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Jumaane Williams and the Police
September 6th, 2011

Anger and dismay over the police handcuffing of a City Council member and a top political aide following yesterday’s West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn today morphed into a call for changes in police stop and frisk polices and other procedures that target young black and Latino men.

At a crowded press conference on the City Hall steps the council member, Jumaane Williams of East Flatbush, and the aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Kristen John Foy, described their being stopped, handcuffed and briefly taken into custody as they tried to go to the Brooklyn museum yesterday afternoon.

By all accounts, the two men were attempting to enter a restricted or frozen zone after the parade. Both had identification and Williams was wearing a lapel pin indicating his membership on the City Council. They reached two checkpoints and the officers at them — probably senior, given that they were wearing white shirts - allowed them to go through. But, Williams said, police stopped them at a third checkpoint, despite their credential.

“I was actually handcuffed while on then phone with the chief of police telling him what was going on,” Williams recounted.

Both were taken across the street to a synagogue where they were held for about 30 minutes until police established their identities and let them go. Neither man was charged with any wrongdoing.

Police have maintained that during the incident, someone punched a police officer, an account Williams vehemently disputed.

“I defy the NYPD to find one shred of evidence of any police officer being punched in the face,” he said, adding that report was “a bald-faced lie.”

While not criticizing overall police policies, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn echoed Williams on his conduct. “There is nothing, nothing, to indicate the Council member or Mr. Foy did anything wrong, ” she said.

Foy said he was shoved down and cuffed because “in retreat, they [police] decided I wasn’t moving fast enough, in retreat, I wasn’t complying enough.” The reports of the punch, Foy said, showed the police “making up a story to cover themselves.”

The police department has said it is investigating the incident, and, according to Williams, Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for it.

Putting this incident in a larger context — after the jump
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By on September 6, 2011, 1:38 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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A Precedent for the Mayor
September 2nd, 2011

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly dodges venues where he might face questions abut his handling of the resignation of former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg might be wondering how he might have done things differently. Well, given the mayor’s reluctance to doubt himself, maybe not.

But if he does have second thoughts, he might want to consider his own handling of a previous problematic resignation.

In 2008, the city’s then commissioner for the aging Edwin Mendez-Santiago, abruptly resigned. His departure came amid a heated debated over plans to revamp the city’s services for the elderly, and some wondered if that explained his sudden resignation.

But it soon emerged that, like Goldsmith, Santiago-Mendez had left under a cloud. About a week later, Mendez-Santiago’s former secretary filed suit against him, charging the former commissioner with sexual harassment and discrimination.

While the mayor and his staff did not address this explicitly in announcing Mendez-Santiago’s departure, they also did not say anything that was out and out deceptive. Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser told reporters only that Mendez-Santiago was leaving for personal reasons.

In his release, Bloomberg thanked Mendez-Santiago for his services, said he had served the city’s older resident well and gave no explanation for the departure.

Later he showed a bit of the legendary Bloomberg loyalty, but still did not seem to stray from the truth: Mendez-Santiago “left for totally personal reasons, and it had nothing to do with any policy whatsoever of the Department for the Aging,” Bloomberg said days later when he announced Mendez-Santiago’s successor. Never even came up. He did a good job. Im sorry he chose for personal reasons to resign.

Now contrast that with the comments on Goldsmith, who it now turns out resigned after he was arrested in the District of Columbia on a domestic violence complaint.
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By on September 2, 2011, 12:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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The Goldsmith Fallout
September 1st, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handling of the hurricane/tropical storm last week gave him a respite from the media criticism that has plagued much of his third term.

That probably came to an abrupt end this morning when the New York Post reported that Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith suddenly resigned last month not because he saw tempting opportunities in the private sector and not because of his botched handling of the last big storm you remember, the blizzard but because he spent two nights in a Washington, D.C. jail arising from a domestic violence complaint.

The Bloomberg administration knew the former mayor of Indianapolis, darling of the privatization crowd and high-level city official had spent time in jail. And, as the Wall Street Journal wrote today, “Goldsmiths arrest precipitated his sudden departure from City Hall.”

Charges were dropped. In a statement released today, Goldsmith said he was innocent, and a statement by his wife seems to support that, calling the arrest “a big mistake.” (That may well be true, but it also is true that that many battered women later deny the violence ever took place.) Despite all that, Goldsmith said he resigned so as “not to be a distraction to the mayor and his important agenda for the city.”
At the press conference announcing Goldsmith’s departure, neither Bloomberg nor Goldsmith breathed a word about Goldsmith’s domestic travails. Instead Bloomberg praised his former right-hand man, saying, “As New Yorkers, we were extraordinarily lucky to have Steve Goldsmith make our city government more innovative and efficient.”

The way Bloomberg handled Goldsmith’s departure is now coming under criticism.

Who and what they’re saying after the jump.
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By on September 1, 2011, 1:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 6 Comments »

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Food Stamps for Soda
August 19th, 2011

The federal Department of Agriculture has rejected the Bloomberg administration’s bid to bar New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase soda sweetened with sugar.

The city made its request last fall, proposing a two-year test to see how effective a ban might be. The move part of the administration’s campaign against obesity — came after the state legislature rejected efforts to put a tax on the sugary beverage.

While soda lobbyists, of course, objected to the restriction on food stamp use, even many public health experts questioned it from the get-go, fearing that it unfairly singled out people who receive food stamp. The agriculture department always seemed unlikely to approve the ban, and some questioned whether it even had the authority to do so without congressional approval.

Rather than a ban, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reportedly said in a letter, the department prefers to promote ” incentive-based solutions that are better suited for the working families, elderly and other low-income individuals” who get food stamps.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed disappointment with the decision. “We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country and at little or no cost to taxpayers,” the statement said.

By on August 19, 2011, 5:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Health,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Quinn and ICE
August 17th, 2011

Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced legislation today that would prohibit New York City’s department of corrections from subsidizing the work of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Make the Road New York issued this statement supporting the move:

“The announcement by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Mark-Viverito and Daniel Dromm that the New York City Council will prohibit New York City’s Department of Corrections from subsidizing and supporting the deportation of thousands of non-criminal New Yorkers each year is fantastic news.

Every day New York City benefits from the energy, initiative and hard-work of immigrants. In a city where forty percent of all New Yorkers are immigrants, and for the City to do its job, New York City government must not burn bridges to immigrant communities. Today, New York City is taking a clear stand that it refuses to be in the business of tearing apart of immigrant families and subsidizing the deportation of non-criminal New Yorkers.”

Quinn’s legislation follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to pull out of the federal Secure Communities Program and the US government’s insistence that New York legally must take part in the program. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 17, 2011, 1:12 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Immigrants,Work and Labor | 5 Comments »

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Recommendations on Lobbying
August 10th, 2011

The city Lobbying Commission, chaired by former City Councilmember Herbert Berman has issued its preliminary report, available here. The recommendations essentially reflect the likely changes Jane Timm reported on for Gotham Gazette last week.

In particular, the commission recommends expanding the definition of lobbying to include efforts to influence legislation before a bill is introduced the law now covers only proposed legislation or to keep a bill from being introduced. It also would extend to efforts to shape or stop executive orders by the mayor.

The commission also seeks to have the city raise the threshold at which one must register as a lobbyist from $2,000 to $5,000. The increase, the commission anticipates, would reduce the number of lobbyists in the city by about 40 but would still cover around 99 percent of the money spent on lobbying here.

The report notes that some groups had hoped to raise the threshold still further. The commission said it will consider recommending a rise to $10,000 on its final report but only for organizations that spend that money lobbying only on their own behalf.

In the report, the commission also describes some suggestions it heard and rejected, such as moving regulation of lobbying from the city clerk’s office to another agency.

The report still needs to become final. When that happens, it will go to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council who, if they agree with the recommendation, can propose bills incorporating the suggestions for passage by the council.

By on August 10, 2011, 5:27 pm
In category: City Hall,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Challenging the Census
August 10th, 2011

As expected the city has filed a formal challenge of the Census Bureau’s 2010 count of New York City residents. In its filing, the Bloomberg administration contends the census incorrectly counted as vacant a number of homes in Astoria, Jackson Heights, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, which it says “are among the most vibrant areas in New York City.”

In his letter to Census Bureau director Robert Groves, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “It is our expectation that the city’s population could increase by tens of thousands of New Yorkers if the errors … were corrected.” The city does not anticipate a correction would have a major effect on redistricting or save on of the state’s two lost congressional seats but it does think a recount could increase the amount of money the city would receive from various aid programs.

Various New York officials issued statements in support of the administration’s effort. Sen. Charles Schumer, for one, called the federal government’s numbers “dead wrong.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted that the census found only very modest population growth in Brooklyn and Queens and expressed concern “that this inaccuracy may be the result of the difficulty in ascertaining accurate counts in immigrants communities such as Jackson Heights, Astoria and Sunset Park.”

As Andrew Beveridge wrote in Gotham Gazette this spring, the census found some 246,0000 fewer city residents than the administration had anticipated, and grew by 2.1 percent, not 5.2 percent. The numbers cast cold water on the mayor’s prediction that 9 million people would call New York City home by 2030. In his column Beveridge wrote that, while the mayor’s disappointment is understandable, evidence exists to support the Census Bureau’s count.

By on August 10, 2011, 3:42 pm
In category: City Hall,Demographics,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg: S&P Got It Right
August 8th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Standard& Poor’s got it “righto the nose” when it condemned dysfunction in Washington and downgraded the U.S. credit rating. “Don’t blame the messenger,” the mayor said at a press conference this afternoon, saying the ratings agency had delivered “a demining indictment of how bad things have gotten in Washington.”

“We’ve gotten a two-month civics lesson in how to talk the economy down,” he said

As he has done in the past, the mayor excoriated Washington for not doing more to put the nation’s fiscal house in order and for coming so close to default earlier this month, but did not volunteer whether he blames everyone in Washington equally or, like the American people, holds some more responsible than others.

By on August 8, 2011, 3:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy | 1 Comment »

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Goldsmith Goes
August 4th, 2011

Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis who by many accounts has had a rough ride as deputy mayor for operations in the Big Apple, has resigned after 14 months to pursue private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has named Cas Holloway, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, to replace him.

In a prepared statement, Bloomberg said, “As New Yorkers, we were extraordinarily lucky to have Steve Goldsmith make our City government more innovative and efficient.;

Not everyone might agree. Fairly or not, Goldsmith bore much of criticism for the administration’s botched response to last December’s blizzard. The fact that he was in D.C. during and after the storm did not help. Having to sort out some of the administration’s technology projects including the scandal plagued CityTime, undoubtedly further complicated his tenure at City Hall.

Holloway, a lawyer, was at the parks department before heading up environmental protection.

By on August 4, 2011, 4:06 pm
In category: City Hall | Comments Off on Goldsmith Goes

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Bloomberg and the Achievement Gap
August 4th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement earlier today of a major initiative to help young black and Latino men today, includes a big focus on education. Few would debate the wisdom of that.

Bloomberg has long patted himself on the back for narrowing the gap in academic achievement between the city’s white and Asian students on one hand and blacks and Latinos on the other. Today Chancellor Dennis Walcott sounded the theme. Weve come a long way in improving achievement for black and Latino young men, helping to narrow the racial gaps in state exams and graduation rates,” he said.

But as Bloomberg basks in praise (and some almost fawning press coverage) for tackling a truly tough issue, his record on ending education disparities is — to put it charitably mixed.

The mayor noted the city had narrowed the gap in high school graduation rates between the races. And the evidence backs that up. But in myriad other areas — test scores, admission to elite high schools, admission to gifted and talented elementary programs, suspensions — the gap has remained essentially the same or widened under the Bloomberg regime.

Let’s looks at the numbers after the jump.
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By on August 4, 2011, 3:34 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Demographics,Education | 3 Comments »

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Law on Pregnancy Centers Blocked
July 13th, 2011

A federal judge yesterday threw out a city law regulating so-called pregnancy crisis centers, only hours before the measure was set to take effect. The law, passed by City Council in March and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would require these centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions. They also would have had to post signs indicating whether they have medical professionals on staff.

The centers clearly have an anti-abortion agenda and try to encourage women to bear the child — either to keep or put up for adoption. Their attempts to conceal that, New York Civil Liberties executive director Donna Lieberman has said, misleads women and so can “pose serious health risks”

From the beginning, though, people affiliated with the center said the bill infringed on the centers’ rights to free speech.

Yesterday, Judge William H. Pauley III agreed, calling the law “offensive to free speech principles” and saying it was based on an “overly broad definition of commercial speech.”
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By on July 13, 2011, 10:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Health,Law | 2 Comments »

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Publisher Runs for Mayor
July 12th, 2011

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg set to exit the city’s political scene in 2013, another wealthy albeit not nearly that wealthy — publisher has started eying his job.

Tom Allon, publisher of Manhattan Media, which owns neighborhood weekly, City Hall and the New York Press, among other publications, has told Crain’s he wants to run for mayor.

Whatever else Allon’s candidacy might or might not do, it raises interesting campaign finance questions, Azi Paybarah of the Observer reports. While the papers can continue to cover the news , including politicking by their boss, they could raise questions, Eric Friedman of the Campaign Finance Board, told Paybarah “if they put him on the front page and say, Here’s why this guy is going to be a great mayor.”

In their morning email, City Hall and the Capitol, its sister publication said, “We’re putting up a wall between Allon’s aspirations and our coverage of New York politics, and well cover him like any other candidate — which means well wait to see if he’s taken seriously before we do.”

Expressing skepticism on that very point, the email said, “What seems like a vanity run to push his pet issue of improving city schools is a long shot at best.”
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By on July 12, 2011, 7:09 pm
In category: City Hall | Comments Off on Publisher Runs for Mayor

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Raising Money for 2013
July 12th, 2011

The reporting period for contributions to city campaign ended yesterday, and some candidates have already filed their reports.

Two declared candidate for City Council - Helen Rosenthal in the sixth district in Manhattan (now represented by Gale Brewer, who is term limited) and Ari Hoffnung in the 11th district in the Bronx (now represented by Oliver Koppell, also term limited) have filed their reports. Hoffnung has raised a total of slightly more than $79,000 going back to 2008. Rosenthal has brought in almost $55,000.

Both candidates originally contemplated council bids in 2009 but pulled back when the mayor and City Council extended term limits, letting the incumbents in their districts run for another four years.

Several candidates considering bids for mayor also will file their disclosures forms in the next few days. Crain’s reports several will report substantial war chests, with Christine Quinn expected to have about $4 million - some $1 million of it raised in this six-month filing period. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer apparently has amassed $2.5 million and Bill de Blasio $657,000.

This will also be the first filing period since 2009 where Bill Thompson the former comptroller and unsuccessful 2009 mayoral candidate shows up. He has reportedly raised about $82,000 (though its not on the Campaign Finance Board web site yet.)

By on July 12, 2011, 6:31 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics | Comments Off on Raising Money for 2013

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Developers' Dollars
July 5th, 2011

The New York Post’s David Seifman reported Sunday that developers left without a candidate in the 2013 mayoral race after the demise of Rep Anthony Weiner might support Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. This has the appeal of a man bites dog story — de Blasio a favored candidate of many unions and the Working Families Party, would seem an unlikely politician for developers to embrace.

Whatever the merit of Seifman’s story, it was a little puzzling for its omission of at least one candidate who already has a lot of support from the real estate industry: Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Using Gotham Gazette’s Councilpedia, we examined Quinn’s major contributors for the 2013 race (many of who actually gave in 2007 and 2008, before the extension of term limits sunk Quinn’s 2009 run for Gracie Mansion). And we discovered a large number of $4,950 contributions — the maximum allowed for citywide candidates — from people involved in real estate.

In a number of cases, several people associated with a company anted up. At least six people
with links to Rudin Management, one of the citys largest building developers and owners, gave $4,950, as did five members of the Gural family of the global real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank and the president of Newmark, James Kuhn. Three members of the Walentas family of Two Trees Management, which has developed much of DUMBO< gave $4,950 each, as did two executives with the company, Amish Patel and Richard Shill. Thee people associated with Rose Associates opened their wallets for the maximum, as did two Roses with the Georgetown Co. At least five people with ties to The Benjamin Companies on Long Island gave Quinn $4,950, and so did at least four people with ties to Related. And so on.

More on the money trail after the jump
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By on July 5, 2011, 3:40 pm
In category: City Hall,Environment,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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It's a Budget!
June 29th, 2011

By a vote of 49 to 1, the City Council today approved a $66 billion budget for New York City for fiscal year 2012. The measure contains no teacher layoffs and does not shut any fire companies — but it does include layoffs for at least 1,000 other city workers and cutbacks in some popular programs, such as scholarship for student at the City University.

Despite that most council members clearly thought they had done a pretty good job.

This is, Speaker Christine Quinn said, “not a perfect budget. It would be impossible to have a perfect budget when the city and our tax revenues are still feeling the effects of the recession.”
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By on June 29, 2011, 2:31 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Chin Applauds Quinn, Wants Millionaires Tax
June 29th, 2011

The City Council voted to pass Mayor Bloomberg’s $66 billion budget earlier today and council members seem pretty happy with their votes. Councilman Charles Barron was the only dissenting vote.

A release from Council member Margaret Chin notes that she “thanked Speaker Quinn and Finance Chair Recchia for their leadership and pairing down the massive cuts proposed in the Executive budget.” A last minute deal averted the layoff of 4,000 teachers.

But it also notes that Chin supported a resolution sponsored by Council members Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander which calls on the New York State Legislature to pass a law extending the millionaires tax.

The budget season may be over but the millionaires tax does not expire until the end of the year. Tonight the City Council has taken the first step in signaling to the State our need for real revenue raising options in the year to come. We want to ensure that this years cuts are the bottom line. It is now time to look at ways to raise money and to do that we need a progressive income tax in New York City

Here is her full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 29, 2011, 2:07 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy | 2 Comments »

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The Pork List
June 28th, 2011

The New York City Council apparently is still planning to vote on the 2012 budget later today (maybe much later – stay tuned).

In the meantime, the council has released its Schedule C, which lists “funding for community based not-for-profit and other public service
Organizations.” This is, in other words, the list of so-called member items, also known as earmarks or pork — some 700 pages worth.

We’ll be combing through it and posting much of it on Councilpedia in the coming days. In the meantime, you can take a look yourself by going here.

Let us now if you find anything interesting — and we’ll do the same.

By on June 28, 2011, 1:06 pm
In category: City Hall,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg's Full Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage
June 16th, 2011

Here are Bloomberg’s full comments following his visit with the Senate Republican Majority:

If you remember, at our founding, African-Americans were held in bondage. Catholics in New York could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not vote or hold office. And homosexuality, in some places, was a crime punishable by death.

One by one, over many long years, the legal prohibitions to freedom and equality were overcome some on the battlefield, some at the State House, and some in the courthouse.

Throughout our history, each and every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. Each and every generation has removed some of the barriers to full participation in the American dream. And the next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 2:38 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Bloomberg's Full Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage

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Bloomberg in Albany
June 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid a visit to Senate Republicans this morning as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He was in town to discuss the same-sex marriage vote. Although Bloomberg clearly put pressure on Republicans to bring the bill to a vote Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos left the meeting with Bloomberg and told reporters that his conference needed to further discuss the issue.

Bloomberg described giving his counsel to legislators who are on the fence, he said he told them that he “I remember being in their shoes.”

If the bill does come to a vote he expects it to pass with more than just the bare minimum number of votes–saying it would pass “comfortably.” Bloomberg described marriage as, “a force of stability for families,” and said that same-sex marriage is consistent with conservative principles. Bloomberg said he thinks the public expects same-sex marriage to come to a vote.

As for rent control renewal Bloomberg said he expects a bill to be passed by the end of session but that some may not be “ecstatic” about the bill.

Bloomberg also touched on the Anthony Weiner scandal saying that he thought Weiner needs to talk with his family and make a decision. But he also said the scandal has, “become a diversion away from all the important things this country has to deal with.” Weiner is expected to announce his resignation at 2 p.m. today.

By on June 16, 2011, 12:42 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Eye on Albany,Housing | Comments Off on Bloomberg in Albany

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Tapping a Labor Fund
June 14th, 2011

Talks are continuing over whether the city labor unions would give the city money from a rainy day healthcare fund to go avert layoffs of 4,100 teachers and other city workers, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today. Any money might also go to save some fire companies and seniors centers now slated to be shut.

At a press conference before todays scheduled council meeting, Quinn made it clear the idea of using money from the fund had come from the Municipal Labor Committee and its chairman, Harry Nespoli.

“I want to be vey clear how very grateful I am to Harry Nespoli and the Labor Council that they are even entertaining” helping the city government in this way, Quinn said.

She said the idea came up after “I said to Harry, ‘we need help,’… Harry said, “‘yes, let me see what we can do,’ and they got back to me.”

Currently, Quinn said, the labor group is considering what its specific proposal might be. Once they do, discussions can proceed from there, she said.

Nespoli and the committee are reportedly planning to discuss the idea tomorrow.
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By on June 14, 2011, 5:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 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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