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Debate Over Best Path to Affordable Housing Development Continues

been de blasio housing

Vicki Been (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)

While sweeping new norms for city land use and housing development were passed into law last month, the debate over how to best achieve affordable housing continues. The larger affordable housing picture was the subject of a Wednesday event hosted by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, where Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. were among the guest speakers who presented their views on city housing policy.

Diaz Jr. has been a vocal and frequent critic of the de Blasio administration, including its housing plans, which he again questioned at Wednesday’s event, entitled “Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?” Been, seated next to the borough president, explained and defended the policies that she has helped craft, even challenging the framing of the event.

“I want to just take exception to the way the question was phrased for this panel, which is: ‘Is affordable housing ever going to happen?’” Been said. “In fact, in the first two years of the administration we financed more than 40,000 affordable homes...which is a higher number of new construction starts than ever in the history of HPD and the second highest number total since Koch really started the program.”

Since the passage of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), two significant changes to the city’s zoning code aimed at spurring more affordable housing development, much of the attention has turned to East New York, the first area that will be rezoned under the new MIH and ZQA rules. In essence, the city is allowing and promoting greater density - more development, taller buildings - while requiring certain percentages of new units to be kept under affordability guidelines.

Diaz Jr. has been critical of MIH and ZQA, both as a matter of policy and process. While continuing his critique Wednesday, he also acknowledged that the changes have already been made and that there is a new normal at play in terms of the way the city deals with zoning. Still, Diaz Jr. liked the old rules, whereby each land or neighborhood rezoning was subject to individual negotiations with fewer predetermined choices and rules.

“I also conceptually support the mayor’s goal of getting to 200,000 units of affordable housing,” Diaz Jr. said at the panel. “With that said, I did not support the zoning amendments. And you gotta understand that, over the last six years alone, in the Bronx we’ve done 17 rezonings and we have been able to do this by having a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.”

Echoing points he made during the panel discussion, Diaz Jr. later told Gotham Gazette, “I think we’ve shown that we can...create a lot of density, do it in an affordable way, do it [in a] neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean from my office, to elected officials, to the community board, to many of the city leaders in whatever area. But I’ve said all along, with this MIH, what it does is it paints the entire city with one broad stroke.”

The panel event, hosted by former New York Attorney General and Stroock partner Robert Abrams and his public affairs group, included Diaz Jr. and Been, as well as a real estate developer and a new Stroock attorney recently departed from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office. Been was warmly welcomed by her hosts, who she has worked with over decades.

To achieve affordable housing in every neighborhood in the city, and to ensure that, when growth is taking place, it promotes economic diversity, Been said, certain instruments like MIH had to be put in place. To go beyond the city’s affordable housing demand to meet the needs of particular groups like seniors, and the range of different types of housing that they need, ZQA was adopted to revamp the city’s out-of-date 1961 zoning ordinance.

Diaz Jr. has said before that the one-size-fits-all approach of city-wide land use rules reduces the flexibility with which communities and stakeholders rezone, and diminishes the capacity to take his favored neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to rezoning. The ability to vary the affordability requirements at the most local level, he argued again at Wednesday’s event, has been proven to be effective when dealing with the complex realities of neighborhood housing and development needs.

Using his own borough as an example, Diaz Jr. said at the panel, “what I’m getting at is, in the Bronx it is complex. And with the new zoning changes...you’re handcuffing the communities and stakeholders from having that leverage and that ability to negotiate” with developers who have a part to play in the creation of affordable housing.

During the panel discussion, which also covered specifics beyond MIH and ZQA, Been did not respond directly to Diaz Jr.’s criticism, but when asked about it by Gotham Gazette after the event she said that MIH is essentially an “enabler” of rezoning. “It sets up an MIH program and requirements that then get applied in any of the 17 rezonings that [Diaz Jr.] was talking about...It doesn’t change any neighborhood on its own.”

Been’s reply to Diaz Jr.’s criticism of zoning amendments was pointed and direct, a sign that this was not the first time she has addressed such critiques. “The second thing,” she said, “is that he continues to say, ‘Well, I do a better job at negotiating for affordable housing than MIH does.’ He negotiated for affordable housing that we [HPD] paid for. MIH is affordable housing that the developer pays for. That’s very different, right? And so those are the critical things. So I disagree with him, we disagreed with him earlier.”

While Diaz Jr. has said that he is concerned about allocating enough affordable housing for both low-income earners and middle-income professionals, citing a “brain drain” from his borough, Been pointed out that affordable housing requirements under MIH are averages for all the affordable units in a development, allowing for “enormous flexibility within those options.”

Despite the ongoing debate, Diaz Jr. recognized that the newly enshrined land use regulations are now a fixture of the city. “Well, we’ll see if it works,” the borough president told Gotham Gazette. “The bottom line is that they passed it into law, right? So, I can talk about my concerns all I want now, till I’m blue in the face. We’ll see if it works moving forward.”

The panel touched on how developers will be able to work with the city to create affordable housing, the prospects of achieving the affordable housing goals set by the mayor, and what can be done in the absence of the property tax exemption known as 421-a, which expired in January and is seen by many as essential to affordable housing development. In addition to Been and Diaz Jr., the panel included Ron Moelis, the CEO of L+M Development Partners Inc., which develops affordable, mixed-income, and market-rate housing; and Erica F. Buckley, who recently left Schneiderman’s office to join Stroock as an expert on real estate and government relations.

During the panel, Been took a moment to emphasize the importance of having a relationship with the Attorney General’s office - the de Blasio and Schneiderman administrations have teamed up on tenant protection efforts, among others. “You know you read a lot in the newspapers about tension between the City and the State” she said. “We have an incredible partner in the Attorney General’s offices...and it really depends upon amazing people like Erica and her former team...It’s so helpful to have that kind of working relationship and it really depends upon the leadership and the people on the team.”

On the impact that the missing 421-a tax abatement will have on new affordable housing developments, Moelis weighed in: “The city is doing a great job and has a lot of resources to create affordable housing…The mayor and the governor both have dedicated significant resources, more than ever, toward affordable housing and I think the capacity of the agencies is tremendous.”

“Hopefully [421-a] will be replaced with some other tax abatement for mixed-income housing,” Moelis continued, saying its absence “is important, but I don’t think it’s going to kill the production of affordable housing. I think it will continue at a pretty good pace.”

In the question and answer section following the panel discussion, Buckley noted that the Article II to XI Conversion Program could serve as a useful tool for preserving affordable housing options in the absence of 421-a, by allowing Mitchell-Lama developments to be converted to HDFC low-income cooperatives, rather than exiting an affordable housing program outright. When pressed on the issue, however, Buckley conceded that in her experience at the Attorney General’s office no projects had been initiated through Article II to XI Conversion.

Diaz Jr. brought the discussion back to 421-a: “Let me also state today that we absolutely need 421-a. Absolutely. And I’ve been speaking to anyone who will listen in the Legislature so that they can get this done.”

Whatever the city needs to achieve better affordable housing options, the land use regulations have been set. “I’m hoping that when it’s all said and done, I don’t have to tell folks, ‘I told you so,’” Diaz Jr. told Gotham Gazette after the event. “I mean right now, you know, again, I can speak about it till I’m blue in the face, but it’s the law of the City of New York.”

by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Calls for Candidates to Address Urban Issues in Presidential Race

workers nycha scaffolding

Workers at a NYCHA building (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)

For the first time in decades, New York has become a competitive battleground in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. As the race heats up in this delegate-rich state, the two Democratic candidates, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, have ramped up their outreach, particularly in New York City, home to millions of Democrats.

Each side has been increasingly fervent in its vollies against the other and on Thursday, April 14, just five days before primary voters head to the polls, the two candidates will meet for what may be the last debate of the Democratic race. While the candidates have been outspoken on national issues, domestic and foreign affairs, experts agree that both campaigns have largely failed to articulate policy for American cities and ways in which the federal government can improve urban life.

“It seems the Democrats have got stuck on who hates inequality more and they’re not focused on the specific things that the government can do and needs to do right away to fix our schools, to rebuild infrastructure, to invest in creative economies that help cities thrive,” said Charles Euchner, Fisher Fellow for the Middle Class Jobs Initiative, Center for an Urban Future.

Clinton and Sanders will square off at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Duggal Greenhouse in a contest televised on NY1 and CNN. Both candidates have New York ties - Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn before eventually moving to Vermont, while New York is Clinton’s adopted political home that she represented in the U.S. Senate for eight years, 2001-2008.

Germane urban issues like infrastructure, transportation, resiliency, and national security have been addressed to some extent in the campaign, but not at a great level of specificity or regarding local jurisdictions like New York City. As both primaries hit the city, the lack of attention to such an agenda underscores the long-running gripe that New York State gives more to the federal government in taxes than it receives in federal investment.

Last week, Politico reported on efforts by City Council members and advocacy groups to inject issues of housing and urban policy into the campaigns, even pushing for the two Democratic candidates to visit a public housing development in the city. Public housing is one glaring example, many say, of federal disinvestment from cities like New York. City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who grew up in public housing and chairs the Council committee on the subject, will appear on MSNBC Wednesday evening to discuss the lack of federal attention to what was once a prized investment. Torres and Council Member Brad Lander led host Lawrence O’Donnell on a tour of NYCHA buildings in the Bronx.

Housing generally is essential to the New York political conversation, perhaps as much now as ever, and NY1’s Errol Louis, who will be one of three moderators for Thursday’s debate, has indicated it might form the basis of one of his questions. As they prepare for the debate, Sanders and Clinton are likely preparing for city-centric and New York-focused questions, as well as broader material for a national audience.

“We really haven’t had an urban policy in this country for a really long time,” said Euchner of Center for an Urban Future. He insists that the country as a whole has not considered an outright policy for cities since President Jimmy Carter’s Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties, which recommended migration of people away from poverty-stricken industrial cities in the north. The commission, chaired by former Columbia University President William McGill, “basically said cities are in trouble,” Euchner said, insisting that an urban policy had not been revisited since then.

The reasons, he said, are simple - suburban and rural interests, which have a disproportionate influence on politics, have been historically hostile to cities. Euchner believes this hostility has diminished in recent years, giving rise to an opportunity to reframe urban issues.

“It really is time for a new community compact that acknowledges the challenges of cities and towns,” he said. “All communities need some good rules of the road in pursuing common interests.”

David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, believes the upcoming debate may change that. “This has been a campaign that has had virtually nothing to say about the prospects of cities,” he said, also raising the point that cities receive little attention because of how electoral votes are distributed. “This debate, given the candidate’s constituencies, may change that pattern somewhat. There are a lot of spins on national issues that look different when discussing from inside of the nation’s largest city.”

He hopes to see the candidates address issues like mass transit, immigration, global warming, and infrastructure. “These are local issues and these are national issues,” Birdsell said. “They resonate differently when you talk about them in New York.”

A nuanced local debate is exactly what Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said is necessary for concerns about infrastructure, transit, housing and counter-terrorism, which she identified as some of the biggest issues for New York City. The position of presidential campaigns so far has been to throw money at these issues without talking about the “impediments to those investments,” Gelinas said. “The reality is, no matter what they say, these are difficult issues you can’t just solve with more money. These are problems that are really hard to solve from Washington.”

Gelinas said there needs to be a better focus on the wage structures and state labor rules that eventually end up pushing up the costs of infrastructure projects, along with a streamlining of the federal environmental review process for projects under the National Environmental Policy Act.

CUF’s Euchner echoed Gelinas. “One of the things we need desperately is an approach to making government work better,” he said, chalking up much of the dysfunction in federal investment to “logistics and bureaucracy.”

Euchner also agreed that infrastructure is probably the number one priority in the country and the candidates have to rethink their approach to it. He said the federal government needs to leverage its power and funding to nudge local jurisdictions towards the right path, whether it involves issues of poverty, transportation, education, or counter-terror.

Part of the lopsided federal investment into New York seems to stem from its relative success in comparison with other cities after the Great Recession. “The disparity among cities makes it tougher to have an urban policy today than 30 years ago,” Gelinas said, pointing to cities such as Detroit, Chicago, or Flint, Michigan that are still struggling to recover from the recession.

New York largely has the means to take care of itself. It has a large tax base, especially centralized in New York City, and is a “donor state” - an issue that former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, of New York, highlighted in an annual report called “The Fisc” in which he analyzed the significant imbalance between federal taxes and federal aid. Moynihan died in 2003 but the issue of “The Fisc” did not die with him. An October 2015 report by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, which mentioned Moynihan’s work, found that New York paid $214 billion in federal tax revenues in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2013 and received $19.9 billion less than that in federal spending.

“It’s no surprise that a high-income state would generate more in federal taxes than many others. But other factors complicate the picture, raising questions about equity in New York’s balance of payments with Washington,” DiNapoli’s report says, citing the state’s higher poverty rates and health care costs.

“New York’s consistent pattern of underinvestment by the federal government is nothing new,” said Birdsell. “That gap has certainly widened substantially.” He said issues of grave importance to the city, including coastal infrastructure, resiliency and counter-terror, are key in this federal investment argument.  

Euchner criticized the idea that New York City was expected to take care of its own issues without federal aid, particularly since the city and the state are early adopters of many policies that set standards for others. “It’s a place where experiments take place,” Euchner said. “It’s really the country’s biggest laboratory.”

The most recent iteration of this federal trend came in President Barack Obama’s proposed cut of $90 million from New York City anti-terror funding, a move that brought heavy consternation from Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, New York Senator Charles Schumer, and others. Just this week, Hillary Clinton took the President to task on the issue and promised to fight for restoring the funds.

Gelinas, Birdsell, and Euchner all agree that, of all issues, terror is one that affects New York City more so than any other urban center. “Even in general, the foreign policy debate affects New York,” said Gelinas. “One could argue that the foreign policy decisions made at the federal level going back 15 years have made New York City more vulnerable.”

Euchner added, “It’s imperative that the federal government not pull away from New York. We need every tool that’s available - big data or boots on the ground in the city. I would be looking for very specific commitments in this debate.”

Thursday’s debate will be watched eagerly across the state, particularly since a New York primary has not been a close contest among Democrats since 1988, when former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis won a heated race against prominent civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson. New York Assemblymember Michael Blake, a former White House aide to President Obama, indicated he would be looking to the candidates to discuss issues of diversity and justice. “From racial to gender, from economic to social, it is critical to hear what these candidates will do for Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises, Criminal Justice reform and Educational equity so that communities of color go from cradle to the career,” Blake said in a statement emailed to Gotham Gazette.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will also be paying close attention. He served as Clinton’s campaign manager for her first Senate run in 2000 and is a vocal supporter. “Mayor de Blasio is looking forward to hearing Secretary Clinton lay out her plans to move our country forward at Thursday’s debate,” said a spokesperson for the mayor in an email. “He believes that Hillary has the most progressive platform of any incoming President of the United States in a generation. This platform will fundamentally increase wages and benefits for working people, it will bring us things like full day Pre-K for all. It will rein in Wall Street, tax the wealthier at a higher level. The Mayor believes these are the changes we need in New York City and across the country.”

“The Mayor has also talked a lot about the need for a federal government that supports our cities by investing more in things like mass transit and public education, and he looks forward to hearing the candidates address these issues on Thursday,” the spokesperson added.

This year, the state’s large delegate count is a necessity for Sanders, who is coming off his eighth win out of the last nine primary contests with a total of 1,069 delegates, but is still far behind Clinton’s 1,758. A candidate needs 2,383 for the Democratic nomination. If Clinton should win New York with a big margin, which she is poised to do, she would have the nomination in the bag. The state has 247 delegates up for grabs: 163 are pledged and 84 are at-large delegates selected by the state Democrat Party at the May convention and allotted proportionately based on voting results. There are an additional 44 superdelegates, some of whom have already decided to back Clinton even if Sanders should somehow win the popular vote. A recent NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll (conducted between April 6-10) gives Clinton a 14-point lead over Sanders among likely Democratic voters.

blitzer bash louisCNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderated Thursday night, joined by Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent, and Louis, NY1 political anchor and a CNN contributor. Louis told Gotham Gazette in an email that he couldn’t share any particular questions in advance of the debate. “But I'm sure that both campaigns and our national media partner all know what it means to have NY1 and the Daily News involved: a firm, fierce focus on what we need to make a great city greater,” he wrote. (pictured l-r: Blizter, Bash, Louis)

Louis also appeared on The NY Slant podcast to discuss preparations for the debate. He estimated that there would be roughly 17 to 20 questions asked of the candidates over the two hours, setting aside time for commercial breaks, introductions, questions, answers, follow-ups, and rebuttals.

“What things do you want of those twenty? Well, you want some New York questions for sure,” Louis said, stressing that he had yet to formulate specific questions. “You want some, for lack of a better word, news of the day questions,” he added, in reference to everyday happenings on the campaign trail including any latest barbs exchanged by the candidates.

Asked about how he would approach the question of urban issues and urban disinvestment at the federal level, as raised by the Politico article from last week, Louis seemed to make the same point as Baruch College’s Birdsell.

“There a lot of urban issues that are disguised as other issues,” Louis said. “If you look at say issues of policing and community relations, you tend to think of it as a criminal justice question, but then you look at where all the hot-button cases have happened -- it’s Baltimore, it’s Chicago, it’s New York -- it starts to look a little bit like an urban issue. When you talk about education, everybody has a school district, everybody has to send their kids to school. But where are the biggest problems with the achievement gap and the funding questions and the charter schools and so forth? You know, it’s New York, it's Chicago, and you‘re right back to, is this an urban question? There’s also an open question about whether there needs to be an urban policy.”

Louis went on to say that “things really happen through the state level and the relationship of cities to their state in some ways is more important than - depending on the issue or the funding stream that you’re talking about - than the issue of all of those cities to the whole United States.”

There’s been so little, Louis said, that “you almost want to have a policy discussion which is...do we need urban policy?” But, he noted, “the debate is not the place to have that.”

Prior to the 9 p.m. debate on Thursday, April 14, Gotham Gazette and City Limits will co-host a forum in Manhattan, from 6-8 p.m., where political experts will provide their perspectives on the presidential race. There will also be multiple campaign representatives on hand. Details & RSVP.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 11

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

The eyes of the country are on New York - even more so than usual. The presidential primaries, both Republican and Democrat, are in full-swing and New York is home to two hot contests, with all five remaining major party candidates campaigning around the state as we approach voting on April 19, a week from Tuesday.

The Democrats are debating in Brooklyn Thursday night at 9 p.m. - the debate will air on CNN and NY1, and NY1’s Errol Louis will serve as one of three journalists asking questions of Clinton and Sanders. [Just before the debate, from 6-8 p.m. Gotham Gazette and City Limits are co-hosting a presidential primary event in Manhattan - Join us!]

As the week begins, Kasich, Trump, and Sanders will all be campaigning in and around Albany on Monday. This, after Clinton and Cruz were in the area last week. The candidates have all been campaigning in New York City, too, of course, and expect more of that as the week continues. Hillary Clinton is campaigning on Long Island Monday, while Bill Clinton will be representing her campaign in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, as far as New York City politics goes, two main things to watch for as the week begins: a deal on the rezoning of East New York could be announced (and voted on) as early as Monday; and, the developing story around federal investigations into several NYPD officials, two businessmen with ties to Mayor de Blasio, and issues around the fundraising of de Blasio's nonprofit Campaign for One New York. It was reported over the weekend that a federal probe into the behaviors of the businessmen and NYPD officials has led to questions around fundraising by the Campaign for One New York and related official city action. Stay tuned. De Blasio starts his week promoting Hillary Clinton and holding a press conference on homelessness policy in the Bronx - details below.

As always, there's a great deal happening at the City Council and all over the city, with many events to be aware of.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Monday in Albany and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public events, according to his schedule released Sunday evening.

At 10 a.m., the Assembly Standing Committee on Banks, the Assembly Standing Committee on Small Business, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection will jointly hold a public hearing to examine the online lending marketplace in relation to small business access to capital.

On Monday at 10 a.m., City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will hold a press conference with Council Member Daniel Dromm to remind New Yorkers to file their taxes - Food Bank of New York on 82nd Street in Queens. At 11:30 Monday morning, Mark-Viverito will participate in Passover food distribution at Union Plaza Care Center in Queens. And, at 6:30 p.m., Mark-Viverito will host "Speaker's Cultural Arts Series" at LaGuardia Center for the Performing Arts.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, “Public Advocate James will release a study conducted by her office detailing the gender wage gap in New York City. She will be joined by advocates and community leaders.”

On Monday at 11:30 a.m., "Mayor de Blasio will appear on Yahoo News Live with Katie Couric to discuss the upcoming New York primary." At 1:15 at BronxWorks, "the Mayor will host a press conference to announce the results of a 90-day review of homeless programs."

At the City Council on Monday: at 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet jointly with the Committee on Aging on a bill requiring the Department for the Aging to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of informal caregivers, and a bill to establish a Division of Paid Care within the Office of Labor Standards, which will address issues related to home care workers and child care workers.

Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Tuesday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Building will meet on ten bills relating to gas infrastructure in the city, including the creation of a journeyman plumber gas qualification system, the prohibition of “self-certification” for plumbers who have worked on gas piping without a permit within the previous five years, and the requirement for the periodic inspection of gas piping systems.
  • 1 p.m., the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet on a bill requiring a seller license for any individual selling tickets for a place of entertainment, mode of transportation, or sight-seeing tour in a public space.
  • 1 p.m., the Committee on Women’s Issues will meet for an oversight hearing on the Commission on Gender Equality, and on a bill establishing a gender equity advisory board.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Borough Planning Committee of the Queens Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a city-planning seminar, on the “Impact of New Zoning Development,” featuring keynote speaker John Young, director of the Department of City Planning—Queens Borough Office.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Manhattan Republican Party and the Women’s National Republican Club will be hosting a meet and greet with Republican presidential candidate, Governor John Kasich, which will include “a major policy announcement.”

At noon Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will be holding a luncheon meeting featuring Governor Andrew Cuomo, who will discuss the recently-passed New York State Budget, infrastructure priorities, and his initiatives for the coming year.

Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Wednesday in Albany.

Wednesday morning, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLC will be hosting a government leadership forum, “Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?” Speaking at this event include Vicki L. Been, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development; Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx Borough President; Ron Moelis, CEO and Chairman of L+M Development Partners Inc; and Erica F. Buckley, Special Counsel at Stroock.

At the City Council on Wednesday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Safety jointly with the Committee on General Welfare will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Homeless Services shelter system, and a bill requiring DHS to produce an annual report detailing critical incidents occurring in homeless shelters and safety measures taken to address these issues.

At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the National Action Network will launch its annual three-day convention, which brings together activists, government leaders, cultural influencers to address key issues important to a modern civil rights agenda. This year’s speakers include First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, and many others. As always, it is led by Rev. Al Sharpton.

At noon Wednesday, City Council Member Ben Kallos will speak at “Taking on the ‘Superscrapers,’” during which Kallos will speak about his move with the East River Fifties Alliance to restrict supertowers and over-development between 52nd Street and 59th Street east of First Avenue in Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Civic Hall, David Moore will be presenting the NYC Councilmatic engagement app, which will allow citizens to easily navigate information about City Hall, including legislation, committee meetings, and council members.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will hold a public hearing in Binghamton to examine issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will host an informational panel on “Successfully Applying for Affordable Housing,” featuring speakers from a variety of city agencies and real estate firms and will provide information about eviction prevention, rent freezing, apartment sharing, legal services, and more.

The annual National Action Network conference will continue Thursday.

At the City Council on Thursday: at 1 p.m., the Committee on Juvenile Justice will meet on a bill requiring the Administration for Children’s Services to report on programs and services provided to youth in placement and detention facilities.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Institute will host a symposium on “U.S. Welfare Policy: Past, Present, and Future,” during which senior MI fellow Jason Riley and experts such as Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institute, Reverend Eugene Rivers III, president of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, and others will share their insights on welfare policy.

The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be Thursday at 10 a.m.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, join Gotham Gazette, City Limits, campaign representatives, and a panel of political experts who will discuss the impending New York presidential primaries. New Yorkers get to vote on Tuesday, April 19. On Thursday, we will discuss the state of the Republican and Democratic primary races, how the votes in New York will shake out, what they will mean, and more. Representavies from multuple campaigns are expected (all have been invited to send someone), and panelists include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs; Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University; and Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Graduate Center's Mapping Service. Details and RSVP.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, City & State NY will launch its latest magazine, the 2016 Borough Series: Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m., the NYGOP will host its 2016 New York State Republican Gala, which will feature Governor Susana Martinez, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, as well as Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Ted Cruz, the Republican presidential candidates.

At 9 p.m. Thursday, NY1 and CNN will co-host a Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn and broadcast over those networks. Errol Louis of NY1 will be on of three moderators, with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, who question Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. 

Friday and the weekend
The annual National Action Network conference will continue Friday.

At the City Council on Friday: at 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Housing will hold an oversight meeting examining elevator safety in NYCHA housing following the death of Olegario Pabon at Boston Road Plaza. 

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Kelly Fan and Ben Max

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