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Web Site Tracks State Spending
August 19th, 2008

The Empire Center for New York State Policy, a project of the fiscally and socially conservative think-tank Manhattan Institute, has launched a database for tracking state government spending: SeeThroughNY. Visitors can browse through state employee payrolls, government contracts, legislative spending records, and lists of “pork” or specific organizations and projects funded by individual lawmakers.

While the site provides easy access to information that is publicly accessible but still a chore to obtain (sometimes requiring Freedom of Information requests), an intimate knowledge about state government – like names of specific employees, companies, or individual legislators – is still useful when wading through the data.

An article in the New York Sun notes that the web site plans to expand the database to include city and county employees as well.

By on August 19, 2008, 10:11 am
In category: Albany | Comments Off

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Real Estate Glamour Stories
August 15th, 2008

Vanity Fair has pulled 14 New York real estate stories from the magazine’s archives and posted them on its Web site under the title I’ll Take Manhattan. The articles profile swanky apartments on Central Park, the demise of Bohemia in Greenwich Village, and the transformation of the Meat Packing district. And there is a still timely excerpt from Donald Trumps’ 1987 memoir, in which he blasts wealthy New Yorkers like Mia Farrow, Carly Simon, Alistair Cooke, William Shawn, and then-Mayor Ed Koch for living in rent controlled apartments that he thought should go to more deserving citizens – or at least be rented at market rate by Trump.

By on August 15, 2008, 11:07 am
In category: Land Use | Comments Off

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Should NYC Ban Text Walking Too?
August 15th, 2008

Queens Councilmember David Weprin is proposing a bill to ban text messaging while driving in the city. The proposal comes in response to an increase in text messaging while driving, particularly among young people, and an automobile crash involving text messaging that killed five teenagers in the Finger Lakes region last summer.

But should there be a ban on pedestrian text messaging too?

Last month, the American College of Emergency Physicians issued an alert warning that they are seeing an increase in emergency room injuries and deaths related to text messaging while walking, biking, and rollerblading, as well as driving. (Listen to a National Public Radio interview with an ER doctor talking about the dangers of “text walking.”)

One Illinois lawmaker thinks it’s worth some consideration and has proposed a bill to ban the use of wireless devices while crossing the street. “It’s becoming more and more of a common problem with people haplessly crossing an intersection and almost killing themselves,” Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago told the Chicago Tribune.

By on August 15, 2008, 8:56 am
In category: Tech,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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How Do You Measure a Summer Stroll?
August 12th, 2008

Last weekend marked the debut of Summer Streets, an experiment to ban motor vehicles from nearly seven miles of streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 72nd Street for three Saturdays in August. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that if the event is a success, the city may look to expand it. But exactly what would constitute a “success” is unclear.

Today, the New York Times editorial page weighs in, calling the experience “serene” and “therapeutic” and claiming that “New Yorkers are voting with their feet — in favor of more chances to displace the cars, trucks and taxis for a day, and go for a stroll.” (The New York Times blog message board is also filled with mostly positive reviews of the event.)

The blog Gothamist has a roundup of differing opinions on Summer Streets, including complaints from business owners, cab drivers, residents, and pedestrians who thought cyclists were riding recklessly.

The blog Commuter Outrage writes: “Please tell me that success is defined a little more concretely than people having fun”

By on August 12, 2008, 8:36 am
In category: Environment,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Is Public Service a Part-Time Job?
August 6th, 2008

Lawmakers often work long hours talking to constituents in the neighborhood, attending community events, and campaigning for their next election. But for members of the State Legislature and City Council, public service is technically part-time work. And many lawmakers have second jobs.

Today, the New York Times reports that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a trial lawyer in his free-time, has lent at least $50,000 to help finance law firms that specialize in personal injury lawsuits. The issue, the article states, is whether an outside job creates a “substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest” or “raise suspicion among the public.” Silver maintains that his private sector work does neither.

In an effort to help lower public suspicion, State Senator Martin Connor has introduced a bill that would give a $52,000 bonus to lawmakers who agree to serve full-time and drop outside sources of income. Daniel Squadron, his opponent in a Democratic Primary, isn’t impressed. And a New York Sun article questions if Connor’s bill is a way to get Governor David Paterson to approve a pay raise at a time when the state budget is unstable.

Members of the State Legislature, who earn a base salary of $79,500, haven’t had a raise in a decade. Members of the New York City Council, who earn a base salary of $112,000 a year, voted themselves a pay raise in 2006, when the economy was good.

By on August 6, 2008, 3:47 pm
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Advice for Governor's TV Speech
July 29th, 2008

Governor David Paterson has scheduled a TV address for 5:10 p.m. on Tuesday to talk about the looming fiscal crisis facing the state – and he is getting plenty of advice on what to say.

The New York Post says that “Gov. Paterson has a big chance, in his televised address tonight, to prove that his repeated warnings about the state’s fiscal woes haven’t been just . . . talk.”

The Daily News calls for “decisive action that cures Albany’s addiction to overtaxing and overspending without regard for reality.”

Columnist Bill Hammond tells Paterson to “channel his inner George Pataki” and talk about the need for tax cuts, as well as spending cuts.

State Senator Diane Savion suggests the line “we’ve run out of monopoly money.”

By on July 29, 2008, 10:42 am
In category: Albany,Economy,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Big Donors for New Governor
July 22nd, 2008

New York Magazine has a selected list of new large donors who gave $10,000 or more to Governor David Paterson’s re-election campaign. The governor, who took office in mid-March, has brought in $3.2 million in donations since April 14.

By on July 22, 2008, 3:36 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Governing | Comments Off

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New York's Natural Gas Future (Update)
July 22nd, 2008

Most natural gas exploration happens in the West, in places like Nevada, Colorado, and Texas. But today WNYC public radio looks at the future of natural gas exploration in New York. Thousands of feet below the ground, the state has plenty of Marcellus Shale, a largely untapped source of natural gas. It could be worth billions, but drilling for it also comes with some serious environmental risks.

One of the main issues in deciding how to regulate such industry is that local state representatives are not familiar with gas exploration. For example, on the last day of the State Legislature’s session this summer, an important bill related to the drilling passed, but according to the report “Democratic Queens Assemblywoman Toby Ann Stavisky says she -and most of her colleagues – first heard about [the] bill just hours before they voted on it.”

See a slideshow on natural gas exploration or listen to the story.

Update: We also wanted to point out this project was a joint investigation by WNYC and ProPublica.

By on July 22, 2008, 8:00 am
In category: Environment | 2 Comments »

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The New York Post's War on Poverty
July 21st, 2008

Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed changing the formula for calculating the federal poverty level, the New York Post editorial page has waged a steady campaign to discredit the idea – even questioning the notion of poverty itself.

“No family of four could survive for a year in New York City on a total income of $26,138. Period.” the Post declared last week. The problem, the paper believes, is that any measurement of poverty fails to account for the “reality of life in this town – with its immigrants (legal or otherwise), its hustlers, its elderly, its huge student population – and, above all else, its pulsing underground economy.”

A few days later, columnist Heather McDonald wrote that any threshold for poverty is a “relative measure.” “Under this definition, no general increase in affluence can ever eliminate ‘poverty’ or the need for a larger federal government to ‘cure’ it,” she writes. 

And today, the paper warns that Bloomberg may be planning a ”major expansion of government ‘antipoverty’ initiatives – a la John Lindsay 40 years ago.”

“He may fear that fewer and fewer New Yorkers these days are actually poor,” the Post concludes.

By on July 21, 2008, 10:26 am
In category: Economy,Social Services | Comments Off

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Summer Time Blues
July 21st, 2008

An estimated 2,000 Brooklyn residents lost power on Sunday. And to repair the problem, Con Edison told residents of Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Borough Park and Prospect Park that they needed to turn off appliances, including air conditioners. But some people are turning off their AC’s voluntarily. The New York Times reports on people who have signed up for Con Edison’s time-of-use pricing service, which provides discounts for using electricity after 10 p.m.

The city faces lawsuits from parents who say their childrens’ bare feet have been scalded by playground mats. NYC Park Advocates say they have registered 166 degree readings from the black plastic mats.

Heat and jelly fish plagued the New York City triathlon. One man died in the event. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

A transformer fire cancelled horse races at Belmont and the New York Racing Association is being criticized for not calling off the day’s events earlier.

And this week, Gotham Gazette surveys the city beaches and the challenges of keeping them clean and safe.

By on July 21, 2008, 8:10 am
In category: Parks,Waterfront | Comments Off

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The Farm of the Future
July 15th, 2008

According to an article in the New York Times science section, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has become a booster for so-called “vertical farms,” urban skyscrapers that serve as green houses for growing fruit and vegetables and can even house farm animals. Stringer tells the Times that he plans on pitching the idea to the mayor’s office and believes the city can get the estimated $20 to $30 million to add a prototype food farm to the skyline.

The concept of a vertical farm is being championed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University and his students. (See a Web site for designs and explaination.) A recent article in New York Magazine features a simple, step-by-step explanation of how such a tower might work in Manhattan.

By on July 15, 2008, 1:36 pm
In category: Health,Land Use,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Rockefeller's 100th Birthday
July 8th, 2008

Fiscal watchdog E.J. McMahon marks the 100th birthday of Nelson Rockefeller with a column in the New York Post, arguing that the governor was largely responsible for the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and the mountains of debt that the city still faces today. “In countless ways, New Yorkers are still paying a stiff price for Rocky’s tenure,” McMahon writes.

An accompanying editorial in the Post sums it up this way: “Rocky expanded New York’s parks, low-income housing and mass-transit and highway systems. And he built SUNY into a top public university. But it all had to be paid for.”

The articles are a direct response to a New York Times op-ed by Richard Norton Smith who says that Rockefeller was “a futurist” and “ahead of his time.”  “We don’t admit it, but we’re (mostly) Rockefeller Republicans now,” Norton writes.

By on July 8, 2008, 8:06 am
In category: Albany,Economy,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Restarting the Rebuilding
July 1st, 2008

Port Authority director Christopher Ward has issued a stark report on the state of World Trade Center construction, stating that “the schedule and cost estimates of the rebuilding effort that have been communicated to the public are not realistic.”  Nearly every aspect of the project is behind schedule. The memorial to honor people who died on September 11, 2001 will not be ready for 10th anniversary of the attack, as previously stated. There is no workable design for the transit hub. And the Deutsche Bank building, which is slated to be demolished, is still standing.

The report even goes as far as to say that the last month marked ”the first time in the history of the rebuilding effort [that] the key stakeholders at the World Trade Center (WTC) site worked collaboratively with the goal of producing an accurate and current picture of where we are and where we need to go.”

A Daily News editorial puts the bulk of the blame on the Port Authority, writing that it has “mismanaged the job on a monumental level and vastly compounded its offense to the public and the families of the 9/11 dead by trying mightily to cover up its malfeasance.” And the New York Post writes that there is not chance that “anything remotely resembling the original plan can be built with the money available.”

A new set of deadlines and budgets is supposed to be released at the end of September.

By on July 1, 2008, 11:38 am
In category: Land Use | Comments Off

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Tuesday's Editorial Roundup
June 24th, 2008

The New York Times says that the police department should put strict conditions how Taser guns are used in the city.

The Daily News believes the dramatic increases in student test scores are legitimate. “[P]lenty of data document that children in the five boroughs have made healthy and sustained – even historic – progress compared with peers statewide,” the Daily News writes.

The New York Post praises the U.S. Supreme Court for declining to hear the latest in a series of legal challenges to the Atlantic Yards Project. “The sooner Ratner and Co. gets this project done, the better for Brooklyn – and all New York,” the Post writes.

And the New York Sun bemoans Albany’s refusal to cap property taxes – and says the state capital could be a better place without Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

By on June 24, 2008, 7:53 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Education,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Jets President to Oversee West Side Development
June 17th, 2008

A few years ago, Jay Cross, the president of the New York Jets, spent much of his time trying to convince New Yorkers that it would be a good idea to build a new football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. In 2005, the state legislature blocked the project, and Cross shifted his efforts to building a new stadium in the Meadowlands instead.

Now Cross is back on the West Side. According to a press release posted on the New York Observer blog, Cross has been named president of the Related Hudson Yards and “will lead Related’s development efforts of the 26-acre Hudson Yards site in collaboration with New York State, New York City, the MTA, elected officials and the community.”

By on June 17, 2008, 3:32 pm
In category: Community Development,Waterfront | Comments Off

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Ikea Mania Roundup
June 17th, 2008

The Swedish big-box store Ikea opens its newest location in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Wednesday – and all of the hoopla in the city and in the press has Business Week asking: Is it an IKEA opening or a rock concert?

The New York Times looks at how the 34,600 square foot store will alter the neighborhood.

The Daily News offers a Q and A with the store manager.

Newsday interviews New Yorkers who have camped out for days hoping to get a free sofa.

The New York Sun’s architecture critic blasts the store for being nothing more than a “decorated shed.”

The Brooklyn Paper reports that Ikea has hired 17 New York City police officers to handle traffic on opening day.

The message board on the Brownstoner blog offers a host of eulogies for the pre-Ikea Red Hook.

And New York Magazine provides a simple comparison of New Jersey and Brooklyn locations (including access by public transportation and delivery fees).

By on June 17, 2008, 7:59 am
In category: Community Development,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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Critiquing the Police Shooting Report
June 10th, 2008

The New York Police Department responded to a RAND Corporation study of police shootings by announcing it would purchase 520 Tasers, guns that use electric shocks to disable a suspect. The department commissioned the study of 455 incidents of police firing guns over a three year period after the Sean Bell shooting – although it did not consider the Bell case at all. The report presents mostly positive reviews of police procedures. (Read the full RAND report.)

But critics on both sides say the $350,000 study was a waste of money.

The New York Civil Liberties Union says the “report that parrots the NYPD’s perspective without seeking public input” and warned that Tasers are dangerous – and potentially lethal – weapons too. In an article in the New York Times, Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union added that the report also failed to look at issues of race and “why blacks and Latinos seem to be such a target for police shootings.”

On the other side, the New York Post argues that “New York already has one of the most restrained large-city police forces in America” and that urging officers to use Tasers will only make their jobs more dangerous.

By on June 10, 2008, 8:41 am
In category: Crime & Safety | 1 Comment »

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A Third Term for Bloomberg?
June 5th, 2008

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has commissioned a poll to see if New Yorkers would be willing to change the term limits law – and allow Bloomberg to serve a third term as mayor. Today the New York Post editorial page was quick to support the idea. “Go for it, Mike,” the editorial advises.

Of course, Bloomberg would not be the first to consider the idea.

In 1996, the City Council tried to amend the term limits law, placing an initiative on the ballot to extend terms from 8 to 12 years, but voters rejected it.

In 2001, the New York City Council tried to overturn the law itself, but did not have enough votes from its own members.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to make a case that he should stay in office to help the city through the crisis. The idea stalled in Albany.

And in 2002, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and the council amended the term limits law arguing that a quirk in the measure would force the speaker and five other members out of office after serving less than eight years. Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the measure, but the council overrode his veto and a court eventually upheld the amendment.

By on June 5, 2008, 4:29 pm
In category: Electoral Politics | 5 Comments »

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Remembering RFK
June 5th, 2008

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, who was serving as a U.S. Senator from New York on the night he was assassinated. There are a host of tributes.

The New York Times features op-eds from Kennedy’s three children.

Daughter Kerry Kennedy, who was 8 years old when her father died, talked about her dad’s legacy on the Today Show.

AMNewYork.com features an article about Richard Drew, a news photographer who documented the shooting in Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and a slideshow of photographs from the book “A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties” by photographer Bill Eppridge.

And soon, New York will have a bridge named after the former senator. Yesterday, the New York State Assembly voted to rename the Triborough Bridge the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. The State Senate passed the bill in April and Governor David Paterson plans to sign the measure.

By on June 5, 2008, 8:59 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 8 Comments »

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Post-Holiday Crime Roundup
May 27th, 2008

Summer holiday weekends tend to generate crime headlines. The warm weather, time off, and outdoor parties are all likely contributing factors. And newspapers often have little else to fill their pages on slow news days. This Tuesday morning after Memorial Day, the New York Times reports on a string of shootings in Harlem, the Daily News covers a barbeque shooting in the Bronx and a drug induced traffic fatality in Brighton Beach, and the New York Post focuses on a Central Park mugger.

But today there are also several editorials weighing in on the larger issues of crime in the city. The New York Times argues that 35 years is long enough for New York’s Rockefeller drug laws. “The laws, which were supposed to ensnare ‘kingpins,’ have filled the prisons with drug addicts who would have been better dealt with through treatment programs,” the Times writes. And a Daily News editorial calls on the city’s district attorneys to “stop a legal prison break by as many as 8,400 convicts” who it fears might take advantage of a loophole that allows violent offenders to get parole without supervision.

By on May 27, 2008, 8:48 am
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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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