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Council Gives to Lopez Nonprofit
September 16th, 2010

The now under fire Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, the nonprofit founded by Brooklyn boss Assemblymember Vito Lopez, received nearly $17.9 million in government subsidies in 2009.

That funding is now under intense scrutiny by the city Department of Investigation, which says the nonprofit is dysfunctional, has a clueless board, bloated staff salaries and little oversight of the programs it funds, according to a report released yesterday.

But none of that means the nonprofit isn’t a favorite for city politicians to give to. In fiscal year 2011, which spans from July 2010 to June 2011, the City Council allocated $581,385 via its member items.

Councilmember Erik Martin Dilan, whose district overlaps Lopez’s, gave the most with $198,875. Councilmember Stephen Levin, a former staffer for Lopez, allocated $64,000 to the so-called dysfunctional nonprofit, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley gave $18,510 and an additional $300,000 was allocated from the entire City Council (otherwise known as the speaker’s pot).

The Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is a common beneficiary of council member items. The Brooklyn delegation gave the group $350,000 last fiscal year as did Crowley, Dilan and the entire council.

To the Post yesterday, Lopez denied the nonprofit was dysfunctional, calling it efficient.

By on September 16, 2010, 11:24 am
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Coffey Gets More Endorsements
August 26th, 2010

Gotham Gazette’s Alana Horowitz filed this from Brooklyn:

As Sen. Eric Schneiderman added another name — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — to his rapidly growing list of endorsements for attorney general, fellow candidate Sean Coffey announced a few of his own.

Assemblyman Karim Camara and several members of the Brooklyn clergy convened at Brooklyn Borough Hall to show their support for the formal naval officer. Rep. Ed Towns, who endorsed Coffey earlier this month, also attended the event.

“He’s a man who comes in with a mind of reform,” said Camara, who stressed Coffey’s record as a litigator and a federal prosecutor. Coffey’s role in winning a $6 billion securities suit against WorldCom once earned him the nickname “Wall Street’s New Nemesis.”

Additional praise for Coffey included his commitment to creating affordable housing and fighting housing fraud.

“Sean Coffey knows the problems and pain that the people of Brooklyn are feeling and he has a plan to help relieve it,” said the Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church.
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By on August 26, 2010, 4:12 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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Getting Your Say on Charter Revision
August 26th, 2010

Want to tell all registered voters what you think about the two ballot proposals approved by the Charter Revision Commission?

Here’s your chance.

The Campaign Finance Board is asking for pro and con submissions on the charter reform proposals to include in its voter guide.

To learn more, go here.

By on August 26, 2010, 12:04 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Federal Investigation into WFP Closed
August 20th, 2010

We just got this in from the Working Families Party.

Looks like nothing is to come out of the federal investigation into its finances — which was first announced after an exhaustive series of investigative pieces by City Hall News.

Here is the statement:

In December 2009, we announced that the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York was conducting an investigation concerning the Working Families Party and Data & Field Services, Inc. We were advised last night that the U.S. Attorneys Office has decided to close its investigation without the filing of any charges.

The Working Families Party and Data & Field Services cooperated fully with the extensive investigation conducted by the government. We appreciate the professionalism of the U.S. Attorneys Office.

Of course, the NYC Campaign Finance Board, as part of the post-election audit process of campaigns that participate in the public campaign finance system, is auditing the campaigns that contracted for services with Data & Field Services in 2009.

We are gratified that the federal investigation has concluded and look forward to continuing our work for good schools, good jobs, and good government.

By on August 20, 2010, 1:40 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY | Comments Off

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Diaz Endorses Espada
August 17th, 2010

Amigos stick together.

We got this press release from Sen. Ruben Diaz’s camp yesterday. For more on Sen. Pedro Espada’s re-election campaign, go here:

Here is the full release in all its glory:

Earlier this afternoon, at 1:30PM, while standing in front of the beautiful Church of the Mediator located at 351 East 231 Street in Riverdale, New York State Senator Ruben Diaz,Sr. endorsed the Re-Election of New York State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr for another term. Senator Esapda was described as the seminole leader who worked closely with Senator diaz to save senior centers from closing. Senator Diaz exhorted the public to prevent the election of an unknown rookie who, “does not know where the Senate is”.

Senator Diaz extolled Senator Espada’s many years of fighting for the community, and he enthusisastically endorsed Senator Espada ‘s Re-election in the September 14, 2010 Democratic Primary.

Several members of the Bronx Clergy also publicly endorsed Senator Espada att the press conference.
Senator Espada thnaked Senator diaz for his support and he made brief remarks, and he took questions from news reporters afterward.

The video furnished herein of Senator Diaz’ endorsement of Senator Espada, was made by Franck LaBoy, Press Secretary to Senator Espada for use by the news organizations.

By on August 17, 2010, 3:55 pm
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Firm Selected for Living Wage Study
August 12th, 2010

The city Economic Development Corp. has selected Boston-based Charles River Associates to conduct a $1 million study on the impact of living wage policies across the country and how they might affect the Big Apple’s economy.

The study is in response to an outcry from labor unions and advocates for the city to adopt a living wage — a debate that culminated in the defeat of a controversial development project in the Bronx last year called the Kingsbridge Armory. The City Council voted the plan down when the developer would not promise to force retail tenants to pay a living wage.

The adminsitration has said it would like to conduct a study before it considered any widespread policy, and the move has effectively stalled two pieces of living wage legislation at the council — one to require a living wage for building service workers at city-assisted developments and another that would require all city subsidized developments pay a living wage.

Daniel Hamermesh, a well respected professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will be the chief economist on the study, which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Matthew Thompson, a vice president at Charles River Associates, will lead the project.

Even before Charles River Associates was selected as the consultant, elected officials and living wage advocates were debating the potential results. Comptroller John Liu called it a “sham” in June after the Economic Development Corp. failed to appoint an advisory panel of labor economists to oversee the study’s methodology and results.

Now some advocates are questioning the objectivity of at least one member of the study’s team, specifically David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California and a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Neumark has authored several studies questioning the economic viability of living wage laws.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 12, 2010, 5:50 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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White's Moonlight
July 21st, 2010

After we reported on who made the most outside of City Hall last year, a reader rightly pointed out that Councilmember Tom White, who is also the executive director of Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for J-CAP Inc., made $217,000 in addition to his council salary.

The Conflicts of Interest Board, which keeps tabs on council members’ outside income, only reports in ranges.

According to the organization’s 2008 tax filing, White devotes 35 hours a week to his position as chief executive officer there.

Of the $9.9 million in revenue the committee took in in 2007, more than $2 million went to management costs.

For a closer look, the filing is below. Take a look-see.

Committee Filing

By on July 21, 2010, 11:13 am
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Domino Moves Forward
June 29th, 2010

The large Domino Sugar factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront was just unanimously approved by the City Council’s zoning subcommittee.

The controversial project was supposed to be approved this morning, but further negotiations between the council and the developer held up the vote.

Councilmember Mark Weprin, the chair of the zoning subcommittee, said the changes to the application include: the two 40-story residential towers will be reduced to 34 stories, there will be a dedicated shuttle bus from the project to the Marcy Avenue station, any change in use to the project’s slated community facilities will have to go through the land use review process, and a community advisory board must be created to oversee the project.

By on June 29, 2010, 2:56 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Gotham City,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Waterfront | Comments Off

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1:30 and Waiting
June 29th, 2010

It wouldn’t be a budget day without delay.

It’s 1:30 and the council chamber is… well, empty. That is besides a few random reporters twiddling their thumbs waiting for the day’s hearings. This morning’s 11:30 a.m. zoning committee has yet to commence (they are scheduled to approve the massive Domino Sugar factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront).

And it would be safe to say the 1:30 finance committee hearing won’t be occurring anytime soon.

Stay tuned.

By on June 29, 2010, 1:47 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Waterfront | Comments Off

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Housing Works Sues City Over HASA Cuts
June 22nd, 2010

The city’s budget hasn’t even been approved, and they are already in court over it.

Housing Works, which provides housing services to the homeless living with HIV and AIDS, is making good on a promise to sue over cuts to the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration. The adminsitration plans to slash 248 caseworkers, which advocates at Housing Works say violates a court order requiring certain case worker to client ratios at the agency.

As part of the cut, the adminsitration has proposed to count caseworkers it contracts with in the mandated ratios. The city says it reduces service redundancies. Advocates charge those caseworkers play a different role than the city’s workers and counting them towards the ratio would be illegal.

“We’ve shown in the past that when they cut HASA our folks suffer tremendously,” said Armen Merjian, a senior staff attorney at Housing Works. “We dont want to wait for further devastating consequences to befall our plaintiffs.”

This statement was e-mailed over from a spokesperson at the Human Resources Administration, which oversees the HIV/AIDS program:

“The Human Resources Administration has received the plaintiffs papers and is in the process of reviewing them. However we do not believe there is any violation of the court order or the local law. Because this is now in active litigation, we will strenuously defend the authority of the Administration.”

The first motion from Housing Works, which was filed in federal court in Brooklyn this morning, is below. The state is also named in the suit.

TRO Brief

By on June 22, 2010, 5:43 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Living Wage Study Gets Approved -- With Skepticism
June 8th, 2010

A study to examine the economic viability of a living wage requirement was approved by the city’s Industrial Development Agency board today, but city officials, including Comptroller John Liu, are already raising questions about whether it will be truly independent.
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Photo credit: (cc) 2009 Atomische Tom Giebel


The IDA board gave the OK to use up to $1 million to study how a living wage proposal would impact the city economy. Such proposals are pending in both the City Council and the State Legislature — largely spurred from defeat of the Kingsbridge Armory project last year. The IDA has not yet selected a consultant to conduct the study. A spokesman said one will be selected in the coming weeks. The agency has received five proposals.

Liu was one of three IDA board members to vote against the living wage study, calling the proposal a “sham.”

“An independent, impartial study on wage requirements for publicly-subsidized economic development could be helpful to all parties involved,” Liu said in a prepared statement. “The consultant contract proposal before us today, however, fails to ensure the delivery of an objective product. My office had offered specific recommendations to improve the study, to no avail. It is unfortunate that the EDC is intent on squandering a million dollars on this charade of a study.”

Liu’s staff sat down with the Industrial Development Agency to make recommendations to the living wage proposal, all of which were rejected by the IDA, according to the comptroller’s office. Those recommendations included the creation of a peer review panel of labor economists to review the study’s results and allowing IDA board members to vote on whether to adopt the study’s recommendations.

According to Dave Lombino, a spokesperson at the Economic Development Corp., which oversees the IDA, the consultant would be required to regularly meet and interview with a group of stakeholders. That group includes local unions, like 32BJ, advocacy groups, like Good Jobs New York, and real estate interests, like the Real Estate Board of New York.
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By on June 8, 2010, 4:00 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Where's the Revenue?
June 7th, 2010

banner

A banner unfurled at the hearing this morning. Credit: Photo Housing Works/Julie Turkewitz

A balanced budget is a simple thing.

If you don’t have enough cash, you have to cut. If you don’t want to cut, then you have to raise the cash.

Makes sense, right?

This morning at City Hall, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mark Page, tested council members’ grasp on the concept. For the most part, those council members would much rather raise revenue instead of slash at city services.

They had a couple of suggestions — none of which were palatable to Page. Staying in his usual character, Page shot them down, one after the other.

Take Councilmember Letitia James, who suggested early retirement incentives to help ease the burn of layoffs.

To Page, that would only make matters worse.

“When you take a group of city employees and accelerate when they leave, what you are doing is moving from that 40-year municipal lifetime to something shorter,” Page said. “You pay them a premium for retiring early. … Now say that person would work another four years. Well, that four years you are paying the first guy that premium and you’re paying somebody else’s pension and health costs.”

Page went on: “You save money the first year. You start losing money in the second year. By the fourth year, you’re under water.”

If the city were going to layoff a large number of workers (let’s say, hypothetically, the 4,400 teacher layoffs were back on the table), then the prospect of early retirement or buyouts could be explored, Page said.

Well, why not use the surplus from the city’s health care trust fund — which officials estimate will be at $1.4 billion this year — to soften the budget blow, asked Councilmember Vincent Gentile?

Page said no way.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 7, 2010, 5:31 pm
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Borough Brawl Over Fire Companies?
June 4th, 2010

fdny

Photo (cc) 2005 icopythat

Members of the City Council Queens delegation spatted with fellow council members this morning during a budget hearing on the proposed closure of 20 fire companies.

Arguing that Queens and Staten Island have the worst response times — 4 minutes and 20 seconds and 4 minutes and 50 seconds, respectively, for structural fires as of April 2010 — Councilmember Dan Halloran of Queens said the Fire Department shouldn’t shutter any companies in those boroughs if it was trying to create the smallest impact with its proposed closures.

“Removing any fire companies from those two would of course increase response times, and I say this with all due respect to my lovely friends in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, but understand our response times are almost a minute higher than Brooklyn’s,” said Halloran. “Given what you just said, it begs the question: Queens and Staten Island are off the table, is that accurate?

As Halloran went on, Councilmember Letitia James of Brooklyn shook her head left to right, mouthing the word “no.” (Brooklyn, as of April 2010, has the lowest response time for structural fires at 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, however, took a pass: “One thing I am not going to do is get into a five borough fight.”

Trying to smother the flames, Minority Leader Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island said the council would be fighting the fire company closures as a collective body.

“There is no borough versus borough,” Oddo said. “Last year there was a coalition that was built. … There is no divide between and among this council, and that is the same coalition that will we need to fight this and win this. We did it last year, and we’re going to do it this year.”

With just over three weeks left until the budget deadline, members of the City Council are squirming to know what fire companies could close in fiscal year 2011. In the mayor’s executive budget released in May, the Bloomberg adminsitration proposed to shutter 20 companies to save the city about $6.7 million. In total, the department faces about $30 million in cuts for fiscal year 2011, which increases to $41 million the following fiscal year.
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By on June 4, 2010, 5:25 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Lieber to Leave City Hall
May 19th, 2010

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber will leave his position at City Hall in June to join Island Capital Groups affiliated companies, Anubis Advisors and C-III Capital Partners, as a senior executive.
lieber_thumb

Lieber joins a growing number of individuals who have elected to leave City Hall post Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term election. Unlike former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who left last month and had been with Bloomberg since before he was elected mayor, Lieber only joined the adminsitration in 2007.

Although Lieber was at the reins of one of Bloomberg’s top priorities: economic development.

The full release from City Hall is after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 19, 2010, 11:45 am
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Sick Leave, Wage Standards Coming to City Hall
May 10th, 2010

Tomorrow’s going to be a big day for two issues that have been floating around City Hall for quite some time: paid sick leave and prevailing wage standards.

At 9:30 a.m., council members and 32BJ will rally on the steps of City Hall in support of a bill to require developers that receive city subsidies to pay building service employees a prevailing wage. A hearing will follow at 10 a.m. (For more on wage standards at city-subsidized developments, check out “Subsidies in the City.”)

At 2 p.m., the council will hold a hearing on the paid sick leave bill. More on that issue here.

By on May 10, 2010, 5:33 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Divide in the Charter Commission?
May 10th, 2010

Some Charter Revision Commission members seemed split this morning over whether the commission could thoroughly vet the more serious issues scheduled for review and still get them on the November ballot.

The commission approved a resolution today outlining five issue areas to explore and scheduled public hearings and expert panels on those specific topics for May and June. The issues include term limits, voter participation (including nonpartisan elections), land use (especially the ULURP process), balance of powers (including the roles of community boards, the borough presidents and the City Council) and fiscal responsibility.

Just before approving the resolution, the Rev. Joseph M. McShane proposed an amendment to require the commission to revisit its timeline before proposing anything for November’s ballot. To get anything on the ballot this fall, the commission would have to solidify its proposals by September.

Commission Chair Matthew Goldstein rejected McShane’s amendment, saying it was already “embedded” in the document. The commission, Goldstein said, will have a deliberative process.

After the meeting, Goldstein told reporters, “I’ve always said that this year was a much better opportunity, because there will be more and more active participation because we’re going to have statewide elections. If I wanted to bring something or we wanted to bring something, it would make a lot of sense not to lose that opportunity. The opportunity cost would be higher.”
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By on May 10, 2010, 1:14 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Demographics,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Waterfront,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Rikers Beds Won't go to ICE
May 7th, 2010

Empty beds on Rikers Island are going on the rental market.

Tenants, however, won’t include federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

To help close a city budget gap, the Department of Correction has proposed to lease several hundred vacant beds on Rikers Island to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. They will charge $150 per bed a day, raking in about $13.2 million every year. Stephen Morello of the Department of Correction called in to say those beds won’t go to federal immigration officials, whose presence on Rikers has been the subject of some controversy.

“We had an exploratory conversation with them,” said Morello of federal immigration officials renting beds. “They are not interested in our space.”

Federal immigration officials do not have a separate facility on Rikers, but they do have staff members that review inmate files and select people for interrogation — and potentially deportation. A Freedom of Information Act request by immigration advocacy groups last year found between 2004 and 2009, 13,000 Rikers inmates were put in deportation proceedings because of this practice.

This is not the first time the city has leased space in its correction facilities to other law enforcement agencies. When Suffolk County was out of room, the city leased out its beds to them.

By on May 7, 2010, 2:27 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Housing,Immigrants,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Cops Saved, Teachers Slashed
May 6th, 2010

In an hour, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release his fiscal year 2011 executive budget.

So far, the Times reports 6,700 teachers will be cut (it’s unclear how much of this will be through attrition). In addition, the city’s workforce will be reduced by another 5,000 positions — mostly through attrition.

Following the Times Square attempted bombing, the mayor has decided to withdraw his proposal to cut New York’s finest by about 900 positions. The police department will now be held harmless.

Much of the city’s fiscal fate is up in the air since Albany has yet to reach a budget agreement. The mayor argues Gov. David Paterson’s original plan would slash $1.3 billion from the city.

For more on the budget impasse in Albany, see “Missing in Action.”

We will be reporting on the proposal throughout the day today, so stay tuned.

By on May 6, 2010, 11:24 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Stringer Sides With de Blasio
April 29th, 2010

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer just announced he is joining Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s open government initiative, which has quickly become a so-called source of contention between the newly minted advocate and Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

De Blasio announced his open government Web site, which tracks nonprofits who apply for council discretionary funding, in February and called for council members to voluntarily release their member item applications. So far, only five members have complied.

Stringer is the first borough wide official to sign on.

Reportedly, Quinn thinks de Blasio is circumventing her own transparency plans at the council, and she is now preparing to release her own initiative. That announcement is expected any day now.

The de Blasio-Stringer release is after the jump.
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By on April 29, 2010, 4:44 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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Waterfront Plan Kicked Off
April 13th, 2010

waterfront2

First they went green. Now they’re going marine.

Channeling their inner seafarer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn launched the city’s “Vision 2020″ this morning — a plan to create a blueprint for the city’s 500 miles of waterfront for the next decade.

The plan is part of an initiative Quinn announced in 2008 to hone in on the city’s shoreline.

Before the Brooklyn Bridge, before Robert Moses, and before Fiorello La Guardia, New York Citys waterfronts were integral to its bustling blue highways, said Quinn in a prepared statement. Hundreds of years later, we are standing on these same shores, launching a long-term collaborative initiative to reclaim our waterfronts and bring them into the 21st century. The City Council is proud to have passed the visionary legislation that requires City government to come up with an effective and responsible waterfronts plan, not once, but every ten years. Through this law, we will never turn our backs on our citys 578 miles of waterfront.
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By on April 13, 2010, 3:10 pm
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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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