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HASA Cuts off the Table
June 24th, 2010

As the City Council and the Bloomberg administration get closer to a budget deal, we know of at least one controversial cut taken off the table: a decrease in HIV/AIDS workers at the Human Resources Administration.

Earlier this week, housing advocacy group Housing Works took the city to court over a proposal to slash 248 HIV/AIDS case workers (we reported on the cut here). We just got word from them that the city backed away from the decrease this morning.

We’re waiting to hear back from the Human Resources Administration.

Keep checking back with Gotham Gazette to see what’s in and what’s out of this year’s budget.

By on June 24, 2010, 1:48 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Social Services | 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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Voting on 'Oreo'
June 11th, 2010

Oreo’s Law, a measure aimed at rescuing adoptable animal in shelters, is scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. But, according to emails this morning, advocates of the bill fear the bill could die.

A message from Nathan Winograd of the No-Kill Advocacy Center, a key proponent of Oreo’s Law, says William Magee, chair of the committee, has recommended it be held or table which would, in effect, kill it.

As Jillian Jonas reported in Gotham Gazette earlier this year, the measure has split the animal rights community with many groups supporting but the ASPCA on record as against it.

In his email, Winograd takes aim at animal groups opposing the measure saying a legislative insider told him “the opposition is strong, but the supporters are not. They do not have enough connections. And they certainly don’t have the money, millions of dollars given by unsuspecting donors who erroneously think these organizations speak for the animals, instead of their own ambition.”

By on June 11, 2010, 1:46 pm
In category: Albany,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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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
In category: City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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A Budget Breakdown
May 24th, 2010

Not all is fair in fiscal year 2011 — at least to the hordes of advocates and politicians vying to save their favorite projects and programs.

Below you can find out how your favorite agency has fared, whether its proposed cuts are deeper than other departments and how much it’s slated to spend this year.

Click on the chart to interact. You can click through agencies on the side and roll over the graphic to view the funding level by fiscal year. If you want an expanded view, you can click on the title.

Enjoy!

By on May 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Immigrants,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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Budget Hearings Breakdown
May 13th, 2010

The City Council kicked off its executive budget hearings this morning, and over the next month there will be dozens more.

This schedule is subject to change, but here is how it’s laid out now.

Friday, May 14

Human Rights Commission, 10 a.m.
City University of New York, 10:30 a.m.
Education and School Construction Authority (Capital), 12 p.m.

Monday, May 17
Citywide Administrative Services, 10 a.m.
Board of Elections, 10:45 a.m.
Campaign Finance Board, 11:45 a.m.
Aging, 12:30 p.m.
Juvenile Justice, 2 p.m.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 13, 2010, 6:00 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Housing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Social Services,sustainability,Tech,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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Senior Centers to Close Revealed
May 10th, 2010

The Times got its hands on the list of 50 senior centers the Bloomberg administration has proposed to shutter.

Here it is for you:

List of NYC Senior Centers to Close

By on May 10, 2010, 4:38 pm
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In and Out at Homeless Services
April 19th, 2010

With the Bloomberg administration under attack for its plan to charge some families rent for living in homeless shelters, the city’s commissioner of homeless services, Robert Hess, is leaving his job.

By most accounts, Hess’ four years on the job could hardly be considered a success. He came from Philadelphia promising to “fulfill the mayor’s commitment to ending homelessness as we know it within five years.” Although street homelessness declined during his tenure, the latest Mayor’s Management Report found the number of families with children entering the shelter system increased by 34 percent from fiscal year 2008 to 2009. In Hess’ time at the agency, the number of people living in shelters grew by 5,000 and now stands at 36,000 people.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has selected Seth Diamond, executive deputy commissioner at the Human Resources Administration, to try to make a dent in these numbers. Hess will take a job with the Doe Fund, a nonprofit that works with the homeless and one of the mayor’s favored charities.

By on April 19, 2010, 12:38 pm
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Rough Road Ahead
April 13th, 2010

Watch out, there may be some rough roads ahead.

After snowstorms and other winter wear, some New York City streets have come to resemble war-torn terrain and not the byways of a well-kept metropolis.
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Photo (cc) 2008 shoehorn99


Now Gotham Gazette and The Huffington Post want to know what kind of craters mark your streets. Is your block a virtual obstacle course? Has your car or bike tire exploded thanks to an avenue’s neglect?

Send us photos and addresses of neglected roadways in your neighborhood, along with any other lurid details you care to provide, and we’ll report back next week.

By on April 13, 2010, 11:37 am
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Social Services,sustainability,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Historic Vote Broken Down
March 22nd, 2010

It’s here. Good or bad, supporter or critic, the United States is on its way to universal health care.

For a local take, check out how the New York delegation voted last night below. Among our representatives, the vote was 24 to 4. In Washington, health care passed 219 to 212.

And to take a look at the floor debate (all three-plus hours) visit here.

Ackerman, Gary, New York, 5th — Ay
Arcuri, Michael A., New York, 24th — No
Bishop, Timothy, New York, 1st — Ay
Clarke, Yvette D., New York, 11th — Ay
Crowley, Joseph, New York, 7th — Ay
Engel, Eliot, New York, 17th — Ay
Hall, John J., New York, 19th — Ay
Higgins, Brian, New York, 27th — Ay
Hinchey, Maurice, New York, 22nd — Ay
Israel, Steve, New York, 2nd — Ay
King, Pete, New York, 3rd — No
Lee, Christopher J., New York, 26th — No
Lowey, Nita, New York, 18th — Ay
Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 22, 2010, 11:27 am
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Health,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Page at the Council
March 4th, 2010

This year’s preliminary budget might be the most preliminary proposal in recent memory, at least according to Councilmember Lewis Fidler and OMB Budget Director Mark Page, Gotham Gazette’s Courtney Gross reports from City Hall.

“We’re in a significant odd position right now in terms of the state,” Page said at the first of many preliminary budget hearings at City Hall this morning. According to Page, the city is seeing a $1.3 billion cut from the state, and until the state budget is approved, city officials won’t know how much they will have to cut back.

Given the mayhem in Albany, the timeframe for that budget approval is even hazier than usual. Officials at City Hall today did not sound confident that the state budget could be approved by the April 1 deadline. The city must pass its budget by July 1.

Until the state budget moves forward, council members appear to be making the proposed closure of 20 fire houses, the shutting of day care centers run by the Administration for Children’s Service and the reduction of children’s services case workers their top priorities.

As usual, the hearing this morning, which is heading into its third hour now, was contentious at times, particularly when the subject of day care centers was broached.

The city faces an estimated $2.6 billion budget deficit. The hearing was the first step in the negotiating process between the administration and the council on how to close that hole.

By on March 4, 2010, 12:48 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Eye on Albany,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Another One Bites the Dust: Part II (update)
February 9th, 2010

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Councilmember Larry Seabrook has surrendered.

In a press release, the office announced, “Seabrook, 58, surrendered to authorities this morning, and is expected to be presented later today in Magistrate court in Manhattan federal court.”

Elsewhere, the City Council is expected to take up the issue at its first Standards and Ethics Committee meeting, according to Azi. The committee is chaired by Councilmember Inez Dickens.

UPDATE: And this just in from the Yankees:

Statement by Alice McGillion, spokesperson for the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have cooperated fully in this investigation. The Southern District of NY has told us that there is no allegation of wrongdoing on part of anyone within the Yankees organization. The New York Yankees are simply a fact witness. The Southern District of New York has told us that as well. There was no knowledge by anyone in the New York Yankees organization of any wrongdoing.

This contract was of a type encouraged by the Community Benefits Agreement and was performed satisfactorily. When the New York Yankees learned of this situation, they asked their monitor Ed Stier of Thacher Associates to look at it and he confirmed this.

By on February 9, 2010, 1:38 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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De Blasio Takes on Bloomberg on Homelessness
January 19th, 2010

homeless

Take a look at the numbers, and the mayor’s homeless policies just aren’t working.

That was the message Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and homeless advocates sent this morning at a press conference urging the administration to rethink its homeless policies five years after it committed to reduce homelessness by two-thirds. Since the mayor took office, according to Mary Brosnahan of the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of homeless New Yorkers has increased by 45 percent.

“Their original goal was gutsy and noble and I think it took a lot of commitment and focus to even put that goal out,” said de Blasio. “But they did not follow up on it with the same kind of fervor and focus as they have in some other areas. So now acknowledge that the previous strategies have not worked, and borrow from old strategies that did work and create new ones and work with the people that are some of the experts right here next to me,” the newly minted public advocate said from his 15th floor office in the municipal building.

Act one, said de Blasio, should be giving homeless families priority for Section 8 vouchers, which was the practice under the three previous administrations before Bloomberg. The practice was suspended in 2005. The administration should also stop referring homeless individuals to three-quarter houses — small residential buildings that operate as illegal boarding houses, according to the public advocate’s office.

In the council, de Blasio introduced a bill that would have banned the city from referring homeless individuals to facilities that failed to meet occupancy standards.

In a letter to Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs dated January 18, de Blasio implored the administration to hold homeless services harmless in the upcoming budget negotiations by keeping open shelters slated for closure or by securing replacement facilities before their doors are locked. De Blasio also urged the administration to focus more on prevention.

This latest dispute is one of many more likely to come with de Blasio as public advocate.

By on January 19, 2010, 2:03 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Community Development,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Housing,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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Signature Theatre Finds a Home
December 22nd, 2009

theater

After years of struggling to get on stage somewhere near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, the Signature Theatre Company has found a home in Hell’s Kitchen just mere blocks from Broadway, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the company announced this morning.

On the still-cement ground floor of a building under construction on 10th Avenue, stars (yes, Maggie Gyllenhaal was spotted!) officials and theater-lovers gathered to unveil the company’s new address — to be known as the Signature Center. The theater, which will have an interior designed by the architect Frank Gehry, will be just one part of the building developed by the Related Companies. The entire 59-story structure will also include a 800 new housing units, 160 of which will are for low-income families, and it comes with a $800 price tag.

The company’s space will be comprised of three distinct theaters, rehearsal studios, a cafe, bookstore and administrative offices.

Following September 11, 2001, the company planned to relocate to a Gehry-designed building in Lower Manhattan at the site of the Ground Zero reconstruction. They were slated to also share the space with the Joyce Theater. But in 2007, the company accepted an offer to relocate — with the city’s help — because the shared space proposal proved to be cost prohibitive.

The city is contributing $25 million to the theater’s construction.

Today, donning a hard hat and nearly drowned out by the sounds of construction workers hammering and drilling overhead, Bloomberg dipped his hands in cement to solidify the announcement. And then the crowd applauded (though there was no standing ovation).

“Theater makers leave only three things behind: legends, play scripts and from time to time, when the economy’s good, landlords get it, when the mayor and City Council support it, buildings,” said Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner, whose works will comprise the company’s 2010-11 season.

The theater is slated to open in 2012.

By on December 22, 2009, 2:15 pm
In category: Arts,City Hall,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Housing,Land Use,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | Comments Off

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New York's Say on Health Care
November 9th, 2009

If it were up to New York, the health care bill in Washington would have been approved by a much wider margin. The vast majority of the state’s 29 members of Congress said “ay.” (The Empire State’s Congressional Delegation approved the bill 24 to 5. The final vote in the house was 220 to 215.)

A full breakdown is below.

Also check out our series this week — “New York and the Health Care Debate” — where members of our State Legislature and several experts opine on what health care reform could mean for New York.

Votes on Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962):

Ackerman, Gary, New York, 5th: yes
Arcuri, Michael A., New York, 24th: yes
Bishop, Timothy, New York, 1st: yes
Clarke, Yvette D., New York, 11th: yes
Crowley, Joseph, New York, 7th: yes
Read the rest of this entry »

By on November 9, 2009, 12:53 pm
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We Want to Know About Unemployment
June 23rd, 2009

Between April and May, the city’s unemployment rate jumped from 8 to 9 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.

That amounts to more than 361,000 people within the five boroughs who are collecting unemployment insurance from the state — at a maximum of $430 a week per individual. In a city where the least expensive one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan goes for approximately $1,611, those unemployment checks may barely cover your rent.

We want to know how you do it. In our first partnership with Huffington Post New York, which launched yesterday, we are kicking off a citizen journalism project that will take an in-depth look at unemployment in New York City and state.

If you rely on unemployment insurance or have contemplated heading to the unemployment office, we want to hear from you. How are you stretching $430 or less across a week? What sacrifices are you making? What help have you received in searching for a new job? Send your responses to eyesonunemployment@gmail.com.

Gotham Gazette will be using your stories for our investigation into the state’s unemployment benefits.

By on June 23, 2009, 10:30 am
In category: Albany,Economy,Gotham City,Housing,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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Cuts Could Place City Libraries at Bottom
June 2nd, 2009

If proposed library cuts go through, the city will rank the lowest of the nation’s 22 largest library systems in terms of average operating hours, according to a survey by Councilmember Vincent Gentile’s office. The study showed that the city’s three library systems would round out the bottom of the list, with Manhattan at number 20, Queens at 21, and Brooklyn dead last.

The survey – an update to one previously conducted in 2007 by the Center for an Urban Future – was included in a letter by 13 council members urging the mayor to abandon his proposal to cut the libraries’ budgets by 22 percent.

“It appears that you do not consider libraries to be a priority in this fiscal climate. We couldnt disagree more our support of libraries and the preservation of their funding is more important to the vitality and future of New York City than ever,” the letter states. “If we cut $46.5 million from libraries budgets, individuals will become isolated, community groups will lose some of their impact and the unemployed will have to struggle harder to find work.”

“Tough economic times, when we have them, only make libraries that much more important,” Gentile said at a rally against the cuts last week. “Whether it be looking for a job, or using some free resources, reading materials, or jobs training, or skills training, you find those at the library. And you find them for free.”

The cuts would result in nearly 1,000 layoffs and no weekend service at many branches. Meanwhile, library attendance is up 12 percent.

By on June 2, 2009, 2:49 pm
In category: Economy,Measuring UP,Public Finance,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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New Committee Heads
February 27th, 2009

The City Council’s committee leadership has been restructured since members Mike McMahon, Joe Addabbo and Hiram Monserrate moved on to higher office pastures.

These changes, which are selected by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, mean every member, except council members Mathieu Eugene and Liz Crowley, receive some sort of extra lulu (or stipend).

Eugene and Crowley are also the council’s newest members. Crowley joined in January and Eugene joined in May of 2007.

The changes are as follows:
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 27, 2009, 12:24 pm
In category: Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,nextNY,Social Services | 1 Comment »

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Food Fight
February 25th, 2009

The mayor’s controversial refusal to extend food stamp benefits to able-bodied adults who do not work came in for more attack today — this time on the Times’
editorial page
.

Calling Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy “cramped,” the paper said his decision not to take advantage of a provision in the economic stimulus package providing such benefits beyond the city’s three-month limit would deprive the city of the “instant jolt to the economy” that food stamps provide. Citing a calculation by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the editorial said the mayor’s stand could cost the city million of dollars in money from Washington.

The administration has said the mayor’s position on food stamps simply reaffirms his stand that work is the best way to escape poverty.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on February 25, 2009, 2:55 pm
In category: Economy,Gotham City,Social Services | 2 Comments »

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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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