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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 | No Comments »

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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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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 | No Comments »

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NYC Council wants banks to detail efforts in communities
May 15th, 2012

The City Council plans to vote onlegislation that would require banks that receive billions in municipal funds to release information on their lending practices in struggling neighborhoods.

The bill is expected to pass today at the council’s stated meeting. Its supporters, including the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, say it will help policymakers make better decisions about where the city’s money is deposited and encourage banks to invest in communities.

“This bill will make the banking capital of the world the responsible banking capital of the world,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said during the meeting.

Other cities are considering or have passed similar ordinances after a punishing financial crisis. Los Angeles was expected to pass its own today.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg told The New York Times he was wary of putting restrictions on where city money could be deposited. “You would think, between the federal government and the state government, we’d have enough bank regulations,” Bloomberg told the newspaper.

The city currently banks with over 30 major financial institutions, including JPMorganChase, Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Citibank.

At a council hearing in March 2011, the city Department of Finance said it was opposed to the bill, saying it was overly broad and could mislead consumers and businesses into believing it regulates banks.

“When procuring banking services, the city focuses and should continue to focus solely on the financial safety and soundness of each bank, its banking capabilities and its pricing,” said Elaine A. Kloss, in testimony before the committees on finance and community development.

The Department of Finance oversees the city’s money, in conjunction with the city comptroller and the Banking Commission. The commission approves or denies applications from financial institutions seeking to do business with the city.

By on May 15, 2012, 12:08 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Judge Orders Another Look at Atlantic Yards
July 13th, 2011

Opponents of the massive Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn have filed suit after suit to try to block the arena and residential complex - largely without much success. Meanwhile Bruce Ratner has moved ahead on his project, reaping government help, razing buildings and building much of a basketball arena for the still New Jersey Nets.

Now, though, Ratner’s rivals have won a victory. Today Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn announced that state Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman has ordered the Empire State Development Corp. to conduct additional environmental review of the project, including a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. (The ruling is available here.)
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 13, 2011, 4:49 pm
In category: Albany,Community Development,Land Use,Law | No Comments »

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New York Exits Secure Communities Program
June 1st, 2011

NY1 is reporting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce this week New York’s exit from the secure communities program.

The exit may be temporary. Gotham Gazette reported last week that Cuomo was expected to make the announcement soon.

For that story, go here.

By on June 1, 2011, 12:38 pm
In category: Albany,Community Development | 2 Comments »

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Living Wage Gets Its Hearing
May 12th, 2011

Labor and city leadership collided this afternoon at a packed and feisty hearing on legislation to require city subsidized developers pay a living wage.

Under a bill introduced nearly a year ago, recipients of more than $100,000 in financial assistance would have to pay all of their employees either $11.50 or $10 an hour plus benefits. The controversial bill has garnered 30 sponsors at the council, but it does not have the Bloomberg administration’s support. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who controls the council’s agenda, has yet to take a position on the measure.

At today’s hearing, the chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, Tokumbo Shobowale, endured two and half hours of back and forth with council members — the vast majority of those in attendance support the proposal. Shobowale attempted to convince the council that the adminsitration agrees with the premise of raising the standard of living for the working poor. It questions, Shobowale argued, whether a wage mandate is the way to do it.

“It’s not a philosophical difference,” Shobowale said. “It’s looking at the data.”

The hearing followed the release of a study on Monday by the Economic Development Corp., which argued the living wage proposal would result in between 33,000 and 100,000 job losses for the city. The study’s methodology and findings drew ire from supporters of the bill today.

“The administration is so full of it, you might want to consider a high-fiber diet,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “It might help with that situation.”

The hearing amounted to a clash of academics and methodology — with supporters citing studies that supported living wage mandates, and the adminsitration calling its recently released analysis solid, current and comprehensive.

Just this morning, supporters of the bill released a counter analysis of the city’s living wage study, which argued its modeling did not rule out other factors that could affect job growth (like an economic downturn). Supporters also claim the city-sponsored study examines the wrong population of projects — it includes an as-of-right subsidy for industrial and commercial properties the bill is not meant to capture.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 12, 2011, 6:37 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 8 Comments »

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Clash at IDA Board Over Study
May 10th, 2011

A small spat erupted at this morning’s Industrial Development Agency board meeting, when Bronx borough president appointee Albert Rodriguez questioned the legitimacy and release of the city’s living wage study.

Rodriguez chastised the Economic Development Corp., which is the parent agency to the Industrial Development Agency, for hastily releasing the study’s executive summary to the press before giving a copy to the board on Monday. He also seriously questioned the report’s findings, which suggest a living wage mandate for city subsidized developments would result in job losses. Legislation to require similar wage standards is currently ruminating at the City Council.

Rodriguez called the study “political football for the interest of the Bloomberg adminsitration” and “very flawed.”

“This was a waste of money,” Rodriguez said. “We could have hired nine more teachers.”

The IDA board authorized the agency to spend $1 million on the study, which was conducted by Boston-based consulting firm, Charles River Associates.

The study’s executive summary was released yesterday afternoon in anticipation of a City Council hearing scheduled for Thursday, said EDC President Seth Pinsky. The City Council had asked the agency to accelerate the study’s release so it could discuss the findings at the hearing. The full report will be released in the “coming weeks,” Pinsky said.

In defense of the study, Pinsky said it was “disappointing” officials would allege the agency was playing politics.

“I think [the study] is very similar, in fact, to the approach that’s been taken on many of the studies that have been cited by proponents of wage mandates,” Pinsky said. “What the study found was the legislation that has been proposed in the City Council here in New York is dramatically different from wage mandate legislation that has been proposed across the country. The additional requirements that are put into this particular legislation… they would make it extremely difficult and unlikely that people would continue to take the benefits.”

Pinsky said there are other ways to create better “living standards,” including expanding the benefits of the earned income tax credit. Any change in that tax credit would need federal, state and city approval. Pinsky also said the agency is conducting an internal study on how it can expand jobs in various middle income sectors, like construction or health care.

“There is nobody on either side of this debate who doesn’t want to figure out a way to raise the living standards of the least fortunate members of society,” Pinsky said. “The question is: Is this the right way to do it?”

The study found living wage policies would increase the standard wage at city subsidized developments, but could result in substantial job losses — anywhere from 33,000 to 100,000. Immediately after the executive summary was released, a Bloomberg spokesperson reiterated the administration’s opposition to the bill.

Rodriguez too is not without political motives. His boss, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., proposed the living wage legislation after the City Council rejected a proposal to develop the Kingsbridge Armory in the borough. The proposal was defeated because the developer would not promise to force tenants to pay a living wage.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 10, 2011, 12:26 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Study Says Policy Costs Jobs
May 9th, 2011

After much anticipation, the city Economic Development Corp. released a $1 million study on living wage policy today, which finds implementing higher pay standards at city subsidized developments would cost jobs.

The study examines legislation at the City Council to require any entity who recieves more than $100,000 in financial assistance from the city to pay a living wage. Thirty council members have signed on in support of the measure. Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not revealed her position. Although the speaker has Ok’d a hearing on the bill, which is scheduled for Thursday.

The adminsitration called for the study, which was conducted by Boston-based consulting firm Charles River Associates, last year after the City Council defeated a controversial development at the Kingsbridge Armory. The developer refused to guarantee tenants of the proposal would pay a living wage.

The study found certain development projects would no longer be “financially feasible” if the city adopted a living wage mandate. As a result, it argues, the city would lose jobs.

In response to the study, Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson, released the following statement:

The study is clear: the legislation would result in major job losses at all income levels and particularly among low-income New Yorkers. The biggest job losses would occur in the areas with the highest unemployment at a time when too many New Yorkers are without jobs as it is. The legislation would have a very harmful effect on growth opportunities of small businesses and the creation of affordable housing, and it would reduce overall private investment in New York City by an estimated $7 billion. Aggregate wages among low-skilled workers would not change because any gains among some workers would be more than offset by families losing employment opportunities entirely. The goal of increasing wages among New Yorkers of course is a good one, but this type of approach in other cities hasnt just failed, its done so with severe consequences for job-seekers and businesses.

But not everyone was thrilled with the results. In response to the study, Comptroller John Liu (a frequent critic of the Economic Development Corp.) released the following statement:

The EDCs claim that a living wage kills jobs shows just how distorted the agencys operations have become. The proposed living wage would be a requirement on new projects that are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. It may curtail the number of new minimum wage jobs, with the hope that these new jobs would then pay a decent wage. The claim of job losses is rhetoric at its worst.

Asked what he thinks the study means for the living wage legislation currently under consideration at the City Council, Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, still seemed optimistic.

“The council I’m sure will give it careful consideration,” Sonn said. “We expect them to look at more rigorous research, which includes other studies and hearing the real world experiences of other cities.”

And for your reading pleasure:

Living Wage Exec Summary_2011 05 09

By on May 9, 2011, 6:11 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Advocates Protest SWMP Delays (UPDATE)
April 12th, 2011

Five years after the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to a solid waste management plan for the five boroughs – one that spread out the city’s garbage burden — council members and environmental justice advocates say the adminsitration is backpedaling.

In its preliminary capital budget, the adminsitration has delayed the construction of four waste transfer stations, three of which are in Manhattan. The cut, said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council, could delay funding for these facilities between five and eight years. Advocates fear the stations will never occur. Five years from now, there will be a new occupant in City Hall — one perhaps with different priorities.

“We are very troubled,” said Goldstein.

The waste transfer stations are a crucial part of the 2006 solid waste management plan, which attempts to get garbage off of diesel-spewing trucks and onto rail cars and barges instead. The plan was also meant to spread stations throughout the five boroughs to ease the burden on communities inundated with city waste — like the South Bronx, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The delayed stations in Manhattan are the only ones slated for the borough, which currently sends the vast majority of its trash to New Jersey.

We are waiting for a response from the Department of Sanitation.

Advocates also decried the administration’s recent exploration of waste-to-energy — a controversial technology that typically involves burning or heating trash to create electricity (We reported on it here two weeks ago). Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group decried the move.

“The types of technology they want to pilot have not been proven successful commercially anywhere in the country,” said Haight. “We believe this is a waste of energy.”

A conversation on the equal distribution of these types of facilities is occurring right now at a hearing of the Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses Subcommittee. Councilmember Brad Lander, the committee’s chair, blasted the adminsitration for refusing to testify (his letter appears below).

“We’ve concentrated those facilities in low-income communities, in communities of color,” Lander said this afternoon on the City Hall steps.

A spokesperson for the Bloomberg adminsitration said they would not send a representative, because “fair share,” as it’s commonly referred to, is currently the subject of litigation.

UPDATE: We just got this response from City Hall spokesperson Jason Post:

Because of the economy, the City has been forced to reduce all of its expenditures, including its capital program.

The preliminary capital budget for the Sanitation Department includes deferred spending on four Marine Transfer Stations.

The Administration remains fully committed to SWMPs principles of borough equity, using rail and barge to transfer solid waste, relieving the burden of waste receiving from certain communities, strengthening our recycling infrastructure and piloting new technologies to derive clean energy from waste.

We have made great progress on SWMP alreadylong term rail contracts are in place and two marine transfer stations are under construction, as is the Citys new recycling facilityand we are exploring cost-effective alternatives to expedite the construction schedule outlined in the preliminary capital plan. We will make a decision before the Mayors executive budget presentation.

CM Lander Letter to Mayor Bloomberg Re Fair Share Hearing(2)

By on April 12, 2011, 2:22 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,nextNY,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Replacing Indian Point
March 23rd, 2011

Today we cover the Bloomberg administration’s renewed interest in developing waste-to-energy facilities — or plants that burn or heat garbage to create energy.

The administration’s interests are even more timely since Gov. Andrew Cuomo, experts and advocates have called for the closure of Indian Point.

(It should be noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not share their opinion. He said last week: We need energy in this city, and the first thing we have to do is take a very close look at what happened in Japan and see if theres any lessons that we should learn from that and any improvements that we should learn and make at Indian Point.”)

Indian Point provides up to 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Steven Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, estimates waste-to-energy could provide about 10 percent of the city’s needed megawatt hours.

“Particularly if you’d like to get rid of the Indian Point plant, generating 10 percent of the city’s energy from garbage would be feasible,” said Cohen. “What would you rather have? Would you rather have these trucks driving around the city polluting and a nuclear power plant, or would you rather close that down and have a bunch of waste to energy plants?”

Cohen supports the development of small-scale plants throughout the city.

For more on the debate, go here.

By on March 23, 2011, 11:32 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | No Comments »

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Regulation of Bus Companies Questioned
March 15th, 2011

Just hours after officials called for stricter safety regulations for discount buses departing from Chinatown yesterday, another fatal accident took the lives of two more passengers.

A Super Luxury Tours bus headed for Philadelphia slammed into a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and another passenger. The crash came just three days after a brutal accident in the Bronx, which killed 15 people.

Saturday mornings crash was a heartbreaking tragedy and requires us to look closely at the safety regulations in place for the discount tour bus industry, said Sen. Charles Schumer in a prepared statement yesterday. While its vital we get to the bottom of what caused Saturdays crash, we must make sure that the regulations that govern the overall safety of this industry are effective and being followed by operators.

Schumer wants to see the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the entire industry.

According to the release, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced legislation last month that would require these discount bus companies, many of which operate from the curbside in Chinatown, to get permits from the city. They are now regulated exclusively by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. His bill would also designate where they can drop off and pick up passengers.

According to a study from the Department of City Planning, these companies conduct 2,000 trips from Chinatown every week.

We covered the issue last year. For an in-depth look at the controversy, go here.

By on March 15, 2011, 2:07 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo Appoints Towns (the Younger One)
February 10th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns commissioner and CEO of the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, which includes the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state mortgage agency and other housing agencies.

Towns, who has served in the legislature since 1992, is the son of U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns and has often been mentioned as a possible successor to him.

In the release from the governor’s office both Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, and Duncan MacKenzie, chief of the New York State Association of Realtors, praised the appointment, as did the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade group. The statement did not include comments from any tenant groups.

Towns currently chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Banks and the Black, Puerto Rican/Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. During his time in the legislature, Towns, whose district includes parts of Cypress Hills, Bushwick and East New York, helped win passage of the ANCHOR Program. He has backed the Atlantic Yards project and recently penned an op-ed for the Post, essentially supporting the idea of a Walmart in East New York. He was a sponsor of a bill that would have end the city police’s shoot to kill policy, instead requiring them to wound suspects if forced to fire.

Town’s appointment opens the way for a special elections to fill the seat from the 54th Assembly district. While that might come as a relief to political junkies going cold turkey in this non-election year, don’t expect too much excitement. For all intents and purposes, the party bosses fill vacant legislative seats mid-term, not the voters. We’ll keep you posted, though.

By on February 10, 2011, 2:11 pm
In category: Albany,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Housing | 2 Comments »

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The Developer's Tax Break
February 9th, 2011

This post was written by Alshawn Kelly Rushing.

As the city tries to rebuild its crumbling real estate industry, City Council members and community organizers gathered at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development‘s headquarters today to protest an extension of a property tax reprieve.

The 421-a tax benefit program exempts developers from paying increases in property taxes on new multifamily buildings for up to 25 years. Originally created in the 1970s to encourage development in the city, the program was changed in 2008 to focus more on affordable housing.

For a new residential development to be eligible for the tax exemption, 20 percent of the units in it must be affordable. Any project that received a permit by June 2008 was exempt from the stricter rules, as long as it was complete or near completion by June 2011.

The Bloomberg administration has proposed extending the deadline in the hopes of reenergizing the real estate market in the city that took a huge hit during the financial crisis. If passed, the new deadline for developers would be June 2014. The break would apply to 7,000 to 10,000 new units currently under development.

The extensions drew criticism from supporters of affordable housing. Outside the Housing Preservation and Development headquarters, protesters held up banners and chanted “no more bailouts.”

“We simply cannot afford to extend hundreds of millions in tax breaks to bail out luxury housing development,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “These developers should follow the rules, just like everyone else: include affordable units or pay your taxes.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 9, 2011, 7:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Housing,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

If today’s hearing is any indication, Walmart will have a next to impossible chance of getting a New York City store approved by the City Council.

Several dozen council members and a standing room only crowd gathered in Lower Manhattan this afternoon to debate how a Walmart store would affect small businesses and communities in the Big Apple. Last month, Walmart kicked off a vigorous marketing campaign to court New Yorkers and convince them to support a New York City store.

Officials from Walmart refused to attend today’s council hearing, arguing they were being unfairly targeted.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn blasted the corporation for not testifying. Their absence, she said, “sadly only leads me to be further skeptical.”

For more than four hours, council members tore into Walmart’s policies, including its labor practices, which have been the subject of several lawsuits. They heard from experts across the country who had studies in hand that argued Walmart would lead to small businesses boarding up.

Not one council member voiced support for a New York City Walmart.

The Walmart issue encapsulates a familiar debate at the City Council – one that last reared its head when the body rejected the development of the Kingsbridge Armory. As Walmart argues it will bring jobs to New York City, advocates and officials question the quality of those jobs, whether they will provide health insurance and whether they will pay a living wage.

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

“Everyone is waving this boogeyman around about how this corporation is going to come in,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist and Walmart supporter. “I will say to you directly, we need jobs for our community.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 3, 2011, 6:53 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Walmart Declines Hearing Invitation... Again
February 1st, 2011

This should come as no surprise, but Walmart once again will pass on testifying at a City Council hearing on Thursday.

In a letter dated today, Walmart‘s Philip H. Serghini attempts to strike down anti-Walmart sentiments wafting through the City Council, arguing the retail giant is committed to healthy foods, diversity and jobs. But Serghini says he could not commit to attending the hearing, because the council is only focused on Walmart and ignores the impact of other big-box stores in the city. You can see his explanation below.

The joint hearing, however, does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart. Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise.

For these reasons and more, we respectfully decline participation in the February 3rd hearing.

Should the committee decide to conduct the hearing in a more comprehensive manner, we would be happy to revisit our decision. In the interim, we do feel a responsibility to better inform the planned discussion and share some facts about the company that the committee can share with participants.

Earlier this year, Walmart kicked off a major marketing campaign to persuade New Yorkers to support a store within the five boroughs. They are sending out mailers, taking out radio ads and have launched a NYC-centric Web site to corral support.

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

By on February 1, 2011, 5:54 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | No Comments »

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Lobbying Commission Delay Explained
January 18th, 2011

Right as we speak, the City Council is voting to approve four of the five members to sit on a lobbying commission charged with examining the effects of the city’s lobbying law overhaul in 2006.

The panel, however, is nearly three years late.

Chaired by former council member Herbert Berman, the panel was supposed to be called in 2008. When we wrote about it in August, adminsitration officials said the approval of the city’s subsequent pay to play law in 2007, which restricted contributions by lobbyists, delayed its implementation.

Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the delay was attributed to finding the right people.

“We wanted to find a diverse group of commissioners,” said Quinn.

Both the mayor and the council select the commission’s members. Those commissioners include, Berman, Jamila Ponton Bragg, Lesley Horton and Margaret Morton. The final commissioner should be appointed soon.

The commission will likely examine how the lobbying law affects small nonprofits, who have struggled to comply with all of the city’s robust reporting requirements.

By on January 18, 2011, 3:29 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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Council and Mayor Reach Budget Agreement
January 6th, 2011

After nearly two months of negotiations, the City Council and the Bloomberg adminsitration have reached a deal on $585 million in mid-year budget cuts, which will stave off nighttime closures at 20 fire companies and save nearly 200 positions at the Administration for Children’s Services.

While it’s good news for some city agencies (the Department for the Aging and Department of Youth and Community Development included), the council could not save everything — including adult homeless services and a 5.4 percent cut to libraries.

We recognize the difficult times we face and the council has worked incredibly hard to ensure that any cuts that are made are done in the most thoughtful and responsible manner, said Speaker Christine C. Quinn in a press release. We worked to secure funding for programs that serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers and to find alternative savings in order to reach a fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.

The agreement only addresses proposed cuts in this fiscal year. In the November plan, next year’s budget is already set to see a $1 billion cut.

Later this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release his preliminary budget, which is sure to slash spending even more.

Here the full press release from the council:
Read the rest of this entry »

By on January 6, 2011, 11:26 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Quinn Denies Member Item Unequal Distribution
January 5th, 2011

Are member items distributed equally at the City Council?

Council Speaker Christine Quinn says so.

Refuting a report in the New York Times this week, Quinn said all of the council’s discretionary dollars, which come in the form of individual member items, capital funding and more, are spread throughout the five boroughs sans favoritism.

“The report looked at one of the funding sources the council allocated in the budget,” Quinn said before today’s meeting. “There are numerous different funding sources: initiatives, member items, the speaker’s list.”

She continued: “If you looked at all of those collectively, I think you see a set of data that shows a diverse distribution through out the city.”

We started examining those lists back in 2007 (and have done it every year since). In other funding areas, take capital funding, we have seen a similar pattern: those in leadership get more cash.

For our past coverage, go here and here and here and here and here.

By on January 5, 2011, 3:11 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | No Comments »

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Bloomberg Mulls Over ATM Bill
December 20th, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is mulling over whether to sign a bill that would drastically increase fines for property owners with illegal sidewalk ATMs after small business owners expressed concern over the bill’s impact this afternoon.

According to a spokesperson, the mayor will take the next couple of days to consider the bill and announce his decision after Christmas.

“I dont want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas,” the mayor said today. “On the other hand the city has requirements, where one of the issues here is the ability to pass on the sidewalk.”

Up until this morning, the mayor was expected to sign the measure, which the council approved earlier this month. At today’s bill signing, small business owners reportedly said the legislation would limit access to cash for neighborhoods without banks and hurt small businesses.

Under the current version of the bill, fines could increase from $250 to $5,000. These ATMs are already illegal, but there is barely any enforcement or regulation of them, council officials said.

If the mayor vetoes the measure, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the council would move to override it.

“This will give the power for them to be taken off the street,” said Quinn. “It actually gives the city the power and the tools to make this illegal behavior end. That’s a good thing.”

Here is the mayor’s statement this morning courtesy of the City Hall press office:
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By on December 20, 2010, 2:49 pm
In category: Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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