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/bill-de-blasio 2019-01-19T15:07:43+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com As Acting Public Advocate, Johnson Eyes Information Commission Revived by James But Killed by De Blasio 2019-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8200-as-acting-public-advocate-johnson-eyes-information-commission-revived-by-james-but-killed-by-de-blasio Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46672397441_d47ec97d1e_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Tish James" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A charter-mandated city commission meant to help New Yorkers access information about their government sputtered to a stop in 2016 owing to a lack of funding, barely three years after being revived by former Public Advocate Letitia James. Now, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also acting public advocate for the next several weeks, is taking up James’ unfinished business and attempting to raise the commission from its grave.</p> <p>The Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC) was created in the City Charter in 1989 with a mandate of informing the public about data created and maintained by the city and helping New Yorkers access it. Chaired by the public advocate, the commission is meant to regularly examine the city’s information policies as well as monitor agency efforts to comply with them.</p> <p>The charter requires the commission to hold at least one hearing each year and issue an annual report. COPIC must also annually publish a directory of “computerized information produced or maintained by city agencies which is required by law to be publicly accessible,” though it has not done so since perhaps the 1990s. The commission does not have a website, despite being in existence for 20 years, and records of past meetings and reports are not easily accessible (the public advocate’s website hosted some of this information but was archived once James vacated her seat).</p> <p>The commission was also tasked with evaluating the implementation of the city’s webcasting law, passed in 2013 and requiring agencies to broadcast meetings online and archive them. In 2015, James’ second year as public advocate, the commission was exploring ways to assist agencies with their webcasting requirements and setting up a central repository of all webcasts.</p> <p>The body’s membership, all unpaid, is meant to comprise the heads of several city agencies or their delegates including the city Law Department, the Department of Records and Information Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; one City Council member; two other members appointed by the mayor; one member appointed by the public advocate; and one appointed by the borough presidents as a group.</p> <p>But COPIC hasn’t held a hearing since March 2016 when James was in the midst of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6025-little-known-commission-expands-access-to-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">her attempt to rescue the commission</a> from bureaucratic apathy only to be denied resources by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. As James’ predecessor in the public advocate’s office, de Blasio himself had only convened one hearing of the commission. The public advocate’s office receives little funding for its own duties, let alone to hire staff for COPIC.</p> <p>It’s unclear why James did not continue her advocacy for the commission after having revived it with some fanfare early in her tenure (her office even created <a href="https://twitter.com/COPICNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new Twitter account</a> just for COPIC). A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>When James was sworn in as New York’s attorney general, the public advocate office fell to Speaker Johnson’s stewardship until a new public advocate is chosen by voters in a special election scheduled for February 26. In the limited time available to him, Johnson is eyeing several avenues of his expanded responsibilities. “I absolutely want an active COPIC, and I want to build on the work Tish James did as Public Advocate in this area,” Johnson said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “This is something she fought for and it’s something I want to keep working on in my time as acting Public Advocate.”</p> <p>One reason that COPIC has been unable to publish the requisite public data directory is because the Law Department argued in 2014 that the city’s Open Data portal already accomplishes this goal. But Johnson’s office disagrees. A spokesperson said that though the two databases have significant overlap, COPIC’s public data directory could and would go further, identifying new datasets that members of the public can then request under the city’s Freedom of Information law. The Open Data portal, on the other hand, relies on agencies self-identifying datasets that they believe should be subject to the open data law. Earlier this month, Johnson sent a letter to the mayor requesting that information with a February 15 deadline for a response.</p> <p>“We’ll look into it,” said mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips, in an email, when asked about the speaker’s letter and the lack of funding for COPIC.</p> <p>Manhattan City Council Member Ben Kallos, who was the Council’s pick to be on the commission, said the fault for COPIC’s inactivity lies solely with the mayor’s office as he praised James for trying to resuscitate the commission. “COPIC is yet another board that is completely controlled by mayoral appointments, which has a responsibility to be a check on the mayor, which is why it has probably never been funded properly in my recent memory,” Kallos said in a phone interview, noting that the mayor chooses seven of the 11 COPIC commissioners. “COPIC is a powerful agency in the charter which has been written out of the charter by a chronic defunding of the agency as a whole.”</p> <p>Kallos requested funding for the agency in three successive budgets. In 2015, several civic technology groups and good government advocacy organizations also joined that push, including Common Cause New York, Citizens Union, the New York Public Interest Research Group, BetaNYC, Civic Hall, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, and the Women’s City Club of New York. “Given the promise of COPIC to increase public accessibility of city government meetings, data and information, we request the modest budget of $250,000 for staffing of COPIC to ensure it is able to fulfill the duties outlined in the City Charter,” the groups wrote in a 2015 letter. That funding is estimated to be sufficient to hire a full-time executive director and general counsel, which the charter mandates.</p> <p>Kallos was disappointed that those calls went unheeded. “The mayor never included it in the budget. I pushed for it. Tish pushed for it. The good government community pushed for it,” he said. The most impactful role that COPIC could play, Kallos said, is providing advisory opinions to members of the public, elected officials, and city agencies about laws requiring public access to meetings, transcripts and records.</p> <p>“COPIC has the potential to be the equivalent of the Committee on Open Government at the state level,” he said, referring to the state agency that gives the public, press, and state government advice on the state Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law, and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Kallos said he would advocate for the 2019 Charter Revision Commission to strengthen COPIC’s powers.</p> <p>“You can only expect people to work for so long without being compensated for their work, and with the federal government shut down, we’re seeing those limits tested,” Kallos said. “In this case we have COPIC being operated and moved forward for three years without any funding and I hope that people will finally fund this important agency that very few have ever heard of but would have the power to really force the executive to really open up.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
In State of the City, De Blasio Promises More from Government to Improve New Yorkers' 'Quality of Life' 2019-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8191-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-promises-more-from-government-to-improve-new-yorkers-quality-of-life Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/deblasio-appleton.jpg" alt="deblasio appleton" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio gives his 2019 State of the City (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Delivered his sixth State of the City address on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio loftily touted his accomplishments of the last five years and pledged ambitious efforts to make New York City “the fairest big city in the country.” Speaking at the Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the mayor unveiled new ideas aimed at improving the lives of working New Yorkers and reiterated sweeping proposals that he announced earlier this week on everything from health care to paid vacation days, early childhood education to bus speeds, and much more. He also outlined much, if not all, of the agenda he wants passed at the state level this year.</p> <p>Before a packed auditorium filled with fellow elected officials -- including Attorney General Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, City Council members, state legislators, and congressional representatives -- de Blasio spent nearly an hour invoking the themes of the “tale of two cities” that first got him elected mayor in 2013, with a newly stated focus on improving people’s “quality of life” and underscoring a call for the redistribution of income.</p> <p>“Life in the fairest big city in America should never feel impossible,” he said, speaking of the personal struggle that he and First Lady Chirlane McCray faced when raising their children and also caring for their ailing parents. “We shouldn’t feel such pressure on the quality of our lives.”</p> <p>The mayor articulated how working New Yorkers feel those pressures, and vowed new initiatives to provide relief. “Millions of people in this city, tens of millions across the country, are boxed in to lives that just aren't working for them,” he said. “You haven't been paid what you deserve for all the hard work. You haven't been given the time you deserve. You're not living the life you deserve.”</p> <p>Among those proposals were two that the mayor announced this week, garnering national attention by releasing the announcements through national media. The first is an expansion of the city’s health care programs to provide care to 600,000 uninsured residents by increasing enrollment of insurance-eligible individuals in the city’s public option, MetroPlus, and by creating NYC Care, which would give undocumented immigrants and those who won’t or otherwise can’t join MetroPlus access to primary and specialty care, mental health services, and more. NYC Care, which aims to provide a health care card to as many eligible individuals as possible and match all of them to a primary care doctor, is expected to cost $100 million annually once fully implemented by 2021.</p> <p>The second proposal is a push for City Council legislation, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams since 2014, to guarantee two weeks of paid personal time to workers, which the city estimates could affect more than 500,000 full-time and part-time employees who currently receive no paid time off. It would apply to anyone working at a company or organization of more than five employees.</p> <p>“For decades, working people have gotten more and more productive,” the mayor said. “At the same time, they've gotten a smaller and smaller share of the wealth they create. Here's the truth...there's plenty of money in the world. There's plenty of money in this city. It's just in the wrong hands.”</p> <p>Though de Blasio has repeatedly called on state lawmakers to increase taxes on higher earners, and he did so again on Thursday, de Blasio has not convinced Governor Andrew Cuomo or state legislators to follow his pleas. Appearing somewhat resigned to that fact, even in a new Albany era where Democrats control the executive and legislative branches, de Blasio laid out a variety of other proposals he believes will foster greater equity.</p> <p>Riding high on his successive policy announcements, the mayor seemed more emboldened and enthusiastic than during past State of the City addresses, which have at times been more sobering. Last year’s speech <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7476:de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">contained</a> few novel ideas save for his announcement that he would convene a Charter Revision Commission to explore campaign finance reforms and improvements to voting and civic participation (the commission’s eventual proposals, including lower campaign contribution limits, a new civic engagement commission, and term limits for community board members, were overwhelmingly approved by voters in November). And that speech came on the heels of a successful 2017 reelection campaign in which de Blasio offered almost no new policy plans, largely pledging to deepen and expand ongoing work.</p> <p>The mayor had more to offer on Thursday, though much of what he discussed also fits under the category of expanding existing programs, like a faster rollout of his 3-K initiative to provide free early education to three-year-olds. He announced a number of new proposals including expanding the mandate of the city’s consumer affairs department. De Blasio rechristened the agency the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, reflecting its new responsibilities of safeguarding the interests of all temporary and permanent workers, even undocumented ones, with a new focus, he said, on freelancers, nannies, and others who may not have traditional benefits through their employers.</p> <p>The mayor also signed an executive order on the spot to create a new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, aimed at tamping down tenant abuse and combating predatory landlord practices. He also vowed that in cases of the worst landlords, who fail to rectify their behavior after repeated fines and violations, the city would move to seize buildings and transfer them to nonprofit management. It’s unclear whether the new mayoral office’s mandate would overlap with the Department of Buildings’ Office of Tenant Advocate, which was created by the City Council through legislation passed in 2017.</p> <p>De Blasio also announced new public transportation initiatives, including an expansion of the NYC Ferry system, such as connecting Staten Island to the west side of Manhattan, and improvements to the bus system to ensure faster travel time, installing new protected bus lanes and an NYPD tow unit dedicated to keeping those lanes free of parked cars.</p> <p>He did of course make it clear that the greatest transit priority for the city was funding the MTA to fix the subways -- he reiterated his support for a dedicated additional tax on high earners -- but seemed to acknowledge there’s more momentum for other options like congestion pricing, which he has warmed to without actually expressing support for. He called on his fellow elected officials to lobby the state before the budget is due on April 1. “In the next 80 days, the fate of the MTA, the fate of our subways and buses, will be determined once and for all,” he said.</p> <p>Boasting of the success of his universal pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio also touted the expansion of prekindergarten to 3-year-olds, which he announced in 2017. The program is expected to reach 20,000 children in the coming school year, he said, outlining several new neighborhoods where the program will open soon. He also announced a new plan to recruit and retain more teachers at schools in the Bronx and an expansion of an existing partnership with Warby Parker to give free eye exams and glasses to kindergartners and first-graders across the city.</p> <p>Early in the speech the mayor reviewed what he sees as some of his major successes, including early childhood education, higher graduation rates, record-low crime and traffic fatalities, more tenant protection, paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, and more. He very briefly mentioned areas of significant challenge to his administration, such as management of crumbling public housing and reducing homelessness.</p> <p>At different points, de Blasio ticked off aspects of what he wants to see from state government this year, especially from now until a new state budget is due April 1, a list topped by MTA funding, but also including criminal justice and voting reforms, an extension of mayoral control of city schools, and stronger rent regulations that help protect tenants.</p> <p>Toward the end of the speech, de Blasio said the city would help establish retirement plans for all workers who lack them in the city. In 2016, the mayor had attempted to move forward with a “Retirement Security for All” plan but it was eventually hamstrung by federal regulatory changes signed by President Donald Trump in 2017. City Council Members Ben Kallos and I. Daneek Miller reintroduced the legislation before the Council earlier this year and heralded the mayor’s announcement, which follows a new state law with a similar goal. The city plans to help workers set up private retirement accounts and may mandate some businesses to offer the option for workers to make contributions to their accounts, but no public or private money will be contributed to the accounts, only a portion of workers’ income, if they choose to participate.</p> <p>“This country has spent decades taking from working people and giving to the one percent,” de Blasio said. “This city has spent the last five years doing it the other way around. We give back to working people the prosperity they have earned. And we are just getting started.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/deblasio-appleton.jpg" alt="deblasio appleton" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio gives his 2019 State of the City (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Delivered his sixth State of the City address on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio loftily touted his accomplishments of the last five years and pledged ambitious efforts to make New York City “the fairest big city in the country.” Speaking at the Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the mayor unveiled new ideas aimed at improving the lives of working New Yorkers and reiterated sweeping proposals that he announced earlier this week on everything from health care to paid vacation days, early childhood education to bus speeds, and much more. He also outlined much, if not all, of the agenda he wants passed at the state level this year.</p> <p>Before a packed auditorium filled with fellow elected officials -- including Attorney General Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, City Council members, state legislators, and congressional representatives -- de Blasio spent nearly an hour invoking the themes of the “tale of two cities” that first got him elected mayor in 2013, with a newly stated focus on improving people’s “quality of life” and underscoring a call for the redistribution of income.</p> <p>“Life in the fairest big city in America should never feel impossible,” he said, speaking of the personal struggle that he and First Lady Chirlane McCray faced when raising their children and also caring for their ailing parents. “We shouldn’t feel such pressure on the quality of our lives.”</p> <p>The mayor articulated how working New Yorkers feel those pressures, and vowed new initiatives to provide relief. “Millions of people in this city, tens of millions across the country, are boxed in to lives that just aren't working for them,” he said. “You haven't been paid what you deserve for all the hard work. You haven't been given the time you deserve. You're not living the life you deserve.”</p> <p>Among those proposals were two that the mayor announced this week, garnering national attention by releasing the announcements through national media. The first is an expansion of the city’s health care programs to provide care to 600,000 uninsured residents by increasing enrollment of insurance-eligible individuals in the city’s public option, MetroPlus, and by creating NYC Care, which would give undocumented immigrants and those who won’t or otherwise can’t join MetroPlus access to primary and specialty care, mental health services, and more. NYC Care, which aims to provide a health care card to as many eligible individuals as possible and match all of them to a primary care doctor, is expected to cost $100 million annually once fully implemented by 2021.</p> <p>The second proposal is a push for City Council legislation, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams since 2014, to guarantee two weeks of paid personal time to workers, which the city estimates could affect more than 500,000 full-time and part-time employees who currently receive no paid time off. It would apply to anyone working at a company or organization of more than five employees.</p> <p>“For decades, working people have gotten more and more productive,” the mayor said. “At the same time, they've gotten a smaller and smaller share of the wealth they create. Here's the truth...there's plenty of money in the world. There's plenty of money in this city. It's just in the wrong hands.”</p> <p>Though de Blasio has repeatedly called on state lawmakers to increase taxes on higher earners, and he did so again on Thursday, de Blasio has not convinced Governor Andrew Cuomo or state legislators to follow his pleas. Appearing somewhat resigned to that fact, even in a new Albany era where Democrats control the executive and legislative branches, de Blasio laid out a variety of other proposals he believes will foster greater equity.</p> <p>Riding high on his successive policy announcements, the mayor seemed more emboldened and enthusiastic than during past State of the City addresses, which have at times been more sobering. Last year’s speech <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7476:de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">contained</a> few novel ideas save for his announcement that he would convene a Charter Revision Commission to explore campaign finance reforms and improvements to voting and civic participation (the commission’s eventual proposals, including lower campaign contribution limits, a new civic engagement commission, and term limits for community board members, were overwhelmingly approved by voters in November). And that speech came on the heels of a successful 2017 reelection campaign in which de Blasio offered almost no new policy plans, largely pledging to deepen and expand ongoing work.</p> <p>The mayor had more to offer on Thursday, though much of what he discussed also fits under the category of expanding existing programs, like a faster rollout of his 3-K initiative to provide free early education to three-year-olds. He announced a number of new proposals including expanding the mandate of the city’s consumer affairs department. De Blasio rechristened the agency the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, reflecting its new responsibilities of safeguarding the interests of all temporary and permanent workers, even undocumented ones, with a new focus, he said, on freelancers, nannies, and others who may not have traditional benefits through their employers.</p> <p>The mayor also signed an executive order on the spot to create a new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, aimed at tamping down tenant abuse and combating predatory landlord practices. He also vowed that in cases of the worst landlords, who fail to rectify their behavior after repeated fines and violations, the city would move to seize buildings and transfer them to nonprofit management. It’s unclear whether the new mayoral office’s mandate would overlap with the Department of Buildings’ Office of Tenant Advocate, which was created by the City Council through legislation passed in 2017.</p> <p>De Blasio also announced new public transportation initiatives, including an expansion of the NYC Ferry system, such as connecting Staten Island to the west side of Manhattan, and improvements to the bus system to ensure faster travel time, installing new protected bus lanes and an NYPD tow unit dedicated to keeping those lanes free of parked cars.</p> <p>He did of course make it clear that the greatest transit priority for the city was funding the MTA to fix the subways -- he reiterated his support for a dedicated additional tax on high earners -- but seemed to acknowledge there’s more momentum for other options like congestion pricing, which he has warmed to without actually expressing support for. He called on his fellow elected officials to lobby the state before the budget is due on April 1. “In the next 80 days, the fate of the MTA, the fate of our subways and buses, will be determined once and for all,” he said.</p> <p>Boasting of the success of his universal pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio also touted the expansion of prekindergarten to 3-year-olds, which he announced in 2017. The program is expected to reach 20,000 children in the coming school year, he said, outlining several new neighborhoods where the program will open soon. He also announced a new plan to recruit and retain more teachers at schools in the Bronx and an expansion of an existing partnership with Warby Parker to give free eye exams and glasses to kindergartners and first-graders across the city.</p> <p>Early in the speech the mayor reviewed what he sees as some of his major successes, including early childhood education, higher graduation rates, record-low crime and traffic fatalities, more tenant protection, paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, and more. He very briefly mentioned areas of significant challenge to his administration, such as management of crumbling public housing and reducing homelessness.</p> <p>At different points, de Blasio ticked off aspects of what he wants to see from state government this year, especially from now until a new state budget is due April 1, a list topped by MTA funding, but also including criminal justice and voting reforms, an extension of mayoral control of city schools, and stronger rent regulations that help protect tenants.</p> <p>Toward the end of the speech, de Blasio said the city would help establish retirement plans for all workers who lack them in the city. In 2016, the mayor had attempted to move forward with a “Retirement Security for All” plan but it was eventually hamstrung by federal regulatory changes signed by President Donald Trump in 2017. City Council Members Ben Kallos and I. Daneek Miller reintroduced the legislation before the Council earlier this year and heralded the mayor’s announcement, which follows a new state law with a similar goal. The city plans to help workers set up private retirement accounts and may mandate some businesses to offer the option for workers to make contributions to their accounts, but no public or private money will be contributed to the accounts, only a portion of workers’ income, if they choose to participate.</p> <p>“This country has spent decades taking from working people and giving to the one percent,” de Blasio said. “This city has spent the last five years doing it the other way around. We give back to working people the prosperity they have earned. And we are just getting started.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Gives Little Mention to Several Major Challenges in State of the City Speech 2019-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8192-de-blasio-gives-little-mention-to-several-major-challenges-in-state-of-the-city-speech Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/sotcoffice.jpg" alt="sotcoffice" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio touted significant accomplishments of his five years in office and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8191-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-promises-more-from-government-to-improve-new-yorkers-quality-of-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener">laid out a new agenda</a> for expanding his fight against inequality during his Thursday State of the City speech, he made little or no mention of a number of important challenges facing the city and his mayoralty.</p> <p>It’s no coincidence, of course, that the mayor barely mentioned the city’s public housing, which is crumbling, mismanaged, and mired in negotiations with federal authorities over its future, or many other issues he must deal with in 2019 and beyond. De Blasio’s opportunity to shape the narrative around the state of the city under his leadership was a chance for him to discuss safer streets, low crime, high employment, and the expansion of city government that he has overseen in his efforts to provide more of a safety net and greater equality. The annual event also afforded him the venue to lay out the next steps of his vision, and he certainly couldn’t address every issue, but after all the tumult around NYCHA in 2018, it spoke volumes how little the mayor spoke about the city’s public housing, as well as other topics of great importance.</p> <p>“We're also showing public housing residents that we can begin to reverse decades of disinvestment and make their lives better,” de Blasio said, at the start of his sixth year in office. “The New York City Housing Authority has a plan to bring brand new everything to 175,000 NYCHA residents, from new roofs to new kitchens and bathrooms,” he added, but did not mention what is being done for the other 225,000-plus residents, or the issues of lead abatement and heat and hot water outages. He did not try to explain to or sell the city on his recently-released and controversial plan to increase the amount of new housing development on NYCHA land to bring in much-needed revenue to make repairs.</p> <p>But NYCHA wasn’t the only important challenge he left mostly or completely on the sideline. De Blasio made minimal mention of the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis and what he’s doing about it, though he did discuss plans to enhance efforts to prevent evictions.</p> <p>“We still grapple with too many people in this town who need our help because they're homeless,” he said, and highlighted that his administration has “moved more than 2,000 homeless New Yorkers off the streets and into a permanent situation where they can be taken care of and they can get the help they need” and that the city has closed 180 shelters. But he did not use the pulpit to reiterate his plan of opening up dozens of new shelters or to remind New Yorkers that all must work together to help those in need, including by accepting the opening of shelters in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>The limited attention to what de Blasio has repeatedly said is his top failure as mayor reinforces the timidity of his goal of reducing the shelter census from roughly 62,000 to 57,500 over five years, and his refusal to adjust his affordable housing plan to provide more homes to those coming out of shelter.</p> <p>De Blasio did not talk at all about increases in rape reports, failing to address the issue head on and assure New Yorkers that they should continue to report such crimes and that the city is enhancing its efforts to both prosecute offenders and help survivors. He did not mention police accountability, despite the fact that the officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s 2014 death is about to stand trial at the NYPD and the police commissioner has empaneled a special commission to suggest improvements to the disciplinary system that has regularly led to few, if any, consequences for officers who break the public trust. He did not discuss efforts to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement, even as he touted how arrests and the jail population are down significantly since he took office, while most major crimes are also down.</p> <p>The mayor made a very brief mention of corporate giant Amazon agreeing to build a new campus in Queens, despite the fact that just two months ago he announced the deal among the city, the state, and Amazon as a major victory for the city and its residents. That deal has been the subject of intense protests from elected officials and activists, with de Blasio distancing himself from some of the subsidies involved and insisting that while it’s a big net positive for New Yorkers, he’ll be working with Amazon on its labor practices, relationship with federal immigration authorities, and more. De Blasio shied away from centering the Amazon deal in his argument for how New York is becoming a more fair city with opportunity for everyone.</p> <p>Early on in his remarks, he said, “New York City is now one of the world's premiere tech hubs, and all those jobs are now here for the people of New York City. The major new announcements from Amazon and Google show that the world's most innovative companies want to be here, and they want to hire New Yorkers.” And that was it for Amazon.</p> <p>Even as he repeatedly talked about efforts to make New York “the fairest big city in the country,” de Blasio made no mention of the new Fair Fares program whereby low-income New Yorkers will get reduced-priced Metrocards to more easily ride the subways and buses. The glaring omission of a program the mayor just held a mostly celebratory press conference about reinforces the notion that he has not prioritized Fair Fares, which he rolled out late and in underwhelming fashion.</p> <p>De Blasio did not address the city’s most-struggling schools, even as more of them face potential closure and his program to rescue them, Renewal Schools, is not showing the results that were hoped for, even promised. He announced an expanded program to get free eyeglasses to young students who need them and additional neighborhoods that will see his 3-K program for three-year-olds, and he talked up the city’s graduation rate, but he did not dive into the most difficult aspects of the education system he runs, like work to integrate the city’s deeply segregated schools, even as he talked about needing state government approval later this year to allow him to keep running it.</p> <p>De Blasio also did not talk about impending neighborhood rezonings, where the city is aiming to add to its list of communities where it has changed land use rules in order to build more housing, some of it affordable, and make investments as part of the mayor’s much-discussed housing plan.</p> <p>That housing plan and some of the rezonings that have occurred have been the target of significant criticism as de Blasio has repeatedly dismissed calls for his housing plan to better serve lower-income New Yorkers and people experiencing homelessness, though he has tweaked the plan multiple times. He has also been questioned for almost exclusively upzoning low-income communities of color, as opposed to seeking more housing density, including many affordable units, in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.</p> <p>Like on other fronts, it was a missed opportunity to make a very public pitch for his plans, lay markers, and sway public opinion behind them.</p> <p>While the mayor raised many eyebrows and grabbed some national headlines with something of a reinvigorated approach to his annual speech and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8191-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-promises-more-from-government-to-improve-new-yorkers-quality-of-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener">several new and exciting proposals</a>&nbsp;--&nbsp;from increasing bus speeds to mandating paid vacation time, some of which, if implemented well, promise to improve people's lives -- he glossed over several significant crises facing the city, leaving others to give a more sober assessment of its state.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/sotcoffice.jpg" alt="sotcoffice" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio touted significant accomplishments of his five years in office and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8191-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-promises-more-from-government-to-improve-new-yorkers-quality-of-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener">laid out a new agenda</a> for expanding his fight against inequality during his Thursday State of the City speech, he made little or no mention of a number of important challenges facing the city and his mayoralty.</p> <p>It’s no coincidence, of course, that the mayor barely mentioned the city’s public housing, which is crumbling, mismanaged, and mired in negotiations with federal authorities over its future, or many other issues he must deal with in 2019 and beyond. De Blasio’s opportunity to shape the narrative around the state of the city under his leadership was a chance for him to discuss safer streets, low crime, high employment, and the expansion of city government that he has overseen in his efforts to provide more of a safety net and greater equality. The annual event also afforded him the venue to lay out the next steps of his vision, and he certainly couldn’t address every issue, but after all the tumult around NYCHA in 2018, it spoke volumes how little the mayor spoke about the city’s public housing, as well as other topics of great importance.</p> <p>“We're also showing public housing residents that we can begin to reverse decades of disinvestment and make their lives better,” de Blasio said, at the start of his sixth year in office. “The New York City Housing Authority has a plan to bring brand new everything to 175,000 NYCHA residents, from new roofs to new kitchens and bathrooms,” he added, but did not mention what is being done for the other 225,000-plus residents, or the issues of lead abatement and heat and hot water outages. He did not try to explain to or sell the city on his recently-released and controversial plan to increase the amount of new housing development on NYCHA land to bring in much-needed revenue to make repairs.</p> <p>But NYCHA wasn’t the only important challenge he left mostly or completely on the sideline. De Blasio made minimal mention of the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis and what he’s doing about it, though he did discuss plans to enhance efforts to prevent evictions.</p> <p>“We still grapple with too many people in this town who need our help because they're homeless,” he said, and highlighted that his administration has “moved more than 2,000 homeless New Yorkers off the streets and into a permanent situation where they can be taken care of and they can get the help they need” and that the city has closed 180 shelters. But he did not use the pulpit to reiterate his plan of opening up dozens of new shelters or to remind New Yorkers that all must work together to help those in need, including by accepting the opening of shelters in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>The limited attention to what de Blasio has repeatedly said is his top failure as mayor reinforces the timidity of his goal of reducing the shelter census from roughly 62,000 to 57,500 over five years, and his refusal to adjust his affordable housing plan to provide more homes to those coming out of shelter.</p> <p>De Blasio did not talk at all about increases in rape reports, failing to address the issue head on and assure New Yorkers that they should continue to report such crimes and that the city is enhancing its efforts to both prosecute offenders and help survivors. He did not mention police accountability, despite the fact that the officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s 2014 death is about to stand trial at the NYPD and the police commissioner has empaneled a special commission to suggest improvements to the disciplinary system that has regularly led to few, if any, consequences for officers who break the public trust. He did not discuss efforts to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement, even as he touted how arrests and the jail population are down significantly since he took office, while most major crimes are also down.</p> <p>The mayor made a very brief mention of corporate giant Amazon agreeing to build a new campus in Queens, despite the fact that just two months ago he announced the deal among the city, the state, and Amazon as a major victory for the city and its residents. That deal has been the subject of intense protests from elected officials and activists, with de Blasio distancing himself from some of the subsidies involved and insisting that while it’s a big net positive for New Yorkers, he’ll be working with Amazon on its labor practices, relationship with federal immigration authorities, and more. De Blasio shied away from centering the Amazon deal in his argument for how New York is becoming a more fair city with opportunity for everyone.</p> <p>Early on in his remarks, he said, “New York City is now one of the world's premiere tech hubs, and all those jobs are now here for the people of New York City. The major new announcements from Amazon and Google show that the world's most innovative companies want to be here, and they want to hire New Yorkers.” And that was it for Amazon.</p> <p>Even as he repeatedly talked about efforts to make New York “the fairest big city in the country,” de Blasio made no mention of the new Fair Fares program whereby low-income New Yorkers will get reduced-priced Metrocards to more easily ride the subways and buses. The glaring omission of a program the mayor just held a mostly celebratory press conference about reinforces the notion that he has not prioritized Fair Fares, which he rolled out late and in underwhelming fashion.</p> <p>De Blasio did not address the city’s most-struggling schools, even as more of them face potential closure and his program to rescue them, Renewal Schools, is not showing the results that were hoped for, even promised. He announced an expanded program to get free eyeglasses to young students who need them and additional neighborhoods that will see his 3-K program for three-year-olds, and he talked up the city’s graduation rate, but he did not dive into the most difficult aspects of the education system he runs, like work to integrate the city’s deeply segregated schools, even as he talked about needing state government approval later this year to allow him to keep running it.</p> <p>De Blasio also did not talk about impending neighborhood rezonings, where the city is aiming to add to its list of communities where it has changed land use rules in order to build more housing, some of it affordable, and make investments as part of the mayor’s much-discussed housing plan.</p> <p>That housing plan and some of the rezonings that have occurred have been the target of significant criticism as de Blasio has repeatedly dismissed calls for his housing plan to better serve lower-income New Yorkers and people experiencing homelessness, though he has tweaked the plan multiple times. He has also been questioned for almost exclusively upzoning low-income communities of color, as opposed to seeking more housing density, including many affordable units, in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.</p> <p>Like on other fronts, it was a missed opportunity to make a very public pitch for his plans, lay markers, and sway public opinion behind them.</p> <p>While the mayor raised many eyebrows and grabbed some national headlines with something of a reinvigorated approach to his annual speech and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8191-in-state-of-the-city-de-blasio-promises-more-from-government-to-improve-new-yorkers-quality-of-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener">several new and exciting proposals</a>&nbsp;--&nbsp;from increasing bus speeds to mandating paid vacation time, some of which, if implemented well, promise to improve people's lives -- he glossed over several significant crises facing the city, leaving others to give a more sober assessment of its state.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: De Blasio's 2019 2019-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8186-max-murphy-podcast-de-blasio-s-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 9, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: De Blasio's 2019<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jill-jorgensen-jan-9.jpg" alt="jill jorgensen jan 9" width="110" height="142" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Mayor de Blasio had a tumultuous and somewhat sleepy 2018, the first year of his second term after winning reelection in a race where he offered few new ideas, but has come out of the gate in 2019 with new energy and proposals. Jill Jorgensen of the Daily News, who has covered de Blasio closely for most of his tenure as mayor, joined the show to discuss where de Blasio stands as the new year begins, his recent proposals and choppy rollout of the Fair Fares discount Metrocard program, his impending State of the City address, and other important matters and dynamics.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/556596777&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 9, 2019 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: De Blasio's 2019<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jill-jorgensen-jan-9.jpg" alt="jill jorgensen jan 9" width="110" height="142" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Mayor de Blasio had a tumultuous and somewhat sleepy 2018, the first year of his second term after winning reelection in a race where he offered few new ideas, but has come out of the gate in 2019 with new energy and proposals. Jill Jorgensen of the Daily News, who has covered de Blasio closely for most of his tenure as mayor, joined the show to discuss where de Blasio stands as the new year begins, his recent proposals and choppy rollout of the Fair Fares discount Metrocard program, his impending State of the City address, and other important matters and dynamics.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/556596777&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
No, Mayor de Blasio, We Can’t Rely on Amazon ‘To Put Moral Considerations Ahead of Profit’ 2019-01-08T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8185-no-mayor-de-blasio-we-can-t-rely-on-amazon-to-put-moral-considerations-ahead-of-profit Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mbdbgovanmcuomo-lic.jpg" alt="mbdbgovanmcuomo lic" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at the Amazon announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>“I’m concerned about [New York] City being a sanctuary city, and your stated concern for New York City’s immigrants, and the contradiction of inviting one of ICE’s largest tech providers into our city.” That’s how Amy from Queens asked Mayor de Blasio about Amazon’s relationship with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show last Friday. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio told Amy, “If it turns out that Amazon has a contractual relationship with ICE, I’m certainly going to call on them to end that.” But he claimed that he did not have enough information to know for sure.</p> <p>If the Mayor had watched the New York City Council<a href="https://www.facebook.com/BradLander/videos/1990015207969432/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> hearing</a> with Amazon executives (and his own economic development appointee) in December -- where we both asked about this relationship -- he would have little doubt that Amazon sells technology services to ICE, and is a willing for-profit partner in Trump’s deportation machine.</p> <p>Anyone listening objectively to what Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, Brian Huseman, said under oath at the Council hearing would acknowledge that Amazon effectively affirmed it is providing facial recognition technology and possibly other cloud computing services to ICE.</p> <p>As was reported in the <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/amazon-pushes-ice-to-buy-its-face-recognition-surveillance-tech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Daily Beast</a> in October, documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight show that Amazon pitched its controversial facial recognition technology to ICE last summer. In addition, a group of Amazon employees, troubled by the relationship, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/06/22/amazon-employees-demand-company-cut-ties-with-ice/?utm_term=.cca291c786ff" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called on the company</a> to sever its ties to ICE.</p> <p>Nonetheless, when Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked what relationship Amazon had with ICE at the City Council hearing, Amazon’s Huseman responded, “We think the federal government should have access to the best technology.”</p> <p>Later in the hearing, we questioned Huseman again directly on this point, making clear that we interpreted Huseman’s answer to be an affirmation that Amazon provides facial recognition software to ICE -- and giving him the opportunity to correct the record. Huseman did not correct the record or deny the relationship. In response to<a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/daveyalba/amazon-wont-say-it-doesnt-work-with-ice" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> further questioning</a> from BuzzFeed News, Amazon again did not say that it does not work with ICE.</p> <p>This was more than a “non-denial.” This was a non-denial that anyone listening objectively should take as a confirmation.</p> <p>Amazon has expressed that it wants to be a “good neighbor” in Queens, one of the most heavily immigrant places in the country. But a good neighbor does not help to facilitate the deportations of family members and neighbors by a xenophobic president for corporate profit.</p> <p>We also asked Huseman about<a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> an ACLU analysis</a> showing that Amazon’s technology <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28" target="_blank" rel="noopener">falsely matched 28 members of Congress</a> to mugshots in a database. Even worse: the errors disproportionately mismatched people of color. Huseman did not express the slightest concern or remorse, or any intention to make certain their technology does not discriminate. Instead, Husemen placidly said, “We have not been able to replicate the ACLU’s analysis.”</p> <p>If Mayor de Blasio had listened to the Amazon VP wave so nonchalantly at a study that reveals that the company’s technology might be used by ICE to round up people, some mistakenly, for deportation, perhaps he might have said something stronger than this to Amy last Friday: &nbsp;</p> <p>“I think that Amazon should, to the maximum extent possible, explain to people what is going on with this. Tech companies should start questioning themselves what types of government activity they want to participate in. They have to put moral considerations ahead of profit.”</p> <p>There is absolutely no reason to believe that Amazon has any intention to put moral considerations ahead of profit. Or to voluntarily explain to people what is going on.</p> <p>But Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo don’t need to rely on their goodwill. If Amazon wants to build a major new campus in Queens, the company should immediately disclose its full relationship with ICE -- and then end it immediately.</p> <p>If the mayor and the governor are truly committed to New York City being a sanctuary city, they should not proceed in negotiations with Amazon until it does.</p> <p>***<br /> Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca are members of the New York City Council. Lander is the Council’s Deputy Leader for Policy; Menchaca chairs the Council’s Immigration Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/bradlander" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@bradlander</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cmenchaca" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cmenchaca</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/mbdbgovanmcuomo-lic.jpg" alt="mbdbgovanmcuomo lic" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at the Amazon announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>“I’m concerned about [New York] City being a sanctuary city, and your stated concern for New York City’s immigrants, and the contradiction of inviting one of ICE’s largest tech providers into our city.” That’s how Amy from Queens asked Mayor de Blasio about Amazon’s relationship with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show last Friday. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio told Amy, “If it turns out that Amazon has a contractual relationship with ICE, I’m certainly going to call on them to end that.” But he claimed that he did not have enough information to know for sure.</p> <p>If the Mayor had watched the New York City Council<a href="https://www.facebook.com/BradLander/videos/1990015207969432/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> hearing</a> with Amazon executives (and his own economic development appointee) in December -- where we both asked about this relationship -- he would have little doubt that Amazon sells technology services to ICE, and is a willing for-profit partner in Trump’s deportation machine.</p> <p>Anyone listening objectively to what Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, Brian Huseman, said under oath at the Council hearing would acknowledge that Amazon effectively affirmed it is providing facial recognition technology and possibly other cloud computing services to ICE.</p> <p>As was reported in the <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/amazon-pushes-ice-to-buy-its-face-recognition-surveillance-tech" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Daily Beast</a> in October, documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight show that Amazon pitched its controversial facial recognition technology to ICE last summer. In addition, a group of Amazon employees, troubled by the relationship, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/06/22/amazon-employees-demand-company-cut-ties-with-ice/?utm_term=.cca291c786ff" target="_blank" rel="noopener">called on the company</a> to sever its ties to ICE.</p> <p>Nonetheless, when Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked what relationship Amazon had with ICE at the City Council hearing, Amazon’s Huseman responded, “We think the federal government should have access to the best technology.”</p> <p>Later in the hearing, we questioned Huseman again directly on this point, making clear that we interpreted Huseman’s answer to be an affirmation that Amazon provides facial recognition software to ICE -- and giving him the opportunity to correct the record. Huseman did not correct the record or deny the relationship. In response to<a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/daveyalba/amazon-wont-say-it-doesnt-work-with-ice" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> further questioning</a> from BuzzFeed News, Amazon again did not say that it does not work with ICE.</p> <p>This was more than a “non-denial.” This was a non-denial that anyone listening objectively should take as a confirmation.</p> <p>Amazon has expressed that it wants to be a “good neighbor” in Queens, one of the most heavily immigrant places in the country. But a good neighbor does not help to facilitate the deportations of family members and neighbors by a xenophobic president for corporate profit.</p> <p>We also asked Huseman about<a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> an ACLU analysis</a> showing that Amazon’s technology <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/surveillance-technologies/amazons-face-recognition-falsely-matched-28" target="_blank" rel="noopener">falsely matched 28 members of Congress</a> to mugshots in a database. Even worse: the errors disproportionately mismatched people of color. Huseman did not express the slightest concern or remorse, or any intention to make certain their technology does not discriminate. Instead, Husemen placidly said, “We have not been able to replicate the ACLU’s analysis.”</p> <p>If Mayor de Blasio had listened to the Amazon VP wave so nonchalantly at a study that reveals that the company’s technology might be used by ICE to round up people, some mistakenly, for deportation, perhaps he might have said something stronger than this to Amy last Friday: &nbsp;</p> <p>“I think that Amazon should, to the maximum extent possible, explain to people what is going on with this. Tech companies should start questioning themselves what types of government activity they want to participate in. They have to put moral considerations ahead of profit.”</p> <p>There is absolutely no reason to believe that Amazon has any intention to put moral considerations ahead of profit. Or to voluntarily explain to people what is going on.</p> <p>But Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo don’t need to rely on their goodwill. If Amazon wants to build a major new campus in Queens, the company should immediately disclose its full relationship with ICE -- and then end it immediately.</p> <p>If the mayor and the governor are truly committed to New York City being a sanctuary city, they should not proceed in negotiations with Amazon until it does.</p> <p>***<br /> Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca are members of the New York City Council. Lander is the Council’s Deputy Leader for Policy; Menchaca chairs the Council’s Immigration Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/bradlander" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@bradlander</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cmenchaca" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@cmenchaca</a>.</p> <p>

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In First Year as Council Speaker, Johnson Establishes Countervailing Force 2019-01-06T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-06T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8180-in-first-year-as-council-speaker-johnson-establishes-countervailing-force Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46565879862_624ba9c5c0_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>One year ago, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson was near-unanimously elected speaker of the 51-member legislative body, becoming the city’s second-most powerful elected official behind the mayor. In an emotional inaugural speech, he spoke of the heavy burden the Council bears in tackling the issues that face everyday New Yorkers. “There has never been a more important time to ensure that our City has a strong, unified and independent Council to take on these challenges,” he said.</p> <p>In the year since, Johnson has indeed led a chamber that has drawn a stronger line between itself and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, while Johnson has established himself as a new force in New York, operating with an obsession for politics, an enthusiasm for his job, and a wear-it-on-your-sleeve penchant for empathizing with the plights of New Yorkers. Johnson’s style and instincts have drawn a clear counter-figure to de Blasio, though the speaker and the mayor have appeared on good terms throughout Johnson’s first year in the new job, even as he has publicly disagreed with the mayor on numerous occasions and taken a harsh tone with several de Blasio administration officials.</p> <p>Johnson’s chosen a few areas of legislative focus, but has yet to put forth a clear policy agenda that signals his true priorities, though he said upon taking the speakership that strengthening the “social safety net” was of utmost importance to him. He has made transit a major focus, riding the subway daily, voicing his displeasure with the system's reliability, and even calling for municipal control of the trains and buses.</p> <p>The City Council was particularly active in 2018, passing nearly three times as much legislation in the first year of this new four-year session as the previous Council class did in 2014.&nbsp;Though there are mitigating factors at play -- like the fact that most of the current Council is holdovers from the past session -- legislative productivity is an apt defining feature for the body under the stewardship of Johnson, the outgoing, outspoken speaker who has quickly established himself as a formidable opposite — not oppositional, he says — force to de Blasio and who has injected a different energy into the city’s political landscape, even shaking up discussions around the next mayoral race.</p> <p>“One of the things that’s just sort of in my DNA is, I like to work...I get bored if I don’t,” Johnson said in a phone interview about his first year as speaker, “I’m not good at downtime. So that kinda means that I live and breathe this every single day.”</p> <p>Johnson’s path to the position and approach once in office have been poles apart from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, though both are groundbreaking officials. Mark-Viverito was the first Latina to be speaker and Johnson is it’s first openly gay male and openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito in part owed her ascendance in 2014 to de Blasio, himself newly-elected and especially powerful, who helped put her over the finish line in a tight contest with City Council Member Daniel Garodnick. With the mayor’s help, Mark-Viverito and her allies corralled a newly-elected group of progressive City Council members and bucked the traditional bastions of county party power in Queens and the Bronx.</p> <p>A Democrat representing the west side of Manhattan, Johnson became speaker despite the mayor, emerging above a crowded field of candidates and receiving support from those two counties. In what looked to be an almost overt rejection of the mayor, leaders of the Democratic machines in the two boroughs announced their decision to back Johnson when de Blasio was out of town, while much of the discussion around Johnson’s colleagues support for him was not about working with de Blasio to pass sweeping progressive programs, as it had been in 2014, and more about independence from the mayor.</p> <p>Johnson repeatedly vowed that he would not be beholden to the other side of City Hall, an allegation that dogged Mark-Viverito for her tenure as she balanced her support for the mayor’s policies with occasional rejection of them and very much <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7394-melissa-mark-viverito-a-mayor-made-speaker-who-sought-a-member-driven-legacy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">charted her own agenda</a>, often bringing de Blasio along, like on the closing of the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-profiles/new-york-city-council-speaker-corey-johnson.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State profile</a> of Johnson published in December — titled “Is Corey Johnson already mayor?” — noted that he had made converts of several City Council members who had opposed him during the race for speaker and who worried that he may exact revenge on them if elected. “If Corey had an approval rating in the City Council, I suspect it would be nearly 100 percent,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, quoted in the article. Torres said Johnson was filling a vacuum of leadership left by the mayor, who is increasingly absent from City Hall and who seems more intent on building a national profile than running the city. It’s an observation that’s been thrown around more and more even though Johnson disagrees with it.</p> <p>Part of the apparent discrepancy stems from their different approaches to communicating with the public — Johnson is an open book and known to say what’s on his mind, often on Twitter, and responds immediately to virtually every significant event related to public life in New York and with compassion to the plight of suffering New Yorkers. De Blasio, on the other hand, seems to struggle to express empathy and often has a measured, almost academic response to any given crisis. Johnson appears to relish being a New Yorker, holding public office, and doing any and all part of the job, even if some are less fun or interesting than others. De Blasio appears to dislike most aspects of his job.</p> <p>There are times when the speaker has been more outspoken than the mayor -- his response to the city’s handling of the November snowstorm; his immediate call for the resignation of Board of Elections executive director Mike Ryan after the abysmal administration of the general election; and his more direct statements on incidents of apparent police misconduct. But Johnson has pushed back against the narrative that he is playing the role that the mayor should, as emotional leader of the city and its cheerleader, as the elected official who cares about every detail of city government and how it performs.</p> <p>“We have one mayor. He was elected twice and I do not think I’m mayor,” Johnson said, echoing remarks he had made earlier in a television interview when asked about the City &amp; State profile, which had the city political scene buzzing. “I do not have the powers of the mayor. I do not have the everyday responsibilities of the mayor.” He repeatedly emphasized that his relationship with de Blasio has been productive and collaborative, rather than combative. “It’s flattering in some way,” he said of the comparison with the mayor, “but I don’t think it comports with reality.”</p> <p>It was early on in 2018, as budget season was kicking off, that Johnson showed he would test the mayor’s mettle. He dug his heels in on funding Fair Fares, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, a program that de Blasio had repeatedly dismissed as a state obligation that shouldn’t burden the city’s coffers. Johnson spearheaded an advocacy campaign, sending Council members into the field to talk with commuters outside subway stops and heavily spotlighting the push on social media.</p> <p>It became the Council’s top priority in budget negotiations with de Blasio, and the mayor eventually relented, a six-month Fair Fares pilot program was approved in the budget — and is launching this month, though the de Blasio administration has apparently dragged its heels on implementation, rolling it out late and in phases that have left some questioning the mayor’s commitment to the program. In a telling decision, Johnson has chosen not to publicly criticize the mayor for his approach to the program, the speaker’s signature accomplishment thus far.</p> <p>Johnson also flexed the Council’s muscles to push the mayor on several other priorities -- more fair student funding for city schools, deeper savings and greater set asides in the city’s reserves -- though he did not win a desired property tax rebate that was at the top of the Council’s wish list; and has taken a clearly more critical tone in public comments. While he regularly stresses that “it’s not personal,” Johnson has made pointed comments about the mayor’s attention to matters, city agency performance, and policy priorities he believes the mayor should adopt, such as an outspokenness about reducing the city’s deference to cars in its public policies and his call for municipal control of the subways and buses (something <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/nyregion/corey-johnson-public-advocate-council-president.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he told the New York Times</a> he would soon have more to say about).</p> <p>“To see him emerge as such a strong and confident leader has been really exciting to watch,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a close Johnson ally and first African-American woman to serve as the Council’s majority leader. She cited two successful legislative efforts that she sponsored under Johnson of which she is particularly proud -- the “Mother’s Day” package aimed at helping pregnant women, new mothers, and parents more broadly; and a bill that just passed to mandate that the administration report on pay levels in the city’s workforce, disaggregated by race and gender. “He’s just done an extraordinary job of raising the issues that members are really concerned about, solidifying our place as an equal branch of government to balance out the powers of the mayor.”</p> <p>Among Johnson’s first acts as speaker was to bolster the City Council’s resources and staff, to be better able to hold its own with the mayor’s administration. Johnson increased the Council’s budget by millions of dollars, raised salaries across the board, beefed up several divisions — land use, finance, bill drafting (which helped to increase legislative productivity) — and created new committees to reflect the changing issues affecting the city (and reward supporters). Those include a subcommittee dedicated to the massive capital budget and a committee dealing with for-hire vehicle services such as Uber and Lyft. And he added new life to the oversight and investigations committee, now helmed by Torres, which has allowed the Council to more deeply scrutinize the failures of the de Blasio administration and city agencies.</p> <p>Johnson, who often leads the hearings in tandem with Torres, has repeatedly called on agency heads at those hearings to apologize for their failings, though he insists he is not trying to embarrass the administration or pander to the cameras. “I think we’ve been an independent branch of government and independent not in a way just to score cheap political points or grab a headline,” he said, “but independent to serve the city as a whole and our constituents that expect results.”</p> <p>But he has aggressively demanded answers from the administration, most recently by convening the first of a series of hearings on the joint state-city deal with Amazon to build a massive new campus in Long Island City. Critics pointed out that while it may be right for Johnson and his colleagues to ask questions after the announcement, they were silent as the well-known but secretive negotiations were happening.</p> <p>Johnson doesn’t have a legislative agenda that can be summed up easily. Where Mark-Viverito’s chief concerns were immigrant rights and criminal justice reform, Johnson says he’s just trying to make the city fairer, strengthening the social safety net, and working on issues “that affect the most number of people and the most vulnerable.”</p> <p>“I would love for us to be the fairest city in America,” he said, using a similar phrase to what the mayor has adopted as a second term goal, “but to do that, it’s not easy, it can’t be done overnight. It has to be done in collaboration with the state government and with the federal government. We don’t solely control our own destiny.”</p> <p>The Council’s legislative record under his leadership is growing, though the political landscape is very different given what Mark-Viverito worked with de Blasio to advance during the first four years of the new Democratic era in the city and the latest policies out of the Cuomo and Trump administrations. Mark-Viverito spearheaded or worked with de Blasio on a long list of accomplishments, from a city bail fund to a municipal identification card program to shifting how low-level, non-violent offenses are policed in the city.</p> <p>Still, the hundreds of bills the Council passed in 2018 include a landmark package of anti-sexual harassment laws, new rules for the for-hire vehicle industry (which Johnson had opposed under Mark-Viverito but came around on, admitting fault for prior opposition), a waste equity bill aimed at reducing the environmental burden on low-income communities of color, and regulations aimed at illegal short-term rentals through Airbnb. The Council’s efforts also pushed the mayor to change the NYPD’s policy on marijuana arrests and added to the significant cascade of criticism about how NYCHA has been run, eliciting new plans from de Blasio. Johnson worked with de Blasio and the Cuomo administration on a creative city-based solution to the state Legislature allowing authority for speed cameras in school zones to expire, reviving the program.</p> <p>He’s also allowed members to drive the agenda more than in the past when some raised concerns that the speaker’s office throttled their priorities in service of its own, Johnson says.</p> <p>“Part of my role is to amplify and support the voices of all Council members while at the exact same time balancing a citywide agenda that I believe in,” Johnson said. Members agree. To some, it’s been an entire year of the Council stepping in where the mayor and his administration have dropped the ball.</p> <p>“I think the first year has been a good year, it’s defined our Council leadership style in a world where the mayor continues to make himself irrelevant,” Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Gotham Gazette, shortly before a hearing in the Council chambers. He pointed to a “vacuum” of leadership amid the policies emanating from the federal government and even the lack of state action, and said the Council has been taking up the charge by championing the issues raised by their communities. “And that’s the kinda participatory democracy that I know the speaker believes in…and you’ll see that as a defining pillar of this Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, one of only three Republicans in the 51-member body, drew sharp comparisons between Johnson’s management style and Mark-Viverito’s “top-down approach.”</p> <p>“We go to him and say ‘this should be, this must be, this oughta be,’ and there’s a receptive ear,” he said. “That’s a lot different than the Melissa Mark-Viverito approach where it’s ideology and personal ambition first and good government second.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement on Monday, Mark-Viverito had tough words for Borelli. "When you’re a woman in power who has a vision to make this city more fair and just, you end up with Trump-loving men like Joe Borelli calling you a mean, ambitious woman," she said. "It's no surprise that the Councilmember who wholeheartedly defends pussy-grabbing Donald Trump has a problem with women who speak their mind. What a joke."</p> <p>Borelli also said Johnson had been taking on a more prominent role in the absence of leadership by major citywide officials. “The major political issues of the day fall on Corey Johnson because the mayor has not always been a voice on the right side and the public advocate has been running her campaign and doing what she needs to do to be attorney general,” he said.</p> <p>Freshman Council Member Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat elected on the Republican line, had effusive praise for Johnson. “He does more than any other human being that I know,” Holden said. “He just operates on another level. I can’t say enough about him.”</p> <p>Johnson’s looking forward to the year ahead, with several large packages of legislation awaiting passage including tenant protection bills, legislation to require energy efficiency retrofits on the buildings in the city with the greatest carbon footprint, and one that would eliminate non-disclosure agreements when city officials negotiate economic development deals with private firms, prompted by the secrecy around the Amazon deal. There will also be the next phases, including ballot proposals, from the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission, the creation of which Johnson helped spearhead, and which could propose significant changes to how city government is structured and functions.</p> <p>He also teased a reshuffle of committee memberships to come in January, based on requests from Council members, including a few chair positions. Several sitting members are also running for public advocate in a special election expected in February, which could create a vacancy that would need to be filled.</p> <p>Not everyone is happy that the Council has been quite so active. “I think more than...in the years before term limits, the agenda of the Council is very diffuse and is set by individual members who have far more discretion to introduce legislation,” said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group that represents the business sector. Term limits put pressure on Council members to achieve big legislative victories very quickly, she said, as they look to their next job in government. “I think what the current speaker is doing is using his bully pulpit and his personal style and relationships to set a tone and to affirm the interests of the Council as a whole,” she added. “But there’s such a cacophony of legislative initiatives, 18 bills on the crisis du jour, that he’s in a tough spot. It’s hard.”</p> <p>Though Wylde did say that she’d like to see “more collaboration, less confrontation,” as has been apparent at some of the oversight hearings, she said Johnson has created a healthy counterpoint to the mayor. “In New York City, where there are so many different interests, I think it’s positive that Corey Johnson feels comfortable putting out his ideas even when they’re not in sync with the mayor,” she said. “I think that’s a good thing.”</p> <p>Johnson has suggested bringing the MTA’s subways and buses (New York City Transit) under the control of the city, and has supported a congestion pricing plan for the city and legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults long before the mayor or governor did.</p> <p>There have been bumps in the road for Johnson. Early on he tried his hand at negotiating with the governor over funding for city public housing (NYCHA), only to publicly be undermined by the Cuomo administration (in what seemed to be a tactic aimed at leverage over de Blasio). He was also elevated to his position with the help of Joe Crowley, the Queens county boss and Democratic giant who lost his Congressional seat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now a national political star. Johnson endorsed Crowley, a move that earned him some criticism, particularly as he later went on to support several insurgent and unabashedly progressive Democrats running competitive primaries against more moderate incumbents at the state level, though those races did have the added element whereby the incumbents had formed a rogue conference and governed with Republicans.</p> <p>Johnson also endorsed Cuomo for reelection, over Cynthia Nixon, another insurgent Democratic primary challenger, though at times he seemed to support Nixon’s ambitious agenda, including single-payer health care. He also backed City Council Member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor over Cuomo's running-mate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, angering Cuomo's inner circle and likely getting the governor's attention.</p> <p>Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has known Johnson since before he took elected office. “I believe that Corey has remade city government, with the City Council playing a crucial role in decisions impacting all New Yorkers,” Appelbaum said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Johnson appears to be a likely contender for the 2021 mayoral race, though he hasn’t expressed direct interest in the position, nor has he ruled it out. He would join a field likely to include Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, among others who may throw their hats in the ring (including, possibly, Mark-Viverito).</p> <p>“I think that the most important thing he’s done is the way that he’s elevated the role of the City Council to have a real voice in decision making and I think that the Council is adding transparency to government in the city,” Appelbaum added. “We’ve seen the most professional City Council operation since I’ve been a New Yorker and that has resulted in important victories.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/46565879862_624ba9c5c0_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>One year ago, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson was near-unanimously elected speaker of the 51-member legislative body, becoming the city’s second-most powerful elected official behind the mayor. In an emotional inaugural speech, he spoke of the heavy burden the Council bears in tackling the issues that face everyday New Yorkers. “There has never been a more important time to ensure that our City has a strong, unified and independent Council to take on these challenges,” he said.</p> <p>In the year since, Johnson has indeed led a chamber that has drawn a stronger line between itself and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, while Johnson has established himself as a new force in New York, operating with an obsession for politics, an enthusiasm for his job, and a wear-it-on-your-sleeve penchant for empathizing with the plights of New Yorkers. Johnson’s style and instincts have drawn a clear counter-figure to de Blasio, though the speaker and the mayor have appeared on good terms throughout Johnson’s first year in the new job, even as he has publicly disagreed with the mayor on numerous occasions and taken a harsh tone with several de Blasio administration officials.</p> <p>Johnson’s chosen a few areas of legislative focus, but has yet to put forth a clear policy agenda that signals his true priorities, though he said upon taking the speakership that strengthening the “social safety net” was of utmost importance to him. He has made transit a major focus, riding the subway daily, voicing his displeasure with the system's reliability, and even calling for municipal control of the trains and buses.</p> <p>The City Council was particularly active in 2018, passing nearly three times as much legislation in the first year of this new four-year session as the previous Council class did in 2014.&nbsp;Though there are mitigating factors at play -- like the fact that most of the current Council is holdovers from the past session -- legislative productivity is an apt defining feature for the body under the stewardship of Johnson, the outgoing, outspoken speaker who has quickly established himself as a formidable opposite — not oppositional, he says — force to de Blasio and who has injected a different energy into the city’s political landscape, even shaking up discussions around the next mayoral race.</p> <p>“One of the things that’s just sort of in my DNA is, I like to work...I get bored if I don’t,” Johnson said in a phone interview about his first year as speaker, “I’m not good at downtime. So that kinda means that I live and breathe this every single day.”</p> <p>Johnson’s path to the position and approach once in office have been poles apart from his predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, though both are groundbreaking officials. Mark-Viverito was the first Latina to be speaker and Johnson is it’s first openly gay male and openly HIV-positive one.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito in part owed her ascendance in 2014 to de Blasio, himself newly-elected and especially powerful, who helped put her over the finish line in a tight contest with City Council Member Daniel Garodnick. With the mayor’s help, Mark-Viverito and her allies corralled a newly-elected group of progressive City Council members and bucked the traditional bastions of county party power in Queens and the Bronx.</p> <p>A Democrat representing the west side of Manhattan, Johnson became speaker despite the mayor, emerging above a crowded field of candidates and receiving support from those two counties. In what looked to be an almost overt rejection of the mayor, leaders of the Democratic machines in the two boroughs announced their decision to back Johnson when de Blasio was out of town, while much of the discussion around Johnson’s colleagues support for him was not about working with de Blasio to pass sweeping progressive programs, as it had been in 2014, and more about independence from the mayor.</p> <p>Johnson repeatedly vowed that he would not be beholden to the other side of City Hall, an allegation that dogged Mark-Viverito for her tenure as she balanced her support for the mayor’s policies with occasional rejection of them and very much <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7394-melissa-mark-viverito-a-mayor-made-speaker-who-sought-a-member-driven-legacy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">charted her own agenda</a>, often bringing de Blasio along, like on the closing of the Rikers Island jail complex.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityandstateny.com/articles/personality/interviews-profiles/new-york-city-council-speaker-corey-johnson.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State profile</a> of Johnson published in December — titled “Is Corey Johnson already mayor?” — noted that he had made converts of several City Council members who had opposed him during the race for speaker and who worried that he may exact revenge on them if elected. “If Corey had an approval rating in the City Council, I suspect it would be nearly 100 percent,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, quoted in the article. Torres said Johnson was filling a vacuum of leadership left by the mayor, who is increasingly absent from City Hall and who seems more intent on building a national profile than running the city. It’s an observation that’s been thrown around more and more even though Johnson disagrees with it.</p> <p>Part of the apparent discrepancy stems from their different approaches to communicating with the public — Johnson is an open book and known to say what’s on his mind, often on Twitter, and responds immediately to virtually every significant event related to public life in New York and with compassion to the plight of suffering New Yorkers. De Blasio, on the other hand, seems to struggle to express empathy and often has a measured, almost academic response to any given crisis. Johnson appears to relish being a New Yorker, holding public office, and doing any and all part of the job, even if some are less fun or interesting than others. De Blasio appears to dislike most aspects of his job.</p> <p>There are times when the speaker has been more outspoken than the mayor -- his response to the city’s handling of the November snowstorm; his immediate call for the resignation of Board of Elections executive director Mike Ryan after the abysmal administration of the general election; and his more direct statements on incidents of apparent police misconduct. But Johnson has pushed back against the narrative that he is playing the role that the mayor should, as emotional leader of the city and its cheerleader, as the elected official who cares about every detail of city government and how it performs.</p> <p>“We have one mayor. He was elected twice and I do not think I’m mayor,” Johnson said, echoing remarks he had made earlier in a television interview when asked about the City &amp; State profile, which had the city political scene buzzing. “I do not have the powers of the mayor. I do not have the everyday responsibilities of the mayor.” He repeatedly emphasized that his relationship with de Blasio has been productive and collaborative, rather than combative. “It’s flattering in some way,” he said of the comparison with the mayor, “but I don’t think it comports with reality.”</p> <p>It was early on in 2018, as budget season was kicking off, that Johnson showed he would test the mayor’s mettle. He dug his heels in on funding Fair Fares, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, a program that de Blasio had repeatedly dismissed as a state obligation that shouldn’t burden the city’s coffers. Johnson spearheaded an advocacy campaign, sending Council members into the field to talk with commuters outside subway stops and heavily spotlighting the push on social media.</p> <p>It became the Council’s top priority in budget negotiations with de Blasio, and the mayor eventually relented, a six-month Fair Fares pilot program was approved in the budget — and is launching this month, though the de Blasio administration has apparently dragged its heels on implementation, rolling it out late and in phases that have left some questioning the mayor’s commitment to the program. In a telling decision, Johnson has chosen not to publicly criticize the mayor for his approach to the program, the speaker’s signature accomplishment thus far.</p> <p>Johnson also flexed the Council’s muscles to push the mayor on several other priorities -- more fair student funding for city schools, deeper savings and greater set asides in the city’s reserves -- though he did not win a desired property tax rebate that was at the top of the Council’s wish list; and has taken a clearly more critical tone in public comments. While he regularly stresses that “it’s not personal,” Johnson has made pointed comments about the mayor’s attention to matters, city agency performance, and policy priorities he believes the mayor should adopt, such as an outspokenness about reducing the city’s deference to cars in its public policies and his call for municipal control of the subways and buses (something <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/nyregion/corey-johnson-public-advocate-council-president.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he told the New York Times</a> he would soon have more to say about).</p> <p>“To see him emerge as such a strong and confident leader has been really exciting to watch,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, a close Johnson ally and first African-American woman to serve as the Council’s majority leader. She cited two successful legislative efforts that she sponsored under Johnson of which she is particularly proud -- the “Mother’s Day” package aimed at helping pregnant women, new mothers, and parents more broadly; and a bill that just passed to mandate that the administration report on pay levels in the city’s workforce, disaggregated by race and gender. “He’s just done an extraordinary job of raising the issues that members are really concerned about, solidifying our place as an equal branch of government to balance out the powers of the mayor.”</p> <p>Among Johnson’s first acts as speaker was to bolster the City Council’s resources and staff, to be better able to hold its own with the mayor’s administration. Johnson increased the Council’s budget by millions of dollars, raised salaries across the board, beefed up several divisions — land use, finance, bill drafting (which helped to increase legislative productivity) — and created new committees to reflect the changing issues affecting the city (and reward supporters). Those include a subcommittee dedicated to the massive capital budget and a committee dealing with for-hire vehicle services such as Uber and Lyft. And he added new life to the oversight and investigations committee, now helmed by Torres, which has allowed the Council to more deeply scrutinize the failures of the de Blasio administration and city agencies.</p> <p>Johnson, who often leads the hearings in tandem with Torres, has repeatedly called on agency heads at those hearings to apologize for their failings, though he insists he is not trying to embarrass the administration or pander to the cameras. “I think we’ve been an independent branch of government and independent not in a way just to score cheap political points or grab a headline,” he said, “but independent to serve the city as a whole and our constituents that expect results.”</p> <p>But he has aggressively demanded answers from the administration, most recently by convening the first of a series of hearings on the joint state-city deal with Amazon to build a massive new campus in Long Island City. Critics pointed out that while it may be right for Johnson and his colleagues to ask questions after the announcement, they were silent as the well-known but secretive negotiations were happening.</p> <p>Johnson doesn’t have a legislative agenda that can be summed up easily. Where Mark-Viverito’s chief concerns were immigrant rights and criminal justice reform, Johnson says he’s just trying to make the city fairer, strengthening the social safety net, and working on issues “that affect the most number of people and the most vulnerable.”</p> <p>“I would love for us to be the fairest city in America,” he said, using a similar phrase to what the mayor has adopted as a second term goal, “but to do that, it’s not easy, it can’t be done overnight. It has to be done in collaboration with the state government and with the federal government. We don’t solely control our own destiny.”</p> <p>The Council’s legislative record under his leadership is growing, though the political landscape is very different given what Mark-Viverito worked with de Blasio to advance during the first four years of the new Democratic era in the city and the latest policies out of the Cuomo and Trump administrations. Mark-Viverito spearheaded or worked with de Blasio on a long list of accomplishments, from a city bail fund to a municipal identification card program to shifting how low-level, non-violent offenses are policed in the city.</p> <p>Still, the hundreds of bills the Council passed in 2018 include a landmark package of anti-sexual harassment laws, new rules for the for-hire vehicle industry (which Johnson had opposed under Mark-Viverito but came around on, admitting fault for prior opposition), a waste equity bill aimed at reducing the environmental burden on low-income communities of color, and regulations aimed at illegal short-term rentals through Airbnb. The Council’s efforts also pushed the mayor to change the NYPD’s policy on marijuana arrests and added to the significant cascade of criticism about how NYCHA has been run, eliciting new plans from de Blasio. Johnson worked with de Blasio and the Cuomo administration on a creative city-based solution to the state Legislature allowing authority for speed cameras in school zones to expire, reviving the program.</p> <p>He’s also allowed members to drive the agenda more than in the past when some raised concerns that the speaker’s office throttled their priorities in service of its own, Johnson says.</p> <p>“Part of my role is to amplify and support the voices of all Council members while at the exact same time balancing a citywide agenda that I believe in,” Johnson said. Members agree. To some, it’s been an entire year of the Council stepping in where the mayor and his administration have dropped the ball.</p> <p>“I think the first year has been a good year, it’s defined our Council leadership style in a world where the mayor continues to make himself irrelevant,” Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca told Gotham Gazette, shortly before a hearing in the Council chambers. He pointed to a “vacuum” of leadership amid the policies emanating from the federal government and even the lack of state action, and said the Council has been taking up the charge by championing the issues raised by their communities. “And that’s the kinda participatory democracy that I know the speaker believes in…and you’ll see that as a defining pillar of this Council,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Joe Borelli, one of only three Republicans in the 51-member body, drew sharp comparisons between Johnson’s management style and Mark-Viverito’s “top-down approach.”</p> <p>“We go to him and say ‘this should be, this must be, this oughta be,’ and there’s a receptive ear,” he said. “That’s a lot different than the Melissa Mark-Viverito approach where it’s ideology and personal ambition first and good government second.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement on Monday, Mark-Viverito had tough words for Borelli. "When you’re a woman in power who has a vision to make this city more fair and just, you end up with Trump-loving men like Joe Borelli calling you a mean, ambitious woman," she said. "It's no surprise that the Councilmember who wholeheartedly defends pussy-grabbing Donald Trump has a problem with women who speak their mind. What a joke."</p> <p>Borelli also said Johnson had been taking on a more prominent role in the absence of leadership by major citywide officials. “The major political issues of the day fall on Corey Johnson because the mayor has not always been a voice on the right side and the public advocate has been running her campaign and doing what she needs to do to be attorney general,” he said.</p> <p>Freshman Council Member Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat elected on the Republican line, had effusive praise for Johnson. “He does more than any other human being that I know,” Holden said. “He just operates on another level. I can’t say enough about him.”</p> <p>Johnson’s looking forward to the year ahead, with several large packages of legislation awaiting passage including tenant protection bills, legislation to require energy efficiency retrofits on the buildings in the city with the greatest carbon footprint, and one that would eliminate non-disclosure agreements when city officials negotiate economic development deals with private firms, prompted by the secrecy around the Amazon deal. There will also be the next phases, including ballot proposals, from the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission, the creation of which Johnson helped spearhead, and which could propose significant changes to how city government is structured and functions.</p> <p>He also teased a reshuffle of committee memberships to come in January, based on requests from Council members, including a few chair positions. Several sitting members are also running for public advocate in a special election expected in February, which could create a vacancy that would need to be filled.</p> <p>Not everyone is happy that the Council has been quite so active. “I think more than...in the years before term limits, the agenda of the Council is very diffuse and is set by individual members who have far more discretion to introduce legislation,” said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group that represents the business sector. Term limits put pressure on Council members to achieve big legislative victories very quickly, she said, as they look to their next job in government. “I think what the current speaker is doing is using his bully pulpit and his personal style and relationships to set a tone and to affirm the interests of the Council as a whole,” she added. “But there’s such a cacophony of legislative initiatives, 18 bills on the crisis du jour, that he’s in a tough spot. It’s hard.”</p> <p>Though Wylde did say that she’d like to see “more collaboration, less confrontation,” as has been apparent at some of the oversight hearings, she said Johnson has created a healthy counterpoint to the mayor. “In New York City, where there are so many different interests, I think it’s positive that Corey Johnson feels comfortable putting out his ideas even when they’re not in sync with the mayor,” she said. “I think that’s a good thing.”</p> <p>Johnson has suggested bringing the MTA’s subways and buses (New York City Transit) under the control of the city, and has supported a congestion pricing plan for the city and legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults long before the mayor or governor did.</p> <p>There have been bumps in the road for Johnson. Early on he tried his hand at negotiating with the governor over funding for city public housing (NYCHA), only to publicly be undermined by the Cuomo administration (in what seemed to be a tactic aimed at leverage over de Blasio). He was also elevated to his position with the help of Joe Crowley, the Queens county boss and Democratic giant who lost his Congressional seat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now a national political star. Johnson endorsed Crowley, a move that earned him some criticism, particularly as he later went on to support several insurgent and unabashedly progressive Democrats running competitive primaries against more moderate incumbents at the state level, though those races did have the added element whereby the incumbents had formed a rogue conference and governed with Republicans.</p> <p>Johnson also endorsed Cuomo for reelection, over Cynthia Nixon, another insurgent Democratic primary challenger, though at times he seemed to support Nixon’s ambitious agenda, including single-payer health care. He also backed City Council Member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor over Cuomo's running-mate, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, angering Cuomo's inner circle and likely getting the governor's attention.</p> <p>Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has known Johnson since before he took elected office. “I believe that Corey has remade city government, with the City Council playing a crucial role in decisions impacting all New Yorkers,” Appelbaum said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Johnson appears to be a likely contender for the 2021 mayoral race, though he hasn’t expressed direct interest in the position, nor has he ruled it out. He would join a field likely to include Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, among others who may throw their hats in the ring (including, possibly, Mark-Viverito).</p> <p>“I think that the most important thing he’s done is the way that he’s elevated the role of the City Council to have a real voice in decision making and I think that the Council is adding transparency to government in the city,” Appelbaum added. “We’ve seen the most professional City Council operation since I’ve been a New Yorker and that has resulted in important victories.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with comment from former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.&nbsp;</p>
A 'Green New Deal' for New York and More: Where the Climate Change Conversation is Headed in 2019 2019-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8174-a-green-new-deal-for-new-york-climate-change-conversation-is-headed-in-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbilldeblasiotours-bofeitc-lic.jpg" alt="mbilldeblasiotours bofeitc lic" width="600" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After an election where the issue <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saw little mainstream political attention</a>, climate change and what to do about it has come roaring back to the forefront of the New York political scene. Whether it’s because of a recent federal report <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/11/24/18109883/climate-report-2018-national-assessment" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outlining the economic damage climate change will cause</a> if left unchecked, because New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has used her bully pulpit to <a href="https://earther.gizmodo.com/new-poll-shows-basically-everyone-likes-alexandria-ocas-1831158171" target="_blank" rel="noopener">push a Green New Deal</a>, or the potential for more action after Democrats won control of the state Senate, there’s increased attention on both new and old legislation to try to beat back rising oceans, extreme weather and their effects.</p> <p>At both the state and city levels, efforts to combat climate change are likely to be significant topics of discussion in 2019.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br /> Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat starting his third term, has increasingly spoken out about the climate crisis during his time in office, even if his ideas and rhetoric haven’t always been what climate activists want from him. The state’s <a href="https://rev.ny.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reforming Energy Vision</a> has set energy efficiency goals (a 600 trillion British thermal units efficiency increase) and renewable energy goals (50 percent of electricity) for the year 2030, and Cuomo helped to establish the <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-us-climate-alliance-initiatives-mark-one-year-anniversary" target="_blank" rel="noopener">U.S. Climate Alliance</a>, a group of 16 states that have agreed to take measures to get their greenhouse gas emissions down to the level set by the Paris Agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s rejection of it. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The governor also made news with a pair of announcements recently. First, <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-dramatic-increase-energy-efficiency-and-energy-storage-targets-combat" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he announced</a> a new New York State Public Service Commission regulation that mandates utilities find ways to cut 31 trillion British thermal units of site energy (which is the heat and electricity consumed by a building), to move towards the goal of saving 185 TBtus 2025 (an energy efficiency framework that the governor said could create 50,000 jobs by 2025) along with an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to develop better energy storage capabilities statewide.</p> <p>Second, Cuomo gave a December speech outlining his 2019 legislative agenda, and called for a Green New Deal for New York, though he gave few details. While Cuomo’s Green New Deal is unlikely to look like a state-level version of the one Ocasio-Cortez is pushing nationally, the dual goals of such a program are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing renewable energies and creating green jobs.</p> <p>In his speech Cuomo did lay out two central aspects of his Green New Deal vision, which he is expected to expand upon when he presents his State of the State policy book in January: getting the state’s electricity to 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2040 and eventually eliminating the state’s carbon footprint entirely. Cuomo also contrasted his belief and policy plans with that of the Trump administration’s attitude, saying that “federal government still denies climate change, remarkably turning a blind eye to their own government's scientific report.”</p> <p>Still, his initial position falls short of what the state’s most vocal climate change activists are calling for. Those activists, who have formed the NY Renews coalition, reacted to Cuomo’s announcement by putting together <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/12/18/movie-trailer-release-cuomosclimatecrisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a slick movie trailer</a> with footage of climate disasters and <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/12/17/cuomo-says-he-will-move-ny-off-fossil-fuels-must-execute-vision-by-passing-climate-and-community-protection-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a press release</a> pointing out that electricity is 20 percent of the state’s total carbon footprint, all in service of continuing to push their gold standard: the Climate and Community Protection Act.</p> <p>The CCPA, which has passed the state Assembly for three years only to be stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate that is about to turn to Democratic hands, establishes what advocates have called a “climate justice” framework. In addition to setting legislative targets for the use of renewable energy (50 percent of energy statewide by 2030) and carbon elimination (100 percent fossil fuel free by 2050), the bill also directs any transition project getting state funding to pay a prevailing wage and directs 40 percent of whatever state investment goes towards climate mitigation efforts to go to low-income communities and communities most threatened by climate change. All of which, according to the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, state Senator Brad Hoylman, add up to what the Manhattan Democrat says is the best approach to a Green New Deal, “a three-pronged approach: jobs, labor [standards], and protecting vulnerable communities.”</p> <p>What the ramp up to transition away from fossil fuels will look like is not laid out in detail by the bill, instead the text requires the creation of a New York State Climate Action Council and directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish greenhouse gas emissions limits and regulations to achieve those limits. The bill also establishes a Climate Justice Working Group, which would study how to expand renewable energy into disadvantaged communities and would “have a role in determining what that investment would look like,” Hoylman said.</p> <p>Whether that means a heavy hand from the state or not is something that’s been up for debate, and a place where Cuomo’s proclamation means he may soon weigh in. In a previous interview with Gotham Gazette, three-time Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins -- who has been running on a Green New Deal for New York since the 2010 race -- suggested that it would take “a World War II-scale mobilization” to prevent catastrophic damage from climate change. “During World War II we nationalized 25 percent of manufacturing in this country to make sure we could turn on a dime to make the weapons we used to beat the Nazis. The private investor-owned utilities and energy companies, they haven't led the way to clean energy, so we may need more public ownership,” Hawkins suggested.</p> <p>In Hoylman’s view, the state doesn’t have to seize the means of production or even take on the role of primary investor, as much as it should shape where the market moves money.</p> <p>“I think it's a combination of private investment, but with some prodding by the state to direct investment into low-income communities and communities of color, which otherwise might be passed by the marketplace,” Hoylman said of getting renewable power infrastructure into low-income communities. “I see government's role as a corrective one and making certain that that we've solved the collective action problem, which is basically doing nothing and allowing the marketplace to proceed unabated and our dependence on fossil fuels to increase. That might be less expensive in the short term, but it’s going to be more expensive in the long term. And then secondly, protecting those New Yorkers who often get left behind in these types of transitions, in particular where they’re reliant on outdated modes of energy like fossil fuels.”</p> <p>As the CCPA has languished in the Republican-ruled state Senate, and the years tick closer to 2030, Hoylman said he understands the need to move fast on the legislation when his party takes the helm.</p> <p>“I think so,” Hoylman said when asked if it was imperative that the CCPA is passed in 2019. “You know, we're running out of time on a lot of aspects, but certainly, if we're going to move as quickly as other states like California, we need to pass this bill as soon as possible.”</p> <p>Hoylman also said that he is sensitive to the challenge that Democrats have in passing the CCPA and the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would help fund transition efforts through a carbon tax, while avoiding the pitfall of looking like the tax-hiking and regulation-spewing liberals Republicans warned they would be, but that inaction would be even worse.</p> <p>“I think a Democratic Senate will be very sensitive to raising taxes of any sort without a real understanding of what the point behind them is,” Holyman said. “We think the Climate and Community Protection Act actually creates revenue, given the costs associated with climate change, so I would ask, ‘what is the cost of us not doing anything.’”</p> <p>While the governor hasn’t signaled a position on the bill, and seems to have left the specifics for his Green New Deal for his State of the State, Hoylman praised moves that Cuomo has made on the climate with his executive powers, like establishing a commitment to <a href="https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/new-york-gov-cuomo-pushes-ambitious-offshore-wind-energy-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030</a> and banning fracking. With both houses of the Legislature and the governor himself invested in the larger idea of transitioning away from fossil fuels, Hoylman said he sees a paradigm “that will push Albany to act more decisively on the issue.”</p> <p>Whatever any final Green New Deal for New York looks like will be a product of negotiations between Cuomo and the Legislature, possibly as part of the late March or early April state budget agreement for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The new chair of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, <a href="https://twitter.com/toddkaminsky/status/1072503462703874051" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Senator Todd Kaminsky</a> of Long Island has said he is excited to get to work fighting climate change.&nbsp;“In the face of climate change and the dire threat it poses to New York and our planet, our State must emerge as an environmental leader and demonstrate that we understand the urgency at hand and the need to act accordingly," Kaminsky said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "I plan to hit the ground running as chair to take more aggressive steps to protect our environment and New Yorkers, including holding hearings on the Climate and Community Protection Act, and enacting legislation in support of other resiliency and renewable energy efforts.”</p> <p>As Kaminsky indicated, while the CCPA is the main event of this year’s legislative session when it comes to climate change activism, there’s a lot on the undercard that the state has been grappling with. While public transit is usually thought of as the domain of New York City and the surrounding metro area, and the governor’s Buffalo Billion II program <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7353-with-phase-one-going-on-trial-cuomo-s-buffalo-investment-moves-ahead-with-changes-and-broken-reform-promises" target="_blank" rel="noopener">doesn’t have the cleanest lineage</a>, advocates for a Buffalo light rail expansion <a href="https://buffalochronicle.com/2018/12/27/tim-kennedy-may-be-willing-to-fight-for-a-wider-expansion-of-the-light-rail-system/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are hoping</a> Senator Tim Kennedy’s place as chair of the Transportation Committee will mean more funding for expanding the system as the city <a href="https://buffalonews.com/2018/11/20/nfta-proposes-new-cheaper-route-for-metro-rail-extension-to-amherst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">determines the best path forward</a>.</p> <p>Elsewhere, the state is pushing for renewable energy with an <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-issues-new-yorks-large-scale-offshore-wind-solicitation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">RFP out asking for vendors to deliver</a> 800 megawatts of offshore wind power (with winners to be announced in the spring of 2019) which was <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a goal in Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State book</a>, and the NY-Sun initiative, which offers education and financing for solar projects and has supported almost 90,000 solar projects around the state.</p> <p>There’s also the New York Green Bank, <a href="https://greenbank.ny.gov/Investments/Portfolio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which has invested over $500 million in areas</a> like community solar, energy efficiency and storage projects. The Cuomo administration has continued work <a href="https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/retrofitny-aims-to-turn-new-york-states-affordable-housing-stock-deep-green_o" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on its RetrofitNY project</a>, an effort to find ways to affordably and scalably retrofit multifamily buildings in order to cut their emissions, although the effort hasn’t made it out of the “<a href="https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/RetrofitNY/Timeline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proof of concept and design phase yet</a>.”</p> <p>Outside of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion, there’s also the ongoing argument over Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s management of the state pension fund, which is worth more than $200 billion. Environmental advocates have pressed DiNapoli to divest the state’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies, a move that they say would not only hurt companies who contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, <a href="https://350.org/press-release/dinapoli-cost-nys-22-billion-divestment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">but also make the state pension fund more money</a>. DiNapoli, for his part, has argued <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-27/new-york-city-albany-part-ways-on-divesting-fossil-fuel-stocks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">against making any sudden, sweeping moves</a> without studying their impact, and that <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-lovett-dinapoli-disinvestment-pension-fund-climate-change-20181216-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he has a fiduciary duty</a> to get the best return possible for the state, while also putting $10 billion in state pension funds in a low-emissions and clean energy indexes. He’s also argued that by being an activist investor, he can push the companies toward more climate-friendly policies.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> There are also proposals for New York City to take action, independent of the state, with ongoing action to cut emissions and a pair of high-profile bills that were introduced at the end of 2018. The de Blasio administration has <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/11/02/on-the-environment-de-blasio-defied-expectations-with-bold-goals-but-now-must-deliver/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">included climate change in the OneNYC agenda</a>, setting goals to make New York “<a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/sustainability/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most sustainable big city in the world</a>” and “<a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/resiliency/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most resilient big city in the world</a>.”</p> <p>Part of OneNYC is the de Blasio administration’s target for emissions cutbacks, the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability put out a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/sustainability/downloads/pdf/publications/New%20York%20City's%20Roadmap%20to%2080%20x%2050_Final.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Roadmap to 80x50</a> in 2016 that set a path for emissions reductions by way of energy standards for buildings, expanding the use of renewable energy, increasing the use of mass transit and reducing the amount of waste sent to city landfills.</p> <p>The city is set to begin construction on the “Big U,” a coastal resiliency measure made up of parkland and berms around lower Manhattan to protect it from flooding, in spring 2020, <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/493-18/fact-sheet-de-blasio-administration-faster-updated-plan-east-side-coastal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the most recent news</a> provided by the de Blasio administration. The updated plan for the flood protection, which involves raising the East River Park, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-the-citys-odd-storm-splurge-20181025-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been criticized though</a>, for making the project costlier in what critics say is an effort to not inconvenience drivers on the FDR Drive and avoiding dealing with the Parks Department’s lack of any kind of post-storm maintenance budget. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a></strong>After the mayor got out ahead of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/de-blasio-mayor-environment-buildings-emissions.html?mcubz=3&amp;module=inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">allies and even his office</a> with proposed energy efficiency mandates regarding retrofitting and caps on the amount of fossil fuels buildings can burn, the exact ideas he’d proposed <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/04/25/de-blasios-energy-efficiency-mandates-languish-with-no-deal-in-sight-382038" target="_blank" rel="noopener">never really took off</a>. But, a <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/costa-constantinides/2018/11/20/constantinides-announces-bill-with-speaker-johnson-to-significantly-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-large-buildings-by-2030/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently-introduced pair of bills</a> from Queens City Council Member Costa Constantinides run with the idea, and if passed, would introduce new emissions standards for many buildings 25,000 square feet or larger. Since large buildings account for two-thirds of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, backers of the Constantinides bills see retrofitting large buildings by doing things like installing energy efficient HVAC systems, hot water heaters, and electricity and lighting, as one of the most effective ways for the city to cut those emissions 80 percent by 2050. The bills, which had their first hearing in December, would open an Office of Building Energy Performance that can set new buildings emissions standards and also establish a financing program to help the owners of some buildings finance efforts to retrofit their properties to reach the emissions targets the office sets out.</p> <p>“We need to start where the emissions are, and these large buildings are the right place to do it,” Constantinides said at a hearing to introduce the bills, noting that while buildings larger than 50,000 square feet only make up less than one percent of the city’s building stock, they give off 30 percent of the city’s total emissions. However, while the bill’s supporters have praised the exemption of buildings with at least one rent-stabilized unit from the most stringent efficiency requirements as a necessary way to protect residents from potential rent hikes from upgrades counted as major capital improvements, <a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2018/12/landlords-unions-engineers-rebny-take-aim-at-building-retrofitting-bill/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">critics have called the provision a major problem</a>. (In the event that the state rent laws are changed to prevent landlords from passing MCIs on to rent-stabilized tenants though, organizations like New York Communities for Change have expressed support for writing buildings with rent-stabilized units into the law.)</p> <p>Mark Chambers, director of the de Blasio administration’s Office of Sustainability, told the City Council that the laws could create over 14,000 jobs related to the efforts to retrofit buildings and praised the establishment of a New York City <a href="https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Commercial-Property-Assessed-Clean-Energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">PACE financing program</a> as a way to make sure that property owners themselves aren’t burdened by the efficiency upgrades.</p> <p>Elsewhere, activists who started a campaign this summer to <a href="https://www.publicbanknyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establish a public bank in New York City</a> recently rallied at City Hall to connect the potential municipal bank with efforts to fight climate change on a local level. First, advocates say that taking billions of city deposits away from larger banks like Chase and Bank of America, who <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/21/top-global-banks-still-lend-billions-extract-fossil-fuels" target="_blank" rel="noopener">finance fossil fuel extraction</a> with some of their money, would be as effective a strike against fossil fuel reliance as the city’s underway efforts to divest its public pension funds from fossil fuel stock. Additionally, advocates say that a public bank would allow for cheaper financing of small-scale renewable energy projects that will be necessary in the coming transition away from fossil fuels.</p> <p>“Waterfront solar projects, community solar projects, all of those kind of projects could be funded more easily if the intermediaries that were trying to do the good work didn't have to go to their very limited pots of money or could get money out of somebody bigger who wasn't predatory,” Stephan Edel, the director of the New York Working Families Project at the Working Families Party, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>And while Edel had praise for the pension funds and the state’s green bank as effective tools in the transition to a green economy, he also said that a public bank could lend to projects that return on their investment somewhat slower. “A public bank still has to make safe investments, has to make that limited return, but it can look at a longer term set of benefits and it can look at investments that can have a long-term benefit because it's not looking to get its return in a quarter or make nine percent,” he said.</p> <p>As for the proposal’s legislative future, the New Economy Project’s Ali Issa told Gotham Gazette that the&nbsp;Public Bank NYC coalition is working with “an array of state and city elected officials, including Council Member Mark Levine” to put a proposal for the bank forward in 2019.</p> <p>Levine, for his part, provided a statement saying, “though we have made progress divesting from the fossil fuel industry, we must go further. Our City should put its own money to work for New Yorkers through a public bank, which would supercharge investments in critical projects throughout the five boroughs, and return financial power to the people and businesses that need it most.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbilldeblasiotours-bofeitc-lic.jpg" alt="mbilldeblasiotours bofeitc lic" width="600" /></p> <p>(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>After an election where the issue <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8028-climate-change-and-what-to-do-about-it-largely-missing-from-governor-s-race" target="_blank" rel="noopener">saw little mainstream political attention</a>, climate change and what to do about it has come roaring back to the forefront of the New York political scene. Whether it’s because of a recent federal report <a href="https://www.vox.com/2018/11/24/18109883/climate-report-2018-national-assessment" target="_blank" rel="noopener">outlining the economic damage climate change will cause</a> if left unchecked, because New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has used her bully pulpit to <a href="https://earther.gizmodo.com/new-poll-shows-basically-everyone-likes-alexandria-ocas-1831158171" target="_blank" rel="noopener">push a Green New Deal</a>, or the potential for more action after Democrats won control of the state Senate, there’s increased attention on both new and old legislation to try to beat back rising oceans, extreme weather and their effects.</p> <p>At both the state and city levels, efforts to combat climate change are likely to be significant topics of discussion in 2019.</p> <p><strong>New York State</strong><br /> Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat starting his third term, has increasingly spoken out about the climate crisis during his time in office, even if his ideas and rhetoric haven’t always been what climate activists want from him. The state’s <a href="https://rev.ny.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reforming Energy Vision</a> has set energy efficiency goals (a 600 trillion British thermal units efficiency increase) and renewable energy goals (50 percent of electricity) for the year 2030, and Cuomo helped to establish the <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-us-climate-alliance-initiatives-mark-one-year-anniversary" target="_blank" rel="noopener">U.S. Climate Alliance</a>, a group of 16 states that have agreed to take measures to get their greenhouse gas emissions down to the level set by the Paris Agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s rejection of it. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The governor also made news with a pair of announcements recently. First, <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-dramatic-increase-energy-efficiency-and-energy-storage-targets-combat" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he announced</a> a new New York State Public Service Commission regulation that mandates utilities find ways to cut 31 trillion British thermal units of site energy (which is the heat and electricity consumed by a building), to move towards the goal of saving 185 TBtus 2025 (an energy efficiency framework that the governor said could create 50,000 jobs by 2025) along with an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to develop better energy storage capabilities statewide.</p> <p>Second, Cuomo gave a December speech outlining his 2019 legislative agenda, and called for a Green New Deal for New York, though he gave few details. While Cuomo’s Green New Deal is unlikely to look like a state-level version of the one Ocasio-Cortez is pushing nationally, the dual goals of such a program are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing renewable energies and creating green jobs.</p> <p>In his speech Cuomo did lay out two central aspects of his Green New Deal vision, which he is expected to expand upon when he presents his State of the State policy book in January: getting the state’s electricity to 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2040 and eventually eliminating the state’s carbon footprint entirely. Cuomo also contrasted his belief and policy plans with that of the Trump administration’s attitude, saying that “federal government still denies climate change, remarkably turning a blind eye to their own government's scientific report.”</p> <p>Still, his initial position falls short of what the state’s most vocal climate change activists are calling for. Those activists, who have formed the NY Renews coalition, reacted to Cuomo’s announcement by putting together <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/12/18/movie-trailer-release-cuomosclimatecrisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a slick movie trailer</a> with footage of climate disasters and <a href="http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/12/17/cuomo-says-he-will-move-ny-off-fossil-fuels-must-execute-vision-by-passing-climate-and-community-protection-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a press release</a> pointing out that electricity is 20 percent of the state’s total carbon footprint, all in service of continuing to push their gold standard: the Climate and Community Protection Act.</p> <p>The CCPA, which has passed the state Assembly for three years only to be stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate that is about to turn to Democratic hands, establishes what advocates have called a “climate justice” framework. In addition to setting legislative targets for the use of renewable energy (50 percent of energy statewide by 2030) and carbon elimination (100 percent fossil fuel free by 2050), the bill also directs any transition project getting state funding to pay a prevailing wage and directs 40 percent of whatever state investment goes towards climate mitigation efforts to go to low-income communities and communities most threatened by climate change. All of which, according to the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, state Senator Brad Hoylman, add up to what the Manhattan Democrat says is the best approach to a Green New Deal, “a three-pronged approach: jobs, labor [standards], and protecting vulnerable communities.”</p> <p>What the ramp up to transition away from fossil fuels will look like is not laid out in detail by the bill, instead the text requires the creation of a New York State Climate Action Council and directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish greenhouse gas emissions limits and regulations to achieve those limits. The bill also establishes a Climate Justice Working Group, which would study how to expand renewable energy into disadvantaged communities and would “have a role in determining what that investment would look like,” Hoylman said.</p> <p>Whether that means a heavy hand from the state or not is something that’s been up for debate, and a place where Cuomo’s proclamation means he may soon weigh in. In a previous interview with Gotham Gazette, three-time Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins -- who has been running on a Green New Deal for New York since the 2010 race -- suggested that it would take “a World War II-scale mobilization” to prevent catastrophic damage from climate change. “During World War II we nationalized 25 percent of manufacturing in this country to make sure we could turn on a dime to make the weapons we used to beat the Nazis. The private investor-owned utilities and energy companies, they haven't led the way to clean energy, so we may need more public ownership,” Hawkins suggested.</p> <p>In Hoylman’s view, the state doesn’t have to seize the means of production or even take on the role of primary investor, as much as it should shape where the market moves money.</p> <p>“I think it's a combination of private investment, but with some prodding by the state to direct investment into low-income communities and communities of color, which otherwise might be passed by the marketplace,” Hoylman said of getting renewable power infrastructure into low-income communities. “I see government's role as a corrective one and making certain that that we've solved the collective action problem, which is basically doing nothing and allowing the marketplace to proceed unabated and our dependence on fossil fuels to increase. That might be less expensive in the short term, but it’s going to be more expensive in the long term. And then secondly, protecting those New Yorkers who often get left behind in these types of transitions, in particular where they’re reliant on outdated modes of energy like fossil fuels.”</p> <p>As the CCPA has languished in the Republican-ruled state Senate, and the years tick closer to 2030, Hoylman said he understands the need to move fast on the legislation when his party takes the helm.</p> <p>“I think so,” Hoylman said when asked if it was imperative that the CCPA is passed in 2019. “You know, we're running out of time on a lot of aspects, but certainly, if we're going to move as quickly as other states like California, we need to pass this bill as soon as possible.”</p> <p>Hoylman also said that he is sensitive to the challenge that Democrats have in passing the CCPA and the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would help fund transition efforts through a carbon tax, while avoiding the pitfall of looking like the tax-hiking and regulation-spewing liberals Republicans warned they would be, but that inaction would be even worse.</p> <p>“I think a Democratic Senate will be very sensitive to raising taxes of any sort without a real understanding of what the point behind them is,” Holyman said. “We think the Climate and Community Protection Act actually creates revenue, given the costs associated with climate change, so I would ask, ‘what is the cost of us not doing anything.’”</p> <p>While the governor hasn’t signaled a position on the bill, and seems to have left the specifics for his Green New Deal for his State of the State, Hoylman praised moves that Cuomo has made on the climate with his executive powers, like establishing a commitment to <a href="https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/new-york-gov-cuomo-pushes-ambitious-offshore-wind-energy-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030</a> and banning fracking. With both houses of the Legislature and the governor himself invested in the larger idea of transitioning away from fossil fuels, Hoylman said he sees a paradigm “that will push Albany to act more decisively on the issue.”</p> <p>Whatever any final Green New Deal for New York looks like will be a product of negotiations between Cuomo and the Legislature, possibly as part of the late March or early April state budget agreement for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The new chair of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, <a href="https://twitter.com/toddkaminsky/status/1072503462703874051" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Senator Todd Kaminsky</a> of Long Island has said he is excited to get to work fighting climate change.&nbsp;“In the face of climate change and the dire threat it poses to New York and our planet, our State must emerge as an environmental leader and demonstrate that we understand the urgency at hand and the need to act accordingly," Kaminsky said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "I plan to hit the ground running as chair to take more aggressive steps to protect our environment and New Yorkers, including holding hearings on the Climate and Community Protection Act, and enacting legislation in support of other resiliency and renewable energy efforts.”</p> <p>As Kaminsky indicated, while the CCPA is the main event of this year’s legislative session when it comes to climate change activism, there’s a lot on the undercard that the state has been grappling with. While public transit is usually thought of as the domain of New York City and the surrounding metro area, and the governor’s Buffalo Billion II program <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7353-with-phase-one-going-on-trial-cuomo-s-buffalo-investment-moves-ahead-with-changes-and-broken-reform-promises" target="_blank" rel="noopener">doesn’t have the cleanest lineage</a>, advocates for a Buffalo light rail expansion <a href="https://buffalochronicle.com/2018/12/27/tim-kennedy-may-be-willing-to-fight-for-a-wider-expansion-of-the-light-rail-system/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are hoping</a> Senator Tim Kennedy’s place as chair of the Transportation Committee will mean more funding for expanding the system as the city <a href="https://buffalonews.com/2018/11/20/nfta-proposes-new-cheaper-route-for-metro-rail-extension-to-amherst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">determines the best path forward</a>.</p> <p>Elsewhere, the state is pushing for renewable energy with an <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-issues-new-yorks-large-scale-offshore-wind-solicitation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">RFP out asking for vendors to deliver</a> 800 megawatts of offshore wind power (with winners to be announced in the spring of 2019) which was <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a goal in Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State book</a>, and the NY-Sun initiative, which offers education and financing for solar projects and has supported almost 90,000 solar projects around the state.</p> <p>There’s also the New York Green Bank, <a href="https://greenbank.ny.gov/Investments/Portfolio" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which has invested over $500 million in areas</a> like community solar, energy efficiency and storage projects. The Cuomo administration has continued work <a href="https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/retrofitny-aims-to-turn-new-york-states-affordable-housing-stock-deep-green_o" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on its RetrofitNY project</a>, an effort to find ways to affordably and scalably retrofit multifamily buildings in order to cut their emissions, although the effort hasn’t made it out of the “<a href="https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/RetrofitNY/Timeline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proof of concept and design phase yet</a>.”</p> <p>Outside of the Legislature and the governor’s mansion, there’s also the ongoing argument over Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s management of the state pension fund, which is worth more than $200 billion. Environmental advocates have pressed DiNapoli to divest the state’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies, a move that they say would not only hurt companies who contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, <a href="https://350.org/press-release/dinapoli-cost-nys-22-billion-divestment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">but also make the state pension fund more money</a>. DiNapoli, for his part, has argued <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-27/new-york-city-albany-part-ways-on-divesting-fossil-fuel-stocks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">against making any sudden, sweeping moves</a> without studying their impact, and that <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-lovett-dinapoli-disinvestment-pension-fund-climate-change-20181216-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he has a fiduciary duty</a> to get the best return possible for the state, while also putting $10 billion in state pension funds in a low-emissions and clean energy indexes. He’s also argued that by being an activist investor, he can push the companies toward more climate-friendly policies.</p> <p><strong>New York City</strong><br /> There are also proposals for New York City to take action, independent of the state, with ongoing action to cut emissions and a pair of high-profile bills that were introduced at the end of 2018. The de Blasio administration has <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/11/02/on-the-environment-de-blasio-defied-expectations-with-bold-goals-but-now-must-deliver/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">included climate change in the OneNYC agenda</a>, setting goals to make New York “<a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/sustainability/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most sustainable big city in the world</a>” and “<a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us/visions/resiliency/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the most resilient big city in the world</a>.”</p> <p>Part of OneNYC is the de Blasio administration’s target for emissions cutbacks, the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability put out a <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/sustainability/downloads/pdf/publications/New%20York%20City's%20Roadmap%20to%2080%20x%2050_Final.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Roadmap to 80x50</a> in 2016 that set a path for emissions reductions by way of energy standards for buildings, expanding the use of renewable energy, increasing the use of mass transit and reducing the amount of waste sent to city landfills.</p> <p>The city is set to begin construction on the “Big U,” a coastal resiliency measure made up of parkland and berms around lower Manhattan to protect it from flooding, in spring 2020, <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/493-18/fact-sheet-de-blasio-administration-faster-updated-plan-east-side-coastal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the most recent news</a> provided by the de Blasio administration. The updated plan for the flood protection, which involves raising the East River Park, <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-the-citys-odd-storm-splurge-20181025-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been criticized though</a>, for making the project costlier in what critics say is an effort to not inconvenience drivers on the FDR Drive and avoiding dealing with the Parks Department’s lack of any kind of post-storm maintenance budget. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a></strong>After the mayor got out ahead of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/nyregion/de-blasio-mayor-environment-buildings-emissions.html?mcubz=3&amp;module=inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">allies and even his office</a> with proposed energy efficiency mandates regarding retrofitting and caps on the amount of fossil fuels buildings can burn, the exact ideas he’d proposed <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/04/25/de-blasios-energy-efficiency-mandates-languish-with-no-deal-in-sight-382038" target="_blank" rel="noopener">never really took off</a>. But, a <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/costa-constantinides/2018/11/20/constantinides-announces-bill-with-speaker-johnson-to-significantly-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-large-buildings-by-2030/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently-introduced pair of bills</a> from Queens City Council Member Costa Constantinides run with the idea, and if passed, would introduce new emissions standards for many buildings 25,000 square feet or larger. Since large buildings account for two-thirds of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, backers of the Constantinides bills see retrofitting large buildings by doing things like installing energy efficient HVAC systems, hot water heaters, and electricity and lighting, as one of the most effective ways for the city to cut those emissions 80 percent by 2050. The bills, which had their first hearing in December, would open an Office of Building Energy Performance that can set new buildings emissions standards and also establish a financing program to help the owners of some buildings finance efforts to retrofit their properties to reach the emissions targets the office sets out.</p> <p>“We need to start where the emissions are, and these large buildings are the right place to do it,” Constantinides said at a hearing to introduce the bills, noting that while buildings larger than 50,000 square feet only make up less than one percent of the city’s building stock, they give off 30 percent of the city’s total emissions. However, while the bill’s supporters have praised the exemption of buildings with at least one rent-stabilized unit from the most stringent efficiency requirements as a necessary way to protect residents from potential rent hikes from upgrades counted as major capital improvements, <a href="https://commercialobserver.com/2018/12/landlords-unions-engineers-rebny-take-aim-at-building-retrofitting-bill/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">critics have called the provision a major problem</a>. (In the event that the state rent laws are changed to prevent landlords from passing MCIs on to rent-stabilized tenants though, organizations like New York Communities for Change have expressed support for writing buildings with rent-stabilized units into the law.)</p> <p>Mark Chambers, director of the de Blasio administration’s Office of Sustainability, told the City Council that the laws could create over 14,000 jobs related to the efforts to retrofit buildings and praised the establishment of a New York City <a href="https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Commercial-Property-Assessed-Clean-Energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener">PACE financing program</a> as a way to make sure that property owners themselves aren’t burdened by the efficiency upgrades.</p> <p>Elsewhere, activists who started a campaign this summer to <a href="https://www.publicbanknyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">establish a public bank in New York City</a> recently rallied at City Hall to connect the potential municipal bank with efforts to fight climate change on a local level. First, advocates say that taking billions of city deposits away from larger banks like Chase and Bank of America, who <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/21/top-global-banks-still-lend-billions-extract-fossil-fuels" target="_blank" rel="noopener">finance fossil fuel extraction</a> with some of their money, would be as effective a strike against fossil fuel reliance as the city’s underway efforts to divest its public pension funds from fossil fuel stock. Additionally, advocates say that a public bank would allow for cheaper financing of small-scale renewable energy projects that will be necessary in the coming transition away from fossil fuels.</p> <p>“Waterfront solar projects, community solar projects, all of those kind of projects could be funded more easily if the intermediaries that were trying to do the good work didn't have to go to their very limited pots of money or could get money out of somebody bigger who wasn't predatory,” Stephan Edel, the director of the New York Working Families Project at the Working Families Party, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>And while Edel had praise for the pension funds and the state’s green bank as effective tools in the transition to a green economy, he also said that a public bank could lend to projects that return on their investment somewhat slower. “A public bank still has to make safe investments, has to make that limited return, but it can look at a longer term set of benefits and it can look at investments that can have a long-term benefit because it's not looking to get its return in a quarter or make nine percent,” he said.</p> <p>As for the proposal’s legislative future, the New Economy Project’s Ali Issa told Gotham Gazette that the&nbsp;Public Bank NYC coalition is working with “an array of state and city elected officials, including Council Member Mark Levine” to put a proposal for the bank forward in 2019.</p> <p>Levine, for his part, provided a statement saying, “though we have made progress divesting from the fossil fuel industry, we must go further. Our City should put its own money to work for New Yorkers through a public bank, which would supercharge investments in critical projects throughout the five boroughs, and return financial power to the people and businesses that need it most.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Dave Colon, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
35 Questions for New York Politics in 2019 2019-01-01T05:00:00+00:00 2019-01-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8168-35-questions-for-new-york-politics-in-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/45865529791_71d6d76b75_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio Amazon" width="600" height="392" /></p> <p>Cuomo &amp; de Blasio celebrate Amazon to NY (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>1. Will Kirsten Gillibrand and/or Michael Bloomberg run for President?</p> <p>2. Will Andrew Cuomo explore a presidential run?</p> <p>3. How will Chuck Schumer perform as Senate minority leader amid a new power dynamic in Washington? What impact will Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have as she officially takes office and the year progresses? What other New York representatives will make significant impact in the new Washington, especially given new powerful committee roles? Will Gateway funding from the federal government come through? Are there other major decisions related to federal funding or policy that impact New York?</p> <p>4. How will Cuomo’s third term start, with major accomplishments, acrimony with legislators - both? How much of his outlined "first 100 days" agenda will he get passed in that time period?</p> <p>5. What will and won’t pass in Albany before and through a budget deal at the end of March? Will the budget be on time? How will the changes in the federal tax code affect New York? Where will the areas of more easy agreement be among the legislative majorities and Cuomo? What subjects will prove most contentious? What will be left over to the legislative session after the budget?</p> <p>6. Will the Reproductive Health Act sail through? The Child Victims Act (with what details)? Will marijuana be legalized and if so, what will the regulations look like? Will congestion pricing pass? The Dream Act? Which pieces of gun control will pass? What will the New York Green New Deal look like exactly? Will cash bail be abolished? Will anything be done about plastic bags? Will rent regulations, such as and especially vacancy decontrol, be reformed/eliminated/extended? Will there be hearings and real debate over single-payer health care (the New York Health Act)? Will there be any movement on granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants? Will sweeping voting reforms actually be passed? Will there be strong new state government ethics and campaign finance laws? And so on...</p> <p>7. Where will the annual fight over education aid land this year? What other key education battles will emerge? Will there be legislation related to teacher evaluations? Will anything happen regarding admissions to New York City’s specialized high schools? Will mayoral control of New York City schools be extended? What will happen with the charter school cap? Will mayoral control be extended to another municipality, like Rochester?</p> <p>8. How will Andrea Stewart-Cousins perform as Senate Majority Leader and how will the new Senate Democratic majority run the chamber? Which new state senators will set themselves apart?</p> <p>9. Will the Legislature hold tough oversight hearings? Will there be one on the MTA? Will there be hearings on sexual misconduct in government and the private sector? Will laws meant to prevent sexual misconduct passed in 2018 be strengthened in 2019?</p> <p>10. How will Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie approach the new world order in Albany? How will Heastie’s relationship with Cuomo evolve? How hard left will the Assembly Democrats push?</p> <p>11. Will state lawmakers take any significant action to change the outcomes of the decisions of the legislative and executive compensation commission?</p> <p>12. How will Letitia James perform as Attorney General? Will her efforts to investigate President Donald Trump, his associates and enterprises, show results? Will she be the independent actor she has promised with regard to Governor Cuomo and other elected officials?</p> <p>13. What next steps will Comptroller Tom DiNapoli take in his management of the state pension fund, especially with regard to fossil fuel companies and the question of divestment? How will DiNapoli approach his oversight role?</p> <p>14. Who will be the next head of the MTA? Will the MTA be restructured? Can the next MTA chair, Andy Byford, Governor Cuomo and state legislators save the subways? Can they, along with Mayor de Blasio, resuscitate the buses? Will MTA labor and construction costs be reined in? How will the MTA’s capital needs be funded?</p> <p>15. Can Cuomo and de Blasio work together productively on anything? Many things?</p> <p>16. Will Mayor de Blasio regain some mojo? Will the mayor put forth new, exciting ideas?</p> <p>17. Who will be the next Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development? Will there be (m)any high-profile departures of top administration officials?</p> <p>18. How will de Blasio’s programs evolve and proceed in 2019 -- will he adjust his affordable housing plan further? Will he figure out funding for the BQX by securing the federal dollars he says are needed? Can he again rethink his approach to homelessness to more quickly reduce the number of people living in shelters? Which neighborhoods will the city rezone in 2019?<br />Will crime continue to drop? Will the city become safer for pedestrians and bicyclists? Will the mayor do anything serious about street congestion?</p> <p>19. What’s next in the process for Amazon to create a Queens campus? Will there be sustained protests? How will community outreach go? Will there be changes to the deal announced, like some planned return/investment of subsidies? Is there anything opponents, especially in the state Legislature, can do to stop or significantly alter the deal? How will the Cuomo-de Blasio alliance on Amazon evolve? Will they stay united in defense of the project or will the like-mindedness fray given de Blasio’s comments about subsidies?</p> <p>20. What will be the result of the NYPD trial of Officer Daniel Pantaleo? Will anything larger change in how the NYPD deals with accountability for its officers? Will the state repeal or drastically alter the 50-a section of civil rights law that relates to making officers’ personnel records publicly available?</p> <p>21. Who will run NYCHA? Will the federal government insert itself in a new, formal way? Will Mayor de Blasio appoint someone new as Chair? Will de Blasio and NYCHA move ahead aggressively with the new NYCHA 2.0 plan that de Blasio and others unveiled at the end of 2018?</p> <p>22. How will Margaret Garnett perform as Department of Investigation commissioner? Will anything come of the reported investigation into whether Mayor de Blasio or City Hall officials interfered with a city investigation into the education yeshivas provide?</p> <p>23. Where will things go with oversight of those yeshivas and new state guidelines to ensure they are providing substantially equivalent secular education to public schools?</p> <p>24. Will anyone do anything about rampant parking placard abuse?</p> <p>25. Will anything be done to help distressed taxi drivers in the city, especially with regard to medallion debt? What’s next in terms of regulating Uber/Lyft and such companies?</p> <p>26. How aggressively will the city, the Department of Education and Chancellor Richard Carranza push local school districts to pass rezonings and changes in admissions policies aimed at racial integration? What will happen with de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program? How will the rollout of de Blasio’s “3-K” program proceed?</p> <p>27. Who will be the next New York City Public Advocate (the election is February 26!)? Who will run in the fall election for that same position?</p> <p>28. How will Speaker Corey Johnson perform as acting Public Advocate from January 1 to February 27? How else will Johnson make his mark in 2019? Will he give a State of the City speech and announce bold proposals? What will his push for city control of the subways and buses look like? Will the City Council pass bills the Mayor doesn’t agree to? Will it force the Mayor to use his first veto since taking office?</p> <p>29. What will be the key battles in the next city budget negotiations? Will de Blasio and the City Council take steps to increase savings and reduce spending?</p> <p>30. What will the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission put on the November ballot? How will those proposals fare? Will there be major overhauls to how New York City does its budgeting and/or land use? Will there be instant-runoff voting?</p> <p>31. Who will be the next Queens District Attorney? Will there be competitive races in the Bronx or on Staten Island for those two DA positions?</p> <p>32. Will Chirlane McCray’s political plans become clearer? Will we get any sense of what Mayor de Blasio is eyeing post-mayoralty?</p> <p>33. What will be the next steps in the early 2021 mayoral campaign -- will Corey Johnson join Scott Stringer, Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Eric Adams as candidates clearly intent on running? Who else might float their names or signal their exploration? Who will take the first steps toward running for City Comptroller in 2021? Who else will emerge as candidates for the various borough president positions? (We know Jimmy Van Bramer is running for Queens BP and Robert Cornegy Jr. is running for Brooklyn BP)</p> <p>34. Will there be apparent jockeying to become the next City Council Speaker?</p> <p>35. What steps will Republicans in New York take to remake the party and prepare for future elections? What role will 2018 gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro have moving forward? Can the party develop its bench, and better line candidates up for citywide, statewide, and other key positions? Can it set the groundwork to regain the state Senate in 2020? Will the state party and party leaders rethink their approach to President Trump?</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/45865529791_71d6d76b75_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio Amazon" width="600" height="392" /></p> <p>Cuomo &amp; de Blasio celebrate Amazon to NY (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>1. Will Kirsten Gillibrand and/or Michael Bloomberg run for President?</p> <p>2. Will Andrew Cuomo explore a presidential run?</p> <p>3. How will Chuck Schumer perform as Senate minority leader amid a new power dynamic in Washington? What impact will Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have as she officially takes office and the year progresses? What other New York representatives will make significant impact in the new Washington, especially given new powerful committee roles? Will Gateway funding from the federal government come through? Are there other major decisions related to federal funding or policy that impact New York?</p> <p>4. How will Cuomo’s third term start, with major accomplishments, acrimony with legislators - both? How much of his outlined "first 100 days" agenda will he get passed in that time period?</p> <p>5. What will and won’t pass in Albany before and through a budget deal at the end of March? Will the budget be on time? How will the changes in the federal tax code affect New York? Where will the areas of more easy agreement be among the legislative majorities and Cuomo? What subjects will prove most contentious? What will be left over to the legislative session after the budget?</p> <p>6. Will the Reproductive Health Act sail through? The Child Victims Act (with what details)? Will marijuana be legalized and if so, what will the regulations look like? Will congestion pricing pass? The Dream Act? Which pieces of gun control will pass? What will the New York Green New Deal look like exactly? Will cash bail be abolished? Will anything be done about plastic bags? Will rent regulations, such as and especially vacancy decontrol, be reformed/eliminated/extended? Will there be hearings and real debate over single-payer health care (the New York Health Act)? Will there be any movement on granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants? Will sweeping voting reforms actually be passed? Will there be strong new state government ethics and campaign finance laws? And so on...</p> <p>7. Where will the annual fight over education aid land this year? What other key education battles will emerge? Will there be legislation related to teacher evaluations? Will anything happen regarding admissions to New York City’s specialized high schools? Will mayoral control of New York City schools be extended? What will happen with the charter school cap? Will mayoral control be extended to another municipality, like Rochester?</p> <p>8. How will Andrea Stewart-Cousins perform as Senate Majority Leader and how will the new Senate Democratic majority run the chamber? Which new state senators will set themselves apart?</p> <p>9. Will the Legislature hold tough oversight hearings? Will there be one on the MTA? Will there be hearings on sexual misconduct in government and the private sector? Will laws meant to prevent sexual misconduct passed in 2018 be strengthened in 2019?</p> <p>10. How will Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie approach the new world order in Albany? How will Heastie’s relationship with Cuomo evolve? How hard left will the Assembly Democrats push?</p> <p>11. Will state lawmakers take any significant action to change the outcomes of the decisions of the legislative and executive compensation commission?</p> <p>12. How will Letitia James perform as Attorney General? Will her efforts to investigate President Donald Trump, his associates and enterprises, show results? Will she be the independent actor she has promised with regard to Governor Cuomo and other elected officials?</p> <p>13. What next steps will Comptroller Tom DiNapoli take in his management of the state pension fund, especially with regard to fossil fuel companies and the question of divestment? How will DiNapoli approach his oversight role?</p> <p>14. Who will be the next head of the MTA? Will the MTA be restructured? Can the next MTA chair, Andy Byford, Governor Cuomo and state legislators save the subways? Can they, along with Mayor de Blasio, resuscitate the buses? Will MTA labor and construction costs be reined in? How will the MTA’s capital needs be funded?</p> <p>15. Can Cuomo and de Blasio work together productively on anything? Many things?</p> <p>16. Will Mayor de Blasio regain some mojo? Will the mayor put forth new, exciting ideas?</p> <p>17. Who will be the next Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development? Will there be (m)any high-profile departures of top administration officials?</p> <p>18. How will de Blasio’s programs evolve and proceed in 2019 -- will he adjust his affordable housing plan further? Will he figure out funding for the BQX by securing the federal dollars he says are needed? Can he again rethink his approach to homelessness to more quickly reduce the number of people living in shelters? Which neighborhoods will the city rezone in 2019?<br />Will crime continue to drop? Will the city become safer for pedestrians and bicyclists? Will the mayor do anything serious about street congestion?</p> <p>19. What’s next in the process for Amazon to create a Queens campus? Will there be sustained protests? How will community outreach go? Will there be changes to the deal announced, like some planned return/investment of subsidies? Is there anything opponents, especially in the state Legislature, can do to stop or significantly alter the deal? How will the Cuomo-de Blasio alliance on Amazon evolve? Will they stay united in defense of the project or will the like-mindedness fray given de Blasio’s comments about subsidies?</p> <p>20. What will be the result of the NYPD trial of Officer Daniel Pantaleo? Will anything larger change in how the NYPD deals with accountability for its officers? Will the state repeal or drastically alter the 50-a section of civil rights law that relates to making officers’ personnel records publicly available?</p> <p>21. Who will run NYCHA? Will the federal government insert itself in a new, formal way? Will Mayor de Blasio appoint someone new as Chair? Will de Blasio and NYCHA move ahead aggressively with the new NYCHA 2.0 plan that de Blasio and others unveiled at the end of 2018?</p> <p>22. How will Margaret Garnett perform as Department of Investigation commissioner? Will anything come of the reported investigation into whether Mayor de Blasio or City Hall officials interfered with a city investigation into the education yeshivas provide?</p> <p>23. Where will things go with oversight of those yeshivas and new state guidelines to ensure they are providing substantially equivalent secular education to public schools?</p> <p>24. Will anyone do anything about rampant parking placard abuse?</p> <p>25. Will anything be done to help distressed taxi drivers in the city, especially with regard to medallion debt? What’s next in terms of regulating Uber/Lyft and such companies?</p> <p>26. How aggressively will the city, the Department of Education and Chancellor Richard Carranza push local school districts to pass rezonings and changes in admissions policies aimed at racial integration? What will happen with de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program? How will the rollout of de Blasio’s “3-K” program proceed?</p> <p>27. Who will be the next New York City Public Advocate (the election is February 26!)? Who will run in the fall election for that same position?</p> <p>28. How will Speaker Corey Johnson perform as acting Public Advocate from January 1 to February 27? How else will Johnson make his mark in 2019? Will he give a State of the City speech and announce bold proposals? What will his push for city control of the subways and buses look like? Will the City Council pass bills the Mayor doesn’t agree to? Will it force the Mayor to use his first veto since taking office?</p> <p>29. What will be the key battles in the next city budget negotiations? Will de Blasio and the City Council take steps to increase savings and reduce spending?</p> <p>30. What will the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission put on the November ballot? How will those proposals fare? Will there be major overhauls to how New York City does its budgeting and/or land use? Will there be instant-runoff voting?</p> <p>31. Who will be the next Queens District Attorney? Will there be competitive races in the Bronx or on Staten Island for those two DA positions?</p> <p>32. Will Chirlane McCray’s political plans become clearer? Will we get any sense of what Mayor de Blasio is eyeing post-mayoralty?</p> <p>33. What will be the next steps in the early 2021 mayoral campaign -- will Corey Johnson join Scott Stringer, Ruben Diaz, Jr., and Eric Adams as candidates clearly intent on running? Who else might float their names or signal their exploration? Who will take the first steps toward running for City Comptroller in 2021? Who else will emerge as candidates for the various borough president positions? (We know Jimmy Van Bramer is running for Queens BP and Robert Cornegy Jr. is running for Brooklyn BP)</p> <p>34. Will there be apparent jockeying to become the next City Council Speaker?</p> <p>35. What steps will Republicans in New York take to remake the party and prepare for future elections? What role will 2018 gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro have moving forward? Can the party develop its bench, and better line candidates up for citywide, statewide, and other key positions? Can it set the groundwork to regain the state Senate in 2020? Will the state party and party leaders rethink their approach to President Trump?</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>This article has been updated.</p>
The 10 Most-Read Gotham Gazette Stories of 2018 2018-12-30T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8165-the-10-most-read-gotham-gazette-stories-of-2018 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40343614815_577c08b0c8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins Klein" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As 2018 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our “best” and most-read articles of the year. In a separate post, we’ll highlight some of the “best” pieces we reported that aren’t among our top ten most-read articles, which are listed below. This list does not include articles like election guides or candidate lists or even our summaries of voter turnout numbers, all of which are often among our most-read posts, as was our article that reported on the mayor's charter revision commission announcing which questions it would put on the November ballot.</p> <p>The list below also does not include opinion pieces, though several of the op-ed columns that we published this year did qualify in terms of page-views. But this list is for reporting done by Gotham Gazette, and here it is, our ten most-read articles of 2018:</p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie_rally.png" alt="myrie rally" width="250" height="132" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1. Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />In late February the Working Families Party announced a series of candidates it was backing to challenge members of the Independent Democratic Conference in state Senate primaries. While a lot changed from February to the September primaries, in the end six WFP-backed candidates defeated members of what had been the eight-member IDC, with the WFP working alongside an extremely organized and energized group of other activists set on unseating IDC members and flipping the state Senate to Democrats.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the WFP escalating its efforts to unseat IDC members.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/marc-molinaro400px.jpg" alt="marc molinaro" width="250" height="104" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2. In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make A Character Argument</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />As Republican Marc Molinaro launched his campaign for governor, this profile outlined how he would pitch himself to voters as a person of integrity and good leadership, and juxtaposed as such to the image he would portrary of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Dutchess county executive ran a spirited and earnest campaign, regularly hitting the themes of this initial Gotham Gazette look at his candidacy, which was based on an hourlong interview with Molinaro while he was deciding whether to run or not. In the end, Cuomo dispatched Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary, then beat Molinaro and others in the general election, winning a third term.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about how Molinaro would present himself to the statewide electorate and his stances on several key issues.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eny_rezoning_map.png" alt="rezoning de blasio" width="250" height="138" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">&nbsp;3. Questions Arise as De Blasio Administration Rezones Series of Low-Income Neighborhoods</a><br />by Sam Raskin, March 2018<br />Mayor de Blasio's administration has pushed through several neighborhood rezonings aimed at adding housing density, building affordable housing, and making neighborhood improvements. All of them have occurred in low-income neighborhoods, a phenomenon not lost on many. In this piece, we examine the trend and what it means as areas like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx are rezoned.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the de Blasio administration's approach to neighborhood rezonings, and which areas of the city appear to be off limits in terms of seeking added housing density.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_abny_brachfeld.jpg" alt="cuomo state senate" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4. Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate</a><br />by Ben Brachfeld, April 2018<br />As Governor Cuomo professed his full support for helping to flip the state Senate to Democrats, this article examined the fact that many of Cuomo's biggest supporters were also supporters of a Republican Senate. The Democratic governor had, after all, himself been seen as supportive of a split Legislature, with Democrats in control of the Assembly, so that he could triangulate, carefully craft which progressive policies he wanted to pass, and keep fiscal restraints in place, while also pushing ahead a charter school and real estate friendly agenda that aligned with his beliefs.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article outlining the main Cuomo backers who also backed a Republican state Senate.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon.jpg" alt="cynthia nixon" width="250" height="194" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">5. Is Cynthia Nixon Qualified To Be Governor?</a><br />by Ashley Hupfl, April 2018<br />From the moment she declared her candidacy for governor, Cynthia Nixon was dogged by one key question: what makes you qualified to lead the state of New York and run its government? Nixon gave various answers to the question, mostly saying that she had the right values and the right policy plans. In this article, we explored her qualifications and the general question of what makes someone qualified to be governor.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article discussing Nixon's resume and what it means to be qualified to become governor.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/hamilton_adams.jpg" alt="hamilton adams" width="250" height="188" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6. Senator Facing Tough Primary is Spending $1 Million from Brooklyn Borough President</a><br />by Daniel Yadin, August 2018<br />State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who became a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, was the preferred successor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams when Adams left the Senate to take his borough presidency position. The two close friends remained tight as Hamilton fought for his political life against a variety of forces looking to unseat him and other members of the IDC, and Adams was helpful to Hamilton in an unprecedented move of providing city funds for Hamilton to dedicate to projects in his Senate district.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the article that exposed the fact that Senator Hamilton was generously allocated participatory budgeting money by his close ally Borough President Adams as the senator was in a tough reelection campaign that he ultimately lost to Zellnor Myrie.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/corey_.jpg" alt="corey johnson" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7. Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />During the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, questions were raised about diversity in city government leadership given the fact that the mayor and comptroller were both white men, along with top statewide positions. As Corey Johnson won that race, he talked about both the diversity he would bring to the role as an openly gay and HIV positive person, and the diversity he promised he would bring to the Council under his leadership. But a review of Johnson's hiring as a City Council member showed a track record of largely employing white men.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined new Speaker Corey Johnson's past staffing demographics and his pledge to hire a diverse staff as speaker amid questions about the elevation of another white man to a powerful city government position.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/klein_gjonaj.png" alt="klein gjonaj" width="250" height="154" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8. Close Ties Among Bronx Electeds, Campaign Consultants, Lobbyists and Donors</a><br />by Jake Shore, October 2018<br />There are often blurry lines in politics, especially when government and campaigns are concerned, involving lobbyists, consultants, donors, and elected officials who have various relationships. Some of the closest ties in New York politics have included State Senator Jeff Klein and City Council Member Mark Gjonaj, along with consultants and lobbyists who have worked with them, and donors who have given to their campaigns.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the October 2018 article that examined the close ties among Klein, Gjonaj, campaign consultants and donors, and others in their orbits.&nbsp;&nbsp;</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/de_blasio_bratton_oneill_nypd_crime.jpg" alt="de blasio bratton oneill nypd crime" width="250" height="166" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9. Why Does Crime Keep Falling in New York City?</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />While New York City has seen decades of declining crime numbers, part of a national and international trend, do we really know why? In this article we explored the theories and the facts about New York City's remarkable crime decline.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined the decades-long crime decline in the city, which has continued under Mayor Bill de Blasio, some of the reasons experts provide for the trend, and what can actually be supported by data.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_vital_brooklyn.jpg" alt="cuomo vital brooklyn" width="250" height="207" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">10. A Closer Look at 'Vital Brooklyn,' Cuomo's Plan for 'One of the Greatest Areas of Need in the Entire State'</a><br />by Rachel Holliday Smith, December 2018<br />Governor Cuomo surprised many people when he first announced in 2017 a state investment of $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, with the governor explaining that "Vital Brooklyn" was a program to bring much-needed resources to an area of the city and state with some of the most significant challenges facing New Yorkers, including poor health, bad schools, lack of park space, and more. The program hadn't been a heralded or even named part of the prior state budget deal, but Cuomo explained it as a major initiative and went on to make many Vital Brooklyn announcements, including several in the lead up to the 2018 primary election wherein he was attempting to defeat Cynthia Nixon while relying on a political base including Central Brooklyn voters.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the December 2018 article that examines what exactly Vital Brooklyn is, where the money comes from and is going, and how Cuomo has used the program to make those many announcements.</a></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/40343614815_577c08b0c8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Stewart-Cousins Klein" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As 2018 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our “best” and most-read articles of the year. In a separate post, we’ll highlight some of the “best” pieces we reported that aren’t among our top ten most-read articles, which are listed below. This list does not include articles like election guides or candidate lists or even our summaries of voter turnout numbers, all of which are often among our most-read posts, as was our article that reported on the mayor's charter revision commission announcing which questions it would put on the November ballot.</p> <p>The list below also does not include opinion pieces, though several of the op-ed columns that we published this year did qualify in terms of page-views. But this list is for reporting done by Gotham Gazette, and here it is, our ten most-read articles of 2018:</p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/myrie_rally.png" alt="myrie rally" width="250" height="132" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">1. Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />In late February the Working Families Party announced a series of candidates it was backing to challenge members of the Independent Democratic Conference in state Senate primaries. While a lot changed from February to the September primaries, in the end six WFP-backed candidates defeated members of what had been the eight-member IDC, with the WFP working alongside an extremely organized and energized group of other activists set on unseating IDC members and flipping the state Senate to Democrats.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the WFP escalating its efforts to unseat IDC members.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/marc-molinaro400px.jpg" alt="marc molinaro" width="250" height="104" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2. In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make A Character Argument</a><br />by Ben Max, March 2018<br />As Republican Marc Molinaro launched his campaign for governor, this profile outlined how he would pitch himself to voters as a person of integrity and good leadership, and juxtaposed as such to the image he would portrary of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Dutchess county executive ran a spirited and earnest campaign, regularly hitting the themes of this initial Gotham Gazette look at his candidacy, which was based on an hourlong interview with Molinaro while he was deciding whether to run or not. In the end, Cuomo dispatched Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary, then beat Molinaro and others in the general election, winning a third term.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7581-in-run-for-governor-marc-molinaro-will-make-a-character-argument" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about how Molinaro would present himself to the statewide electorate and his stances on several key issues.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eny_rezoning_map.png" alt="rezoning de blasio" width="250" height="138" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">&nbsp;3. Questions Arise as De Blasio Administration Rezones Series of Low-Income Neighborhoods</a><br />by Sam Raskin, March 2018<br />Mayor de Blasio's administration has pushed through several neighborhood rezonings aimed at adding housing density, building affordable housing, and making neighborhood improvements. All of them have occurred in low-income neighborhoods, a phenomenon not lost on many. In this piece, we examine the trend and what it means as areas like East New York, East Harlem, and the Jerome Avenue corridor in the Bronx are rezoned.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7521-questions-arise-as-de-blasio-rezones-series-of-low-income-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the March article about the de Blasio administration's approach to neighborhood rezonings, and which areas of the city appear to be off limits in terms of seeking added housing density.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_abny_brachfeld.jpg" alt="cuomo state senate" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">4. Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate</a><br />by Ben Brachfeld, April 2018<br />As Governor Cuomo professed his full support for helping to flip the state Senate to Democrats, this article examined the fact that many of Cuomo's biggest supporters were also supporters of a Republican Senate. The Democratic governor had, after all, himself been seen as supportive of a split Legislature, with Democrats in control of the Assembly, so that he could triangulate, carefully craft which progressive policies he wanted to pass, and keep fiscal restraints in place, while also pushing ahead a charter school and real estate friendly agenda that aligned with his beliefs.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7624-major-cuomo-supporters-don-t-want-a-democratic-state-senate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article outlining the main Cuomo backers who also backed a Republican state Senate.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cyn-nixon.jpg" alt="cynthia nixon" width="250" height="194" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">5. Is Cynthia Nixon Qualified To Be Governor?</a><br />by Ashley Hupfl, April 2018<br />From the moment she declared her candidacy for governor, Cynthia Nixon was dogged by one key question: what makes you qualified to lead the state of New York and run its government? Nixon gave various answers to the question, mostly saying that she had the right values and the right policy plans. In this article, we explored her qualifications and the general question of what makes someone qualified to be governor.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7631-is-cynthia-nixon-qualified-to-be-governor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the April article discussing Nixon's resume and what it means to be qualified to become governor.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/hamilton_adams.jpg" alt="hamilton adams" width="250" height="188" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6. Senator Facing Tough Primary is Spending $1 Million from Brooklyn Borough President</a><br />by Daniel Yadin, August 2018<br />State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who became a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, was the preferred successor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams when Adams left the Senate to take his borough presidency position. The two close friends remained tight as Hamilton fought for his political life against a variety of forces looking to unseat him and other members of the IDC, and Adams was helpful to Hamilton in an unprecedented move of providing city funds for Hamilton to dedicate to projects in his Senate district.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7862-adams-allocates-1-million-in-government-funding-as-hamilton-attempts-to-fend-off-primary-challenger" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the article that exposed the fact that Senator Hamilton was generously allocated participatory budgeting money by his close ally Borough President Adams as the senator was in a tough reelection campaign that he ultimately lost to Zellnor Myrie.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/corey_.jpg" alt="corey johnson" width="250" height="167" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7. Now Pursuing Diversity, New City Council Speaker Has Employed Mostly White Men</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />During the race to become the next speaker of the City Council, questions were raised about diversity in city government leadership given the fact that the mayor and comptroller were both white men, along with top statewide positions. As Corey Johnson won that race, he talked about both the diversity he would bring to the role as an openly gay and HIV positive person, and the diversity he promised he would bring to the Council under his leadership. But a review of Johnson's hiring as a City Council member showed a track record of largely employing white men.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7416-now-pursuing-diversity-new-city-council-speaker-has-employed-mostly-white-men" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined new Speaker Corey Johnson's past staffing demographics and his pledge to hire a diverse staff as speaker amid questions about the elevation of another white man to a powerful city government position.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/klein_gjonaj.png" alt="klein gjonaj" width="250" height="154" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8. Close Ties Among Bronx Electeds, Campaign Consultants, Lobbyists and Donors</a><br />by Jake Shore, October 2018<br />There are often blurry lines in politics, especially when government and campaigns are concerned, involving lobbyists, consultants, donors, and elected officials who have various relationships. Some of the closest ties in New York politics have included State Senator Jeff Klein and City Council Member Mark Gjonaj, along with consultants and lobbyists who have worked with them, and donors who have given to their campaigns.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7993-close-ties-among-bronx-electeds-campaign-consultants-lobbyists-and-donors" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the October 2018 article that examined the close ties among Klein, Gjonaj, campaign consultants and donors, and others in their orbits.&nbsp;&nbsp;</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/de_blasio_bratton_oneill_nypd_crime.jpg" alt="de blasio bratton oneill nypd crime" width="250" height="166" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9. Why Does Crime Keep Falling in New York City?</a><br />by Samar Khurshid, January 2018<br />While New York City has seen decades of declining crime numbers, part of a national and international trend, do we really know why? In this article we explored the theories and the facts about New York City's remarkable crime decline.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7410-why-does-crime-keep-falling-in-new-york-city" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the January 2018 article that examined the decades-long crime decline in the city, which has continued under Mayor Bill de Blasio, some of the reasons experts provide for the trend, and what can actually be supported by data.</a></p> <table style="float: left; padding-right: 10px;"> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/cuomo_vital_brooklyn.jpg" alt="cuomo vital brooklyn" width="250" height="207" style="margin-right: 10px;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">10. A Closer Look at 'Vital Brooklyn,' Cuomo's Plan for 'One of the Greatest Areas of Need in the Entire State'</a><br />by Rachel Holliday Smith, December 2018<br />Governor Cuomo surprised many people when he first announced in 2017 a state investment of $1.4 billion in Central Brooklyn, with the governor explaining that "Vital Brooklyn" was a program to bring much-needed resources to an area of the city and state with some of the most significant challenges facing New Yorkers, including poor health, bad schools, lack of park space, and more. The program hadn't been a heralded or even named part of the prior state budget deal, but Cuomo explained it as a major initiative and went on to make many Vital Brooklyn announcements, including several in the lead up to the 2018 primary election wherein he was attempting to defeat Cynthia Nixon while relying on a political base including Central Brooklyn voters.<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8144-a-closer-look-at-vital-brooklyn-cuomo-s-plan-for-one-of-the-greatest-areas-of-need-in-the-entire-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read the December 2018 article that examines what exactly Vital Brooklyn is, where the money comes from and is going, and how Cuomo has used the program to make those many announcements.</a></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019 2018-12-27T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-27T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8162-max-murphy-podcast-top-stories-of-2018-what-to-watch-in-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 26, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 &amp; What to Watch in 2019<br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="177" height="70" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />For our year-end show we look back at the top storylines of 2018 in New York politics and preview our top storylines to watch for 2019!</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/550537143&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 26, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 &amp; What to Watch in 2019<br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="177" height="70" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />For our year-end show we look back at the top storylines of 2018 in New York politics and preview our top storylines to watch for 2019!</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/550537143&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>