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Council Set to Expand Housing Law
November 30th, 2010

For some New Yorkers, their apartments are far from welcoming.

Their one or two-bedroom abodes actually make them sick.

Three years ago, the City Council approved legislation to target buildings with the worst housing code violations — those perennially without heat or hot water or collapsed floors and roofs. Together, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the City Council targeted 200 buildings a year and forced landlords to make the repairs.

Now, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced this morning, the council is set to consider legislation to expand the program to target larger buildings with hazardous conditions related specifically to asthma, such as vermin or mold.

“We are recognizing peoples’ homes can actually make them sick,” said Quinn, surrounded by a crowd of officials and advocates on the steps of City Hall.

Hazardous building conditions have long been connected to the city’s concentrated asthma pockets, which affect neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Corona or Bushwick. By using targeted enforcement of these violations, Quinn said the city could curtail asthma rates in these areas.

The legislation, she said, promises to more than double the amount of units in the program. The council will have its first hearing on the proposal on Dec. 14.

By on November 30, 2010, 12:04 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Immigrants,Land Use,Law,nextNY | No Comments »

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An Eyesore Growns in Brooklyn
November 17th, 2010

Barclays Center may never host an NBA champion but it already has a distinction: novelist and urban expert James Howard Kunstler has named it the eyesore of the month (for October; sorry we caught up with this a bit late).

In his “award proclamation” — under a pretty scary picture of the future home of the Nets — Kunstler writes, “This basketball arena, designed to look like a Little Debbie Peanut Butter and Coconut Snack Cake, was designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. But the cherry-on-top of the whole deal is the so-called “plaza” in the foreground — a leftover triangular scrap of undevelopable real estate that [developer Bruce] Ratner threw to the people of Brooklyn as a bone to dogs. Lovely spot, huh, sandwiched, as it is, between about eleven lanes of traffic.”

By on November 17, 2010, 7:28 pm
In category: Arts,Community Development,Land Use | No Comments »

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Critics Say Study is a Sham (Update)
October 27th, 2010

living

Advocates and council members gathered on the steps of City Hall today to slam a city commissioned study on living wages, calling it “smoke and mirrors.”

The $1 million study, which is being conducted by Boston-based Charles River Associates, will examine the sustainability of a living wage policy in the five boroughs. A bill to require living wages at city-subsidized developments is currently languishing at the council.

At issue is one economist on the study team — David Neumark of the University of California. Supporters of living wages say Neumark is inherently biased, having authored several studies critical of living and minimum wage policies.

“Hiring David Neumark to advise the city on wage policies is like hiring a global warming skeptic to evaluate the city’s greenhouse gas strategy,” said Paul K. Sonn of the National Employment Law Project.

The city Economic Development Corp., which commissioned the study after advocates started to call for living wages last year, argues Neumark is in the top 5 percent of economists. City officials point to studies where Neumark found living wages reduced poverty — albeit those studies show his “support” for the policy overall is tepid at best.

The city also says a diverse stakeholder group will review the study’s findings, which should be completed this spring.

All of those arguments aren’t silencing critics.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 27, 2010, 2:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Waters are Choppy
October 26th, 2010

In the wake of Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s decision not to support paid sick leave, some City Council members and advocates are attempting to make waves on another issue: the living wage.

Currently two bills to require some sort of wage mandate at city-subsidized developments are treading water at City Hall. One would require a prevailing wage for building service employees, while the other would require a living wage for every worker on a city-assisted development, including the development’s tenants.

Quinn has not taken a position on either. When asked during her sick leave announcement earlier this month, she sidestepped the issue.

The issue came to a head last year when the council defeated a proposal to morph the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a shopping mall. The developer on the project would not agree to a living wage mandate — defined as $10 an hour with benefits — which is largely credited with killing the project. Photo credit: (cc) 2009  Atomische  Tom Giebel

In the latest feud, council members and advocates will gather on the steps of City Hall tomorrow to denounce a $1 million city-funded study on the effectiveness and success of living wage policies. The study was commissioned by the Economic Development Corp. and is being conducted by Charles River Associates — a consulting firm based in Boston. It is supposed to be completed by next spring.

The presser tomorrow, according to an advisory we just got, will “exposes Charles River Associates (CRA), EDC’s choice to conduct the study, as a business-backed lobbying group using economists who oppose living wage and even minimum wage policies for EDC’s study.”

The chief economist on the study is Daniel Hamermesh, a reputable professor at the University of Texas at Austin. David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California and a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, is also on the study team. He has authored several studies questioning the sustainability of living wage policies.

The Bloomberg adminsitration said it would not consider a widespread living wage policy until the study was completed — a move some critics say is meant to stall the legislation at the City Council. Earlier this year, one administration official said the wage proposals could squash economic development and be potentially against the City Charter.

By on October 26, 2010, 12:39 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Immigrants,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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CBA Report From Liu is Here!
September 29th, 2010

The much anticipated report (well, for some of us) from Comptroller John Liu’s public benefits task force was released this morning, urging the city to adopt a new public process for community benefit agreements.

Having grown in popularity (included in Columbia redevelopment and in 125th street), the comptroller is calling for greater transparency, the inclusion of a consultant to coordinate the agreement and giving the comptroller’s office oversight over the agreements implementation.

The report is silent on the city’s Industrial Development Agency and its deals (which we covered extensively), despite Liu giving an early indication it might be included in the recommendations.

Enjoy!

PBA Task Force – Final Report[1]

By on September 29, 2010, 7:59 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Firm Selected for Living Wage Study
August 12th, 2010

The city Economic Development Corp. has selected Boston-based Charles River Associates to conduct a $1 million study on the impact of living wage policies across the country and how they might affect the Big Apple’s economy.

The study is in response to an outcry from labor unions and advocates for the city to adopt a living wage — a debate that culminated in the defeat of a controversial development project in the Bronx last year called the Kingsbridge Armory. The City Council voted the plan down when the developer would not promise to force retail tenants to pay a living wage.

The adminsitration has said it would like to conduct a study before it considered any widespread policy, and the move has effectively stalled two pieces of living wage legislation at the council — one to require a living wage for building service workers at city-assisted developments and another that would require all city subsidized developments pay a living wage.

Daniel Hamermesh, a well respected professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will be the chief economist on the study, which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Matthew Thompson, a vice president at Charles River Associates, will lead the project.

Even before Charles River Associates was selected as the consultant, elected officials and living wage advocates were debating the potential results. Comptroller John Liu called it a “sham” in June after the Economic Development Corp. failed to appoint an advisory panel of labor economists to oversee the study’s methodology and results.

Now some advocates are questioning the objectivity of at least one member of the study’s team, specifically David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California and a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Neumark has authored several studies questioning the economic viability of living wage laws.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 12, 2010, 5:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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New Direction for the GED
July 28th, 2010

Nationwide, more than seven out of 10 people who take the test to receive a high school equivalency degree pass. In New York City less than half do. Experts cite a variety of reasons s, including a confused and chaotic systems for preparing for and taking the test to receive the state’s General Equivalency Diploma. (For more, see Poor Preparation, Confusion Lead Many to Fail GED Test.

Yesterday the City Council, city agencies and the New York Community Trust announced efforts to change that — and boost New York’s pass rate. A new website, GED Compass, is aimed at providing people with information on how to prepare for the test and where and when they can take it. A program locator, for example, allows people to type in their ZIP code and the type of course they need to get a list of appropriate and convenient classes. The site also offers lots of basic information such as the length of the test — a taxing seven hours — and the various sections in the exam.

Other sections still seem to be works in progress. At 11:15 a.m. today, for example, the seat reservation system that allows registered users to sign up for the test was “currently disabled.” And the section on the official practice test simply refers visitors to a program locator (with the link missing this morning).
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 28, 2010, 11:49 am
In category: Community Development,Education | 11 Comments »

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New York and Its Mosques
July 26th, 2010

Plans to build a mosque and Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero continue to attract comment from afar.

This morning, Canada’s premiere English-language newspaper the Globe and Mail weighed in accusing Sarah Palin and others who oppose the project of “flirting” with religious hatred. In a hats off to us, the editorial noted, “New Yorkers … dont seem to mind” the proposed mosque, it said, noting, “The proposal was convincing enough to lead a community board to vote 29 to 1 in favor of the project, which is also supported by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. … The area already includes churches, sex shops and department stores.”

The Chicago Tribune drew a similar distinction. Noting Newt Gingrich’s comment that there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” the paper commented, “It’s an interesting innovation to suggest that American freedoms should be no greater than those of repressive nations. What’s next? No political protests in Washington until political protests are allowed in Pyongyang?”

But while the project has caused some “Republicans to take leave of their better judgment,” the Tribune said, “The proposal hasn’t aroused much opposition among residents of the neighborhood. The local community board approved the center by a 29-1 vote, partly because it will provide amenities the area sorely lacks.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 26, 2010, 3:09 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development | 4 Comments »

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Charter Commission Dives Into Priorities
July 12th, 2010

It’s a sure bet the city Charter Revision Commission will send term limits back to the voters this fall, but it’s too soon to tell what proposal will be the odds on favorite.

Members of the city’s Charter Revision Commission met in a crowded, sweltry room in Lower Manhattan this evening to try to cull through proposals offered by its staff in a preliminary report released Friday. The report recommends myriad issues for the commission to explore — none more controversial than term limits.

So far, the report breaks down the issue by asking whether to go back to the voters with just two terms or to offer three terms for members of the City Council and just two for the mayor, comptroller and public advocate. Tonight it appeared commissioners favored rescinding the controversial third term extension approved by the council in 2008 and going back to two terms.

“Since the people not once, but twice voted for two, two’s what should be on the ballot,” said Commissioner Kenneth M. Moltner.

Following the meeting, Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein said the commission has not ruled out three terms. “There is varied views on this,” he said.

Several commissioners also suggested allowing voters to opine on doing away with term limits entirely.

Also at hand is the issue of who can extend term limits and when. While the issue of banning the council from acting on term limits again was initially palatable to commissioners and members of the public, several commissioners this evening said the prohibition would likely be challenged in court. The consensus tonight was to require any legislative change in term limits apply to a future class.

Following initial expectations that the commission would dive into issues of government power (like doing away with the public advocate), land use and nonpartisan elections, Goldstein said these topics were too large to fully dissect before this fall’s election.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 12, 2010, 10:20 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Sweet Result for Domino Developers
June 29th, 2010

Alana Horowitz filed this post.

A six-year battle over the fate of the former Domino Sugar factory site neared its close today as two key City Council committees unanimously approving its redevelopment. A vote by the full council is expected later today.

The zoning subcommittee and Land Use committee voted 9-0 and 23-0 respectively in favor of the plan, which would replace the old buildings with high-rise residential towers. The ayes included the district’s council member, Stephen Levin, who had previously opposed the project, which has the enthusiastic backing of the Bloomberg administration.

Levin had criticized the development proposed by CPC Resources as “too big” and worried that the 660 units of affordable housing — 30 percent of the total — would not be enough to meet his community’s needs. He wanted the project’s highest towers to be reduced from 40 stories to 28 and the project to include additional low-cost housing.

But last minute negotiations seemed to satisfy the Williamsburg lawmaker. The plan still includes only 660 low-cost units, but the towers are now capped at 34 stories.

“The goal has always been to bring the maximum number of affordable housing units to the Williamsburg community,” said Levin.

Councilmember Diana Reyna, a longtime supporter of the project, was thrilled with the council’s decision.

“I believed in this project, my community believed in this project,” she said. “We’re very happy.”

Councilmember Charles Barron also voted for the plan, but said he was frustrated over the amount of affordable housing.

“You’re talking about 70 percent luxury now and that could change the complexity and direction of the community,” he said.

Though the developer expects the project to create over 1,000 jobs for local residents, Barron expressed skepticism. “This project needs to be monitored,” he said, or the contractors could just employ their own laborers.

The council agreed to create a community advisory board to oversee the development, as well as a shuttle service between the site and the Marcy Avenue subway station.

Besides new apartments, the project also will include a school, parks and a waterside walkway. Construction is set to start next year and last about a decade.

Any changes to the aforementioned community facilities will have be to made through the city’s land use review process.

Several council members commended Levin’s efforts during the negotiation process. “He made a difficult project much better than its original version,” said Councilman Vincent Ignizio.

By on June 29, 2010, 5:43 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Housing,Land Use | 1 Comment »

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Domino Moves Forward
June 29th, 2010

The large Domino Sugar factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront was just unanimously approved by the City Council’s zoning subcommittee.

The controversial project was supposed to be approved this morning, but further negotiations between the council and the developer held up the vote.

Councilmember Mark Weprin, the chair of the zoning subcommittee, said the changes to the application include: the two 40-story residential towers will be reduced to 34 stories, there will be a dedicated shuttle bus from the project to the Marcy Avenue station, any change in use to the project’s slated community facilities will have to go through the land use review process, and a community advisory board must be created to oversee the project.

By on June 29, 2010, 2:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Gotham City,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Waterfront | No Comments »

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Housing Works Sues City Over HASA Cuts
June 22nd, 2010

The city’s budget hasn’t even been approved, and they are already in court over it.

Housing Works, which provides housing services to the homeless living with HIV and AIDS, is making good on a promise to sue over cuts to the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration. The adminsitration plans to slash 248 caseworkers, which advocates at Housing Works say violates a court order requiring certain case worker to client ratios at the agency.

As part of the cut, the adminsitration has proposed to count caseworkers it contracts with in the mandated ratios. The city says it reduces service redundancies. Advocates charge those caseworkers play a different role than the city’s workers and counting them towards the ratio would be illegal.

“We’ve shown in the past that when they cut HASA our folks suffer tremendously,” said Armen Merjian, a senior staff attorney at Housing Works. “We dont want to wait for further devastating consequences to befall our plaintiffs.”

This statement was e-mailed over from a spokesperson at the Human Resources Administration, which oversees the HIV/AIDS program:

“The Human Resources Administration has received the plaintiffs papers and is in the process of reviewing them. However we do not believe there is any violation of the court order or the local law. Because this is now in active litigation, we will strenuously defend the authority of the Administration.”

The first motion from Housing Works, which was filed in federal court in Brooklyn this morning, is below. The state is also named in the suit.

TRO Brief

By on June 22, 2010, 5:43 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Study Gets Approved -- With Skepticism
June 8th, 2010

A study to examine the economic viability of a living wage requirement was approved by the city’s Industrial Development Agency board today, but city officials, including Comptroller John Liu, are already raising questions about whether it will be truly independent.
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Photo credit: (cc) 2009 Atomische Tom Giebel


The IDA board gave the OK to use up to $1 million to study how a living wage proposal would impact the city economy. Such proposals are pending in both the City Council and the State Legislature — largely spurred from defeat of the Kingsbridge Armory project last year. The IDA has not yet selected a consultant to conduct the study. A spokesman said one will be selected in the coming weeks. The agency has received five proposals.

Liu was one of three IDA board members to vote against the living wage study, calling the proposal a “sham.”

“An independent, impartial study on wage requirements for publicly-subsidized economic development could be helpful to all parties involved,” Liu said in a prepared statement. “The consultant contract proposal before us today, however, fails to ensure the delivery of an objective product. My office had offered specific recommendations to improve the study, to no avail. It is unfortunate that the EDC is intent on squandering a million dollars on this charade of a study.”

Liu’s staff sat down with the Industrial Development Agency to make recommendations to the living wage proposal, all of which were rejected by the IDA, according to the comptroller’s office. Those recommendations included the creation of a peer review panel of labor economists to review the study’s results and allowing IDA board members to vote on whether to adopt the study’s recommendations.

According to Dave Lombino, a spokesperson at the Economic Development Corp., which oversees the IDA, the consultant would be required to regularly meet and interview with a group of stakeholders. That group includes local unions, like 32BJ, advocacy groups, like Good Jobs New York, and real estate interests, like the Real Estate Board of New York.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2010, 4:00 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Domino Moves Forward
June 7th, 2010

Domino

Photo (cc) 2009 Tach_RedGold&Green

The City Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal to convert the landmarked Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront into a mixed-use development.

Here is Commissioner Amanda M. Burden statement on the project:

The New Domino project will revitalize an 11-acre vacant and inaccessible waterfront site and adaptively reuse the recently landmarked sugar Refinery Building with 2,200 units of housing, including 660 affordable units, four acres of high quality public open space, 143,000 square feet of community facility space, and office and retail uses.

This development will, for the first time, create a significant publicly accessible open space along the quarter-mile South Williamsburg waterfront that has been closed to the surrounding community for decades.

The proposed architecture and site plan successfully accommodate the projects density with a variety of building types. The approvals granted would require the massing and materials as part of the grant of Special Permits.

The applicant has withdrawn the parking special permit application in response to input throughout the public process, and concerns raised by this Commission. In addition, changes made by the Commission to reduce the height of the northern-most commercial building will improve the relationship between that building and Grand Ferry Park. Further, provisions have been added to the projects Restrictive Declaration which will help facilitate the construction of a school in the Refinery Building, if warranted in the future.

This project will bring high-quality design and architecture, ample public open space, significant community facilities, and much needed housing, both market rate and affordable, to the Williamsburg community. I am extremely pleased to vote yes.

And for the other side, here is a statement from Councilmember Steve Levin:

“Assemblyman Lopez and I still firmly oppose the New Domino project as it is currently proposed. While I am pleased that the applicant withdrew the special permit for extra parking spaces and that the City Planning Commission reduced the height of the northernmost tower, the plan is still deeply flawed. The applicant has not adequately addressed the transportation and congestion problems associated with the project. The overall plan is simply too big. The height and density of the Domino plan will have a negative impact on the community.”

By on June 7, 2010, 6:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use,nextNY,Waterfront | 1 Comment »

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It's Back
May 25th, 2010

The living wage bill, first introduced following the demise of the Kingsbridge Armory last year, is back at the City Council.

It will be officially introduced this afternoon by council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma at the request of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (It’s also the first time I can recall seeing a borough president introduce legislation.) The bill would require any city subsidized development pay employees on the premises a living wage. It includes any tenant of that development project, but would exempt any projects exclusively for affordable housing, cultural groups or social service organizations. It will give the comptroller the power to monitor the bill’s compliance.

The bill defines a living wage as $10 an hour plus benefits.

On hand today, Palma said the bill, which is sure to divide the council and the adminsitration, would get its fair hearing.

“We are creating a workforce lifted out of poverty to self sufficiency,” said Palma today at City Hall. Palma said she hasn’t received a commitment from Council Speaker Christine Quinn that the bill will get a hearing.

But, she added, “I think it will get its due process.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 25, 2010, 3:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | No Comments »

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Lieber to Leave City Hall
May 19th, 2010

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber will leave his position at City Hall in June to join Island Capital Groups affiliated companies, Anubis Advisors and C-III Capital Partners, as a senior executive.
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Lieber joins a growing number of individuals who have elected to leave City Hall post Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term election. Unlike former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who left last month and had been with Bloomberg since before he was elected mayor, Lieber only joined the adminsitration in 2007.

Although Lieber was at the reins of one of Bloomberg’s top priorities: economic development.

The full release from City Hall is after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 19, 2010, 11:45 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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End of an Era (UPDATE)
May 14th, 2010

NBC announced today that it had canceled Law and Order — the city’s longest running primetime series.
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Photo (cc) Det.Logan


Here is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement on the show’s cancellation:

Over the last 20 years, Law & Order became a New York City institution. It began filming in the City at a time when few series did, and it helped pave the way for the more than 150 television shows based here today, including the Law & Order spinoff Special Victims Unit, which will continue. Law & Order not only broke the record for New York Citys longest-running primetime series, it set the record for the longest-running crime series in the nation, collecting numerous Emmy awards along the way. It also helped launch the careers of thousands of talented actors and featured many memorable performances although my cameos are not among them. Were grateful to Dick Wolf for choosing New York City as its location for all of these years, and for helping showcase the Citys depth and versatility as a setting and all of the advantages of filming here.

UPDATE: We just checked in with Julianne Cho of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, who said every season of Law and Order contributed $79 million to New York City’s economy. It ran here in New York for two decades. The show employed more than 4,000 people, Cho said.

By on May 14, 2010, 1:53 pm
In category: Albany,Arts,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Gotham City,nextNY | No Comments »

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Budget Hearings Breakdown
May 13th, 2010

The City Council kicked off its executive budget hearings this morning, and over the next month there will be dozens more.

This schedule is subject to change, but here is how it’s laid out now.

Friday, May 14

Human Rights Commission, 10 a.m.
City University of New York, 10:30 a.m.
Education and School Construction Authority (Capital), 12 p.m.

Monday, May 17
Citywide Administrative Services, 10 a.m.
Board of Elections, 10:45 a.m.
Campaign Finance Board, 11:45 a.m.
Aging, 12:30 p.m.
Juvenile Justice, 2 p.m.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2010, 6:00 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,sustainability,Tech,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Communty Boards Get a Pass
May 12th, 2010

It’s not just cops that are getting a pass in this year’s budget.

Community boards are off the chopping block too.

Mayoral Spokesperson Marc LaVorgna just sent over the following comments made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on his radio show last Friday:

“Well, Ive looked carefully community boards are really a voice for people, and you know, they give a lot of good input to the City, they give people a chance to say what they want to say in front of other people who come from their neighborhoods and everybody learns from each other. We believe it or not really do change what we do based on input from the community boards. Not every time and you cant agree with every community board. Theres 59 of them and a lot go one way, a lot go another so you cant do it every time. But we will, I think, not cut the funding for the community boards this year. In the very difficult budget times its hard to exempt anybody, but community boards really dont get that much money out of the 63 or 64 billion dollar budget, and I think they really do provide a lot. And its just not community boards. There are some small City agencies where, you know, if theyve got five people cutting them to four is a 20% cut in their staff and their ability to do things and it saves you a small amount of money. So I think community boards will come out of this budget cycle. You know, theyll always want more, but they wont get less and thats a positive, you know, given the environment we have.”

When the mayor was slashing at the boards last year, we reported on speculation that he was trying to do away with them altogether. At least for now, that doesn’t seem likely.

The boards will be a subject of the city’s Charter Review Commission, which has made government authority and power one of the five issues it will look at.

By on May 12, 2010, 3:56 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | No Comments »

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Council and Administration Spar Over Wages
May 11th, 2010

The administration says it’s open to sitting down with council members to discuss a bill to require prevailing wages for service employees at city subsidized developments.

But that was after a representative from the administration said the bill would squash economic development, lower property tax revenue, test the fate of senior centers (not to mention the myriad nonprofit capital projects council members hold dearly) and is, in a nutshell, against the city charter.

Needless to say, those so-called negotiations might not go very well.

For the first time, the City Council held a hearing this morning on a measure to require entities that receive more than $10,000 of city assistance annually to pay a prevailing wage for building service employees. The bill could have a huge impact on the city’s service sector, including a wealth of agencies and tenants of city contracted properties. This wide-ranging impact is at the heart of the administration’s opposition.

“It’s quite broad and it affects basically everything the city does,” said Tokumbo Shobowale, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Bob Lieber. “Rather than do harm, we prefer the deliberative approach,” he added.

The administration would rather the City Council hold off on any wage requirement mandate until it conducts a living wage study, which it is scheduled to complete in 2011.

Supporters of the bill, including 32BJ, saw that preference as a way to delay the proposal.

“The issue of doing a study has been going on for five years,” said 32BJ Executive Vice President Kevin Doyle – who represents service employees and is a major supporter of the bill. “The time to do a study and use that to deter action is passed.”

Council members questioned the administration’s opposition to the bill when its own representative said the city wouldn’t truly know the impact of this type of policy until its study was completed.

“You’re not coming in any sort of spirit of cooperation,” said the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We are not and should not be in the business of adding poverty wage jobs.” Mark-Viverito said she had approached the administration to sit down and discuss the bill earlier this year, but never received a response.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 11, 2010, 5:02 pm
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Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

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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