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Citizens Union Pushes for Redistricting Reform
November 21st, 2011

Citizens Union has issued a report detailing how it sees the current redistricting process as having undermined democracy in New York state. (Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union’s sister organization, Citizens Unions Foundation.) The report offers evidence that the current redistricting system has provided a safety net for incumbents — 96 percent of incumbents have been re-elected since 2002. The report’s executive summary calls for legislators to return to Albany for a special session to enact independent redistricting, so lines would be redrawn district lines without partisan influence.

“The state legislature needs to return to Albany in a special session to pass legislation which ends the political manipulation for partisan advantage of the drawing of district lines and establishes an independent redistricting commission to draw lines before the 2012 elections. The politically balanced and impartial commission would use fair and sensible criteria and be guided by clear guidelines in drawing the maps to ensure the process serves all New Yorkers and their communities rather than preserves the Albany status quo,” reads the executive summary.

But not all good government groups think there is time for legislative action. Common Cause split from Citizens Union and the ReShape NY campaign to propose a compromise. Meanwhile, it is unclear whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo actually wants to make good on a his threat to veto any lines drawn by the legislature. It seems negotiations have been taking place between Cuomo’s office, the legislature and good government groups that would avoid a veto all together. It is unclear what kind of compromises that sort of deal would hinge on.

By on November 21, 2011, 3:17 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | No Comments »

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Tent Pressure
October 25th, 2011

It is getting cold out there and the protesters at Occupy Wall Street are starting to notice. So, Bill Lipton of the Working Families Party sent out an e-mail to supporters this morning asking them to put pressure on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allow tents in Zuccotti Park.

“It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning,” writes Lipton. “And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg. Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents.”

Here is the full appeal

Dear friend,

As winter approaches, tarps and sleeping bags won’t be enough.

Help make sure cold weather doesn’t end the Occupy Wall Street protest.

It got pretty chilly this weekend. Next week will surely be cooler.

The protest which has focused the eyes of the world on corporate greed and economic inequality is free speech in action. But without shelter, the protesters occupying Wall Street down at Zuccotti Park could be frozen out and forced to an early end.

Occupy protests from Boston to Philadelphia to Seattle have been allowed to put up tents to provide shelter and warmth. But down at Wall Street, tents are against the rules. Even the protest’s medical tent was nearly removed before the activists’ impassioned defense saved it.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg: Let the protesters stay — let them set up tents.

After you sign, please forward this email or share on Facebook to spread the message far and wide. The world is watching.

The protest movement that has sprung up over the past month is giving voice to millions of Americans who feel left out or left behind. It’s focusing the political debate across the nation on the corporate greed and economic inequality we so desperately need to address.

The coming winter isn’t the only threat the protest is facing. New York’s real estate and developer lobbyists are pushing hard for new rules that would allow them to shut down Zuccotti Park every night and impose a curfew.

Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have to love the Occupy Wall Street movement’s message. But he has a duty to protect and uphold the First Amendment rights of the protesters to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard.

The heart and soul of the First Amendment is protecting protest movements like Occupy Wall Street not assuring unlimited corporate spending on elections.

It was only two weeks ago when cleaning crews threatened to remove the protesters from the park. We stood together, made phone calls, picked up brooms and mops, and turned out by the thousands before dawn on a Friday morning.

And we won. We can do it again, if we stand together. If you can’t come down to the park to help pitch a tent, pitch in by signing our emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg to protect free speech and allow the protesters at Zuccotti park to build tents:

http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4853

Thanks for spreading the word,

Bill Lipton
Deputy Director, WFP

PS. For information on how to donate donate winter coats, sleeping bags, or other supplies, reply to this email.

By on October 25, 2011, 11:17 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Parks | 5 Comments »

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Soares on Occupy Albany
October 24th, 2011

“For some people who arent familiar with Albany this may seem like some big event,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares referring to “Occupy Albany.”

“For me, driving by the Capitol and seeing the protests–this is just a Monday– you have protests here all the time. We have people exercising their first amendment rights peacefully. It has been our position not to prosecute them if they are arrested and this time we put it out there that this was our position beforehand,” Soares said responding to reports that his reluctance to prosecute Occupy Albany Protesters stopped the Albany Police Department from bending to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings to arrest protesters for violating a curfew.

“Sure there are some people that come from out of town who want to break things or attack law enforcement as acts of civil disobedience, to get on television but these are not those people,” said Soares.

“The backdrop to this is that on Friday we had three kids shot and you are going to try and tell Chief Krokoff to take his officers off those cases to arrest people who are playing the guitar and eating cider donuts?”

Two fifteen-year-olds and a twenty year old were shot in Albany’s West Hill neighborhood on Friday. Soares says that Albany County does not have the resources to arrest and prosecute people involved in peaceful protest.

Soares says he has had “open lines of communications” with the protest organizers and the police department since before the protests started. He says he has checked in with them about concerns he had about providing proper provisions for the children and elderly present at the protest and that he and the APD continue to monitor the situation. But he says he has not hasn’t been pressured by any official to make arrests.

By on October 24, 2011, 11:11 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Eye on Albany | 18 Comments »

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Former Bloomberg Aide Found Guilty of Larceny
October 21st, 2011

John Haggerty, the political consultant charged with stealing millions from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign, was found guilty of grand larceny in the second degree and his company was found guilty of money laundering in the second degree.

Haggerty avoided the more serious charge of larceny in the first degree. Haggerty was accused of funneling $1.2 million of campaign cash through the Independence Party to strengthen ballot security but instead used $1.1 million of the money to buy a house.

Bloomberg had to testify on the stand and Haggerty’s lawyers claimed Bloomberg lied and that Haggerty was paid for the work he had completed. Haggerty could face 15 years in prison.

The case is seen as a major victory for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance whose office has suffered major public defeats this year.

By on October 21, 2011, 2:01 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Governing | 8 Comments »

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Questioning Police Power
September 30th, 2011

Following a meeting with leaders of city civil rights groups and other organizations, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, are still awaiting a public apology for their detention and handcuffing by police following the West Indian Day Parade earlier this month.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently not responded to their proposal that he and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly meet with Williams, Foy and young black and Latino New Yorkers that have been affected by what Williams, Foy and may others see as unfair and discriminatory police tactics. Instead Bloomberg, calling the police action a “misunderstanding,” had suggested he and Williams sit down over a beer “and work it out.”

Williams and Foy have repeatedly said their arrest highlights the effects of police policies — most notably stops and frisks — widely used against young black and Latino men in the city. In their statement issued last night, the two said they plan to hold town-hall style meetings in all five boroughs where others stopped by police can tell their stories. And they want the city Department of Education to “mandate ‘Know Your Rights’ training in middle and high schools.”

The statement comes as police are under scrutiny for other alleged abuses of power — police surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, unwarranted marijuana arrests, and the pepper spraying of Wall Street demonstrators last weekend. Police have reportedly begun probing the latter incident, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions on YouTube.

All of these occurrences come after years that saw a massive expansion of police powers in the city, as Jim Dwyer writes in today’s Times. The department, Dwyer says, “has done so in a bubble of isolation from ordinary democratic processes. It exists in a world apart. ”

In their statement, Williams and Foy expressed hope this might be change. “We are all excited that our communities are focused and working together,” they said. “This is a fight for civil rights, and we are hopeful that civil rights will ultimately prevail.”

By on September 30, 2011, 8:52 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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Bloomberg's Technology Pit
September 29th, 2011

Another day, another disturbing revelation about the city’s handling of its technology contracts.

This time it’s the latest chapter in the scandal involving computers at the Department of Education. The company the department paid $75 million to do technical work on its purchasing, payroll and finance systems Future Technology Associatesbilked the city out of at least $6.5 million, according to a report by Richard Condon, the city’s special commissioner of investigation.

Among other things, Future Tech set up shell companies and then vastly inflated its claims of how much those companies charged. So the Department of Education was being charged between $55 and $110 an hour for work that actually cost Future Tec $10 to $14 an hour.

Concerns about Future Technology have been circulating for some time.

According to a letter-report from the city comptroller’s Bureau of Audit, given to Gotham Gazette today (posted here), in 2005 the department submitted a request that Future Tech get a no-bid contract. (No-bid contracts at the Department of Education have raised concerns in the past.) “This request appears to have contained inaccurate and misleading statements from FTA, which, if DOE had known, should have precluded FTA from being awarded this contract,” says the report from the comptroller’s office, which went to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Condon’s office.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 29, 2011, 4:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Gotham City,Governing,Tech | 12 Comments »

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A Change on Marijuana Arrests
September 26th, 2011

With little fanfare, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has issued an “operation order” that could dramatically reduce the number of marijuana arrests in the city. The order, which appears on WNYC’s web site, says people can be charged with criminal possession of marijuana if they display the drug of their own volition.

Going black at least to 2005, many thousands of New Yorkers have been arrested for criminal possession of marijuana only after the drug was found during a police search. Under the law, people cannot be arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana — less than 25 grams — unless they publicly display it. Possession of such small quantities is punishable buy a fine of no more than $100. By all accounts, many people particularly young black and Latino men - publicly displayed a joint or two only after police asked them to empty their pockets or otherwise searched them. They then found themselves arrested, with a criminal record, and facing punishment or a rehab program they may not need.

This order would seem to end, or at least curtail, that. “A crime will not be charged to an individual who is requested or compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana,” the order states.

Although the order is written almost as a clarification, the widespread marijuana arrests have almost certainly been a matter of city policy under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on September 26, 2011, 3:37 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law | 4 Comments »

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Beer with Bloomberg
September 8th, 2011

Maybe Mayor Michael Bloomberg should not try folksy. His offer to sit down over a brew or two with the City Council member and political aide detained by police on Monday seems to have generated as much enthusiasm as a flat, warm mug of Keystone — or as President Barack Obama’s often ridiculed beer summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge, Mass., police officer

On Wednesday, Bloomberg described the police stopping and handcuffing of the councilmember, Juamaane Williams, and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as probably “just a misunderstanding.” And he told reporters, “Hopefully every once in a while if there’s a misunderstanding, you have a beer together and work it out.”

Williams apparently does not drink beer. But the council member and Foy have more substantive problems with the mayor’s invite. While saying they appreciated the gesture, “this is bigger than the three of us over a beer,” the two men said in a statement. Instead they suggested a meeting with Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly “where young African American and Latino New Yorkers can talk openly and directly about their experiences with stop and frisk and other police interactions.”

Reactions from other City Council members after the jump.
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By on September 8, 2011, 4:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | No Comments »

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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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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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Indigent Defense Aid to Start Flowing to Counties
July 29th, 2011

The State Office of Indigent Legal Services, which was created by the legislature last June, has taken one of the first steps to fulfill its role in overseeing and boosting the state’s indigent legal services.

The agency is charged with doling on $4.4 in aid to counties to help them bolster their public defender system. The agency solicited proposals from counties on ways to streamline their legal aid work and the agency decided which ideas to fund. Now the ILS is set to start handing out the cash. William Leahy, director of the ILS tells me that the first 11 contracts have been sent out to counties across the state–once they are signed and returned the counties will receive their part of the $4.4 million.

Counties that should be expecting contracts soon are: Chenango, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Livingston, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Washington, Wyoming and Yates. Leahy said a steady flow of contracts to the rest of the state’s counties should begin in the next few weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 29, 2011, 2:20 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo Announces Prison Closings
June 30th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office must want a four-day weekend as they have jumped ahead a day to dump all their potentially unpopular news into the media shark tank. First fracking–now Cuomo has released a list of prisons slated for closing across the state–including one prison in the Bronx and one on Staten Island.

Here is the list:

Buffalo Work Release (Erie County), Camp Georgetown (Madison County), Summit Shock (Schoharie County) and Fulton Work Release (Bronx County); and three male medium security facilities: Arthur Kill (Richmond County), Mid-Orange (Orange County) and Oneida (Oneida County).

According to the release: “Approximately 3,800 unneeded and unused beds will be eliminated, saving taxpayers $72 million in 2011-12 and $112 million in 2012-13. The offenders in these facilities will be moved to other prisons that have available space with no interruption. No maximum security facilities will close under this plan” Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 30, 2011, 2:40 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 35 Comments »

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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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Quinn, Recchia Offer More Budget Brainstorms
June 6th, 2011

The City Council leadership continues the drumbeat against the city’s burgeoning contract budget. In a release issued today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic Recchia contend that cutting 5 percent of the contract budget in four areas — unspecific general contractual services, data process equipment and commuter consultants, legal services and other professional services — would free up money to save all 20 fire companies slated for the ax.

The contract budget has surfaced as a key point of contention this year, fueled by scandals over CityTime and various education department technology deals — and by its sheer size. The contract budget has grown by more than 70 percent since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and is slated to top $10.3 billion next fiscal year. (For more on the dispute over city contracts and consultants, see Officials Call for Holding the Line on Contracts.

Recchia and Quinn also target some particular programs, raising them as alternatives to some areas the mayor has called for cutting. Under the council, the city’s sustainability play — PlanNYC would take a big hit — losing $4.4 million for a parks plan and$2.6 million for an air quality study. Other proposed savings of a million or more would defer or cut evaluation in the Center for Economic Opportunity ($2.2 million), reduce parking meter collection staff ($2.3 million), reduce the subsidy to the Central Park Conservancy ($1 million); reduce the strategic planning group division ($1.1 million) and the research and policy unit ($1.1 million) in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and eliminate the sanitation department’s public information budget ($2 million).
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By on June 6, 2011, 1:59 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Public Finance | No Comments »

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Morgenthau and Silver On Secure Communities
June 1st, 2011

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has nothing but praise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to suspend New York’s involvement in the Secure Communities program.

A number of law enforcement officials from across the state also have praised Cuomo for the move — along with a number of legislators and civil rights groups. The Gazette reported last week that Cuomo was considering withdrawing from the program and was likely to make a decision soon.

“I have long been concerned about the issues that arise when local police indiscriminately share information with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, cooperation with federal immigration officials creates a lack of trust in law enforcement among the public. This makes it hard for police and prosecutors to do their jobs because immigrants become reluctant to report crimes or cooperate with investigations,” said Morgenthau in a detailed statement. “That is why, during the 35 years I was district attorney in Manhattan, my policy was to never share the names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of a serious crime. ”

Morgenthau’s full statement and comments from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
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By on June 1, 2011, 7:46 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Immigrants | 2 Comments »

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Make the Road Praises Cuomo
June 1st, 2011

Make the Road New York has released a statement congratulating Gov. Andrew Cuomo from suspending New York’s participation in the Secure Communities program:

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for his courageous leadership to protect all New Yorkers from the consequences of a misguided immigration enforcement strategy. Secure Communities erodes trust between local government and immigrant communities because community members perceive that local police are funneling immigrants into a broken immigration system. Immigrants, then, are less likely to report crimes, to seek needed services or toserve as witnesses,” said Javier H. Valds, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to protect and improve the immigrant community’s relationship with local law enforcement in order to create a stronger and safer New York.”

By on June 1, 2011, 4:44 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Immigrants | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg Releases Budget, Slashes Teachers
May 6th, 2011

As expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $65.7 billion budget this morning, which slashes 6,166 teaching positions, would close 20 fire companies and shutter four swimming pools this summer.

Bloomberg deflected all of the blame for the fiscal pain. Instead, he pointed towards Albany and Washington.

“Both places are keeping our tax dollars to close their budget deficits,” Bloomberg said. “If the state was paying 50 percent of the Department of Education, we would not be talking about laying off teachers.”

While Bloomberg did not hesitate to blame Albany, he also acknowledged the city was unlikely to receive any reprieve from the state or federal government. For now, the city will use the remainder of its surplus to close the budget hole.

The mayor’s executive plan did back away from slashing 16,000 child care slots — the result of a loss in federal funding. The administration plans to save the positions by expanding after school programs and increasing funding for the Administration for Children’s Services. The cost of the slots was originally put at $91 million. Officials said the program could be saved with just $40 million.

Advocates and council members, however, questioned the mayor’s calculations.

“With the budget released today, the administration is continuing its assault on early childhood education by cutting $50 million from our city’s child care,” said Councilman Steve Levin. “It is an outrageous sleight of hand that this administration would present itself as the savior of child care while simultaneously destroying it for thousands of New Yorkers. It’s like someone starting a fire, just so he could take the credit for putting 40 percent of that fire out.”

In a joint statement, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia identified teacher layoffs, the child care cuts, a 29 percent cut to libraries and fire companies as their top priorities.

“Since the recent financial crisis and recession, the City Council has worked aggressively to control spending and manage the citys budget in a fiscally responsible manner while protecting vital services,” they said. “Thats why we have grave concerns about a budget that allows for teacher layoffs, which would be immensely damaging to our education system and children’s opportunities for a quality education. Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to prevent teacher layoffs.”
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By on May 6, 2011, 2:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Another Black Eye for Ed Dept. Tech Effort
April 28th, 2011

The Times is reporting that a former Department of Education consultant has been charged with stealing $3.6 million from the city. Federal prosecutors say Willard Lanham persuaded subcontractors to overbill the city for their work and then kept the difference for himself.

Fernanda Santos writes, “Verizon and I.B.M., the largest of the vendors involved in the projects, played a role in the scheme and profited from it, according to the citys special commissioner of investigation, Richard J. Condon.” Verizon said it would “return any inappropriate profits.”

Lanham, who reportedly already made $200,000 a year, supposedly used the money to buy fancy cars and Long Island real estate. He has denied any wrongdoing. The crime allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2008.

The projects involved were supposed to provide internet access in city schools. The case — assuming the charges are true — involves a number of issues that continue to prove extremely nettlesome for the Bloomberg administration.

(What those problems are — and some connecting of dots — after the jump.)
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By on April 28, 2011, 5:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Education,Tech | 1 Comment »

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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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