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Here Come the Judges
November 6th, 2011

Occupants for 29 seats on the bench in New York City will be selected Tuesday — at least theoretically. In many cases, though, the primary process and political insiders have filled the posts already — leaving voters with nothing more than the opportunity to ratify the choice.

All candidates for Manhattan judgeships — including places of the state Supreme Court and Civil Court — face no opposition. All have the Democratic Party line; a few also have the GOP nod. In no case, though, have the Republicans — or any other party for that matter — put forth candidate who is not the Democratic standard bearer. In the one judicial race on Staten Island the sole candidate — Acting Judge Joseph J. Maltese — has support from the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.

The contested elections come in Brooklyn and Queens. There are no judicial races — contested or otherwise — in the Bronx.

(For more on who can vote and how this year, go here. For more on the district attorney contest, go here.)

More on the individual judicial races after the jump.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:54 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 2 Comments »

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A Quiet Election Day
November 6th, 2011

Even by the standards of the off-off-year election — those contests in odd-numbered years when there is no mayoral race — this is a non-election election year.

There are no contested races of any kind in the Bronx or Manhattan, according to the Board of Elections’ lists of candidates. In Queens and Brooklyn, the sole seats up for grabs are judgeships. Only Staten Island residents will have the chance to vote for or against someone they might actually have heard of: Republican District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who faces a challenge from Democrat Mike Ryan. It’s a repeat of their 2007 contest.

(For details on the district attorney race, go here. For more on the judicial contests, go here.)

Sleepy elections occur about once every four years in New York, Unlike the one in 2007, this year’s features no ballot measures, fewer contests for the bench and no particularly high profile ones. As is often the case in general elections in New York City, many candidates including those for some important posts face no opposition.

More voting details after the jump.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:39 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | 7 Comments »

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Change for the Homeless
November 4th, 2011

Advocates for the homeless and some City Council members are reacting with alarm to reports that the city will institute a policy later this month that will make it more difficult for single adults to gain admission to city shelters.

According to WNBC, which first
reported on the move, workers will subject people applying to stay in shelters to more questions about where they have lived recently and whether they have another place to stay. This could create a problem for someone who, say, lost her apartment, doubled up with a sister for a short time and then was asked to leave.

The move – apparently an effort to save money – has been in the works for a while but needed state approval. City officials told NBC they received the OK yesterday. The city already conducts similar reviews for homeless families.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond told Reuters that many people applying to shelters these days may have other options. They include, he said, “a lot of people who are working or capable of work, who may have gone through a little bit of a rough time — their employer may have reduced their hours, or they may have lost their jobs.”

But advocates dispute such arguments. “The city is playing with fire by implementing this policy, particularly in the winter,” Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society told WNBC. “It’s certainly going to result in vulnerable New Yorkers ending up on the streets.” He said the society would go to court to try and block the change.

Earlier today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee chair Annabel Palma. Issued a statement condemning the move. “This policy is cruel, risky, unacceptable and will not reduce homelessness in the city of New York. Denying people shelter because they have found another option for some period of time is punishing people for trying to do the right thing,” they said.

The council will hold an emergency oversight hearing on the policy at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
By on November 4, 2011, 3:28 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Housing,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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City Council Takes to the Streets
November 4th, 2011

On the same day, it tackled the issue of undocumented immigrants (for that story, go here), the City Council took on something really controversial: the battle for spaces on the city’s crowded streets.

At its stated meeting Thursday, members enacted two measures.

One reflected concerns that the Bloomberg administration, in its zeal for bike lanes, has sometimes ignored wishes of local residents. Intro 412, which passed unanimously, would require that the city Department of Transportation provide community boards with at least 90 days notification of any planned bike lanes in their area, allowing the board to hold hearings. If the board wanted, transportation officials would have to make presentations to the affected boards.

This does not mean the board could veto bike lanes, but simply that it be informed and consulted.

More on the bike law bill and residential parking permits after the jump.
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By on November 4, 2011, 1:20 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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The Union on School Cuts
November 1st, 2011

With the city facing a multibillion dollar shortfall – and the Bloomberg administration demanding further cuts, the United Federation of Teachers went on the offense today, with a study it says shows that fiscal constraints already have taken a toll on the city’s more than 1.1 million students.

A survey of union chapter leaders (perhaps not the most objective of sources) found, the UFT reports, that 74 percent of elementary schools have seen class size increase this year. The number of students in a class rose at 61 percent of the middle schools reporting and 59 percent of the high schools.

More than half of elementary schools responding have scaled back services to help academically struggling students, and almost two thirds cited reductions in supplies. In general, the chapter leaders at high schools cited fewer effects from cuts than those in elementary schools. And despite Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s pledge to focus on improving middle schools, 63 percent saw their afterschool programs curtailed and 59 percent lost extracurricular activities.

While the administration enthusiastically supports charters schools, which often offer after school and or weekend programs, it has ramped back efforts to expand instructional time for students in its conventional public schools, according to the report. About 60 percent of schools at all levels reported cuts in afterschool programs, and about 40 said weekend programs had been reduced.

In a statement on his union’s report UFT president Michael Mulgrew said, “Based on our survey, an estimated 91 percent of our school population — nearly 1 million children — are in schools where budget cuts are having a direct and immediate effect on their education.”

By on November 1, 2011, 2:09 pm
In category: City Hall,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Closing Public Spaces
October 31st, 2011

(Gotham Gazette parks reporter Anne Schwartz filed this post.)

Last week, Crain’s reported that landlords, taking action in response to Occupy Wall Street’s weeks-long occupancy of Zuccotti Park, want the city to revamp its laws covering the city’s privately owned public parks to set hours of operation and prohibit large gatherings. Crain’s has a survey asking readers whether they think “private parks” should be allowed to set their own hours. As of today, the 201 people who bothered to respond said yes by a margin of almost two to one.

The business paper, however, did not note that these spaces are actually public places that developers were required to create — and keep open — in return for the right to build taller buildings under city zoning laws. Having already received the financial benefits of the added floor space, the landlords now are seeking to restrict some of the public benefit.

A study conducted in 2001 by Jerold Hayden, a Harvard professor of urban planning and design, with the Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society, found that 40 percent of these parks “were and are practically useless, with austere designs, no amenities and little or no direct sunlight. Roughly half of the buildings surveyed had spaces that were illegally closed or otherwise privatized.” (For Gotham Gazette’s report on that study, go here.)

The results still hold today, Kayden wrote in a recent New York Times piece.
Kayden said he welcomes the attention the protesters have called to the city’s privately owned public spaces, but calls for a much broader discussion on how they can contribute meaningfully to city life. “They need a champion, an independent steward or curator who actively promotes their use, not only by assuring that spaces are provided as legally promised but also by encouraging improvements, activities and public educational opportunities,” Kayden said.

By on October 31, 2011, 3:06 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City,Land Use,Parks | Comments Off

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Cuomo Taps Foye For Port Authority
October 19th, 2011

The Cuomo Administration has announced a major reorganization plan for the Port Authority and announced the nomination of Patrick J. Foye to head the authority. The reorganization would fold the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Moynihan Station Development Corporation into the agency. Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has recommended Patrick J. Foye to serve as Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and will nominate James Rubin and Rossana Rosado to the Port Authority Board. Additionally, the Governor is calling for the board to approve the consolidation of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation and Lower Manhattan Development Corporations operations into the Authority. There is no fiscal impact to the Port Authority as a result of these changes.

Mr. Foye’s recommendation is subject to the approval of the PANYNJ Board. Current Executive Director Christopher Ward will remain in his position until the end of October and then serve as an advisor to the Port Authority for a transitional period through the end of the year.

“The Port Authority must meet its potential as a major economic engine that plans for the region and attracts business on an international scale,” Governor Cuomo said. “We must also improve its operations and maximize the value out of every dollar spent so that it is financially responsible and respects the tax and toll payers.”

Pat Foye said “I am honored to be recommended for Executive Director of the Port Authority. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we have begun to re-energize New York’s economy and pave the way for job growth in the state. I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity and look forward to working closely with him and the Board of Directors at the Port Authority on maintaining and improving the New York metropolitan region’s vital transportation, infrastructure and economic development assets”.

Governor Cuomo also announced the reorganization of the operations of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation into the Port Authority.

“Too many different agencies doing the same or closely related work makes little sense,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Port Authority is best situated to oversee the development at Moynihan Station and the orderly wind down of the LMDC and these changes will consolidate responsibility within the Authority.”

There is no fiscal impact to the Port Authority from these changes. David Emil will become the Deputy Executive Director of the PANYNJ.

Governor Cuomo also intends to nominate Rossana Rosado and James Rubin to the Board of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Mr. Rubin’s appointment as Senior Advisor for International Competiveness at the Empire State Development Corporation.

“With decades of work in government, finance and the media, James Rubin is a true national leader in international economic affairs,” Governor Cuomo said. “He will bring a knowledgeable and experienced voice to designing a program that enhances New York’s role as the gateway for global commerce, and a center for the international business community.”

“Rossana Rosado has served the people of New York, and particularly our Latino communities, with a dedication and vision,” Governor Cuomo said. “Her 13 years of experience as Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of El Diaro La Prensa have highlighted her ability to communicate effectively with all New Yorkers. These skills will serve the Port Authority well as it continues to improve the lives of New Yorkers and our neighbors.”

James Rubin said, “The Port Authority can and should serve as an engine of international trade for the New York region. The state needs a renewed effort to grow jobs and increase global investment in New York and that will be my project.”

Rossana Rosado said “I am thrilled by the opportunity Governor Cuomo has given me to serve our communities in this new role. The Port Authority can have a positive impact in the lives of our residents, and it will be my pleasure to further the significant benefits that it provides, both now and in the future.”

Mr. Foye is currently the Governor’s Deputy Secretary of Economic Development, a role in which he manages the state’s initiatives for economic recovery, investment, and job creation, and oversees the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Previously, Mr. Foye was Deputy County Executive for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Mr. Foye has also served as a board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), representing Nassau County. Mr. Foye was one of only two MTA board members who in 2010 voted against fare increases- the third in three years. Prior to working for Nassau County, Mr. Foye was the downstate chief of ESDC for former Governor Eliot Spitzer as well as Vice Chair of the Long Island Power Authority. Mr. Foye was a partner at Skadden Arps and practiced law in New York, Brussels, Budapest, and Moscow and was a senior member of the management team of a S&P 500 REIT for six years. Mr. Foye also served as President and CEO of the United Way of Long Island for three years.

Mr. Rubin is currently President of the Atlantic Partnership. From 2008 to 2011, Mr. Rubin served as Executive Editor of Bloomberg View, the opinion section of Bloomberg News, and adjunct professor of international affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Mr. Rubin served under President Clinton as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief Spokesman for the State Department from 1997 to May 2000. He was also a top policy adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and acted as a special negotiator during the Kosovo war to secure the demobilization of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Mr. Rubin was also a Visiting Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics from 2001-2004; a partner in the Brunswick Group – a financial advisory firm – from 2001-2004; and in 2002 and 2003, the host of the PBS series Wide Angle, a primetime, weekly international affairs program.

Ms. Rosado has over twenty five years in the New York media industry. Since 1999 she has served as the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of El Diario La Prensa – the nation’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper. She is also the first woman to serve in this position. Prior to joining El Diario in 1995 as Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Rosado was the Vice President for Public Affairs at the Health & Hospitals Corporation for the City of New York and continued to serve there under both the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations. She was also chosen to assist the transition teams for the Bloomberg and Spitzer transitions. From 1988 to 1995, Ms. Rosado was a public affairs programming producer at WPIX, where she became sole producer of daily program “Best Talk in Town.” In 1992, Ms. Rosado won an Emmy for her public service campaign “Care for Kids.” Ms. Rosado first joined El Diario in 1983 as a City Hall Reporter upon graduating from Pace University with a degree in Journalism. She is currently a member of the Pace University Board of Trustees.

Kathryn Wilde, President and CEO of Partnership for New York City said, “Governor Cuomo’s choice of Pat, James and Rossana, demonstrates his administration’s commitment to improving New York’s infrastructure and economic development. Having worked with Pat on a number of projects, I have had the opportunity to witness the experience and knowledge he brings to the table. I am confident that these appointments will help lead the Port Authority into a new era of fiscal responsibility and efficiency. This group’s management skills are exactly what we need to put New York on the path to economic recovery.”

Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York said “On behalf of the affiliated unions of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and the 100,000 working men and women we represent, we commend Governor Cuomo for his appointment of Pat Foye to serve as executive director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We and others in the business community have worked with Pat and are confident that he will bring competent and practical management to The Port Authority’s vital role in maintaining and expanding our regional transportation assets and completing the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. We look forward to continuing to work with Pat to keep critical projects on track and assure that public resources are invested to maximize economic growth and job creation.”

Robert Yaro, President of Regional Plan Association said, “I commend Governor Cuomo on nominating Pat to the Port Authority. He will bring public and private sector experience to the Port Authority, increasing its efficiency and productivity. An agency as complex as the Authority requires experienced managers who will balance the needs of the organization with the fiscal situation in New York. Pat and his team have the necessary credentials to ensure that the Port Authority will become a driving force in New York’s economic development.”

Steve Spinola, President of the Real Estate Board of New York said, “The Governor has made it clear that creating jobs is his top priority. The Port Authority plays an essential role in New York’s economic development and infrastructure, and Governor Cuomo is making sure that it will be able to produce the best results for the people of this state. Pat Foye and the rest of the team are excellent additions to the Authority’s team. Pat’s extensive management experience and keen knowledge of New York’s fiscal make him especially suited for transforming the Port Authority into an economic engine.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, “Today’s nomination of Pat Foye to lead the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey comes at a critical time in New York’s history. There are many important projects throughout the region that can be advanced through strong leadership, and Senate Republicans stand ready to work with Governor Cuomo’s team to promote regional economic development throughout New York. Pat Foye has worked for county executives and Governors, and has decades of public and private sector experience. I wish him great success in this new role.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “The Port Authority is an integral part of the redevelopment of downtown, and I look forward to working with Pat Foye as we continue the progress we have made in rebuilding my lower Manhattan community. Pat has a strong economic development record and I know we will work well together to complete the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.”

By on October 19, 2011, 3:02 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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DEC Cancels Fracking Advisory Panel
October 14th, 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation has cancelled today’s scheduled hydrofracking advisory panel meeting and Environmental Advocates of New York says it knows why. They say Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing the state towards drilling faster than state agencies can prepare.

“Today’s Fracking Advisory Panel meeting was canceled because New York’s Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Public Service Commission and Department of Agriculture and Markets have not completed estimates of the demands that drilling 1,400 new gas wells each year will place on their agencies in terms of staff and resources,” said Environmental Advocates in a statement. “Clearly, state agencies are caught flat-flooted by Governor Cuomo’s rush to drill. We’re less than two months from closing the simultaneous comment periods on the environmental impact statement, regulations and draft permit, and the Governor and New York State’s agencies still don’t know how many tens of millions of dollars this industry will cost the state. This is further evidence that New York is unprepared to provide responsible oversight of fracking and guarantee that our drinking water and communities are protected.”

For more on the debate over fracking check out two recent op-eds written for and against the controversial issue.

By on October 14, 2011, 12:56 pm
In category: Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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AM Showdown at Zuccotti Park?
October 13th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has informed Occupy Wall Street protesters that he wants them to leave Zuccotti Park so that it can be cleaned tomorrow. Bloomberg says protesters will be allowed back in but must follow a set of rules. Some are concerned the rules are designed to effectively end the protests. Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party wrote supporters today asking them to support protesters and to contact Bloomberg to demand protesters be allowed to stay.

“In theory the protesters will be allowed back in, but there’s a catch — there will be a new set of rules, including no lying down and no sleeping bags,” wrote Cantor. It seems clear to us these rules are designed to end any ongoing occupation of the park.The Occupy Wall Street sanitation committee has begged the administration and anyone in earshot for dumpsters, but the City has ignored them. Instead, officials are using the excuse of cleaning the park as a back-door attempt to get protesters out of the park and put an early end to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters are concerned that Bloomberg’s cleaning could just be a ploy to oust them from the park and so they are trying to gather support from the community to let Bloomberg know that people are watching.”

The WFP is holding a press conference tonight at 6 p.m. at Brown Brother Harriman 140 Broadway at Liberty Plaza to call on Bloomberg to allow the protests to continue. Cantor issued this statement earlier today: Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 13, 2011, 4:31 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Quinn Ducks and Parries
October 6th, 2011

Yesterday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn presided over the passage of a bill that Mayor Michael Bloomberg adamantly opposes. Will she do it again?

This issue yesterday was the city’s increasing reliance on outside contractors. The City Council — obviously with strong backing from Quinn or else it wouldn’t have happened — unanimously passed a bill requiring a kind of cost-benefit analysis of proposed contracts.

Bloomberg later, according to WNYC’s Bob Hennelly blasted the measure. “To put impediments to us getting the best deal for the taxpayers particularly during this economy is something we can not tolerate. We are just not going to have this bill,” Bloomberg said.

The next issue could be the so-called Living Wage bill, a measure that would require businesses that get a city subsidy to pay their workers, not just the minimum wage but a living wage of $10 to $11.50 an hour, depending upon benefits.

The administration opposes that one too — usually trying to obscure the fact that it would only apply to employers getting city money. Yesterday Bloomberg somehow linked it to the Soviet Union.

Quinn wants the mayor’s business supporter and backing for her mayoral quest. She’s also probably like at least some unions on her side and a stamp of approval from the many council members who are for the living wage. And so despite repeated questioning from reporters who phrased and rephrased the question yesterday, Quinn would not be pinned down.

The verbal dueling after the jump.
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By on October 6, 2011, 3:55 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Gotham City,Health,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Questioning Police Power
September 30th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloomberg's Technology Pit
September 29th, 2011

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

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

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

Concerns about Future Technology have been circulating for some time.

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

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

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The Dicker Question
September 28th, 2011

The New York Post’s Fred Dicker was not (at least as far any any of us could tell) at the New School last night for the discussion on Cuomo and the Media. But his ears must have been burning anyway.

To the four journalists on the panel it was clear that in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the press, there’s Fred Dicker and then there’s the rest of us ink-stained wretches. (For more on that relationship, see Cuomo Cultivates His Media Messenger.)
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By on September 28, 2011, 6:47 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Discussing Cuomo's Glow
September 28th, 2011

Even on a day a public employee union dealt him a serious setback few would deny that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as an exceedingly adroit politician. And none of members of a panel on Cuomo and the Media at the New School last night even tried to.

If their assessments of the governor varied at all, they ranged from skilled to brilliant. And the four reporters, joined by one pollster, did differ on how long the governor could keep his glow.

“This is an administration incredibly interested in managing their message. They are enormously good at it. They are artists,” Liz Benjamin of State of Politics and the evening’s moderator said, setting the tone from the get-go.

To control his image and his message, the governor and his minions call and lobby reporters ceaselessly but rarely publicly. “He almost never goes on the record in a free setting,” said the New York Times‘ Nick Confessore.

The panelists seemed almost in awe of Cuomo’s skills — his ability to listen to people and engage with them, his focus on two or three key things and skill at avoiding distractions, his hard work, his smarts, his ease with “working a room.” (Panelists declined to discuss his capacity observed on at a lake in the Adirondacks last month, to walk on water)

“His job is to manage his positive image, and he’s doing an excellent job,” said Steve Greenberg, pollster with the Siena Research Institute.

So will his star ever fade?

Possible answers after the jump.
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By on September 28, 2011, 6:45 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing | 2 Comments »

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What Happens in Bermuda Stays in Bermuda
September 28th, 2011

In case there ever was any doubt, the City Council will not require that Mayor Michael Bloomberg reveal his personal travels, the Wall Street Journal reports. And once again the mayor has City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to thank.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone has told the Journal’s Michael Howard Saul that Quinn will not allow a hearing to be held on his bill that would require travel disclosure. Vallone proposed the measure after the botched city response to the December blizzard. It later became known that, as snow pelted the city, Bloomberg was in Bermuda, then Deputy Mayor of Operation Stephen Goldsmith was in Washington, D.C. and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris was – somewhere.

Quinn, of course, has frequently pushed bill the mayor likes and blocked ones he doesn’t — though not usually ones where he has such a personal stake. Last year, for example she essentially killed a measure that would require paid sick leave for city workers.

And last week, Vallone, who seems to have an increasingly prickly relationship with Quinn, and the speaker clashed over a bill on homeless animals. With the city facing a lawsuit for not complying with city law on services for animals, the council bill, supported by Quinn (or else, of course, it never would have passed) was seen by Vallone and others as removing those laws and so letting the city renege on its obligations.

“I don’t think you have to be smarter than Bonzo the chimp to figure out what’s going on,” Vallone said at the time.

By on September 28, 2011, 6:06 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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A Change on Marijuana Arrests
September 26th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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The Year's School Report Cards
September 23rd, 2011

In what has become an annual ritual, the Department of Education has today released its latest school progress reports, often called school report cards, today. (For links to summaries and individual school reports, go here.)

Today’s release covers only elementary and middle schools. The department will issue high school reports next month.

Once again the department has tweaked the oft-criticized annual reports. For one the grades seem to have stabilized somewhat from the time when the results would gyrate wildly from year to year, completely baffling parents. This year, according to the Times, 79 of the 1,219 schools dropped by two or more letter grades and 55 rose by two or more.

As part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’ s initiative on black and Latino males, a school now gets extra points for making significant progress with students in that group whose prior performance has put them in the lowest third academically. (A school, though, does not lose points if it fails miserably with black and Latino boys.)

The number of schools with low grades has increased again. Based on their 2010-11 performance, the department says, 25 percent of the schools received an A, 35 percent B, 30 percent C, 7 percent D and 3 percent flunked. This still might seem generous, but it certainly represents a change from 2009 when, in the midst of the mayor’s re-election campaign, his Department of Education decided 84 percent of elementary and middle schools deserved As and only two – that’s two school, not 2 percent – flunked.

This time around, according to Gotham Schools, the city decided in advance how many schools would get each grade.

The increase in schools getting D’s and F’s means more schools could be considering for closing, thought the departments says that that will not necessarily translate to more schools being shut down. Earlier this week, School Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he would look to close persistently failing middle schools as part of his efforts to bolster education in grades 6 through 8.

By on September 23, 2011, 3:02 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg's Record on Poverty
September 22nd, 2011

For many months, the Bloomberg administration has boasted that as poverty rose elsewhere in the country, it remained constant here, thanks in part to his policies.

Unfortunately, he can no longer say that.

New census figures, as reported in the Times this morning, show that poverty rose more rapidly in New York City – by 1.4 percentage points — than in the nation as a whole from 2009 to 2010. This brought the number of people living in poverty in the city to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. Child poverty rose even more – by 3 percentage points – leaving three out of every 10 city children in homes below the poverty level.

A report by Alliance for a Greater New York said the situation may be even worse than those numbers would indicate because of the high cost of living in New York – a luxury brand, as the mayor has called it.

Incomes across the city fell by 5 percent. But some people continue to do very well. In Manhattan – the county in the country with the biggest income gap – the average earning of the top fifth of the population came to $371,754,

While deploring this high level of poverty, advocates quickly responded that the figures only confirm what they see every day – an increasing level of need in the city. More homeless. Longer lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. People desperate for work.

More reaction and a review of Bloomberg administration poverty policies after the jump.
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By on September 22, 2011, 5:05 pm
In category: Demographics,Economy,Gotham City,Public Finance,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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Walcott Takes on Middle Schools
September 20th, 2011

It’s no secret to anyone who has spent time in city schools, had an adolescent or been one that middle school is where things begin to go awry for many students. Test scores fall, behavior problems develop and many students begin to fall so far behind that they never catch up – and simply leave schools a few years later.

The city has mounted various, often half-hearted efforts to combat this – and none have accomplished much.

In his first major policy speech as chancellor, given this morning at NYU, Dennis Walcott focused on the issues of middle schools, ticking off a panoply of problems in grade six through eight and acknowledging his department must do more to address them. (This post is based on the prepared text of Walcott’s speech, available here.) To do that, Walcott plans borrow a page from the Bloomberg administration approach to high schools by closing failing schools and opening new ones. The administration claims success with this, but the policy has been controversial and has many critics.

In his speech, Walcott vowed to open at least 50 new middle schools in the next two years. Some will be charter schools, Walcott said.

On the flip side – closing schools – Walcott said, “We will hold our middle schools to the same tough standards we hold our high schools. If a school is failing, we will phase it out.”

More on the plan after the jump.
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By on September 20, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Levy's Legacy at Bronx Science
September 16th, 2011

The Times yesterday had an interesting story on the exodus of teachers from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. According to Anna Phillips, eight of the school’s 20 social studies teachers decided not to return this year, sending the turnover rate at what one would think would be a desirable to teach to 19 percent, five percentage points higher than for the city as a whole. Phillips traces the discontent back at least as far as 2005 – but actually it dates before that to the pre-mayoral control days and the region of now largely forgotten Chancellor Harold Levy.

Back in the Giuliani administration in 1999, Stanley Blumenstein announced his retirement as principal of the selective public school. A search committee unanimously recommended William Stark, an administrator and social studies teacher serving as interim president, to fill the post.

Levy, a graduate of Bronx Science, balked, reportedly wanting a scientist to fill the post, not an educator — although there was never an indication that any top scientist even wanted the job. Levy asked the committee to find someone else.

Levy was a corporate lawyer when he was named chancellor and, like Cathie Black a decade later, needed a waiver to become chancellor. (He now works in finance and raised eyebrows in 2009 for a $500,000 contribution to Al Sharpton.)

To many observers his handling of the situation at Bronx Science was a classic indication of what can happen when people with little experience running schools control them. Faculty and parents disputed Levy’s notion that a scientist would be the best pick for the job. “Running a public high school, they say, is more like running a fine restaurant than a political campaign, a foundation or a college. At Bronx Science, they say, the importance of spin and public relations pales compared with the mundane ability to deal with cantankerous union officials, powerful custodians and 2,700 needy, if talented, adolescents,” the Times wrote.
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By on September 16, 2011, 3:19 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 8 Comments »

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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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