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City Council Members, Business Groups Rally Against Soda Ban
July 23rd, 2012

City Council members and a beverage-industry backed group rallied on the steps of City Hall today to protest the Bloomberg administration’s proposed soda ban.

Members of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices were joined by city council members and representatives from a local soft drink and beer workers’ union to speak out against the proposal to restrict the size of sweetened drinks sold at certain stores to 16 ounces.

The speakers explained that the regulation would cause economic problems, as well as violate New Yorkers’ right to choose

“This is going to set up an unfair competitive advantage,” said Letitia James, city councilwoman for District 36.

The ban will affect only restaurants and other venues, such as movie theaters and ballparks, that require a health inspection report. Grocery stores and vendors like 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp, will not be restricted which Councilman Daniel Halloran argued is inequitable and thus illegal.

“That’s the standard. Either it applies to everyone or it doesn’t,” he said.

Halloran and other soda ban opponents said they were frustrated with the public’s relative inability to affect the decision on the proposal, which was recently backed by the city’s largest healthcare union.

A Board of Health hearing in Long Island City tomorrow may be the only opportunity to comment, and Halloran described the Board as a “strong mayoralty agency.”

“The agency’s already made up its mind. Having the hearing is pointless,” Halloran explained. “The mayor chose to go this route because he knew he would never get this bill passed through the City Council.”

Members of the City Council have already begun taking up the issue with the legislature in Albany, and Halloran anticipates a lawsuit against the ban almost as soon as it is passed.

“The City Council’s function is to set the laws of the city of New York,” he said. “We’re not going to let one man become king in the city of New York.”

By on July 23, 2012, 1:59 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Health,Law | 5 Comments »

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East River Ferry Ridership Reaches 1 Million
July 16th, 2012

Since its launch early last summer, the East River Ferry has carried one million passengers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced today.

That’s more than double the predicted 409,000 riders a year, which the BillyBey Ferry Company cites as evidence of the program’s success.

Surpassing the one-million milestone is a testament to how popular our service has been with commuters, tourists and leisure travelers in the first year, BilleyBey CEO Paul Goodman said in a press release today.

After unexpected levels of ridership beginning last summer, the $9.3 million project now has larger ferries on weekends and concession stands on every ride.

To continue expanding and improving service for the remainder of the ferry’s three-year pilot program and beyond, Bloomberg announced a survey that will be available for riders to take online, on the ferry and by phone.

“Ferry service is only going to get better for the next million passengers,” he said in the release.

By on July 16, 2012, 11:22 am
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Transportation,Waterfront | Comments Off

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High school entrepreneur wannabes sought for city tech program
July 11th, 2012

A new program aims to expose high school students to the city’s growing Internet technology sector by teaming them up with industry experts to create Android phone apps and business plans.

The New York Economic Development Corp. and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship are sponsoring the bootcamp for teenagers, which starts in August. Thirty high school students will be picked to participate in the program, called NYC Generation Tech. Applications are being accepted until July 20.

“This is another initiative to foster talent in [the technology] sector, which is going to be critical to our economy going forward,” said Patrick Muncie, a spokesman for the EDC.

To be eligible for NYC Generation Tech, students should be rising 10th or 11th graders who are either from a school where 50 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches or who qualify for the food assistance programs themselves.

The primary $100,000 of funding for NYC Generation Tech came from the city.

Terry Bowman, executive director for NFTE New York Metro Area, said the organization is looking to raise more money to provide scholarships and ongoing support for students after they complete the program.

By on July 11, 2012, 2:18 pm
In category: Community Development,Education,Tech | 2 Comments »

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NYC Jails Action Coalition Pushes Reform
July 9th, 2012

A recently formed coalition is calling for a reduction in the use of solitary confinement and what they refer to as a “culture of brutality” in the city’s jail system.

The New York City Jails Action Coalition, which formed in December of last year and is comprised of members of organizations that have worked on the issues for years, held its first protest outside the Board of Correction on 51 Chambers St. earlier today.

“The United Nations has likened solitary confinement to torture,” said member Richard Sawyer, referring to a statement by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that specifically called out the U.S.’s disproportionate use of punitive segregation.

The issue of solitary confinement has recently been discussed on a national level, and NYC JAC is using that momentum to promote their cause.

Sawyer specifically condemned the practice of putting someone in 10-day solitary confinement for “horseplay,” butDepartment of Correction spokeswoman Sharman Stein said the term trivialized the problem.

“The Department’s first responsibility is to protect everyone in its custody. When an inmate assaults another inmate or an employee, he cannot remain in his housing unit, nor should he,” read an official DOC statement. “There are consequences for harming others.”

NYC JAC and its member groups recommend the city adopt a policy similar to one in Mississippi, where punitive segregation is only used as a last resort. In Mississippi’s case, the policy change led to reduced violence a point the coalition emphasizes.

The coalition also alleges that the DOC condones brutal practices, and spends millions settling lawsuits from former inmates TheDOC has denied those allegations.

The New York City jails system is one of the largest in the U.S., with a daily population of 13,000as of 2010.

By on July 9, 2012, 6:12 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 5 Comments »

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Development Corps Illegally Lobbied City Council: AG
July 3rd, 2012

Three local development corporations illegally lobbied City Council members in 2008 and 2009 to promote development projects in Willets Point and Coney Island, the state attorney general says.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation and the Coney Island Development Corporation. The settlement included provisions to increase transparency and reduce loopholes through which these organizations lobbied New York City officials. However, no fine or other punishment was meted out.

Members of the groups ghostwrote op-eds and prepared testimony in order to create the appearance of a grassroots movement in favor of development projects they were backing, the attorney general said. Influencing legislation is barred by statute for local development corporations.

These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties, to win approval of their favored projects, Schneiderman said in a press release. This agreement will bring greater transparency, and ensure accountability for these and other local development corporations operating in New York State.

The agreement includes mandatory compliance training for local development corporation employees, more public disclosure of interaction between these corporations and reminders that it is illegal to lobby the Council regarding development projects, even indirectly.

The EDC will be restructuring to remove the organization’s local development corporation status to avoid further violations.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation intends to undertake a restructuring, the primary effect of which will be to allow the company to remain a not-for-profit corporation, but to cease to be a local development corporation,” Patrick Muncie, an EDC spokesman, said in a statement. “As discussed with the New York State Attorney General, NYCEDC is currently taking all appropriate steps to effectuate this restructuring.

City Comptroller John Liu described the restructuring as a long time coming.

While these revelations of illegal lobbying are alarming, we cannot say that they come as a surprise,” Liu said in a later release. New York Citys economic development process is in dire need of greater transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness, something EDCs current culture fails to provide.

By on July 3, 2012, 2:29 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Law | Comments Off

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Developers Chosen for Brooklyn Bridge Park Hotel Complex
June 19th, 2012

The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park announced today the final plan for construction of a hotel and residency complex by the park’s Pier 1.

Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group will collaborate on the approximately 550,000-square-foot complex, slated for completion in the fall of 2015, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has quickly become one of the most loved public spaces along our citys waterfront, Mayor Bloomberg said in the release. The major private investment is a vote of confidence in Brooklyn and its future as a great place to live, work and visit.

The $295 million project is set to break ground next summer, generating as many as 510 jobs, both permanent and temporary. The board’s aim is to keep the park financially sustainable with a series of hotels along the piers when completed, it will cost $16 million a year to run the park. They expect to take in $3.3 million yearly in rent and other payments, adding up to an expected $119.7 million net revenue by the end of the 97-year ground leases on the hotel and residential sites.

The mayor’s office also released four renderings of the proposed complex, showing its stone-and-glass facade and surrounding green space. Rogers Marvel Architects designed the 10-story hotel, called 1 Hotel, which will include 200 rooms, 18,000 square feet of banquet, meeting and retail space and a 6,000 square foot spa. There will also be a five-story building with 159 residential units.

Todays vote helps to ensure Brooklyn Bridge Parks future, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in the press release.

By on June 19, 2012, 4:25 pm
In category: Community Development,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use,Parks,Waterfront | Comments Off

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Support for Stricter Sex Trafficking Penalties
June 12th, 2012

Legislation to update the state’s human trafficking policy, which would include increased protections for underage victims, received the backing of key members of the City Council today.

The committee on women’s issues unanimously passed a resolution calling on the state Legislature to pass the bill.

The resolution, created by 23 council members including all five committee members, strongly recommends that the Legislature pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act. If passed, the bill would amend a 2007 anti-trafficking law that the Council resolution says does not go far enough.

Councilmembers and advocacy groups support the bill in its current form, and are concerned that crucial pieces of it will be lost during negotiations to get it passed, committee chair Julissa Ferreras said.

“I hope that this will be a clear message to our colleagues in Albany,” Ferreras said.

The bill as it stands now would remove the need for prosecutors to prove that underage victims of trafficking were coerced into prostitution; elevate penalties for patronizing underage prostitutes to the level of statutory rape; and require that anyone under 18 arrested for a prostitution offense be tried in family court rather than criminal court. They also recommended upgrading sex trafficking to a class B violent felony from a non-violent one.

Nearly 4,000 minors are trafficked in New York City yearly, according to a 2001 study by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT-USA) cited in the committee’s report.

By on June 12, 2012, 5:06 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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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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