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City Reaps $260M from Same-Sex Marriage Law
July 24th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the legalization of same-sex marriage last year helped generate almost $260 million in revenue for the city.

Gay marriage is a win for everybody,” he said at a news conference earlier today across the street from the marriage license building in Manhattan, where he was joined by other elected officials.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who also spoke, said the economic activity generated by marriage equality “has put a lot of people to work, helped restaurants, helped catering halls and helped others.”

NYC & Co., the city’s tourism arm, and the City Clerks office conducted a survey of more than 1,700 same-sex couples, finding that since the Marriage Equality Act went into effect in July 2011, 67 percent of gay couples held wedding receptions at restaurants, homes or catering halls in the five boroughs. The average cost was $9,000 per wedding.

The City Clerk says 75,000 marriage licenses were issued from late July 2011 to mid July 2012, with over 7,000 couples issued marriage licenses identifying themselves as same-sex.

Quinn said that advocates for same-sex marriage now need to turn their attention to the national stage.

Our job now is to make sure every American has that opportunity on a national level,” she said.

By on July 24, 2012, 5:12 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Economy,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Rangel and Espaillat absentee votes set to be counted
July 5th, 2012

With the results still uncertain in Rep. Charlie Rangel’s most difficult primary battle so far, attention has turned to the opening of absentee and affidavit ballots by the city Board of Election.
Rangel’s most prominent rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, has filed court papers and called the primary a phantom election because of discrepancies in how votes were tallied. He is trailing behind Rangel by just 802 votes, with over 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots left to be counted. The count could continue into next week.
At the BOE’s Manhattan borough office today, four “administrative bi-partisan assistants” worked through piles of ballots to verify that voter names, poll sites and registration was correct on the forms.
After each ballot is verified, the assistant displays the ballot to watchers and lawyers representing Rangel and Espaillat on the other side of the table nearly two feet away. At any point they can make an objection to the validity of a
ballot. Contested ballots are sent for court review. No objections had been made by about 2 p.m.
One observer from the Espaillat’s camp, Al Kurland, 63, noted that the process was like waiting for the paint to dry.”
He called the process “deeply flawed.”
For three days you sit or stand 12 to 15 feet away from people doing
the validity or invalidity of ballots and you just wait for the
results,” he said. Youre not really observing the process in totality

With the results still uncertain in Rep. Charlie Rangel’s most difficult primary battle so far, attention has turned to the opening of absentee and affidavit ballots by the city Board of Election.

Rangel’s most prominent rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, has filed court papers and called the primary a phantom election because of discrepancies in how votes were tallied. He is trailing behind Rangel by just 802 votes, with over 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots left to be counted. The count could continue into next week.

At the BOE’s Manhattan borough office today, four “administrative bi-partisan assistants” worked through piles of ballots to verify voter names, poll sites and registration.

After each ballot is verified, an assistant shows the ballot to watchers and lawyers representing Rangel and Espaillat on either side of the table nearly two feet away. They can object at any point. Contested ballots are sent for court review. No objections had been made by about 2 p.m.

One observer from Espaillat’s camp, Al Kurland, 63, noted that the process was like waiting for the paint to dry.”

He called the process “deeply flawed.”

For three days you sit or stand 12 to 15 feet away from people doingthe validity or invalidity of ballots and you just wait for the

results,” he said. Youre not really observing the process in totality

The police department reported unofficial results for the June 26 primary that showed zeroes in 79 out of the districts 506 precincts. Many Latinos whose votes might have helped tip the election in Espaillats favor are registered in 65of the districts that contained zeroes.

BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said the NYPD puts zeroes for sometimes illegible or even accurate data.”

“We dont have an answer as to why they do that,” she said.

At a BOE public hearing on Tuesday, Steven Richman, an attorney for the BOE, defended the agency’s performance during the primary.

The only thing out of the ordinary was the extraordinary need for affidavit ballots in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he said, adding that the BOE was proud to have a sufficient amount of affidavits to provide for all voters.

Richman said Thursday’s counting of the absentee and affidavit ballots would include two bipartisan members from each borough, a watcher and a note taker at the table to make objections to open or not open specific ballots.

By on July 5, 2012, 12:54 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe Steps Down
June 18th, 2012

The citys parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, resigned after serving with the Bloomberg Administration since 2002. Benepe plans to take a senior position for a national nonprofit, the Trust For Public Land, whose mission is to create close to home parks in and near cities.

Benepe oversaw the largest expansion of parks since the 1930s, and worked on two of Bloombergs signature projects, PlaNYC and MillionTreesNYC

Benepe said in a news release that he looked forward to dedicated his time to “sustainable landscapes in cities across the country and here in New York.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that Benepe had done extraordinary work as parks commissioner, leading transformative changes in every corner of New York City.

The New York Times reported that during Benepes tenure the city added 730 acres of parkland. He also had a role in the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line.

Commissioner Adrian Benepes successor will be Veronica M. White, the executive director and founder of the Center for Economic Opportunity. She may be best known for her work for theOpportunity NYC, a $63 million privately-funded initiative that uses monetary, health and education incentives to reward low-income adults and children for behaviors such as workforce participation, attending job training and passing assessments during the school year.

By on June 18, 2012, 8:33 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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NYCLU Unveils "Stop and Frisk Watch" App
June 6th, 2012

The New York Civil Liberties Union wants citizens to document police street stops using a new smartphone app.

The NYCLU unveiled its “Stop and Frisk Watch” app earlier today in front of police headquarters.

The app, available as on the Android platform, allows witnesses of police street stops to record them and send the clip to the NYCLU. It also tracks the locations of street stops.

“Its for bystanders,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Leiberman. “And hopefully this will help us shine some much needed light on police practices. Everybody in New York knows the numbers. But I think this will help us continue to put the human face on stop-and-frisk.

The police did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about the app.

Critics of stop-and-frisk say the NYPD policy predominantly targets young black and Latino men. But police defend the tactic, saying it promotes public safety in the city’s communities. About 685,000 stops were made by the police last year.

Dawit Getachew, 26, an advocate for Copwatch and a Harlem resident who said he has been subjected to stop-and-frisk, was among the activists who showed up to lend their support for the app.

There are many instances that go unreported because people dont know what to do, so this is a huge opportunity for people to feel empowered to fight back,” he said of the app.

Steve Kohut, of Communities United for Police Reform, noted that the tool will help see the abuse, experience the abuse and now document the abuse so that the police can no longer deny it.

Lieberman said the NYCLU hopes the new app will connect directly with affected communities.

The app, designed by Jason Van Anden, also includes a survey for users who would like to report questionable NYPD action they see or experience and a Know Your Rights Card instructing those who are confronted by police officers about their rights.

By on June 6, 2012, 6:38 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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NYC Schools Propose Changes to Discipline Code
June 5th, 2012

The New York City Department of Education is proposing to eliminate suspensions for students who get caught breaking minor rules, such as cutting classes and cussing.

Suspensions for Level 1 and Level 2 infractions would be eliminated under the proposed changes to the schools’ discipline code. The DOE has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the proposed revisions of the code for 6 p.m. tonight at Stuyvesant High School.

“We believe a more progressive discipline is warranted with strongcounseling and youth development support,” said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DOE. “We want to be able to address improper behavior before it reaches a higher level, and to do that we are focused on providing strong student support services coupled with parent involvement.”

While advocates for students say they applaud some of the changes, they say more needs to be done.

“Changes made are minor and won’t provide systemic change,” said Sarah Landes, a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a collection of teachers, students and youth organizations working to reduce suspension and mandate alternative discipline methods.

Shoshi Chowdhury, coordinator for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, said the punishment of suspension should end for the first three levels of school misconduct, including insubordination, pushing and shoving. Suspension should be a last resort as it allows many students to fall behind in schools, she said. In cases of level 4 and 5 fighting in schools, positive alternatives should be offered.

Chowdhury cited one example, Lehman High School in the Bronx, which had faced a high suspension rate. She said increased funding for positive alternatives for the 2010-2011 school year has already led to a decrease in the rate of suspension.

Feinberg said “more serious infractions warrant suspensions as an option.”

Advocates have long argued that the discipline code disproportionally affects students of color and those who speak English as a Second Language.

The DOE is required under state law to review and revise the discipline code each year and make changes, if necessary. The proposed modifications are then presented to the public.

By on June 5, 2012, 5:15 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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State Sen. Thomas Duane plans new chapter in his life
June 4th, 2012

State Sen. Thomas K. Duane, the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive member of the legislative body, announced today he will not be running for re-election this year, opening up his seat in the important 29thState Senatorial District that runs from the Upper West Side to Greenwich Village.

“When I first was elected to the Senate people told me it was a foolish career choice,” Duane said in a statement announcing his retirement. “I was told that an openly gay, openly HIV-positive man would accomplish little in a highly partisan and conservative State Senate. I was not discouraged by this talk.”

Duane, who first entered the Senate in 1998, told the New York Times in Sunday editions he was leaving because he was tired of traveling from the city to Albany over the past 14 years. “I always knew that I was going to have another chapter in my life, and it’s time for me to start that new chapter,” he told the newspaper.

The state senator has been an advocate for those who do not have a voice in the halls of government, playing an important role in 2009 and last year during the battle for same-sex marriage. In addition to The Marriage Equality Act and The Family Health Care Decisions Act, Duane also cites lesser publicized bills like the Sex Trafficking Victims Second Chance Act as some of his major accomplishments.

Duane does not plan to run for office again, but said he would continue to be “an activist and an advocate.”

By on June 4, 2012, 3:03 pm
In category: Gotham City | 7 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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