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CityTime Manager Fudges Timesheets
May 25th, 2011

In an impromptu press conference, Comptroller John Liu revealed even the project manager of the Bloomberg administration’s plagued time keeping project couldn’t keep his own time.

According to a letter Liu received today, Science Application International Corp., the prime contractor on the project, put Gerard Denault on administrative leave in December after the project manager fudged his own time sheets. As a result, the company will refund the city $2.5 million.

“The very company entrusted by our city to build a time keeping system for New York City employees has grossly mismanaged their own time keeping and in the process overcharged the city taxpayers for sums of money still to be determined,” Liu said. “This is a sad day for New York City taxpayers.”

Liu said today he would ask the adminsitration to work with him on this issue. He also called for the administration to freeze all payments to SAIC and force the Department of Investigation to conduct a comprehensive review of other possible violations.

In response, Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna sent over the following statement:

We will withhold any and all payments until the completion of the Department of Investigations ongoing review, which includes a forensic accountant we added last year. The project is essentially fully online and operational and SAICs contract with the city expires on June 30th. We already had stated we were not renewing the contract. SAIC is owed $32 million for the completion of the project; no payments will be made until the review is completed.

CityTime has been the bane of Bloomberg’s third term. Mired by delay and cost overruns, the debacle culminated in December when federal authorities indicted six employees for using shell companies to divert city money into their own pockets. Originally the project was supposed to cost about $60 million. Its price tag now is more than $700 million.

By on May 25, 2011, 5:41 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 4 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.
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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 | Comments Off

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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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Fare Increase Not a Bargaining Chip?
April 29th, 2011

Asking for a fare increase as city officials are trying to get a new class of cab in the outer boroughs isn’t playing hardball, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told Gotham Gazette today.

It’s merely about timing.

“It’s generally not a negotiation ploy by us,” Desai said, citing the increased cost of gas. “For us, the fare proposal has been in the works, because we know next month it will be seven years since we’ve had an overall raise. Driver income has not been at a livable standard.”

The alliance announced this week it will be asking the Taxi and Limousine Commission for an approximately 25 percent fare increase. The proposal will not be finalized until Wednesday, but Desai said it would likely ask for the waiting rate to increase from 40 to 50 cents and the mileage rate to go up to $2.50 from $2. The alliance will also ask for increases in taxi surcharges for rush hour and late night.

The request comes as the Bloomberg administration attempts to drill down a proposal to get more cab service in the outer boroughs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech in January he would propose legislation to allow livery cabs in the outer boroughs to pick up people hailing on the street — prohibited under current law.

After a backlash from city officials and the taxi industry, the administration is considering creating another class of yellow cab that would be limited to outer-borough pick ups instead.

Desai said the alliance isn’t opposed to servicing the outer boroughs, but as it stands now it’s not economical. Drivers cannot cruise residential streets for street pickups without losing money, she said. A fare increase would help convince drivers to go to Brooklyn or Queens, Desai added. She also suggested creating cab stands in commercial areas of the outer boroughs.

On his radio show this morning, Bloomberg said he was sympathetic to the cab industry’s qualms.

Above all else, Desai said she wants to make sure the yellow cab reserves the exclusive right to pick up New Yorkers at the curbside.

“We don’t want to see more vehicles on the road,” she said. “It’s going to increase congestion and increase competition in a field where it’s already competitive.”

By on April 29, 2011, 4:44 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Immigrants,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Transportation,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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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.
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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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Black is Out
April 7th, 2011

The New York Times is reporting Cathie Black will step down as schools chancellor this morning following a tumultuous week of resignations and lowly poll numbers.

Just yesterday, John White, a deputy chancellor, announced his resignation — the latest in a string of education officials to abandon the department.

Earlier this week, a Marist College/NY1 poll gave Black an approval rating of 17 percent.

Stay tuned.

By on April 7, 2011, 11:13 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Yorkers Want Wal-Mart (UPDATE)
March 18th, 2011

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Photo (cc) Wal-Mart

Despite fierce opposition from the city’s unions and a majority of the City Council, New Yorkers favor bringing the world’s largest retailer to the five boroughs.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University, 57 percent of New York City voters say officials should allow Wal-Mart to open up in the the city, while 36 percent say the retailer should be kept out. If Wal-Mart set up shop in the Big Apple, 68 percent of New York City voters would shop there if it was convenient.

In response to the poll, Steven Restivo, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart, sent over the following statement:

The results affirm what we have been hearing for months: New Yorkers want Walmart. Whether it’s physically leaving the city to shop our stores, responding favorably in polls or just voicing their opinion on Facebook and at neighborhood rallies, city residents show their support for Walmart every day. With too many communities living with double-digit unemployment and limited access to affordable groceries, we continue to evaluate local opportunities that will allow us to do what we do best: open stores, create jobs, stimulate economic development and lower the cost of living for customers.

Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement: “Voters agree that Walmart can be tough on its employees and on its mom-and-pop competitors, but even voters in union households say 63 – 34 percent they’ll shop there anyway.”

For months – years actually – city officials have been blocking Wal-Mart’s attempt to infiltrate the New York City market. They claim the retailer’s wages are below average, they have a poor record of providing health care and discriminate against certain employees, specifically women. Officials have also said Wal-Mart would drive out New York City’s mom and pop shops.

On the other hand, the five boroughs already is home to Target, Costco, Best Buy and other big-box retailers. We looked into whether there were stark differences between them.

Here is what we found.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart Free NYC sent over this response to today’s poll:

“New York didn’t become great because of Walmart, it became great because of the thousands of small businesses owners who worked hard to make our mom and pops the engine of our economy — the same neighborhood mom and pops that New Yorkers agree Walmart would destroy,” said Eric Koch, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Free NYC

By on March 18, 2011, 11:28 am
In category: City Hall,Demographics,Economy,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,nextNY | Comments Off

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Regulation of Bus Companies Questioned
March 15th, 2011

Just hours after officials called for stricter safety regulations for discount buses departing from Chinatown yesterday, another fatal accident took the lives of two more passengers.

A Super Luxury Tours bus headed for Philadelphia slammed into a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and another passenger. The crash came just three days after a brutal accident in the Bronx, which killed 15 people.

Saturday mornings crash was a heartbreaking tragedy and requires us to look closely at the safety regulations in place for the discount tour bus industry, said Sen. Charles Schumer in a prepared statement yesterday. While its vital we get to the bottom of what caused Saturdays crash, we must make sure that the regulations that govern the overall safety of this industry are effective and being followed by operators.

Schumer wants to see the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the entire industry.

According to the release, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced legislation last month that would require these discount bus companies, many of which operate from the curbside in Chinatown, to get permits from the city. They are now regulated exclusively by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. His bill would also designate where they can drop off and pick up passengers.

According to a study from the Department of City Planning, these companies conduct 2,000 trips from Chinatown every week.

We covered the issue last year. For an in-depth look at the controversy, go here.

By on March 15, 2011, 2:07 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Goes After Teachers
February 17th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

The mayor’s budget presentation begins at noon.

By on February 17, 2011, 11:08 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

“Everyone is waving this boogeyman around about how this corporation is going to come in,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist and Walmart supporter. “I will say to you directly, we need jobs for our community.”
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By on February 3, 2011, 6:53 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Land Use,Measuring UP,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

By on February 1, 2011, 5:54 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Snow Update from Bloomberg
January 27th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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Crowley Statement on Fire Charges
January 14th, 2011

We already know Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposes charging drivers for accidents that need emergency services — a proposal from the Fire Department in response to budget cuts.

But what does Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley have to say?

Here is her statement delivered at the Fire Department’s hearing on the issue today.

“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule which would impose a schedule of charges for Fire Department motorist services, which is before you for consideration at todays hearing.

In the City Council, I Chair the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, which oversees the New York City Fire Department. Our first responders not only fight fires and save lives, but also respond to the needs of motorists on the citys roadway accidents.

One of governments most important responsibilities is to keep people safethat is why we allocate taxpayer money to our emergency services. To raise revenue by charging New Yorkers deemed to be at fault in auto accidents is unreasonable, misguided and a simple case of double-dipping. New Yorkers already pay for this service by means of taxes on their income and property. The FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano considers these charges as a fee for service but lets call this fee for what it really is: a double tax.

If the FDNY starts charging for emergency response to motorist accidents, what will they charge for next? Will there be fees for putting out house fires? We cannot begin to go down this dangerous road; therefore, I respectfully request that you withdraw this proposal from consideration.”

By on January 14, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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Bloomberg Issues Weather Emergency Declaration
January 11th, 2011

This just in from the mayor’s office:

WEATHER EMERGENCY DECLARATION

At the direction of the mayor, the public is hereby advised that significant snowfall has been forecast for tonight.

1. The public is urged to avoid all unnecessary driving during the duration of the storm and until further directed, and to use public transportation wherever possible. If you must drive, use extreme caution. Information about any service changes to public transportation is available on the MTA website at http://www.mta.info/.

2. Any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets shall be subject to towing at the owners expense.

3. Effective immediately, alternate side parking, payment at parking meters and garbage collections are suspended citywide until further notice.

4. The Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Sanitation, and Transportation Commissioners will be taking all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being and health of the residents of the City.

By on January 11, 2011, 4:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | 2 Comments »

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