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Previewing the Special Elections
July 20th, 2011

As we’ve reported, special elections in New York City have all the drama of voting contest in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Without the benefit of secret police or threat of torture, party leaders control the process giving the voters a chance to ratify their choice.

But, so far, at least one of the Assembly seats up for grabs in the Sept.13 special election is showing signs of being a real contests. The Republicans are challenging the Democratic choice — and likely winner, given the registration figures — in three others. And a couple of intrepid hopefuls are even trying to get on the ballot through the petition process — and without the blessing of party leaders.

As we’ve noted previously, the most hotly contested race appears to be in the 54 Assembly district, formerly represented by Darryl Towns who stepped down to join the Cuomo administration.

More on the race there and in the other three districts after the jump.
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By on July 20, 2011, 10:21 am
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Raising Money for 2013
July 12th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

By on July 12, 2011, 6:31 pm
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From Weiner to Weprin
July 7th, 2011

The Queens and Brooklyn Democratic parties have reportedly selected State Assemblymember David Weprin as the party’s choice to replace Anthony Weiner as the Congress member from New York’s 9th District.

He will face an as yet to be determined Republican — and maybe a Conservative too — in a special election on Sept. 13. Although Democrats have held the seat for decades, Republicans hope they have an opening because of Weiner’s demise and, by New York City standards, a fairly high number of registered Republicans in the district.

Weprin served on the City Council where he chaired the powerful Finance Committee until he left to make an unsuccessful run for city comptroller, coming in fourth in a field of four. He then moved to the State Assembly, replacing his brother, Mark, who had been elected to his old council seat.

Weprin reportedly has said he would not try to run for a full term next year — a key issue since the district is likely to be redistricted out of its existence leaving meaning he would have had to take on another Queens incumbent if he wanted to stay in Washington. This could lead the way to Weprin’s making another bid for city office — comptroller, perhaps.

If Weprin wins on Sept. 13, there then could be yet another special election – that one to fill his Assembly seat. That post has been held by one member of the Weprin family or another since 1971.

By on July 7, 2011, 3:11 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Governing | 2 Comments »

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More Elections, Less Suspense
June 9th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected and material about Pheffer’s seat added.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Assemblymember Jonathan Bing’s appointment as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau, City Hall reported that Democrat Daniel Quart, a community board member and lawyer, is the frontrunner for the seat from Manhattan’s 73rd Assembly District.

With the election not even scheduled yet, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose congressional district includes Bing’s Assembly district, assured City Hall that Quart will be the candidate.

No disrespect of Quart intended but the rapid development underscores once again the rather undemocratic nature of special elections — especially those in districts, such as this one, where one party holds a lopsided edge.

More on threefour Assembly vacancies and how they’ll be filled after the jump.
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By on June 9, 2011, 2:51 pm
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Another Vacant Assembly Seat
June 8th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected.

It looks as though there will be another opening in the city’s delegation in the State Assembly. Gov Andrew Cuomo has announced the appointment of Manhattan Assemblymember Jonathan Bing as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau.

The agency’s mission, according to its web site, is to protect policyholders and creditors of insurance companies that have gone bankrupt. Bing would replace Dennis J. Hayes.

The city already has twothree unfilled Assembly seats: District 54 in Brooklyn, which became vacant when Cuomo named Darryl Towns CEO for Homes and Community Renewal; District 27, left vacant by the retirement of Nettie Mayersohn; and District 23, which became open when Audrey Pheffer resigned to become Queens County clerk.

So far, no special election has been scheduled.

By on June 8, 2011, 12:35 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Weiner's Millions
June 7th, 2011

However low his political stock may have fallen this week, Anthony Weiner’s campaign bank account balance remains high, leaving the Tweeting representative from Brooklyn and Queens with lots of cash and perhaps no place to spend it.

According to city Campaign Finance Board records, Weiner has collected $5.1 million for a likely mayoral run in 2013, most of it raised in 2007 and 2008. That was back in the days when Weiner — single and perhaps not yet on Twitter — was coming off a strong showing in the 2005 Democratic mayoral primary and Mayor Michael Bloomberg still dreamed of the White House, not a third term in Gracie Mansion. Weiner backed out of the 2009 race — reportedly much to Bloomberg’s relief — after the mayor extended term limits and decided to run for re-election. Records show Weiner has not raised any money since 2008 — although he has returned some contributions during that period.

As he is allowed to do under city campaign law, Weiner rolled the money over into a new account for 2013. And he has made some modest expenditures.

That leaves him with somewhere around about $4 million as of the last filing deadline: January 2011. (For a summary of Weiner’s raising and spending go here.)

Weiner has a substantial fundraising edge over his closest rival — Christine Quinn who has raised about $3.2 million and spent a little less than $500,00 of it — and dwarfs the amounts raised by other possible mayor contenders Scott Stringer (a little les than $1.1 million raised), John Liu ($513,472) and Bill de Blasio ($392,576).

As they say, though, money isn’t everything. And however much Weiner might like to use funds to say escape to a dessert island where no one Tweets (assuming there is such a place), he is fairly constrained about how he can use the money, according to Eric Friedman, director of external affairs for the Campaign Finance Board.

More on what he can and can’t do after the jump.
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By on June 7, 2011, 5:24 pm
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CityTime Manager Fudges Timesheets
May 25th, 2011

In an impromptu press conference, Comptroller John Liu revealed even the project manager of the Bloomberg administration’s plagued time keeping project couldn’t keep his own time.

According to a letter Liu received today, Science Application International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, put Gerard Denault on administrative leave in December after the project manager fudged his own time sheets. As a result, the company will refund the city $2.5 million.

“The very company entrusted by our city to build a time keeping system for New York City employees has grossly mismanaged their own time keeping and in the process overcharged the city taxpayers for sums of money still to be determined,” Liu said. “This is a sad day for New York City taxpayers.”

Liu said today he would ask the adminsitration to work with him on this issue. He also called for the administration to freeze all payments to SAIC and force the Department of Investigation to conduct a comprehensive review of other possible violations.

In response, Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna sent over the following statement:

We will withhold any and all payments until the completion of the Department of Investigations ongoing review, which includes a forensic accountant we added last year. The project is essentially fully online and operational and SAICs contract with the city expires on June 30th. We already had stated we were not renewing the contract. SAIC is owed $32 million for the completion of the project; no payments will be made until the review is completed.

CityTime has been the bane of Bloomberg’s third term. Mired by delay and cost overruns, the debacle culminated in December when federal authorities indicted six employees for using shell companies to divert city money into their own pockets. Originally the project was supposed to cost about $60 million. Its price tag now is more than $700 million.

By on May 25, 2011, 5:41 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 4 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.
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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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School Elections to Resume
May 12th, 2011

The incredibly attenuated, disrupted and confusing elections for the virtually powerless Citywide And Community Education Councils continue. The Department of Education has just announced the voting period for parents will be May 18 to May 25.

In the announcement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said any votes cast from May 1 to May 7 –when the election came to a halt — will not be valid.

The parents vote is only advisory. Officials of school parents associations can consider those recommendation when they cast their votes — the ones that count — for members of 32 community education Councils, the Citywide Council on High Schools, the Citywide Council on English Language Learners, the Citywide Council on Special Education and the District 75 Council. That round will take place May 27 to June 3, and the new members will be seated by July 1.

By on May 12, 2011, 4:38 pm
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Koppell Would Consider Motion to Discharge for Living Wage
May 11th, 2011

Councilmember Oliver Koppell told Gotham Gazette today he would consider triggering a rare council rule to bring his living wage bill to the floor should Council Speaker Christine Quinn choose to oppose it.

“I would consider it, yes,” said Koppell at the Emigrant Savings Bank. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’m hoping to convince the speaker to support this or some version of this.”

Typically legislation does not move at the City Council unless it has earned the support of the speaker. Quinn refused to say this afternoon whether she would bring the legislation to the floor or when she would decide whether or not to support it.

The bill, which has strong backing from many of the city’s unions, would require city subsidized developers pay a living wage. The Bloomberg adminsitration does not support the measure. On Monday, the city Economic Development Corp. released a study claiming a wage mandate would stall development and reduce jobs in the five boroughs.

Koppell said today, “The assumptions of the mayor are more than questionable.”

Koppell’s bill has been stalled in committee for nearly a year, despite the fact it has garnered 30 sponsors.

At the beginning of Quinn’s tenure — and in the name of transparency — Quinn revised the council rules to make it easier to bring a bill to the floor if it was stalled in committee. A council member must get seven members to sign a memo to bring the bill to the floor. The full council then determines whether the legislation should have a formal vote.

This procedure is rarely ever used and is considered an affront to the speaker’s leadership.

By on May 11, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Klein on Moskowitz Again
May 11th, 2011

Joel Klein just cant help himself. Even though the former school chancellor recently told the New York Times he would “say with neither pride nor regret that I am not personally close to Eva Moskowitz,” in his current long piece in The Atlantic on The Failure of American Schools. Klein goes out of his way to laud Moskowitz and her achievements once again.

Klein’s relationship with Moskowitz has drawn repeated scrutiny because of the education department’s turning space in its neighborhood public school over the Moskowitz’s charter school empire. A series of emails released last year revealed how Moskowitz cajoled and flattered Klein — and complained about his subordinates — in order to get her way. The exchange, Michael Winerip wrote in the Times ” is a civics lesson in how things work in the Big City.”

In The Atlantic, Klein describes Moskowitz, who now runs the Success Academy charter network, as “brilliant, savvy, ambitious, often a pain in the neck and atypically fearless for an elected official.” Maybe. Maybe not.

But at least one of his claims about her that deserves a bit more scrutiny.

Moskowitz, then a member of the City Council, was “widely expected to be elected Manhattan borough president” in 2005, according to Klein. He then goes on to tell the oft-quoted story that her all-but-certain ascendancy was blocked by the teachers union. She earned the enmity of the United Federation of Teachers after her education committee held hearings on the teachers contract and, in Klein’s words, “exposed its ridiculousness.” As a result, Randi Weingarten, then head of the union “made sure that Moskowitz’s run for borough president came up short.”

Nice, pat story. Too bad its more complicated than that.
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By on May 11, 2011, 2:48 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics | 5 Comments »

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Quinn Mum on Living Wage Decision
May 11th, 2011

Council Speaker Christine Quinn refused to take a position on legislation to require a living wage this afternoon, but instead said she would review a recently released study and forthcoming testimony on the matter.

The Economic Development Corp. released a study Monday which found requiring a living wage mandate at city subsidized developments would result in job losses. Legislation to require such wage mandates has been pending at the council for more than a year.

The bill will get its first hearing tomorrow, and both opponents and supporters are scheduled to make a strong showing. Quinn said today she would not attend the hearing.

“We are looking forward to a robust hearing,” Quinn said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the testimony from both the proponents and the opponents. Having the portions of the EDC report that are out there will make the hearing a more informed and interesting hearing.”

When asked if she knew when she would make a decision on whether to bring the bill to a vote, Quinn said: “When I have one.”

Quinn would not say whether the bill would eventually get to the floor.

Already 30 council members have signed on to the legislation. The lead sponsors of the bill, council members Oliver Koppell and Annabal Palma, could file a motion to discharge — which would send the bill to the floor if it had enough support outside of the speaker’s office. The move has only occurred once during Quinn’s tenure.

By on May 11, 2011, 2:42 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Case Management Back on the Chopping Block
May 10th, 2011

Back in March, the city’s Department for the Aging was prepared to close more than 100 senior centers thanks to a cut in the state budget.

Those centers were eventually given a reprieve from the State Legislature.

Some expected senior centers, a frequent target in the Bloomberg administration’s recent budget cuts, to make it back on the chopping block last week. But it was the opposite.

The city will open about 10 new “innovative” senior centers in the next fiscal year, said a spokesperson at the department. Some will be completely new centers, others will be expansions of existing facilities. One of the centers will be exclusively for LGBT elderly.

“Innovative senior centers will have bigger budgets, have focus on health and wellness and still provide meals, information and referrals,” said Christopher Miller, a spokesperson for the Department for the Aging.

The news has not quelled opposition from advocates for the elderly, who still say the mayor’s executive budget proposal hurts senior services.

Bobbie Sackman, the director of public policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services, pointed to the largest cut in the department — a $6.6 million decrease for case management services. The same cut was proposed by the Bloomberg adminsitration last year, but the City Council reversed it.

This time around the department plans to cut about 30 percent from its case management contracts, which now link 18,000 seniors to services.

“Some of them are just going to drop through the cracks,” said Sackman. “There is only so much you can do when you lose a third of your work force.”

Sackman and other advocates will rally at City Hall tomorrow to draw attention to the cuts.

With so many other cuts under consideration, including thousands of teacher layoffs, it’s unclear whether this will become a priority at the City Council.

In response to the criticism, Miller said, “The Department for the Aging will work with its case management provider agencies to consider alternate ways to restructure the service to minimize the impact on the citys most fragile and isolated seniors.”

By on May 10, 2011, 5:44 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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Update on Ed Council Elections
May 10th, 2011

A press release just out from Advocates for Justice says the elections for Citywide and Community Education Councils are on hold for the time being.

(For the runup to this, see below.)

In a statement the group’s president, Arthur Z. Schwartz, said advotes, representing the New York City Parents Union, met with lawyers for this city and the Department of Education today. “All parties agreed that the discussion and negotiations pertaining to this matter will be kept confidential at this time. However, we did agree … that the election processes for the [councils] are on hold. Any information to the contrary is inaccurate,” Schwartz’s statement said,

By on May 10, 2011, 4:39 pm
In category: Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 1 Comment »

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Elections and Education
May 10th, 2011

Whatever one think of the city Department of Education’s ability to run schools, it does not seem to know how to manage elections. This year’s election process for the Community and Citywide Education Councils — the ultra-weak replacement for the city’s old Community School Boards — has been fraught with problems and roiled by criticism.

First only 500 people expressed interest in the 325 slots. Since some panels — the Citywide Council on High Schools for one — attracted lots of candidates, other community boards did not have enough candidates to fill the available slots — let alone hold a competitive election.

The department also reportedly provided inaccurate information about who could run and put material about the candidates on a password protected website many could not access. On woman who currently serves on a told WNYC that she was informed she was not eligible — odd since, she said, she already serves as co-chair of a council.

In the wake of widespread criticism, the city decided to delay the elections, originally set for May 7, until next week.

In announcing the postponement in a statement, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, “After reviewing concerns raised by parents and public officials about this years Citywide and Community Education Council elections, I have concluded that the process could and should have been handled better.’

But today, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said this was not sufficient. They want an investigation of the election woes and Stringer, along with some parents, also asked the city to convene a task force to consider whether permanent oversight of the various education councils “should be transferred to an independent entity.”
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By on May 10, 2011, 3:44 pm
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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.
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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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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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Fare Increase Not a Bargaining Chip?
April 29th, 2011

Asking for a fare increase as city officials are trying to get a new class of cab in the outer boroughs isn’t playing hardball, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told Gotham Gazette today.

It’s merely about timing.

“It’s generally not a negotiation ploy by us,” Desai said, citing the increased cost of gas. “For us, the fare proposal has been in the works, because we know next month it will be seven years since we’ve had an overall raise. Driver income has not been at a livable standard.”

The alliance announced this week it will be asking the Taxi and Limousine Commission for an approximately 25 percent fare increase. The proposal will not be finalized until Wednesday, but Desai said it would likely ask for the waiting rate to increase from 40 to 50 cents and the mileage rate to go up to $2.50 from $2. The alliance will also ask for increases in taxi surcharges for rush hour and late night.

The request comes as the Bloomberg administration attempts to drill down a proposal to get more cab service in the outer boroughs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech in January he would propose legislation to allow livery cabs in the outer boroughs to pick up people hailing on the street — prohibited under current law.

After a backlash from city officials and the taxi industry, the administration is considering creating another class of yellow cab that would be limited to outer-borough pick ups instead.

Desai said the alliance isn’t opposed to servicing the outer boroughs, but as it stands now it’s not economical. Drivers cannot cruise residential streets for street pickups without losing money, she said. A fare increase would help convince drivers to go to Brooklyn or Queens, Desai added. She also suggested creating cab stands in commercial areas of the outer boroughs.

On his radio show this morning, Bloomberg said he was sympathetic to the cab industry’s qualms.

Above all else, Desai said she wants to make sure the yellow cab reserves the exclusive right to pick up New Yorkers at the curbside.

“We don’t want to see more vehicles on the road,” she said. “It’s going to increase congestion and increase competition in a field where it’s already competitive.”

By on April 29, 2011, 4:44 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Immigrants,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Special Elections Preview
April 18th, 2011

More than two month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo named him CEO for Homes and Community Renewal, Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns has finally submitted his letter of resignation from the legislature.

Meanwhile, on April 1, longtime Assemblymember Nettie Mayhersohn of Queens announced her resignation at age 86.

This mean residents of their districts will choose new Assembly members in a special election — though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet set the date.

In Meyersohn’s district, her chief of staff, Michael Simanowitz, has expressed interest in succeeding her and stands a good chance of getting his wish.

Many special elections in New York– especially in districts where one party has an overwhelming advantage — are little more than a formality. With no primary, party leaders choose their candidate and voters have little option but to ratify that choice.

In 2007, Citizens Union (whose sister organization publishes the Wonkster) found that almost a third of sitting legislators had first won their seats in usually noncompetitive special elections and then parlayed the advantage of incumbency to hold on to the post in future years.

Interestingly, though the race to follow Towns has attracted a list of candidates, with more possibly on the way. The contest has shaped up as a showdown between two politically powerful Brooklyn clans: the Towns family, including Darryl’s dad U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, and the Dilans, whose members include State Sen. Martin Malave Dilan and City Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan. Possible candidates include Darryl Town’s sister Deidra Towns and the council member’s chief of staff Rafael Espinal.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 18, 2011, 2:17 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | Comments Off

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