NY Sun Editorial: “Watching the bizarre scene of the legislature and outgoing administration cheering the new governor as he talked about the failure of leadership lo these last years in Albany, New Yorkers could be left in little doubt that their new governor is going to have to stand on principles and the right ones or lose the fight he’s started.”


Albany Times Union Editorial
: “On Day One of his administration, Governor Spitzer had a message for all New Yorkers: Reform is on the way. On Day 3, he had a message for upstate: Help is on the way.”


John Faso, Spitzer’s opponent (NY Sun)
: “While Mr. Spitzer recited a laundry list of proposals, he has yet to offer details. In fairness it may be early to expect a detailed agenda since the new administration has barely staffed the executive branch. But, the realities of the state’s fiscal position will soon become apparent, and the governor will have to set priorities.”


E.J. McMahon (NY Post)
: At the beginning of his speech, Spitzer offered “the kind of fiscal straight talk legislators needed to hear – and not a moment too soon. But at other points in the same speech – and to generally louder applause from his audience – Spitzer called for significantly higher state spending in several areas.”

Bill Hammond (Daily News): “What you saw and heard from Spitzer leading up to Nov. 7 is what you got Jan. 3. He ran as a pragmatic centrist a few millimeters to the left of Gov. George Pataki, and he shows every sign of governing the same way … Expect a belligerent brand of moderate.”

By on January 4, 2007, 8:43 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City | Comments Off

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A Real New York Hero
January 4th, 2007

Wesley Autrey, the man who saved a stranger from an oncoming subway train earlier this week, is reaping unexpected rewards. He was given the day off work, $5,000 in cash, future scholarships for his two daughters to attend a teen program at the New York Film Academy, and an offer for a televised apartment makeover. Not to mention a trip to Disney World.

Plus the hero-makers in the New York press are rushing to pay tribute to him.

Autrey, a construction worker, is doing work on a Brooklyn public school named after John Wayne. Michael Daly of the Daily News thinks the school should bear Autrey’s name instead of the actor’s from now on.

“John Wayne never did anything in real life remotely as brave as what Autrey did early Tuesday afternoon,” writes Daly. “The city should bestow Autrey with one more honor by renaming the John Wayne school after a real hero.”

For the New York Times, Autrey is not just a hero in his own right, but vindication for all New Yorkers who feel vilified by the country’s fixation on so-called “small town values.”

“The negative stereotypes about New York have never stood up to the facts. Uncharitable? New York ranks first in a newly released state-by-state study of giving by the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. Less committed than the rest of the country to the nations defense? New York City has lost more of its residents in battle in Iraq than the average state. Not willing to come to the aid of strangers? Mr. Autrey put that one to rest in dramatic fashion. Small-town values are certainly an important part of what makes America great, but so are big-city values, which in many cases are exactly the same.”

By on January 4, 2007, 7:32 am
In category: Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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Goodbye Hevesi,
Hello _______

December 22nd, 2006

The Alan Hevesi saga seems to be nearing its end, and the attention is turning to the question of who will replace him.

The Politicker, the Daily Politics and their readers speculate on who the successor will be.

The New York Times says that the names now being floated are “mostly dismaying,” in an editorial that reads like a classified ad. The paper is seeking a comptroller who is “an expert in money management [and a] scrupulously honest manager who can oversee contracts and financial books of state entities large and small,” and who won’t take campaign contributions from businesses with state contracts.

The Sun agrees that Hevesi’s behavior concerning contributions — not Chauffeurgate — is the “real scandal.”

“The vending-machine government in Albany concerns interest groups putting up money in the form of campaign contributions and getting money out in the form of government contracts or other allocations,” it writes in an editorial. “Mr. Hevesi is hardly the only offender.”

The Sun argues that Hevesi’s resignation deal undermines voters’ decision to elect him despite his crimes — especially since Albany’s worst offenders will decide who replaces him.

By on December 22, 2006, 9:17 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off

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A Big Day in Albany for Sheldon Silver ...
December 20th, 2006

Sheldon Silver will have a chance to block the Atlantic Yards project — or to delay it until Governor George Pataki is out of office — at a meeting of the Public Utilities Control Board, a previously obscure state panel controlled by the state’s three most powerful men that has become a graveyard for large-scale development projects in recent years.

The Atlantic Yards Report gives a good roundup of newspaper editorials on the subject, mainly so it can bring up the New York Time’s strange silence on the issue.

Noting that Silver has already used the panel to block two huge development projects — the West Side Stadium (killed outright) and Moynihan Station (delayed indefinitely) — the NY Post runs a new editorial this morning criticizing Silver for hedging his bets.

“Silver no doubt has eyed the plan as a potential hostage,” writes the Post. “That is, he’s calculated what ransom he can get by holding it up.”

Not everyone thinks that delaying an evaluation of the project’s finances would be obstructionist, though. NoLandGrab writes about some of the open questions about the money.

“Here’s the freaking joke on the taxpayer,” the blog writes. “The affordable housing subsidies are still being negotiated, so NO numbers are available. However, the details of the financing of the Atlantic Yards project are ready for a final-approval vote? Tune in this afternoon for the punchline.”

By on December 20, 2006, 8:34 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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... and Joe Bruno
December 20th, 2006

Another corruption investigation is underway in Albany, this one targeting State Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno. Bruno acknowledged yesterday that he is the subject of an FBI investigation.

Somehow that doesn’t come as a shock,” writes the Post.

Bruno “deserves the benefit of the doubt,” writes the Daily News, “but it is not too early to diagnose why he and so many others in Albany have drawn law enforcement attention: Because they have been playing with the taxpayers’ money without regard to accountability or transparency.”

There’s plenty more discussion on the Capitol Confidential message board.

By on December 20, 2006, 8:34 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Governing | 2 Comments »

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Albany's Crime Wave Continues
December 14th, 2006

Another state lawmaker, Efrain Gonzalez, has been indicted on corruption charges (again, actually), and many see it as the latest strike in a crime wave that Henry Stern has said is gripping the state capitol for months.

Gonzalez’s alleged crimes are similar to those of Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (they both, for instance, were indicted for allegedly looting Little League teams. The Politicker has a diagram illustrating them.

Gonzalez is accused of steering state-funded grants, or member items, to local non-profits which then used the money to pay his personal expenses. These grants have long been seen as a murky, corrupt part of Albany’s daily business. The Daily News says that “no one should be surprised that Gonzalez’s alleged misdeeds stem from what are politely called member items; until a recent court ruling, these were doled out in secret without any oversight or rules.”

It wasn’t just Gonzalez who was up to no good, the Post writes. While he was being indicted, it agues in an editorial, “there’s no honest way to sugar-coat this – lawmakers were milling about … while their leaders negotiated ‘yes’ votes on several bills in exchange for a pay raise. (Can you say bribe?)”

The pay raise deal didn’t go through, however. The Post dismisses the idea that this is evidence of a new Albany conscience about such dealings. So maybe it’s another illustration of that other much-discussed Albany attribute — the inability to get anything done.

By on December 14, 2006, 5:44 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Lawsuits and 9/11 Health Issues
December 14th, 2006

Continued revelations about how damaging 9/11’s environmental effects were to the health of rescue workers and residents are expected to lead to waves of litigation. Kenneth Feinberg, the man who headed the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which gave $7 billion to injured survivors and to the families of those who died in the attacks in large part to avoid lawsuits, writes in the New York Times today that he thinks that a similar formula could be used to deal with them.

By on December 14, 2006, 7:51 am
In category: Environment,Health,Law,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Time Running Out on Charter Schools
December 7th, 2006

This month’s lame duck session in Albany is the last chance for state officials to allow more charter schools this year, writes the New York Sun. The newspaper urges officials to make sure this happens:

“Time is of the essence, because if new schools are to open to students in September, teachers must be hired, students must be recruited, and sites must be procured now. ”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also feeling the pressure. Aides say that lifting the cap on charter schools is his top legislative priority when the legislature starts its session on December 13.

By on December 7, 2006, 7:51 am
In category: Albany,Education | Comments Off

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Transit Ideas for Governor Spitzer
December 4th, 2006

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers gives incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer a plan for mass transit in the New York Times:

* Don’t appoint “political cronies” to the Metropolitan Transportation Board, and solve the contract dispute that caused last winter’s strike.
* Keep fares at their current level, while looking for ways for “corporations, consumers, automobile drivers and other stakeholders” to contribute revenue to a system that, after all, benefits them as well.
* Build the Second Avenue Subway and a connection between the Long Island Railroad and Grand Central.
* Improve the bus system.
* Keep a closer eye on the scandal-prone MTA.
* Ride the subway a lot.

By on December 4, 2006, 11:40 am
In category: Gotham City,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Dailies on the Hospital Commission
November 29th, 2006

The dailies’ editorial boards weigh in on the state hospital commission’s final report, and most like what they see:

New York Times: “Charged with trying to reform and reorder one of the most expensive and inefficient health care systems in the country, it has come up with a bold and intelligent set of recommendations.”

Daily News: “A special state panel has laid out a credible plan for reforming New York’s vast, creaking, wasteful, inefficient health care system … Many predicted a firestorm, but the big players have kept their guns holstered, recognizing, one hopes, that it’s time to drag New York health care into the 21st century.”

New York Post: “A state panel yesterday made a compelling case for streamlining New York’s bloated hospital system – but then it punted, leaving the most serious problems to be solved some other day.”

Newsday: “It represents a significant first step toward an absolutely necessary restructuring of the system. In its most fundamental recommendations – that this state must close some hospitals, make more rational use of facilities that remain open and find alternatives to long-term care in nursing homes – it is right on the mark.”

By on November 29, 2006, 8:14 am
In category: Gotham City,Housing | Comments Off

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Pataki's Borrowing Binge and Alan Hevesi
November 22nd, 2006

In a change of pace, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi is making headlines for doing his job. His office has issued a report accusing the Pataki administration of bingeing with the state’s money on his way out the door. According to Hevesi, the Public Authorities Control Board is set to approve $11.4 billion in bonds; the board has approved about $500 million in bonds each month over the past year.

Daily News reporter Bill Hammond writes on the Daily Politics that Hevesi’s report is an “amazing” illustration of “something I’ve been hearing for a couple of months now,” and others commend Hevesi for doing his job despite the, um, distractions.

The embattled comptroller doesn’t quite escape them, however.

Capitol Confidential points out that Hevesi’s report comes immediately after Pataki signed an executive order pushing forward the investigation which may end his political career.

Hammond comes back to the “Driving Mrs. Hevesi” angle as well:

“Hevesi may also be providing cover for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to vote no on projects he doesn’t like. Hevesi is under pressure from Gov.-elect Spitzer and others to resign over the “Driving Mrs. Hevesi” scandal, in which he assigned a state employee to chauffeur his ailing wife, and Silver has been one of his staunchest defenders.”

By on November 22, 2006, 9:18 am
In category: Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Eminent Domain: Is it "Out of Control?"
November 21st, 2006

Opponents of eminent domain are vastly overstating how common it is, Errol Louis writes in his column in the Daily News today.

The Institute for Justice, which Louis describes as a “conservative, Washington-based legal group”, says it has documented over 10,000 wrongful uses of eminent domain between 1998 and 2002; Louis says that this number was generated by a “quick and dirty count” of press accounts of times that officials said eminent domain might be used. There was no attempt, he writes, to find out if such statements led to the actual use of eminent domain.

The opponents of Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn are now using these same numbers to (inaccurately) argue that eminent domain is out of control, according to Louis.

No Land Grab, one of the anti-Atlantic Yards blogs, responds here.

By on November 21, 2006, 3:36 pm
In category: Gotham City,Land Use | 5 Comments »

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Rangel: Giuliani in 2008
November 20th, 2006

Congressman Charles Rangel showed his bipartisan spirit this morning by endorsing former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the 2008 Republican primary this morning in an appearance at Baruch College.

Rangel said he hopes Giuliani runs as the “country’s mayor”, because “people ought to know who he was when he was just the city’s mayor.”

The congressman wasn’t ready to endorse anyone in his own party, however. He said that Hillary Clinton would make a strong presidential candidate, that Barack Obama might be the right choice depending on the Democratic field, and that “I hope Kerry spares me. I really do.”

By on November 20, 2006, 12:57 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Should Officials Give Themselves Raises?
November 16th, 2006

Public officials should only get raises if the voters approve them, Barry Popik writes on Room Eight. (For some reason, he is reporting from Texas).

“Why can’t the employers (the people) ever have any say in the salaries of the people they employ (politicians)?” he writes. “(Supposedly employ–politicians work only for special interests, not the people they serve.)”

The Politicker, meanwhile, breaks down the reasons that the five city council members who voted against giving themselves pay raises yesterday did so.

By on November 16, 2006, 11:53 am
In category: Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off

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So, What Else Is Going On? (Cell Phones In the Subway)
November 9th, 2006

Two days after the election and the topics for discussion seem to be exhausted. The Democrats have taken the Senate and the House — we won’t have to wait through a recount. Plus, by now everyone has noted that Charlie Rangel is going to be really powerful, and made their predictions about whether or not Eliot Spitzer will be able to change Albany and when Hillary Clinton will announce that she’s running for president.

So it seems time to move on and talk about things that will really affect the lives of New Yorkers — like what would happen if people were able to use their cell phones on the subway. To read the Gothamist post about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to award a contract to a company that can make this possible, the result would be widespread violence.

One reader worries that wiring the stations will make it easier for terrorists to blow up the city using cell phone triggered bombs, but this isn’t the kind of mayhem most people consider likely. One commenter quotes the Onion: “If they lift the ban on cell-phone use, they better lift the ban on passengers beating the s— out of each other, too.” The next one threatens to “kill about a thousand people during my commute the first day this goes into effect.”

Gothamist itself, however, doesn’t see any of this happening too soon. This is, after all, a plan being carried out by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority:

“We bet by the time the MTA is ready to award the job, cellphones will be passe and people will communicate via ESP.”

By on November 9, 2006, 4:32 pm
In category: Gotham City,Tech,Transportation | Comments Off

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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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