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Clash at IDA Board Over Study
May 10th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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More Budget Cuts, More Budget Blame
May 5th, 2011

In his budget presentation set for Friday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce his 10th round of budget cuts but will try to keep New Yorkers from blaming him or Wall Street — for the layoffs and reductions in services. Instead the mayor intends to tell anyone listening that the federal and state governments are responsible for any fiscal pain they may feel next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

A budget preview released by the mayors office Thursday said cuts would not have been needed if the state and federal governments had increased their funding to the city to keep up with rising costs. Without providing any details those, no doubt, will come Friday morning — the statement also blames Washington and Albany for much of the rise in costs.

Overall, Bloombergs office said he has cut $5.4 billion in city spending since 2008 including some $400 million expected to be set out tomorrow. But by the administrations calculation if the state and federal governments were to provide the city with the same share of its budget as they had in 2002 (no explanation as to why they chose that year), the city would get an additional $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, eliminating the need for cuts.

While the state and federal governments may not be doing their fair share, Wall Street apparently has, according to Bloomberg. The administration projects the city will collect $5.75 billion in business tax revenues in the coming fiscal year up from $5.41 billion in 2008.

This aims to rebut claims from labor and other groups that the city has suffered because of mismanagement - and worse on Wall Street but is making working people pay the price. It does not, of course, address arguments that the richest New Yorkers — many of whom work on Wall Street — are getting even richer and paying lower taxes in a time of budget cuts.

As to whether Bloombergs criticism of the state and federal governments and exoneration of Wall Street — will stave off any public outrage or City Council opposition to the likely cuts remains unclear. Advocates and unions already are preparing to oppose some of the reductions in jobs and services. And one group already has been successful. In the material released Thursday, the mayors office said he would not cut the 16,000 child care slots Bloomberg called for eliminating in his preliminary budget.

It remains, unclear, whether Bloomberg will follow through on his threat to lay off thousands of teachers.

By on May 5, 2011, 11:06 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Public Finance | No Comments »

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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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Blizzard Bills at the Council
April 6th, 2011

The City Council is set to approve a package of bills this afternoon which regulate the city’s snow procedures — a response to last year’s Boxing Day blizzard.

Among the proposals, the Department of Sanitation will be required to create a snow removal plan for every borough, and the Office of Emergency Management will be forced to review the previous year’s snow removal process in an annual report. The package would establish emergency protocols for the city and high-volume protocols for 311.

When first introduced, the Bloomberg administration spoke out against the package, claiming it needed its regulations to be “flexible.” But in an apparent flip-flop, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the adminsitration worked with the council on the bills and now supports them.

By on April 6, 2011, 3:10 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Vote Breakdown for Koch Queensboro
March 24th, 2011

We have had a number of requests for a breakdown of yesterday’s vote on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

(We cover the debate this morning here.)

So, without further ado, here you go:

Maria Del Carmen Arroyo — absent
Charles Barron — no
Gale A. Brewer — yes
Fernando Cabrera — yes
Margaret S. Chin — no
Leroy G. Comrie, Jr. — no
Elizabeth S. Crowley — yes
Inez E. Dickens — yes
Erik Martin Dilan — yes
Daniel Dromm — yes
Mathieu Eugene — yes
Julissa Ferreras — yes
Lewis A. Fidler — yes
Helen D. Foster — no
Daniel R. Garodnick — no
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 24, 2011, 11:08 am
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Replacing Indian Point
March 23rd, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the debate, go here.

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

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Brennan Tries to Block Crash Tax (UPDATE)
March 18th, 2011

Assemblymember Jim Brennan is taking aim at the Fire Department’s proposed crash tax by introducing legislation in Albany that would prohibit the city from charging drivers for services provided at the scene of an accident.

The controversial tax is part of the FDNY’s attempt to close a looming budget gap. The department already has 20 fire companies on the chopping block.

The tax, which other cities across the country have implemented, would require drivers to pay between $365 and $490 if the Fire Department responds to a motor vehicle accident. The tax would not need City Council approval and is scheduled to go into effect in July.

City residents already pay taxes for these core, fundamental, public-safety services. People should not have to check their wallets before calling for the police or fire departments to respond to an accident, Brennan said.

Though dozens of officials have criticized the tax, it’s unclear whether the proposal has support of the full State Legislature.

UPDATE: Brennan’s office said they don’t know whether the State Senate would support the measure, but they have 23 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

By on March 18, 2011, 12:24 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Schools Respond to Applied Science Request
March 17th, 2011

From Korea to India to the United Kingdom, universities across the globe want to get to New York — at least according to the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced the city has received 18 responses from colleges and universities that are interested in building an applied science campus in the Big Apple. The city will narrow the pool over the summer and make a final decision by the end of the year, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The city has promised to make a “significant investment” towards the construction of a campus. According to the adminsitration, the proposals expressed interest in sites like the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, Governors Island, Farm Colony on Staten Island and other privately-owned areas.

The campus is part of a larger effort by the adminsitration to attract emerging technologies to the five boroughs (we cover the race to attract bioscience extensively here).

Here are the schools that expressed interest:

bo Akadmi University, Finland
Amity University, India
Carnegie Mellon University with Steiner Studios
Cornell University
Columbia University and the City University of New York
The Cooper Union
cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea
New York University, Carnegie Mellon, the City University of New York, the University of Toronto, and IBM
The New York Genome Center, with Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the Jackson Laboratory
Purdue University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stanford University
The Stevens Institute of Technology
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
The University of Chicago
The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

By on March 17, 2011, 1:45 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Tech | 1 Comment »

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Third Term Woes Upon Us
March 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in eight years, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

More than half of New York City voters — 51 percent to be exact — disapprove of the job the mayor is doing, while 39 percent approve of him. His approval rating plummets further on Staten Island, where only 27 percent of voters are happy with Hizzoner and 66 percent are unhappy.

Voters’ vitriol is aimed squarely at Bloomberg. Every other elected official has their highest ratings ever — 44 to 16 percent for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 54 to 16 percent for Comptroller John Liu and 55 to 25 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enjoyed the highest approval rating — 67 percent to 20 percent.

More than two-thirds of New Yorkers rated the administration’s handling of the December blizzard either “not so good” or “poor.”

However, there was some good news today for the mayor.

Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers say where the mayor spends his weekends or vacations is a private matter and he should not have to disclose where he is. But 84 percent said Bloomberg should have to say who is in charge when he is not around.

By on March 16, 2011, 2:31 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | No Comments »

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Liu Blocks 'Curious' DOE Contract
March 10th, 2011

City Comptroller John Liu has rejected the Department of Education’s $20 million contract with the New Teacher Project to recruit new teachers. “Twenty million dollars to recruit teachers as the DOE insists on laying off thousands of teachers seems curious at best,” Liu said in statement released by his office.

Deals between the project, a national non-profit that says it tries to boost teacher quality, and the city Department of Education have come under attack before as being a poor use of money at a time when few, if any new teachers are being hired and many existing ones face layoff. The education department, though, has maintained that even as it gets rid of teacher it may need to hire some with specific expertise, such as special education teachers for students who do not speak English.

The project, based in Brooklyn, has worked with the city on the city Teaching Fellow Program, aimed at bringing people into the system to teach in high needs schools.

The project also is an advocacy group that supports ending layoffs based on seniority and changing the evaluation for teachers, both causes close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s heart. In 2008, the organization issued a report saying the so-called reserve pool of teachers whose jobs were eliminated and had not been able to find new ones, cost the city $74 million, bolstering city claims the system should be changed.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has called the group a wholly-owned subsidiary of the city education department.

According to its work, the New Teacher Project supports its work advocating for these and other policies by “our work for clients on a fee-for-service basis” — clients such as the New York City schools.

By on March 10, 2011, 1:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Public Finance | No Comments »

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A Bill to End Last In, First Out
February 24th, 2011

The city will likely get behind a bill introduced yesterday by a Long Island State senator that seeks to change the rules for laying off teachers n the state, Micah Lasher, the city’ director of state legislative affairs said this afternoon.

The bill, offered by Sen. John Flanagan, the chair of the State Senate education committee offers the first idea of what the city might accept as an alternative to the current system where the most junior teachers must be the first ones laid off. The bill — 3501-2011 — sets out nine groups of teachers that would lose their jobs before seniority based layoff kick in. These include teachers found guilty of criminal charges or various types of misconduct. But it also takes aim at some teachers targeted by the administration in the past, including those given ratings of unsatisfactory and those who have not had a regular position for at least six months — the so-called absent teacher reserve pool.

The bill also brings test scores into the equation, something that has long been anathema to the union. It says teachers could be laid off it they “for two years or more, ranked in the bottom 30 percent of all teachers in student test scores progress as measured by the city school district’s value-added assessment except for teachers who work in licenses related to teaching children with disabilities or special needs.” (If we hear a response from the teachers union, we’ll pass it along.)
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By on February 24, 2011, 2:45 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011

billboard

Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.

The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.

One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)

According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”

In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.

When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”

Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.

In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”

When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.

“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.

This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
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By on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 9 Comments »

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And Now the Capital Cuts
February 18th, 2011

Parents and teachers got one piece of bad news from Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday when he said state and federal cuts would force the city to eliminate 6,166 teaching positions. Late this afternoon, the other shoe dropped. In a prepared statement Schools Chancellor Cathleen Black announced the education department would have to drop plans for construction of some 17,000 additional school seats.

The city’s 2010 to 2014 capital plan called for adding 30,377 seats. It will now, Black said, pare that back to 14,573.

While the release did not identify which projects will go forward and which ones won’t, the news will provoke anxiety in communities, such as part of Queens and Tribeca, where parents already have been up in arms about crowded schools.

Echoing her boss’ theme, Black blamed the move on the state, saying it had slashed 48 percent from its building aid. The city, the release said, will actually up its spending slightly for school construction but it can not make up for the huge shortfall.

By on February 18, 2011, 5:37 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | No Comments »

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Bloomberg Goes After Teachers
February 17th, 2011

In what some have cast politics at play, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce the reduction of 6,166 teaching positions, three-quarters of which would be through layoffs, in his preliminary budget this afternoon.

Some have said the move was made with merit firing in mind — a proposal the mayor has been pushing for in Albany. Bloomberg hopes to get rid of teachers based on their success with students not seniority. To repeal “last in, first out,” the mayor would need approval from the State Legislature.

The head of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, told the Times: “I dont understand why the mayor continues to be talking about teacher layoffs, Mr. Mulgrew said. This is all a politically bogus game on their behalf.

The threat comes as the city announces $2 billion in unexpected tax revenue. That revenue makes up for anticipated cuts from the state and federal government.

We’ll be following the story all day, so be sure to check back for updates.

The mayor’s budget presentation begins at noon.

By on February 17, 2011, 11:08 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | No Comments »

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The Developer's Tax Break
February 9th, 2011

This post was written by Alshawn Kelly Rushing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

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

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Snow Update from Bloomberg
January 27th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg updated New Yorkers on the progress of snow removal status this morning at City Hall. His remarks, verbatim, are below:

Good morning. Let me bring you up to date on the storm that hit our city last night and this morning. The Police Commissioner is here. He has to go to another meeting, so unless anybody has any real questions for him I dont think you do when he walks out it isnt that he doesnt care, its just that Ive told him do the other meeting.

When the snow stopped falling at about 4:00 AM, the official reading in Central Park was 19 inches. This is roughly twice the amount of snow that yesterdays evening National Weather Service forecast told us to expect. And we have now had the snowiest January in New York City history. We have had 36 inches since January 1st, breaking a record last set in 1925.

The heavy overnight snowfall which amounted to a foot or more of new snow by the early morning hours is why we decided to close schools today. Emergency agencies, like police, fire, and the public hospitals, have remained open. And as I said over the course of a dozen or so interviews with TV and radio stations this morning, as transportation options get better, City employees should come in to work.

The weather emergency that we declared yesterday afternoon remains in effect. Street cleaning and meter regulations will be suspended today and tomorrow. Clearing the streets remains our number one job and to do that, motorists should please, please refrain from driving.
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By on January 27, 2011, 11:42 am
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Lobbying Commission Delay Explained
January 18th, 2011

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

The panel, however, is nearly three years late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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