Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/421-a-tax 2017-12-16T07:14:21+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com With One-House Budgets Due, Key Points of Contention in Albany 2017-03-12T05:00:00+00:00 2017-03-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6801:with-one-house-budgets-due-key-points-of-contention-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18473217873_5bb82ed9b8_z_2.jpg" alt="cuomo flanagan heastie budget" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Governor's Office/Kevin P. Coughlin)</p> <hr /> <p>With a new state budget due by the end of the month, the Senate and Assembly are finalizing their one-house budget resolutions. The one-house statements of priorities in the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate will be passed this week, and their passage signals the official start to the negotiations that will yield a state spending plan for the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.</p> <p>The one-house budgets are shaped, in part, by a series of joint legislative budget hearings that took place in February, and are non-binding proposals from each chamber, wherein they respond to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget.</p> <p>Cuomo outlined his policy and spending priorities in January during his 2017 State of the State speaking tour, which was accompanied by a policy book, and his 2017-2018 executive budget proposal. Over the past weeks, several sticking points became clear, including a number associated with New York City interests and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda.</p> <p>While de Blasio has praised several elements of Cuomo’s agenda, he has also expressed concerns about several areas of proposed funding cuts to New York City, as well as the governor’s new proposal for a replacement to the affordable housing-focused property tax abatement program known as 421-a. De Blasio is also pushing heavily for a “mansion tax” that would add a surcharge on New York City homes purchased for over $2 million.</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the influential Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) have each indicated certain priorities heading into the release of the one-house budgets and final weeks of negotiation. Debates over taxes appear to be at the top of the list, with the Assembly looking for tax increases (include de Blasio’s mansion tax), the Senate looking to roll back taxes and fees, and Governor Cuomo, as usual, somewhere in between. (De Blasio’s mansion tax is almost certainly not going to pass.)</p> <p>Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, which would provide tuition-free city and state college to New York residents from homes earning $125,000 or less, will also be a focus of budget negotiations. The centerpiece of Cuomo’s 2017 agenda, the program hinges on the extension of the state’s so-called “millionaire’s tax,” which Senate Republicans have already made clear they oppose (and Assembly Democrats are looking to enhance). There are questions about how the scholarship program will be paid for, but also the enrollment qualifications, with a large group of Assembly Democrats <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6784-assembly-members-propose-changes-to-cuomo-s-free-tuition-plan" target="_blank">proposing their own version of the plan.</a> The IDC and Assembly Minority have indicated they <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/03/klein-releases-college-tuition-plan/" target="_blank">prefer an expansion</a> of the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which would be inclusive to students at the state’s private colleges, who are not included in Cuomo’s plan.</p> <p>As has become the tradition in Albany, the final budget will be determined by the proverbial “three men in a room” -- a reference to the governor and the leaders of the majority conferences in both houses, who will meet frequently, and behind closed doors, in the coming days to hammer out details. As of 2015, the state budget has been hashed out by <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/now-four-men-in-the-room-1424999291" target="_blank">“four men in a room,”</a> to include IDC Leader Jeff Klein. The men will negotiate in consultation with their conferences, but they often make major policy trades and decisions just before the deadline and rank-and-file legislators wind up voting on billions of dollars in spending and major new policies without much time to review the details.</p> <p>Given Republican control of the Senate and de Blasio’s frosty, if not antagonistic, relationship with Cuomo, there is increased pressure on Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, to represent the interests of New York City and its mayor. While Klein, Cuomo and Heastie are all nominally Democrats, they each come from different perspectives and with different priorities. In a coalition agreement with Senate Republicans that bolsters the GOP’s razor thin majority, Klein’s now eight-member IDC typically uses its leverage to push through a key progressive issues each session. It appears that raising the age of adult criminality in New York is at the top of the IDC list this year.</p> <p>At a press conference Wednesday, de Blasio responded to a Gotham Gazette question about the status of state budget negotiations by saying that Speaker Heastie and the Assembly have been “extraordinarily supportive” of city interests, and that he and Heastie recently spoke about the city’s housing needs, among other items.</p> <p>“I’ve talked to him about, you know, all of the current greatest hits,” de Blasio said. “Obviously, the housing MOU is one of the ones we care about the most. We want clarity on that set of resources. It’s a lot of money. It’s $2 billion. We have no idea how it’s going to be used, there’s been no specific plan. It could be incredibly helpful to our efforts to address affordability.”</p> <p>Specifically, de Blasio said, the city is concerned about the supportive housing proposal from the state, which is is supposed to provide 20,000 units. “There’s not a single unit being produced anywhere at this point. There’s no plan, there’s no timeline, we really need that,” said de Blasio. By “MOU” de Blasio was referring to a memorandum of understanding that must be signed by Cuomo, Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to allocate the $2 billion set aside in last year’s budget for affordable and supportive housing across the state. Only a small portion of the money has been released.</p> <p>De Blasio also mentioned his ongoing push for the state to match the city’s investment in NYCHA funding. “When I originally went to the state two years ago, I said ‘we’ll put $300 million into capital for the housing authority, please match us.’ All the state did was give us $100 million and the vast majority we haven’t seen yet, in two years,” de Blasio said. “I have since added $1 billion to capital funding for NYCHA. The least the state could do is make a serious investment in the housing authority in this budget, and I think the speaker is very sympathetic on that front.”</p> <p>The mayor reiterated concerns he broached during his late January budget testimony in front of the state Legislature <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6746-8-new-york-city-takeaways-from-cuomo-s-budget-de-blasio-s-testimony" target="_blank">about tens of millions of dollars in proposed cuts</a> to state spending on city services, including areas like foster care, senior and special education services, pre-kindergarten, and charter schools. Saying that the Assembly is with the city on the issue, de Blasio told reporters of the cuts, “Again, I don’t think they should have been in the governor’s budget to begin with; I hope they’ll reconsider.”</p> <p>Another major point of contention in state budget negotiations is likely to be the governor’s proposed 421-a alternative -- dubbed Affordable New York -- which the mayor has argued will be too costly for city taxpayers in the long run for not provide enough affordable units.</p> <p>The program, which expired in 2015, is designed to spur affordable housing construction, especially in high-priced neighborhoods, by incentivizing developers with property tax exemptions. The previous version was seen by most as flawed and too generous to developers -- there was also lax oversight of the program by city and state entities. De Blasio had proposed his own version of 421-a in 2015, but it was shot down by the governor. De Blasio’s critique of the governor’s version is supported by <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/estimated-cost-to-new-york-city-of-governor-cuomos-affordable-new-york-housing-prgram-march-2017.pdf" target="_blank">a recent Independent Budget Office estimate</a> that Cuomo’s plan would cost the city $8.4 billion in property tax revenue over the next 10 years, or $2.3 billion more than the plan de Blasio floated in 2015. There are additional added long-term costs as well, given that 421-a tax breaks last decades.</p> <p>“There are clearly significant additional costs associated with the newly proposed 421-a law. Making sure we secure an appropriate degree of value for taxpayers is our obligation,” Melissa Grace, de Blasio’s spokesperson on housing, told Gotham Gazette in a statement.</p> <p>Cuomo’s office has repeatedly maintained that “any expenses in exchange for making sure that all New Yorkers have a safe and decent place to call home are minimal, 26 years out, and worth it.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Heastie has told outlets that the Assembly’s one-house budget “will be more of the same” in terms of the Democratic vision the chamber has presented in previous years. Among the Assembly’s new proposals, which have been trickling out in the form of press releases, are several tax cuts for small businesses and greater incentives for businesses that participate in the Excelsior jobs program by relocating to New York State.</p> <p>Democrats have indicated that they would like to expand education aid beyond Cuomo proposal, make the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship more inclusive and less restrictive, and create a higher tax rate for New Yorkers earning more than $5 million a year.</p> <p>“I’d just say, where Democrats are and have been, it’s probably more of the same,” Heastie said, promising details in the coming one-house budget. “Of course, education aid and college affordability is covered in there. We want to make sure that there’s clean drinking water throughout the state, transportation funding for the city and then outside of the city of New York. The things we always push for are no different, the lyrics of the song may just be a little different.”</p> <p>The Senate GOP, which typically pushes to reduce taxes and control spending in New York, has announced that its one-house budget will reject a bevy of taxes and fees proposed in Cuomo’s budget -- including one new motor vehicle fee and another on prepaid cell phones, as well as the extension of the millionaire’s tax.</p> <p>“Middle-class taxpayers are struggling under the crushing weight of property taxes, income taxes, mortgages and the skyrocketing costs of higher education for their children,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “In this environment, these new taxes and fees are the last thing hardworking families want or need. We must make it more affordable to live and work in New York, not less, and that’s exactly what our Senate budget will reflect.”</p> <p>Additionally, there remains the question of how many policy issues from Cuomo’s State and the State, which do not necessarily involve a price tag, will make it into the budget. Cuomo’s speech touched on government ethics and voting reforms, expansion of ridesharing to Upstate New York, extension of mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, criminal justice reform, environmental issues, and more.</p> <p>While some say that new policy decisions that do not have significant new costs should not be negotiated into the budget, the outcomes will depend on what Cuomo prioritizes and the trading that happens behind closed doors.</p> <p>There has been a groundswell around the issue of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, which the IDC has apparently adopted as a priority for the 2017 budget. “We will not allow New York to treat our teenagers like criminals in criminal court or continue the tradition of mass incarceration of our youth and the 8 members of the IDC will not vote for a budget in the absence of Raise the Age,” said IDC director of communications Candice Giove.</p> <p>Cuomo and Assembly Democrats have been calling for raising the age for years. Flanagan has indicated that Senate Republicans, who have rejected the legislation in the past, are open to considering some version of the legislation. In <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/03/flanagan-says-talks-on-raise-the-age-being-held-in-earnest/" target="_blank">an interview</a> with Time Warner Cable, he said, “we’re having real, adult discussions on this subject and there are a lot of people pushing, not just the governor.”</p> <p>New York City is among two states, the other North Carolina, that prosecutes and imprisons 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p>The IDC has also signalled it will push for the passage of the Dream Act, which would enable undocumented immigrant students to qualify for state college tuition aid. Senate Republicans have also blocked its passage for years.</p> <p>And, finally, hanging over the entire proceedings is uncertainty out of Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress are exploring repeal of the Affordable Care Act, federal funding cuts to housing and other programs, and tax reform. There are billions of federal dollars at stake that annually flow to New York State and City.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18473217873_5bb82ed9b8_z_2.jpg" alt="cuomo flanagan heastie budget" width="600" height="278" /></p> <p>Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Governor's Office/Kevin P. Coughlin)</p> <hr /> <p>With a new state budget due by the end of the month, the Senate and Assembly are finalizing their one-house budget resolutions. The one-house statements of priorities in the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate will be passed this week, and their passage signals the official start to the negotiations that will yield a state spending plan for the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.</p> <p>The one-house budgets are shaped, in part, by a series of joint legislative budget hearings that took place in February, and are non-binding proposals from each chamber, wherein they respond to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget.</p> <p>Cuomo outlined his policy and spending priorities in January during his 2017 State of the State speaking tour, which was accompanied by a policy book, and his 2017-2018 executive budget proposal. Over the past weeks, several sticking points became clear, including a number associated with New York City interests and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda.</p> <p>While de Blasio has praised several elements of Cuomo’s agenda, he has also expressed concerns about several areas of proposed funding cuts to New York City, as well as the governor’s new proposal for a replacement to the affordable housing-focused property tax abatement program known as 421-a. De Blasio is also pushing heavily for a “mansion tax” that would add a surcharge on New York City homes purchased for over $2 million.</p> <p>Assembly Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the influential Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) have each indicated certain priorities heading into the release of the one-house budgets and final weeks of negotiation. Debates over taxes appear to be at the top of the list, with the Assembly looking for tax increases (include de Blasio’s mansion tax), the Senate looking to roll back taxes and fees, and Governor Cuomo, as usual, somewhere in between. (De Blasio’s mansion tax is almost certainly not going to pass.)</p> <p>Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, which would provide tuition-free city and state college to New York residents from homes earning $125,000 or less, will also be a focus of budget negotiations. The centerpiece of Cuomo’s 2017 agenda, the program hinges on the extension of the state’s so-called “millionaire’s tax,” which Senate Republicans have already made clear they oppose (and Assembly Democrats are looking to enhance). There are questions about how the scholarship program will be paid for, but also the enrollment qualifications, with a large group of Assembly Democrats <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6784-assembly-members-propose-changes-to-cuomo-s-free-tuition-plan" target="_blank">proposing their own version of the plan.</a> The IDC and Assembly Minority have indicated they <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/03/klein-releases-college-tuition-plan/" target="_blank">prefer an expansion</a> of the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which would be inclusive to students at the state’s private colleges, who are not included in Cuomo’s plan.</p> <p>As has become the tradition in Albany, the final budget will be determined by the proverbial “three men in a room” -- a reference to the governor and the leaders of the majority conferences in both houses, who will meet frequently, and behind closed doors, in the coming days to hammer out details. As of 2015, the state budget has been hashed out by <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/now-four-men-in-the-room-1424999291" target="_blank">“four men in a room,”</a> to include IDC Leader Jeff Klein. The men will negotiate in consultation with their conferences, but they often make major policy trades and decisions just before the deadline and rank-and-file legislators wind up voting on billions of dollars in spending and major new policies without much time to review the details.</p> <p>Given Republican control of the Senate and de Blasio’s frosty, if not antagonistic, relationship with Cuomo, there is increased pressure on Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, to represent the interests of New York City and its mayor. While Klein, Cuomo and Heastie are all nominally Democrats, they each come from different perspectives and with different priorities. In a coalition agreement with Senate Republicans that bolsters the GOP’s razor thin majority, Klein’s now eight-member IDC typically uses its leverage to push through a key progressive issues each session. It appears that raising the age of adult criminality in New York is at the top of the IDC list this year.</p> <p>At a press conference Wednesday, de Blasio responded to a Gotham Gazette question about the status of state budget negotiations by saying that Speaker Heastie and the Assembly have been “extraordinarily supportive” of city interests, and that he and Heastie recently spoke about the city’s housing needs, among other items.</p> <p>“I’ve talked to him about, you know, all of the current greatest hits,” de Blasio said. “Obviously, the housing MOU is one of the ones we care about the most. We want clarity on that set of resources. It’s a lot of money. It’s $2 billion. We have no idea how it’s going to be used, there’s been no specific plan. It could be incredibly helpful to our efforts to address affordability.”</p> <p>Specifically, de Blasio said, the city is concerned about the supportive housing proposal from the state, which is is supposed to provide 20,000 units. “There’s not a single unit being produced anywhere at this point. There’s no plan, there’s no timeline, we really need that,” said de Blasio. By “MOU” de Blasio was referring to a memorandum of understanding that must be signed by Cuomo, Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to allocate the $2 billion set aside in last year’s budget for affordable and supportive housing across the state. Only a small portion of the money has been released.</p> <p>De Blasio also mentioned his ongoing push for the state to match the city’s investment in NYCHA funding. “When I originally went to the state two years ago, I said ‘we’ll put $300 million into capital for the housing authority, please match us.’ All the state did was give us $100 million and the vast majority we haven’t seen yet, in two years,” de Blasio said. “I have since added $1 billion to capital funding for NYCHA. The least the state could do is make a serious investment in the housing authority in this budget, and I think the speaker is very sympathetic on that front.”</p> <p>The mayor reiterated concerns he broached during his late January budget testimony in front of the state Legislature <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6746-8-new-york-city-takeaways-from-cuomo-s-budget-de-blasio-s-testimony" target="_blank">about tens of millions of dollars in proposed cuts</a> to state spending on city services, including areas like foster care, senior and special education services, pre-kindergarten, and charter schools. Saying that the Assembly is with the city on the issue, de Blasio told reporters of the cuts, “Again, I don’t think they should have been in the governor’s budget to begin with; I hope they’ll reconsider.”</p> <p>Another major point of contention in state budget negotiations is likely to be the governor’s proposed 421-a alternative -- dubbed Affordable New York -- which the mayor has argued will be too costly for city taxpayers in the long run for not provide enough affordable units.</p> <p>The program, which expired in 2015, is designed to spur affordable housing construction, especially in high-priced neighborhoods, by incentivizing developers with property tax exemptions. The previous version was seen by most as flawed and too generous to developers -- there was also lax oversight of the program by city and state entities. De Blasio had proposed his own version of 421-a in 2015, but it was shot down by the governor. De Blasio’s critique of the governor’s version is supported by <a href="http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/estimated-cost-to-new-york-city-of-governor-cuomos-affordable-new-york-housing-prgram-march-2017.pdf" target="_blank">a recent Independent Budget Office estimate</a> that Cuomo’s plan would cost the city $8.4 billion in property tax revenue over the next 10 years, or $2.3 billion more than the plan de Blasio floated in 2015. There are additional added long-term costs as well, given that 421-a tax breaks last decades.</p> <p>“There are clearly significant additional costs associated with the newly proposed 421-a law. Making sure we secure an appropriate degree of value for taxpayers is our obligation,” Melissa Grace, de Blasio’s spokesperson on housing, told Gotham Gazette in a statement.</p> <p>Cuomo’s office has repeatedly maintained that “any expenses in exchange for making sure that all New Yorkers have a safe and decent place to call home are minimal, 26 years out, and worth it.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Heastie has told outlets that the Assembly’s one-house budget “will be more of the same” in terms of the Democratic vision the chamber has presented in previous years. Among the Assembly’s new proposals, which have been trickling out in the form of press releases, are several tax cuts for small businesses and greater incentives for businesses that participate in the Excelsior jobs program by relocating to New York State.</p> <p>Democrats have indicated that they would like to expand education aid beyond Cuomo proposal, make the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship more inclusive and less restrictive, and create a higher tax rate for New Yorkers earning more than $5 million a year.</p> <p>“I’d just say, where Democrats are and have been, it’s probably more of the same,” Heastie said, promising details in the coming one-house budget. “Of course, education aid and college affordability is covered in there. We want to make sure that there’s clean drinking water throughout the state, transportation funding for the city and then outside of the city of New York. The things we always push for are no different, the lyrics of the song may just be a little different.”</p> <p>The Senate GOP, which typically pushes to reduce taxes and control spending in New York, has announced that its one-house budget will reject a bevy of taxes and fees proposed in Cuomo’s budget -- including one new motor vehicle fee and another on prepaid cell phones, as well as the extension of the millionaire’s tax.</p> <p>“Middle-class taxpayers are struggling under the crushing weight of property taxes, income taxes, mortgages and the skyrocketing costs of higher education for their children,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “In this environment, these new taxes and fees are the last thing hardworking families want or need. We must make it more affordable to live and work in New York, not less, and that’s exactly what our Senate budget will reflect.”</p> <p>Additionally, there remains the question of how many policy issues from Cuomo’s State and the State, which do not necessarily involve a price tag, will make it into the budget. Cuomo’s speech touched on government ethics and voting reforms, expansion of ridesharing to Upstate New York, extension of mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, criminal justice reform, environmental issues, and more.</p> <p>While some say that new policy decisions that do not have significant new costs should not be negotiated into the budget, the outcomes will depend on what Cuomo prioritizes and the trading that happens behind closed doors.</p> <p>There has been a groundswell around the issue of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, which the IDC has apparently adopted as a priority for the 2017 budget. “We will not allow New York to treat our teenagers like criminals in criminal court or continue the tradition of mass incarceration of our youth and the 8 members of the IDC will not vote for a budget in the absence of Raise the Age,” said IDC director of communications Candice Giove.</p> <p>Cuomo and Assembly Democrats have been calling for raising the age for years. Flanagan has indicated that Senate Republicans, who have rejected the legislation in the past, are open to considering some version of the legislation. In <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/03/flanagan-says-talks-on-raise-the-age-being-held-in-earnest/" target="_blank">an interview</a> with Time Warner Cable, he said, “we’re having real, adult discussions on this subject and there are a lot of people pushing, not just the governor.”</p> <p>New York City is among two states, the other North Carolina, that prosecutes and imprisons 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p>The IDC has also signalled it will push for the passage of the Dream Act, which would enable undocumented immigrant students to qualify for state college tuition aid. Senate Republicans have also blocked its passage for years.</p> <p>And, finally, hanging over the entire proceedings is uncertainty out of Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress are exploring repeal of the Affordable Care Act, federal funding cuts to housing and other programs, and tax reform. There are billions of federal dollars at stake that annually flow to New York State and City.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Does the State have the Conviction and Commitment to End Homelessness? 2016-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6441:does-the-state-have-the-conviction-and-commitment-to-end-homelessness Amanda Sherwin <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/homelessness.jpg" alt="homelessness" width="600" /><br />Affordable Housing in East Harlem (Sophie Hecht)</p> <hr /> <p>The week of June 26, over 70 San Francisco media outlets came together to report on homelessness in the Bay Area. The collaboration, the San Francisco Homeless Project, produced over 300 local articles, videos, and radio and television segments, as well as similar collaborations in cities across the U.S. and internationally.</p> <p>Within this much deserved media coverage is the sentiment of a former San Francisco mayor, which may describe what ails our approach to the homelessness crisis here in New York State.</p> <p>The San Francisco Chronicle&rsquo;s <a href="http://projects.sfchronicle.com/sf-homeless/overview/" target="_blank">SF Homeless Problem Looks the Same as It Did 20 Years Ago</a> explains how despite the efforts of the last six San Francisco mayors, homelessness looks similar today to the problem of two decades ago. One of the six mayors, Art Agnos (1988-1992), worked to move San Francisco&rsquo;s approach to homelessness from overnight shelters to shelters with supportive services. He told the Chronicle:</p> <p>&ldquo;We do know what to do, but we haven&rsquo;t had the conviction or the commitment to make it happen...We could end homelessness as a commonplace occurrence in American cities if we adopted the same kind of commitment we did in addressing World War II: if we treat it like we want to win. But until the public and the politicians who serve them say we are going to win this, we won&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> <p>Does New York State lack the conviction and commitment to end homelessness? Are we content to merely manage it, disconnected from its immediacy? While we know what to do - truly affordable permanent housing, including supportive housing, and long-term rental subsidies - are we acting to the extent and at the pace we should so homeless services providers can do their jobs and provide homeless individuals a way home?</p> <p>Based on recent events in Albany, it is reasonable to conclude that we lack the conviction and commitment to end homelessness in New York.</p> <p>One piece of evidence is the failure of Albany to adopt a new 421-a tax credit for developers who build truly affordable housing. Yes, the old 421-a program was flawed. Updating it while resolving the issue of prevailing wages for construction jobs is difficult. However, a state committed to ending homelessness would not have passed responsibility from lawmakers to real estate and construction unions to make a deal. A truly committed state government would do all it can to secure a new tax credit so developers don&rsquo;t scale back new affordable housing projects like Hallet&rsquo;s Point in Queens.</p> <p>A second telling event is the delay in new supportive housing, a proven cost-effective tool for ending homelessness. A state government with conviction and commitment would have actualized, with lightning speed, Governor Cuomo&rsquo;s January 2016 State of the State commitment of 6,000 supportive housing units over the next five years. It would have finalized the details of the 6,000 units before the state budget was finished April 1 instead of resorting to another to-be-determined &ldquo;memorandum of understanding&rdquo; (MOU), and then not securing a MOU months later.</p> <p>A committed state government would not have settled on a short-term measure of 1,200 units over the next year to reactivate the stalled supportive housing pipeline. Short term measures do not address a crisis. They merely manage one.</p> <p>A desperate need for truly affordable housing, including supportive housing, exists now. According to the Campaign for NY/NY Housing, there&rsquo;s only one supportive housing unit available for every six eligible applicants. This leaves thousands of applicants languishing in a more costly shelter or on the streets, waiting for a way home. While 1,200 supportive housing units financed for the next year are appreciated, we need funding certainty and programmatic direction from the state for the full 6,000 units. A one year commitment does not allow developers to sufficiently plan, exposing them to financial risk as they take on acquisition and pre-development costs without clear state funding details.</p> <p>A truly committed state government would expedite the building of truly affordable housing - we can do this now. If we have the conviction to end the homelessness crisis, we won&rsquo;t wait for another budget. If Albany continues to delay, we should hold lawmakers accountable. Homelessness is worthy of our full effort. We cannot be content to merely manage a crisis that leaves thousands of New Yorkers to suffer.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is the Director of Policy at <a href="http://www.urbanpathways.org/" target="_blank">Urban Pathways</a>, a nonprofit social services and supportive housing organization. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/homelessness.jpg" alt="homelessness" width="600" /><br />Affordable Housing in East Harlem (Sophie Hecht)</p> <hr /> <p>The week of June 26, over 70 San Francisco media outlets came together to report on homelessness in the Bay Area. The collaboration, the San Francisco Homeless Project, produced over 300 local articles, videos, and radio and television segments, as well as similar collaborations in cities across the U.S. and internationally.</p> <p>Within this much deserved media coverage is the sentiment of a former San Francisco mayor, which may describe what ails our approach to the homelessness crisis here in New York State.</p> <p>The San Francisco Chronicle&rsquo;s <a href="http://projects.sfchronicle.com/sf-homeless/overview/" target="_blank">SF Homeless Problem Looks the Same as It Did 20 Years Ago</a> explains how despite the efforts of the last six San Francisco mayors, homelessness looks similar today to the problem of two decades ago. One of the six mayors, Art Agnos (1988-1992), worked to move San Francisco&rsquo;s approach to homelessness from overnight shelters to shelters with supportive services. He told the Chronicle:</p> <p>&ldquo;We do know what to do, but we haven&rsquo;t had the conviction or the commitment to make it happen...We could end homelessness as a commonplace occurrence in American cities if we adopted the same kind of commitment we did in addressing World War II: if we treat it like we want to win. But until the public and the politicians who serve them say we are going to win this, we won&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> <p>Does New York State lack the conviction and commitment to end homelessness? Are we content to merely manage it, disconnected from its immediacy? While we know what to do - truly affordable permanent housing, including supportive housing, and long-term rental subsidies - are we acting to the extent and at the pace we should so homeless services providers can do their jobs and provide homeless individuals a way home?</p> <p>Based on recent events in Albany, it is reasonable to conclude that we lack the conviction and commitment to end homelessness in New York.</p> <p>One piece of evidence is the failure of Albany to adopt a new 421-a tax credit for developers who build truly affordable housing. Yes, the old 421-a program was flawed. Updating it while resolving the issue of prevailing wages for construction jobs is difficult. However, a state committed to ending homelessness would not have passed responsibility from lawmakers to real estate and construction unions to make a deal. A truly committed state government would do all it can to secure a new tax credit so developers don&rsquo;t scale back new affordable housing projects like Hallet&rsquo;s Point in Queens.</p> <p>A second telling event is the delay in new supportive housing, a proven cost-effective tool for ending homelessness. A state government with conviction and commitment would have actualized, with lightning speed, Governor Cuomo&rsquo;s January 2016 State of the State commitment of 6,000 supportive housing units over the next five years. It would have finalized the details of the 6,000 units before the state budget was finished April 1 instead of resorting to another to-be-determined &ldquo;memorandum of understanding&rdquo; (MOU), and then not securing a MOU months later.</p> <p>A committed state government would not have settled on a short-term measure of 1,200 units over the next year to reactivate the stalled supportive housing pipeline. Short term measures do not address a crisis. They merely manage one.</p> <p>A desperate need for truly affordable housing, including supportive housing, exists now. According to the Campaign for NY/NY Housing, there&rsquo;s only one supportive housing unit available for every six eligible applicants. This leaves thousands of applicants languishing in a more costly shelter or on the streets, waiting for a way home. While 1,200 supportive housing units financed for the next year are appreciated, we need funding certainty and programmatic direction from the state for the full 6,000 units. A one year commitment does not allow developers to sufficiently plan, exposing them to financial risk as they take on acquisition and pre-development costs without clear state funding details.</p> <p>A truly committed state government would expedite the building of truly affordable housing - we can do this now. If we have the conviction to end the homelessness crisis, we won&rsquo;t wait for another budget. If Albany continues to delay, we should hold lawmakers accountable. Homelessness is worthy of our full effort. We cannot be content to merely manage a crisis that leaves thousands of New Yorkers to suffer.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is the Director of Policy at <a href="http://www.urbanpathways.org/" target="_blank">Urban Pathways</a>, a nonprofit social services and supportive housing organization. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
As Albany Fiddles on 421-A, New York City Suffers 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6398:as-albany-fiddles-on-421-a-new-york-city-suffers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/donovan_richards_podium.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="donovan richards podium" /></p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>With officials in Albany about to pack up and head home, there is still some serious unfinished business.</p> <p>Thanks to Albany’s failure to deliver a compromise between real estate and labor interests, it’s clear that we’ll see no movement on one of the most critical tools we have to build affordable housing: 421-A, the tax incentive program.</p> <p>What a lot of us hoped was just a six-month pause in adding to the pipeline of new rental housing is at serious risk of becoming a long-term slump—and it could not come at a worse time for our city. New York City is growing fast, and grappling with the worst affordable housing crisis in generations. Half of all households are paying more rent than they can afford.</p> <p>The old 421-A program that was up for renewal last year was hardly perfect - you’d be hard-pressed to find someone today who would say developers actually need a tax exemption to build and sell luxury condos.</p> <p>But for all its flaws, the program did two very important things—the lack of which we’re feeling with every passing day.</p> <p>One, it made it financially feasible to build rental housing, which is the housing New York actually needs right now.</p> <p>And two, it was one of the only ways to secure affordable housing in some of the most expensive real estate markets in the city, places like Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side, and Downtown Brooklyn. The reforms Mayor de Blasio pushed cut condos from the program, slashed subsidy per apartment, and strengthened affordable housing requirements citywide. But because of Albany’s inaction, we’ve never had the benefit of those improvements.</p> <p>If this political impasse in Albany continues, we’ll see a city that’s less affordable, and more divided. The only kinds of buildings that will go up will be City-sponsored affordable housing and luxury condos—with none of the healthy rental housing in the middle that we need for the city’s growing workforce.</p> <p>From Astoria to Upper Manhattan, construction sites are sitting vacant and projects are on hold. Building permits are down to levels we haven’t seen since the housing market crashed triggering the Great Recession. New rental housing has reached a standstill. And that means there is more and more pressure and demand on the housing we have today. If this keeps up much longer, rents are going to rise even faster than they already have—well outside the reach of working people.</p> <p>Even though the City can continue building subsidy-driven affordable housing, we’ll lose the opportunity to build new affordable housing in exactly the parts of the city where it’s needed the most. 421-A was one of the few tools that could entice builders to construct affordable housing in hot markets, and the stringent affordability requirements the City Council and Mayor de Blasio secured would have only deepened that potential. What we’ll face if Albany doesn’t act is a more segregated, less diverse city. That’s not the New York we want.</p> <p>New Yorkers should get angry. The City is doing everything in its power to protect neighborhoods and build a record amount of affordable housing. The proof is in the numbers: more than 43,000 affordable homes were financed in just two years – delivering enough affordable housing for more than 100,000 New Yorkers. The total is the largest number of new affordable apartments produced in nearly four decades. But, there is more that must be done, and we need Albany lawmakers to act.</p> <p>This isn’t a crisis we can take on with one hand tied behind our backs. It’s time for the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo to work together to fix 421-A, passing the City’s reformed plan before more damage is done.</p> <p>***<br />Council Member Donovan Richards represents District 31 in Queens, which encompasses Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is the chair of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/donovan_richards_podium.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="donovan richards podium" /></p> <p>Council Member Donovan Richards, the author (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>With officials in Albany about to pack up and head home, there is still some serious unfinished business.</p> <p>Thanks to Albany’s failure to deliver a compromise between real estate and labor interests, it’s clear that we’ll see no movement on one of the most critical tools we have to build affordable housing: 421-A, the tax incentive program.</p> <p>What a lot of us hoped was just a six-month pause in adding to the pipeline of new rental housing is at serious risk of becoming a long-term slump—and it could not come at a worse time for our city. New York City is growing fast, and grappling with the worst affordable housing crisis in generations. Half of all households are paying more rent than they can afford.</p> <p>The old 421-A program that was up for renewal last year was hardly perfect - you’d be hard-pressed to find someone today who would say developers actually need a tax exemption to build and sell luxury condos.</p> <p>But for all its flaws, the program did two very important things—the lack of which we’re feeling with every passing day.</p> <p>One, it made it financially feasible to build rental housing, which is the housing New York actually needs right now.</p> <p>And two, it was one of the only ways to secure affordable housing in some of the most expensive real estate markets in the city, places like Lower Manhattan, the Upper West Side, and Downtown Brooklyn. The reforms Mayor de Blasio pushed cut condos from the program, slashed subsidy per apartment, and strengthened affordable housing requirements citywide. But because of Albany’s inaction, we’ve never had the benefit of those improvements.</p> <p>If this political impasse in Albany continues, we’ll see a city that’s less affordable, and more divided. The only kinds of buildings that will go up will be City-sponsored affordable housing and luxury condos—with none of the healthy rental housing in the middle that we need for the city’s growing workforce.</p> <p>From Astoria to Upper Manhattan, construction sites are sitting vacant and projects are on hold. Building permits are down to levels we haven’t seen since the housing market crashed triggering the Great Recession. New rental housing has reached a standstill. And that means there is more and more pressure and demand on the housing we have today. If this keeps up much longer, rents are going to rise even faster than they already have—well outside the reach of working people.</p> <p>Even though the City can continue building subsidy-driven affordable housing, we’ll lose the opportunity to build new affordable housing in exactly the parts of the city where it’s needed the most. 421-A was one of the few tools that could entice builders to construct affordable housing in hot markets, and the stringent affordability requirements the City Council and Mayor de Blasio secured would have only deepened that potential. What we’ll face if Albany doesn’t act is a more segregated, less diverse city. That’s not the New York we want.</p> <p>New Yorkers should get angry. The City is doing everything in its power to protect neighborhoods and build a record amount of affordable housing. The proof is in the numbers: more than 43,000 affordable homes were financed in just two years – delivering enough affordable housing for more than 100,000 New Yorkers. The total is the largest number of new affordable apartments produced in nearly four decades. But, there is more that must be done, and we need Albany lawmakers to act.</p> <p>This isn’t a crisis we can take on with one hand tied behind our backs. It’s time for the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo to work together to fix 421-A, passing the City’s reformed plan before more damage is done.</p> <p>***<br />Council Member Donovan Richards represents District 31 in Queens, which encompasses Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway. He is the chair of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Debate Over Best Path to Affordable Housing Development Continues 2016-04-14T03:22:00+00:00 2016-04-14T03:22:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6278:debate-over-best-path-to-affordable-housing-development-continues Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24323098735_6d67180f18_z.jpg" alt="been de blasio housing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Vicki Been (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">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 &amp; Stroock &amp; 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.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been a vocal and frequent critic of the de Blasio administration, including its housing plans, which he again questioned at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, entitled &ldquo;Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?&rdquo; Been, seated next to the borough president, explained and defended the policies that she has helped craft, even challenging the framing of the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want to just take exception to the way the question was phrased for this panel, which is: &lsquo;Is affordable housing ever going to happen?&rsquo;&rdquo; Been said. &ldquo;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.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the passage of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), two significant changes to the city&rsquo;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.</p> <p dir="ltr">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.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also conceptually support the mayor&rsquo;s goal of getting to 200,000 units of affordable housing,&rdquo; Diaz Jr. said at the panel. &ldquo;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&rsquo;ve done 17 rezonings and we have been able to do this by having a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing points he made during the panel discussion, Diaz Jr. later told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;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 &lsquo;we,&rsquo; I mean from my office, to elected officials, to the community board, to many of the city leaders in whatever area. But I&rsquo;ve said all along, with this MIH, what it does is it paints the entire city with one broad stroke.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s office. Been was warmly welcomed by her hosts, who she has worked with over decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s out-of-date 1961 zoning ordinance.</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s event, has been proven to be effective when dealing with the complex realities of neighborhood housing and development needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Using his own borough as an example, Diaz Jr. said at the panel, &ldquo;what I&rsquo;m getting at is, in the Bronx it is complex. And with the new zoning changes...you&rsquo;re handcuffing the communities and stakeholders from having that leverage and that ability to negotiate&rdquo; with developers who have a part to play in the creation of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel discussion, which also covered specifics beyond MIH and ZQA, Been did not respond directly to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism, but when asked about it by Gotham Gazette after the event she said that MIH is essentially an &ldquo;enabler&rdquo; of rezoning. &ldquo;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&rsquo;t change any neighborhood on its own.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Been&rsquo;s reply to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism of zoning amendments was pointed and direct, a sign that this was not the first time she has addressed such critiques. &ldquo;The second thing,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is that he continues to say, &lsquo;Well, I do a better job at negotiating for affordable housing than MIH does.&rsquo; He negotiated for affordable housing that we [HPD] paid for. MIH is affordable housing that the developer pays for. That&rsquo;s very different, right? And so those are the critical things. So I disagree with him, we disagreed with him earlier.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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 &ldquo;brain drain&rdquo; from his borough, Been pointed out that affordable housing requirements under MIH are averages for all the affordable units in a development, allowing for &ldquo;enormous flexibility within those options.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the ongoing debate, Diaz Jr. recognized that the newly enshrined land use regulations are now a fixture of the city. &ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;ll see if it works,&rdquo; the borough president told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is that they passed it into law, right? So, I can talk about my concerns all I want now, till I&rsquo;m blue in the face. We&rsquo;ll see if it works moving forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s office to join Stroock as an expert on real estate and government relations.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel, Been took a moment to emphasize the importance of having a relationship with the Attorney General&rsquo;s office - the de Blasio and Schneiderman administrations have teamed up on tenant protection efforts, among others. &ldquo;You know you read a lot in the newspapers about tension between the City and the State&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We have an incredible partner in the Attorney General&rsquo;s offices...and it really depends upon amazing people like Erica and her former team...It&rsquo;s so helpful to have that kind of working relationship and it really depends upon the leadership and the people on the team.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the impact that the missing 421-a tax abatement will have on new affordable housing developments, Moelis weighed in: &ldquo;The city is doing a great job and has a lot of resources to create affordable housing&hellip;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.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Hopefully [421-a] will be replaced with some other tax abatement for mixed-income housing,&rdquo; Moelis continued, saying its absence &ldquo;is important, but I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s going to kill the production of affordable housing. I think it will continue at a pretty good pace.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the question and answer section following the panel discussion, Buckley noted that the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/renters-mitchell-lama/Article-II%20-XI-term-sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Article II to XI Conversion Program</a> 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&rsquo;s office no projects had been initiated through Article II to XI Conversion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. brought the discussion back to 421-a: &ldquo;Let me also state today that we absolutely need 421-a. Absolutely. And I&rsquo;ve been speaking to anyone who will listen in the Legislature so that they can get this done.&rdquo;</p> <p>Whatever the city needs to achieve better affordable housing options, the land use regulations have been set. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m hoping that when it&rsquo;s all said and done, I don&rsquo;t have to tell folks, &lsquo;I told you so,&rsquo;&rdquo; Diaz Jr. told Gotham Gazette after the event. &ldquo;I mean right now, you know, again, I can speak about it till I&rsquo;m blue in the face, but it&rsquo;s the law of the City of New York.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24323098735_6d67180f18_z.jpg" alt="been de blasio housing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Vicki Been (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">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 &amp; Stroock &amp; 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.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. has been a vocal and frequent critic of the de Blasio administration, including its housing plans, which he again questioned at Wednesday&rsquo;s event, entitled &ldquo;Will NYC Ever See Affordable Housing?&rdquo; Been, seated next to the borough president, explained and defended the policies that she has helped craft, even challenging the framing of the event.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I want to just take exception to the way the question was phrased for this panel, which is: &lsquo;Is affordable housing ever going to happen?&rsquo;&rdquo; Been said. &ldquo;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.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Since the passage of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), two significant changes to the city&rsquo;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.</p> <p dir="ltr">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.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I also conceptually support the mayor&rsquo;s goal of getting to 200,000 units of affordable housing,&rdquo; Diaz Jr. said at the panel. &ldquo;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&rsquo;ve done 17 rezonings and we have been able to do this by having a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Echoing points he made during the panel discussion, Diaz Jr. later told Gotham Gazette, &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;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 &lsquo;we,&rsquo; I mean from my office, to elected officials, to the community board, to many of the city leaders in whatever area. But I&rsquo;ve said all along, with this MIH, what it does is it paints the entire city with one broad stroke.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s office. Been was warmly welcomed by her hosts, who she has worked with over decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s out-of-date 1961 zoning ordinance.</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s event, has been proven to be effective when dealing with the complex realities of neighborhood housing and development needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Using his own borough as an example, Diaz Jr. said at the panel, &ldquo;what I&rsquo;m getting at is, in the Bronx it is complex. And with the new zoning changes...you&rsquo;re handcuffing the communities and stakeholders from having that leverage and that ability to negotiate&rdquo; with developers who have a part to play in the creation of affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel discussion, which also covered specifics beyond MIH and ZQA, Been did not respond directly to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism, but when asked about it by Gotham Gazette after the event she said that MIH is essentially an &ldquo;enabler&rdquo; of rezoning. &ldquo;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&rsquo;t change any neighborhood on its own.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Been&rsquo;s reply to Diaz Jr.&rsquo;s criticism of zoning amendments was pointed and direct, a sign that this was not the first time she has addressed such critiques. &ldquo;The second thing,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is that he continues to say, &lsquo;Well, I do a better job at negotiating for affordable housing than MIH does.&rsquo; He negotiated for affordable housing that we [HPD] paid for. MIH is affordable housing that the developer pays for. That&rsquo;s very different, right? And so those are the critical things. So I disagree with him, we disagreed with him earlier.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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 &ldquo;brain drain&rdquo; from his borough, Been pointed out that affordable housing requirements under MIH are averages for all the affordable units in a development, allowing for &ldquo;enormous flexibility within those options.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite the ongoing debate, Diaz Jr. recognized that the newly enshrined land use regulations are now a fixture of the city. &ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;ll see if it works,&rdquo; the borough president told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is that they passed it into law, right? So, I can talk about my concerns all I want now, till I&rsquo;m blue in the face. We&rsquo;ll see if it works moving forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">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&rsquo;s office to join Stroock as an expert on real estate and government relations.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the panel, Been took a moment to emphasize the importance of having a relationship with the Attorney General&rsquo;s office - the de Blasio and Schneiderman administrations have teamed up on tenant protection efforts, among others. &ldquo;You know you read a lot in the newspapers about tension between the City and the State&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We have an incredible partner in the Attorney General&rsquo;s offices...and it really depends upon amazing people like Erica and her former team...It&rsquo;s so helpful to have that kind of working relationship and it really depends upon the leadership and the people on the team.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">On the impact that the missing 421-a tax abatement will have on new affordable housing developments, Moelis weighed in: &ldquo;The city is doing a great job and has a lot of resources to create affordable housing&hellip;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.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Hopefully [421-a] will be replaced with some other tax abatement for mixed-income housing,&rdquo; Moelis continued, saying its absence &ldquo;is important, but I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s going to kill the production of affordable housing. I think it will continue at a pretty good pace.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In the question and answer section following the panel discussion, Buckley noted that the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/renters-mitchell-lama/Article-II%20-XI-term-sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Article II to XI Conversion Program</a> 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&rsquo;s office no projects had been initiated through Article II to XI Conversion.</p> <p dir="ltr">Diaz Jr. brought the discussion back to 421-a: &ldquo;Let me also state today that we absolutely need 421-a. Absolutely. And I&rsquo;ve been speaking to anyone who will listen in the Legislature so that they can get this done.&rdquo;</p> <p>Whatever the city needs to achieve better affordable housing options, the land use regulations have been set. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m hoping that when it&rsquo;s all said and done, I don&rsquo;t have to tell folks, &lsquo;I told you so,&rsquo;&rdquo; Diaz Jr. told Gotham Gazette after the event. &ldquo;I mean right now, you know, again, I can speak about it till I&rsquo;m blue in the face, but it&rsquo;s the law of the City of New York.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Major City Issues at Play in Politically Charged, Post-Budget Legislative Session 2016-04-06T22:49:29+00:00 2016-04-06T22:49:29+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6267:major-city-issues-at-play-in-politically-charged-post-budget-legislative-session Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26096555691_00e0f8bb7b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget paid leave pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo announces the budget deal (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed the idea of extending state government's legislative session this year to tackle ethics reform during an appearance in Binghamton on Wednesday. "We have a relatively light agenda because we did so much work in the budget," the governor said. "We passed the minimum wage increase, we passed paid family leave, we passed a great package for the middle class, we passed a great package for upstate New York, more education funding than ever before."</p> <p>It's a concerning statement for some advocates and elected officials who see the session full of unresolved issues - including, but beyond ethics - especially ones that impact New York City, issues that the governor himself tackled during his January State of the State speech or has since brought to the table. Some advocates take the governor's statement as an acknowledgement that he traded away issues Senate Republicans oppose to get a minimum wage increase, and not only in the budget, but for the rest of the legislative session that has just begun and is scheduled to end in June.</p> <p>All-important control of the State Senate will be up for grabs again in November, but a key battle in the overall war will be decided on April 19 in the contest to fill the seat vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, recently convicted on federal corruption charges. The April special and impending November elections mean legislators are anxious to get back to their districts while avoiding political landmines.</p> <p>Ethics reforms are one of the many issues jettisoned from budget talks that lawmakers say were dominated by minimum wage negotiations. Major issues of particular importance to New York City yet to be addressed this year include mayoral control of schools; a multitude of criminal justice reforms, some of which were introduced by Cuomo; housing programs, including a replacement for the 421-a property tax credit aimed at spurring affordable housing development; and two education matters that have been linked in the past: The DREAM Act and the education investment tax credit.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control</strong><br />Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his conference have used Mayor Bill de Blasio as a progressive boogieman since the mayor tried to help Democrats win control of the chamber in 2014. Last year Flanagan successfully beat back the mayor's push for a seven-year extension of mayoral control, getting his negotiating partners to settle on one year. He again maneuvered discussion of renewal out of this year's budget discussions and before a spending deal was even announced, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">scheduled hearings on mayoral control</a> for May 4 in Albany and May 19 in New York City. Mayoral control is due to sunset on June 30.</p> <p>Many Democrats expect Senate Republicans to delay actually acting on mayoral control until as late as possible in order to keep de Blasio "in check." With no other sensible alternative, de Blasio has been gracious about the situation so far, saying he plans to attend the hearings "personally" and welcomes the chance for "dialogue" on the issue.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reforms</strong><br />Gov. Cuomo has supported <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6249-criminal-justice-reform-again-given-little-attention-in-budget-negotiations" target="_blank">three major criminal justice reforms</a> over the last two years: Raise the Age, an effort to end New York's practice of treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system; an effort to create independent review of police killings of civilians; and a program to increase data reporting of the race and ethnicity of individuals involved in police interactions. Unable to deliver on the first two last year, Cuomo took executive action. He moved 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office the discretion to look into police killings of civilians. Advocates were pleased, but acknowledged both issues still needed to be addressed in law.</p> <p>This year Cuomo has proposed a bill that would give his office the ability to convene an investigation into police killings of civilians but only if certain criteria is met. He has continued to push for Raise the Age but not with the urgency supporters would like. They point out that even being held in separate facilities from older inmates, 16- and 17-year-olds are still treated as adults when arrested and tried, which make negative outcomes and criminal records more likely.</p> <p>On Tuesday, supporters of a bill that would mandate the state collect data on police interactions with the public gathered in Albany to push Senate Republicans and Cuomo to act on an issue they call "common sense."</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron, both Brooklyn Democrats, would require the state to collect and report data on the number of tickets and misdemeanor arrests across the state; the number of civilian deaths in police custody or during an arrest; the race, ethnicity, and sex of those charged with misdemeanors and violations; and the geographic location of enforcement-related activity and arrest-related deaths. Lentol said the bill is not "anti-police" but a "transparency" and "open government" tool to improve relations between police and communities across the state. Lentol prodded Gov. Cuomo to act, noting that Cuomo has a similar bill that has failed to garner support.</p> <p>"Yet again, communities of color were left behind in New York State budget negotiations, with no meaningful advancement of any criminal justice reforms," said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY. "Passing the STAT Act this legislative session provides an opportunity for Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to show they value the safety and dignity of all New Yorkers."</p> <p>Squadron told Gotham Gazette that the bill is one that Senate Republicans "put in a black box, a dark room," never to be seen again. "This isn't something we have debated. We haven't heard their argument against it, it just disappears." Lentol, however, said that he believes police unions are using their influence to block the bill.</p> <p>Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, Democrat of Queens, supports Lentol's bill and said that he feels his constituents and advocates are growing frustrated that the Senate fails to vote on criminal justice reforms year after year. "I think the governor is really going to have to move on some of these bills and not just wave his hands in the air and say 'It's the Republicans'" Aubry said. "We know he can get what he wants. He has an election coming up and he's got to deliver for these communities."</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor, Dani Lever, said in a statement that&nbsp;"The governor has and continues to push for comprehensive criminal justice reform to address the treatment of juveniles in the system and the prosecution of fatality cases involving law enforcement. Despite the legislature's failure to agree on these reforms, the governor has taken bold action and issued executive orders appointing a special prosecutor in police cases (the first of its kind in the country) and removing juveniles from adult state prisons. Until the legislature passes real reforms, the governor's executive orders will remain in effect."</p> <p><strong>Housing</strong><br />Last year in an unprecedented move, Cuomo put the fate of the 421-a tax abatement program in the hands of the two stakeholder industries - real estate developers and construction unions. Whatever deal they reached on wages in new housing developments utilizing 421-a was to be enacted into law with other reforms to the program, but if they failed, 421-a would sunset. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">Negotiations floundered</a> and 421-a is dead.</p> <p>The program is thought to be essential to affordable housing production in New York City, making it profitable for developers to build new rental housing with some affordable units included. When Cuomo rejected compromise legislation crafted by de Blasio last June, it was one of the final straws to break de Blasio's back (along with the mayoral control compromise and more), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">leading to his now-infamous tirade</a> against the governor on June 30. De Blasio's affordable housing goals rely on 421-a-related production.</p> <p>On Monday, Cuomo <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/04/4/ny1-online--governor-cuomo-breaks-down-state-budget.html" target="_blank">told NY1's Errol Louis</a> that he is looking for a replacement. "You can have a fair program that pays a fair rate to the unions and also a fair rate of profit to the developers," Cuomo said. "I believe there is that balance to be struck. But they have to strike that balance. We're still trying, but the Legislature is not going to approve a plan that kicks the labor unions out of the affordable housing business."</p> <p>Bill Murrow, the governor's top aide, followed up those comments on Tuesday during a Crain's New York Business breakfast event, indicating that labor and real estate are indeed negotiating again. "The developers, REBNY, and the construction trades...they'll find some common ground. I am hopeful that sometime between now and June that something will actually happen," Mulrow <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8595747/cuomo-administration-hopeful-about-421-successor?top-featured-image" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, tenant advocates gathered in Albany to demand that negotiations on 421-a or something like must also include strengthening rent regulations. Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power opened the press conference by condemning the deal that renewed the rent laws last year. "We pretty much got nothing," she said. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing." Members of the crowd shouted "He lied!"</p> <p>Glover said she has been disturbed to hear "lamentations" that 421-a is dead, saying she was glad a "giveaway to luxury developers" and "$1.1 billion tax suck" was dead and that assertions that developers won't be able to build affordable housing without it is patently false.</p> <p>"Our demand," said Glover, "is this: If 421-a or anything that looks like 421-a is revived or created then the rent laws must be reopened, we get rid of vacancy bonus, fix preferential rents, and then maybe we can have a conversation."</p> <p>A number of legislators who spoke after Glover pushed against the idea of any 421-a renewal. Assembly Member Walter Mosley of Brooklyn said he doesn't use the term '421-a' because "We don't want nothin' like 421-a to resurface, but ultimately we understand if anything like 421-a comes to the floor then we reopen the rent laws. Without that we have no discussion."</p> <p>Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright, who introduced a plan of something of a 421-a alternative earlier this year to a tepid response, brought up his proposal in front of the audience that was openly hostile to any replacement. Wright's plan would utilize the state's abandoned property fund to give a subsidy of $100,000 per affordable unit at a cost of about $200 million per year, compared to 421-a's 25-year property tax break and $1 billion annual tax revenue price tag.</p> <p>"The plan was not...people were intrigued by the idea," Wright told the crowd, seeming to catch himself in an effort to promote the measure, "but listen anything in Albany takes a minute to work up to, but we are still pushing that plan, but we are still under siege."</p> <p>Wright is a close ally of Cuomo and many expect that his plan was the first shot fired in an effort to restore a 421-a plan. The fact that Cuomo and Wright are openly pushing a replacement and that Senate Republicans are likely to want to deliver for real estate developers makes many advocates think it is a question of "when" not "if" a 421-a replacement comes to the floor of both houses. They hope to keep up public pressure to win some sort of concessions when it takes place.</p> <p><strong>Other Education Issues</strong><br />Last year Cuomo tried to connect the DREAM Act that would allow the undocumented access to college tuition assistance and the education tax credit that would give benefits to those who donate to private schools. The DREAM Act has massive support in the Assembly, which has passed the measure repeatedly over the last few years and the education tax credit is a favorite of Senate Republicans. Cuomo's bid at linkage failed last year (he did not attempt to link them again this year, but did include both in his executive budget), but both issues remain on the table and the fact that they were left out of the budget has rankled a number of lawmakers.</p> <p>Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, was said to be so upset that Republicans didn't demand the education tax credit be part of the budget that he didn't conference with them during budget negotiations (he was then the lone Senate "no" vote on the minimum wage and education budget bill). Meanwhile, DREAM supporters like Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, railed against its exclusion during the late-night budget debate.</p> <p>For supporters of each measure the problem seems to be that opposition to the other measure has become a litmus test for some in their party's base. Senate Republicans have included language touting the disinclusion of the DREAM Act in the budget on the Senate website, listing it as an accomplishment:</p> <p>"Rejecting the Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund College Tuition for Illegal Immigrants:</p> <p>"The final budget rejects an Executive Budget proposal that would have cost state taxpayers $27 million and reward people who are here illegally by giving them free college tuition. The measure would have extended all other criteria, exemptions or opportunities found within the education law - including all scholarship and tuition assistance programs funded with state tax dollars - to illegal immigrants while hardworking middle-class families are already being forced to take out massive college loans to pay for higher education."</p> <p>Meanwhile, public school advocates are entrenched against the education tax credit, saying that it is a taxpayer giveaway to millionaires who will flood their favored schools with donations using up the credit before average families can utilize it. The Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-aligned group, has held press conferences and briefings against the policy this year.</p> <p><strong>Albany Tradition</strong><br />If the past is indeed prologue than it is a safe bet that many of these issues will not come to a vote in both houses this year. With an important special election, a presidential race, and the entire Legislature up for (re)election, leaders will likely be looking to rest on the work they did in the budget and get back to their districts. While there will be a lot of noise made by the media and good government groups around ethics reform, no one who knows Albany is holding their breath.</p> <p>Mayoral control of city schools is the only key policy related to New York City facing an expiration date and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">all-but-sure to see action</a>. The questions are what Senate Republicans demand in exchange for extension, how long it is extended for, and how much they make de Blasio sweat in the process.</p> <p>Including Wednesday, April 6, there are currently 25 session days remaining until <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/calendar/" target="_blank">its scheduled</a> end on June 16.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26096555691_00e0f8bb7b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget paid leave pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo announces the budget deal (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed the idea of extending state government's legislative session this year to tackle ethics reform during an appearance in Binghamton on Wednesday. "We have a relatively light agenda because we did so much work in the budget," the governor said. "We passed the minimum wage increase, we passed paid family leave, we passed a great package for the middle class, we passed a great package for upstate New York, more education funding than ever before."</p> <p>It's a concerning statement for some advocates and elected officials who see the session full of unresolved issues - including, but beyond ethics - especially ones that impact New York City, issues that the governor himself tackled during his January State of the State speech or has since brought to the table. Some advocates take the governor's statement as an acknowledgement that he traded away issues Senate Republicans oppose to get a minimum wage increase, and not only in the budget, but for the rest of the legislative session that has just begun and is scheduled to end in June.</p> <p>All-important control of the State Senate will be up for grabs again in November, but a key battle in the overall war will be decided on April 19 in the contest to fill the seat vacated by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, recently convicted on federal corruption charges. The April special and impending November elections mean legislators are anxious to get back to their districts while avoiding political landmines.</p> <p>Ethics reforms are one of the many issues jettisoned from budget talks that lawmakers say were dominated by minimum wage negotiations. Major issues of particular importance to New York City yet to be addressed this year include mayoral control of schools; a multitude of criminal justice reforms, some of which were introduced by Cuomo; housing programs, including a replacement for the 421-a property tax credit aimed at spurring affordable housing development; and two education matters that have been linked in the past: The DREAM Act and the education investment tax credit.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control</strong><br />Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and his conference have used Mayor Bill de Blasio as a progressive boogieman since the mayor tried to help Democrats win control of the chamber in 2014. Last year Flanagan successfully beat back the mayor's push for a seven-year extension of mayoral control, getting his negotiating partners to settle on one year. He again maneuvered discussion of renewal out of this year's budget discussions and before a spending deal was even announced, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">scheduled hearings on mayoral control</a> for May 4 in Albany and May 19 in New York City. Mayoral control is due to sunset on June 30.</p> <p>Many Democrats expect Senate Republicans to delay actually acting on mayoral control until as late as possible in order to keep de Blasio "in check." With no other sensible alternative, de Blasio has been gracious about the situation so far, saying he plans to attend the hearings "personally" and welcomes the chance for "dialogue" on the issue.</p> <p><strong>Criminal Justice Reforms</strong><br />Gov. Cuomo has supported <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6249-criminal-justice-reform-again-given-little-attention-in-budget-negotiations" target="_blank">three major criminal justice reforms</a> over the last two years: Raise the Age, an effort to end New York's practice of treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system; an effort to create independent review of police killings of civilians; and a program to increase data reporting of the race and ethnicity of individuals involved in police interactions. Unable to deliver on the first two last year, Cuomo took executive action. He moved 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office the discretion to look into police killings of civilians. Advocates were pleased, but acknowledged both issues still needed to be addressed in law.</p> <p>This year Cuomo has proposed a bill that would give his office the ability to convene an investigation into police killings of civilians but only if certain criteria is met. He has continued to push for Raise the Age but not with the urgency supporters would like. They point out that even being held in separate facilities from older inmates, 16- and 17-year-olds are still treated as adults when arrested and tried, which make negative outcomes and criminal records more likely.</p> <p>On Tuesday, supporters of a bill that would mandate the state collect data on police interactions with the public gathered in Albany to push Senate Republicans and Cuomo to act on an issue they call "common sense."</p> <p>The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Joseph Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron, both Brooklyn Democrats, would require the state to collect and report data on the number of tickets and misdemeanor arrests across the state; the number of civilian deaths in police custody or during an arrest; the race, ethnicity, and sex of those charged with misdemeanors and violations; and the geographic location of enforcement-related activity and arrest-related deaths. Lentol said the bill is not "anti-police" but a "transparency" and "open government" tool to improve relations between police and communities across the state. Lentol prodded Gov. Cuomo to act, noting that Cuomo has a similar bill that has failed to garner support.</p> <p>"Yet again, communities of color were left behind in New York State budget negotiations, with no meaningful advancement of any criminal justice reforms," said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY. "Passing the STAT Act this legislative session provides an opportunity for Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to show they value the safety and dignity of all New Yorkers."</p> <p>Squadron told Gotham Gazette that the bill is one that Senate Republicans "put in a black box, a dark room," never to be seen again. "This isn't something we have debated. We haven't heard their argument against it, it just disappears." Lentol, however, said that he believes police unions are using their influence to block the bill.</p> <p>Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, Democrat of Queens, supports Lentol's bill and said that he feels his constituents and advocates are growing frustrated that the Senate fails to vote on criminal justice reforms year after year. "I think the governor is really going to have to move on some of these bills and not just wave his hands in the air and say 'It's the Republicans'" Aubry said. "We know he can get what he wants. He has an election coming up and he's got to deliver for these communities."</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor, Dani Lever, said in a statement that&nbsp;"The governor has and continues to push for comprehensive criminal justice reform to address the treatment of juveniles in the system and the prosecution of fatality cases involving law enforcement. Despite the legislature's failure to agree on these reforms, the governor has taken bold action and issued executive orders appointing a special prosecutor in police cases (the first of its kind in the country) and removing juveniles from adult state prisons. Until the legislature passes real reforms, the governor's executive orders will remain in effect."</p> <p><strong>Housing</strong><br />Last year in an unprecedented move, Cuomo put the fate of the 421-a tax abatement program in the hands of the two stakeholder industries - real estate developers and construction unions. Whatever deal they reached on wages in new housing developments utilizing 421-a was to be enacted into law with other reforms to the program, but if they failed, 421-a would sunset. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">Negotiations floundered</a> and 421-a is dead.</p> <p>The program is thought to be essential to affordable housing production in New York City, making it profitable for developers to build new rental housing with some affordable units included. When Cuomo rejected compromise legislation crafted by de Blasio last June, it was one of the final straws to break de Blasio's back (along with the mayoral control compromise and more), <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">leading to his now-infamous tirade</a> against the governor on June 30. De Blasio's affordable housing goals rely on 421-a-related production.</p> <p>On Monday, Cuomo <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/albany-newsmakers/2016/04/4/ny1-online--governor-cuomo-breaks-down-state-budget.html" target="_blank">told NY1's Errol Louis</a> that he is looking for a replacement. "You can have a fair program that pays a fair rate to the unions and also a fair rate of profit to the developers," Cuomo said. "I believe there is that balance to be struck. But they have to strike that balance. We're still trying, but the Legislature is not going to approve a plan that kicks the labor unions out of the affordable housing business."</p> <p>Bill Murrow, the governor's top aide, followed up those comments on Tuesday during a Crain's New York Business breakfast event, indicating that labor and real estate are indeed negotiating again. "The developers, REBNY, and the construction trades...they'll find some common ground. I am hopeful that sometime between now and June that something will actually happen," Mulrow <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/04/8595747/cuomo-administration-hopeful-about-421-successor?top-featured-image" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, tenant advocates gathered in Albany to demand that negotiations on 421-a or something like must also include strengthening rent regulations. Delsenia Glover, campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power opened the press conference by condemning the deal that renewed the rent laws last year. "We pretty much got nothing," she said. "At the time Governor Cuomo said they were the 'strongest rent laws in history.' It's not true, we got nothing." Members of the crowd shouted "He lied!"</p> <p>Glover said she has been disturbed to hear "lamentations" that 421-a is dead, saying she was glad a "giveaway to luxury developers" and "$1.1 billion tax suck" was dead and that assertions that developers won't be able to build affordable housing without it is patently false.</p> <p>"Our demand," said Glover, "is this: If 421-a or anything that looks like 421-a is revived or created then the rent laws must be reopened, we get rid of vacancy bonus, fix preferential rents, and then maybe we can have a conversation."</p> <p>A number of legislators who spoke after Glover pushed against the idea of any 421-a renewal. Assembly Member Walter Mosley of Brooklyn said he doesn't use the term '421-a' because "We don't want nothin' like 421-a to resurface, but ultimately we understand if anything like 421-a comes to the floor then we reopen the rent laws. Without that we have no discussion."</p> <p>Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright, who introduced a plan of something of a 421-a alternative earlier this year to a tepid response, brought up his proposal in front of the audience that was openly hostile to any replacement. Wright's plan would utilize the state's abandoned property fund to give a subsidy of $100,000 per affordable unit at a cost of about $200 million per year, compared to 421-a's 25-year property tax break and $1 billion annual tax revenue price tag.</p> <p>"The plan was not...people were intrigued by the idea," Wright told the crowd, seeming to catch himself in an effort to promote the measure, "but listen anything in Albany takes a minute to work up to, but we are still pushing that plan, but we are still under siege."</p> <p>Wright is a close ally of Cuomo and many expect that his plan was the first shot fired in an effort to restore a 421-a plan. The fact that Cuomo and Wright are openly pushing a replacement and that Senate Republicans are likely to want to deliver for real estate developers makes many advocates think it is a question of "when" not "if" a 421-a replacement comes to the floor of both houses. They hope to keep up public pressure to win some sort of concessions when it takes place.</p> <p><strong>Other Education Issues</strong><br />Last year Cuomo tried to connect the DREAM Act that would allow the undocumented access to college tuition assistance and the education tax credit that would give benefits to those who donate to private schools. The DREAM Act has massive support in the Assembly, which has passed the measure repeatedly over the last few years and the education tax credit is a favorite of Senate Republicans. Cuomo's bid at linkage failed last year (he did not attempt to link them again this year, but did include both in his executive budget), but both issues remain on the table and the fact that they were left out of the budget has rankled a number of lawmakers.</p> <p>Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, was said to be so upset that Republicans didn't demand the education tax credit be part of the budget that he didn't conference with them during budget negotiations (he was then the lone Senate "no" vote on the minimum wage and education budget bill). Meanwhile, DREAM supporters like Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat from Queens, railed against its exclusion during the late-night budget debate.</p> <p>For supporters of each measure the problem seems to be that opposition to the other measure has become a litmus test for some in their party's base. Senate Republicans have included language touting the disinclusion of the DREAM Act in the budget on the Senate website, listing it as an accomplishment:</p> <p>"Rejecting the Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund College Tuition for Illegal Immigrants:</p> <p>"The final budget rejects an Executive Budget proposal that would have cost state taxpayers $27 million and reward people who are here illegally by giving them free college tuition. The measure would have extended all other criteria, exemptions or opportunities found within the education law - including all scholarship and tuition assistance programs funded with state tax dollars - to illegal immigrants while hardworking middle-class families are already being forced to take out massive college loans to pay for higher education."</p> <p>Meanwhile, public school advocates are entrenched against the education tax credit, saying that it is a taxpayer giveaway to millionaires who will flood their favored schools with donations using up the credit before average families can utilize it. The Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-aligned group, has held press conferences and briefings against the policy this year.</p> <p><strong>Albany Tradition</strong><br />If the past is indeed prologue than it is a safe bet that many of these issues will not come to a vote in both houses this year. With an important special election, a presidential race, and the entire Legislature up for (re)election, leaders will likely be looking to rest on the work they did in the budget and get back to their districts. While there will be a lot of noise made by the media and good government groups around ethics reform, no one who knows Albany is holding their breath.</p> <p>Mayoral control of city schools is the only key policy related to New York City facing an expiration date and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com:8080/index.php/government/6241-senate-schedules-de-blasio-for-two-hearings-on-mayoral-control-of-city-schools" target="_blank">all-but-sure to see action</a>. The questions are what Senate Republicans demand in exchange for extension, how long it is extended for, and how much they make de Blasio sweat in the process.</p> <p>Including Wednesday, April 6, there are currently 25 session days remaining until <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/calendar/" target="_blank">its scheduled</a> end on June 16.</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Eviction Bonuses and Preferential Rents, Not 421-a, Should Be the Focus in Albany 2016-04-03T05:00:00+00:00 2016-04-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6259:eviction-bonuses-and-preferential-rents-not-421-a-should-be-the-focus-in-albany Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Cezu80_W8AEI-6j.jpg" alt="aff housing march rally" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>An affordable housing march&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>We have long advocated for the elimination of the 421-a tax abatement because it has been nothing but a giveaway to developers masquerading as a means of affordable housing production. This is why affordable housing advocates across the city celebrated when 421-a expired on January 15.</p> <p>Since its expiration, arguments about its possible revival are popping up more and more frequently, along with lamentations about its demise. How quickly we forget the many published <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/tenants-take-hit-as-ny-fails-to-police-huge-housing-tax-break" target="_blank">analyses</a> exposing the fact that even though the controversial tax abatement has created little affordable housing, it has cost New York City taxpayers up to $1 billion in lost tax revenue annually.</p> <p>Only about 1,350 affordable apartments were created over the previous four years of this wasteful program. That is fewer than 350 per year, and with a price tag of $833,000 per affordable apartment created.</p> <p>Instead of discussing benefits for rich developers, all attention should be on fixing the major loopholes in the rent regulation system that houses 2.5 million tenants in approximately 1 million units with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.</p> <p>One of the most egregious of these loopholes is the "eviction bonus," which allows enormous rent increases of up to 20 percent in rent-stabilized apartments upon vacancy. This may be the greatest threat to the affordability and retention of rent-regulated housing, which is the foundation of strong and diverse communities and the reason that tenants looking to move are faced with unaffordable rents in every neighborhood in this city. The eviction bonus affects tens of thousands of low- and middle-income tenants – far more than those benefiting from 421-a.</p> <p>Then there are "preferential" rents, the other much-used landlord tool for driving rents and pushing tenants out of rent-regulated apartments. An estimated 325,000 low-income families are vulnerable to unaffordable rent increases upon lease renewal because the preferential rent system affects 1,000 times as many families than those that benefit from new 421-a affordable units each year.</p> <p>These were the reasons for a major rally of 300 community folks this week in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick, where Brooklyn residents described the many tactics used by landlords to evict rent-stabilized tenants in order to increase rents.</p> <p>The rent laws were renewed in June 2015, with nowhere near the reforms necessary to protect tenants in New York. Without strong rent regulations, tens of thousands of tenants will eventually be met with only two choices: end up in homeless shelters or leave the city altogether. Neither is acceptable.</p> <p>As the state moves beyond budget negotiations into legislative session, rent laws should become the focus of discussion, not the $1 billion 421-a developer giveaway. The millions of low-income tenants at risk of losing their homes and stable communities are more than enough reasons.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">De Blasio Calls for Albany to 'Make Right' on Program at Center of Rift with Governor</a>]</p> <p>***<br />Delsenia Glover is the campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TenantPowerNY" target="_blank">@TenantPowerNY</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Cezu80_W8AEI-6j.jpg" alt="aff housing march rally" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p>An affordable housing march&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>We have long advocated for the elimination of the 421-a tax abatement because it has been nothing but a giveaway to developers masquerading as a means of affordable housing production. This is why affordable housing advocates across the city celebrated when 421-a expired on January 15.</p> <p>Since its expiration, arguments about its possible revival are popping up more and more frequently, along with lamentations about its demise. How quickly we forget the many published <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/tenants-take-hit-as-ny-fails-to-police-huge-housing-tax-break" target="_blank">analyses</a> exposing the fact that even though the controversial tax abatement has created little affordable housing, it has cost New York City taxpayers up to $1 billion in lost tax revenue annually.</p> <p>Only about 1,350 affordable apartments were created over the previous four years of this wasteful program. That is fewer than 350 per year, and with a price tag of $833,000 per affordable apartment created.</p> <p>Instead of discussing benefits for rich developers, all attention should be on fixing the major loopholes in the rent regulation system that houses 2.5 million tenants in approximately 1 million units with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.</p> <p>One of the most egregious of these loopholes is the "eviction bonus," which allows enormous rent increases of up to 20 percent in rent-stabilized apartments upon vacancy. This may be the greatest threat to the affordability and retention of rent-regulated housing, which is the foundation of strong and diverse communities and the reason that tenants looking to move are faced with unaffordable rents in every neighborhood in this city. The eviction bonus affects tens of thousands of low- and middle-income tenants – far more than those benefiting from 421-a.</p> <p>Then there are "preferential" rents, the other much-used landlord tool for driving rents and pushing tenants out of rent-regulated apartments. An estimated 325,000 low-income families are vulnerable to unaffordable rent increases upon lease renewal because the preferential rent system affects 1,000 times as many families than those that benefit from new 421-a affordable units each year.</p> <p>These were the reasons for a major rally of 300 community folks this week in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick, where Brooklyn residents described the many tactics used by landlords to evict rent-stabilized tenants in order to increase rents.</p> <p>The rent laws were renewed in June 2015, with nowhere near the reforms necessary to protect tenants in New York. Without strong rent regulations, tens of thousands of tenants will eventually be met with only two choices: end up in homeless shelters or leave the city altogether. Neither is acceptable.</p> <p>As the state moves beyond budget negotiations into legislative session, rent laws should become the focus of discussion, not the $1 billion 421-a developer giveaway. The millions of low-income tenants at risk of losing their homes and stable communities are more than enough reasons.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">De Blasio Calls for Albany to 'Make Right' on Program at Center of Rift with Governor</a>]</p> <p>***<br />Delsenia Glover is the campaign manager for the Alliance for Tenant Power. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TenantPowerNY" target="_blank">@TenantPowerNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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State Budget Agreement: By the Numbers 2016-04-01T02:17:24+00:00 2016-04-01T02:17:24+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6257:state-budget-agreement-by-the-numbers Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25890012020_319f85047b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget deal 17" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo outlines the budget agreement (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>AGov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed reporters into the Capitol's Red Room for the first time in nearly a year to announce a budget deal at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night. The announcement came as both houses of the Legislature took a break from voting on budget bills that had already been introduced, yet neither legislative majority leader joined Cuomo for the press conference.</p> <p>Legislators from the minorities of the two houses lamented having little time to review the bills and the fact that most of them were short any real policy decisions and featured sections marked "intentionally omitted."</p> <p>After weeks of haggling, bursts of information, and rumors, Cuomo announced some hard numbers contained in the budget, just a few hours before the start of the new fiscal year. The governor happily announced that New York would see a phase-in of a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. He appeared less thrilled when admitting his proposed Medicaid cost-shift to New York City was not part of the budget (this after his CUNY cost-shift had been taken off the table a few days ago).</p> <p>"I am very excited about this budget," Cuomo said. "We call it a budget – really it is an overall operating plan for the state of New York and I believe that this is the best plan that the state has produced, if its passed, in decades, literally."</p> <p><strong><em>The state budget agreement by the numbers:</em></strong></p> <p><strong>8:30 p.m:</strong> scheduled time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of a budget deal; 3.5 hours before the start of the new fiscal year.</p> <p><strong>$147 billion:</strong>&nbsp;estimated size of the state budget.</p> <p><strong>0:</strong> legislative leaders present at Cuomo's budget announcement.</p> <p><strong>0:</strong> times Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan mentioned a minimum wage increase or paid family leave in a seven-paragraph statement put out by is office to celebrate the budget agreement.</p> <p><strong>4:</strong> men who controlled budget negotiations (Cuomo, Flanagan, Heastie, and Klein).</p> <p><strong>3:</strong> budget bills introduced to both houses to be voted on before a deal was actually announced.</p> <p><strong>3 p.m:</strong> time the Assembly started debating the first budget bill, without a deal announced.</p> <p><strong>4 p.m:</strong> time the Senate began debating its first budget bill, without a deal announced.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> budget bills left to vote on after a budget deal was announced.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2018:</strong> date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with more than ten employees.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2019:</strong> date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with ten or fewer employees.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2021:</strong> date Long Island and Westchester County will see the minimum wage hit $15 per hour.</p> <p><strong>$12.50:</strong> hourly minimum wage localities north of Westchester will reach on 12/31/2020, at which time the state budget director and department of labor will set a path to $15 per hour.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> years Cuomo claims to have kept budget growth under 2 percent. (Some budget watchdogs claim Cuomo uses tricks and gimmicks to appear to meet the cap.)</p> <p><strong>2:</strong> years in a row the state budget has been voted through after the March 31 midnight deadline and thus technically "late."</p> <p><strong>6.5%:</strong> increase in school aid, which totals $24.8 billion.</p> <p><strong>$240:</strong> increase in per pupil aid for charter schools.</p> <p><strong>12 weeks</strong>: length of new New York paid family leave benefit, for paid time off to care for a new child or ailing relative.</p> <p><strong>2018:</strong> year paid family leave will begin in New York</p> <p><strong>50%</strong> of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, is where paid family leave pay will start. When fully implemented in 2021 it will be 67 percent of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> months workers will have to have worked at a job before being eligible for New York's paid family leave.</p> <p><strong>$26.6 billion:</strong> amount the budget includes for capital facilities operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).</p> <p><strong>$1.5 billion:</strong> marked for phase II of the Second Avenue Subway.</p> <p><strong>63:</strong> copies of a report detailing changes made to the executive budget that Senate Republicans had to have printed off for Senators after Sen. Liz Krueger pointed out the report was required by law.</p> <p><strong>Not in the Budget</strong><br /><strong>$485 million</strong> previously proposed cost shift to New York City for CUNY funding.</p> <p><strong>$250 million</strong>&nbsp;Medicaid cost shift to New York City.</p> <p>A plan to replace the <strong>421-a</strong> property tax credit used by New York City to entice developers to include affordable housing in their developments.</p> <p><strong>$240 million</strong> initially sought by the Cuomo administration to give CUNY staff retroactive raises.</p> <p><strong>0</strong> criminal justice proposals from the executive budget included in the final budget.</p> <p><strong>0</strong> ethics reforms.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6255-everyone-agrees-albany-needs-ethics-reform-except-the-people-who-matter-most" target="_blank">Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6254-for-state-budget-leaders-choose-on-time-over-open" target="_blank">For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open</a>]</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25890012020_319f85047b_z.jpg" alt="cuomo budget deal 17" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo outlines the budget agreement (photo via The Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>AGov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed reporters into the Capitol's Red Room for the first time in nearly a year to announce a budget deal at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night. The announcement came as both houses of the Legislature took a break from voting on budget bills that had already been introduced, yet neither legislative majority leader joined Cuomo for the press conference.</p> <p>Legislators from the minorities of the two houses lamented having little time to review the bills and the fact that most of them were short any real policy decisions and featured sections marked "intentionally omitted."</p> <p>After weeks of haggling, bursts of information, and rumors, Cuomo announced some hard numbers contained in the budget, just a few hours before the start of the new fiscal year. The governor happily announced that New York would see a phase-in of a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. He appeared less thrilled when admitting his proposed Medicaid cost-shift to New York City was not part of the budget (this after his CUNY cost-shift had been taken off the table a few days ago).</p> <p>"I am very excited about this budget," Cuomo said. "We call it a budget – really it is an overall operating plan for the state of New York and I believe that this is the best plan that the state has produced, if its passed, in decades, literally."</p> <p><strong><em>The state budget agreement by the numbers:</em></strong></p> <p><strong>8:30 p.m:</strong> scheduled time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of a budget deal; 3.5 hours before the start of the new fiscal year.</p> <p><strong>$147 billion:</strong>&nbsp;estimated size of the state budget.</p> <p><strong>0:</strong> legislative leaders present at Cuomo's budget announcement.</p> <p><strong>0:</strong> times Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan mentioned a minimum wage increase or paid family leave in a seven-paragraph statement put out by is office to celebrate the budget agreement.</p> <p><strong>4:</strong> men who controlled budget negotiations (Cuomo, Flanagan, Heastie, and Klein).</p> <p><strong>3:</strong> budget bills introduced to both houses to be voted on before a deal was actually announced.</p> <p><strong>3 p.m:</strong> time the Assembly started debating the first budget bill, without a deal announced.</p> <p><strong>4 p.m:</strong> time the Senate began debating its first budget bill, without a deal announced.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> budget bills left to vote on after a budget deal was announced.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2018:</strong> date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with more than ten employees.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2019:</strong> date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with ten or fewer employees.</p> <p><strong>12/31/2021:</strong> date Long Island and Westchester County will see the minimum wage hit $15 per hour.</p> <p><strong>$12.50:</strong> hourly minimum wage localities north of Westchester will reach on 12/31/2020, at which time the state budget director and department of labor will set a path to $15 per hour.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> years Cuomo claims to have kept budget growth under 2 percent. (Some budget watchdogs claim Cuomo uses tricks and gimmicks to appear to meet the cap.)</p> <p><strong>2:</strong> years in a row the state budget has been voted through after the March 31 midnight deadline and thus technically "late."</p> <p><strong>6.5%:</strong> increase in school aid, which totals $24.8 billion.</p> <p><strong>$240:</strong> increase in per pupil aid for charter schools.</p> <p><strong>12 weeks</strong>: length of new New York paid family leave benefit, for paid time off to care for a new child or ailing relative.</p> <p><strong>2018:</strong> year paid family leave will begin in New York</p> <p><strong>50%</strong> of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, is where paid family leave pay will start. When fully implemented in 2021 it will be 67 percent of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.</p> <p><strong>6:</strong> months workers will have to have worked at a job before being eligible for New York's paid family leave.</p> <p><strong>$26.6 billion:</strong> amount the budget includes for capital facilities operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).</p> <p><strong>$1.5 billion:</strong> marked for phase II of the Second Avenue Subway.</p> <p><strong>63:</strong> copies of a report detailing changes made to the executive budget that Senate Republicans had to have printed off for Senators after Sen. Liz Krueger pointed out the report was required by law.</p> <p><strong>Not in the Budget</strong><br /><strong>$485 million</strong> previously proposed cost shift to New York City for CUNY funding.</p> <p><strong>$250 million</strong>&nbsp;Medicaid cost shift to New York City.</p> <p>A plan to replace the <strong>421-a</strong> property tax credit used by New York City to entice developers to include affordable housing in their developments.</p> <p><strong>$240 million</strong> initially sought by the Cuomo administration to give CUNY staff retroactive raises.</p> <p><strong>0</strong> criminal justice proposals from the executive budget included in the final budget.</p> <p><strong>0</strong> ethics reforms.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6255-everyone-agrees-albany-needs-ethics-reform-except-the-people-who-matter-most" target="_blank">Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6254-for-state-budget-leaders-choose-on-time-over-open" target="_blank">For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open</a>]</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Calls for Public Discussion of New Affordable Housing Incentive Program 2016-02-02T23:50:22+00:00 2016-02-02T23:50:22+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6138:calls-for-public-discussion-of-new-affordable-housing-incentive-program kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/REBNY_speaker.jpg" alt="REBNY speaker" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>The REBNY gala (photo via REBNY on Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this year developers and labor unions failed to reach a deal to renew the controversial 421-a tax abatement program that is designed to entice the development of affordable housing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators agreed to extend the program early last year while putting the longterm future of the program in the hands of the special interests that benefit from it--an unprecedented move that was met with loud criticism.</p> <p>With negotiations failed and the program expired, it appears that real estate groups are looking to Cuomo and state legislators to figure out new life for the program. Without it, the future of rental housing, including affordable units, in New York City is in question. Expressing serious concern, Mayor Bill de Blasio has called on Albany leaders <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">to make the situation right</a>.</p> <p>Asked about how he would like to see the 42-1 issue resolved, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "I believe that it should be people of good faith sitting in a room working - I'm not kidding - working on a compromise. The housing question in the City of New York is unbelievably important." Flanagan was speaking to reporters after giving a speech to the Association for a Better New York on Jan. 28.</p> <p>Tenant advocates also want to get key players in a room to hash out a solution, but they want those meetings open to the public and including all stakeholders, not just the ones that make large campaign contributions.</p> <p>Left out of the last round of discussions, advocates insist that any discussion of renewing the program should be held in full view. They want the housing committees of the legislature to hold hearings to consider alternatives to 421-a. "Everything in Albany is done in secret," said Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC. "You would expect the housing committees to hold public hearings on this, but that is just not convenient."</p> <p>"I would like to see more of a public discussion so that maybe REBNY will come and tell us what happened in negotiations," said Thomas Waters of the Community Service Society, referring to the Real Estate Board of New York, the major association of developers and one of the two main parties left to negotiate an extension of 421-a.</p> <p>"No other interest gets this kind of special treatment," Waters said, referring to real estate. REBNY and individual developers are known to be among the most prolific campaign donors and spenders throughout New York.</p> <p>Dan MacEntee, spokesperson for state Senator Betty Little, who chairs the Senate committee on housing, said that there had yet to be any discussions on hearings. "The Senator does recognize the impact of the program and would like to see it continue," MacEntee told Gotham Gazette of 421-a. Little, a Republican, represents several upstate towns.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Assembly Member Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat who chairs the Assembly housing committee, said that Wright was not available for comment.</p> <p>Senator Liz Krueger, a Democratic member of the Senate housing committee, believes that there should be a joint hearing of the legislature's housing and finance committees before anything on 421-a is decided, given that the program deals with housing and taxes. Krueger told Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">last year</a> that she would like to see 421-a replaced with a more efficient program.</p> <p>However, many legislators and advocates say that REBNY is pushing Cuomo and legislators to move quickly on a basic renewal, and one that either does away with Cuomo's insistence last year that prevailing wages for labor are included, or sets a lower increase than the building trades council sought during private meetings.</p> <p>REBNY President John Banks recently wrote in Real Estate Weekly that he is committed to working with stakeholders to "address the need for more rental housing" while pushing back against calls from labor and Cuomo to include a prevailing wage requirement.</p> <p>"Given the high cost of property taxes, land costs and construction costs, most owners will opt to do something else rather than build multi-family rental housing with a substantial below market component unless there is a tax benefit program like 421a in place," <a href="http://rew-online.com/2016/01/27/it%CA%BCs-a-daunting-task-but-rebny-is-committed-to-affordable-home-building/" target="_blank">wrote Banks</a>.</p> <p>"For example, in the absence of a tax benefit program like 421-a, in many areas of the City, owners will build market rate condominiums where sales prices can offset the high cost of new development (e.g., property taxes, construction, land)."</p> <p>Advocates say the city simply isn't getting the return on its investment through 421-a and that if the creation of affordable housing is what is motivating public officials then finding a more efficient alternative is paramount.</p> <p>"The first step is to let 421-a die and spend the money on other housing programs," Waters told Gotham Gazette. "Rather than a program that provides the right to a tax break I'd like to see something like the federal low-income tax credit and have developers apply and have the credit go to those who provide the most affordability."</p> <p>Tenant advocates have long decried the 421-a program as terribly inefficient.</p> <p>Waters research has shown that 421-a has only produced one affordable apartment for every $833,000 in tax breaks. "Before the state acted to renew 421-a last June, New York City was foregoing $1.1 billion in revenue each year for a program that led to no more than 1,275 apartments per year," Waters recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/opinion/why-421-a-doesnt-deserve-to-be-saved.html" target="_blank">wrote in NY Slant</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, advocates point out that provisions in the state's rent laws allow landlords to deregulate 20,000 affordable apartments a year, with landlords voluntarily reporting the deregulation of around 6,000 affordable apartments each year.</p> <p>"As far as I'm concerned the lapse of 421-a can only be a good thing," said McKee of Tenants PAC. "It is an absurdly inefficient way to get affordable housing. Even if you deliberately tried to create an inefficient program it would be hard to end up with something as absurd as 421-a. I could design a better program than 421-a in my sleep."</p> <p>A number of observers see <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">the failure to renegotiate 421-a</a> as just another example of how the feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo has impacted public policy. Last year de Blasio announced a deal with developers to renew 421-a - the mayor was anxious to renew the program that is a key piece of his promise to build 80,000 units of affordable housing over ten years.</p> <p>Cuomo countered, saying de Blasio had a reached a sweetheart deal with developers and <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/236753/cuomo-de-blasio-upset-the-421-a-applecart/" target="_blank">blamed the plan</a> for disrupting the legislature's negotiations. In the end, Cuomo and legislators reached a deal that included much of de Blasio's plan. It mandated that 25 to 30 percent of projects be set aside for affordable housing, banned most coops and condos from receiving abatements, and increased the length of the abatement from 25 to 35 years. All of that came with the caveat that real estate and labor had to come to a deal on wages.</p> <p>Now many doubt de Blasio will have much of a say at all on the program as legislative leaders and the governor negotiate behind closed doors. Gov. Cuomo has spoken to the importance of reestablishing an affordable housing program at the state level. The de Blasio administration has lamented the loss of 421-a while simultaneously downplaying its importance.</p> <p>"Having every single set of a tools at our disposal is optimal," Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told Gotham Gazette when asked about the uncertainty around the 421-a program. Glen noted that the city has several programs at its disposal to encourage the construction of affordable housing but each one is important. "Not one of these individual levers not being available will undermine our efforts or significantly impact our plan, but not having something, a tax incentive...like 421a, you know, does hinder our ability to do what's really important...which is to make sure that there is affordable housing in every corner of the city."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/REBNY_speaker.jpg" alt="REBNY speaker" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>The REBNY gala (photo via REBNY on Facebook)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this year developers and labor unions failed to reach a deal to renew the controversial 421-a tax abatement program that is designed to entice the development of affordable housing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators agreed to extend the program early last year while putting the longterm future of the program in the hands of the special interests that benefit from it--an unprecedented move that was met with loud criticism.</p> <p>With negotiations failed and the program expired, it appears that real estate groups are looking to Cuomo and state legislators to figure out new life for the program. Without it, the future of rental housing, including affordable units, in New York City is in question. Expressing serious concern, Mayor Bill de Blasio has called on Albany leaders <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">to make the situation right</a>.</p> <p>Asked about how he would like to see the 42-1 issue resolved, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "I believe that it should be people of good faith sitting in a room working - I'm not kidding - working on a compromise. The housing question in the City of New York is unbelievably important." Flanagan was speaking to reporters after giving a speech to the Association for a Better New York on Jan. 28.</p> <p>Tenant advocates also want to get key players in a room to hash out a solution, but they want those meetings open to the public and including all stakeholders, not just the ones that make large campaign contributions.</p> <p>Left out of the last round of discussions, advocates insist that any discussion of renewing the program should be held in full view. They want the housing committees of the legislature to hold hearings to consider alternatives to 421-a. "Everything in Albany is done in secret," said Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC. "You would expect the housing committees to hold public hearings on this, but that is just not convenient."</p> <p>"I would like to see more of a public discussion so that maybe REBNY will come and tell us what happened in negotiations," said Thomas Waters of the Community Service Society, referring to the Real Estate Board of New York, the major association of developers and one of the two main parties left to negotiate an extension of 421-a.</p> <p>"No other interest gets this kind of special treatment," Waters said, referring to real estate. REBNY and individual developers are known to be among the most prolific campaign donors and spenders throughout New York.</p> <p>Dan MacEntee, spokesperson for state Senator Betty Little, who chairs the Senate committee on housing, said that there had yet to be any discussions on hearings. "The Senator does recognize the impact of the program and would like to see it continue," MacEntee told Gotham Gazette of 421-a. Little, a Republican, represents several upstate towns.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Assembly Member Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat who chairs the Assembly housing committee, said that Wright was not available for comment.</p> <p>Senator Liz Krueger, a Democratic member of the Senate housing committee, believes that there should be a joint hearing of the legislature's housing and finance committees before anything on 421-a is decided, given that the program deals with housing and taxes. Krueger told Gotham Gazette <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6038-negotiations-to-extend-important-affordable-housing-tax-break-said-to-reach-impasse" target="_blank">last year</a> that she would like to see 421-a replaced with a more efficient program.</p> <p>However, many legislators and advocates say that REBNY is pushing Cuomo and legislators to move quickly on a basic renewal, and one that either does away with Cuomo's insistence last year that prevailing wages for labor are included, or sets a lower increase than the building trades council sought during private meetings.</p> <p>REBNY President John Banks recently wrote in Real Estate Weekly that he is committed to working with stakeholders to "address the need for more rental housing" while pushing back against calls from labor and Cuomo to include a prevailing wage requirement.</p> <p>"Given the high cost of property taxes, land costs and construction costs, most owners will opt to do something else rather than build multi-family rental housing with a substantial below market component unless there is a tax benefit program like 421a in place," <a href="http://rew-online.com/2016/01/27/it%CA%BCs-a-daunting-task-but-rebny-is-committed-to-affordable-home-building/" target="_blank">wrote Banks</a>.</p> <p>"For example, in the absence of a tax benefit program like 421-a, in many areas of the City, owners will build market rate condominiums where sales prices can offset the high cost of new development (e.g., property taxes, construction, land)."</p> <p>Advocates say the city simply isn't getting the return on its investment through 421-a and that if the creation of affordable housing is what is motivating public officials then finding a more efficient alternative is paramount.</p> <p>"The first step is to let 421-a die and spend the money on other housing programs," Waters told Gotham Gazette. "Rather than a program that provides the right to a tax break I'd like to see something like the federal low-income tax credit and have developers apply and have the credit go to those who provide the most affordability."</p> <p>Tenant advocates have long decried the 421-a program as terribly inefficient.</p> <p>Waters research has shown that 421-a has only produced one affordable apartment for every $833,000 in tax breaks. "Before the state acted to renew 421-a last June, New York City was foregoing $1.1 billion in revenue each year for a program that led to no more than 1,275 apartments per year," Waters recently <a href="http://nyslant.com/article/opinion/why-421-a-doesnt-deserve-to-be-saved.html" target="_blank">wrote in NY Slant</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, advocates point out that provisions in the state's rent laws allow landlords to deregulate 20,000 affordable apartments a year, with landlords voluntarily reporting the deregulation of around 6,000 affordable apartments each year.</p> <p>"As far as I'm concerned the lapse of 421-a can only be a good thing," said McKee of Tenants PAC. "It is an absurdly inefficient way to get affordable housing. Even if you deliberately tried to create an inefficient program it would be hard to end up with something as absurd as 421-a. I could design a better program than 421-a in my sleep."</p> <p>A number of observers see <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">the failure to renegotiate 421-a</a> as just another example of how the feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo has impacted public policy. Last year de Blasio announced a deal with developers to renew 421-a - the mayor was anxious to renew the program that is a key piece of his promise to build 80,000 units of affordable housing over ten years.</p> <p>Cuomo countered, saying de Blasio had a reached a sweetheart deal with developers and <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/236753/cuomo-de-blasio-upset-the-421-a-applecart/" target="_blank">blamed the plan</a> for disrupting the legislature's negotiations. In the end, Cuomo and legislators reached a deal that included much of de Blasio's plan. It mandated that 25 to 30 percent of projects be set aside for affordable housing, banned most coops and condos from receiving abatements, and increased the length of the abatement from 25 to 35 years. All of that came with the caveat that real estate and labor had to come to a deal on wages.</p> <p>Now many doubt de Blasio will have much of a say at all on the program as legislative leaders and the governor negotiate behind closed doors. Gov. Cuomo has spoken to the importance of reestablishing an affordable housing program at the state level. The de Blasio administration has lamented the loss of 421-a while simultaneously downplaying its importance.</p> <p>"Having every single set of a tools at our disposal is optimal," Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen told Gotham Gazette when asked about the uncertainty around the 421-a program. Glen noted that the city has several programs at its disposal to encourage the construction of affordable housing but each one is important. "Not one of these individual levers not being available will undermine our efforts or significantly impact our plan, but not having something, a tax incentive...like 421a, you know, does hinder our ability to do what's really important...which is to make sure that there is affordable housing in every corner of the city."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
In Albany, State Senators Ambush De Blasio on Property Tax Reform 2016-01-26T23:32:43+00:00 2016-01-26T23:32:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6117:in-albany-state-senators-ambush-de-blasio-on-property-tax-reform kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24262206039_587d3c0fdf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio albany" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio in Albany Tuesday (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio surely wasn't expecting a warm reception in Albany Tuesday, but he walked into an ambush. In front of a bipartisan group of state legislators, de Blasio sat for a grueling, nearly five-hour budget testimony. Senate Republicans peppered the mayor with questions about instituting a property tax cap in the city, taking away from any focus on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">budget proposals</a> that would shift state Medicaid and CUNY costs to the city and changing the political dynamics of the budget dance between the city and state.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Senate finance chair Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican who appeared determined to push de Blasio on the property tax issue as well as his opposition to the city paying more for CUNY and Medicaid. At least one legislator suggested he would give de Blasio his support in a fight against Cuomo's proposed cost shifts in exchange for the mayor's support for a property tax cap. De Blasio indicated in a brief conversation with reporters later in the day that Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had told him during their private meeting that he was not proposing such an exchange.</p> <p>De Blasio pushed back against the proposed two percent tax cap saying that while his budgeting so far has kept well within the parameters of the Senate bill - which, not coincidentally, passed in the chamber while de Blasio was testifying nearby - he is "philosophically" opposed to such a cap.</p> <p>"One thing I'm adamant about is presenting budgets that do not include a property tax increase," said de Blasio, whose aides were quick to present members of media with data indicating that city homeowners pay the lowest property tax rates in the state and that a cap would cost the city billions in revenue each year.</p> <p>While de Blasio is not raising property tax rates, homeowners do pay increasing property taxes as the values of their homes rise.</p> <p>Traditionally mayors and representatives for localities from across the state travel to the legislature's joint budget hearing on local government to give their evaluations of the governor's proposed budget while pushing for more funding. This year de Blasio was expected to focus on key aspects of his own agenda that need continued funding and the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would shift additional costs onto the city, estimated to cost the city well over one billion dollars annually. De Blasio is also looking to renew mayoral control of schools and advance his affordable housing plan, which hit a major snag when negotiations to renew the 421-a tax break failed.</p> <p>However, Senate Republicans appeared fixated on keeping de Blasio on the defensive by repeatedly pushing the tax cap proposal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature passed a two percent local and school-based property tax cap in 2011, though New York City is the only locality excluded. The property tax cap is the only tax the city controls independently of the state. Both Queens Sen. Tony Avella, of the Independent Democratic Conference, and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island, insisted property taxes were driving the middle class out of the city. It was a contention that de Blasio refuted.</p> <p>In what is sure to be an extremely sensitive topic for the rest of session, de Blasio pressed the legislature to renew mayoral control of schools permanently, or for at least seven years as it had done before he was mayor. De Blasio received just a one year extension last year and Gov. Cuomo has called for a three-year extension.</p> <p>Last year Senate Republicans held the issue over de Blasio's head seemingly in retribution for his involvement in efforts to help Democrats win the chamber. The policy is now up for renewal again during an election year when de Blasio has indicated he will again help Senate Democrats.</p> <p>The mayor touted increasing graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and the successful implementation of universal pre-kindergarten.</p> <p>"Successes like these are why there's bipartisan consensus on mayoral control and that is why educators, business leaders, civic leaders alike want it renewed," de Blasio testified. "It would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range change that is needed."</p> <p>De Blasio also used portions of his testimony to compliment Cuomo on prioritizing supportive housing, affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage, and a paid family leave proposal. He also praised the continued push for the Dream Act and raising the age of criminal responsibility, two policies the governor and Assembly Democrats have backed, but that have run into opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Sen. Young, who represents parts of western New York, and her colleagues pushed back against complaints de Blasio made about Cuomo's plan to shift costs for Medicaid and CUNY onto the city. She insisted the city is "awash in money right now" and implied that the city gets more than its fair share in Medicaid funding from the state. Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, sought to contradict the assertion when she had time to speak and ask the mayor questions.</p> <p>"So, Senator Young brought up the amount of Medicaid money New York City gets compared to the rest of the state," said Krueger. "Do we get special rules for New York City? Or is it just a ration of the number of poor people drawing down Medicaid throughout the state, and the New York City share?"</p> <p>Dean Fuleihan, de Blasio's budget director, responded that the city does not set its rate of Medicaid reimbursement and does not get a rate different than any other municipality in the state.</p> <p>Krueger continued that strategy of questioning while discussing Cuomo's proposal to shift more costs for CUNY onto the city. "In fact, this proposal that the governor's making, what it does is shift a greater burden to the locality for CUNY students than for SUNY students," said Krueger.</p> <p>"That's correct," Fuleihan replied.</p> <p>"And is it true that CUNY students are already lower-income on average than SUNY students throughout the state?" Krueger asked. "Correct," said Fuleihan.</p> <p>Democrats weren't just coming to de Blasio's defense, though. Sen. Bill Perkins pressed the mayor on his relationship with charter schools, while others expressed concerns that his housing plans could lead to gentrification and wondered about the efficacy of the 421-a program, which de Blasio wants to see renewed, albeit with his desired changes.</p> <p>Toward the end of the hearing de Blasio and Young appeared to try to find common ground on housing despite the fact that Young said that she would like to see an end to affordable housing regulations.</p> <p>Young encouraged de Blasio to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. De Blasio responded by pointing to 421-a. "We think there is a solution available given the plan we put forward that had widespread support," said de Blasio, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">referencing his plan to renew 421-a</a> that was scrapped when Cuomo and the legislature decided to let developers and unions negotiate the wages portion of the bill and they could not come to an agreement.</p> <p>Young then pushed de Blasio to pick whether he favored the budget from the last fiscal year or the governor's current plan. "There are so many unanswered questions in the current budget, I can't answer that question," de Blasio said. Cuomo has yet to outline how he will pay for major construction projects, including the revamp of Penn Station and the city's airports. The governor also has general outlines of housing plans that his policy book promises will be fleshed out in the coming weeks. Further, Cuomo indicated he would abandon plans to shift costs from CUNY and Medicaid to the city if "efficiencies" can be found by the city and state working collaboratively. "There are a lot of elements of this budget we don't have the full facts on," said de Blasio, adding that he was very appreciative of the governor's supportive housing proposal.</p> <p>Young said it was clear to her that de Blasio should favor this year's proposed budget over last year's enacted. "From what I can see there are significant investments to the city across the board," said Young.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">De Blasio Releases Cautious $82 Billion Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24262206039_587d3c0fdf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio albany" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio in Albany Tuesday (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio surely wasn't expecting a warm reception in Albany Tuesday, but he walked into an ambush. In front of a bipartisan group of state legislators, de Blasio sat for a grueling, nearly five-hour budget testimony. Senate Republicans peppered the mayor with questions about instituting a property tax cap in the city, taking away from any focus on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">budget proposals</a> that would shift state Medicaid and CUNY costs to the city and changing the political dynamics of the budget dance between the city and state.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Senate finance chair Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican who appeared determined to push de Blasio on the property tax issue as well as his opposition to the city paying more for CUNY and Medicaid. At least one legislator suggested he would give de Blasio his support in a fight against Cuomo's proposed cost shifts in exchange for the mayor's support for a property tax cap. De Blasio indicated in a brief conversation with reporters later in the day that Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had told him during their private meeting that he was not proposing such an exchange.</p> <p>De Blasio pushed back against the proposed two percent tax cap saying that while his budgeting so far has kept well within the parameters of the Senate bill - which, not coincidentally, passed in the chamber while de Blasio was testifying nearby - he is "philosophically" opposed to such a cap.</p> <p>"One thing I'm adamant about is presenting budgets that do not include a property tax increase," said de Blasio, whose aides were quick to present members of media with data indicating that city homeowners pay the lowest property tax rates in the state and that a cap would cost the city billions in revenue each year.</p> <p>While de Blasio is not raising property tax rates, homeowners do pay increasing property taxes as the values of their homes rise.</p> <p>Traditionally mayors and representatives for localities from across the state travel to the legislature's joint budget hearing on local government to give their evaluations of the governor's proposed budget while pushing for more funding. This year de Blasio was expected to focus on key aspects of his own agenda that need continued funding and the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would shift additional costs onto the city, estimated to cost the city well over one billion dollars annually. De Blasio is also looking to renew mayoral control of schools and advance his affordable housing plan, which hit a major snag when negotiations to renew the 421-a tax break failed.</p> <p>However, Senate Republicans appeared fixated on keeping de Blasio on the defensive by repeatedly pushing the tax cap proposal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature passed a two percent local and school-based property tax cap in 2011, though New York City is the only locality excluded. The property tax cap is the only tax the city controls independently of the state. Both Queens Sen. Tony Avella, of the Independent Democratic Conference, and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island, insisted property taxes were driving the middle class out of the city. It was a contention that de Blasio refuted.</p> <p>In what is sure to be an extremely sensitive topic for the rest of session, de Blasio pressed the legislature to renew mayoral control of schools permanently, or for at least seven years as it had done before he was mayor. De Blasio received just a one year extension last year and Gov. Cuomo has called for a three-year extension.</p> <p>Last year Senate Republicans held the issue over de Blasio's head seemingly in retribution for his involvement in efforts to help Democrats win the chamber. The policy is now up for renewal again during an election year when de Blasio has indicated he will again help Senate Democrats.</p> <p>The mayor touted increasing graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and the successful implementation of universal pre-kindergarten.</p> <p>"Successes like these are why there's bipartisan consensus on mayoral control and that is why educators, business leaders, civic leaders alike want it renewed," de Blasio testified. "It would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range change that is needed."</p> <p>De Blasio also used portions of his testimony to compliment Cuomo on prioritizing supportive housing, affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage, and a paid family leave proposal. He also praised the continued push for the Dream Act and raising the age of criminal responsibility, two policies the governor and Assembly Democrats have backed, but that have run into opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Sen. Young, who represents parts of western New York, and her colleagues pushed back against complaints de Blasio made about Cuomo's plan to shift costs for Medicaid and CUNY onto the city. She insisted the city is "awash in money right now" and implied that the city gets more than its fair share in Medicaid funding from the state. Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, sought to contradict the assertion when she had time to speak and ask the mayor questions.</p> <p>"So, Senator Young brought up the amount of Medicaid money New York City gets compared to the rest of the state," said Krueger. "Do we get special rules for New York City? Or is it just a ration of the number of poor people drawing down Medicaid throughout the state, and the New York City share?"</p> <p>Dean Fuleihan, de Blasio's budget director, responded that the city does not set its rate of Medicaid reimbursement and does not get a rate different than any other municipality in the state.</p> <p>Krueger continued that strategy of questioning while discussing Cuomo's proposal to shift more costs for CUNY onto the city. "In fact, this proposal that the governor's making, what it does is shift a greater burden to the locality for CUNY students than for SUNY students," said Krueger.</p> <p>"That's correct," Fuleihan replied.</p> <p>"And is it true that CUNY students are already lower-income on average than SUNY students throughout the state?" Krueger asked. "Correct," said Fuleihan.</p> <p>Democrats weren't just coming to de Blasio's defense, though. Sen. Bill Perkins pressed the mayor on his relationship with charter schools, while others expressed concerns that his housing plans could lead to gentrification and wondered about the efficacy of the 421-a program, which de Blasio wants to see renewed, albeit with his desired changes.</p> <p>Toward the end of the hearing de Blasio and Young appeared to try to find common ground on housing despite the fact that Young said that she would like to see an end to affordable housing regulations.</p> <p>Young encouraged de Blasio to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. De Blasio responded by pointing to 421-a. "We think there is a solution available given the plan we put forward that had widespread support," said de Blasio, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">referencing his plan to renew 421-a</a> that was scrapped when Cuomo and the legislature decided to let developers and unions negotiate the wages portion of the bill and they could not come to an agreement.</p> <p>Young then pushed de Blasio to pick whether he favored the budget from the last fiscal year or the governor's current plan. "There are so many unanswered questions in the current budget, I can't answer that question," de Blasio said. Cuomo has yet to outline how he will pay for major construction projects, including the revamp of Penn Station and the city's airports. The governor also has general outlines of housing plans that his policy book promises will be fleshed out in the coming weeks. Further, Cuomo indicated he would abandon plans to shift costs from CUNY and Medicaid to the city if "efficiencies" can be found by the city and state working collaboratively. "There are a lot of elements of this budget we don't have the full facts on," said de Blasio, adding that he was very appreciative of the governor's supportive housing proposal.</p> <p>Young said it was clear to her that de Blasio should favor this year's proposed budget over last year's enacted. "From what I can see there are significant investments to the city across the board," said Young.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">De Blasio Releases Cautious $82 Billion Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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De Blasio Heads to Albany to Fund Agenda, Fight Cuts 2016-01-26T01:24:50+00:00 2016-01-26T01:24:50+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6113:de-blasio-heads-to-albany-to-fund-agenda-fight-cuts Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24565939995_5effcb4b09_z.jpg" alt="de blasio car snow" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Thirteen days after his most recent visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio heads back to Albany Tuesday morning to testify about the city's needs and progress, and to evaluate Governor Andrew Cuomo's Executive Budget.</p> <p>In front of members of the state Senate and Assembly at a joint legislative budget hearing, de Blasio is expected to push for increased state funding for key aspects of his inequality-fighting agenda and an extension of mayoral control of city schools, while also insisting that the state not go through with potential cuts to city aid outlined by the governor.</p> <p>De Blasio's testimony, including question-and-answer with lawmakers, is likely to touch upon the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">recently expired</a> 421-a real estate tax abatement program, which is meant to spur affordable housing and is seen as essential to the mayor's goals. The program, in existence for decades, expired on Jan. 15. Three days later de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "I'm deeply disappointed that the way it was pursued has failed, in terms of the Albany process. And Albany has a chance to make it right and fix it because this is crucial to continuing the work we need to do to create affordable housing."</p> <p>Other key topics the mayor is likely to address include his management of homelessness and schools, the city-state share of the MTA capital plan, overall education funding the city receives, and the mayor's Vision Zero traffic safety program. At a recent press conference outlining progress in reducing pedestrian fatalities, de Blasio indicated that he'll be asking the state for further investments in Vision Zero, including to allow the city to run its school zone speed cameras 24-hours-a-day as opposed to only during school hours, as is the case now.</p> <p>When de Blasio was last in Albany on Jan. 13, he met with Cuomo for about thirty minutes and then watched from the third row as Cuomo delivered his State of the State and budget address. Immediately after, de Blasio found much to praise in the governor's 2016 platform, including planned investments in supportive housing and calls for increasing the minimum wage and passing paid family leave. However, de Blasio also learned that day that Cuomo's Fiscal Year 2017 budget plan includes significant cuts to state aid to the city for CUNY and Medicaid.</p> <p>De Blasio reacted cautiously that day, but had harsher words the next, after he and his budget team had had more time to review Cuomo's plan. De Blasio pledged to "fight them by any means necessary."</p> <p>The mayor helped stir a bit of a groundswell from budget watchdogs and like-minded legislators. The governor quickly said that the cuts were the start of a negotiation, that he was outlining plans for finding "efficiencies" in cooperation with the city for the two jointly-run programs. He promised that his plan "won't cost New York City a penny."</p> <p>De Blasio quickly praised the governor's promise and has said repeatedly since that he will hold him to it.</p> <p>When outlining <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">his own preliminary fiscal 2017 budget</a> on Jan. 21, de Blasio did not account for potential cuts to CUNY and Medicaid, which could cost $1 billion annually. Instead, he said of the governor, "He said he wants to find collaborative process to find reforms and savings. That's something we would always be happy to engage in, but we cannot accept a cut that would undermine the education of our young people or the healthcare of our people. So, you know, we'll work in good faith, and we'll work from the assumption – given what he said – that we do not have to lay out what almost a billion dollars in cuts would mean for the people of New York City. If anything changes, we'll certainly speak to it."</p> <p>On <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/did-you-get-snowedin/" target="_blank">Monday's Brian Lehrer Show</a> on WNYC, de Blasio sounded a similar tune, saying, "We want to make sure New York City is treated fairly throughout and we're pleased that the governor is saying that CUNY and Medicaid cuts they originally proposed would not cost us – the city – "a penny," and we respect that, but we will also hold them to that."</p> <p>The issue will be a key aspect of the mayor's testimony on Tuesday. He's also likely to touch on a couple of other ways in which it appears Cuomo is trying to pad state funds at the expense of the city, including the governor's seeking city debt savings that he thinks the state is entitled to, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8588758/state-tries-claw-back-650m-new-york-city" target="_blank">as reported by</a> Politico New York.</p> <p>Still, the mayor is sure to have a lot of praise for Cuomo's budget Tuesday - not only are the two experiencing a calm patch in their largely antagonistic relationship, but de Blasio appears genuinely appreciative of much of what Cuomo is putting forward.</p> <p>As Cuomo has shifted left over the past six months, de Blasio has liked what he's seen from the governor on the minimum wage and other more progressive policies. He seems especially pleased with Cuomo's $20 billion commitment to housing and homelessness over the next five years, though it is not clear how much of that is going to New York City-based efforts (the governor's State of the State policy book says more specific housing plans will be unveiled in the next few weeks).</p> <p>To combat homelessness Cuomo has pledged a major investment in supportive housing, which matches an announcement de Blasio made late last year, and affordable housing. After rolling out his pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio has turned to affordable housing as the top priority of his tenure.</p> <p>Education is never far from the top of any mayor's agenda, of course. While de Blasio is pleased that Cuomo is calling for a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools - the same that Cuomo proposed last year, before agreeing to just one year - the mayor is again asking that the state make the system permanent. "I want to be clear about what's working for the children of New York City and mayoral control clearly works," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference. He called the old school board system rife with "chaos and corruption," and said, "mayoral control works, it makes things happen, it's the reason we got pre-K done in two years."</p> <p>De Blasio's frustrations over last year's Albany deals on mayoral control, as well as the governor's handling of 421-a and rent regulations, led to de Blasio's infamous June 30, 2015 tirade against the governor.</p> <p>Since they met on Jan. 13, de Blasio and Cuomo have been on solid, fairly positive terms - each has gone out of his way to praise the other, they report to be speaking more regularly by phone, in part provoked by the major weekend snowstorm, and they have avoided direct criticism of one another.</p> <p>How the mayor speaks Tuesday about the governor and Cuomo's budget will have the ear of many. If de Blasio says anything the governor feels is out of turn, Cuomo is all but sure to address it through the media almost immediately.</p> <p>"We're never going to say to a governor, 'everything you do is right' or 'everything you do is wrong' when it comes to New York City," de Blasio said Monday. He added that he will maintain his ongoing standard to call it like he sees it, mixing praise with criticism as needed.</p> <p>De Blasio is set to meet with Cuomo in person on Tuesday, as well as Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, <a href="http://m.nydailynews.com/news/politics/john-flanagan-finally-agrees-meet-mayor-de-blasio-article-1.2509083?cid=bitly" target="_blank">according to</a>&nbsp;the Daily News. If de Blasio is able to stay on good terms with Cuomo, which is no given, it may be Flanagan who is the largest impediment to de Blasio's agenda. Flanagan has expressed concerns about de Blasio's handling of city schools, including the mayor's opposition to charter schools.</p> <p>In meeting with Flanagan and in front of other legislators at the budget hearing, de Blasio is likely to defend mayoral control by citing progress under his leadership in terms of increasing graduation rates and student scores on state standardized tests (which are still far too low according to critics). De Blasio has also outlined new education programs under an "Equity and Excellence" banner, which cost millions and may feature in his requests for additional funding. The mayor is among those who continue to call on the state to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, by which the city is still owed billions in state education money.</p> <p>During his testimony in front of lawmakers, de Blasio may harken back to much of what he said last year in the same position - including his defense of mayoral control, requests for additional education funding, and state investment in affordable housing.</p> <p>"New York City has 43% of the State's population," de Blasio told legislators during his testimony on Feb. 25, 2015, "and a New York City Department of Finance analysis shows that 50% of New York State tax revenues are attributable to New York City." But, he said, according to a report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who will also testify Tuesday, state revenue has dipped to about 15% of the city budget, down from an average of about 19% between 1985 and 2009. This change, the mayor said, amounted to what would have been an additional $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2014.</p> <p>With the city on strong financial footing, it is unclear how receptive state lawmakers will be to any requests de Blasio makes for additional funding, but there is always a large contingent of New York City-based legislators in Albany, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx.</p> <p>De Blasio recently called his first two Albany budget testimonies as mayor "very productive conversations."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24565939995_5effcb4b09_z.jpg" alt="de blasio car snow" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Thirteen days after his most recent visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio heads back to Albany Tuesday morning to testify about the city's needs and progress, and to evaluate Governor Andrew Cuomo's Executive Budget.</p> <p>In front of members of the state Senate and Assembly at a joint legislative budget hearing, de Blasio is expected to push for increased state funding for key aspects of his inequality-fighting agenda and an extension of mayoral control of city schools, while also insisting that the state not go through with potential cuts to city aid outlined by the governor.</p> <p>De Blasio's testimony, including question-and-answer with lawmakers, is likely to touch upon the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">recently expired</a> 421-a real estate tax abatement program, which is meant to spur affordable housing and is seen as essential to the mayor's goals. The program, in existence for decades, expired on Jan. 15. Three days later de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">told reporters</a>, "I'm deeply disappointed that the way it was pursued has failed, in terms of the Albany process. And Albany has a chance to make it right and fix it because this is crucial to continuing the work we need to do to create affordable housing."</p> <p>Other key topics the mayor is likely to address include his management of homelessness and schools, the city-state share of the MTA capital plan, overall education funding the city receives, and the mayor's Vision Zero traffic safety program. At a recent press conference outlining progress in reducing pedestrian fatalities, de Blasio indicated that he'll be asking the state for further investments in Vision Zero, including to allow the city to run its school zone speed cameras 24-hours-a-day as opposed to only during school hours, as is the case now.</p> <p>When de Blasio was last in Albany on Jan. 13, he met with Cuomo for about thirty minutes and then watched from the third row as Cuomo delivered his State of the State and budget address. Immediately after, de Blasio found much to praise in the governor's 2016 platform, including planned investments in supportive housing and calls for increasing the minimum wage and passing paid family leave. However, de Blasio also learned that day that Cuomo's Fiscal Year 2017 budget plan includes significant cuts to state aid to the city for CUNY and Medicaid.</p> <p>De Blasio reacted cautiously that day, but had harsher words the next, after he and his budget team had had more time to review Cuomo's plan. De Blasio pledged to "fight them by any means necessary."</p> <p>The mayor helped stir a bit of a groundswell from budget watchdogs and like-minded legislators. The governor quickly said that the cuts were the start of a negotiation, that he was outlining plans for finding "efficiencies" in cooperation with the city for the two jointly-run programs. He promised that his plan "won't cost New York City a penny."</p> <p>De Blasio quickly praised the governor's promise and has said repeatedly since that he will hold him to it.</p> <p>When outlining <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">his own preliminary fiscal 2017 budget</a> on Jan. 21, de Blasio did not account for potential cuts to CUNY and Medicaid, which could cost $1 billion annually. Instead, he said of the governor, "He said he wants to find collaborative process to find reforms and savings. That's something we would always be happy to engage in, but we cannot accept a cut that would undermine the education of our young people or the healthcare of our people. So, you know, we'll work in good faith, and we'll work from the assumption – given what he said – that we do not have to lay out what almost a billion dollars in cuts would mean for the people of New York City. If anything changes, we'll certainly speak to it."</p> <p>On <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/did-you-get-snowedin/" target="_blank">Monday's Brian Lehrer Show</a> on WNYC, de Blasio sounded a similar tune, saying, "We want to make sure New York City is treated fairly throughout and we're pleased that the governor is saying that CUNY and Medicaid cuts they originally proposed would not cost us – the city – "a penny," and we respect that, but we will also hold them to that."</p> <p>The issue will be a key aspect of the mayor's testimony on Tuesday. He's also likely to touch on a couple of other ways in which it appears Cuomo is trying to pad state funds at the expense of the city, including the governor's seeking city debt savings that he thinks the state is entitled to, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8588758/state-tries-claw-back-650m-new-york-city" target="_blank">as reported by</a> Politico New York.</p> <p>Still, the mayor is sure to have a lot of praise for Cuomo's budget Tuesday - not only are the two experiencing a calm patch in their largely antagonistic relationship, but de Blasio appears genuinely appreciative of much of what Cuomo is putting forward.</p> <p>As Cuomo has shifted left over the past six months, de Blasio has liked what he's seen from the governor on the minimum wage and other more progressive policies. He seems especially pleased with Cuomo's $20 billion commitment to housing and homelessness over the next five years, though it is not clear how much of that is going to New York City-based efforts (the governor's State of the State policy book says more specific housing plans will be unveiled in the next few weeks).</p> <p>To combat homelessness Cuomo has pledged a major investment in supportive housing, which matches an announcement de Blasio made late last year, and affordable housing. After rolling out his pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio has turned to affordable housing as the top priority of his tenure.</p> <p>Education is never far from the top of any mayor's agenda, of course. While de Blasio is pleased that Cuomo is calling for a three-year extension of mayoral control of city schools - the same that Cuomo proposed last year, before agreeing to just one year - the mayor is again asking that the state make the system permanent. "I want to be clear about what's working for the children of New York City and mayoral control clearly works," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference. He called the old school board system rife with "chaos and corruption," and said, "mayoral control works, it makes things happen, it's the reason we got pre-K done in two years."</p> <p>De Blasio's frustrations over last year's Albany deals on mayoral control, as well as the governor's handling of 421-a and rent regulations, led to de Blasio's infamous June 30, 2015 tirade against the governor.</p> <p>Since they met on Jan. 13, de Blasio and Cuomo have been on solid, fairly positive terms - each has gone out of his way to praise the other, they report to be speaking more regularly by phone, in part provoked by the major weekend snowstorm, and they have avoided direct criticism of one another.</p> <p>How the mayor speaks Tuesday about the governor and Cuomo's budget will have the ear of many. If de Blasio says anything the governor feels is out of turn, Cuomo is all but sure to address it through the media almost immediately.</p> <p>"We're never going to say to a governor, 'everything you do is right' or 'everything you do is wrong' when it comes to New York City," de Blasio said Monday. He added that he will maintain his ongoing standard to call it like he sees it, mixing praise with criticism as needed.</p> <p>De Blasio is set to meet with Cuomo in person on Tuesday, as well as Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, <a href="http://m.nydailynews.com/news/politics/john-flanagan-finally-agrees-meet-mayor-de-blasio-article-1.2509083?cid=bitly" target="_blank">according to</a>&nbsp;the Daily News. If de Blasio is able to stay on good terms with Cuomo, which is no given, it may be Flanagan who is the largest impediment to de Blasio's agenda. Flanagan has expressed concerns about de Blasio's handling of city schools, including the mayor's opposition to charter schools.</p> <p>In meeting with Flanagan and in front of other legislators at the budget hearing, de Blasio is likely to defend mayoral control by citing progress under his leadership in terms of increasing graduation rates and student scores on state standardized tests (which are still far too low according to critics). De Blasio has also outlined new education programs under an "Equity and Excellence" banner, which cost millions and may feature in his requests for additional funding. The mayor is among those who continue to call on the state to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, by which the city is still owed billions in state education money.</p> <p>During his testimony in front of lawmakers, de Blasio may harken back to much of what he said last year in the same position - including his defense of mayoral control, requests for additional education funding, and state investment in affordable housing.</p> <p>"New York City has 43% of the State's population," de Blasio told legislators during his testimony on Feb. 25, 2015, "and a New York City Department of Finance analysis shows that 50% of New York State tax revenues are attributable to New York City." But, he said, according to a report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who will also testify Tuesday, state revenue has dipped to about 15% of the city budget, down from an average of about 19% between 1985 and 2009. This change, the mayor said, amounted to what would have been an additional $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2014.</p> <p>With the city on strong financial footing, it is unclear how receptive state lawmakers will be to any requests de Blasio makes for additional funding, but there is always a large contingent of New York City-based legislators in Albany, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx.</p> <p>De Blasio recently called his first two Albany budget testimonies as mayor "very productive conversations."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p>