Krueger Sees Good News For Seniors in Cuomo's Budget
January 20th, 2012

Despite the cutbacks and trimming contained in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget there are areas where some folks are finding happy surprises. Sen. Liz Krueger is particularly pleased that the Governor’s budget maintains Title XX funding for senior centers at its current level and leaves other funding for senior programs untouched.

“Massive proposals cutting support for New York’s senior centers have become a grim tradition of the budget process in recent years. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for changing that this week. While I am still evaluating the full executive budget proposal, I am thrilled to see Gov. Cuomo’s plan maintains Title XX funding for senior centers at its current level and preserves a number of other important senior assistance programs,” said Krueger

“Despite the difficult economy, we cannot balance New York’s budget on the backs of the most vulnerable among us. Senior centers are a vital support for the older adults in our communities, and I applaud Gov. Cuomo’s action on this. Hopefully this marks the end of an ugly, annual tradition of threatening support for seniors.”

By on January 20, 2012, 1:05 pm
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Quinn on Fingerprinting for Food Stamps
January 5th, 2012

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

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

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

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

By on January 5, 2012, 4:51 pm
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State Does Not Support New Shelter Rules After All
November 10th, 2011

At yesterday’s acrimonious hearing on changes in the city’s procedures for admitting single adults to homeless shelters. Council Speaker Christine Quinn pressed Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond over whether the state had - as Diamond contended — actually approved the change.

To some in the audience it may have seemed as though Quinn was splitting hairs. Diamond certainly seemed peeved at her approach.

Now, though, it looks as though she was correct. In a letter to Diamond dated yesterday and released this morning by Quinn’s office, Elizabeth Berlin of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, says that any suggestion that her office approved the new eligibility procedure is “inaccurate.”

And Berlin went further:

Moreover, this office has serious concerns that DHS failed to submit this proposal to the New York Supreme Court for review. For over 30 years, such a review process has been DHS’s practice when making a policy change relating to the Callahan Consent Decree. Given DHSs failure to share this policy with the court, OTDA finds the Nov.14 implementation date a mere 10 days after the policy change was announced to be completely unreasonable and is not supported by the state.

The Callahan decree, reached between the city, state and advocates in 1981 provides a right to shelter for adults who qualified for welfare or who are homeless “by reason of physical, mental or social dysfunction.”

To read more on the issue and the debate over it, go here. And more on the exchange between Quinn and Diamond after the jump.

At the hearing yesterday, Diamond told the council that the state had informed his office that the change, which seeks to compel people to find alternatives to shelters including staying with relatives or even leaving the country, is “consistent with state rules.” Quinn countered that that did not mean the state approved it. “Our understanding from the governor’s office is that they have not approved it,” she said.

Diamond responded that the department did not need approval. “We have the flexibility to implement procedure that are consistent with state laws and regulations,” Diamond said, adding he believed his office had “what is needed to allow us to go forward.”

Berlin’s letter explicitly addresses that point. “OTDA has not commented on the substantive merits of the proposed change, but instead determined that the proposal was not inconsistent with state law,” her two-paragraph letter said,

We’ll try to get some reaction and pass it along.

By on November 10, 2011, 11:54 am
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Change for the Homeless
November 4th, 2011

Advocates for the homeless and some City Council members are reacting with alarm to reports that the city will institute a policy later this month that will make it more difficult for single adults to gain admission to city shelters.

According to WNBC, which first
reported on the move, workers will subject people applying to stay in shelters to more questions about where they have lived recently and whether they have another place to stay. This could create a problem for someone who, say, lost her apartment, doubled up with a sister for a short time and then was asked to leave.

The move apparently an effort to save money has been in the works for a while but needed state approval. City officials told NBC they received the OK yesterday. The city already conducts similar reviews for homeless families.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond told Reuters that many people applying to shelters these days may have other options. They include, he said, “a lot of people who are working or capable of work, who may have gone through a little bit of a rough time — their employer may have reduced their hours, or they may have lost their jobs.”

But advocates dispute such arguments. “The city is playing with fire by implementing this policy, particularly in the winter,” Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society told WNBC. “It’s certainly going to result in vulnerable New Yorkers ending up on the streets. He said the society would go to court to try and block the change.

Earlier today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and General Welfare Committee chair Annabel Palma. Issued a statement condemning the move. “This policy is cruel, risky, unacceptable and will not reduce homelessness in the city of New York. Denying people shelter because they have found another option for some period of time is punishing people for trying to do the right thing,” they said.

The council will hold an emergency oversight hearing on the policy at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
By on November 4, 2011, 3:28 pm
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Hearings on Helping Veterans
October 25th, 2011

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

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

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By on October 25, 2011, 4:29 pm
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Bloomberg's Record on Poverty
September 22nd, 2011

For many months, the Bloomberg administration has boasted that as poverty rose elsewhere in the country, it remained constant here, thanks in part to his policies.

Unfortunately, he can no longer say that.

New census figures, as reported in the Times this morning, show that poverty rose more rapidly in New York City by 1.4 percentage points — than in the nation as a whole from 2009 to 2010. This brought the number of people living in poverty in the city to 20.1 percent, the highest level since 2000. Child poverty rose even more by 3 percentage points leaving three out of every 10 city children in homes below the poverty level.

A report by Alliance for a Greater New York said the situation may be even worse than those numbers would indicate because of the high cost of living in New York a luxury brand, as the mayor has called it.

Incomes across the city fell by 5 percent. But some people continue to do very well. In Manhattan the county in the country with the biggest income gap the average earning of the top fifth of the population came to $371,754,

While deploring this high level of poverty, advocates quickly responded that the figures only confirm what they see every day an increasing level of need in the city. More homeless. Longer lines at soup kitchens and food pantries. People desperate for work.

More reaction and a review of Bloomberg administration poverty policies after the jump.
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By on September 22, 2011, 5:05 pm
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A Poorer State
September 13th, 2011

One in six New York state residents — more than 3 million people — live in poverty, according to statement by theNew York City Coalition Against Hunger on census figures released this morning.

The figure 2009-10 represents an 11 percent increase from 2007-2008, the coalition said. The numbers become particularly striking when one considers just how low an income a family must have to be seen as living in poverty - less than $18,310 for a family of three.

In its statement, the coalition anticipated a rise in poverty for New York City alone, although it noted those numbers are not yet available. In 2009, more than one in five New York City residents lived in poverty, with experts saying the level would have been higher without the federal economic stimulus program.

While critics have warned of increased need in the city longer lines at food pantries and the like — the Bloomberg administration has maintained that poverty remained relatively constant during the recession and the weak — if that — recovery.

“To a large degree, economic stimulus programs and policy initiatives aimed at bolstering family income succeeded in preventing a rise in poverty in New York City,” concluded a report issued in March by the mayors Center for Economic Opportunity.

What no one can deny, though, is that the disparity in wealth in the city has increased. The wealthiest 1 percent of city residents has 44 percent of all income in New York, nearly four times as much as they did just 30 years ago, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

By on September 13, 2011, 11:58 am
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Food Stamps for Soda
August 19th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

By on August 19, 2011, 5:49 pm
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Protesting Cuts to Child Care
May 11th, 2011

Alshawn Rushing wrote this post.

Thousands of daycare workers, parents and children rallied near City Hall today to protest the mayor’s proposed cuts to childcare and education in the city budget.

“New York City’s child care programs are part of the solution — affordable professional child care enables women to work, without it many would not have that option,” said Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We need politicians to make a choice we can be proud of and not take the path of least resistance, balancing the budgets on the backs of children and women.”

The protest comes days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his executive budget, which called for layoffs of thousands of teachers and an array of other cuts. The administration also announced that Bloomberg had decided to save 16,000 of the childcare slots that were originally slated to be eliminated. According to protestors and their political allies, though, the budget only restores $40 million of the original $90 million that has been cut. AFSCME maintains that only 9,000 of the original slots slated to be cut has been restored.

Child care is an essential job support for low income families, said AFSCME Council 1707 Executive Director Raglan George. “As goes childcare so goes the neighborhood. We are beginning to see some economic recovery; it is not time to limit essential services.”
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By on May 11, 2011, 4:40 pm
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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
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More Support for Senior Centers
March 15th, 2011

Alshawn Rushing filed this post.

Department For The Aging commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli testified before City Council Monday as the city and advocates continued their efforts to keep the city’s senior centers open. (For more on the effects of the proposed closings, go here.)

Paoli, along with seniors and advocates were before the Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Senior Centers, where the focus was on the effect cuts in funding for seniors. The worst cuts are set to come from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cut $27 million in Title XX funding. The aging department also faces cuts in city funding, which would affect case management services and food programs.

“DFTA fully appreciates that the governor and the legislature are facing an unprecedented deficit and need to make painful choices to close the vast budget gap, but the loss of Title XX funding for the department would have a devastating impact on the agency’s network of services — an impact that extends far beyond what is appropriate or reasonable for an agency of DFTA’s size, said Paoli.
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By on March 15, 2011, 2:12 pm
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Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011

billboard

Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.

The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.

One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)

According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”

In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.

When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”

Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.

In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”

When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.

“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.

This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
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By on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
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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
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Council and Mayor Reach Budget Agreement
January 6th, 2011

After nearly two months of negotiations, the City Council and the Bloomberg adminsitration have reached a deal on $585 million in mid-year budget cuts, which will stave off nighttime closures at 20 fire companies and save nearly 200 positions at the Administration for Children’s Services.

While it’s good news for some city agencies (the Department for the Aging and Department of Youth and Community Development included), the council could not save everything — including adult homeless services and a 5.4 percent cut to libraries.

We recognize the difficult times we face and the council has worked incredibly hard to ensure that any cuts that are made are done in the most thoughtful and responsible manner, said Speaker Christine C. Quinn in a press release. We worked to secure funding for programs that serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers and to find alternative savings in order to reach a fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.

The agreement only addresses proposed cuts in this fiscal year. In the November plan, next year’s budget is already set to see a $1 billion cut.

Later this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release his preliminary budget, which is sure to slash spending even more.

Here the full press release from the council:
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By on January 6, 2011, 11:26 am
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Council Kicks Off Budget Battle
December 6th, 2010

City Budget Director Mark Page brought his usual good tidings to the City Council this morning (insert sarcasm here), as he urged the body to propose alternative cuts if it wants to save any specific program from his budget ax.

The warning occurred at the first of several hearings the City Council has scheduled on the mayor’s $1.6 billion proposed mid-year budget cuts. Released last month, the unusual mid-year proposal is an attempt by the Bloomberg adminsitration to minimize an even larger looming budget deficit for the next fiscal year. If these cuts are enacted, the city will still face at least a $2.4 billion hole come July.

“The $2.4 billion gap is obviously considerable in itself,” said Page. “Unfortunately, the reality we are facing is likely to be considerably worse.”

Page was referring to a potential cut from the state, which faces an approximately $10 billion to $12 billion deficit. He estimates the city could see an additional cut of between $2 billion and $3 billion in state aid.

The council has already proposed more than $130 million in alternative cuts and identified several areas it would like to see held harmless, including case managers at the Department for the Aging and layoffs at the Administration for Children’s Services. Nonetheless, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said this morning the council recognizes the city has to cut back.

“Most of those we support,” said Quinn of the administration’s plan. “I don’t want that to be lost in the conversation today.”

“That said, there are many troubling cuts,” the speaker added and then rattled off her list, including the nightly closures of certain fire companies.

Council members took aim at the adminsitration over a slew of other slashes — from cuts to outreach for homeless youth (which we cover today) to funding reductions at libraries. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, the chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, said some libraries could reduce service to two or three days a week under the current cut.

And, of course, the conversation turned to politics.

Councilmember Jimmy Oddo, the council’s minority leader, questioned the administration’s reasoning for extending term limits — an argument based on its ability to use creative solutions for fiscal problems.
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By on December 6, 2010, 5:19 pm
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Cuts Coming Today
November 18th, 2010

Brace yourselves.

The adminsitration is set to reveal those cuts Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered at the end of September — which equates to the ninth round of budget cuts within the last three fiscal years. (But who’s counting?)

We hear they won’t be pretty. The nightly closure of fire companies are on the chopping block in addition to thousands of jobs across city agencies. In total, the mayor is looking to lose $1.5 billion from the budget over the next two fiscal years. In September, the city ordered uniformed forces and education to expect 2.7 percent cuts, while all other agencies were urged to prepare for 5.4 percent cuts.

Even before we know the details, there is a backlash.

Earlier this week, Lillian Roberts, the executive director of DC37, the city’s largest municipal employees union, sent the mayor a letter, urging him to consider revenue generating proposals instead of just cuts.

The letter is below.

Stay tuned.

PDFsss

By on November 18, 2010, 11:46 am
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Sick Leave Dead?
October 14th, 2010

Council Speaker Christine Quinn will announce this afternoon that she won’t support the paid sick leave bill languishing in the City Council.

The bill, sponsored by 35 council members, would force businesses with fewer than 20 employees to provide five days of paid sick leave, while businesses with more than 20 employees would have to give nine days per employee. Other paid time off can be counted towards the sick time.

The bill was vehemently opposed by the city’s businesses community, including the powerful Partnership for New York City and all five chambers of commerce.

Most of the time, the speaker’s support, or lack thereof, will determine of the fate of all legislation. However, the majority of council members who do support the bill have one option.

To bring the bill to the floor, 10 council members must support a “motion to discharge,” which would give the full council an opportunity to vote on it. But they also must keep their solid 35-member strong support, otherwise the bill would not survive a mayoral veto.

The motion has only been used once, during the term limit debate. Other times there was talk of tapping the power, it was quickly quashed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently called the bill “disastrous.”

There are all sorts of political calculations and angles to this news today, so stayed tuned for further analysis at Gotham Gazette.

By on October 14, 2010, 12:36 pm
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Sick Leave Movement
October 7th, 2010

We got word Council Speaker Christine Quinn is sitting down with supporters and opponents of the sick leave bill today in hopes of potentially finding a compromise.

Supporters of the proposal, which would require businesses to provide sick days, take the sit-down as a good sign, saying the speaker has expressed willingness to create an open dialogue and negotiate.

One critic of the bill seemed less optimistic — saying only to check back in tomorrow.

Just last week, the opposing sides released dueling studies on the bill’s impact. The study from the Partnership for New York City put the proposal’s price tag at $789 million annually, while a study from the Drum Major Institute said it would have no deleterious effect on city business.

After the sit-downs were scheduled, a rally scheduled for this morning by supporters of the bill was abruptly canceled.

By on October 7, 2010, 2:14 pm
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Stringer Responds to Quinn... Again
October 5th, 2010

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, both anticipated candidates for mayor in 2013, are once again clashing over a bill to count vacant buildings and lots stalled at the council.

After Quinn’s spokesperson responded to Stringer’s criticism in the Wonkster late last week, Stringer, once again, sent over a response.

This is the response to Quinn’s response to Stringer’s criticism. Follow me?

From Stringer:

Lets set the record straight: My 2007 report on vacant, under-utilized land in Manhattan produced major policy changes. As a result of these efforts, and with my strong support, Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell and Senator Jose M. Serrano introduced legislation in 2008which Gov. David Paterson signed into lawremoving special tax treatments for vacant residential sites above 110th street. The measure also provided financial incentives for owners who build affordable housing on these sites. In approving this bill, the state legislature took decisive action. But the city council has dropped the ball. With my endorsement, then Council member David Yassky introduced a measure calling for an annual citywide survey of such properties, to see if they could be used as new housing resources for homeless people, as well as hospitals, schools community gardens and the like. Armed with the results, we could fill so many unmet needs in our city. But unfortunately the legislation has languished in the city council without a full hearing or discussion. Then as now, I call upon the council to conduct an annual survey of vacant properties that could be transformed into vibrant new uses and benefit all New Yorkers.

By on October 5, 2010, 8:11 am
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Quinn, Stringer Showdown?
October 1st, 2010

Yes, both are potential mayoral candidates in 2013.

It might be a little early for a full-blown rivalry, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer definitely disagree on a proposal to survey the city’s vacant properties stalled at the City Council. The bill, which has 28 sponsors, would create an annual accounting of all of the city’s vacant buildings and lots.

The group pushing the proposal, Picture the Homeless, hope it would spur the development of those properties as temporary housing for the homeless. Quinn said this week the survey would be “enormously expensive” and the money for it would be better used serving the homeless.

In response to our reporting on the issue, Stringer sent over the following statement.

I am disappointed that the City Council quashed legislation that would survey vacant buildings throughout the city, in order to identify new sources of temporary housing for the homeless.

In 2007 I released the results of Manhattan’s first ever survey of vacant properties, finding that there is a significant number of vacancies in the borough representing potential for thousands of new affordable housing units. Along with the results, I proposed an annual survey of vacant buildings which had been actively backed by Anti-Homeless organizations. Although there is a cost to this idea, its potential long-term value to the city is so obvious.

If a citywide vacant lot count would indeed cost millions of dollars, then I believe we should look to more creative options, rather than throw up our hands and pull the plug on this important initiative.

One possible approach to a vacant lot count that keeps costs low would be to utilize volunteers from the Mayors NYC Service program. The City already dispatches volunteers for its annual street homeless count, so this approach would not be without precedent. And, to be honest, counting vacant lots isnt rocket science. It would require a minimal amount of training. Most able bodied New Yorkers interested in enhancing the long-term vitality of their communities could make a positive contribution by participating in a city-wide vacant lot count.

I call on the City Council to reconsider this decision and let this badly-needed housing program go forward. We cannot afford to be pennywise and pound foolish at a time when the recession has made day to day survival for the homeless tougher than ever.

In response to Stringer’s statement, Maria Alvarado, Quinn’s spokesperson, said the bill at the council would require the survey of vacant buildings, which is “more complicated” than just counting empty lots. The council applauds the borough president for his study, Alvarado said, but simultaneously asks what “clear policy changes” came out of it?

By on October 1, 2010, 1:35 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services | 3 Comments »

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