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/carlina-rivera 2018-07-23T11:42:56+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Expanding Health Insurance Enrollment Will Help Heal New Yorkers and Our Public Hospitals 2018-05-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7672:expanding-health-insurance-enrollment-will-help-heal-new-yorkers-and-our-public-hospitals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40780493555_35de91db02_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="404" /></p> <p>Council Member Rivera, one of the authors (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Even in an era of relentless attack on health care by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, New York City is continuing to reap enormous benefits from the Affordable Care Act. This year alone another 80,000 city residents enrolled in health coverage through our state’s Obamacare exchange.<br /> <br />But a huge number are still being left behind: an estimated 962,000 adults in the five boroughs remain uninsured. These New Yorkers -- many of whom are living in poverty -- often receive no health care until their conditions are severe enough to land them in the emergency room.<br /> <br />The trend is not good for those New Yorkers’ health, as they should have access to preventive care, regular check-ups, and other aspects of quality health care. What’s more, the current situation is also dealing a serious financial blow to our struggling public hospital system (known as Health + Hospitals), whose vital mission it is to serve those in need, including the uninsured. For H+H to avoid financial disaster we need to close the health insurance gap in New York City.<br /> <br />H+H serves over a million patients per year in a network of 11 acute care hospitals and dozens of other facilities throughout the five boroughs. These institutions are by far our city’s largest provider of care to Medicaid recipients, mental health patients, and -- critically -- those who are uninsured.<br /> <br />For decades our public hospitals -- Bellevue, Kings County, Harlem, Elmhurst and others -- have been the ultimate safety net for New Yorkers with nowhere else to turn. H+H’s diverse and committed staff, its proximity to low-income communities, and its sliding-scale fees have helped establish it as second-to-none in serving the neediest New Yorkers.<br /> <br />But balancing the books at our public hospitals has never been easy, in part because Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low. The system’s challenges have only gotten worse in recent years as federal and state safety-net funding has shrunk. And now tectonic changes in the health sector have dealt further blows, as care rapidly moves from inpatient to outpatient services. <br /> <br />The result: H+H is confronting a $1.3 billion deficit this year, projected to balloon to $2.1 billion next year.<br /> <br />This financial strain has real implications for patients, compounding long-running problems in the system. The wait time for appointments at H+H can stretch into the months. Many of the system’s buildings are crumbling, with leaking roofs at Harlem Hospital, deteriorated plumbing at Lincoln, obsolete electric systems at Metropolitan, and elevators throughout the system that are so outdated that their replacement parts are no longer sold.<br /> <br />H+H’s new CEO, Dr. Mitchel Katz, has laid out a multi-pronged plan to address this crisis. He has set out to reduce administrative expenses, more effectively bill insurance companies, and retain more paying patients, among other efforts.<br /> <br />But there is another critical strategy needed to save H+H: New York City urgently needs to enroll more people in health insurance.<br /> <br />Our public hospitals treat over 400,000 uninsured patients each year. That represents hundreds of millions of dollars of lost insurance billing for those eligible for coverage. Providing this health care regardless of ability to pay is the moral thing to do. It also affects the health of all New Yorkers by helping us prevent the spread of communicable diseases.<br /> <br />We need to tap health insurance as a way to make this important work financially sustainable. That’s why it’s critical that we dramatically ramp up our outreach and enrollment efforts.<br /> <br />Today, most funding for ACA enrollment is provided by the State, which spends about $12 million per year on a network of community-based organizations in the five boroughs offering health insurance navigation assistance.<br /> <br />Several City agencies also have dedicated teams doing enrollment, but the numbers are small: only about 50 staff at Human Resources Administration (HRA) and 70 at Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).<br /> <br />We need an aggressive, coordinated plan to take this work to the next level. And we need to be on the ground in neighborhoods. Community-based non-profits make ideal partners for this work, because of their cultural competence and because of the trust they so often have earned in low-income communities.<br /> <br />One group of New Yorkers can’t get enrolled no matter how much we spend on outreach: undocumented immigrants. But there’s a win-win possibility for them as well. By investing in a program to provide them access to primary care we can improve health outcomes and prevent the more costly H+H emergency room admissions that would otherwise occur. <br /> <br />A twin effort to enroll more New Yorkers who are eligible for insurance and to fund access to primary care for those who are undocumented would improve the health of our people while going a long way to shore up the finances of our public hospital system.<br /> <br />That would be a giant step forward to the goal of ensuring that each and every New Yorker, regardless of income or immigration status, has access to the affordable, high-quality care they need.</p> <p>***<br />Mark Levine and Carlina Rivera are members of the New York City Council. Levine chairs the Council’s health committee, Rivera chairs its hospitals committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MarkLevineNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MarkLevineNYC</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CarlinaRivera</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40780493555_35de91db02_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="404" /></p> <p>Council Member Rivera, one of the authors (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Even in an era of relentless attack on health care by the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, New York City is continuing to reap enormous benefits from the Affordable Care Act. This year alone another 80,000 city residents enrolled in health coverage through our state’s Obamacare exchange.<br /> <br />But a huge number are still being left behind: an estimated 962,000 adults in the five boroughs remain uninsured. These New Yorkers -- many of whom are living in poverty -- often receive no health care until their conditions are severe enough to land them in the emergency room.<br /> <br />The trend is not good for those New Yorkers’ health, as they should have access to preventive care, regular check-ups, and other aspects of quality health care. What’s more, the current situation is also dealing a serious financial blow to our struggling public hospital system (known as Health + Hospitals), whose vital mission it is to serve those in need, including the uninsured. For H+H to avoid financial disaster we need to close the health insurance gap in New York City.<br /> <br />H+H serves over a million patients per year in a network of 11 acute care hospitals and dozens of other facilities throughout the five boroughs. These institutions are by far our city’s largest provider of care to Medicaid recipients, mental health patients, and -- critically -- those who are uninsured.<br /> <br />For decades our public hospitals -- Bellevue, Kings County, Harlem, Elmhurst and others -- have been the ultimate safety net for New Yorkers with nowhere else to turn. H+H’s diverse and committed staff, its proximity to low-income communities, and its sliding-scale fees have helped establish it as second-to-none in serving the neediest New Yorkers.<br /> <br />But balancing the books at our public hospitals has never been easy, in part because Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low. The system’s challenges have only gotten worse in recent years as federal and state safety-net funding has shrunk. And now tectonic changes in the health sector have dealt further blows, as care rapidly moves from inpatient to outpatient services. <br /> <br />The result: H+H is confronting a $1.3 billion deficit this year, projected to balloon to $2.1 billion next year.<br /> <br />This financial strain has real implications for patients, compounding long-running problems in the system. The wait time for appointments at H+H can stretch into the months. Many of the system’s buildings are crumbling, with leaking roofs at Harlem Hospital, deteriorated plumbing at Lincoln, obsolete electric systems at Metropolitan, and elevators throughout the system that are so outdated that their replacement parts are no longer sold.<br /> <br />H+H’s new CEO, Dr. Mitchel Katz, has laid out a multi-pronged plan to address this crisis. He has set out to reduce administrative expenses, more effectively bill insurance companies, and retain more paying patients, among other efforts.<br /> <br />But there is another critical strategy needed to save H+H: New York City urgently needs to enroll more people in health insurance.<br /> <br />Our public hospitals treat over 400,000 uninsured patients each year. That represents hundreds of millions of dollars of lost insurance billing for those eligible for coverage. Providing this health care regardless of ability to pay is the moral thing to do. It also affects the health of all New Yorkers by helping us prevent the spread of communicable diseases.<br /> <br />We need to tap health insurance as a way to make this important work financially sustainable. That’s why it’s critical that we dramatically ramp up our outreach and enrollment efforts.<br /> <br />Today, most funding for ACA enrollment is provided by the State, which spends about $12 million per year on a network of community-based organizations in the five boroughs offering health insurance navigation assistance.<br /> <br />Several City agencies also have dedicated teams doing enrollment, but the numbers are small: only about 50 staff at Human Resources Administration (HRA) and 70 at Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).<br /> <br />We need an aggressive, coordinated plan to take this work to the next level. And we need to be on the ground in neighborhoods. Community-based non-profits make ideal partners for this work, because of their cultural competence and because of the trust they so often have earned in low-income communities.<br /> <br />One group of New Yorkers can’t get enrolled no matter how much we spend on outreach: undocumented immigrants. But there’s a win-win possibility for them as well. By investing in a program to provide them access to primary care we can improve health outcomes and prevent the more costly H+H emergency room admissions that would otherwise occur. <br /> <br />A twin effort to enroll more New Yorkers who are eligible for insurance and to fund access to primary care for those who are undocumented would improve the health of our people while going a long way to shore up the finances of our public hospital system.<br /> <br />That would be a giant step forward to the goal of ensuring that each and every New Yorker, regardless of income or immigration status, has access to the affordable, high-quality care they need.</p> <p>***<br />Mark Levine and Carlina Rivera are members of the New York City Council. Levine chairs the Council’s health committee, Rivera chairs its hospitals committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MarkLevineNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MarkLevineNYC</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CarlinaRivera</a>.</p> <p>

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Brooklyn City Council Member Setting Early Foundation for Speaker Run 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7610:brooklyn-city-council-member-setting-early-foundation-for-speaker-run Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justin_brannan_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="justin brannan city council" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Council Member Justin Brannan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Justin Brannan is everywhere.</p> <p>He’s at the governor’s mansion <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/965376267775303682" target="_blank" rel="noopener">discussing</a> the state’s efforts to empower women- and minority-owned businesses. He’s meeting with the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council about the city’s construction industry. He’s at the Chinese-American Planning Council’s 53rd anniversary celebration, <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966828470633484288" target="_blank" rel="noopener">posing</a> for <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966826842966708224" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photos</a> with Congressional Rep. Grace Meng, state Assembly members Peter Abbate Jr. and Yuh-line Niou, and fellow Council members. He’s talking police-community relations with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. He’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/958028916710674432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaking with</a> the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. He’s at union rallies, nonprofit galas, senior centers, PTA meetings and parades.</p> <p>He’s being interviewed on television and photographed at City Hall, and he’s developing more and more of a social media presence, showcasing both his travels around the city but also his focus on constituent services in his district, praising his colleagues, chronicling his subway struggles, and sharing song lyrics. And, he’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/977662531715108864" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigning</a> for Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party leader with outsized influence in other parts of government.</p> <p>All that in the last two months, part of a frenetic start for a Council Member who has only been on the job since January, though he has been involved in city politics for much longer. And those activities haven’t gone unnoticed as Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, is emerging very early on as a potential contender to be the next Speaker of the City Council.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, arguably the second-most powerful elected official in the city, is chosen internally by members every four years, in a process that is less-public facing and more backroom-dealing. In 2021, the next city election year, 36 Council members will be term-limited, portending a sea change in the 51-member legislative body and giving incumbents, who usually sail to reelection, a leg up in the speaker race. Brannan seems to be following the playbook of current Speaker Corey Johnson, who started making moves for the speakership early in his first four-year term.</p> <p>It is, of course, far too early to tell what the field of candidates will look like, which is why Council sources are reluctant to speak openly. But the buzz around the Council threw up the same names over and over. Besides Brannan, other potential contenders -- all of them Democrats -- include Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Queens Council Members Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera, and Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The list, save for Brannan, who seems to be the most active, is the same as that <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/5-city-council-members-eyeing-2021-speakership.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by City &amp; State</a> earlier this year. Some seem to have better odds, given their prominence on the Council and their relationships with the powerful Queens and Bronx Democratic county committees.</p> <p>Brannan represents District 43 in Brooklyn, covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. He has a deep well of experience, as a former chief of staff to his predecessor, Council Member Vincent Gentile, and as intergovernmental affairs director at the Department of Education. He founded the Bay Ridge Democrats and served as its president. He’s also been a professional musician.</p> <p>“You can see that he’s been out there, in other Council members’ districts and all over the city, so he might be taking a cue card from Corey Johnson’s playbook,” said a Council source who wished to remain unnamed. The source noted that though it will be an “open field” of candidates in 2021, the names that are popping up early are because of their relationships with county committees. “I think people are trying to get a sense of how to play the game...so it’s early to put money on a particular candidate.”</p> <p>Another source with knowledge of Brannan’s moves noted that he has the advantage of being one of the few members who will be returning to the Council. “The fact that there’s only a handful of members coming back in four years sort of narrows the pool because...unless people would be OK with another two-term speaker, the next speaker is going to be one of the people that’s coming back,” the source said. Brannan, if reelected, would be serving his second and final term, as would the other contenders previously mentioned.</p> <p>The source also noted that Brannan has made relationships over the last few years that will be beneficial down the line. “I think Justin’s always had, whether it was through the Bay Ridge Democrats or whether through campaign work he did, he’s always had those relationships,” the source said. “When he goes to the boroughs, it’s not like he’s introducing himself for the first time.”</p> <p>Those relationships, including with Crowley and labor union leaders, will largely determine how the speaker race shakes out. The other members on the list of contenders have their own strengths and connections as well, and the speaker race often comes down to powerful stakeholders compromising in support of one candidate, taking into account a wide variety of factors.</p> <p>Council Member Salamanca chairs the powerful land use committee and is a product of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Salamanca’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Council Members Moya and Adams are closely aligned with the Queens Democratic County Committee and its powerful boss, Rep. Crowley, who played kingmaker in the election of Johnson as speaker, in partnership with others, especially state Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx Democrats. Moya has the added bonus of having worked in the Assembly with Crespo.</p> <p>“I’m sure this makes for great debate among all the political junkies out there, but the speakership is more than three years away,” Moya said in a statement. He insisted his focus is on his community, particularly on affordable housing, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, and protections for workers in the building industry. “There will be a time and place to talk about the speakership but that’s a long ways away,” he said, not denying interest.</p> <p>Stacey Yearwood, a spokesperson for Adams said the Council Member would not comment on being a speaker contender “as it is premature.”</p> <p>None of the six potential candidates denied an interest in being the next speaker of the Council.</p> <p>Council Members Rivera and Ampry-Samuel are viewed as rising stars in the Council and have have both been given prominent committees to lead -- hospitals and public housing, respectively. Rivera also received considerable support from Johnson in her election to the Council; they represent neighboring districts. Rivera declined to comment. Ampry-Samuels said in a statement, “My focus right now are the constituents of the 41st District and the residents of public housing.”</p> <p>There’s no one predictable path to the speakership. “I think it’s hard because there’s been so few speakers that to go back and look historically how a speaker gets made, it’s different every time,” said the second Council source. “There’s the wisdom that Queens and the Bronx never make their own person the speaker, that would mean that Salamanca and Moya wouldn’t be the speaker. But who knows? There’s a lot of dynamics. There’s also the demographic dynamics. If we have a white mayor, chances are Justin’s not gonna be the speaker. If we have a black mayor, maybe there’s a chance there.”</p> <p>In this last speaker’s election, there was vocal indignation that yet another white man was going be elected to a powerful seat in city government -- both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer are white men, Public Advocate Letitia James is a black woman. There were calls for electing a speaker of color, including from black and Latino Council members who were running for the seat themselves. All that could change, as the source noted, if the citywide seats aren’t occupied four years from now by mostly white men.</p> <p>Brannan is coy about his plans, even if they seem transparent to others. “It’s April 2018!,” he said with a jovial laugh, when asked outside City Hall whether he was making an early move for the speakership. “It’s barely four months into my first term and I’m just laser-focused on being a good Council member for my district. Having succeeded a guy that was in office for a long time, I’ve got a lot to prove. So that’s my number one focus.”</p> <p>He added, “It’s fun and flattering to be mentioned in that circle [of speaker potentials]. I think this new crop of my colleagues are all very talented and very smart. To be mentioned with this class is great.”</p> <p>He conceded that maybe another white man may not be the way the Council will look to go and that diverse representation is sorely lacking in the legislative body. “Bottom line is that it’s gotta be someone that’s qualified for the job...I’ve already said in my Council seat, I would love nothing more than to be succeeded by a woman. So those things are important to me too. I’m certainly not blind to those dynamics but it’s just so far away.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justin_brannan_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="justin brannan city council" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Council Member Justin Brannan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Justin Brannan is everywhere.</p> <p>He’s at the governor’s mansion <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/965376267775303682" target="_blank" rel="noopener">discussing</a> the state’s efforts to empower women- and minority-owned businesses. He’s meeting with the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council about the city’s construction industry. He’s at the Chinese-American Planning Council’s 53rd anniversary celebration, <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966828470633484288" target="_blank" rel="noopener">posing</a> for <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/966826842966708224" target="_blank" rel="noopener">photos</a> with Congressional Rep. Grace Meng, state Assembly members Peter Abbate Jr. and Yuh-line Niou, and fellow Council members. He’s talking police-community relations with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. He’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/958028916710674432" target="_blank" rel="noopener">speaking with</a> the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. He’s at union rallies, nonprofit galas, senior centers, PTA meetings and parades.</p> <p>He’s being interviewed on television and photographed at City Hall, and he’s developing more and more of a social media presence, showcasing both his travels around the city but also his focus on constituent services in his district, praising his colleagues, chronicling his subway struggles, and sharing song lyrics. And, he’s <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan/status/977662531715108864" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaigning</a> for Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party leader with outsized influence in other parts of government.</p> <p>All that in the last two months, part of a frenetic start for a Council Member who has only been on the job since January, though he has been involved in city politics for much longer. And those activities haven’t gone unnoticed as Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat, is emerging very early on as a potential contender to be the next Speaker of the City Council.</p> <p>The Council Speaker, arguably the second-most powerful elected official in the city, is chosen internally by members every four years, in a process that is less-public facing and more backroom-dealing. In 2021, the next city election year, 36 Council members will be term-limited, portending a sea change in the 51-member legislative body and giving incumbents, who usually sail to reelection, a leg up in the speaker race. Brannan seems to be following the playbook of current Speaker Corey Johnson, who started making moves for the speakership early in his first four-year term.</p> <p>It is, of course, far too early to tell what the field of candidates will look like, which is why Council sources are reluctant to speak openly. But the buzz around the Council threw up the same names over and over. Besides Brannan, other potential contenders -- all of them Democrats -- include Bronx Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Queens Council Members Francisco Moya and Adrienne Adams, Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera, and Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The list, save for Brannan, who seems to be the most active, is the same as that <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/5-city-council-members-eyeing-2021-speakership.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by City &amp; State</a> earlier this year. Some seem to have better odds, given their prominence on the Council and their relationships with the powerful Queens and Bronx Democratic county committees.</p> <p>Brannan represents District 43 in Brooklyn, covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. He has a deep well of experience, as a former chief of staff to his predecessor, Council Member Vincent Gentile, and as intergovernmental affairs director at the Department of Education. He founded the Bay Ridge Democrats and served as its president. He’s also been a professional musician.</p> <p>“You can see that he’s been out there, in other Council members’ districts and all over the city, so he might be taking a cue card from Corey Johnson’s playbook,” said a Council source who wished to remain unnamed. The source noted that though it will be an “open field” of candidates in 2021, the names that are popping up early are because of their relationships with county committees. “I think people are trying to get a sense of how to play the game...so it’s early to put money on a particular candidate.”</p> <p>Another source with knowledge of Brannan’s moves noted that he has the advantage of being one of the few members who will be returning to the Council. “The fact that there’s only a handful of members coming back in four years sort of narrows the pool because...unless people would be OK with another two-term speaker, the next speaker is going to be one of the people that’s coming back,” the source said. Brannan, if reelected, would be serving his second and final term, as would the other contenders previously mentioned.</p> <p>The source also noted that Brannan has made relationships over the last few years that will be beneficial down the line. “I think Justin’s always had, whether it was through the Bay Ridge Democrats or whether through campaign work he did, he’s always had those relationships,” the source said. “When he goes to the boroughs, it’s not like he’s introducing himself for the first time.”</p> <p>Those relationships, including with Crowley and labor union leaders, will largely determine how the speaker race shakes out. The other members on the list of contenders have their own strengths and connections as well, and the speaker race often comes down to powerful stakeholders compromising in support of one candidate, taking into account a wide variety of factors.</p> <p>Council Member Salamanca chairs the powerful land use committee and is a product of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Salamanca’s office did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>Council Members Moya and Adams are closely aligned with the Queens Democratic County Committee and its powerful boss, Rep. Crowley, who played kingmaker in the election of Johnson as speaker, in partnership with others, especially state Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who heads the Bronx Democrats. Moya has the added bonus of having worked in the Assembly with Crespo.</p> <p>“I’m sure this makes for great debate among all the political junkies out there, but the speakership is more than three years away,” Moya said in a statement. He insisted his focus is on his community, particularly on affordable housing, reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, and protections for workers in the building industry. “There will be a time and place to talk about the speakership but that’s a long ways away,” he said, not denying interest.</p> <p>Stacey Yearwood, a spokesperson for Adams said the Council Member would not comment on being a speaker contender “as it is premature.”</p> <p>None of the six potential candidates denied an interest in being the next speaker of the Council.</p> <p>Council Members Rivera and Ampry-Samuel are viewed as rising stars in the Council and have have both been given prominent committees to lead -- hospitals and public housing, respectively. Rivera also received considerable support from Johnson in her election to the Council; they represent neighboring districts. Rivera declined to comment. Ampry-Samuels said in a statement, “My focus right now are the constituents of the 41st District and the residents of public housing.”</p> <p>There’s no one predictable path to the speakership. “I think it’s hard because there’s been so few speakers that to go back and look historically how a speaker gets made, it’s different every time,” said the second Council source. “There’s the wisdom that Queens and the Bronx never make their own person the speaker, that would mean that Salamanca and Moya wouldn’t be the speaker. But who knows? There’s a lot of dynamics. There’s also the demographic dynamics. If we have a white mayor, chances are Justin’s not gonna be the speaker. If we have a black mayor, maybe there’s a chance there.”</p> <p>In this last speaker’s election, there was vocal indignation that yet another white man was going be elected to a powerful seat in city government -- both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer are white men, Public Advocate Letitia James is a black woman. There were calls for electing a speaker of color, including from black and Latino Council members who were running for the seat themselves. All that could change, as the source noted, if the citywide seats aren’t occupied four years from now by mostly white men.</p> <p>Brannan is coy about his plans, even if they seem transparent to others. “It’s April 2018!,” he said with a jovial laugh, when asked outside City Hall whether he was making an early move for the speakership. “It’s barely four months into my first term and I’m just laser-focused on being a good Council member for my district. Having succeeded a guy that was in office for a long time, I’ve got a lot to prove. So that’s my number one focus.”</p> <p>He added, “It’s fun and flattering to be mentioned in that circle [of speaker potentials]. I think this new crop of my colleagues are all very talented and very smart. To be mentioned with this class is great.”</p> <p>He conceded that maybe another white man may not be the way the Council will look to go and that diverse representation is sorely lacking in the legislative body. “Bottom line is that it’s gotta be someone that’s qualified for the job...I’ve already said in my Council seat, I would love nothing more than to be succeeded by a woman. So those things are important to me too. I’m certainly not blind to those dynamics but it’s just so far away.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Women's Caucus Gets Additional Support to Meet, Expand Agenda 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7575:city-council-women-s-caucus-gets-additional-support-to-meet-expand-agenda Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/40248549094_99037ae59b_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: Emil Cohen)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, comprised of the 11 women in the 51-member legislative body, will soon have additional support for its legislative and programmatic agenda with new funding for a full-time paid staff person added to the Council’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The Council’s finance committee voted last week to approve <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank">a $17.3 million increase</a> in the Council’s own budget, which it can insert into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s yet-to-be-released executive budget, due in the next few months. That budget uptick includes additional funding, provided through Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office, for the Women’s Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to each hire a full-time staffer. The Progressive Caucus, now 21 members, has so far pooled resources to pay for a full-time staffer while the Women’s Caucus has had to depend on individual Council members’ staff. The only caucus that has had a full-time staff person paid for by the Council has been the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>“We secured a commitment from [Johnson] so it is a campaign promise fulfilled,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is co-chair of the Women’s Caucus along with Council Member Margaret Chin, referring to pledges made by Johnson before he was elected speaker. The caucus, then under the leadership of Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, met and interviewed all eight candidates who were running to lead the Council, and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank">extracted several promises</a> from each, including funding for a new staff position to serve the caucus.</p> <p>“As he was running for speaker, he told the Women’s Caucus that this is something he would do, recognizing our number, of course, that we comprise over 50 percent of the population,” said Rivera, whose Manhattan district borders Johnson’s and Chin’s. “So what we’re hoping to do with a full-time person is really to push forward our agenda, which is comprehensive.”</p> <p>As Rivera alluded, the Council comprises an abysmally low number of women members -- the 11 is down from 18 in 2009. There is an effort -- 21 in '21 -- underway being spearheaded by former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others to see a wave of women elected to the Council through the next city elections, in 2021. None of the eight main speaker candidates for this term were women (though Council Member Inez Barron did cast a protest vote for herself the day the Council voted for speaker, and that too because of the lack of people of color in leadership positions in the city.) Since before the last election cycle, there have been increasing calls for improving women’s representation across city government and to add women’s voices to important policy decisions.</p> <p>“Every issue is a women’s issue,” Rivera emphasized, “but specifically, we really want to focus on a couple of things. We want to address the issues of underrepresentation of women in elected office, of course, but not just in elected office, corporate boards, local and state commissions.</p> <p>“We want to be sure that we have the data to just really identify where these gaps are and to make sure that we are giving women opportunity at every level of government but also in the private sector,” she said, indicating some of the work that the caucus’ new staff member may be tasked with.</p> <p>The new funding is slated for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, giving the Women’s Caucus just over three months to go through the hiring process. The position is expected to be posted publicly and every member of the caucus will have a voice in choosing the new staffer.</p> <p>Rivera laid out a long list of policy priorities for the caucus that is likely to keep it busy in this four-year legislative session. Among them: pay equity, ending sexual harassment in the workplace, equal access to quality education, health care for incarcerated women, adult literacy. The Women’s Caucus will host a series of workshops on salary negotiations, Rivera said, and also push strongly on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7527-city-council-anti-harassment-bills-don-t-apply-to-the-city-council" target="_blank">a package of anti-sexual harassment legislation recently introduced at the Council</a>.</p> <p>Rivera said she’s focused on “making sure that women have full access and they feel like whether its in education, the workplace, or just civic life, the opportunity is there.”</p> <p>“In the past the Women’s Caucus has put forward some amazing initiatives and pieces of legislation, whether its paid family leave, whether its access to feminine hygiene products in our public spaces -- that is something that we want to continue to build on,” she said.</p> <p>The new staffer will also liaise with the Council’s other caucuses, certain members of which overlap, and with partners in state and federal government and advocates on the ground. “What I’m hoping to do is be a little bit more collaborative than historically within the caucuses so there’ll definitely be cross collaboration since we now have a full-time staffer for each of these caucuses,” Rivera said. “And I think they’ll benefit from working together and of course will increase our capacity.”</p> <p>“I’m excited,” Rivera added. “I think that a woman having a seat at the table changes the dynamic and trajectory of important policy discussions. And I think if we had more women as representatives, we’d be better off as a city and as a nation. So I’m looking forward to it.”</p> <p>Council Member Chin, in a statement to Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, thanked the speaker for following through on his promise to the Women's Caucus. "This year, we’re fighting to expand our agenda, build local relationships, and increase our visibility to ensure that the causes of women and girls never take a backseat. This will be a game-changer in moving that agenda forward," Chin said. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget">Fulfilling Johnson Promise, City Council Significantly Increases Its Operating Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include a statement from Council Member Margaret Chin.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/40248549094_99037ae59b_z.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: Emil Cohen)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, comprised of the 11 women in the 51-member legislative body, will soon have additional support for its legislative and programmatic agenda with new funding for a full-time paid staff person added to the Council’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>The Council’s finance committee voted last week to approve <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget" target="_blank">a $17.3 million increase</a> in the Council’s own budget, which it can insert into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s yet-to-be-released executive budget, due in the next few months. That budget uptick includes additional funding, provided through Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office, for the Women’s Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to each hire a full-time staffer. The Progressive Caucus, now 21 members, has so far pooled resources to pay for a full-time staffer while the Women’s Caucus has had to depend on individual Council members’ staff. The only caucus that has had a full-time staff person paid for by the Council has been the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.</p> <p>“We secured a commitment from [Johnson] so it is a campaign promise fulfilled,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, who is co-chair of the Women’s Caucus along with Council Member Margaret Chin, referring to pledges made by Johnson before he was elected speaker. The caucus, then under the leadership of Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, met and interviewed all eight candidates who were running to lead the Council, and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7324-women-s-caucus-secures-commitments-from-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank">extracted several promises</a> from each, including funding for a new staff position to serve the caucus.</p> <p>“As he was running for speaker, he told the Women’s Caucus that this is something he would do, recognizing our number, of course, that we comprise over 50 percent of the population,” said Rivera, whose Manhattan district borders Johnson’s and Chin’s. “So what we’re hoping to do with a full-time person is really to push forward our agenda, which is comprehensive.”</p> <p>As Rivera alluded, the Council comprises an abysmally low number of women members -- the 11 is down from 18 in 2009. There is an effort -- 21 in '21 -- underway being spearheaded by former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others to see a wave of women elected to the Council through the next city elections, in 2021. None of the eight main speaker candidates for this term were women (though Council Member Inez Barron did cast a protest vote for herself the day the Council voted for speaker, and that too because of the lack of people of color in leadership positions in the city.) Since before the last election cycle, there have been increasing calls for improving women’s representation across city government and to add women’s voices to important policy decisions.</p> <p>“Every issue is a women’s issue,” Rivera emphasized, “but specifically, we really want to focus on a couple of things. We want to address the issues of underrepresentation of women in elected office, of course, but not just in elected office, corporate boards, local and state commissions.</p> <p>“We want to be sure that we have the data to just really identify where these gaps are and to make sure that we are giving women opportunity at every level of government but also in the private sector,” she said, indicating some of the work that the caucus’ new staff member may be tasked with.</p> <p>The new funding is slated for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, giving the Women’s Caucus just over three months to go through the hiring process. The position is expected to be posted publicly and every member of the caucus will have a voice in choosing the new staffer.</p> <p>Rivera laid out a long list of policy priorities for the caucus that is likely to keep it busy in this four-year legislative session. Among them: pay equity, ending sexual harassment in the workplace, equal access to quality education, health care for incarcerated women, adult literacy. The Women’s Caucus will host a series of workshops on salary negotiations, Rivera said, and also push strongly on <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7527-city-council-anti-harassment-bills-don-t-apply-to-the-city-council" target="_blank">a package of anti-sexual harassment legislation recently introduced at the Council</a>.</p> <p>Rivera said she’s focused on “making sure that women have full access and they feel like whether its in education, the workplace, or just civic life, the opportunity is there.”</p> <p>“In the past the Women’s Caucus has put forward some amazing initiatives and pieces of legislation, whether its paid family leave, whether its access to feminine hygiene products in our public spaces -- that is something that we want to continue to build on,” she said.</p> <p>The new staffer will also liaise with the Council’s other caucuses, certain members of which overlap, and with partners in state and federal government and advocates on the ground. “What I’m hoping to do is be a little bit more collaborative than historically within the caucuses so there’ll definitely be cross collaboration since we now have a full-time staffer for each of these caucuses,” Rivera said. “And I think they’ll benefit from working together and of course will increase our capacity.”</p> <p>“I’m excited,” Rivera added. “I think that a woman having a seat at the table changes the dynamic and trajectory of important policy discussions. And I think if we had more women as representatives, we’d be better off as a city and as a nation. So I’m looking forward to it.”</p> <p>Council Member Chin, in a statement to Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, thanked the speaker for following through on his promise to the Women's Caucus. "This year, we’re fighting to expand our agenda, build local relationships, and increase our visibility to ensure that the causes of women and girls never take a backseat. This will be a game-changer in moving that agenda forward," Chin said. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7559-fulfilling-johnson-promise-city-council-significantly-increases-its-operating-budget">Fulfilling Johnson Promise, City Council Significantly Increases Its Operating Budget</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include a statement from Council Member Margaret Chin.&nbsp;</p>
Under New Leadership and Oversight, City’s Hospital System in Spotlight 2018-03-04T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-04T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7515:under-new-leadership-and-oversight-city-s-hospital-system-in-spotlight Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rivera_hospitals_hearing.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera hospitals hearing" width="600" height="422" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>The new CEO of the city’s beleaguered Health + Hospitals (H+H) public hospital system, Dr. Mitchell Katz, testified in front of the City Council’s new hospitals committee, and its chair, Carlina Rivera, for the first time on Wednesday, discussing the progress of the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/reports/2016/Health-and-Hospitals-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“One New York”</a> plan to 'transform' and improve the system.</p> <p>H+H is a public-private corporation that manages the city’s 11 public hospitals, health centers, and municipal healthcare provider, MetroPlus.</p> <p>“Its mission is to provide quality, comprehensive health services to all New Yorkers, regardless of their ability to pay,” Rivera said. “In effect, Health + Hospitals is the default system of care for Medicaid patients, the uninsured, and other vulnerable populations, and is integral to our system of safety net hospitals.” Rivera noted that approximately 70% of H+H patients are uninsured or on Medicaid.</p> <p>H+H has faced numerous fiscal challenges over the past few years. When the original One New York report was released in 2016, its intention was to reduce an anticipated budget deficit of $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.</p> <p>Last fiscal year, the de Blasio administration provided $1.8 billion in city aid to H+H as its interim leadership also took measures to overhaul its operations and finances, before Katz was brought in from Los Angeles to accelerate that work. (That was an increase from $607 million in fiscal year 2011, <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/lessons-la-la-land" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Citizens Budget Commission.</a>)</p> <p>A recent fiscal scare originating in the federal government concerned the potential defunding of the Disproportionate Share Hospital program, which provides additional funding for hospitals that see a disproportionate number of low income patients, who may be uninsured and/or on Medicaid. The threat of cuts, which has loomed since 2014 but has become especially acute since President Donald Trump took office, was averted for the immediate future with a recent two-year extension of funding in the latest federal stopgap measure passed in February. When the cuts take effect, federal and state funding is expected to drop by approximately $800 million.</p> <p>Meanwhile, after H+H announced plans to file a lawsuit against New York state government for failing to provide $380 million in funding, Governor Andrew Cuomo relented, giving H+H $360 million of the $380 million H+H claimed it was owed in October. Cuomo had initially suggested that the city tap into its reserves to provide the funding.</p> <p>Tellingly, Katz, who assumed his current role after leading the Los Angeles County Health Agency for seven years and turning a $250 million budget deficit <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/07/nyregion/mitchell-katz-nyc-health-hospitals.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">into a $560 million budget surplus</a>, did not focus his City Council testimony on short-term revenue streams coming from Albany and Washington but rather on what he assesses are deficient practices within H+H operations and bureaucracy that are hindering its ability to collect revenue to its full potential.</p> <p>Katz outlined a seven-point plan to increase revenues without cutting vital services. It includes cutting administrative expenses, which Katz said has begun recently by eliminating outside consultants from the system to the tune of $16 million in savings, and investing in new “revenue generating positions” such as primary care doctors, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners instead of solely ER doctors, a goal Katz outlined at the beginning of his term.</p> <p>Hiring more people will also cut down on wait times, Katz said, in response to Rivera bringing up the issue. Katz described waits for appointments as “hugely variable.”</p> <p>“One of the things that I found distressing was at Bellevue, is that the wait for behavioral assessments for a kid is currently months,” Katz said. “Which, frankly, has nothing to do with money, because kids are fully insured.”</p> <p>But perhaps the more significant stabilization schemes, which were the focus of more attention at the hearing, relate to reforming H+H’s billing processes and bringing more insured patients into the system. Because H+H has a reputation as the hospital network that serves the indigent, many insured people do not use municipal hospital services. As a result, Katz said there is a substantial amount of bureaucratic waste within the system due to poor administrative skills on the part of system workers, who normally work with people who are either uninsured or on Medicaid.</p> <p>This point was hammered by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who recently became a father and described his experience as an individual with private insurance at Woodhull Hospital, an H+H hospital “across the street” from his district. Reynoso effusively praised Woodhull’s maternity ward and other services, but chastised billing procedures as inefficient.</p> <p>Katz agreed that H+H needs to develop better billing procedures, including diagnostically coding bills correctly, checking insurance cards, checking prior authorization, and better communication with insurance companies. He cited a skilled nursing facility that spends roughly $21 million on drugs but only has revenues of $5 million.</p> <p>“That’s impossible,” Katz said, “because we’re talking about skilled nursing facilities where there are almost no uninsured patients.” Katz claimed that the $21 million was a fair market value for the drugs but that the significant revenue shortfall had its roots in poor billing practices.</p> <p>The situation at the skilled nursing facility is only the tip of the iceberg. In response to a question from Rivera, H+H Chief Financial Officer Plachikkat Anantharam stated that H+H lost between $130 million and $290 million in 2017 as a result of chronic underbilling.</p> <p>Further, Katz said that H+H should not be referring patients out of the system and into the private market. Via MetroPlus insurance, H+H by proxy essentially pays private hospital operators to provide care, resulting in a significant amount of lost revenue.</p> <p>Katz also stated that H+H needs to begin offering services that are “well reimbursed.” He illustrated this point by comparing behavioral health, for which H+H is the largest provider in the city and which is “poorly reimbursed,” and angioplasties, a heart procedure that is well reimbursed by insurance companies, but is rarely performed by H+H, and only at Bellevue Hospital.</p> <p>Katz also wants, as part of his plan, to “convert uninsured people who qualify for insurance to be insured,” whether through Medicaid or MetroPlus, the government sponsored health insurance provider wholly owned by H+H that insures around a half-million New Yorkers and is offered on the Affordable Care Act exchange. Katz identified 250,000 people in the city who are uninsured but qualify for insurance coverage, out of a total of 667,000 uninsured people in the city.</p> <p>“250,000. Let’s agree we won’t get 250,000,” Katz said, in reference to not being able to insure every eligible uninsured New Yorker. “That’s a lot of people. But if you got 100,000 of the 250,000 that we believe are currently getting our services and are insurable, that would be huge.”</p> <p>Regardless, the Council members and Katz acknowledged that signing up tens of thousands of people for insurance is easier said than done. Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the Council’s health committee, asked whether it was possible to enroll patients who walk into a facility on the spot, and why this hadn’t been done in the past.</p> <p>“Is that another cultural challenge you have to overcome,” he asked. “Is that a resource issue? Or am I making it seem simpler than it really is?”</p> <p>“No, Council Member, I think you’re right, and accurate. It’s both of those things,” Katz responded.</p> <p>“I think another part of that is that there’s no -- right now, we haven’t constructed a system to make it that that’s the easiest choice for the person, right, to be able to enroll in insurance,” he continued. “We’ve kind of made it easier to pay $10, which might be the same copay that they would pay if they had insurance. But the difference between what our system and city would receive is huge.”</p> <p>Katz cited his experience in Los Angeles as evidence that the public hospitals system could be stabilized without attrition, or mass firings in other terms. Indeed, as Citizens Budget Commission noted in its analysis, <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/lessons-la-la-land" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"Lessons from La La Land,"</a> previewing Katz's takeover at H+H, "The good news was all on the revenue side."</p> <p>“When I started in Los Angeles, there was also a deficit. It was $226 million, which at the time seemed to me like a lot of money, before I came to New York City,” Katz said, eliciting laughter from the audience of healthcare advocates and professionals in the Council’s Committee room. “But when I left, not only did we have a surplus, but we had added 1,500 public sector jobs. So one thing I do know is that you have to take financial problems seriously, but you can grow out of financial problems sometimes more easily than you can shrink out of financial problems.”</p> <p>Reynoso was particularly fond of that line. “Grow out of a financial problem, that’s a great way to put it,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rivera_hospitals_hearing.jpg" alt="Carlina Rivera hospitals hearing" width="600" height="422" /></p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>The new CEO of the city’s beleaguered Health + Hospitals (H+H) public hospital system, Dr. Mitchell Katz, testified in front of the City Council’s new hospitals committee, and its chair, Carlina Rivera, for the first time on Wednesday, discussing the progress of the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/reports/2016/Health-and-Hospitals-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“One New York”</a> plan to 'transform' and improve the system.</p> <p>H+H is a public-private corporation that manages the city’s 11 public hospitals, health centers, and municipal healthcare provider, MetroPlus.</p> <p>“Its mission is to provide quality, comprehensive health services to all New Yorkers, regardless of their ability to pay,” Rivera said. “In effect, Health + Hospitals is the default system of care for Medicaid patients, the uninsured, and other vulnerable populations, and is integral to our system of safety net hospitals.” Rivera noted that approximately 70% of H+H patients are uninsured or on Medicaid.</p> <p>H+H has faced numerous fiscal challenges over the past few years. When the original One New York report was released in 2016, its intention was to reduce an anticipated budget deficit of $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.</p> <p>Last fiscal year, the de Blasio administration provided $1.8 billion in city aid to H+H as its interim leadership also took measures to overhaul its operations and finances, before Katz was brought in from Los Angeles to accelerate that work. (That was an increase from $607 million in fiscal year 2011, <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/lessons-la-la-land" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to the Citizens Budget Commission.</a>)</p> <p>A recent fiscal scare originating in the federal government concerned the potential defunding of the Disproportionate Share Hospital program, which provides additional funding for hospitals that see a disproportionate number of low income patients, who may be uninsured and/or on Medicaid. The threat of cuts, which has loomed since 2014 but has become especially acute since President Donald Trump took office, was averted for the immediate future with a recent two-year extension of funding in the latest federal stopgap measure passed in February. When the cuts take effect, federal and state funding is expected to drop by approximately $800 million.</p> <p>Meanwhile, after H+H announced plans to file a lawsuit against New York state government for failing to provide $380 million in funding, Governor Andrew Cuomo relented, giving H+H $360 million of the $380 million H+H claimed it was owed in October. Cuomo had initially suggested that the city tap into its reserves to provide the funding.</p> <p>Tellingly, Katz, who assumed his current role after leading the Los Angeles County Health Agency for seven years and turning a $250 million budget deficit <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/07/nyregion/mitchell-katz-nyc-health-hospitals.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">into a $560 million budget surplus</a>, did not focus his City Council testimony on short-term revenue streams coming from Albany and Washington but rather on what he assesses are deficient practices within H+H operations and bureaucracy that are hindering its ability to collect revenue to its full potential.</p> <p>Katz outlined a seven-point plan to increase revenues without cutting vital services. It includes cutting administrative expenses, which Katz said has begun recently by eliminating outside consultants from the system to the tune of $16 million in savings, and investing in new “revenue generating positions” such as primary care doctors, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners instead of solely ER doctors, a goal Katz outlined at the beginning of his term.</p> <p>Hiring more people will also cut down on wait times, Katz said, in response to Rivera bringing up the issue. Katz described waits for appointments as “hugely variable.”</p> <p>“One of the things that I found distressing was at Bellevue, is that the wait for behavioral assessments for a kid is currently months,” Katz said. “Which, frankly, has nothing to do with money, because kids are fully insured.”</p> <p>But perhaps the more significant stabilization schemes, which were the focus of more attention at the hearing, relate to reforming H+H’s billing processes and bringing more insured patients into the system. Because H+H has a reputation as the hospital network that serves the indigent, many insured people do not use municipal hospital services. As a result, Katz said there is a substantial amount of bureaucratic waste within the system due to poor administrative skills on the part of system workers, who normally work with people who are either uninsured or on Medicaid.</p> <p>This point was hammered by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who recently became a father and described his experience as an individual with private insurance at Woodhull Hospital, an H+H hospital “across the street” from his district. Reynoso effusively praised Woodhull’s maternity ward and other services, but chastised billing procedures as inefficient.</p> <p>Katz agreed that H+H needs to develop better billing procedures, including diagnostically coding bills correctly, checking insurance cards, checking prior authorization, and better communication with insurance companies. He cited a skilled nursing facility that spends roughly $21 million on drugs but only has revenues of $5 million.</p> <p>“That’s impossible,” Katz said, “because we’re talking about skilled nursing facilities where there are almost no uninsured patients.” Katz claimed that the $21 million was a fair market value for the drugs but that the significant revenue shortfall had its roots in poor billing practices.</p> <p>The situation at the skilled nursing facility is only the tip of the iceberg. In response to a question from Rivera, H+H Chief Financial Officer Plachikkat Anantharam stated that H+H lost between $130 million and $290 million in 2017 as a result of chronic underbilling.</p> <p>Further, Katz said that H+H should not be referring patients out of the system and into the private market. Via MetroPlus insurance, H+H by proxy essentially pays private hospital operators to provide care, resulting in a significant amount of lost revenue.</p> <p>Katz also stated that H+H needs to begin offering services that are “well reimbursed.” He illustrated this point by comparing behavioral health, for which H+H is the largest provider in the city and which is “poorly reimbursed,” and angioplasties, a heart procedure that is well reimbursed by insurance companies, but is rarely performed by H+H, and only at Bellevue Hospital.</p> <p>Katz also wants, as part of his plan, to “convert uninsured people who qualify for insurance to be insured,” whether through Medicaid or MetroPlus, the government sponsored health insurance provider wholly owned by H+H that insures around a half-million New Yorkers and is offered on the Affordable Care Act exchange. Katz identified 250,000 people in the city who are uninsured but qualify for insurance coverage, out of a total of 667,000 uninsured people in the city.</p> <p>“250,000. Let’s agree we won’t get 250,000,” Katz said, in reference to not being able to insure every eligible uninsured New Yorker. “That’s a lot of people. But if you got 100,000 of the 250,000 that we believe are currently getting our services and are insurable, that would be huge.”</p> <p>Regardless, the Council members and Katz acknowledged that signing up tens of thousands of people for insurance is easier said than done. Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the Council’s health committee, asked whether it was possible to enroll patients who walk into a facility on the spot, and why this hadn’t been done in the past.</p> <p>“Is that another cultural challenge you have to overcome,” he asked. “Is that a resource issue? Or am I making it seem simpler than it really is?”</p> <p>“No, Council Member, I think you’re right, and accurate. It’s both of those things,” Katz responded.</p> <p>“I think another part of that is that there’s no -- right now, we haven’t constructed a system to make it that that’s the easiest choice for the person, right, to be able to enroll in insurance,” he continued. “We’ve kind of made it easier to pay $10, which might be the same copay that they would pay if they had insurance. But the difference between what our system and city would receive is huge.”</p> <p>Katz cited his experience in Los Angeles as evidence that the public hospitals system could be stabilized without attrition, or mass firings in other terms. Indeed, as Citizens Budget Commission noted in its analysis, <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/lessons-la-la-land" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"Lessons from La La Land,"</a> previewing Katz's takeover at H+H, "The good news was all on the revenue side."</p> <p>“When I started in Los Angeles, there was also a deficit. It was $226 million, which at the time seemed to me like a lot of money, before I came to New York City,” Katz said, eliciting laughter from the audience of healthcare advocates and professionals in the Council’s Committee room. “But when I left, not only did we have a surplus, but we had added 1,500 public sector jobs. So one thing I do know is that you have to take financial problems seriously, but you can grow out of financial problems sometimes more easily than you can shrink out of financial problems.”</p> <p>Reynoso was particularly fond of that line. “Grow out of a financial problem, that’s a great way to put it,” he said.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Examines Sexual Harassment Policies, Considers New Laws 2018-02-28T23:15:00+00:00 2018-02-28T23:15:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7508:council-examines-city-sexual-harassment-policies-considers-new-laws Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rosenthal_in_red_presser.jpg" alt="Helen Rosenthal women" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>As the nation grapples with how to confront sexual misconduct, the New York City Council is addressing the issue in its oversight and legislative capacities. On Wednesday, Council members held a press conference and subsequent hearing on “best practices” for preventing sexual harassment, identifying current city government protocols, and considering a slate of new legislation.</p> <p>The 45-minute press conference outside City Hall featured about a dozen Council members, along with advocates, promoting the action being taken by the Council. It was led by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Committee on Women and ran the hearing that was held jointly with the Committee on Civil and Human Rights. During the hearing, members formally introduced the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594183&amp;GUID=5D8E7BCC-6A45-4CC3-848B-6BF088412832&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">package</a> of 11 bills aimed at preventing and punishing sexual harassment in much of city government and the private sector.</p> <p>“Countless women and men have raised their voices and built the #MeToo movement,” Rosenthal said at the press conference. “The courage and the grace of these survivors has made a reckoning inevitable, not just for the powerful individuals finally brought to account, but for our society as a whole. We owe them a great deal of gratitude--and more to the point, we owe them action.”</p> <p>“Because although we have strong sexual harassment protections on the books,” she said, “we know that reality has not caught up with the law. Harassers are still too often able to operate with impunity.”</p> <p>Among the Council proposals is a bill requiring city agencies to administer <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354915&amp;GUID=7A944D7E-BD65-490F-96BE-DCC3CFDBFA46&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">anti-sexual harassment training</a> twice per year. The lead sponsor of the bill is Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Another bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354934&amp;GUID=A8E7F66B-F56A-44E6-8C9C-4FFB28FD518D&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">introduced</a> by Council Member Mark Levine, would require the dozens of city agencies to produce a yearly report of sexual harassment incidents. Additionally, Rosenthal introduced a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354946&amp;GUID=E08BA5B5-66FB-4528-9207-E8EEA2617D9E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> mandating that the city’s Commission on Human Rights distribute a “climate survey” to city agencies to “assess the general awareness and knowledge of workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention” in them, according to the bill’s summary.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a similar vein, Council Member Adrienne Adams proposed a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354916&amp;GUID=DAE201C7-E082-47C8-9C7F-3CA16D20FA7C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> requiring the Commission on Human Rights to join forces with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to deliver an “assessment of risk factors associated with sexual harassment within city agencies” to the mayor and speaker. Notably, this assortment of legislation applies only to mayoral agencies, including the mayor’s office, but not the City Council itself, according to a spokesperson for Rosenthal. The bills do not apply to the Borough Presidents’ offices, the Comptroller’s office, the Public Advocate’s office, or other non-mayoral government entities, either.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, representatives from DCAS presented a new citywide employee handbook that outlines guidance for many examples of inappropriate workplace behavior and what to do when an employee feels harassed.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer submitted <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354947&amp;GUID=01F0E0BD-E33C-4842-A39B-A486437DD780&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> that would require businesses contracting with the city to include sexual harassment policies and procedures in their division of labor services employment reports.</p> <p>The array of proposals also addresses private businesses throughout the city. For example, Council Member Laurie Combo and Public Advocate Letitia James put forward <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354925&amp;GUID=D9986F4A-C3A9-4299-BAA8-5A1B1A1AD31E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> requiring businesses with more than 14 employees to conduct sexual harassment prevention training. Along similar lines, Council Member Keith Powers’ <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354940&amp;GUID=EE51AA28-8FAA-41FE-B063-BE965FAED119&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> on the matter would amend the city’s Human Rights Law related to sexual harassment to apply to businesses employing any number of people, rather than the current threshold of businesses with more than four employees.</p> <p>Council Member Robert Cornegy, for his part, introduced a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354924&amp;GUID=CF950C5F-988C-417F-A720-53451ADA064B&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> that would mandate that employers inform workers of their rights vis-à-vis sexual harassment with an office poster and a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354920&amp;GUID=4C0C09CB-DEA8-445E-A8D1-DDF6E08AB6A3&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> introduced by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel would direct the Commission on Human Rights to provide resources regarding sexual harassment on its website.</p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera has <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354939&amp;GUID=82533FCE-573B-4294-B35E-D72F3963D9DE&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> classifying sexual harassment as a form of discrimination under the city’s Human Rights Law. In an interview prior to the hearing, Rivera explained the goals of the effort. “What we’re looking for is clearly to show everyone that as a city we’re going to set the model for others, whether it’s the public or private sector,” she said. “What we’re looking for are best practices.”</p> <p>The Council wants to ensure “every workplace is free from sexual harassment,” Rivera added.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“When it comes to private businesses,” Rivera said, “one of the things that is incredibly challenging is transparency.” The legislation pertaining to private businesses, Rivera said, needed to not just be symbolic, but must clearly codify what is and is not acceptable workplace conduct.</p> <p>“We’re doing this to open that door for all to come forward and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening to me in my own business,” she continued, “and we’re going to be able to challenge them on their own set of practices in terms of protecting their employees.”</p> <p>Former City Comptroller and Congressional Representative Liz Holtzman, who participated in both the press conference and hearing, echoed Council Member Rosenthal. She noted that though there have been previous efforts to address seuxual harassment, not enough has been done to follow through once the problem had been identified.</p> <p>The Council bills may be amended before either another hearing to discuss them or committee votes to move them through. Bills passed by committee are then voted on by the full 51-member City Council. Mayor Bill de Blasio would then be asked to sign any bills passed by the overwhelmingly Democratic Council. The Democratic mayor has indicated he is supportive of taking new legislative action on this front, and representatives of his administration appeared supportive of the Council’s proposals at the Wednesday hearing.</p> <p>Public Advocate James contended that as high-profile instances of sexual harassment make headlines, it is also a common occurrence in daily life of too many everyday New Yorkers. “We all have our own individual, personal Harvey Weinstein’s that we know,” she said.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/rosenthal_in_red_presser.jpg" alt="Helen Rosenthal women" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rosenthal and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>As the nation grapples with how to confront sexual misconduct, the New York City Council is addressing the issue in its oversight and legislative capacities. On Wednesday, Council members held a press conference and subsequent hearing on “best practices” for preventing sexual harassment, identifying current city government protocols, and considering a slate of new legislation.</p> <p>The 45-minute press conference outside City Hall featured about a dozen Council members, along with advocates, promoting the action being taken by the Council. It was led by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Committee on Women and ran the hearing that was held jointly with the Committee on Civil and Human Rights. During the hearing, members formally introduced the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=594183&amp;GUID=5D8E7BCC-6A45-4CC3-848B-6BF088412832&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">package</a> of 11 bills aimed at preventing and punishing sexual harassment in much of city government and the private sector.</p> <p>“Countless women and men have raised their voices and built the #MeToo movement,” Rosenthal said at the press conference. “The courage and the grace of these survivors has made a reckoning inevitable, not just for the powerful individuals finally brought to account, but for our society as a whole. We owe them a great deal of gratitude--and more to the point, we owe them action.”</p> <p>“Because although we have strong sexual harassment protections on the books,” she said, “we know that reality has not caught up with the law. Harassers are still too often able to operate with impunity.”</p> <p>Among the Council proposals is a bill requiring city agencies to administer <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354915&amp;GUID=7A944D7E-BD65-490F-96BE-DCC3CFDBFA46&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">anti-sexual harassment training</a> twice per year. The lead sponsor of the bill is Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Another bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354934&amp;GUID=A8E7F66B-F56A-44E6-8C9C-4FFB28FD518D&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">introduced</a> by Council Member Mark Levine, would require the dozens of city agencies to produce a yearly report of sexual harassment incidents. Additionally, Rosenthal introduced a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354946&amp;GUID=E08BA5B5-66FB-4528-9207-E8EEA2617D9E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> mandating that the city’s Commission on Human Rights distribute a “climate survey” to city agencies to “assess the general awareness and knowledge of workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention” in them, according to the bill’s summary.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a similar vein, Council Member Adrienne Adams proposed a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354916&amp;GUID=DAE201C7-E082-47C8-9C7F-3CA16D20FA7C&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> requiring the Commission on Human Rights to join forces with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to deliver an “assessment of risk factors associated with sexual harassment within city agencies” to the mayor and speaker. Notably, this assortment of legislation applies only to mayoral agencies, including the mayor’s office, but not the City Council itself, according to a spokesperson for Rosenthal. The bills do not apply to the Borough Presidents’ offices, the Comptroller’s office, the Public Advocate’s office, or other non-mayoral government entities, either.</p> <p>At Wednesday’s hearing, representatives from DCAS presented a new citywide employee handbook that outlines guidance for many examples of inappropriate workplace behavior and what to do when an employee feels harassed.</p> <p>Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer submitted <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354947&amp;GUID=01F0E0BD-E33C-4842-A39B-A486437DD780&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> that would require businesses contracting with the city to include sexual harassment policies and procedures in their division of labor services employment reports.</p> <p>The array of proposals also addresses private businesses throughout the city. For example, Council Member Laurie Combo and Public Advocate Letitia James put forward <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354925&amp;GUID=D9986F4A-C3A9-4299-BAA8-5A1B1A1AD31E&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> requiring businesses with more than 14 employees to conduct sexual harassment prevention training. Along similar lines, Council Member Keith Powers’ <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354940&amp;GUID=EE51AA28-8FAA-41FE-B063-BE965FAED119&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> on the matter would amend the city’s Human Rights Law related to sexual harassment to apply to businesses employing any number of people, rather than the current threshold of businesses with more than four employees.</p> <p>Council Member Robert Cornegy, for his part, introduced a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354924&amp;GUID=CF950C5F-988C-417F-A720-53451ADA064B&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">bill</a> that would mandate that employers inform workers of their rights vis-à-vis sexual harassment with an office poster and a <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354920&amp;GUID=4C0C09CB-DEA8-445E-A8D1-DDF6E08AB6A3&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bill</a> introduced by Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel would direct the Commission on Human Rights to provide resources regarding sexual harassment on its website.</p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera has <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3354939&amp;GUID=82533FCE-573B-4294-B35E-D72F3963D9DE&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">legislation</a> classifying sexual harassment as a form of discrimination under the city’s Human Rights Law. In an interview prior to the hearing, Rivera explained the goals of the effort. “What we’re looking for is clearly to show everyone that as a city we’re going to set the model for others, whether it’s the public or private sector,” she said. “What we’re looking for are best practices.”</p> <p>The Council wants to ensure “every workplace is free from sexual harassment,” Rivera added.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“When it comes to private businesses,” Rivera said, “one of the things that is incredibly challenging is transparency.” The legislation pertaining to private businesses, Rivera said, needed to not just be symbolic, but must clearly codify what is and is not acceptable workplace conduct.</p> <p>“We’re doing this to open that door for all to come forward and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening to me in my own business,” she continued, “and we’re going to be able to challenge them on their own set of practices in terms of protecting their employees.”</p> <p>Former City Comptroller and Congressional Representative Liz Holtzman, who participated in both the press conference and hearing, echoed Council Member Rosenthal. She noted that though there have been previous efforts to address seuxual harassment, not enough has been done to follow through once the problem had been identified.</p> <p>The Council bills may be amended before either another hearing to discuss them or committee votes to move them through. Bills passed by committee are then voted on by the full 51-member City Council. Mayor Bill de Blasio would then be asked to sign any bills passed by the overwhelmingly Democratic Council. The Democratic mayor has indicated he is supportive of taking new legislative action on this front, and representatives of his administration appeared supportive of the Council’s proposals at the Wednesday hearing.</p> <p>Public Advocate James contended that as high-profile instances of sexual harassment make headlines, it is also a common occurrence in daily life of too many everyday New Yorkers. “We all have our own individual, personal Harvey Weinstein’s that we know,” she said.</p> <p> </p> Union Square Hub, with 600 Projected Tech Jobs, Appears on Smooth Path to Reality 2018-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7471:union-square-hub-with-600-projected-tech-jobs-appears-on-smooth-path-to-reality Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/union_square_tech_hub.jpeg" alt="union square tech hub" width="600" height="715" /></p> <p>Union Square tech hub rendering via the mayor's office</p> <hr /> <p>This past week, two Manhattan Community Board 3 committees voted to approve the city's application for the proposed Union Square Training Center, also known as the Union Square tech hub, which the de Blasio administration says will create 800 construction jobs and then 600 permanent jobs in the growing technology sector. The land use and economic development committees of CB3 opted not to condition their vote in favor of the proposal on rezoning several blocks south of the proposed project as the board had considered and some preservationists and long-time community members are fighting for.</p> <p>The non-binding community board vote to approve the project came on the heels of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) setting in motion the public review process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP), on January 29 by officially obtaining permission to move forward with the initial project design and chosen developer, RAL Companies &amp; Affiliates LLC. The clock will continue to tick on the roughly seven-month timeline that requires approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council before any demolition or construction can take place in Union Square.</p> <p>The tech hub would serve as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, with floors allocated to technology training and startup offices, as well as retail space, located on 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. The building, which sits on valuable city-owned land, is currently a P.C. Richard &amp; Son. Community board approval, and without conditions, indicates that the project is almost certain to become a reality, though there are indeed still points of contention that will be negotiated over the coming months among local stakeholders, the de Blasio administration, and elected officials, especially City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p>According to EDC, the 240,000-square-foot, 21-floor facility would allocate six floors to <a href="https://civichall.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Civic Hal</a>l -- three for digital skills training center, three for the company’s own operations as a center for tech innovation &nbsp;-- five for “flexible” office space, eight for larger office space, and the ground floor for retail and market space, 25 percent of which would be reserved for first-time entrepreneurs and new local businesses. EDC projects construction would cost $250 million and last 18 months, after which the building would be the third-tallest on the block, behind Zeckendorf Towers and the Consolidated Edison Building, and open for business sometime in the middle of 2020.</p> <p>The project is a component to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/414-17/100-000-good-paying-jobs-mayor-de-blasio-releases-10-year-plan-invest-new-industries-raise#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Works</a>” plan, a decade-long initiative to create 100,000 jobs, 30,000 of them coming from the technology sector, that pay salaries north of $50,000 annually. Currently, technology is the fastest-growing sector in New York City’s economy. Increasing jobs in the field has been a point of emphasis for de Blasio, continuing the Bloomberg administration’s prioritization of creating tech jobs in New York, as evidenced by his heading the effort to bring the Cornell Technion campus to Roosevelt Island. The city also says the project will serve those that might otherwise not have access to jobs in the technology sector.</p> <p>“This new hub will be the front-door for tech in New York City,” de Blasio said in a February 2017 press release announcing an outline of the project. “People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support. No other city in the nation has anything like it.”</p> <p>“One of the biggest priorities for the de Blasio administration when it comes to the the economy is really ensuring that there is access to tech jobs [and] that they are accessible to New Yorkers of all neighborhoods and backgrounds,” said Anthony Hogrebe, EDC senior vice president of Public Affairs, echoing de Blasio’s pitch for the tech hub, on a call with Gotham Gazette. “One of the biggest ways you do that is improving workforce development, and by helping folks get the skills they need to qualify for those jobs.”</p> <p>Hogrebe said the tech hub would “ensure tech jobs really are for all New Yorkers,” not solely for “those who have advanced degrees in computer science.”</p> <p>He emphasized the centrality of the space allocated to teaching technological skills. “The cornerstone of this project is the digital skills training center. This is a place where some of the top organizations from all over the city will train New Yorkers on how to do the jobs that are in demand and give New Yorkers the skills they need,” said Hogrebe.</p> <p>Most elected leaders, advocates and residents of the community are in favor of the proposal; they see it as a way to bring to the area jobs and educational opportunities that prepare people for job-rich fields. But some are pushing to include a concession in the deal: rezoning several blocks south of the hub in order to limit development.</p> <p>During her 2017 City Council campaign, then-candidate Carlina Rivera said she was open to the tech hub project as long as the city implemented protective zoning measures aimed at curbing commercial and residential development in the nearby areas. The de Blasio administration, on the other hand, has generally been less likely to favor down-zonings as it seeks to add housing density, with affordability provisions, across the city. It remains to be seen how hard Rivera will push for the restrictive measures, and it is telling that the community board did not insist on them despite some loud and organized voices who call them essential to the neighborhood’s future.</p> <p>In order to build the tech hub as planned, the lot in between two New York University-owned buildings -- University Hall and Palladium -- needs to be rezoned for additional height allowances. The rezoning must be approved through the five-step, roughly seven-month ULURP process. After the de Blasio administration put forward its ideas, solicited bids for the project via a request for proposals (RFP), and chose a developer, last month’s certification was the first hoop the proposal was required to jump through and this past Wednesday’s community board hearing was the second.</p> <p>Next, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Borough Board, which includes community board leaders and City Council members from across the borough, will review the proposal. While they may influence the project, the opinions of the local community board and borough board are both advisory.</p> <p>However, the following steps, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, both have power to either approve or deny the tech hub project. In the coming months, the Council will hold committee hearings and subsequently vote on the matter -- the full Council approval of the project, in whatever exact form it is finalized, will likely occur around Labor Day. Usually, City Council members follow the lead of the member who represents the area home to a proposed rezoning, and there has been little to suggest this particular rezoning process will be a departure from the norm.</p> <p>New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the area west of Union Square, said at a press conference on January 24 that he expects Rivera to helm negotiations with the de Blasio administration and trusts her judgement on the issue. “I defer to Council Member Rivera,” he said. “She has my full support and she knows that. She’s a pragmatic, thoughtful person who spent time on her local community board, who understands these issues, so I think she will handle this in a responsible, thoughtful way.”</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of rezoning the blocks south of Union Square to limit development. “I know that area. It’s right on the border of our district,” he said. “To me, I think it makes sense, knowing that area, seeing developments going on there.”</p> <p>At the Community Board 3 hearing on the matter, a slight majority of those who testified voiced support for the tech hub. They said it would bring jobs and educational opportunities to the area, though some in the pro-tech hub camp wanted confirmation from the EDC representatives in attendance that those from the local communities would reap the benefits of the new facility. Another faction, which skewed older, whiter, and included many long-time residents of the East and West Villages, expressed their concern the tech hub would spawn unwanted changes in the neighborhood if they didn’t fight for measures -- like more restrictive zoning on commercial development -- to thwart these shifts.</p> <p>After the tech hub is erected, one theory goes, more residential and commercial development -- such as luxury and market-rate apartment buildings, chain stores, and hotels -- would change the community character, make the surrounding areas less affordable to small businesses and unrecognizable to long-time residents. Rezoning the area, in the skeptics’ telling, would preserve affordability by forestalling a potential wave of development adjacent to the tech hub.</p> <p>Notably, many of the expressed qualms with the project sans an accompanying downzoning closely mirrored those voiced by <a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/about/andrew-berman.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation</a> (GVHSP), a community nonprofit that typically opposes development. In a press release following the project’s ULURP certification and ahead of the community board hearing, GVPA executive director Andrew Berman, who made his case to the community board Wednesday night, argued that if the “surrounding predominantly residential neighborhood” is not protected, the tech hub would “accelerate the transformation of the area.”</p> <p>Following over four hours of testimony and discussion, the community board committees voted 16 to 5 to approve the ULURP application without any condition.</p> <p>After Wednesday’s vote, Rivera said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that she will work with the local community board, the mayor, and stakeholders to construct a “plan that satisfies and includes everyone.”</p> <p>“This tech center has the potential to be a great space for the local residents who historically have not had access to the high-paying jobs of the tech industry, a field whose companies continue to grow in and around our neighborhoods,” Rivera continued.</p> <p>Rivera said she will ensure the impending construction of the tech hub does not encourage excessive commercial development, which she said would adversely impact nearby residents and small businesses. “I will also continue to work towards the protections and rezoning which have broad community support that promote the development of housing and projects that are in line with our values and residential character,” she stated.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Berman, for his part, expressed displeasure with the community board’s process and decision. “By the narrowest of votes in which several of our supporters who should have been allowed to vote but were not given the opportunity to do so, a strong resolution incorporating all of our concerns was defeated for a weaker one incorporating some but not all of our concerns,” said Berman in a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/east-village/east-village-tech-hub-clears-first-hurdle-public-review">statement to Patch</a>. He vowed to “keep working” to advocate for policies that ensure the neighborhood “gets the protections it deserves and needs."</p> <p>Needless to say, not all of those who participated in the hearing were disappointed with the outcome. Meghan Heintz of <a href="http://www.morenyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">More New York</a>, a group that advocates for policies that increase housing supply in the city, argued at the hearing that the tech hub was a boon to residents of nearby neighborhoods, and warned against the consequences of prohibitively restrictive zoning.</p> <p>Heintz was pleased with the board’s decision to approve the ULURP application.</p> <p>“Education and job training for the new economy is vital and should be accessible to people from all backgrounds and delaying it is the same as denying those benefits to New Yorkers. We staunchly oppose the exclusionary zoning proposal that NIMBYs from an adjacent neighborhood clumsily tried to tack onto the project,” she said Thursday in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Heintz added, “If their proposal could really stand on its own merits, they wouldn't need to try to take a great project hostage to pass it.”</p> <p>Along with the community advocates and stakeholders, New York University would also be impacted by the tech hub as the lot on which the new facility would be built is in between the two aforementioned NYU buildings. NYU spokesperson John Beckman said Wednesday that while the university has not had “direct involvement” in the project, the university supports “overall efforts to strengthen NYC's science, tech, and innovation economy” which includes the tech hub. “The Union Square Tech Hub is meant to advance NYC's tech economy, and that's an objective NYU supports,” he stated.</p> <p>Asked to evaluate the idea to downzone areas surrounding the planned tech hub during a call Tuesday, Regional Plan Association director of community planning and design Moses Gates said that though fears of displacement are legitimate, downzoning would not advance the preservationists’ goals. Gates said the proposed rezoning would only be good news for those who “don’t want to see any change in the neighborhood.”</p> <p>“I think a downzoning is not really in the community interest,” he said. “I don’t think it will release any kind of displacement pressures, which have been going on for decades at this point in the East Village.”</p> <p>Instead, Gates said, the city should build more housing in the transit-rich area while ensuring that a sufficient amount of it is affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines, which require affordable housing in any area or project that is upzoned to add housing density. “We should also be looking to get some mixed-income housing in a very upper-income and increasingly exclusionary neighborhood,” he said.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/union_square_tech_hub.jpeg" alt="union square tech hub" width="600" height="715" /></p> <p>Union Square tech hub rendering via the mayor's office</p> <hr /> <p>This past week, two Manhattan Community Board 3 committees voted to approve the city's application for the proposed Union Square Training Center, also known as the Union Square tech hub, which the de Blasio administration says will create 800 construction jobs and then 600 permanent jobs in the growing technology sector. The land use and economic development committees of CB3 opted not to condition their vote in favor of the proposal on rezoning several blocks south of the proposed project as the board had considered and some preservationists and long-time community members are fighting for.</p> <p>The non-binding community board vote to approve the project came on the heels of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) setting in motion the public review process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP), on January 29 by officially obtaining permission to move forward with the initial project design and chosen developer, RAL Companies &amp; Affiliates LLC. The clock will continue to tick on the roughly seven-month timeline that requires approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council before any demolition or construction can take place in Union Square.</p> <p>The tech hub would serve as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, with floors allocated to technology training and startup offices, as well as retail space, located on 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. The building, which sits on valuable city-owned land, is currently a P.C. Richard &amp; Son. Community board approval, and without conditions, indicates that the project is almost certain to become a reality, though there are indeed still points of contention that will be negotiated over the coming months among local stakeholders, the de Blasio administration, and elected officials, especially City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p>According to EDC, the 240,000-square-foot, 21-floor facility would allocate six floors to <a href="https://civichall.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Civic Hal</a>l -- three for digital skills training center, three for the company’s own operations as a center for tech innovation &nbsp;-- five for “flexible” office space, eight for larger office space, and the ground floor for retail and market space, 25 percent of which would be reserved for first-time entrepreneurs and new local businesses. EDC projects construction would cost $250 million and last 18 months, after which the building would be the third-tallest on the block, behind Zeckendorf Towers and the Consolidated Edison Building, and open for business sometime in the middle of 2020.</p> <p>The project is a component to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/414-17/100-000-good-paying-jobs-mayor-de-blasio-releases-10-year-plan-invest-new-industries-raise#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Works</a>” plan, a decade-long initiative to create 100,000 jobs, 30,000 of them coming from the technology sector, that pay salaries north of $50,000 annually. Currently, technology is the fastest-growing sector in New York City’s economy. Increasing jobs in the field has been a point of emphasis for de Blasio, continuing the Bloomberg administration’s prioritization of creating tech jobs in New York, as evidenced by his heading the effort to bring the Cornell Technion campus to Roosevelt Island. The city also says the project will serve those that might otherwise not have access to jobs in the technology sector.</p> <p>“This new hub will be the front-door for tech in New York City,” de Blasio said in a February 2017 press release announcing an outline of the project. “People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support. No other city in the nation has anything like it.”</p> <p>“One of the biggest priorities for the de Blasio administration when it comes to the the economy is really ensuring that there is access to tech jobs [and] that they are accessible to New Yorkers of all neighborhoods and backgrounds,” said Anthony Hogrebe, EDC senior vice president of Public Affairs, echoing de Blasio’s pitch for the tech hub, on a call with Gotham Gazette. “One of the biggest ways you do that is improving workforce development, and by helping folks get the skills they need to qualify for those jobs.”</p> <p>Hogrebe said the tech hub would “ensure tech jobs really are for all New Yorkers,” not solely for “those who have advanced degrees in computer science.”</p> <p>He emphasized the centrality of the space allocated to teaching technological skills. “The cornerstone of this project is the digital skills training center. This is a place where some of the top organizations from all over the city will train New Yorkers on how to do the jobs that are in demand and give New Yorkers the skills they need,” said Hogrebe.</p> <p>Most elected leaders, advocates and residents of the community are in favor of the proposal; they see it as a way to bring to the area jobs and educational opportunities that prepare people for job-rich fields. But some are pushing to include a concession in the deal: rezoning several blocks south of the hub in order to limit development.</p> <p>During her 2017 City Council campaign, then-candidate Carlina Rivera said she was open to the tech hub project as long as the city implemented protective zoning measures aimed at curbing commercial and residential development in the nearby areas. The de Blasio administration, on the other hand, has generally been less likely to favor down-zonings as it seeks to add housing density, with affordability provisions, across the city. It remains to be seen how hard Rivera will push for the restrictive measures, and it is telling that the community board did not insist on them despite some loud and organized voices who call them essential to the neighborhood’s future.</p> <p>In order to build the tech hub as planned, the lot in between two New York University-owned buildings -- University Hall and Palladium -- needs to be rezoned for additional height allowances. The rezoning must be approved through the five-step, roughly seven-month ULURP process. After the de Blasio administration put forward its ideas, solicited bids for the project via a request for proposals (RFP), and chose a developer, last month’s certification was the first hoop the proposal was required to jump through and this past Wednesday’s community board hearing was the second.</p> <p>Next, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Borough Board, which includes community board leaders and City Council members from across the borough, will review the proposal. While they may influence the project, the opinions of the local community board and borough board are both advisory.</p> <p>However, the following steps, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, both have power to either approve or deny the tech hub project. In the coming months, the Council will hold committee hearings and subsequently vote on the matter -- the full Council approval of the project, in whatever exact form it is finalized, will likely occur around Labor Day. Usually, City Council members follow the lead of the member who represents the area home to a proposed rezoning, and there has been little to suggest this particular rezoning process will be a departure from the norm.</p> <p>New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the area west of Union Square, said at a press conference on January 24 that he expects Rivera to helm negotiations with the de Blasio administration and trusts her judgement on the issue. “I defer to Council Member Rivera,” he said. “She has my full support and she knows that. She’s a pragmatic, thoughtful person who spent time on her local community board, who understands these issues, so I think she will handle this in a responsible, thoughtful way.”</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of rezoning the blocks south of Union Square to limit development. “I know that area. It’s right on the border of our district,” he said. “To me, I think it makes sense, knowing that area, seeing developments going on there.”</p> <p>At the Community Board 3 hearing on the matter, a slight majority of those who testified voiced support for the tech hub. They said it would bring jobs and educational opportunities to the area, though some in the pro-tech hub camp wanted confirmation from the EDC representatives in attendance that those from the local communities would reap the benefits of the new facility. Another faction, which skewed older, whiter, and included many long-time residents of the East and West Villages, expressed their concern the tech hub would spawn unwanted changes in the neighborhood if they didn’t fight for measures -- like more restrictive zoning on commercial development -- to thwart these shifts.</p> <p>After the tech hub is erected, one theory goes, more residential and commercial development -- such as luxury and market-rate apartment buildings, chain stores, and hotels -- would change the community character, make the surrounding areas less affordable to small businesses and unrecognizable to long-time residents. Rezoning the area, in the skeptics’ telling, would preserve affordability by forestalling a potential wave of development adjacent to the tech hub.</p> <p>Notably, many of the expressed qualms with the project sans an accompanying downzoning closely mirrored those voiced by <a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/about/andrew-berman.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation</a> (GVHSP), a community nonprofit that typically opposes development. In a press release following the project’s ULURP certification and ahead of the community board hearing, GVPA executive director Andrew Berman, who made his case to the community board Wednesday night, argued that if the “surrounding predominantly residential neighborhood” is not protected, the tech hub would “accelerate the transformation of the area.”</p> <p>Following over four hours of testimony and discussion, the community board committees voted 16 to 5 to approve the ULURP application without any condition.</p> <p>After Wednesday’s vote, Rivera said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that she will work with the local community board, the mayor, and stakeholders to construct a “plan that satisfies and includes everyone.”</p> <p>“This tech center has the potential to be a great space for the local residents who historically have not had access to the high-paying jobs of the tech industry, a field whose companies continue to grow in and around our neighborhoods,” Rivera continued.</p> <p>Rivera said she will ensure the impending construction of the tech hub does not encourage excessive commercial development, which she said would adversely impact nearby residents and small businesses. “I will also continue to work towards the protections and rezoning which have broad community support that promote the development of housing and projects that are in line with our values and residential character,” she stated.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Berman, for his part, expressed displeasure with the community board’s process and decision. “By the narrowest of votes in which several of our supporters who should have been allowed to vote but were not given the opportunity to do so, a strong resolution incorporating all of our concerns was defeated for a weaker one incorporating some but not all of our concerns,” said Berman in a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/east-village/east-village-tech-hub-clears-first-hurdle-public-review">statement to Patch</a>. He vowed to “keep working” to advocate for policies that ensure the neighborhood “gets the protections it deserves and needs."</p> <p>Needless to say, not all of those who participated in the hearing were disappointed with the outcome. Meghan Heintz of <a href="http://www.morenyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">More New York</a>, a group that advocates for policies that increase housing supply in the city, argued at the hearing that the tech hub was a boon to residents of nearby neighborhoods, and warned against the consequences of prohibitively restrictive zoning.</p> <p>Heintz was pleased with the board’s decision to approve the ULURP application.</p> <p>“Education and job training for the new economy is vital and should be accessible to people from all backgrounds and delaying it is the same as denying those benefits to New Yorkers. We staunchly oppose the exclusionary zoning proposal that NIMBYs from an adjacent neighborhood clumsily tried to tack onto the project,” she said Thursday in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Heintz added, “If their proposal could really stand on its own merits, they wouldn't need to try to take a great project hostage to pass it.”</p> <p>Along with the community advocates and stakeholders, New York University would also be impacted by the tech hub as the lot on which the new facility would be built is in between the two aforementioned NYU buildings. NYU spokesperson John Beckman said Wednesday that while the university has not had “direct involvement” in the project, the university supports “overall efforts to strengthen NYC's science, tech, and innovation economy” which includes the tech hub. “The Union Square Tech Hub is meant to advance NYC's tech economy, and that's an objective NYU supports,” he stated.</p> <p>Asked to evaluate the idea to downzone areas surrounding the planned tech hub during a call Tuesday, Regional Plan Association director of community planning and design Moses Gates said that though fears of displacement are legitimate, downzoning would not advance the preservationists’ goals. Gates said the proposed rezoning would only be good news for those who “don’t want to see any change in the neighborhood.”</p> <p>“I think a downzoning is not really in the community interest,” he said. “I don’t think it will release any kind of displacement pressures, which have been going on for decades at this point in the East Village.”</p> <p>Instead, Gates said, the city should build more housing in the transit-rich area while ensuring that a sufficient amount of it is affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines, which require affordable housing in any area or project that is upzoned to add housing density. “We should also be looking to get some mixed-income housing in a very upper-income and increasingly exclusionary neighborhood,” he said.</p> <p> </p> Johnson Hands Over Council Health Portfolio, Including Hospital Crisis, to New Committee Chairs 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7441:johnson-hands-over-council-health-portfolio-including-hospital-crisis-to-new-committee-chairs Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson_health_care_rally.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson health hospitals " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson at a rally (photo: City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Before being elected Speaker of the City Council, Council Member Corey Johnson led the Committee on Health for four years. Drawing from his own personal experience as an openly gay, HIV-positive man who has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and tobacco use, he pushed a raft of legislation to improve healthcare services and outcomes for many of New York’s most underserved populations. In his early days as Speaker, Johnson has indicated that health and healthcare issues will continue to be one of his main priorities over the next four years.</p> <p>At the same time, though, as he takes on his larger role Johnson has in some ways passed the torch to other Council members who will lead relevant committees related to health and oversee the city’s public hospital system, which is in the midst of a financial crisis that Johnson has been tasked with helping to monitor over the past four years and will now, as speaker, have even greater responsibility for as he negotiates the city budget with Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Among the first steps that Johnson took upon assuming his new leadership position was to create a new committee, chaired by Council Member Carlina Rivera, dedicated to hospitals, especially New York City Health + Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system that has long suffered from budgetary difficulties and struggled to remain afloat even as the de Blasio administration has sought to overhaul its finances. Johnson’s move was a clear recognition of the H+H crisis, one that Council members, the mayoral administration, and healthcare advocates agree must be addressed amid threats of federal funding cuts to the city.</p> <p>The move to make the new committee also comes in conjunction with the beefing up of the Council’s oversight committee, now led by Council Member Ritchie Torres, and a repositioning of the health committee, under new chair Council Member Mark Levine. Levine, taking over the health committee from Johnson, will be able to focus his efforts closely on oversight of the city’s health services and to advance legislation expanding equitable access to healthcare for New Yorkers. There is some discussion among the parties of a city-run single-payer health care system, but it is unclear how far down this road Johnson, Levine, and others may go.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/01/02/corey-johnson-ny1-exclusive-interview-courtney-gross-says-he-will-be-independent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NY1 interview</a>, shortly before his election as speaker, Johnson indicated his continued interest in pursuing it. “My goal is for this city to be a laboratory for potential ideas that we could achieve,” he said, citing San Francisco’s implementation of a municipal single-payer system as a potential model albeit for a population a tenth of the size of New York City. “This would be a legacy item, it would be a big seismic thing to do,” he added, “but it’s gonna take a lot of work, it’s gonna take cooperation from the governor and from the state insurance superintendent and other folks that are gonna have a say in this. But it’s something that I want us to look at.”</p> <p>Over the four-year course of the last Council session, Johnson’s committee held 62 hearings, passing 34 bills that became law. Johnson was the prime sponsor on 11 of those bills, which included new regulations on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, mandated air quality surveys by the city, new animal safety protections, required reporting on health services in city jails, and allowing individuals to change their gender designation on their birth certificates.</p> <p>The committee also conducted broad oversight of the city’s hospital system, healthcare services provided by city agencies, and the city’s efforts to enroll people under the Affordable Care Act. Naturally, Johnson raised many of the same issues during separate Council hearings to examine de Blasio’s budget proposals over the years. His advocacy also extended beyond the Council’s work: he was arrested in Washington D.C. in July of last year while protesting the Republican-led Congress’ (so-far unsuccessful) efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p>“He believes really strongly in universal health access and he talks a lot about the importance of single-payer,” said Claudia Calhoon, director of health policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, discussing Johnson’s record as health committee chair. Johnson’s support of implementing a single-payer healthcare system in the city could only be achieved through collaboration with the state, as Calhoon noted. “It’s really great to have leadership talking about that when you’re trying to advocate for closing gaps and trying to engage the city in doing the work to close the gaps as they are able,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>In particular, Calhoon praised Johnson’s efforts to create the Access Health NYC initiative, which, starting in 2016, provided funding to community-based organizations for health education and outreach efforts, particularly for underserved communities. “I think he has a very good vision for equity which flows into a lot of different areas,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>Johnson has spoken openly about coming of age in the 1990s and watching how treatment of the AIDS-HIV epidemic was handled, and about discovering his HIV-positive status and the need for medication and good health care. He represents a district largely made up of Chelsea and the West Village that was and continues to be home to much of LGBT activism, including around equitable health care.</p> <p>Elizabeth Adams, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood of New York City, praised Johnson’s work in holding city agencies accountable for sexual and reproductive health services, particularly abortion access for young New Yorkers, and to expand health care to immigrants. “During a time of increased federal attacks on abortion and rollbacks of funding for healthcare, it’s really really critical that New York City is examining its own care options and leads the nation in accessible and affordable health care, including abortion,” Adams said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Taking over the health committee, Council Member Levine has expressed support for issues that Johnson has championed, but he has yet to lay out an agenda of his own. “We are still in the midst of reviewing all the policy issues before the committee, still in the midst of forming our legislative priorities,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week, not long after being named to chair the committee.</p> <p>“[Speaker Johnson] did a lot,” as chair of the committee, Levine said. “We look to build on that.” Among broader items, Levine has said he will pursue a single-payer municipal health system, tackle the city’s opioid epidemic, address racial inequities in health outcomes, assess bioterrorism threats, and promote animal protections. “I think all of us need to step up on Health + Hospitals,” said Levine. “It is a crisis and it ultimately could affect every hospital in the city and effect the health of New Yorkers in profound ways and it’s gotta be a higher priority for all of us in this term.”</p> <p>As Levine noted, perhaps the most significant area of oversight for the health committee has now largely fallen to the newly created Committee on Hospitals, under Council Member Rivera. “Health + Hospitals, it can’t be overstated how important it is to the fabric of the city,” said NYIC’s Calhoon. The system -- comprised of 11 hospitals, six neighborhood health centers, five nursing facilities and more than 60 community and school-based health centers -- mostly treats patients on Medicaid or who are uninsured, including many undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>In fiscal year 2017, the system treated more than 1.1 million patients according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2017/hhc.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mayor’s Management Report</a>, of which nearly 415,000 were uninsured. But the system faces a projected budget gap of $1.8 billion by 2020. In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the de Blasio administration expects to spend $897 million on the system, of which $784 million will come from the city’s coffers and the rest from state and federal funds. Those costs are only expected to grow over the next few yearsn. Johnson, Levine, Rivera, and other Council members, including new finance chair Danny Dromm, will now lead budget negotiations with the administration.</p> <p>While the de Blasio administration has put in place a plan to reinvigorate the municipal hospital system, any progress that has been made is threatened by federal funding cuts. The city, and state, have long braced for reductions in Disproportionate Share Hospital payments from the federal government, which help reimburse hospitals for providing healthcare to low-income and uninsured patients. The DSH cuts went into effect in October last year, further exacerbating a trend of decreasing investment from the federal government that city officials have repeatedly cited.</p> <p>First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, at a forum hosted by Citizens Budget Commission on Wednesday, said those cuts amounted to about $300 million in lost funding, placing “an additional and unnecessary strain on our hospitals.” And he warned of the larger implications of the federal budget. “[E]very major proposal that’s come out of either the [House of Representative] or the president has had dramatically huge cuts to New York City,” he said. “We’re going to have to balance all of this and be very careful how we proceed.”</p> <p>At the same time, Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly promised that the city will not shut down any municipal hospitals. “The hospital facilities are going to stay open. We’re also going to constantly look at how to use them better because the previous uses in many cases weren’t working and a lot of them were outmoded,” he said at an unrelated <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/758-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-move-convert-cluster-buildings-permanent-affordable" target="_blank" rel="noopener">December 12</a> news conference. In that vein, the new president of Health &amp; Hospitals, Dr. Mitchell Katz, who took over earlier this month, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/07/nyregion/mitchell-katz-nyc-health-hospitals.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> he will focus the hospital system more closely on primary care while implementing certain cost-saving and efficiency measures.</p> <p>Rivera recognizes the responsibility handed to her. “This is probably the most important public system in the city,” she told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week. Looking back at Johnson’s leadership of the health committee, she said, “I think he was doing as much as he could in trying to cover as many health topics and issues as there are. He passed some great legislation, he worked on policy, and he took some of those issues very personally, which I appreciate in terms of his openness.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Rivera agreed that the creation of her committee “does lend an urgency to the issue,” a point echoed by advocates.</p> <p>In a statement on Tuesday, Rivera noted the numerous challenges that H+H faces, including “closing Health + Hospitals’ growing budget deficit and updating hospital facilities for modern usage, to increasing access and support to community-based clinics."</p> <p>“We as advocates are really trying to change the narrative around the value of Health + Hospitals,” said Calhoon, “and think about it less in terms of a crisis and think about it more in terms of ‘how do we keep this tremendous resource we have and make it stronger?’” Although she did not fault anyone in particular, she said “it certainly would’ve been better to have that conversation happen early.”</p> <p>Planned Parenthood’s Adams acknowledged that though Johnson had worked to ensure adequate oversight and accountability at public hospital facilities, that much remained to be done. “It’s really exciting to see this committee be formed and really dig into how to strengthen and support healthcare options and availability of health options to all New Yorkers, regardless of income or immigration status,” she said.</p> <p>Beyond Health and Hospitals, however, Adams and Calhoon noted a number of policy areas where they hoped to see renewed energy from the Council. Both said the city needs to expand support for community health organizations through Access Health NYC.</p> <p>Adams said the city needs to prioritize abortion access at H+H, expand free-of-cost contraceptive coverage, and improve sexual health education in city schools along with ensuring that school-based health centers have the resources to provide comprehensive care to students. “Given all the public attention to sexual assault and sexual harassment, and bullying of LGBT students, we’re in a moment where we need to really be examining our health education program and putting in place comprehensive K-12 sexuality education,” Adams said.</p> <p>Calhoon stressed that all stakeholders need to work to provide better care to uninsured New Yorkers, particularly ensuring quality behavioral and mental health services for immigrants. “That is something that I think there is going to be a really important role for both the Council and the administration, and I do think all entities -- advocates, the Council, the administration -- are gonna have to work together and collaborate to figure out what’s going to happen,” she said, “because we’re obviously in a moment of crisis in terms of the impact that changes at the federal level, the impact its having on immigrant communities.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson_health_care_rally.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson health hospitals " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson at a rally (photo: City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Before being elected Speaker of the City Council, Council Member Corey Johnson led the Committee on Health for four years. Drawing from his own personal experience as an openly gay, HIV-positive man who has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and tobacco use, he pushed a raft of legislation to improve healthcare services and outcomes for many of New York’s most underserved populations. In his early days as Speaker, Johnson has indicated that health and healthcare issues will continue to be one of his main priorities over the next four years.</p> <p>At the same time, though, as he takes on his larger role Johnson has in some ways passed the torch to other Council members who will lead relevant committees related to health and oversee the city’s public hospital system, which is in the midst of a financial crisis that Johnson has been tasked with helping to monitor over the past four years and will now, as speaker, have even greater responsibility for as he negotiates the city budget with Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Among the first steps that Johnson took upon assuming his new leadership position was to create a new committee, chaired by Council Member Carlina Rivera, dedicated to hospitals, especially New York City Health + Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system that has long suffered from budgetary difficulties and struggled to remain afloat even as the de Blasio administration has sought to overhaul its finances. Johnson’s move was a clear recognition of the H+H crisis, one that Council members, the mayoral administration, and healthcare advocates agree must be addressed amid threats of federal funding cuts to the city.</p> <p>The move to make the new committee also comes in conjunction with the beefing up of the Council’s oversight committee, now led by Council Member Ritchie Torres, and a repositioning of the health committee, under new chair Council Member Mark Levine. Levine, taking over the health committee from Johnson, will be able to focus his efforts closely on oversight of the city’s health services and to advance legislation expanding equitable access to healthcare for New Yorkers. There is some discussion among the parties of a city-run single-payer health care system, but it is unclear how far down this road Johnson, Levine, and others may go.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/01/02/corey-johnson-ny1-exclusive-interview-courtney-gross-says-he-will-be-independent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NY1 interview</a>, shortly before his election as speaker, Johnson indicated his continued interest in pursuing it. “My goal is for this city to be a laboratory for potential ideas that we could achieve,” he said, citing San Francisco’s implementation of a municipal single-payer system as a potential model albeit for a population a tenth of the size of New York City. “This would be a legacy item, it would be a big seismic thing to do,” he added, “but it’s gonna take a lot of work, it’s gonna take cooperation from the governor and from the state insurance superintendent and other folks that are gonna have a say in this. But it’s something that I want us to look at.”</p> <p>Over the four-year course of the last Council session, Johnson’s committee held 62 hearings, passing 34 bills that became law. Johnson was the prime sponsor on 11 of those bills, which included new regulations on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, mandated air quality surveys by the city, new animal safety protections, required reporting on health services in city jails, and allowing individuals to change their gender designation on their birth certificates.</p> <p>The committee also conducted broad oversight of the city’s hospital system, healthcare services provided by city agencies, and the city’s efforts to enroll people under the Affordable Care Act. Naturally, Johnson raised many of the same issues during separate Council hearings to examine de Blasio’s budget proposals over the years. His advocacy also extended beyond the Council’s work: he was arrested in Washington D.C. in July of last year while protesting the Republican-led Congress’ (so-far unsuccessful) efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p>“He believes really strongly in universal health access and he talks a lot about the importance of single-payer,” said Claudia Calhoon, director of health policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, discussing Johnson’s record as health committee chair. Johnson’s support of implementing a single-payer healthcare system in the city could only be achieved through collaboration with the state, as Calhoon noted. “It’s really great to have leadership talking about that when you’re trying to advocate for closing gaps and trying to engage the city in doing the work to close the gaps as they are able,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>In particular, Calhoon praised Johnson’s efforts to create the Access Health NYC initiative, which, starting in 2016, provided funding to community-based organizations for health education and outreach efforts, particularly for underserved communities. “I think he has a very good vision for equity which flows into a lot of different areas,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>Johnson has spoken openly about coming of age in the 1990s and watching how treatment of the AIDS-HIV epidemic was handled, and about discovering his HIV-positive status and the need for medication and good health care. He represents a district largely made up of Chelsea and the West Village that was and continues to be home to much of LGBT activism, including around equitable health care.</p> <p>Elizabeth Adams, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood of New York City, praised Johnson’s work in holding city agencies accountable for sexual and reproductive health services, particularly abortion access for young New Yorkers, and to expand health care to immigrants. “During a time of increased federal attacks on abortion and rollbacks of funding for healthcare, it’s really really critical that New York City is examining its own care options and leads the nation in accessible and affordable health care, including abortion,” Adams said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Taking over the health committee, Council Member Levine has expressed support for issues that Johnson has championed, but he has yet to lay out an agenda of his own. “We are still in the midst of reviewing all the policy issues before the committee, still in the midst of forming our legislative priorities,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week, not long after being named to chair the committee.</p> <p>“[Speaker Johnson] did a lot,” as chair of the committee, Levine said. “We look to build on that.” Among broader items, Levine has said he will pursue a single-payer municipal health system, tackle the city’s opioid epidemic, address racial inequities in health outcomes, assess bioterrorism threats, and promote animal protections. “I think all of us need to step up on Health + Hospitals,” said Levine. “It is a crisis and it ultimately could affect every hospital in the city and effect the health of New Yorkers in profound ways and it’s gotta be a higher priority for all of us in this term.”</p> <p>As Levine noted, perhaps the most significant area of oversight for the health committee has now largely fallen to the newly created Committee on Hospitals, under Council Member Rivera. “Health + Hospitals, it can’t be overstated how important it is to the fabric of the city,” said NYIC’s Calhoon. The system -- comprised of 11 hospitals, six neighborhood health centers, five nursing facilities and more than 60 community and school-based health centers -- mostly treats patients on Medicaid or who are uninsured, including many undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>In fiscal year 2017, the system treated more than 1.1 million patients according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2017/hhc.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mayor’s Management Report</a>, of which nearly 415,000 were uninsured. But the system faces a projected budget gap of $1.8 billion by 2020. In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the de Blasio administration expects to spend $897 million on the system, of which $784 million will come from the city’s coffers and the rest from state and federal funds. Those costs are only expected to grow over the next few yearsn. Johnson, Levine, Rivera, and other Council members, including new finance chair Danny Dromm, will now lead budget negotiations with the administration.</p> <p>While the de Blasio administration has put in place a plan to reinvigorate the municipal hospital system, any progress that has been made is threatened by federal funding cuts. The city, and state, have long braced for reductions in Disproportionate Share Hospital payments from the federal government, which help reimburse hospitals for providing healthcare to low-income and uninsured patients. The DSH cuts went into effect in October last year, further exacerbating a trend of decreasing investment from the federal government that city officials have repeatedly cited.</p> <p>First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, at a forum hosted by Citizens Budget Commission on Wednesday, said those cuts amounted to about $300 million in lost funding, placing “an additional and unnecessary strain on our hospitals.” And he warned of the larger implications of the federal budget. “[E]very major proposal that’s come out of either the [House of Representative] or the president has had dramatically huge cuts to New York City,” he said. “We’re going to have to balance all of this and be very careful how we proceed.”</p> <p>At the same time, Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly promised that the city will not shut down any municipal hospitals. “The hospital facilities are going to stay open. We’re also going to constantly look at how to use them better because the previous uses in many cases weren’t working and a lot of them were outmoded,” he said at an unrelated <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/758-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-move-convert-cluster-buildings-permanent-affordable" target="_blank" rel="noopener">December 12</a> news conference. In that vein, the new president of Health &amp; Hospitals, Dr. Mitchell Katz, who took over earlier this month, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/07/nyregion/mitchell-katz-nyc-health-hospitals.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> he will focus the hospital system more closely on primary care while implementing certain cost-saving and efficiency measures.</p> <p>Rivera recognizes the responsibility handed to her. “This is probably the most important public system in the city,” she told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week. Looking back at Johnson’s leadership of the health committee, she said, “I think he was doing as much as he could in trying to cover as many health topics and issues as there are. He passed some great legislation, he worked on policy, and he took some of those issues very personally, which I appreciate in terms of his openness.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Rivera agreed that the creation of her committee “does lend an urgency to the issue,” a point echoed by advocates.</p> <p>In a statement on Tuesday, Rivera noted the numerous challenges that H+H faces, including “closing Health + Hospitals’ growing budget deficit and updating hospital facilities for modern usage, to increasing access and support to community-based clinics."</p> <p>“We as advocates are really trying to change the narrative around the value of Health + Hospitals,” said Calhoon, “and think about it less in terms of a crisis and think about it more in terms of ‘how do we keep this tremendous resource we have and make it stronger?’” Although she did not fault anyone in particular, she said “it certainly would’ve been better to have that conversation happen early.”</p> <p>Planned Parenthood’s Adams acknowledged that though Johnson had worked to ensure adequate oversight and accountability at public hospital facilities, that much remained to be done. “It’s really exciting to see this committee be formed and really dig into how to strengthen and support healthcare options and availability of health options to all New Yorkers, regardless of income or immigration status,” she said.</p> <p>Beyond Health and Hospitals, however, Adams and Calhoon noted a number of policy areas where they hoped to see renewed energy from the Council. Both said the city needs to expand support for community health organizations through Access Health NYC.</p> <p>Adams said the city needs to prioritize abortion access at H+H, expand free-of-cost contraceptive coverage, and improve sexual health education in city schools along with ensuring that school-based health centers have the resources to provide comprehensive care to students. “Given all the public attention to sexual assault and sexual harassment, and bullying of LGBT students, we’re in a moment where we need to really be examining our health education program and putting in place comprehensive K-12 sexuality education,” Adams said.</p> <p>Calhoon stressed that all stakeholders need to work to provide better care to uninsured New Yorkers, particularly ensuring quality behavioral and mental health services for immigrants. “That is something that I think there is going to be a really important role for both the Council and the administration, and I do think all entities -- advocates, the Council, the administration -- are gonna have to work together and collaborate to figure out what’s going to happen,” she said, “because we’re obviously in a moment of crisis in terms of the impact that changes at the federal level, the impact its having on immigrant communities.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Council Members Outline Priorities for New Term 2018-01-23T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-23T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7436:city-council-members-outline-priorities-for-new-term Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/38866913345_afd4b05a3e_z.jpg" alt="38866913345 afd4b05a3e z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council members (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council is gearing up for a new agenda under Speaker Corey Johnson, with several newly created committees and fresh faces in the legislative body. As the Council begins to schedule its first committee hearings and readies for the reintroduction of legislation from the last session, there are a number of priorities that Council members are planning to pursue. Returning members say they want to pass bills that have been pending and build on their work from the last four years, while new members are eager to follow through on the policy platforms that got them elected.</p> <p>New issue committee chairs appear ready to steer those committees in new directions, while Johnson has promised a robust agenda and is taking steps to beef up the Council’s oversight powers, expand its land use division, and increase its scrutiny of the mayor’s budget. Many of the committees, new and old, under his watch will take on greater responsibilities and are expected to tackle a slew of contentious policy issues, legislation, and oversight matters. Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette indicated a broad list of priorities, with some agenda items that will have citywide ramifications and others more parochial, district-level in their scope.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, in her new role as chair of the women’s committee, said she will pursue legislative and public policy solutions to combat sexual harassment in the public and private sectors, to end the gender pay gap for municipal workers, and advance criminal justice reforms to protect sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.</p> <p>“We are seeking to empower women at every level -- in the workplace, in the economic arena, in social interactions, and in politics,” Rosenthal said. In December, Rosenthal stood with Council Member Mark Levine to announce a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">request</a> for drafting legislation that would require complaints by Council staffers to be investigated by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, as is currently the case for complaints against elected Council members, and would also mandate that city agencies report on sexual harassment claims twice a year. &nbsp;</p> <p>Rosenthal also wants to see through the full implementation of her legislation, signed by the mayor in September last year, to create an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings. Among her other priorities are protections for small businesses in her Upper West Side district, seniors’ needs, and the city’s social safety net. Formerly chair of the contracts committee, which will now be led by new Council Member Justin Brannan, Rosenthal said her guiding philosophy in approaching priority issues will still be “fiscal responsibility.”</p> <p>Council Member Levine said he hopes to follow up on unfinished business from the last session, including the implementation of Right to Counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court, which was a bill he sponsored and waged a years-long campaign to win support from the mayor. Now chairing the health committee (he had parks last term), Levine will also focus on expanding healthcare coverage and addressing racial inequities in health outcomes across the city. One priority he has expressed support for is single-payer healthcare, an issue that Speaker Johnson has been vocal about pursuing.</p> <p>After chairing the public safety committee last term, Council Member Vanessa Gibson is chairing the new Subcommittee on Capital Budgets, which will be tasked with analysing the city’s now $96 billion capital budget. The subcommittee will assess the procurement process at city agencies and how agencies spend their capital dollars. Gibson said she is “looking to create better capital spending oversight and ensure there is a consistent process for capital projects so that we can truly realize meaningful investment in New York’s aging infrastructure.”</p> <p>Gibson also said she will continue to advocate for bail reform, an issue that Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to put his weight behind this year. Gibson will also have to navigate complicated land use issues as she tackles the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning in her Bronx district. The project is moving forward quickly and will come through the land use committee now being chaired by Gibson’s Bronx colleague Council Member Rafael Salamanca.</p> <p>Council Member Ritchie Torres, another Bronx Democrat, is overseeing the newly empowered Committee on Oversight and Investigations, which will comprise a dedicated investigative unit of former prosecutors, professional investigators, and former journalists. While the division is staffing up, Torres’ first public task will be a joint oversight hearing on February 6 with the Committee on Public Housing, which he chaired last term, concerning heat and hot water failures in NYCHA housing. The new chair of the public housing committee is newly-elected Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who formerly worked at the public housing authority, NYCHA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7419-new-city-council-committee-chairs-have-plenty-on-their-plates">New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates</a>]</p> <p>The new chair of the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, Council Member Karen Koslowitz, said last week she was still formulating her agenda for 2018. Her committee is expected to lead the way on a package of internal rules reforms that a majority of the Council, including Speaker Johnson, have endorsed.</p> <p>Koslowitz, of Queens, also spoke of extending traffic safety laws to bicycle riders, saying that she would “like to see them be registered, licensed.”</p> <p>Council Member Mark Treyger, a former teacher who has taken over as chair of the education committee, spoke at length about the issues plaguing public school infrastructure. “I come from a district that some of our schools were built with money from the New Deal, and haven't seen upgrades since the New Deal,” he said of his southern Brooklyn community, also emphasizing the need for additional school aid.</p> <p>Treyger also wants to advance two bills he proposed in the last session: one requiring the city to station licensed social workers in all police precincts, and another to make it illegal for police officers to engage in sexual activity with a person in their custody. The second bill was prompted by a recent case in which an 18-year-old woman accused two officers of rape while she was in their custody. The officers claimed the act was consensual, leading to public outcry over the loophole in the law that does not automatically categorize it as custodial rape. Legal proceedings continue in the matter. &nbsp;</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, the new chair of the governmental operations committee, said he will push campaign finance reforms over the next few years since his committee has oversight of the Campaign Finance Board, which administers the city’s public matching funds program to incentivize small-dollar donations in elections. “The whole idea of the campaign finance [program] was to equalize the playing field,” he said. “Whenever you have policies that don’t… [that] puts a candidate at a disadvantage, I have issues with that,” he added, without going into specifics.</p> <p>In his role, Cabrera will also oversee the city Board of Elections, the Law Department, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, among other agencies. The BOE will administer at least three election days this year, in June, September, and November, with a fourth likely in some districts if Cuomo calls for special elections to fill several currently vacant state legislative seats.</p> <p>Council Member Steven Matteo, the Republican minority leader, said he plans to prioritize property tax relief this year, something he has long advocated for. “Last year we had the veterans property tax that we passed here, my bill. I want to expand on that this year, too, do some real property tax relief for everyone else,” he said. Matteo, one of three Republicans in the Council, was appointed by Johnson to chair the Committee on Standards &amp; Ethics, which, if new legislation on workplace sexual harassment is passed by the Council, will likely see its role expand this session. The committee is currently <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx-city-councilman-andy-king-accused-sexual-harassment-article-1.3698395" target="_blank" rel="noopener">investigating</a> an allegation of sexual harassment against Council Member Andy King.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has promised to take up property tax reform this term, which Matteo intends to hold him to. The Council had announced plans for a property tax reform task force last term, but it never came to be.</p> <p>Council Member Brannan also hopes to tackle property tax reform, he said, hoping that he will be able to sit on the proposed commission “to really take a deep dive into it.” As a former employee of the Department of Education, Brannan also said the Council has an opportunity to increase its oversight of DOE operations. “I think, it’s a couple areas where I think we can get a little more aggressive,” the contracts chair said. DOE contracts to outside vendors have been a point of contention for years, an area Brannan may be able to meld his prior experience and new responsibilities.</p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera, also newly-elected, will have her hands full chairing the Committee on Hospitals, newly created to oversee the city’s municipal hospital system, which is in financial crisis. But she also has local concerns she wants to address, she told Gotham Gazette, including reforms to city rules that allow construction in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, an issue leftover from her predecessor, former Council Member Rosie Mendez.</p> <p>Some of Rivera’s other priorities concern land use and infrastructure projects, particularly the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an integrated coastal protection initiative aimed at reducing flood risk due to coastal storms and sea level rise. She also intends to focus on NYCHA’s infrastructure woes, citing the numerous developments in her district and the issues of heat and hot water in NYCHA housing, and she must negotiate a major land use deal in her district related to a proposed Union Square tech hub that the de Blasio administration wants to build.</p> <p>Council Member Diana Ayala, another rookie lawmaker, is chairing the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services. She said she expects some examination of safe injection sites coming to New York City, which advocates argue would reduce drug users’ risk of overdose, transmitting diseases, and death. Speaker Johnson has said he is in favor of exploring the possibility.&nbsp;"The safe injection sites I know are going to be a big issue," Ayala told Gotham Gazette. "There's been a lot of conversation around bringing those to New York."</p> <p>Ayala also suggested that she will be looking into how New York City’s criminal justice system deals with the issue of domestic violence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about her policy priorities, new Council Member Adrienne Adams emphasized immigrant protections and homelessness. Adams expressed deep concern about the policies coming out of &nbsp;Washington, D.C. under the Republican-led Congress and President Donald Trump. Under former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council passed a number of immigrant-friendly laws and curbed the city’s cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities. “My district is extremely diverse and with the policies coming from Washington these days, they’re affecting my district and the entire city of New York tremendously,” said Adams, of southeast Queens.</p> <p>Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr., of the Bronx, who joined the Council from the state Senate, is the first chair of the Council’s new Committee on For-Hire Vehicles. When asked about his priorities, Diaz Sr. simply said, “Taxis.”</p> <p><em>Samar Khurshid contributed to this article.</em></p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated to better clarify Diana Ayala's comments on safe injection sites.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/38866913345_afd4b05a3e_z.jpg" alt="38866913345 afd4b05a3e z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Council members (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council is gearing up for a new agenda under Speaker Corey Johnson, with several newly created committees and fresh faces in the legislative body. As the Council begins to schedule its first committee hearings and readies for the reintroduction of legislation from the last session, there are a number of priorities that Council members are planning to pursue. Returning members say they want to pass bills that have been pending and build on their work from the last four years, while new members are eager to follow through on the policy platforms that got them elected.</p> <p>New issue committee chairs appear ready to steer those committees in new directions, while Johnson has promised a robust agenda and is taking steps to beef up the Council’s oversight powers, expand its land use division, and increase its scrutiny of the mayor’s budget. Many of the committees, new and old, under his watch will take on greater responsibilities and are expected to tackle a slew of contentious policy issues, legislation, and oversight matters. Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette indicated a broad list of priorities, with some agenda items that will have citywide ramifications and others more parochial, district-level in their scope.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, in her new role as chair of the women’s committee, said she will pursue legislative and public policy solutions to combat sexual harassment in the public and private sectors, to end the gender pay gap for municipal workers, and advance criminal justice reforms to protect sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.</p> <p>“We are seeking to empower women at every level -- in the workplace, in the economic arena, in social interactions, and in politics,” Rosenthal said. In December, Rosenthal stood with Council Member Mark Levine to announce a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7357-council-members-announce-legislation-to-root-out-sexual-misconduct-in-city-government" target="_blank" rel="noopener">request</a> for drafting legislation that would require complaints by Council staffers to be investigated by the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics, as is currently the case for complaints against elected Council members, and would also mandate that city agencies report on sexual harassment claims twice a year. &nbsp;</p> <p>Rosenthal also wants to see through the full implementation of her legislation, signed by the mayor in September last year, to create an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings. Among her other priorities are protections for small businesses in her Upper West Side district, seniors’ needs, and the city’s social safety net. Formerly chair of the contracts committee, which will now be led by new Council Member Justin Brannan, Rosenthal said her guiding philosophy in approaching priority issues will still be “fiscal responsibility.”</p> <p>Council Member Levine said he hopes to follow up on unfinished business from the last session, including the implementation of Right to Counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court, which was a bill he sponsored and waged a years-long campaign to win support from the mayor. Now chairing the health committee (he had parks last term), Levine will also focus on expanding healthcare coverage and addressing racial inequities in health outcomes across the city. One priority he has expressed support for is single-payer healthcare, an issue that Speaker Johnson has been vocal about pursuing.</p> <p>After chairing the public safety committee last term, Council Member Vanessa Gibson is chairing the new Subcommittee on Capital Budgets, which will be tasked with analysing the city’s now $96 billion capital budget. The subcommittee will assess the procurement process at city agencies and how agencies spend their capital dollars. Gibson said she is “looking to create better capital spending oversight and ensure there is a consistent process for capital projects so that we can truly realize meaningful investment in New York’s aging infrastructure.”</p> <p>Gibson also said she will continue to advocate for bail reform, an issue that Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to put his weight behind this year. Gibson will also have to navigate complicated land use issues as she tackles the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning in her Bronx district. The project is moving forward quickly and will come through the land use committee now being chaired by Gibson’s Bronx colleague Council Member Rafael Salamanca.</p> <p>Council Member Ritchie Torres, another Bronx Democrat, is overseeing the newly empowered Committee on Oversight and Investigations, which will comprise a dedicated investigative unit of former prosecutors, professional investigators, and former journalists. While the division is staffing up, Torres’ first public task will be a joint oversight hearing on February 6 with the Committee on Public Housing, which he chaired last term, concerning heat and hot water failures in NYCHA housing. The new chair of the public housing committee is newly-elected Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who formerly worked at the public housing authority, NYCHA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7419-new-city-council-committee-chairs-have-plenty-on-their-plates">New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates</a>]</p> <p>The new chair of the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, Council Member Karen Koslowitz, said last week she was still formulating her agenda for 2018. Her committee is expected to lead the way on a package of internal rules reforms that a majority of the Council, including Speaker Johnson, have endorsed.</p> <p>Koslowitz, of Queens, also spoke of extending traffic safety laws to bicycle riders, saying that she would “like to see them be registered, licensed.”</p> <p>Council Member Mark Treyger, a former teacher who has taken over as chair of the education committee, spoke at length about the issues plaguing public school infrastructure. “I come from a district that some of our schools were built with money from the New Deal, and haven't seen upgrades since the New Deal,” he said of his southern Brooklyn community, also emphasizing the need for additional school aid.</p> <p>Treyger also wants to advance two bills he proposed in the last session: one requiring the city to station licensed social workers in all police precincts, and another to make it illegal for police officers to engage in sexual activity with a person in their custody. The second bill was prompted by a recent case in which an 18-year-old woman accused two officers of rape while she was in their custody. The officers claimed the act was consensual, leading to public outcry over the loophole in the law that does not automatically categorize it as custodial rape. Legal proceedings continue in the matter. &nbsp;</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, the new chair of the governmental operations committee, said he will push campaign finance reforms over the next few years since his committee has oversight of the Campaign Finance Board, which administers the city’s public matching funds program to incentivize small-dollar donations in elections. “The whole idea of the campaign finance [program] was to equalize the playing field,” he said. “Whenever you have policies that don’t… [that] puts a candidate at a disadvantage, I have issues with that,” he added, without going into specifics.</p> <p>In his role, Cabrera will also oversee the city Board of Elections, the Law Department, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, among other agencies. The BOE will administer at least three election days this year, in June, September, and November, with a fourth likely in some districts if Cuomo calls for special elections to fill several currently vacant state legislative seats.</p> <p>Council Member Steven Matteo, the Republican minority leader, said he plans to prioritize property tax relief this year, something he has long advocated for. “Last year we had the veterans property tax that we passed here, my bill. I want to expand on that this year, too, do some real property tax relief for everyone else,” he said. Matteo, one of three Republicans in the Council, was appointed by Johnson to chair the Committee on Standards &amp; Ethics, which, if new legislation on workplace sexual harassment is passed by the Council, will likely see its role expand this session. The committee is currently <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx-city-councilman-andy-king-accused-sexual-harassment-article-1.3698395" target="_blank" rel="noopener">investigating</a> an allegation of sexual harassment against Council Member Andy King.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio has promised to take up property tax reform this term, which Matteo intends to hold him to. The Council had announced plans for a property tax reform task force last term, but it never came to be.</p> <p>Council Member Brannan also hopes to tackle property tax reform, he said, hoping that he will be able to sit on the proposed commission “to really take a deep dive into it.” As a former employee of the Department of Education, Brannan also said the Council has an opportunity to increase its oversight of DOE operations. “I think, it’s a couple areas where I think we can get a little more aggressive,” the contracts chair said. DOE contracts to outside vendors have been a point of contention for years, an area Brannan may be able to meld his prior experience and new responsibilities.</p> <p>Council Member Carlina Rivera, also newly-elected, will have her hands full chairing the Committee on Hospitals, newly created to oversee the city’s municipal hospital system, which is in financial crisis. But she also has local concerns she wants to address, she told Gotham Gazette, including reforms to city rules that allow construction in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, an issue leftover from her predecessor, former Council Member Rosie Mendez.</p> <p>Some of Rivera’s other priorities concern land use and infrastructure projects, particularly the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an integrated coastal protection initiative aimed at reducing flood risk due to coastal storms and sea level rise. She also intends to focus on NYCHA’s infrastructure woes, citing the numerous developments in her district and the issues of heat and hot water in NYCHA housing, and she must negotiate a major land use deal in her district related to a proposed Union Square tech hub that the de Blasio administration wants to build.</p> <p>Council Member Diana Ayala, another rookie lawmaker, is chairing the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services. She said she expects some examination of safe injection sites coming to New York City, which advocates argue would reduce drug users’ risk of overdose, transmitting diseases, and death. Speaker Johnson has said he is in favor of exploring the possibility.&nbsp;"The safe injection sites I know are going to be a big issue," Ayala told Gotham Gazette. "There's been a lot of conversation around bringing those to New York."</p> <p>Ayala also suggested that she will be looking into how New York City’s criminal justice system deals with the issue of domestic violence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about her policy priorities, new Council Member Adrienne Adams emphasized immigrant protections and homelessness. Adams expressed deep concern about the policies coming out of &nbsp;Washington, D.C. under the Republican-led Congress and President Donald Trump. Under former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council passed a number of immigrant-friendly laws and curbed the city’s cooperation with federal immigration enforcement authorities. “My district is extremely diverse and with the policies coming from Washington these days, they’re affecting my district and the entire city of New York tremendously,” said Adams, of southeast Queens.</p> <p>Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr., of the Bronx, who joined the Council from the state Senate, is the first chair of the Council’s new Committee on For-Hire Vehicles. When asked about his priorities, Diaz Sr. simply said, “Taxis.”</p> <p><em>Samar Khurshid contributed to this article.</em></p> <p>

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated to better clarify Diana Ayala's comments on safe injection sites.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: New City Council Members Justin Brannan & Carlina Rivera 2018-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7413:max-murphy-podcast-new-city-council-members-justin-brannan-carlina-rivera 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>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 10, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: New City Council Members Justin Brannan &amp; Carlina Rivera<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/rivera-brannan-277x143.jpg" alt="rivera brannan 277x143" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Justin Brannan and Carlina Rivera are two of the City Council's new members, elected last year and inaugurated at the start of this year. Each succeeded a term-limited Council member that they worked for as an aide, so they know city government well. But, there's nothing like being the elected official yourself, as they explain on this episode of the podcast. The two new Council members, both Democrats, discuss the transition process, their top priorities, and this political moment in New York City.</p> <p>Listen to the full 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>, with guests <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustinBrannan</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CarlinaRivera</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/381582968&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="170" 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>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 10, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: New City Council Members Justin Brannan &amp; Carlina Rivera<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/rivera-brannan-277x143.jpg" alt="rivera brannan 277x143" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Justin Brannan and Carlina Rivera are two of the City Council's new members, elected last year and inaugurated at the start of this year. Each succeeded a term-limited Council member that they worked for as an aide, so they know city government well. But, there's nothing like being the elected official yourself, as they explain on this episode of the podcast. The two new Council members, both Democrats, discuss the transition process, their top priorities, and this political moment in New York City.</p> <p>Listen to the full 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>, with guests <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinBrannan" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JustinBrannan</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/CarlinaRivera" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CarlinaRivera</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/381582968&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="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Looking Back, and Ahead, with Women Who Lost City Council Races 2017-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7268:looking-back-and-ahead-with-women-who-lost-city-council-races Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pia_raymond.jpg" alt="pia raymond" width="600" /></p> <p>Pia Raymond at the West Indian Day Parade (photo: @piaraymondnyc)</p> <hr /> <p>This fall, in races around the city, several qualified female candidates ran in hotly-contested Democratic primaries for open seats being left by term-limited City Council members, while others attempted to unseat incumbents seeking reelection. The September votes -- largely determinative in an overwhelmingly Democratic city -- took place against the backdrop of new and intense attention on the gender imbalance in the City Council, where men greatly outnumber women.</p> <p>Elections results signal that the January City Council roster will likely include 12 female members, a drop from the current 13, in the 51-seat legislative body. The 13 seats currently held by women already shows a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7180-forecasting-the-upcoming-city-council-gender-imbalance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drop from 18 in recent years</a>. In response to this growing imbalance, a <a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Final-Womens-Caucus-Making-It-Here-Report-Web.pdf?siteplayer=true&amp;dl=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> released by the City Council Women’s Caucus in August warned, “The New York City Council is currently in a crisis concerning its gender composition.”</p> <p>In several cases, including that of Diana Ayala, Carlina Rivera and Alicka Ampry-Samuel, female candidates were successful in September and appear set to join the City Council. In others, as with Pia Raymond, Marjorie Velazquez, and Amanda Farias, they were not victorious.</p> <p>While the winners celebrate and wage the far less competitive general election, those who lost have been left with questions about their campaigns, and about what to do next. In conversations with Gotham Gazette, Raymond, Velazquez, and Farias each reflected on their electoral effort and looked ahead.</p> <p>In a close race in the Bronx, in District 13, Marjorie Velazquez faced Mark Gjonaj, a sitting state Assembly member, among others. Velazquez won 34.17 percent of the vote, a close second to Gjonaj’s 38.46 percent in the five-person primary. Gjonaj spent over $1 million, an unheard of sum for a City Council race; while Velazquez spent about one quarter of that, around $225,000.</p> <p>Gjonaj’s Assembly district boundaries overlap significantly with the Council district, where Velazquez had the backing of outgoing Council Member James Vacca, but Gjonaj had the advantages of name recognition and a massive war chest to spend from. These two factors likely pushed the Assembly member ahead, according to Velazquez. “He’s a sitting Assembly member for the area that basically he won out of, which was the 80th Assembly district,” said Velazquez. “Ultimately when you have a million dollars he was able to get many more resources than we were.”</p> <p>In the past, District 13 has been home to few female candidates, a pattern Velazquez hopes her run will help reverse. “Women are definitely held to a double standard every which way when running a race and when women see that it can be done, when women see that they have an example, they are more comfortable doing this,” she said.</p> <p>Velazquez, who has served on Community Board 10 in the past, emphasized the importance of participation below the City Council level. “Women need to understand that we need them on community boards, we need them on community education councils. We need women representing every way that they can,” said Velazquez.</p> <p>She will appear on the Working Families Party line in the general election, on the heels of her loss in the Democratic primary, but she is not actively campaigning. When discussing potential bids in the future, Velazquez was unequivocal about her intention to campaign again. “Would I ever run again? Most definitely,” she said.</p> <p>In the fight for District 18, life-time Bronx resident Amanda Farias faced another state legislator-turned-City Council candidate; state Senator Rubén Diaz, Sr. In a crowded race, the candidates faced off for an open seat being left by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma. The senator won with 42 percent of the vote; Farias finished second at 21 percent. Like with Gjonaj, most primary voters did not choose Diaz, Sr., though the state lawmakers each won with a plurality.</p> <p>Farias attributes her loss in the South Bronx district to a number of advantages benefitting Diaz, Sr. “Name recognition, having a similar name as our borough president for example, these are things that definitely played a large role in the folks that came out and either weren’t touched enough or came out to vote and didn’t get enough information on anyone in the race,” said Farias, in reference to Diaz, Sr.’s son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. &nbsp;</p> <p>According to Farias, women working within city government roles need to better organize other women to run and hold people accountable in order to counter disparities in representation. As for her own plans, another bid is on the horizon. “I am already planning on running again,” said Farias, “I’m just in the planning phases now, trying to make sure that I stay visible and I stay in tune with what the Bronx Democratic Party is going to be doing within our communities and I’m there to at least represent the community’s and residents’ needs.”</p> <p>Farias did not disclose which race she may be considering.</p> <p>She also argued that the push for greater female representation is not a responsibility that lies solely with women. “It’s not only identifying women and providing them with training, it’s being able to push back and hold men accountable in that they also need to be supportive or they need to take their own back seat as well as ensuring that there’s money being funded to women,” said Farias.</p> <p>For Pia Raymond, the decision to challenge incumbent Mathieu Eugene in Brooklyn’s District 40 Democratic primary created an uphill battle from the start. Raymond also had to compete with another strong challenger, Brian Cunningham, who has worked as an aide to multiple City Council members. Eugene, the incumbent of ten years, garnered 40.15 percent of the vote while Raymond came in third with 22.39 percent. While it was perhaps telling that 60 percent of Democratic primary voters did not choose Eugene, Raymond and Cunningham split the opposition vote (Cunningham is continuing his battle to unseat Eugene in the general, as he has the Reform Party ballot line).</p> <p>Raymond characterized her campaign as a response to unmet needs caused by growth, displacement, and rising rents across the district. Little more than a month after her primary loss, she was clear about her intentions for 2021, when Eugene will be ineligible to run again if he wins this year. “I definitely intend to run,” said Raymond.</p> <p>Raymond attested to disparities in treatment between men and women throughout the race, particularly her experiences with media coverage focused on physical appearance. “Despite perhaps having interviews for an hour long, they would start off an article with my appearance or attractiveness or that I’m lovely instead of discussing any of my qualifications, passion, experience, leadership in the community that’s longstanding,” said Raymond.</p> <p>Like Raymond, Farias, and Velazquez, other women attempted to win City Council seats for the first time and performed well, but were not victorious. Others included Marti Speranza, who came in second in the crowded Democratic primary for the "open" District 4 seat and Alison Tan got nearly 42 percent of the vote trying to unseat Council Member Peter Koo. Meanwhile, among the first-time winners, in addition to Ayala, Rivera, and Ampry-Samuel, there was Adrienne Adams. All four primary winners are heavily favored to win the November general election. They are likely to join several incumbent female Council members who are on the path to reelection, including Women's Caucus co-chairs Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, along with Elizabeth Crowley, Vanessa Gibson, Karen Koslowitz, Inez Barron, and Deborah Rose. Council Member Margaret Chin barely staved off defeat to Christopher Marte in the Democratic primary, and is now facing Marte in the general as he runs on a different ballot line.</p> <p>Low percentages of female electeds within the New York City Council reflects a national trend of systemic underrepresentation within legislative bodies. Nationally, women hold 24.9 percent of state legislative seats, according to the <a href="http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-state-legislature-2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Center for American Women and Politics</a>, a number that has seen little change over the last decade. Representation disparities within Congress are even more stark, women account for 21 percent of Senators and 19.4 percent of Representatives.</p> <p>These trends can be attributed to a number of causes including a backlash against female advancements in legislative representation and a hesitation across the board to become involved in the current partisan political environment, according to Susannah Wellford, president of <a href="https://runningstartonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Running Start</a>, an organization that seeks to involve women in politics at an early age. Regardless of the reason, the disparity is a troubling trend, as gender balance not only boosts issues of importance to women, which can include anything, but also is shown to lead to better overall legislative outcomes for constituents.</p> <p>“When we don’t have women in power then the issues that women care about don’t make it to the table, they don’t make it into the discussion at all,” said Wellford.</p> <p>

***
by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pia_raymond.jpg" alt="pia raymond" width="600" /></p> <p>Pia Raymond at the West Indian Day Parade (photo: @piaraymondnyc)</p> <hr /> <p>This fall, in races around the city, several qualified female candidates ran in hotly-contested Democratic primaries for open seats being left by term-limited City Council members, while others attempted to unseat incumbents seeking reelection. The September votes -- largely determinative in an overwhelmingly Democratic city -- took place against the backdrop of new and intense attention on the gender imbalance in the City Council, where men greatly outnumber women.</p> <p>Elections results signal that the January City Council roster will likely include 12 female members, a drop from the current 13, in the 51-seat legislative body. The 13 seats currently held by women already shows a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7180-forecasting-the-upcoming-city-council-gender-imbalance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drop from 18 in recent years</a>. In response to this growing imbalance, a <a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Final-Womens-Caucus-Making-It-Here-Report-Web.pdf?siteplayer=true&amp;dl=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> released by the City Council Women’s Caucus in August warned, “The New York City Council is currently in a crisis concerning its gender composition.”</p> <p>In several cases, including that of Diana Ayala, Carlina Rivera and Alicka Ampry-Samuel, female candidates were successful in September and appear set to join the City Council. In others, as with Pia Raymond, Marjorie Velazquez, and Amanda Farias, they were not victorious.</p> <p>While the winners celebrate and wage the far less competitive general election, those who lost have been left with questions about their campaigns, and about what to do next. In conversations with Gotham Gazette, Raymond, Velazquez, and Farias each reflected on their electoral effort and looked ahead.</p> <p>In a close race in the Bronx, in District 13, Marjorie Velazquez faced Mark Gjonaj, a sitting state Assembly member, among others. Velazquez won 34.17 percent of the vote, a close second to Gjonaj’s 38.46 percent in the five-person primary. Gjonaj spent over $1 million, an unheard of sum for a City Council race; while Velazquez spent about one quarter of that, around $225,000.</p> <p>Gjonaj’s Assembly district boundaries overlap significantly with the Council district, where Velazquez had the backing of outgoing Council Member James Vacca, but Gjonaj had the advantages of name recognition and a massive war chest to spend from. These two factors likely pushed the Assembly member ahead, according to Velazquez. “He’s a sitting Assembly member for the area that basically he won out of, which was the 80th Assembly district,” said Velazquez. “Ultimately when you have a million dollars he was able to get many more resources than we were.”</p> <p>In the past, District 13 has been home to few female candidates, a pattern Velazquez hopes her run will help reverse. “Women are definitely held to a double standard every which way when running a race and when women see that it can be done, when women see that they have an example, they are more comfortable doing this,” she said.</p> <p>Velazquez, who has served on Community Board 10 in the past, emphasized the importance of participation below the City Council level. “Women need to understand that we need them on community boards, we need them on community education councils. We need women representing every way that they can,” said Velazquez.</p> <p>She will appear on the Working Families Party line in the general election, on the heels of her loss in the Democratic primary, but she is not actively campaigning. When discussing potential bids in the future, Velazquez was unequivocal about her intention to campaign again. “Would I ever run again? Most definitely,” she said.</p> <p>In the fight for District 18, life-time Bronx resident Amanda Farias faced another state legislator-turned-City Council candidate; state Senator Rubén Diaz, Sr. In a crowded race, the candidates faced off for an open seat being left by term-limited Council Member Annabel Palma. The senator won with 42 percent of the vote; Farias finished second at 21 percent. Like with Gjonaj, most primary voters did not choose Diaz, Sr., though the state lawmakers each won with a plurality.</p> <p>Farias attributes her loss in the South Bronx district to a number of advantages benefitting Diaz, Sr. “Name recognition, having a similar name as our borough president for example, these are things that definitely played a large role in the folks that came out and either weren’t touched enough or came out to vote and didn’t get enough information on anyone in the race,” said Farias, in reference to Diaz, Sr.’s son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. &nbsp;</p> <p>According to Farias, women working within city government roles need to better organize other women to run and hold people accountable in order to counter disparities in representation. As for her own plans, another bid is on the horizon. “I am already planning on running again,” said Farias, “I’m just in the planning phases now, trying to make sure that I stay visible and I stay in tune with what the Bronx Democratic Party is going to be doing within our communities and I’m there to at least represent the community’s and residents’ needs.”</p> <p>Farias did not disclose which race she may be considering.</p> <p>She also argued that the push for greater female representation is not a responsibility that lies solely with women. “It’s not only identifying women and providing them with training, it’s being able to push back and hold men accountable in that they also need to be supportive or they need to take their own back seat as well as ensuring that there’s money being funded to women,” said Farias.</p> <p>For Pia Raymond, the decision to challenge incumbent Mathieu Eugene in Brooklyn’s District 40 Democratic primary created an uphill battle from the start. Raymond also had to compete with another strong challenger, Brian Cunningham, who has worked as an aide to multiple City Council members. Eugene, the incumbent of ten years, garnered 40.15 percent of the vote while Raymond came in third with 22.39 percent. While it was perhaps telling that 60 percent of Democratic primary voters did not choose Eugene, Raymond and Cunningham split the opposition vote (Cunningham is continuing his battle to unseat Eugene in the general, as he has the Reform Party ballot line).</p> <p>Raymond characterized her campaign as a response to unmet needs caused by growth, displacement, and rising rents across the district. Little more than a month after her primary loss, she was clear about her intentions for 2021, when Eugene will be ineligible to run again if he wins this year. “I definitely intend to run,” said Raymond.</p> <p>Raymond attested to disparities in treatment between men and women throughout the race, particularly her experiences with media coverage focused on physical appearance. “Despite perhaps having interviews for an hour long, they would start off an article with my appearance or attractiveness or that I’m lovely instead of discussing any of my qualifications, passion, experience, leadership in the community that’s longstanding,” said Raymond.</p> <p>Like Raymond, Farias, and Velazquez, other women attempted to win City Council seats for the first time and performed well, but were not victorious. Others included Marti Speranza, who came in second in the crowded Democratic primary for the "open" District 4 seat and Alison Tan got nearly 42 percent of the vote trying to unseat Council Member Peter Koo. Meanwhile, among the first-time winners, in addition to Ayala, Rivera, and Ampry-Samuel, there was Adrienne Adams. All four primary winners are heavily favored to win the November general election. They are likely to join several incumbent female Council members who are on the path to reelection, including Women's Caucus co-chairs Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, along with Elizabeth Crowley, Vanessa Gibson, Karen Koslowitz, Inez Barron, and Deborah Rose. Council Member Margaret Chin barely staved off defeat to Christopher Marte in the Democratic primary, and is now facing Marte in the general as he runs on a different ballot line.</p> <p>Low percentages of female electeds within the New York City Council reflects a national trend of systemic underrepresentation within legislative bodies. Nationally, women hold 24.9 percent of state legislative seats, according to the <a href="http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-state-legislature-2017" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Center for American Women and Politics</a>, a number that has seen little change over the last decade. Representation disparities within Congress are even more stark, women account for 21 percent of Senators and 19.4 percent of Representatives.</p> <p>These trends can be attributed to a number of causes including a backlash against female advancements in legislative representation and a hesitation across the board to become involved in the current partisan political environment, according to Susannah Wellford, president of <a href="https://runningstartonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Running Start</a>, an organization that seeks to involve women in politics at an early age. Regardless of the reason, the disparity is a troubling trend, as gender balance not only boosts issues of importance to women, which can include anything, but also is shown to lead to better overall legislative outcomes for constituents.</p> <p>“When we don’t have women in power then the issues that women care about don’t make it to the table, they don’t make it into the discussion at all,” said Wellford.</p> <p>

***
by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>