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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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AP: BOE can change election night counting process
July 13th, 2012

The Associated Press is reporting that the city Board of Elections has received a legal opinion from the State Board of Elections that would allow them to change their election night closing procedures without actually changing the law.

As we reported earlier this week, the city BOE is considering changing its procedures so that it can use electronic data from voting machines when polls close to tally unofficial vote counts rather than using the current process that involves using scissors, tape, and calculators and requires BOE staffers to count votes by hand late into the night.

Recent elections, including the Congressional contest between Rep. Charles Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, have seen election night totals come in drastically different from the eventual official count. Elected officials like Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh want to change the process to avoid a further corrosion of public trust in the election process.

As we reported yesterday, Brewer will be holding a Council hearing on August 8 to look into the recent problems at the BOE.

Brewer has supported a Kavanagh-sponsored bill in the Assembly that would have allowed the BOE to use electronic data. The measure passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate; now it looks like the board can move ahead with the change in process without any official legislation.

By on July 13, 2012, 9:05 am
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 1 Comment »

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Development Corps Illegally Lobbied City Council: AG
July 3rd, 2012

Three local development corporations illegally lobbied City Council members in 2008 and 2009 to promote development projects in Willets Point and Coney Island, the state attorney general says.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation and the Coney Island Development Corporation. The settlement included provisions to increase transparency and reduce loopholes through which these organizations lobbied New York City officials. However, no fine or other punishment was meted out.

Members of the groups ghostwrote op-eds and prepared testimony in order to create the appearance of a grassroots movement in favor of development projects they were backing, the attorney general said. Influencing legislation is barred by statute for local development corporations.

These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties, to win approval of their favored projects, Schneiderman said in a press release. This agreement will bring greater transparency, and ensure accountability for these and other local development corporations operating in New York State.

The agreement includes mandatory compliance training for local development corporation employees, more public disclosure of interaction between these corporations and reminders that it is illegal to lobby the Council regarding development projects, even indirectly.

The EDC will be restructuring to remove the organization’s local development corporation status to avoid further violations.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation intends to undertake a restructuring, the primary effect of which will be to allow the company to remain a not-for-profit corporation, but to cease to be a local development corporation,” Patrick Muncie, an EDC spokesman, said in a statement. “As discussed with the New York State Attorney General, NYCEDC is currently taking all appropriate steps to effectuate this restructuring.

City Comptroller John Liu described the restructuring as a long time coming.

While these revelations of illegal lobbying are alarming, we cannot say that they come as a surprise,” Liu said in a later release. New York Citys economic development process is in dire need of greater transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness, something EDCs current culture fails to provide.

By on July 3, 2012, 2:29 pm
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Governing,Law | No Comments »

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Judge Sets June 26 Primary
January 27th, 2012

If there wasn’t enough going on regarding redistricting this week the whole sordid affair got a kick in the pants thanks to U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe who has ruled that unless that state takes legislative action all of New York’s future federal non-presidential primaries will be held on the fourth Tuesday of June. Groups in favor of independent redistricting have been concerned for months that Gov. Andrew Cuomo might not want to veto LATFOR’s district lines because it could send things into chaos right before a possible Spring primary. That Spring primary is now a reality barring any action from the legislature. If the legislature does not act New York will have three primary dates: the June primary for House and Senate races, the April Republican Presidential Primary and the September Senate and Assembly Primary.

Sharpe wrote:

“Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.

In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.”

Notwithstanding any current state law or administrative procedure to the contrary, New York shall conduct its 2012 non-presidential federal primary election on a date no later than 35 days prior to the 45-day advance deadline set by the MOVE Act for transmitting ballots to the States military and overseas voters, i.e., at least 80 days before the November 6, 2012 federal general election. In 2012, that date shall be June 26, 2012.
In subsequent even-numbered years, New Yorks non-presidential federal primary date shall be the fourth Tuesday of June, unless and until New York enacts legislation resetting the non-presidential federal primary election for a date that complies fully with all UOCAVA requirements, and is approved by this court.
By on January 27, 2012, 4:53 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Law | 7 Comments »

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Schneiderman Weighs in on Federal Fracking Regs
November 8th, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is not pleased with hydrofracking regulations that were put forward by the Delaware River Basin. Commission today. Schneiderman filed a suit in May against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to force a full environmental review of the impact of fracking on the Delaware River Basin. Here is what Schneiderman had to say about the new regulations:

By issuing these modified draft regulations, the federal government continues to ignore New Yorkers concerns about the impact fracking may have on our environment, health and homes. Though modified, these regulations still lack the benefit of a full environmental impact study, which is required by law and dictated by common sense. Without it, the federal government does not have a complete understanding of the health and safety risks fracking poses, even as it stands to open up the Delaware River Basin to thousands of new gas wells. These regulations are both inadequate and illegal, and I will continue to use the full authority of my office to require that the federal government meet its clear legal obligation to fully study the environmental impacts of fracking in the Basin.

Here is Schneiderman’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 8, 2011, 3:31 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany,Law | 2 Comments »

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The Races for DA
November 6th, 2011

Three of New York City’s five district attorneys are up for re-election this year, but for only one — Staten Island Daniel Donovan — is the contest’ outcome in any doubt.

(For more on who can vote and how this year, go here. For more on the judicial contests, go here.)

Two of the veteran prosecutors, Richard Brown in Queens and Robert Johnson in the Bronx — will appear on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines and will not face any opposition.

Brown, who will turn 79 later this month, is headed to his sixth-term.

Johnson, who already is in his sixth term, was the first black district attorney in the state. In a somewhat strange twist, he received a rating of “not approved” by the city bar association this year. Johnson attributed the rejection to his not agreeing to an interview with the association and said he thinks it make little sense for the group to rate candidates in uncontested elections.

“If they think that I have not demonstrated the qualifications to hold this office,” Johnson told Reuters, “they must have been stuck in a cave for the past two decades.”

The bar does not explain or amplify on its ratings although they do not endorse candidates they can’t interview.

The Staten Island race offers a reprise of the 2007race in which Republican Donovan defeated Democrat Mike Ryan with about 70 percent of the vote. Donovan has the backing of the Independence Party too, while — perhaps owing to a long-standing rift between Donovan and Conservative Borough president James Molinaro, Ryan has the Conservative Party line.
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By on November 6, 2011, 9:58 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 6 Comments »

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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.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 6, 2011, 9:54 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law | 2 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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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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Judge Orders Another Look at Atlantic Yards
July 13th, 2011

Opponents of the massive Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn have filed suit after suit to try to block the arena and residential complex - largely without much success. Meanwhile Bruce Ratner has moved ahead on his project, reaping government help, razing buildings and building much of a basketball arena for the still New Jersey Nets.

Now, though, Ratner’s rivals have won a victory. Today Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn announced that state Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman has ordered the Empire State Development Corp. to conduct additional environmental review of the project, including a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. (The ruling is available here.)
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 13, 2011, 4:49 pm
In category: Albany,Community Development,Land Use,Law | No Comments »

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Why Sen. Kevin Parker Got Mad
June 25th, 2011

Last night as the country watched the New York State Senate vote on same-sex marriage things came to a jarring halt. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who was presiding over the chamber, called session into recess to find out what was happening on the floor. Were you watching? Did you wonder what was going on?

Essentially the Senate rules were changed in a backroom agreement before session started and then changed again during the vote to make sure it would be concluded to make the 11 p.m. newscasts.

Sen. Kevin Parker, a long time proponent of same-sex marriage, was informed by Senate staff that he would not be able to explain his vote. He was livid. He cursed out the governor and eventually stormed to the podium where Duffy was presiding — a number of other Democratic senators followed him, seemingly to calm him down.

Earlier when Sen. Ruben Diaz tried to lay the marriage bill aside he was ignored. Normal Senate procedure allows for any senator to lay a bill aside for debate. It gives legislators a chance to debate the bill then when they vote, they again have the chance to explain their vote. But the rules weren’t the same.

Parker told the Gazette that around 7 or 8 p.m. the Senate Democratic conference met and discussed a deal. “We were informed of he procedure,” said Parker. “Everyone knew Rev. Diaz was going to lay the bill aside but we agreed not to debate the bill after he laid it aside. We would call the roll and all be able to explain our votes. We would be given two minutes each.”

The Gazette and a number of other sources reported the proposed limited debate earlier in the week. I was told to expect it by multiple senators earlier yesterday morning. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 25, 2011, 6:19 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Governing,Law | 24 Comments »

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Walcott Fires Back
May 18th, 2011

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sharply criticized the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP for their latest effort to block city school shut-downs, calling it “unacceptable.

Earlier today the union, the civil rights group and other individuals and groups announced they had filed suit to block the Department of Education’s plan to close or phase out 22 schools it considers to be failing. (See below.)

Walcott charged that, y trying to block the closures, along with18 so-called co-locations of charter schools and traditional public schools, the suit was “trying to perpetuate once again the status quo” that harms students and protect adults.”

He expressed particular irritation that the UFT et al had gone to court so late in the year when most eighth graders have already selected high schools for next years and some — he did not say how many — had opted for the new schools slated to go into space now occupied by the schools facing closure .

“This lawsuit will hold hostage these individuals,” he said indicating there would be a ripple effect throughout the system.

Last year the groups filed their successful suit against the school closing on Feb. 1. Since that time, the city has introduced new procedures for school closings, holding public hearings and releasing information to comply with state education law. The union and the NAACP, though, argue it is still in violation of the law and its own agreements.

By on May 18, 2011, 4:34 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Law | 1 Comment »

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Back to Court on School Closings
May 18th, 2011

A year after they successfully sued to stop school closings, the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP have returned to court to try to stop the latest round of school phase outs and shut-downs. This year’s action also seeks to halt 18 so-called co-locations of charter schools with traditional public school buildings in Department of Education buildings.

In the action, the UFT and the NAACP, joined by individuals and community groups, charge that the city ignored agreements it had reached last year to help the school its was then trying to close. Fifteen of the schools named in today’s legal action had won a temporary reprieve from last year’s suit. The city announced in December it would try again to close them. Four schools cited last year, though, are not longer slated for shutdown.

In addition, the plaintiffs charge the city did not seek approval from the state education commissioner for the closing, something the suit says it must do.

On the co-locations, the suit charges the plans give students in charter school better access to school facilities than those of the traditional public schools with which it shares space. For example the suit alleges, the department’s plan for the PS114 building would allow PS114 students to use of the gym for three and a half hours every day, while Explore Charter School, with far fewer students, would get the space for almost three hours. The charter students also would have use of the playground for more time.

Following last year’s suit, the Department of Education implemented new procedures for school closings and co-locations, including more public hearings and distributing additional information on the proposed closing or collocation. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city has shut more than 90 school and opened 335 schools, many small, both conventional schools and charters.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is scheduled to respond to the suit later today.

By on May 18, 2011, 2:08 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Law | 3 Comments »

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Living Wage Gets Its Hearing
May 12th, 2011

Labor and city leadership collided this afternoon at a packed and feisty hearing on legislation to require city subsidized developers pay a living wage.

Under a bill introduced nearly a year ago, recipients of more than $100,000 in financial assistance would have to pay all of their employees either $11.50 or $10 an hour plus benefits. The controversial bill has garnered 30 sponsors at the council, but it does not have the Bloomberg administration’s support. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who controls the council’s agenda, has yet to take a position on the measure.

At today’s hearing, the chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, Tokumbo Shobowale, endured two and half hours of back and forth with council members — the vast majority of those in attendance support the proposal. Shobowale attempted to convince the council that the adminsitration agrees with the premise of raising the standard of living for the working poor. It questions, Shobowale argued, whether a wage mandate is the way to do it.

“It’s not a philosophical difference,” Shobowale said. “It’s looking at the data.”

The hearing followed the release of a study on Monday by the Economic Development Corp., which argued the living wage proposal would result in between 33,000 and 100,000 job losses for the city. The study’s methodology and findings drew ire from supporters of the bill today.

“The administration is so full of it, you might want to consider a high-fiber diet,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “It might help with that situation.”

The hearing amounted to a clash of academics and methodology — with supporters citing studies that supported living wage mandates, and the adminsitration calling its recently released analysis solid, current and comprehensive.

Just this morning, supporters of the bill released a counter analysis of the city’s living wage study, which argued its modeling did not rule out other factors that could affect job growth (like an economic downturn). Supporters also claim the city-sponsored study examines the wrong population of projects — it includes an as-of-right subsidy for industrial and commercial properties the bill is not meant to capture.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 12, 2011, 6:37 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 8 Comments »

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Koppell Would Consider Motion to Discharge for Living Wage
May 11th, 2011

Councilmember Oliver Koppell told Gotham Gazette today he would consider triggering a rare council rule to bring his living wage bill to the floor should Council Speaker Christine Quinn choose to oppose it.

“I would consider it, yes,” said Koppell at the Emigrant Savings Bank. “I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’m hoping to convince the speaker to support this or some version of this.”

Typically legislation does not move at the City Council unless it has earned the support of the speaker. Quinn refused to say this afternoon whether she would bring the legislation to the floor or when she would decide whether or not to support it.

The bill, which has strong backing from many of the city’s unions, would require city subsidized developers pay a living wage. The Bloomberg adminsitration does not support the measure. On Monday, the city Economic Development Corp. released a study claiming a wage mandate would stall development and reduce jobs in the five boroughs.

Koppell said today, “The assumptions of the mayor are more than questionable.”

Koppell’s bill has been stalled in committee for nearly a year, despite the fact it has garnered 30 sponsors.

At the beginning of Quinn’s tenure — and in the name of transparency — Quinn revised the council rules to make it easier to bring a bill to the floor if it was stalled in committee. A council member must get seven members to sign a memo to bring the bill to the floor. The full council then determines whether the legislation should have a formal vote.

This procedure is rarely ever used and is considered an affront to the speaker’s leadership.

By on May 11, 2011, 3:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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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 | No Comments »

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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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