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Quinn Mum on Living Wage Decision
May 11th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Update on Ed Council Elections
May 10th, 2011

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

(For the runup to this, see below.)

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

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

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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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Living Wage Study Says Policy Costs Jobs
May 9th, 2011

After much anticipation, the city Economic Development Corp. released a $1 million study on living wage policy today, which finds implementing higher pay standards at city subsidized developments would cost jobs.

The study examines legislation at the City Council to require any entity who recieves more than $100,000 in financial assistance from the city to pay a living wage. Thirty council members have signed on in support of the measure. Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not revealed her position. Although the speaker has Ok’d a hearing on the bill, which is scheduled for Thursday.

The adminsitration called for the study, which was conducted by Boston-based consulting firm Charles River Associates, last year after the City Council defeated a controversial development at the Kingsbridge Armory. The developer refused to guarantee tenants of the proposal would pay a living wage.

The study found certain development projects would no longer be “financially feasible” if the city adopted a living wage mandate. As a result, it argues, the city would lose jobs.

In response to the study, Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson, released the following statement:

The study is clear: the legislation would result in major job losses at all income levels and particularly among low-income New Yorkers. The biggest job losses would occur in the areas with the highest unemployment at a time when too many New Yorkers are without jobs as it is. The legislation would have a very harmful effect on growth opportunities of small businesses and the creation of affordable housing, and it would reduce overall private investment in New York City by an estimated $7 billion. Aggregate wages among low-skilled workers would not change because any gains among some workers would be more than offset by families losing employment opportunities entirely. The goal of increasing wages among New Yorkers of course is a good one, but this type of approach in other cities hasnt just failed, its done so with severe consequences for job-seekers and businesses.

But not everyone was thrilled with the results. In response to the study, Comptroller John Liu (a frequent critic of the Economic Development Corp.) released the following statement:

The EDCs claim that a living wage kills jobs shows just how distorted the agencys operations have become. The proposed living wage would be a requirement on new projects that are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. It may curtail the number of new minimum wage jobs, with the hope that these new jobs would then pay a decent wage. The claim of job losses is rhetoric at its worst.

Asked what he thinks the study means for the living wage legislation currently under consideration at the City Council, Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, still seemed optimistic.

“The council I’m sure will give it careful consideration,” Sonn said. “We expect them to look at more rigorous research, which includes other studies and hearing the real world experiences of other cities.”

And for your reading pleasure:

Living Wage Exec Summary_2011 05 09

By on May 9, 2011, 6:11 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Bloomberg Releases Budget, Slashes Teachers
May 6th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Advocates Protest SWMP Delays (UPDATE)
April 12th, 2011

Five years after the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to a solid waste management plan for the five boroughs – one that spread out the city’s garbage burden — council members and environmental justice advocates say the adminsitration is backpedaling.

In its preliminary capital budget, the adminsitration has delayed the construction of four waste transfer stations, three of which are in Manhattan. The cut, said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council, could delay funding for these facilities between five and eight years. Advocates fear the stations will never occur. Five years from now, there will be a new occupant in City Hall — one perhaps with different priorities.

“We are very troubled,” said Goldstein.

The waste transfer stations are a crucial part of the 2006 solid waste management plan, which attempts to get garbage off of diesel-spewing trucks and onto rail cars and barges instead. The plan was also meant to spread stations throughout the five boroughs to ease the burden on communities inundated with city waste — like the South Bronx, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The delayed stations in Manhattan are the only ones slated for the borough, which currently sends the vast majority of its trash to New Jersey.

We are waiting for a response from the Department of Sanitation.

Advocates also decried the administration’s recent exploration of waste-to-energy — a controversial technology that typically involves burning or heating trash to create electricity (We reported on it here two weeks ago). Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group decried the move.

“The types of technology they want to pilot have not been proven successful commercially anywhere in the country,” said Haight. “We believe this is a waste of energy.”

A conversation on the equal distribution of these types of facilities is occurring right now at a hearing of the Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses Subcommittee. Councilmember Brad Lander, the committee’s chair, blasted the adminsitration for refusing to testify (his letter appears below).

“We’ve concentrated those facilities in low-income communities, in communities of color,” Lander said this afternoon on the City Hall steps.

A spokesperson for the Bloomberg adminsitration said they would not send a representative, because “fair share,” as it’s commonly referred to, is currently the subject of litigation.

UPDATE: We just got this response from City Hall spokesperson Jason Post:

Because of the economy, the City has been forced to reduce all of its expenditures, including its capital program.

The preliminary capital budget for the Sanitation Department includes deferred spending on four Marine Transfer Stations.

The Administration remains fully committed to SWMPs principles of borough equity, using rail and barge to transfer solid waste, relieving the burden of waste receiving from certain communities, strengthening our recycling infrastructure and piloting new technologies to derive clean energy from waste.

We have made great progress on SWMP alreadylong term rail contracts are in place and two marine transfer stations are under construction, as is the Citys new recycling facilityand we are exploring cost-effective alternatives to expedite the construction schedule outlined in the preliminary capital plan. We will make a decision before the Mayors executive budget presentation.

CM Lander Letter to Mayor Bloomberg Re Fair Share Hearing(2)

By on April 12, 2011, 2:22 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,nextNY,Waterfront | 2 Comments »

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Walcott Visits the Council
April 8th, 2011

In his first visit to the City Council as the schools chancellor designee, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott was informed, cordial and calm.

Most council members lauded him. All of them offered congratulations.

“You are much more knowledgeable than Cathie Black,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “You are much more accessible.”

And that praise came despite the fact Walcott was the bearer of bad news. Toeing the administration’s line, Walcott slammed state budget cuts to the five boroughs, claiming the city was treated unfairly. While the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was supposed to give the city its fair share of education aid, Walcott said city revenue would cover 61 percent of non-federal education spending in next year’s budget. The state would only cover 39 percent.

Walcott claimed the vast majority of controllable costs at the Department of Education go to teachers’ salaries. The only way to close a $1 billion budget gap, he said, would be to lay off teachers.

“That means, with a budget shortfall of this magnitude, a reduction in headcount is unavoidable,” Walcott said.

There was some dispute between Walcott and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson on the administration’s proposal to repeal the city’s last in, first out policy — which requires the city lay off teachers based on seniority. The policy’s repeal is a major goal of the Bloomberg adminsitration this year.

Walcott said the city has incentives for principals to keep teachers based on skill instead of how much their salary is. Jackson, however, said the repeal of LIFO could spur discrimination — with principals getting rid of the more senior, expensive instructors in favor of cheaper, younger ones.

Ultimately, Jackson said, the issue is moot.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 8, 2011, 3:32 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Takes "Full Responsibility"
April 7th, 2011

In an unprecedented reversal for the Bloomberg adminsitration, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black stepped down this morning just after several of her top deputies resigned and a poll gave her a failing approval rating.

At City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he spoke with Black this morning, and they “mutually agreed” it was time for her to go. The decision follows a NY1/Marist College poll that put Black’s approval rating at 17 percent. Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott will replace Black.

The announcement culminates what will likely be the shortest tenure as chancellor in history. Black was selected in November. Her stint was punctuated by embarrassing gaffes and a lack of confidence in her ability to improve the city’s public school system. Today’s announcement surprised and shocked many and represented a rare defeat for the third term mayor, who has often balked at admitting mistakes.

This morning, though, was different.

“I take full responsibility that this has not worked out,” Bloomberg said.

At the same time, Bloomberg was hesitant to reflect on why Black failed. He repeatedly urged the media to “look forward” and not dwell on her three-month stint.

“The story had become about her, and it should be about the students,” Bloomberg said.

During the humbling news conference, Bloomberg said Black had done an “admirable job” and had nothing but “respect and admiration for her.” He also said leading the nation’s largest public school system was “difficult.”

Unlike Black, who sent her children to private school and had no teaching experience, Walcott has taught kindergarten and served on the former Board of Education as well as an adjunct professor at York College. He sent his children to New York City public schools.

By on April 7, 2011, 1:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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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
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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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Council to Move Forward Bus Bill
March 23rd, 2011

The City Council is voting on a home rule message today that would give Albany the authority to pass legislation to require the regulation of intercity buses.

The move is an indication that the legislation will be approved in Albany.

The bill, introduced in Albany in February by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, would require discount buses register with the city. It would affect the types of discount buses involved in recent fatal accidents in New Jersey and in the Bronx. Supporters say it would give city officials a better indication of who is operating what vehicles, from where and when.

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with monitoring safety conditions on these vehicles. Council officials said the bill would not regulate safety and would not supersede federal authority.

The City Council must approve a home rule message before the legislation can move in Albany.

By on March 23, 2011, 2:35 pm
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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 | Comments Off

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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
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Fire Department Cuts to Affect 'Every Community'
March 11th, 2011

truck

Photo (cc) Just Us 3

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano didn’t sugarcoat how fire company cuts would affect the city during a City Council hearing this morning.

“Every community in the city will be affected, not just those communities in the first-due areas of the closed companies,” said Cassano in prepared testimony. “Twenty closures would require us to make adjustments in our operations, which will make it extremely challenging to maintain the same levels of service to the communities we serve.”

To close a multi-billion dollar budget gap, the Bloomberg adminsitration is proposing to shutter 20 fire companies to save $55 million next fiscal year. The adminsitration has already reduced staffing from five to four firefighters on 60 engines — a move fire unions are challenging.

The City Council successfully averted fire company closures for the past three years by plugging the department’s budget with its own discretionary funding. One councilmember this morning couldn’t promise they would be able to do the same this year.

“This council has worked really hard within our body to save these cuts,” said Councilmember Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island. “If [Bloomberg] is relying on the council to put this money back, that’s a lift.”

(We cover the cuts to the Fire Department in depth today here.)

It’s still unclear what companies would be affected. The Fire Department does not have to release a list until 45 days before the companies are scheduled to close.
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By on March 11, 2011, 4:10 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Philly Votes, New York Doesn't
March 4th, 2011

With a paid sick leave bill stalled n the New York City Council, a similar measure is wending its way toward possible approval in Philadelphia. Earlier this week, the council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services voted in favor of a measure that would requires that employees at businesses with 11 or more workers earn up to nine paid sick days a year and those working for a place with 10 or fewer employees get five days. A vote by the full council could come next week.

The arguments for and against the bill echo those here. And in Philadelphia, as in New York, businesses and the city administration oppose the mayor, arguing it would create job loss. Advocates dispute that contention and also maintain that having sick workers on the job poses a health risk — particularly when so many workers without paid sick leave are in the food service business.

But there is one difference between New York and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia the council actually will get to vote on the bill. Here, even though 35 of the 51 City Council have expressed support for the measure, the council has never voted on it.

For that, credit — or blame — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who can effectively kill any measure that does not meet her approval. And that is what she has done with paid sick leave.

By on March 4, 2011, 4:52 pm
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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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One Person, One Vote -- More or Less
February 18th, 2011

Every person is supposed to be entitled to equal representation, but in New York some people are more equal than others. And those more equal New Yorkers tend to live in Republican parts of the state.

At least that’s the conclusion one can draw from a document released by state Senate Democrats. Under current state law, a legislative district can deviate by as much as 5 percent from the “ideal” size of 306,069. The districts that are smaller than they need to be are mostly Republican; those that have more people than “ideal” tend to be Democratic.

The district with the most people — 4.82 percent more than it should is 38 in Rockland and Orange counties, represented by newly elected Democrat — and dissident Democrat — David Carlucci.

All the other districts that are at least 4 percent larger than they should be are in Queen. These are the districts currently represented by Shirley Huntley, Tony Avella, Michael Gianaris, Jose Peralta, Malcolm Smith, Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky. Oddly though Addabbo is a Democrat, the seat had been held for many year by a Republican — Serphin Maltese.

The smallest district in terms of population — squeaking in under the 5 percent limits in at 4.95 — is the 48th, represented by Patty Ritchie. According to the 2000 census, her district has 29,926 fewer people than Carlucci’s. The gap grows even wider if one look at the 2009 American Community Survey numbers. According to those, Carlucci has 47,906 more constituents than Ritchie.

All the other district that have more than 4 percent fewer people than the ideal are upstate –both Democratic and Republican districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s redistricting bill, introduced earlier this week, would narrow the gap among districts allowing them to deviate form the “normal” size by only plus or minus one percent.

By on February 18, 2011, 5:43 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off

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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 | Comments Off

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Bike Lanes on the Agenda
February 16th, 2011

The latest bike battle is rolling into the City Council today with several pieces of legislation, including a requirement to report bike and pedestrian accidents more frequently.

One bill will force the Police Department to report on its Web site the number of traffic moving violations, crashes and injuries or fatalities on a monthly basis. It will also force the Department of Transportation to study all traffic crashes involving a serious injury or fatality every five years.

In recent months, bicyclists and communities have clashed over the number of bike lanes across the city. Today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the package of legislation would help communities and bicycle advocates understand why bike lanes go in certain areas.

“Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is a good thing,” said Quinn. “Bike lanes work great in some neighborhoods and don’t work well in others.”

We’ll report back later on how the council voted.

By on February 16, 2011, 2:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Parks,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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