Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study
September 29th, 2010

For months, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has put off opining on a proposal to require paid sick leave in the city, saying she wanted to wait for the results of a study on the issue by business leader, the Partnership for New York City.

That study came out yesterday, saying the proposal would cost $789 million. Also yesterday, the Drum Major Institute released its own study on the issue, saying the proposal wouldn’t harm job or business growth.

Quinn — granted she has had only one day to mull it over — isn’t ready to say which one she sides with.

“I am considering all of the pros, all the cons,” said Quinn. “There are few bills that are perfect.”

She said the council was “reviewing” the studies and would make a decision on the bill, which has a super majority of support in the council, “very soon.”

By on September 29, 2010, 2:58 pm
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Labor Slams Bloomberg Cuts
September 21st, 2010

Talk about timing.

After a breakfast this morning where two deputy mayors talked of taking on the city’s unions and the adminsitration announced a new hiring freeze and budget cuts, Lillian Roberts, the executive director of the city’s largest municipal workers union, DC37, is slamming the adminsitration.

Here is her response:

City workers deliver essential services that New Yorkers need to maintain a decent quality of life. Were already working with bare-bones staffing in most agencies. Now, what does the Mayor do? He puts a freeze on citywide hiring of the very men and women who deliver these essential services.

What he needs to do is put a freeze on outside contracts that prop up private consultants by squandering taxpayers dollars on operations with cost overruns in the millions of dollars, like CityTime, or seek to sell off city services and throw experienced, dedicated city workers out on the street, like the HHC restructuring plan.

The Bloomberg adminsitration sent a letter to all agency heads today asking for $800 million in cuts for the current fiscal year (Uniformed forces and education could see cuts of 2.7 percent, while all other agencies could see 5.4 percent cuts). For the next fiscal year, which starts in July, the adminsitration is hoping to see $1.2 billion in savings, with 4 percent cuts for uniformed agencies and 8 percent for all others.

According to the mayor’s office, the city faces a $3.3 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2012. All agency cuts must be submitted by Oct. 8.

By on September 21, 2010, 2:04 pm
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The Third Term Legacy?
September 21st, 2010

Labor watch out.

If deputy mayors Howard Wolfson and Stephen Goldsmith had their way, you might be in store for cuts to your pension benefits. At a breakfast hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission this morning, Goldsmith and Wolfson (who both joined the Bloomberg adminsitration this year) said curtailing pension costs will be a major goal of a Bloomberg third term.

“New York City runs the risk of becoming General Motors,” said Wolfson of the escalating cost. “We’ll be assuming a debt to retirees that is unsustainable.”

According to the mayor’s executive budget, pension contributions for fiscal year 2011 comprise 12 percent of the entire city budget — now at $63.1 billion. From fiscal year 2010 to 2011, pension costs are projected to increase from nearly $6.8 billion to $7.6 billion.

Unions looking to increase their standard salaries as their contracts expire this year should forget about it, Wolfson said. “There is no money for salary increases,” he warned.

The comments from both Wolfson and Goldsmith indicate the adminsitration will be taking a hard line with labor over the next four years — something some advocates have said is a long time coming. They also come as the adminsitration announces another hiring freeze.

And in a talking point that has become pro forma, Wolfson said: “The mayor is not running for anything.” That makes it all the more likely he will go after controversial policies and proposals, like pension reform, Wolfson said.
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By on September 21, 2010, 12:33 pm
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Empire Center and Council Spar Over Member Items
September 20th, 2010

Better late than never.

After more than six months, the Empire Center for New York State Policy is finally going to get a slew of information on the City Council’s member items requested through the state Freedom of Information Law. The request was filed shortly before Council Speaker Christine Quinn unveiled a new member items database, allowing New Yorkers to search through the council’s member items for this fiscal year.

The center had requested member items going back to 2006, including contact information for any nonprofit that received funding.

When it didn’t receive anything after several months, the state watchdog filed a suit against the council. Tim Hoefer, the center’s director of operations, said they plan to drop the suit as long as they get the information promised. According to the Daily News, they should receive the information on Wednesday.

“This is a victory for taxpayers throughout New York,” said Hoefer in a prepared statement. “We applaud Speaker Quinn for acknowledging the tardiness of the Council’s response to our FOIL and for her commitment to expanding openness in the future.”

The center operates the popular SeeThroughNY database, which catalogs all sorts of public information, including members items on the state level.

By on September 20, 2010, 1:11 pm
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Quinn Responds to Lopez Nonprofit
September 16th, 2010

The City Council will not freeze funding for the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council — a nonprofit founded by Assemblymember Vito Lopez now under investigation by the city’s Department of Investigation — but it will check in with the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services to “get further information,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn this afternoon.

The nonprofit came under fire this week after the Department of Investigation reported dysfunction and so-called incompetence within the organization and its board. Lopez denies this.

This fiscal year the council gave more than $581,000 to the group through its member items. All member items, Quinn said today, go through a rigorous vetting process by the council and the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

When asked this afternoon whether the funding of Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council called that vetting process into question, Quinn said, “We have a process that we believe is the best out there in the country.”

By on September 16, 2010, 2:46 pm
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Council Gives to Lopez Nonprofit
September 16th, 2010

The now under fire Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, the nonprofit founded by Brooklyn boss Assemblymember Vito Lopez, received nearly $17.9 million in government subsidies in 2009.

That funding is now under intense scrutiny by the city Department of Investigation, which says the nonprofit is dysfunctional, has a clueless board, bloated staff salaries and little oversight of the programs it funds, according to a report released yesterday.

But none of that means the nonprofit isn’t a favorite for city politicians to give to. In fiscal year 2011, which spans from July 2010 to June 2011, the City Council allocated $581,385 via its member items.

Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan, whose district overlaps Lopez’s, gave the most with $198,875. Councilmember Stephen Levin, a former staffer for Lopez, allocated $64,000 to the so-called dysfunctional nonprofit, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley gave $18,510 and an additional $300,000 was allocated from the entire City Council (otherwise known as the speaker’s pot).

The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is a common beneficiary of council member items. The Brooklyn delegation gave the group $350,000 last fiscal year as did Crowley, Dilan and the entire council.

To the Post yesterday, Lopez denied the nonprofit was dysfunctional, calling it efficient.

By on September 16, 2010, 11:24 am
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Special Election Called for November
August 30th, 2010

As predicted, the special election to replace the late Thomas White on the City Council was called by Mayor Michael Bloomberg today for November 2.

Here is the release from the mayor’s office.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that a special non-partisan election will be held in the 28th Council District on November 2nd, the date of the regularly scheduled general election, to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Council Member Thomas White, Jr. Pursuant to the City Charter, the nomination of candidates in the election will be by independent nominating petition, rather than through a party primary.

The newly elected Council Member will serve until December 31, 2011. A second election to fill the remainder of the term will be held on Election Day in November 2011.

By on August 30, 2010, 4:35 pm
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Getting Your Say on Charter Revision
August 26th, 2010

Want to tell all registered voters what you think about the two ballot proposals approved by the Charter Revision Commission?

Here’s your chance.

The Campaign Finance Board is asking for pro and con submissions on the charter reform proposals to include in its voter guide.

To learn more, go here.

By on August 26, 2010, 12:04 pm
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Rodriguez Loses Chairmanship (Update)
August 25th, 2010

Newly minted Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez will be officially stripped of his chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee this afternoon after the council’s Standards and Ethics Committee found he had poked a staff member during an argument over the budget.

rodriguez

Rodriguez did not appear at the final hearing on the matter this afternoon, but he sent a letter accepting the punishment, a council spokesperson said. Earlier this month, Rodriguez asserted his innocence, and said he would lobby other members to vote the ethics committee’s recommendation down.

Daily Politics reports the councilmember just wants to put the matter to rest.

Rodriguez will be allowed to resume his chairmanship once he apologizes to the staff member and completes an employee relations program.

The letter is on its way, and we will be posting it shortly.

UPDATE — Here it is:

Rodriguez Letter

By on August 25, 2010, 1:27 pm
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Charter Commission Approves Term Limits Question
August 24th, 2010

As expected, the city Charter Revision Commission approved a ballot proposal last night that if approved would rescind the controversial 2008 term limits extension, prohibit the City Council from extending their own terms in the future and grandfather in current officeholders to the three term limit.

The grandfathering proposal proved to be the most controversial considered by the commission. Some commissioners urged the commission to make any term limit proposal effective immediately. The mayor also came out against grandfathering every official in.

“Allowing any councilmember to benefit by postponing the effective date and precluding the public from immediately voting on it, in my view, does not respect the will of the people,” said Commissioner Kenneth Moltner last night.

Meanwhile, some members of the City Council threatened to sue if they were not allowed to serve a full three terms — we covered that issue here.

In addition to term limits, proposals to disclose independent spending in campaigns, increase the fine for ethics violations and halving the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot were all approved by the commission.

Larger issues, like the power of borough presidents or the public advocate, that some anticipated would be under review, were sidestepped.

By on August 24, 2010, 11:08 am
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White's Moonlight
July 21st, 2010

After we reported on who made the most outside of City Hall last year, a reader rightly pointed out that Councilmember Tom White, who is also the executive director of Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for J-CAP Inc., made $217,000 in addition to his council salary.

The Conflicts of Interest Board, which keeps tabs on council members’ outside income, only reports in ranges.

According to the organization’s 2008 tax filing, White devotes 35 hours a week to his position as chief executive officer there.

Of the $9.9 million in revenue the committee took in in 2007, more than $2 million went to management costs.

For a closer look, the filing is below. Take a look-see.

Committee Filing

By on July 21, 2010, 11:13 am
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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.
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By on July 12, 2010, 10:20 pm
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HASA Cuts off the Table
June 24th, 2010

As the City Council and the Bloomberg administration get closer to a budget deal, we know of at least one controversial cut taken off the table: a decrease in HIV/AIDS workers at the Human Resources Administration.

Earlier this week, housing advocacy group Housing Works took the city to court over a proposal to slash 248 HIV/AIDS case workers (we reported on the cut here). We just got word from them that the city backed away from the decrease this morning.

We’re waiting to hear back from the Human Resources Administration.

Keep checking back with Gotham Gazette to see what’s in and what’s out of this year’s budget.

By on June 24, 2010, 1:48 pm
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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.”
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By on May 25, 2010, 3:13 pm
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New Yorkers Disapprove of Budget Handling
May 21st, 2010

Less than half of New York City voters approve of the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg is handling the budget, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

According to the poll, released this morning, 47 percent of voting New Yorkers approve of Bloomberg’s budget tactics, while 44 percent disapprove. The mayor’s overall approval rating fell to 57 from 61 percent in March.

The mayor’s approval rating dip appears to be driven by the city’s budget woes. Earlier this month, the mayor released a $62.9 billion budget that slashes 20 fire companies and could cut 6,700 teachers. At the time, the mayor blamed Albany.

But New Yorkers are taking it out on Bloomberg.
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By on May 21, 2010, 1:25 pm
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Fire Company Closures Delayed For Now
May 17th, 2010

fire

Photo (cc) 2008 dietrich.

To Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, no news on the mayor’s decision to close fire companies is good news.

“She thinks it’s a good sign,” said Crowley spokesperson Meredith Burak. “We’ve rallied in every borough. Firefighters are the ones that are protesting these cuts.” Crowley chairs the council’s Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today he won’t release the list of 20 fire companies the administration proposes to close until more is known about the state budget.

The Fire Department must notify the City Council 45 days before it decides to close any company. Given this timeline, fire companies will stay open until at least July 2. According to the executive budget, closing 20 companies would save the city $5.6 million in fiscal year 2011.

Last year, the mayor proposed to shutter 16 companies to help close a budget gap. The City Council restored the Fire Department’s funding to save them.

By on May 17, 2010, 4:13 pm
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Issue Forums Scheduled
May 14th, 2010

To dig deep into the nitty-gritty of the City Charter, the Charter Revision Commission will host five issue forums on specific areas it plans to focus on.

They announced the schedule yesterday. Just a refresher, the topics are: term limits, voter participation, government structure, public integrity and land use. There will be one forum in every borough. First up, the ever-popular term limits issue, which will be at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The full list is after the jump.
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By on May 14, 2010, 10:52 am
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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.
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By on May 13, 2010, 6:00 pm
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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
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Senior Centers to Close Revealed
May 10th, 2010

The Times got its hands on the list of 50 senior centers the Bloomberg administration has proposed to shutter.

Here it is for you:

List of NYC Senior Centers to Close

By on May 10, 2010, 4:38 pm
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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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