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Walcott Visits the Council
April 8th, 2011

In his first visit to the City Council as the schools chancellor designee, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott was informed, cordial and calm.

Most council members lauded him. All of them offered congratulations.

“You are much more knowledgeable than Cathie Black,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “You are much more accessible.”

And that praise came despite the fact Walcott was the bearer of bad news. Toeing the administration’s line, Walcott slammed state budget cuts to the five boroughs, claiming the city was treated unfairly. While the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was supposed to give the city its fair share of education aid, Walcott said city revenue would cover 61 percent of non-federal education spending in next year’s budget. The state would only cover 39 percent.

Walcott claimed the vast majority of controllable costs at the Department of Education go to teachers’ salaries. The only way to close a $1 billion budget gap, he said, would be to lay off teachers.

“That means, with a budget shortfall of this magnitude, a reduction in headcount is unavoidable,” Walcott said.

There was some dispute between Walcott and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson on the administration’s proposal to repeal the city’s last in, first out policy — which requires the city lay off teachers based on seniority. The policy’s repeal is a major goal of the Bloomberg adminsitration this year.

Walcott said the city has incentives for principals to keep teachers based on skill instead of how much their salary is. Jackson, however, said the repeal of LIFO could spur discrimination — with principals getting rid of the more senior, expensive instructors in favor of cheaper, younger ones.

Ultimately, Jackson said, the issue is moot.
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By on April 8, 2011, 3:32 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Economy,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Bloomberg Takes "Full Responsibility"
April 7th, 2011

In an unprecedented reversal for the Bloomberg adminsitration, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black stepped down this morning just after several of her top deputies resigned and a poll gave her a failing approval rating.

At City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he spoke with Black this morning, and they “mutually agreed” it was time for her to go. The decision follows a NY1/Marist College poll that put Black’s approval rating at 17 percent. Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott will replace Black.

The announcement culminates what will likely be the shortest tenure as chancellor in history. Black was selected in November. Her stint was punctuated by embarrassing gaffes and a lack of confidence in her ability to improve the city’s public school system. Today’s announcement surprised and shocked many and represented a rare defeat for the third term mayor, who has often balked at admitting mistakes.

This morning, though, was different.

“I take full responsibility that this has not worked out,” Bloomberg said.

At the same time, Bloomberg was hesitant to reflect on why Black failed. He repeatedly urged the media to “look forward” and not dwell on her three-month stint.

“The story had become about her, and it should be about the students,” Bloomberg said.

During the humbling news conference, Bloomberg said Black had done an “admirable job” and had nothing but “respect and admiration for her.” He also said leading the nation’s largest public school system was “difficult.”

Unlike Black, who sent her children to private school and had no teaching experience, Walcott has taught kindergarten and served on the former Board of Education as well as an adjunct professor at York College. He sent his children to New York City public schools.

By on April 7, 2011, 1:13 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Black is Out
April 7th, 2011

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

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Blizzard Bills at the Council
April 6th, 2011

The City Council is set to approve a package of bills this afternoon which regulate the city’s snow procedures — a response to last year’s Boxing Day blizzard.

Among the proposals, the Department of Sanitation will be required to create a snow removal plan for every borough, and the Office of Emergency Management will be forced to review the previous year’s snow removal process in an annual report. The package would establish emergency protocols for the city and high-volume protocols for 311.

When first introduced, the Bloomberg administration spoke out against the package, claiming it needed its regulations to be “flexible.” But in an apparent flip-flop, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the adminsitration worked with the council on the bills and now supports them.

By on April 6, 2011, 3:10 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Environment,Gotham City,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Third Term Woes Upon Us
March 16th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in eight years, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

More than half of New York City voters — 51 percent to be exact — disapprove of the job the mayor is doing, while 39 percent approve of him. His approval rating plummets further on Staten Island, where only 27 percent of voters are happy with Hizzoner and 66 percent are unhappy.

Voters’ vitriol is aimed squarely at Bloomberg. Every other elected official has their highest ratings ever — 44 to 16 percent for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 54 to 16 percent for Comptroller John Liu and 55 to 25 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enjoyed the highest approval rating — 67 percent to 20 percent.

More than two-thirds of New Yorkers rated the administration’s handling of the December blizzard either “not so good” or “poor.”

However, there was some good news today for the mayor.

Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers say where the mayor spends his weekends or vacations is a private matter and he should not have to disclose where he is. But 84 percent said Bloomberg should have to say who is in charge when he is not around.

By on March 16, 2011, 2:31 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Fire Department Cuts to Affect 'Every Community'
March 11th, 2011

truck

Photo (cc) Just Us 3

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano didn’t sugarcoat how fire company cuts would affect the city during a City Council hearing this morning.

“Every community in the city will be affected, not just those communities in the first-due areas of the closed companies,” said Cassano in prepared testimony. “Twenty closures would require us to make adjustments in our operations, which will make it extremely challenging to maintain the same levels of service to the communities we serve.”

To close a multi-billion dollar budget gap, the Bloomberg adminsitration is proposing to shutter 20 fire companies to save $55 million next fiscal year. The adminsitration has already reduced staffing from five to four firefighters on 60 engines — a move fire unions are challenging.

The City Council successfully averted fire company closures for the past three years by plugging the department’s budget with its own discretionary funding. One councilmember this morning couldn’t promise they would be able to do the same this year.

“This council has worked really hard within our body to save these cuts,” said Councilmember Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island. “If [Bloomberg] is relying on the council to put this money back, that’s a lift.”

(We cover the cuts to the Fire Department in depth today here.)

It’s still unclear what companies would be affected. The Fire Department does not have to release a list until 45 days before the companies are scheduled to close.
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By on March 11, 2011, 4:10 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Philly Votes, New York Doesn't
March 4th, 2011

With a paid sick leave bill stalled n the New York City Council, a similar measure is wending its way toward possible approval in Philadelphia. Earlier this week, the council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services voted in favor of a measure that would requires that employees at businesses with 11 or more workers earn up to nine paid sick days a year and those working for a place with 10 or fewer employees get five days. A vote by the full council could come next week.

The arguments for and against the bill echo those here. And in Philadelphia, as in New York, businesses and the city administration oppose the mayor, arguing it would create job loss. Advocates dispute that contention and also maintain that having sick workers on the job poses a health risk — particularly when so many workers without paid sick leave are in the food service business.

But there is one difference between New York and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia the council actually will get to vote on the bill. Here, even though 35 of the 51 City Council have expressed support for the measure, the council has never voted on it.

For that, credit — or blame — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who can effectively kill any measure that does not meet her approval. And that is what she has done with paid sick leave.

By on March 4, 2011, 4:52 pm
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Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, no one at the council is budgeting.

The full explanation from Walmart is below.

Final City Council Letter

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

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Blizzard Answers At Council Hearing
January 10th, 2011

Deputy Mayor Goldsmith Answers Questions from the City Council--(c) William Alatriste New York City Council

On Christmas Eve, days before snow began to fall on New York City, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty were on the phone.

The winter weather watch had not yet been issued by the National Weather Service. Doherty and Sadik-Khan talked about their options for the looming storm, which at that time was supposed to bring several inches to the Big Apple.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who oversees both agencies, was in Washington, D.C. To this day, it is unclear where Mayor Michael Bloomberg was.

A day later, on Christmas, the National Weather Service upgraded the city’s storm warning to a blizzard at 3:55 p.m. It defiantly told New Yorkers: “Do not travel.” It warned the city could see high winds and up to 16 inches of snow.

On Dec. 26th, two days after their first conversation about the storm, the two commissioners decided not to call a city snow emergency — a rare designation that would force certain residents to move their cars off narrow streets and prohibit driving any vehicle not equipped with chains or snow tires.

They did not tell Goldsmith or the mayor about their decision.

This one decision, officials said today, created a serious snowball effect that ultimately left the city unprepared to deal with the now-infamous Boxing Day blizzard.

“We didn’t want residents to take those cars out, start looking for a parking space — we all know in New York City it’s very difficult to find — and then [create] more problems that we were trying to avoid,” Doherty told the City Council this afternoon at the first of seven hearings on the blizzard response. Every agency head involved and 42 council members attended today’s hearing, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn who normally sits out of the hearing process.

In retrospect, Goldsmith said this afternoon, the decision to call a snow emergency would have acted like a “catalyst,” triggering other agencies to respond with speed and seriousness to the storm. Instead, between Dec. 26 and New Year’s Day, Bloomberg administration officials scrambled to keep up with the 20-inch snowfall, which left ambulances, buses and abandoned vehicles stuck in unplowed streets.

Officials acted without a concrete chain of command and City Hall failed to get a complete picture of how bad the situation really was, Goldsmith said.

“The mayor did not have the information he deserved,” Goldsmith said, contending there was a communication breakdown between city agencies. “I accept responsibility in doing that more rigorously in the future,” he added.

Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis who joined the administration last spring, promised to never let it happen again. As part of that pledge, the administration unveiled a 15-point plan to prevent similar slow responses. (More on that plan here.) They will have an opportunity to test it tomorrow. Snow is expected to start accumulating tomorrow evening, and by Wednesday night we could have another foot on the ground.
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By on January 10, 2011, 7:02 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,sustainability,Transportation,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Quinn Gets into Budget Cuts and Snow
January 7th, 2011

Appearing on the John Gambling Show this morning, Council Speaker Christine Quinn outlined her expectations for Monday’s blizzard hearing and reiterated her position on tax increases in the next city budget.

The council and the Bloomberg administration released a mid-year budget agreement yesterday, which staved off the nighttime closure of 20 fire companies and saved nearly 200 positions at the Administration for Children’s Services.

When asked this morning whether Quinn would consider tax increases, the speaker again said no way.

But Quinn did hint at harder times to come (We cover the upcoming budget battle this morning here).

“There arent any ideas that relates to budget cuts that are going to disappear and never come back,” Quinn said. “We are not at a point anymore, and I know New Yorkers know this, where you can say waste, fraud and corruption.”

“We are making choices between things that are good and things that are great,” she added.

The speaker confirmed she would attend Monday’s hearing on the blizzard. Quinn rarely attends public hearings, which points to the significance of the snow showdown.

To listen to the entire segment go here.

By on January 7, 2011, 12:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Economy,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Election Reforms and Reforming Elections
December 6th, 2010

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a set of election law proposals he will push in Albany next year, Council Speaker Christine Quinn grilled the city Board of Elections on its performance in November’s election.

While the Board of Elections improved over its handling of primary day — when scores of polling places opened hours late, complaints of a lack of privacy flourished and the overall management was called a “royal screw-up” — Quinn said it still had a way to go.

“There was no royal screw up of significance on Nov. 2,” Quinn said. The speaker has called for the board to give itself grades per polling site, post a sample ballot online and conduct a nationwide search for a new executive director. George Gonzalez, the former executive director, was fired a week before Election Day this year in connection with the board’s performance on primary day.

The board has promised to post sample ballots online before an election, but it has warned officials it would come with a price tag.

When asked today about its executive director search, a board official said it has received one resume and one inquiry about the position. It gave no commitment to conduct a national search.

“There is no formal process,” said Steven Richman, the board’s general counsel. “But the board is open to receiving resumes.”

The speaker took issue with the more than 195,000 difference in votes counted on election night and when the certified results came out last week. Asked if this jump — which the board says is a 14.2 percent difference and press says is 17 percent — was unusual, the board said it did not keep unofficial election tallies from previous elections.
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By on December 6, 2010, 6:05 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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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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CCRB Slims Down Prosecution Unit (UPDATE)
November 23rd, 2010

Thanks to a $300,000 budget cut, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will drastically downsize its newly minted prosecution unit — part of a pilot program that allows the board to prosecute cases of police misconduct for the first time.

When first announced in February, the unit was set to have two attorneys, an investigator and a clerical worker. Now that the city faces a $3.3 billion budget deficit next year, the “unit” has been cut down to one attorney, said a board spokesperson. The decrease is part of $1.6 billion in cuts the mayor announced last week.

Despite the obvious setback, the board has pledged to move forward with the experiment.

“One attorney is going to be handling this start up phase,” said Linda Sachs, the board’s spokesperson. “She is a former federal prosecutor, and she is really good.”

While the board currently investigates complaints of police misconduct, it has never had the power to prosecute the claims it substantiates — only the Police Department has. For years, advocates and officials have pushed to bolster the board’s power as, some say, the police fail to prosecute its officers.

Even so, when the city announced the pilot earlier this year some were skeptical, claiming budget cuts could setback the program.

As part of the pilot, the board’s prosecution “unit” will not select cases to prosecute. Selection will be done randomly — one in every five cases set to go to trial will go to the CCRB. It will amount to approximately five cases a year, Sachs said.

UPDATE: The CCRB called in to reiterate its support for the program this morning, contending it will eventually come up with the money to fund it.
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By on November 23, 2010, 3:44 pm
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CCRB Considers Cutting Pilot Prosecution Program
November 22nd, 2010

Just nine months after the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced a pilot program to independently prosecute some cases of police misconduct, they are considering cutting it.

Faced with a budget deficit and a mandate from the Bloomberg adminsitration to cut costs, Ernest Hart, the chair of the board, told Gotham Gazette that nothing was off the chopping block, including the highly anticipated program.

“The final decision as to how we would implement the budget cut has not been made,” said Hart. “When we look at the budget, we look at all the programs. I wouldn’t say that it was not under consideration with everything else. Everything is under consideration.”

The pilot program, which was revealed in February, would give the civilian board the power to prosecute a handful of cases independently for the first time. Currently, the board investigates and substantiates complaints of police misconduct across the city, but the prosecution is left up to the Police Department. For years, critics have been calling for independent prosecution by the board, claiming the police department has increasingly failed to prosecute cases referred to it.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed nearly $1.6 billion in cuts to help close a $3.3 billion budget gap in the next fiscal year. Under the proposal, the city’s work force could shrink by more than 10,000 employees, including 6,166 teachers. The adminsitration proposed about 6,200 layoffs.

The board faces a $300,000 cut in this fiscal year and a $157,000 cut in the next. According to a City Council report from June, the new prosecution unit would cost $366,000.

Should the board decide to slash the program, it would not be the first time a similar proposal fell through. The Giuliani administration promised to give the board independent power to prosecute cases in 2001, but the proposal was later abandoned.

The board is working with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the final cuts, which should be made shortly, Hart said.

The NYPD remains “fully supportive” of the prosecution program, Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said in an e-mailed statement.

By on November 22, 2010, 7:42 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Quinn on Cathie Black and Council Resolution
November 17th, 2010

New Yorkers shouldn’t be surprised of the mayor’s decision to select Cathie Black as schools chancellor — at least that is what Council Speaker Christine Quinn says.

“This is an example of how mayoral control works,” said Quinn this afternoon before the council’s stated meeting. It’s the mayor’s choice, she argued.

Her comments come after the speaker released a statement last week following Black’s selection, saying she “looked forward” to working with her.

They also come as opposition against Black’s appointment continues to mount. That opposition includes several members of the City Council, who are set to introduce a resolution (seen below) today that asks the state to deny Black the necessary waiver for her to serve as chancellor. The resolution states: “The people of New York City want a chancellor with experience, character and qualifications that are well suited for the education of children and not merely the management of a corporation.”

Quinn declined to take a position on the resolution this afternoon.

Reso Calling for Nys Ed Commssioner to Deny Waiver for Cathie Black[1]

By on November 17, 2010, 3:30 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Education,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Critics Say Study is a Sham (Update)
October 27th, 2010

living

Advocates and council members gathered on the steps of City Hall today to slam a city commissioned study on living wages, calling it “smoke and mirrors.”

The $1 million study, which is being conducted by Boston-based Charles River Associates, will examine the sustainability of a living wage policy in the five boroughs. A bill to require living wages at city-subsidized developments is currently languishing at the council.

At issue is one economist on the study team — David Neumark of the University of California. Supporters of living wages say Neumark is inherently biased, having authored several studies critical of living and minimum wage policies.

“Hiring David Neumark to advise the city on wage policies is like hiring a global warming skeptic to evaluate the city’s greenhouse gas strategy,” said Paul K. Sonn of the National Employment Law Project.

The city Economic Development Corp., which commissioned the study after advocates started to call for living wages last year, argues Neumark is in the top 5 percent of economists. City officials point to studies where Neumark found living wages reduced poverty — albeit those studies show his “support” for the policy overall is tepid at best.

The city also says a diverse stakeholder group will review the study’s findings, which should be completed this spring.

All of those arguments aren’t silencing critics.
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By on October 27, 2010, 2:49 pm
In category: City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Land Use,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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Ferreras Responds to Suit (UPDATE)
October 26th, 2010

We just received this from Councilmember Julissa Ferreras in response to the lawsuit brought by her former aide.

I have not been served with a copy of Mr. Castros complaint, so it is difficult for me to respond to allegations I have not seen. I can say, however, that I did not discriminate or retaliate against him for any reason and I am confident that his claims will ultimately be rejected by the court.

First reported in the Daily News today, the suit alleges Ferreras and her chief of staff, Yoselin Genao, taunted Steven Castro, a 24-year-old with cerebral palsy who worked for the councilwoman for approximately seven months. Castro also alleges he never received a steady paycheck.

This is the second time in a week Ferreras has made headlines. Ferreras, the former chief of staff to the recently indicted Hiram Monserrate, ran the nonprofit LIBRE, which was the subject of the aforementioned indictment.

Said complaint should arrive shortly, which we will post straight away.

Update: Here it is.

Castro Complaint

By on October 26, 2010, 4:36 pm
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Living Wage Waters are Choppy
October 26th, 2010

In the wake of Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s decision not to support paid sick leave, some City Council members and advocates are attempting to make waves on another issue: the living wage.

Currently two bills to require some sort of wage mandate at city-subsidized developments are treading water at City Hall. One would require a prevailing wage for building service employees, while the other would require a living wage for every worker on a city-assisted development, including the development’s tenants.

Quinn has not taken a position on either. When asked during her sick leave announcement earlier this month, she sidestepped the issue.

The issue came to a head last year when the council defeated a proposal to morph the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a shopping mall. The developer on the project would not agree to a living wage mandate — defined as $10 an hour with benefits — which is largely credited with killing the project. Photo credit: (cc) 2009  Atomische  Tom Giebel

In the latest feud, council members and advocates will gather on the steps of City Hall tomorrow to denounce a $1 million city-funded study on the effectiveness and success of living wage policies. The study was commissioned by the Economic Development Corp. and is being conducted by Charles River Associates — a consulting firm based in Boston. It is supposed to be completed by next spring.

The presser tomorrow, according to an advisory we just got, will “exposes Charles River Associates (CRA), EDC’s choice to conduct the study, as a business-backed lobbying group using economists who oppose living wage and even minimum wage policies for EDC’s study.”

The chief economist on the study is Daniel Hamermesh, a reputable professor at the University of Texas at Austin. David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California and a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, is also on the study team. He has authored several studies questioning the sustainability of living wage policies.

The Bloomberg adminsitration said it would not consider a widespread living wage policy until the study was completed — a move some critics say is meant to stall the legislation at the City Council. Earlier this year, one administration official said the wage proposals could squash economic development and be potentially against the City Charter.

By on October 26, 2010, 12:39 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Community Development,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Immigrants,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Recommended Reading
October 25th, 2010

In his interview with the Times published today, Andrew Cuomo said he has given state labor leaders copies of the recent biography of Hugh Carey, The Man Who Saved New York.

To find out what they might be reading, check out Gotham Gazette’s excerpt from the book by Seymour Lachman and Robert Polner.

By on October 25, 2010, 10:44 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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