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City Council to adopt budget, override mayoral vetoes
June 28th, 2012

The City Council is expected to adopt a $68.5 billion budget at today’s stated meeting that preserves funding for child care and after school programs, while at the same time raising no new taxes.

But fiscal policy experts say the budget also makes the risky assumption that the the city will reap hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of taxi medallions. The sale has been held up in court.

The Council also plans to override mayoral vetoes on bills that call for a so-called “living wage” on some city-subsidized projects and a “Responsible Banking Act.”

Bloomberg called the living wage bill “a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated.” The living wage bill would apply to companies that receive at least $1 million in city subsidies.

Bloomberg was equally dismissive of the banking bill.

“Nobody would argue, I would think, that the city has the expertise or the resources to try to regulate the banking industry,” he said at the time the bill was passed by the Council.

By on June 28, 2012, 10:26 am
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Cuomo's ed reform commission meets for first time
June 27th, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly created New York Education Reform Commission met for the first time in Manhattan yesterday to discuss its agenda, though little of substance emerged from the meeting.
Commission Chairman Richard Parsons and 21 of its 25 members attended. The formerly 20-member group was expanded earlier this month to include a parent advocate, a school board member and a superintendent after criticism of its makeup. Parsons was quick to stress the importance of the commission in shaping education policy in New York State.
“We don’t get this right, everything else is going wrong,” he said.
The commission is focusing on seven priority areas, all of which have been fulfilled successfully in many cases in New York, but not always.
“We’re doing a lot right in New York but it’s not system wide,” Parsons said. “How do you replicate excellence across the system? That’s really the challenge that we have.”
The seven priority areas were split up among working groups: New York’s public education system; teacher and principal quality and school district leadership; and student achievement and family engagement. The groups will report their findings to the chair and commission.
There was some confusion over the overlap among working groups. Commission members questioned where topics like special education and pre-K programs fall.
But Parsons said it would be too “challenging” not to break up all the work.
“A smaller group can really spend their time and then report back to the large group,” he explained.
Commission members also expressed confusion over the 10-stop “listening tour” they will undertake across the state starting in two weeks and running until October, with the New York City stop on July 26. They have yet to decide on a length and format for the public meetings, although the Governor’s staff said it was their responsibility to choose it.
“Two weeks from now we’re going to have to be ready to go,” said Elizabeth Dickey, president of the Bank Street College of Education and chair of one of the commission’s working groups. “I’m feeling uneasy that we don’t know how we’re going to structure them.”
A three-hour timeframe was suggested, with Senator John Flanagan proposing testimony be submitted ahead of time and not read aloud to streamline the process. However, some members dissented.
“People are yearning to have their voices heard,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said. “I just think there should be a way of hearing them.”
Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, suggested extending the length of the public meetings.
“I suspect in New York City, for instance, you’re not going to be able to accomadate the number of people who will want to speak in three hours, so I think we’ve got to be flexible,” Rebell said. “I hate to have this advertised, have people come out, and feel that they’re being shut out.”
“I want to make these hearings as understandable as possible for the public and for us,” he added.
Rebell’s inclusion on the commission, as a well-known critic of Cuomo’s policies, was applauded by advocacy groups.
“We need more of those really staunch supporters and advocates on the commission,” said Alliance for Quality Education organizer Zakiyah Ansari.
Besides Rebell, the recent addition of school board member Patricia Gallagher, superintendent Jessica Cohen and Parent Power Project Executive Director Carrie Remis to the commission was well-received.
“There’s more balance now than there was in the past, and we’re thankful for that,” said Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs. “We hope this, unlike previous commissions, will come up with something actually viable.”
–Reported by Nina Goldman

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly created New York Education Reform Commission met for the first time in Manhattan yesterday to discuss its agenda, though little of substance emerged from the meeting.

Commission Chairman Richard Parsons and 21 of its 25 members attended. The formerly 20-member group was expanded earlier this month to include a parent advocate, a school board member and a superintendent after criticism of its makeup.

Parsons was quick to stress the importance of the commission in shaping education policy in New York State.

“We don’t get this right, everything else is going wrong,” he said.

The commission is focusing on seven priority areas, all of which have been fulfilled successfully in many cases in New York, but not always.

“We’re doing a lot right in New York but it’s not system wide,” Parsons said. “How do you replicate excellence across the system? That’s really the challenge that we have.”

The seven priority areas were split up among working groups: New York’s public education system; teacher and principal quality and school district leadership; and student achievement and family engagement. The groups will report their findings to the chair and commission.

There was some confusion over the overlap among working groups. Commission members questioned where topics like special education and pre-K programs fall.

But Parsons said it would be too “challenging” not to break up all the work.

“A smaller group can really spend their time and then report back to the large group,” he explained.

Commission members also expressed confusion over the 10-stop “listening tour” they will undertake across the state starting in two weeks and running until October, with the New York City stop on July 26. They have yet to decide on a length and format for the public meetings, although the Governor’s staff said it was their responsibility to choose it.

“Two weeks from now we’re going to have to be ready to go,” said Elizabeth Dickey, president of the Bank Street College of Education and chair of one of the commission’s working groups. “I’m feeling uneasy that we don’t know how we’re going to structure them.”

A three-hour timeframe was suggested, with Senator John Flanagan proposing testimony be submitted ahead of time and not read aloud to streamline the process. However, some members dissented.

“People are yearning to have their voices heard,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said. “I just think there should be a way of hearing them.”

Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, suggested extending the length of the public meetings.

“I suspect in New York City, for instance, you’re not going to be able to accomadate the number of people who will want to speak in three hours, so I think we’ve got to be flexible,” Rebell said. “I hate to have this advertised, have people come out, and feel that they’re being shut out.”

“I want to make these hearings as understandable as possible for the public and for us,” he added.

Rebell’s inclusion on the commission, as a well-known critic of Cuomo’s policies, was applauded by advocacy groups.

“We need more of those really staunch supporters and advocates on the commission,” said Alliance for Quality Education organizer Zakiyah Ansari.

Besides Rebell, the recent addition of school board member Patricia Gallagher, superintendent Jessica Cohen and Parent Power Project Executive Director Carrie Remis to the commission was well-received.

“There’s more balance now than there was in the past, and we’re thankful for that,” said Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs. “We hope this, unlike previous commissions, will come up with something actually viable.”

–Reported by Nina Goldman

By on June 27, 2012, 10:53 am
In category: Albany,Education | 1 Comment »

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The housing deal that wasn't
June 21st, 2012

Last night a deal on housing legislation came together between the Assembly and Senate that would have extended the controversial J-51 tax abatement until 2015 without making any changes to it, as well as making changes in the housing code for loft tenants.

The deal looked like it was going to become reality when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier today that he might issue messages of necessity but the governor has seemingly changed his mind and therefore the deal is dead, for now. Of course, anything can happen in Albany: legislators could hang around to pass the bill or return later this year.

Michael McKee of Tenant’s PAC sees that as a good thing. “Its a complete sell out and I am shocked to see some of the Assemblyman who have signed their names to it.” The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Martin Golden and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Check out our story on J-51 and the tenant community’s mobilization before the elections.

By on June 21, 2012, 8:21 pm
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Election night results reporting bill passes Assembly
June 21st, 2012

The Assembly passed member Brian Kavanagh’s Election Night Poll Procedure Act today a bill that would allow the state Board of Elections to use modern techniques and digital data to tally un-official results on election night.

The current process involves time consuming hand counts that produce unreliable results.

Public confidence in our elections is eroded when we cant say with any confidence what the results are until long after the voters have spoken, and when the numbers change as clerical errors are uncovered days after the election, said Kavanagh. This bill will improve the integrity, accuracy and speed of this process and take advantage of the best features of the new voting machines.

The bill’s fate in the Senate was not clear at the time of writing. The bill is sponsored in that chamber by Sen. Martin Golden. The bill may have a good chance of passing both houses. The New York City Council, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a number of good government groups are backing it.

By on June 21, 2012, 6:37 pm
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Bloomberg reacts to teacher evaluation bill
June 21st, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is “disappointed” that the teacher evaluation bill just passed by both houses of the Legislature because it doesn’t meet “full disclosure.”

Bloomberg was lobbying hard for Senate Republicans to block the bill because he wants teacher evaluations to be made available to the public. But the Republican caucus came together today and decided to bring the bill to a vote. It passed with only one nay vote.

Bloomberg pseudo-nemesis Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, issued a statement praising the bill and the legislature.

Bloomberg did take a conciliatory tone in his statement (at least when it came to Cuomo) saying he appreciated the governor’s “insistence that the State Education post school data so that parents can analyze how districts perform.”

Here is Bloomberg’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 21, 2012, 5:59 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Mulgrew praises teacher evaluation bill
June 21st, 2012

United Federation of Teachers head Michael Mulgrew is praising the legislature for putting limits on the release of teacher evaluations. “I want to thank Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos for their leadership in working to strike an appropriate balance — ensuring that parents can have information about their childrens teachers, while helping to prevent the kind of vilification of teachers that resulted from Mayor Bloombergs insistence on releasing the misleading and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports last year.”

Needless to say, Mulgrew and Mayor Michael Bloomberg aren’t on the greatest of terms and the Legislature certainly handed Bloomberg a defeat today.

Here is Mulgrew’s full statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 21, 2012, 2:37 pm
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Cuomo's gamble on teacher evaluations pays off
June 21st, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation bill has passed the state Senate. Last Friday, with talks seemingly stalled on a bill limiting access to the state’s teacher evaluations, Cuomo rolled the dice. His administration issued a bill late at night that didn’t seem to go far enough for some legislators.

But late last night, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said his conference would discuss the bill this morning. Low and behold, the bill came to a vote and passed with little debate and only one dissenting vote from Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island.

Senate Republicans faced quite a bit of pressure from their financial benefactor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wanted Cuomo’s bill to fail so that all teacher evaluations would be public. Teachers’ unions supported Cuomo’s bill, but would have liked more limits on the disclosure.

Cuomo issued this statement of congratulations:

“I applaud the Senate and Assembly for taking up the teacher evaluation disclosure bill. I believe it strikes the right balance between protecting teacher privacy and a parents right to know. I also appreciate all those who participated in this important dialogue over the past few months. The teachers unions made important points and the bill respects their members legitimate right to privacy. I also appreciate the opinion of Mayor Bloomberg and I believe the final bill reflects much of his perspective. I know this was a difficult issue for the Legislature and I applaud their courage and leadership. This bill is the metaphorical cherry on the cake to the end of what I believe is one of the most successful and broad ranging legislative sessions in modern political history. From transformative economic reforms to historic social progress, this session was a magnificent accomplishment for the people of New York State.

By on June 21, 2012, 2:03 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Cuomo chides Senate Republicans on marijuana bill
June 20th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the airwaves this morning to criticize Senate Republicans for not backing his plan to reduce charges for carrying small amounts of marijuana.

Cuomo has previously shied away from criticizing legislators he has to negotiate with, especially Senate Republicans, who brought his landmark same-sex marriage bill to a vote. Cuomo’s deal on redistricting also saved Senate Republicans major headaches if not their majority.

But Cuomo was clearly irked his marijuana bill met with resistance. Speaking to Fred Dicker on Talk 1300, Cuomo said he believed that the Conservative Party had influenced Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos into backing away from the bill.

“I think there’s no doubt that the state Senate heard the conservative wing of the party and they’re reacting to it,” Cuomo said. The governor also went further, saying that Conservative values don’t appeal to most New Yorkers. “To the extent the Republican Party is successful, it’s because they are moderate… There is just no place in this state for extreme conservative theory.”

Senate Republicans have been fairly clear that they plan to use their relationship with Cuomo as a campaign tool, while Senate Democrats want to try to put a wedge between Senate Republicans and mainstream Democratic values.

By on June 20, 2012, 1:35 pm
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Developers Chosen for Brooklyn Bridge Park Hotel Complex
June 19th, 2012

The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park announced today the final plan for construction of a hotel and residency complex by the park’s Pier 1.

Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group will collaborate on the approximately 550,000-square-foot complex, slated for completion in the fall of 2015, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Brooklyn Bridge Park has quickly become one of the most loved public spaces along our citys waterfront, Mayor Bloomberg said in the release. The major private investment is a vote of confidence in Brooklyn and its future as a great place to live, work and visit.

The $295 million project is set to break ground next summer, generating as many as 510 jobs, both permanent and temporary. The board’s aim is to keep the park financially sustainable with a series of hotels along the piers when completed, it will cost $16 million a year to run the park. They expect to take in $3.3 million yearly in rent and other payments, adding up to an expected $119.7 million net revenue by the end of the 97-year ground leases on the hotel and residential sites.

The mayor’s office also released four renderings of the proposed complex, showing its stone-and-glass facade and surrounding green space. Rogers Marvel Architects designed the 10-story hotel, called 1 Hotel, which will include 200 rooms, 18,000 square feet of banquet, meeting and retail space and a 6,000 square foot spa. There will also be a five-story building with 159 residential units.

Todays vote helps to ensure Brooklyn Bridge Parks future, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in the press release.

By on June 19, 2012, 4:25 pm
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Cuomo's final offer on teacher evaluations
June 19th, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it clear at a 1 p.m. press conference today that he is done negotiating on teacher evaluations. The Cuomo administration introduced a bill late last night that would allow teacher evaluations to be made public but without the teacher’s names.

Thats the bill, the bill is not going to change. Theres not going to be a substitute bill. They act on it or they dont. But theres not going to be changes or discussions at this time,” Cuomo told reporters.

Cuomo issued this statement when his bill was introduced late last night, after negotiations broke down: I am introducing my bill, the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Disclosure Act, for consideration by the Senate and the Assembly. I believe the bill strikes the right balance between a teachers right to privacy and the parents and publics right to know. If the Senate or the Assembly do not agree with this position, we can continue discussions and negotiations, and consider legislation in a future session, as the teacher evaluation system does not become operational until next year. I am sending the bill because I wanted my thoughts and position to be clear and specific in order to further the ongoing public dialogue on this important issue.

The Assembly Majority indicated earlier in the day that they intend to vote on Cuomo’s bill before Thursday. Senate Republicans have indicated they have concerns and are not likely to vote on the bill as it stands.

By on June 19, 2012, 3:06 pm
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NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe Steps Down
June 18th, 2012

The citys parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, resigned after serving with the Bloomberg Administration since 2002. Benepe plans to take a senior position for a national nonprofit, the Trust For Public Land, whose mission is to create close to home parks in and near cities.

Benepe oversaw the largest expansion of parks since the 1930s, and worked on two of Bloombergs signature projects, PlaNYC and MillionTreesNYC

Benepe said in a news release that he looked forward to dedicated his time to “sustainable landscapes in cities across the country and here in New York.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that Benepe had done extraordinary work as parks commissioner, leading transformative changes in every corner of New York City.

The New York Times reported that during Benepes tenure the city added 730 acres of parkland. He also had a role in the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line.

Commissioner Adrian Benepes successor will be Veronica M. White, the executive director and founder of the Center for Economic Opportunity. She may be best known for her work for theOpportunity NYC, a $63 million privately-funded initiative that uses monetary, health and education incentives to reward low-income adults and children for behaviors such as workforce participation, attending job training and passing assessments during the school year.

By on June 18, 2012, 8:33 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City,Parks | 1 Comment »

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Bill banning smoking outside schools awaits Senate vote *Update*
June 18th, 2012

A bill prohibiting smoking 100 feet from the entrances, exits and outdoor areas of private and public elementary or secondary schools passed the Assembly today.

New York State successfully banned smoking indoors to protect all New Yorkers from the harmful side effects of secondhand smoke,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. “This bill seeks to further protect our youth who are now exposed to secondhand smoke at entrances and exits of their school buildings from unwanted exposure. Smoking is particularly dangerous to children. This bill will help to protect them from the scourge of secondhand smoke.”

Sen. Gustavo Rivera sponsored the bill in the Senate. The legislation is one of several health-oriented measures he has sponsored. Rivera has been focused on improving his own health and looking at how Bronx kids develop habits that are bad for their health.

He supports Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large soda cups. A spokesman for Rivera said on Monday that they hoped the smoking bill would be on the Senate’s active list on Tuesday.

While the bill’s passage was a cinch in the Assembly, Rivera is in the minority in the Senate and it is up to the Majority to bring the bill to a vote.

*The bill was passed by by the Senate last night and awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature*

By on June 18, 2012, 6:41 pm
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City lawmakers propose NYPD inspector general
June 13th, 2012

Lawmakers have introduced legislation into the City Council that would create an inspector general with subpoena powers over the nation’s largest police department.

With criticism mounting daily on the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk and surveillance policies, sponsors of the bill said the aim was to create independent oversight of the law enforcement agency.

The measure, introduced earlier today by Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, would create an inspector general to conduct investigations and review NYPD policies and operations. He or she would also make recommendations and deliver regular reports to the mayor, police commissioner, City Council and the public.

Lander said they looked at the work of inspectors general on the federal and local levels to draft the legislation. They also reviewed police oversight models in other big cities and the operations of other inspector generals in New York City.

“Inspectors general have worked in New York City a lot of times, have worked at the federal level, have worked in a lot of places. There’s a good framework for doing it,” Lander said. “It just made a lot of sense.”

The mayor and police commissioner have previously said the department does not need increased oversight.

By on June 13, 2012, 4:34 pm
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Support for Stricter Sex Trafficking Penalties
June 12th, 2012

Legislation to update the state’s human trafficking policy, which would include increased protections for underage victims, received the backing of key members of the City Council today.

The committee on women’s issues unanimously passed a resolution calling on the state Legislature to pass the bill.

The resolution, created by 23 council members including all five committee members, strongly recommends that the Legislature pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act. If passed, the bill would amend a 2007 anti-trafficking law that the Council resolution says does not go far enough.

Councilmembers and advocacy groups support the bill in its current form, and are concerned that crucial pieces of it will be lost during negotiations to get it passed, committee chair Julissa Ferreras said.

“I hope that this will be a clear message to our colleagues in Albany,” Ferreras said.

The bill as it stands now would remove the need for prosecutors to prove that underage victims of trafficking were coerced into prostitution; elevate penalties for patronizing underage prostitutes to the level of statutory rape; and require that anyone under 18 arrested for a prostitution offense be tried in family court rather than criminal court. They also recommended upgrading sex trafficking to a class B violent felony from a non-violent one.

Nearly 4,000 minors are trafficked in New York City yearly, according to a 2001 study by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT-USA) cited in the committee’s report.

By on June 12, 2012, 5:06 pm
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NYCLU Unveils "Stop and Frisk Watch" App
June 6th, 2012

The New York Civil Liberties Union wants citizens to document police street stops using a new smartphone app.

The NYCLU unveiled its “Stop and Frisk Watch” app earlier today in front of police headquarters.

The app, available as on the Android platform, allows witnesses of police street stops to record them and send the clip to the NYCLU. It also tracks the locations of street stops.

“Its for bystanders,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Leiberman. “And hopefully this will help us shine some much needed light on police practices. Everybody in New York knows the numbers. But I think this will help us continue to put the human face on stop-and-frisk.

The police did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about the app.

Critics of stop-and-frisk say the NYPD policy predominantly targets young black and Latino men. But police defend the tactic, saying it promotes public safety in the city’s communities. About 685,000 stops were made by the police last year.

Dawit Getachew, 26, an advocate for Copwatch and a Harlem resident who said he has been subjected to stop-and-frisk, was among the activists who showed up to lend their support for the app.

There are many instances that go unreported because people dont know what to do, so this is a huge opportunity for people to feel empowered to fight back,” he said of the app.

Steve Kohut, of Communities United for Police Reform, noted that the tool will help see the abuse, experience the abuse and now document the abuse so that the police can no longer deny it.

Lieberman said the NYCLU hopes the new app will connect directly with affected communities.

The app, designed by Jason Van Anden, also includes a survey for users who would like to report questionable NYPD action they see or experience and a Know Your Rights Card instructing those who are confronted by police officers about their rights.

By on June 6, 2012, 6:38 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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NYC Schools Propose Changes to Discipline Code
June 5th, 2012

The New York City Department of Education is proposing to eliminate suspensions for students who get caught breaking minor rules, such as cutting classes and cussing.

Suspensions for Level 1 and Level 2 infractions would be eliminated under the proposed changes to the schools’ discipline code. The DOE has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the proposed revisions of the code for 6 p.m. tonight at Stuyvesant High School.

“We believe a more progressive discipline is warranted with strongcounseling and youth development support,” said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DOE. “We want to be able to address improper behavior before it reaches a higher level, and to do that we are focused on providing strong student support services coupled with parent involvement.”

While advocates for students say they applaud some of the changes, they say more needs to be done.

“Changes made are minor and won’t provide systemic change,” said Sarah Landes, a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a collection of teachers, students and youth organizations working to reduce suspension and mandate alternative discipline methods.

Shoshi Chowdhury, coordinator for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, said the punishment of suspension should end for the first three levels of school misconduct, including insubordination, pushing and shoving. Suspension should be a last resort as it allows many students to fall behind in schools, she said. In cases of level 4 and 5 fighting in schools, positive alternatives should be offered.

Chowdhury cited one example, Lehman High School in the Bronx, which had faced a high suspension rate. She said increased funding for positive alternatives for the 2010-2011 school year has already led to a decrease in the rate of suspension.

Feinberg said “more serious infractions warrant suspensions as an option.”

Advocates have long argued that the discipline code disproportionally affects students of color and those who speak English as a Second Language.

The DOE is required under state law to review and revise the discipline code each year and make changes, if necessary. The proposed modifications are then presented to the public.

By on June 5, 2012, 5:15 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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CSNY, Cuomo and JCOPE
June 5th, 2012

The New York Times reported today that a lobbying group controlled by major casino interests donated $2 million to a group closely aligned with the governor as he was beginning his push to expand gambling in the state.

New York Gaming Association President James Featherstonhaughtold The Wall Street Journal that it was his understanding that the group aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo was “somewhat supportive of the general concept of the expansion of gaming.” Otherwise, he added, they would not have donated to the group, known as the Committee to Save New York.

Spokesmen for Gov. Andrew Cuomo have denied that the governor was influenced by the donations.

Cuomo dedicated a large piece of his State of the State address to a proposed convention center and casino in Queens to be built by Genting, an Asian multinational corporation. Earlier this week, Cuomo announced that his deal with Genting had soured.

The news comes as a number of groups have called for greater disclosure from groups like the one aligned with the governor, known as the CSNY. Cuomo engineered the creation of the uber-powerful lobbying group to protect him from labor attacks during the budget process.

The Joint Committee on Public Ethics, controlled by two Cuomo appointees, is set to discuss its new disclosure requirements for lobbyists this Thursday.

Two advocacy organizations, VOCAL- NY and Community Voices Heard, released a statement today jumping on the revelations in the Times’ article. They have already put in a complaint to JCOPE about the relationship between Cuomo and CSNY, but said theyhave yet to get a response.

“We are seeing a governor that seems to have put his editorial byline, his State of the State, and even the State’s Constitution up for auction, with the most well-connected New Yorkers brokering the sale and the only available watchdog someone who was appointed by the Governor himself,” reads the statement.

The release also notes that Cuomo’s spokesman have changed their responses to stories about Cuomo’s relationship with CSNY — from denying the relationship to now simply saying such a relationship is not “improper.”

By on June 5, 2012, 3:19 pm
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Reaction to Cuomo's marijuana bill
June 4th, 2012

When news broke today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted the Legislature to lower the penalty for possessing 25 grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation, the perception was that he was taking a shot at Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s stop-and-frisk program.

But Bloomberg announced his support for the measure along with a host of city-based legislators and groups.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly even attended Cuomo’s news conference to announce the plan.

“This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people they wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation,” Cuomo said. “The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to [a] justice system that doesnt discriminate based on age or color.”

The move seemed targeted at New York City — 94 percent of the more than 500,000 arrests for 25 grams or less of marijuana in the state took place in the five boroughs.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has been the target of massive criticism because it is said to disproportionately target and result in the convictions of black and Latino youth. Cuomo said that 82 percent of those arrested for carrying marijuana were black and Latino.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 4, 2012, 9:00 pm
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State Sen. Thomas Duane plans new chapter in his life
June 4th, 2012

State Sen. Thomas K. Duane, the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive member of the legislative body, announced today he will not be running for re-election this year, opening up his seat in the important 29thState Senatorial District that runs from the Upper West Side to Greenwich Village.

“When I first was elected to the Senate people told me it was a foolish career choice,” Duane said in a statement announcing his retirement. “I was told that an openly gay, openly HIV-positive man would accomplish little in a highly partisan and conservative State Senate. I was not discouraged by this talk.”

Duane, who first entered the Senate in 1998, told the New York Times in Sunday editions he was leaving because he was tired of traveling from the city to Albany over the past 14 years. “I always knew that I was going to have another chapter in my life, and it’s time for me to start that new chapter,” he told the newspaper.

The state senator has been an advocate for those who do not have a voice in the halls of government, playing an important role in 2009 and last year during the battle for same-sex marriage. In addition to The Marriage Equality Act and The Family Health Care Decisions Act, Duane also cites lesser publicized bills like the Sex Trafficking Victims Second Chance Act as some of his major accomplishments.

Duane does not plan to run for office again, but said he would continue to be “an activist and an advocate.”

By on June 4, 2012, 3:03 pm
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Senate Dems "thank" Cuomo for redistricting help
May 23rd, 2012

New York’s Senate Democrats offered up a video response to last night’s Legislative Correspondent’s show — and it’s a bit of a doozy. The video features Sens. Michael Gianaris, Liz Krueger and Kevin Parker sitting around a speaker phone anxiously waiting to speak to the governor about redistricting. Gianaris happily lays down the law on redistricting to a dial tone after an executive chamber secretary insists the governor is not available. That is when the hijinx start. Former Gov. David Paterson makes an appearance with Errol Louis on NY1’s Wise Guy’s segment. Paterson delivers his patented SNL “NEW JEERRSEY!” line. Check it out.

Cuomo famously changed the standards for what kind of lines would earn a veto while Senate Republicans and Democrats held their breaths. In the end, Cuomo came to a deal with Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats that allowed the Legislature to draw district lines one more time in exchange for a constitutional amendment that will change the process the next time around.

By on May 23, 2012, 10:11 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 7 Comments »

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