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Sanders: Quinn Should Bring Paid Sick Leave to Vote
August 30th, 2012

New York City Councilman James Sanders Jr. is imploring Speaker Christine Quinn to bring a stalled paid sick leave bill to a vote.

“There is nothing harder to stop than an idea whose time has come,” the councilman said in a recent interview with the Gotham Gazette.

Quinn has refused to bring the bill to a vote, both in an earlier form in 2010 and after it was revised and reintroduced in recent months. In both instances, she has argued that the bill would negatively affect businesses in a weakened economy.

Sanders is running against Shirley Huntley in the Democrat primary for the 10th State Senate District.

By on August 30, 2012, 3:25 pm
In category: City Hall,Health | 2 Comments »

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City Council Members, Business Groups Rally Against Soda Ban
July 23rd, 2012

City Council members and a beverage-industry backed group rallied on the steps of City Hall today to protest the Bloomberg administration’s proposed soda ban.

Members of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices were joined by city council members and representatives from a local soft drink and beer workers’ union to speak out against the proposal to restrict the size of sweetened drinks sold at certain stores to 16 ounces.

The speakers explained that the regulation would cause economic problems, as well as violate New Yorkers’ right to choose

“This is going to set up an unfair competitive advantage,” said Letitia James, city councilwoman for District 36.

The ban will affect only restaurants and other venues, such as movie theaters and ballparks, that require a health inspection report. Grocery stores and vendors like 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp, will not be restricted which Councilman Daniel Halloran argued is inequitable and thus illegal.

“That’s the standard. Either it applies to everyone or it doesn’t,” he said.

Halloran and other soda ban opponents said they were frustrated with the public’s relative inability to affect the decision on the proposal, which was recently backed by the city’s largest healthcare union.

A Board of Health hearing in Long Island City tomorrow may be the only opportunity to comment, and Halloran described the Board as a “strong mayoralty agency.”

“The agency’s already made up its mind. Having the hearing is pointless,” Halloran explained. “The mayor chose to go this route because he knew he would never get this bill passed through the City Council.”

Members of the City Council have already begun taking up the issue with the legislature in Albany, and Halloran anticipates a lawsuit against the ban almost as soon as it is passed.

“The City Council’s function is to set the laws of the city of New York,” he said. “We’re not going to let one man become king in the city of New York.”

By on July 23, 2012, 1:59 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Health,Law | 5 Comments »

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Bill banning smoking outside schools awaits Senate vote *Update*
June 18th, 2012

A bill prohibiting smoking 100 feet from the entrances, exits and outdoor areas of private and public elementary or secondary schools passed the Assembly today.

New York State successfully banned smoking indoors to protect all New Yorkers from the harmful side effects of secondhand smoke,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. “This bill seeks to further protect our youth who are now exposed to secondhand smoke at entrances and exits of their school buildings from unwanted exposure. Smoking is particularly dangerous to children. This bill will help to protect them from the scourge of secondhand smoke.”

Sen. Gustavo Rivera sponsored the bill in the Senate. The legislation is one of several health-oriented measures he has sponsored. Rivera has been focused on improving his own health and looking at how Bronx kids develop habits that are bad for their health.

He supports Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large soda cups. A spokesman for Rivera said on Monday that they hoped the smoking bill would be on the Senate’s active list on Tuesday.

While the bill’s passage was a cinch in the Assembly, Rivera is in the minority in the Senate and it is up to the Majority to bring the bill to a vote.

*The bill was passed by by the Senate last night and awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature*

By on June 18, 2012, 6:41 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo visits Westchester to call for agency for disabled
May 10th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the College of New Rochelle in Westchester County today to push for legislation that would create a new agency to investigate reports of abuse of the disabled.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York state protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve.”

Cuomo announced the legislation on Monday.

Last month, Cuomo told reporters he thought the legislative session would be relatively quiet. However, Cuomo has made it clear the new agency is a major legislative priority and that he will lobby legislators and the public on the issue until he is able to sign it into law.

Both legislative leaders have said they expect to be able to pass the law by the end of the session, which ends in June.

“This bill puts forth unprecedented reforms that will transform how New York State protects and cares for people with special needs and disabilities,” said Governor Cuomo. “This is exactly the type of agency that the patients and their family and friends deserve. I urge the Senate and Assembly to pass this bill so we can start implementing these reforms as soon as possible.”Cuomo said earlier this week that the legislation is a legislative priority for him and the leaders of both legislative houses said they thought they could pass the legislation by the end of the season. The legislation is designed to address what has been called a corrupt, abusive system by a number of observers. Earlier this year Cuomo told reporters that he expected a quiet legislative session because he had achieved the majority of his legislative agenda. But now Cuomo appears geared up to lobby and legislators and the public on the legislation until he is able to sign it into law.

Advocacy groups have generally been supportive of the legislation, though the father of a 13-year-old autistic boy smothered to death by a caretaker has criticized the legislation for not being more proactive. The boy’s father, Michael Carey, told The New York Times he felt the state should invest in cameras and training and limit caregiver overtime.

More about the Justice Center can be found at www.Justice4SpecialNeeds.com. A report by the governor’s special advisor on vulnerable persons is available here.

By on May 10, 2012, 3:33 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Health | No Comments »

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Neighboring Bronx Dems split on nutritional standards bill
May 9th, 2012

Two Bronx Democratic legislators with bordering districts are on different sides of a debate over a bill that would require higher nutritional standards for any meal packaged with a toy.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, whointroduced the legislation earlier this week, told the Gotham Gazette today that the new standards are designed to get children accustomed to eating a healthier diet.

“If parents want to feed their kids horrible stuff, god bless America, they can do that, but we know kids develop their eating habits early on and they should be given the chance to eat healthy,” he said.

But fellow state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., disagrees. In an email sent to the press and his constituents, he wondered how elected officials had the right to “tell moms how they should feed their children.”

“Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children,” he said in his email.

How can these same two officials think they have the right to tell moms how they should feed their children or what to what restaurant they should take them?
Parents struggle to do what’s best for their children, and at least so far, in this country parents are not dictated to by local elected officials about how to feed their children.  If they want to cook at home, they can. If they want to go out and eat, they can

A 2009report by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand found that 62 percent of Bronx residents are overweight or obese.

Other cities have looked at ways to control the sale of toys with meals. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently passed a law banning toys with meals, and the Center for Science for Public Interest is leading a national charge to push for similar laws.

McDonald’s Happy Meals may be the most well-known food products accompanied by toys. But the company said efforts to regulate the products as part of a strategy of tackling the problems of obesity are misplaced.

“We don’t think removing a toy will reduce childhood obesity,” said Cheryl Forsatz, a spokeswoman for the company. “The issue is much more complex and we are committed to giving families choices.”

Rivera said he has yet to talk to the Republican majority about his legislation, but said he expects it to be included in a package of mostly health-related bills that he called “common sense legislation.”

State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, also a Democrat,introduced a similar bill. He did not return a phone call earlier today requesting comment.

By on May 9, 2012, 4:41 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | No Comments »

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Cuomo Establishes Health Exchange
April 12th, 2012

No. 42
E X E C U T I V E O R D E R
ESTABLISHING THE NEW YORK HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE
WHEREAS, the implementation of a Health Benefit Exchange and other reforms in New York will: (1) result in lower premiums for individuals and small businesses; (2) allow individuals and small businesses purchasing coverage through such Exchange to receive $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and cost sharing subsidies; and (3) provide one million additional New Yorkers access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance, reducing the percentage of New Yorkers who are without health insurance;
WHEREAS, a state that chooses to operate its own Exchange must demonstrate to the federal government, by January 1, 2013, that its Exchange will be able to begin accepting applications by October 1, 2013, and will be operational by January 1, 2014, and if the state does not demonstrate operational readiness of its own Exchange, its residents will be required to participate in a federal Exchange;
WHEREAS, the State of New York is best positioned to: (1) understand the ramifications of operating an Exchange within New Yorks commercial insurance market; (2) consider the unique regional and economic needs of the States individual and small business health insurance markets; (3) account for the diversity of its population, with its ethnic, cultural and language differences; and (4) decide what benefits will be provided to enrollees in the Exchange, which health plans can participate in the Exchange, what rules should apply to the marketing of products by health plans, and how to operate the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) for small businesses;
WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act requires an Exchange to evaluate the eligibility of individuals for Medicaid and other public health coverage and enroll them if eligible, meaning that it will be essential to coordinate the operations of the Exchange with the States administration of these programs;
WHEREAS, the taxpayers of this State subsidize the costs associated with care for the 2.7 million New Yorkers without health insurance, who frequently forego preventive care and other needed treatment, putting them at risk of being sicker throughout their lives and dying sooner than those who have health insurance, which diverts funds from other public uses and costs state and county taxpayers more than $600 million annually just to pay for a portion of the services rendered by hospitals to people without insurance;
WHEREAS, New Yorks uninsured working families often earn too much to qualify for public health insurance, but not enough to purchase coverage that costs, on average, over $1,200 per month for an individual and $3,450 per month for a family of four;
WHEREAS, small businesses, without assistance, cannot afford to purchase health insurance coverage for their workers, nearly 800,000 of whom have lost employer-sponsored coverage over the last decade, and thus face a major competitive disadvantage that inhibits their ability to grow, create jobs and otherwise support the States economic development;
WHEREAS, the costs associated with care for the uninsured are shifted through increased premiums to those individuals and groups that purchase health insurance coverage, causing working families with health insurance to pay $800 more in premiums on average each year;
WHEREAS, the development and operation of an Exchange in New York will impose no cost on the State, but will be funded entirely with federal funds until January 1, 2015, at which time the Exchange will be wholly self-funded, meaning that no State or county taxpayer dollars will be used for such purposes; and
WHEREAS, it is therefore critical that the State of New York establish and operate its own Exchange, and that it do so expeditiously;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the Laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:
1. There is hereby established within the Department of Health, in conformity with the Affordable Care Act, the New York Health Benefit Exchange (the Exchange). The Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Financial Services and other state agencies, shall take all necessary steps to effectuate the Exchange, and expedite its ability to perform those functions necessary to carry out the requirements and serve the goals of the Affordable Care Act.
2. The Exchange shall, among other things, facilitate enrollment in health coverage and the purchase and sale of qualified health plans in the individual market in this state, and enroll individuals in health coverage for which they are eligible in accordance with federal law.
3. The Exchange shall, among other things, take such actions necessary to enable eligible individuals to receive premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions and to enable eligible small businesses to receive tax credits, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
4. The Exchange shall, among other things, enter into agreements with appropriate entities, including but not limited to federal, state and local agencies, to the extent necessary to carry out its duties and responsibilities, provided that such agreements incorporate adequate protections with respect to the confidentiality of any information to be shared.
5. The Exchange shall, among other things, convene regional advisory committees, consisting of consumer advocates, small business consumer representatives, health care providers, agents, brokers, insurers, labor organizations, and any other appropriate stakeholders, to provide advice and make recommendations on the establishment and operation of the Exchange, including recommendations about relevant regional factors, and shall provide opportunities for public input on such matters.
6. The Exchange shall, among other things, become financially self-sustaining by January 1, 2015, as required by the Affordable Care Act.
7. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to duplicate, preempt, supersede, limit or otherwise restrict the statutory authority, duties and functions of the Department of Health, the Department of Financial Services or any other agency of this State.
G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this twelfth day of April in the year two thousand twelve.
BY THE GOVERNOR
Secretary to the Governor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the following executive order today establishing The New York Health Benefit Exchange that will help individuals and small businesses secure health insurance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans had resisted creating an exchange for months–some labeling it an extension of “Obamacare.” Cuomo promised after the budget deal that he would take matters into his own hands.

“The bottom line is that creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments, and individual New Yorkers across the state. The sky-high cost of insurance in New York is driving businesses out of the state and preventing lower income New Yorkers from being able to afford needed coverage,Cuomo said. Establishing the health exchange will bring true competition into the health care marketplace, driving costs down across the state.”

Here is the executive order: Read the rest of this entry »
By on April 12, 2012, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 3 Comments »

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Deal on "Close to Home"
March 26th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton have issued a joint statement praising an apparent deal that would allow New York City the ability to control placement and treatment of its juvenile delinquents. For more on what exactly the legislation would do check out my recent story.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.
We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.
In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.

We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.

In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

By on March 26, 2012, 1:57 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Health | No Comments »

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Quinn on Fingerprinting for Food Stamps
January 5th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemingly went after the city’s policy of fingerprinting people who want access to food stamps in his State of the State Address. The Bloomberg administration has supported the measure as a way to stop fraud and Bloomberg dismissed Cuomo’s statement in a press conference following the speech. Council Speaker Christine Quinn just weighed in via press release and she is taking Cuomo’s side.

In these tough economic times, we need to help New Yorkers get the federal services they qualify for, not put obstacles in their way. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and I couldnt disagree more fingerprinting food stamp applicants is a time consuming and unnecessary process, which stigmatizes applicants and has prevented 24,000 New Yorkers from getting the help they deserve. The State has the authority to eliminate finger imaging in New York City, and the Mayor should not even think of challenging Governor Cuomos decision.

Cuomo said in his State of the State yesterday that, “One of the things we do now and makes the stigma actually worse and creates a barrier for families coming forward to get food stamps is we require fingerprinting. I’m saying stop fingerprinting for families, said Cuomo.

Bloomberg told reporters, “Its not a stigma, and it may be elsewhere in the state, and maybe thats what he was referring to, but its certainly not a stigma.”

By on January 5, 2012, 4:51 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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Hearings on Helping Veterans
October 25th, 2011

The New York State Assembly along with the Senate Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force will be holding a televised town hall meeting tomorrow in conjunction with Time Warner Cable to discuss issues facing returning veterans. The meeting called, “New York Cares About Veterans” will take place from 6 -7:30 p.m..

The discussion, according to the press release, will include issues like the governments preparedness to provide services to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, providing veterans with jobs housing and education opportunities and what kind of help the military offers returning veterans. The Gazette recently took a look at the services provided to veterans by Mayor Michael Bloombergs Office of Veterans Affairs. A a number of city council members were shocked by the lack of services provided by OVA. The following press release contains locations where you can attend the state-wide town hall:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on October 25, 2011, 4:29 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany,Health,Social Services,Work and Labor | 7 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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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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Food Stamps for Soda
August 19th, 2011

The federal Department of Agriculture has rejected the Bloomberg administration’s bid to bar New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase soda sweetened with sugar.

The city made its request last fall, proposing a two-year test to see how effective a ban might be. The move part of the administration’s campaign against obesity — came after the state legislature rejected efforts to put a tax on the sugary beverage.

While soda lobbyists, of course, objected to the restriction on food stamp use, even many public health experts questioned it from the get-go, fearing that it unfairly singled out people who receive food stamp. The agriculture department always seemed unlikely to approve the ban, and some questioned whether it even had the authority to do so without congressional approval.

Rather than a ban, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reportedly said in a letter, the department prefers to promote ” incentive-based solutions that are better suited for the working families, elderly and other low-income individuals” who get food stamps.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed disappointment with the decision. “We think our innovative pilot would have done more to protect people from the crippling effects of preventable illnesses like diabetes and obesity than anything being proposed anywhere else in this country and at little or no cost to taxpayers,” the statement said.

By on August 19, 2011, 5:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Health,Social Services | 4 Comments »

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Law on Pregnancy Centers Blocked
July 13th, 2011

A federal judge yesterday threw out a city law regulating so-called pregnancy crisis centers, only hours before the measure was set to take effect. The law, passed by City Council in March and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would require these centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions. They also would have had to post signs indicating whether they have medical professionals on staff.

The centers clearly have an anti-abortion agenda and try to encourage women to bear the child — either to keep or put up for adoption. Their attempts to conceal that, New York Civil Liberties executive director Donna Lieberman has said, misleads women and so can “pose serious health risks”

From the beginning, though, people affiliated with the center said the bill infringed on the centers’ rights to free speech.

Yesterday, Judge William H. Pauley III agreed, calling the law “offensive to free speech principles” and saying it was based on an “overly broad definition of commercial speech.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 13, 2011, 10:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Health,Law | 2 Comments »

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Smokers Park?
June 15th, 2011

Marissa Miller filed this post.

Smokers take note: The city’s ban on smoking in parks so far does not apply to Hudson River Park. It is not part of the city’s park system — it is state regulated – and therefore does not fall under its jurisdiction.

That could change, though. The park is in somewhat of a “gray” area and so, according to the parks department, its exemption from the ban is currently under review.

For now, Hudson River Park has refrained from installing the “no smoking” signs found in other city parks. However, some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods worry that it will turn into a smokers “paradise,” infested by smokers from all around the city.

In an e-mail statement, David Katz, vice president of marketing and events at Hudson River Park Trust, wrote, “The state’s Administrative Procedures Act requires us to provide a public review and comment period and a hearing prior to issuing or amending our park rules. We are not allowed to ban smoking until this process is completed. At our most recent board meeting, we were asked to commence this process. We expect to hold a public hearing this summer on a proposal to ban smoking in the park.”

So, New Yorkers will have to wait and see if this park will remain a smoker’s oasis for much longer.

It was reported elsewhere that Battery Park City would also participate in this exemption from the ban as it also falls under state jurisdiction. However, a spokesperson from the Battery Park City Authority confirmed, “Battery Park City will follow New York City Park rules and regulations” and thus abide by the smoking ban.

By on June 15, 2011, 9:14 am
In category: Environment,Health,Parks | No Comments »

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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.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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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Turn Off That Cigarette
April 20th, 2011

Michael Mandelkern filed this post.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone, who represents Astoria, has proposed a local law to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and prohibit anyone from smoking electronic cigarettes in certain public areas.

“People should start getting the word out there about these cigarettes,” Vallone said. “It’s absolutely not a healthy activity.”

Vallone has noticed tobacco shops in Astoria selling electronic cigarettes to minors, and although he is not sure how widespread sales are across the city he seeks to nip their availability to children in the bud. He has no qualms about adults who buy electronic cigarettes under the impression that they are safer than regular cigarettes, but he is concerned that the flavors, such as strawberry and vanilla, will entice youngsters to develop nicotine cravings before adulthood.

“There’s no reason for a child to smoke,” Vallone said. “We are trying to get out in front of the potential problem.”

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices filled with nicotine or other chemicals that turn into vapor when lit by a heating element. The federal Food and Drug Administration has not conclusively determined whether they curb nicotine addiction.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 20, 2011, 1:28 pm
In category: City Hall,Health | 9 Comments »

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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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Cuomo on Indian Point
March 22nd, 2011

The Indian Point nuclear plant has become the point of much scrutiny in light of the nuclear disaster in Japan. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he has the assurance of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they will make Indian Point its priority when reviewing seismic risk at nuclear plants across the country. Indian Point is in close proximity to New York City and sits on two fault lines. Here is the release from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 22, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Health | No Comments »

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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
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Work and Labor | No Comments »

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Gottfried and Silver Approve Medicaid Redesign Team Recs
February 25th, 2011

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried was one of four members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s redesign team who abstained on voting to put forward recommendations to the governor yesterday. He complained that the process was rushed and didn’t take time to add recommendations or adjustments. He expected a vote to take place this coming Tuesday.

But just minutes ago Assembly Speaker Sheldon’s Silver office issued a joint statement with Gottfried approving of the Medicaid Redesign Team’s final report.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

I commend the members of the Medicaid Redesign Team for their work to find substantial savings in Medicaid while preserving quality care for New Yorkers. We look forward to reviewing the MRTs final report and reiterate the Assemblys commitment to delivering an on-time budget that reflects the overwhelming consensus that emerged from the MRT process.

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried:

Despite the concern I voiced yesterday about the speed with which the MRT voted, I believe, on the whole, that the final report contains needed reforms that will place our Medicaid system on a path to long term financial sustainability while safeguarding quality healthcare for New Yorkers in need, the elderly and the disabled.

By on February 25, 2011, 4:13 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 1 Comment »

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Cuomo's Statement on Medicaid Redesign Team Proposal
February 24th, 2011

Here are the official details from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on the proposals submitted to him from the Medicaid Redesign Team:

GOVERNOR CUOMO ACCEPTS RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE MEDICAID REDESIGN TEAM

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today accepted a report from the Medicaid Redesign Team which meets the Governor’s Medicaid spending target contained in his 2011-2012 budget by introducing a global cap on State Medicaid expenditures of $15.109 billion. The report included 79 recommendations to redesign and restructure the Medicaid program to be more efficient and get better results for patients.

New York spends more than twice the national average on Medicaid on a per capita basis, and spending per enrollee is the second highest in the nation. At the same time, New York ranks 21st out of all states for overall health system quality and ranks last among all states for avoidable hospital use and costs. Unfortunately years of attempts to address the problem have been unsuccessful.

In an unprecedented change from past practice, Governor Cuomo established the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) bringing together stakeholders and experts from throughout the state to work cooperatively to reform the system and reduce costs. The approach was designed to move past the dysfunction and rancor of the past and produce real results for all New Yorkers. Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 24, 2011, 7:40 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 3 Comments »

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