Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/104 Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:14:54 +0000 en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Part of ThriveNYC, NYCHA Trains Staff in Mental Health First Aid http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7049:part-of-thrivenyc-nycha-trains-staff-in-mental-health-first-aid http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7049:part-of-thrivenyc-nycha-trains-staff-in-mental-health-first-aid 5716575756 06b18d2c43 z

NYCHA community gathering at Queensbridge (Pete Mikoleski/NYCHA flickr) 


At a recent training session, just over 35 New York City Housing Authority staff members assembled at the authority’s downtown offices last Thursday. The course, which included eight topics, was part of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health care plan, one piece of which is 2,000 NYCHA employees receiving mental health care training so that they can more carefully and helpfully interact with public housing residents who may be experiencing mental health challenges.

The eight session subjects included first aid, substance abuse, suicide, and eating disorders. Participants told personal stories of dealing with mental illness, discussed circumstances they had encountered in the past in serving NYCHA residents, and asked questions about how best to approach hypothetical scenarios they suspected may occur.

When suffering from mental illness, “people often turn to people they know or agencies they trust, or people they see in their communities,” said Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of mental hygiene for the city, who visited the training. Belkin explained that mental illness and mental health challenges are more prevalent among NYCHA’s residents, who number around 500,000, than the population at large.

ThriveNYC was launched by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, who was motivated by seeing many around her benefit from receiving aid for mental health ailments. “I heard many stories of triumph that reminded me of a fundamental truth: Mental illness is treatable. When people have access to the resources they need, they can live their lives to the fullest,” McCray wrote in a roadmap for ThriveNYC. The $850 million program aims to make mental health care more available and changing norms around the general issue to make receiving care more appealing to New Yorkers, many of whom are unaware of their options or are unwilling to seek assistance.

According to a 2015 report from the city Department of Health, one in five New Yorkers suffers from mental illness, including challenges ranging from acute depression to schizophrenia. Forty-one percent of those with mental illness said they did not receive or were delayed in getting treatment in the past year, according to the ThriveNYC website. One major ThriveNYC goal is training 250,00 New Yorkers in mental health first aid, thus working to combat the larger problem by making New York City communities more aware of both the signs that an individual may be in need of assistance and the resources available to those with mental health challenges.

On the side of the room in which the NYCHA training session was held last week stood signs with contact information for mental health hotlines both nationally and in New York City, for use in connecting residents to care providers.

NYCHA is a particularly important organization in the city’s battle against mental illness, Dr. Belkin told the staff members gathered for the training. Just before the lunch break, he spoke to trainees about how their close relationships with New Yorkers are essential to providing help to those suffering with mental health issues.

Dr. Belkin said that NYCHA workers, who forge bonds and establish trust with NYCHA residents, are well-positioned to assist in achieving key ThriveNYC goals. NCYHA employees have a “kind of a familiarity and a closeness” with low-income New Yorkers that others, such as doctors and nurses, don’t, Belkin said in an interview with Gotham Gazette following his remarks to the NYCHA staff. “It’s a real opportunity to be credible to the people we’re trying to reach,” he said. “It seems like a natural fit.”

NYCHA residents are a particularly important cohort to reach, too, Dr. Belkin explained. “It's not just the proximity and credibility with residents that NYCHA has but also this is a group of New Yorkers we need to reach,” he said. “People residing in NYCHA housing or rental assisted housing, or either, are two to three times more likely to have what we call ‘serious psychological distress,’” said Dr. Belkin, referencing an umbrella term used in health department community surveys that includes a range of illnesses. NYCHA tenants are a “population we need to make sure is connected and feels like they have a point of entry to mental health that's more familiar and not as stigmatized,” Belkin said.

Marina Oteiza, Borough Administrator for Family Partnerships in Manhattan at NYCHA, echoed Dr. Belkin’s optimism in regards to non-medical professionals ability to help people on this front. “A lot of lay people can do this,” she said of efforts to identify mental illness and direct those in need of assistance to the right place. “You don't necessarily need a social worker,” she said of NYCHA employees making connections to services for residents. “If you’re meeting with them, you're comfortable talking to them, you have a rapport with them. You can facilitate that a lot quicker than a social worker,” she said. “It does not need to be with a trained mental health professional,” she continued. “It can be with someone who cares and has an empathetic ear.” Good bedside manner, coupled with formal training would create an effective force towards the goal of improving NYCHA residents’ health and safety with regard to widespread mental health issues, she argued.

During the session, the instructor placed strong emphasis on destigmatizing mental illness, and making sure employees adopted a sympathetic, non-judgmental posture towards those with acute and chronic mental health issues. These ailments are medically treatable conditions and should be seen as such. The session leaders emphasized that mental health issues come about from no fault of the victim’s and did not result from an individual’s actions or character nor from weakness. Nobody should be ashamed or embarrassed for requesting medical attention, they stressed.

Helen Reinstein, certified mental health instructor and senior management trainer with the Learning and Development Unit of Human Resources at NYCHA, was in attendance at Thursday’s training in NYCHA offices at 250 Broadway. “You wouldn't hesitate to talk to someone with a broken arm about getting their arm set and getting the follow up care they need,” Reinstein said of the need to normalize mental health care. “We want people to feel the same way about mental health issues.”

Trainees were introduced to frameworks for types of circumstances they may have to handle in the field and were provided with scripted lines to use should these situations arise. The NYCHA staffers -- employees who help run and maintain NYCHA buildings, properties, and programs -- were also instructed on warning signs of mental illness and techniques to reach people that do not make a concerted effort to alert others of their struggles. Look at “body language,” said Tajhma Carroll, assistant director of Brooklyn Leased Housing, a NYCHA division. She then listed a few frequent indicators they were informed often suggest someone may be in need of treatment. “Sweats, they mentioned, hands or legs shaking. Those are telltale signs,” she said. “It's not only in what they say,” Carroll added.

People “isolated and alone in their house” or who engage in hoarding, wherein individuals store an excessive amount of things in their homes, leading to cramped, unhygienic living environments, are also causes for concern, Oteiza said. “If they’re not letting you into the apartment, that’s going to be a red flag for us,” she said.

If signs aren’t identified and those suffering from mental health problems are unaware of options available to them or unwilling to access medical attention, people may turn to other means to relieve their pain, Reinstein noticed. “A lot of times, people are using illegal substance in order to try to get to a place of feeling normal and using it as self-medication rather than seeking the care and intervention they really need,” she said.

As part of their education, NYCHA workers were instructed to ask some of the toughest questions when evidence warrants them, such as “have you ever considered suicide?” and “do you have a plan to kill yourself?” Those involved acknowledged how hard it can be to ask those questions or to inform someone their condition can only be properly alleviated by receiving a medical evaluation. During the training sessions, NYCHA staff constantly grappled with the challenge of ensuring people are getting the assistance they need, while also lending them enough personal space. “I do think there is a natural reticence to be intrusive, which is a good thing,” said Sherman.

Most trainees appeared to buy into the strategy of being active and quick to inquire if they detect signals that something may be amiss for a NYCHA resident. “So far people have been very receptive,” Reinstein said. “We’re excited about this training,” said Sherman. “I think that we’re really creating a culture where our staff really has the confidence to be able to interact with people, to de-escalate where it’s appropriate, to connect people with resources.”

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Part of ThriveNYC, NYCHA Trains Staff in Mental Health First Aid Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
'New York Values' in Historical Perspective http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6173:new-york-values-in-historical-perspective http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6173:new-york-values-in-historical-perspective ted cruz

Ted Cruz (photo: @SenTedCruz)


Stereotyping New York in political debate
In a Republican presidential debate in January, Senator Ted Cruz tried to score points, saying of Donald Trump, "Donald comes from New York and he represents New York values." Cruz went on to say that "everyone in the country knows exactly what New York values are and I've got to say they're not Iowa values or New Hampshire values." New Yorkers are "socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage and focus on money and the media," he said.

Cruz repeated the message, with variations, in his campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Senator Cruz was using an old political gambit, playing on stereotypes of New York (particularly New York City) as excessively liberal, corrupt, money-grubbing, and out of step with the rest of America.
New Yorkers get their backs up when their city or state is stigmatized or attacked.

After the January debate, Governor Andrew Cuomo retorted that Senator Cruz "doesn't know what New York values are because New York is in many ways the epitome of what formed this nation and what keeps it strong....We do believe in E Pluribus Unum, out of many come one, and his rhetoric is the exact opposite." Several other prominent New Yorkers weighed in, including Donald Trump, who suggested that New York's heroic response to 9/11 revealed its deepest values.

Cruz's comments provoked many other New Yorkers to express their opinions (mostly positive) about their city. The New York Times asked a cross-section of city residents their opinion on what constituted "New York values" a few days after Cruz's attack. Their responses: New Yorkers are diverse, friendly, ambitious, curious, tolerant, competitive, impatient, hustling and determined -- "we keep our heads high, no matter what."

A New York Daily News front page on January 15 put it more directly with a headline of "DROP DEAD, TED."

New Yorkers have seen it before
Cruz is certainly not the first politician to try to cast New York as a place of wanton ways with values at odds with those of the rest of the nation.

Republican attacks on New York Governor Al Smith when he ran unsuccessfully for president in 1928 focused on his Catholic religion, opposition to prohibition, and subservience to the New York City Democratic organization Tammany Hall, all allegedly emblematic of his hometown, New York City. Smith's campaign theme song, "The Sidewalks of New York," and his "New York accent" in campaign speeches confirmed how ingrained New York City's culture and folkways were.

In 1960, conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater expressed a wish that "we could tell New York to kiss our [expletive] and we could really start a conservative party." In 1963, he suggested the nation would be better off if the east coast could be sawed off and floated out to sea. But everyone understood that New York, with its liberal politics, cultural influence and economic power, was his main bugaboo.

The next year, Goldwater won the Republican presidential nomination over New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, whom Goldwater labeled a liberal New York spendthrift. His supporters sniped that Rockefeller was immoral for having divorced his first wife and remarried, something they vaguely insinuated had to do with loose New York morals.

Historical views of "New York values"
Fending off attacks is easier than defining precisely what New York's values are. That's no surprise, given New York's long history, complexity, and our proclivity for vigorous debate among ourselves.

In 1939, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia assailed critics who asserted that his city was "a money mart...a synonym for Wall Street...New Yorkers are impolite." New York is "a warm-hearted and generous community," he insisted. But with a touch of that New York pride bordering on arrogance that can irritate outsiders, the mayor added that his city was so far superior to others that "we could afford to stop for the next twenty years and we would still be slightly ahead of the procession."

Historian Milton Klein wrote in 1978 that New Yorkers could be thought of as "cosmopolitan Americans: energetic...materialistic and brash but also convivial, humane, tolerant and idealistic. That one state alone should be able to encompass in itself so many of the virtues and limitations of the American people is a measure of New York's unique role in the nation's history."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a statement to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, eloquently described his city's cosmopolitan pre-eminence:

To people around the world, New York City embodies what makes this nation great. That's a function of our status as the world's financial capital, driven not only by Wall Street but [also] our international prominence in such fields as broadcasting, the arts, entertainment and medicine. Such is New York's importance that to a great extent, as goes its economy, so goes the country's. If Wall Street is destroyed, Main Street will suffer. Beyond that, New York embraces the intellectual and religious freedom and cultural diversity that makes us truly the world's second home. We are a magnet for the talented and ambitious from every corner of the globe. In short, we embody the strengths of America's freedom.

Governor Mario Cuomo (1983-1995) saw enlightened, progressive public policies as New York's defining trait. He defined "the New York Idea" as "government using its resources to help create private sector growth, then requiring those who benefit from that growth to share some part of it so that hope and opportunity are extended to those who have not been as fortunate."

Andrew Cuomo, the current governor, emphasizes that New Yorkers are exceptionally energetic, innovative, determined, and resilient. "At every difficult moment in our nation's history, New York has emerged as...the progressive leader in the nation," he explained in his inaugural address in 2011. "In New York, we may have big problems, but we confront them with big solutions," he said in his State-of-the State message the next year. He often includes in his speeches a quotation from essayist E.B. White: "New York is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village, the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up."

Two sets of "New York values" seem to stand out
Of course, historians may differ on what New York's most important values are. But looking back over our history, two sets of values seem to stand out.

One is openness, inclusion, and tolerance. Since colonial times when the Dutch controlled the city, the emphasis has been on diversity, valuing individual differences, letting people alone, and providing opportunity for work, advancement, and getting ahead.

New York has been open, welcoming, accommodating, and supportive of newcomers. Over time, more immigrants have come in through New York than any other city. Our city and state have been at the forefront of social justice campaigns and civil rights reforms. For instance, the NAACP was founded in New York City in 1909 and New York passed the nation's first state civil rights law, in 1945. New York City probably has the most diverse population of any major city in the world.

A second is optimism and resilience. New Yorkers are undeterred by setbacks, springing back from adversity and continuing forward progress. It dates back at least to the origins of the state. The Revolutionary New York provincial congress were rebels-on the run, moving from New York City to White Plains to Fishkill to Kingston ahead of advancing British troops. They finished hastily drafting New York's first state constitution in April 1777.

When the British threatened Kingston, the new government became a government-on-the run, simply dispersing, reassembling later at Poughkeepsie, and keeping the fledgling state intact. The first governor, George Clinton, calmly took the oath of office in August 1777 and then hurried off to lead a battle against the enemy where he barely escaped capture.

New Yorkers keep going and are known for against-the-odds triumphs. For instance, mockery and stonewalling by the power structure inspired New York's great women's rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton on to more tenacious campaigning. Denied the right to vote, she defiantly ran for Congress from New York City in 1868, losing but making a point about women's political stature. Jackie Robinson was undeterred by racist taunts and threats and became the first black man to play professional baseball, with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and later an inspirational civil rights leader.

The New York City Fire Department mourned its dead after 9/11 and then got right back to work, creatively revising its mission, policies, and training to meet the new threat of terrorism.

New York City not only survived the attacks but came back more resilient and stronger than ever.

The debate over "New York values" is likely to continue
New York mirrors the nation in its complexity and resists tidy categorization. Its values are hard to pin down but its history is rightly a source of inspiration and pride, with tolerance and resilience at the core.

Activist, writer, and New York City First Lady, Chirlane McCray, refuted Ted Cruz by citing the city's steadfastness in challenging times."That fighting spirit, that gut instinct to join together in times of hardship, that refusal to leave behind the most vulnerable among us -- these are the values that have defined New Yorkers from the very beginning."

As the presidential campaign moves along, we can expect to hear more about "New York values." When we do, we need to keep historical insights and perspectives in mind.

***
Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne lives in Guilderland, New York. He is the author of The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.

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

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'New York Values' in Historical Perspective Tue, 16 Feb 2016 01:24:03 +0000
As Council Begins Oversight, McCray Reports Progress in Mental Health Roadmap Implementation http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6134:as-council-begins-oversight-mccray-reports-progress-in-mental-health-roadmap-implementation http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6134:as-council-begins-oversight-mccray-reports-progress-in-mental-health-roadmap-implementation chirlane mccray richard buery mental health

Chirlane McCray & Richard Buery testify (photo: William Alatriste)

 


 

At a Jan. 28 oversight hearing held by the Committee on Mental Health, First Lady Chirlane McCray testified before the City Council for the first time, updating the Council on the city’s progress implementing its new “mental health roadmap.”

ThriveNYC, as the roadmap is called, is spearheaded by McCray and entails a comprehensive effort involving over 20 city agencies, 54 initiatives, and $850 million allocated over the next four years to improve access to quality mental health care.

McCray, joined by Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Dr. Gary Belkin, executive deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, emphasized the ThriveNYC focus on creating more points of entry into the mental health care system for New Yorkers, the importance of early intervention, and eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness. Buery has been named by Mayor Bill de Blasio and McCray as the City Hall point person for the implementation of ThriveNYC.

During the hearing, Council members praised McCray, who is the Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, for her role in making mental health a priority for the city, and were generally impressed by the progress that has been made so far.

“The roadmap was only released at the end of November, and the fact that the ball is rolling on some of them bodes well for how this is going to go,” Council Member Andrew Cohen, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, told Gotham Gazette in a post-hearing interview. Cohen added that he was “very pleased” with the hearing and thought it went “very, very well.”

Cohen conceded that the McCray, Buery, and Belkin were not “100 percent certain” about what benchmarks or metrics would be best to measure the success of each of ThriveNYC’s initiatives, as one metric may be appropriate for one initiative, but different standards may be needed for another initiative.

“But, I think as they start rolling them out and as they start providing these services, we’re going to be very interested in seeing that there’s some way to quantify that the programs are successful, that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” Cohen added.

Though Council Member Joe Borelli, who represents the South Shore of Staten Island, told Gotham Gazette he was “happy to hear that the First Lady has made [mental health] a priority and that it’s actually resulted in the city administration looking at mental health as a priority,” Borelli did take issue with ThriveNYC’s lack of resources and plans to address the opioid epidemic on Staten Island.

“Deputy Mayor, in your testimony you made a point to highlight a number of different ethnic and community groups that have specific needs, and what is potentially going to be done to address it...the number one county in the entire state [for heroin and opioid addiction] is Richmond County,” Borelli said during the hearing.

And in Richmond County, the problem is primarily concentrated on the South Shore of Staten Island, Borelli continued, “and yet, I look on the map and I see only three blobs that have any substance abuse counseling in this area - one of which is about to be closed.”

Ideally, Borelli said in an interview after the hearing, he’d like to see more SAPIS (Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialist) counselors in Staten Island schools. Tottenville High School, for example, has “almost 4,000 students, and it only has one counselor. There’s a real need,” said Borelli.

Some community-based organizations also expressed frustration during the hearing. Alan Ross, executive director of Samaritans of NYC, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, took issue with the fact that several ThriveNYC initiatives are being touted as “new,” yet organizations that already carried out such work in New York City had seen their funding cut and programs terminated.

“There are apparent contradictions in the plan that warrant further examination,” Ross said. “You’ve got these goals, but four years ago they terminated several programs and they said LifeNet was going to pick up all the service and then last year LifeNet couldn’t handle the weight,” Ross continued, looking to the de Blasio administration to address changes made under its predecessor.

“We need to acknowledge the tremendous efforts currently undertaken every day by community agencies,” added John Kastan, chief program officer of Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. “For ThriveNYC to work, it must...build on the existing infrastructure of services, rather than create a parallel system.”

Cohen expressed agreement on that point, saying in an interview after the hearing, “ultimately the strength of that community is going to drive how successful the roadmap is going to be.”

“The RFPs have to meet the service-provider network that we have,” Cohen added,” I think these service providers need to be a part of developing the specifics of these RFPs so we get a lot of responses and so there’s a successful, not-for-profit program implementing these measures.”

City funding of $62 million has been allocated to ThriveNYC in the fiscal year 2017 preliminary budget unveiled by Mayor de Blasio on Jan. 21. According to McCray and Buery, some of the recent progress that has been made in implementing ThriveNYC and upcoming benchmarks for this year include:

  • NYC Health + Hospitals and Maimonides Hospital have committed to reach universal screening for maternal depression in women both during pregnancy and after giving birth within two years. -NYC Health + Hospitals will expand and standardize their current screening process for maternal depression in three facilities beginning this February, and Maimonides will begin training for maternal depression screening in February as well.
  • Hiring has begun for a network of 100 school mental health consultants, who will provide advice and referrals to schools currently without onsite mental health services. The first cohort of about 40 consultants is expected to be on staff in DOE support centers beginning in April.
  • Since the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene first began mental health first aid training a few years ago, 6,000 New Yorkers have been trained in mental health first aid. According to Buery, the city is on track to have 10,000 trained in mental health first aid by the end of ThriveNYC’s first year, with a total of 50,000 by the second year. Training spots are currently open three times a week to the general public. About 30 mental health first aid instructors have been trained since ThriveNYC launched, and 500 more are expected to be trained in the next five years. Mental health first aid classes in Spanish will begin to be offered in mid-to-late February, and classes in Mandarin will be offered later this year.
  • The RFP for NYC Support, an initiative which will give New Yorkers 24/7 access crisis counseling and schedule appointments with mental health providers via phone, text, or website, was released in January, and a contract will be in place by spring in order for service to begin later this year.

On February 23, a Mental Health Council comprised of the leaders of more than 20 city agencies will meet for the first time, in an effort to ensure effective planning and coordination across all agencies.

In March, the city will announce the community-based organizations that will participate in the Connection to Care program, a public-private partnership that aims to reduce stigma and increase access to mental health services by integrating mental wellness supports into existing social services agencies.

By this summer, the city, in partnership with schools and social workers, will have its first cohort of 130 new clinicians in the mental health workforce seeing patients. Starting in fiscal year 2017 (which begins July 1), the city will contract a community-based organization to train 200 peer support specialists per year.

To McCray, the mental health roadmap may just be the “tip of the iceberg...ThriveNYC is not intended to be a cure all - it wasn’t intended to fix the problem, it’s intended as a first step, as a conversation starter, and it’s intended to deal with those things that are in front of us right now that we can actually treat and address.”

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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As Council Begins Oversight, McCray Reports Progress in Mental Health Roadmap Implementation Tue, 02 Feb 2016 02:52:43 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will include a focus on what the city can do to stop gas-related explosions after another such explosion occurred this weekend, this time in Borough Park; education politics and policy, as the pro-charter, anti-de Blasio group Families for Excellent Schools will hold a large rally; a continuation of negotiation and criticism between city and state entities over MTA funding; and more.

Oh, and it's the Major League Baseball playoffs, with both the Mets and Yankees in the post-season for the first time in a long time, with many hoping for a "subway series" World Series between the two, a la 2000, when the Yankees defeated the Mets.

TRACKING DE BLASIO: With the threat from Hurricane Joaquin abated, Mayor de Blasio decided to go through with his trip to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore on Friday and Saturday. The mayor delivered remarks at a reception for the State Innovation Exchange Conference on Friday, then attended the United States Conference of Mayors Fall Leadership Meeting on Saturday. The mayor then headed back to Borough Park, Brooklyn, where he attended to the emergency gas explosion that tore apart a building, killing at least one and injuring several.

The incident is another in a string of gas explosions, including East Harlem and the East Village, that has many worried and talking about a need for new measures to combat the deadly incidents. Gov. Cuomo announced he was deploying representatives to investigate and city officials are calling for action. This explosion appears to have been caused by mistakes made during the removal of an oven.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will be on Staten Island for the groundbreaking of The Staten Island Family Justice Center, at which the mayor will speak around 10 a.m. Read more from the Staten Island Advance, including that Staten Island will join the other boroughs, each of which already has such a center, which "provide comprehensive criminal justice, civil legal and social services free of charge to victims of domestic violence, elderly abuse and sex trafficking in the other boroughs."

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Bronx County Courthouse, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will announce a major crackdown on distributors of synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs."

On Monday morning, "State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan joins state Sen. Martin Golden on a walking tour and media availability in Gerritsen Beach, starting in front of 3078 Gerritsen Ave., Brooklyn," according to City & State NY.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will announce the "launch of MonumentArt, an International Mural Festival hosted in East Harlem and the South Bronx," from La Marqueta.

On Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James "will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation conference."

Monday evening, First Lady McCray will be among the honorees of a Feminist Power Award from the Feminist Press.

At 8 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer "Receives the Pacesetter Award at The National Association of Investment Companies 45th Annual Meeting & Convention Welcome Reception."

Monday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens) 7 pm

Tuesday
Tuesday, at 10 a.m., a press conference in PACE University's downtown campus will mark the beginning of Poverty Awareness Week, which is co-sponsored by Pace University and The Mayor's Office. The week will include a series of events. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. will be one keynote speaker; Shola Olatoye, Chair and CEO of NYCHA will participate in a discussion on "Local Initiatives to Eradicate Poverty."

On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the ribbon-cutting for the Brooklyn College Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School for Cinema at Steiner Studios."

At 5 p.m., the Mayor will appear on WCBS Newsradio 880.

In the evening, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and many others will attend a birthday celebration for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host "Why New York? Our Broken Bail System." The event will be moderated by New York Times journalist Shaila Dewan, with panelists: Judge George Grasso, public defender Josh Saunders, criminal justice reform advocate Glenn E. Martin, and an individual who couldn't afford bail.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, NY Tech Meetup will be held at NYU, with a number of New York companies presenting demos of technologies that they are developing.

Tuesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 4 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan) 6:30 pm
  • CM Brad Lander (District 39, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 8 pm

Wednesday
JCOPE is set to meet Wednesday morning in Albany.

Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., City & State NY holds its fifth annual "On Energy" event, inviting leaders in government, advocacy and business to speak on a number of topics related to the future of energy. Among the topics of discussion will be Governor Andrew Cuomo's regulatory overhaul in New York, Mayor de Blasio's 80 by 50 plan, and more. The event includes a panel with Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of Center for an Urban Future; Nilda Mesa, Director at NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability; Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner, NYC Department of Sanitation. Other notable speakers to appear include: Richard Kauffman, NYS Chair of Energy & Finance; Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, Chairman of New York AREA; Ambassador Ron Kirk, Chairman of CASEnergy; Kevin Parker, a New York state Senator and ranking member of the Energy & Telecommunications Committee.

On Wednesday, The Families for Excellent Schools rally, postponed from last week because of weather and "to demand equal opportunity in our schools," will take place, starting mid-morning at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a 12:30 p.m. press conference at City Hall. The rally is, in essence, to promote more more charter schools and criticize Mayor de Blasio's education agenda, which does not include more charters. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is expected to headline the rally, along with several high-profile performers, including Jennifer Hudson.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., The Committee on Transportation will meet to discuss a bill that would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along bus routes. DOT would then institute new safety measures based on the data. The Committee will also discuss a bill that would require the identification of dangerous intersections based on incidents involving pedestrians, and implement curb extensions in such areas. The Committee will also make a decision on resolutions that would require the MTA to instal rear guards on bus wheels and to study ways to eliminate blind spots for buses.
  • Also 10 a.m., The Committee on Aging will hold an oversight hearing on older adult employment.

At 10 a.m. The East 50s Alliance will hold a community rally to protest the planned construction of a 900-foot tower in the 58th street residential area. The residents are "deeply concerned that the tower will diminish the safety, accessibility and livability of a narrow side street during a lengthy construction process and forever after." City Council Member Ben Kallos will speak.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivertio, along with Council Members Paul Vallone and Vincent Gentile and others, will hold a Celebration of Italian Heritage at the Council Chambers in City Hall. The event will also celebrate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday.

From 6 to 8 p.m. at Fordham Law School, The Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center and the Women's City Club of New York will host "This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color and the Fight for Economic Security", on "how gender intersects with economic and racial inequality in New York City." Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University, will moderate the panel, with Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York; Luna Ranjit, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Adhikaar; Joanne N. Smith Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equality; and Margarita Rosa, Executive Director of National Center for Law and Economic Justice participating in the discussion.

Wednesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 pm
  • Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx) 6 pm
  • CM Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) 6:30 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm

Thursday
On Thursday at the City Council:

  • 9:30 a.m., Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet to discuss three land use applications in Manhattan.
  • 10 a.m., Committee on Finance will meet regarding the Department of Finance's Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
  • 11 a.m., Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet to discuss a land use application in Brooklyn
  • 1 p.m., Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss another land use application in Brooklyn

Thursday at the New York State Legislature: the Assembly Standing Committee on Health, Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, and Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities will hold a joint public hearing regarding Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Services. "The Committees are seeking oral and written testimony from patients and their families, clinicians, service providers, and the Department on topics including the incidence, severity and consequences of TBI; treatment and service appropriateness and availability, including the rights of patients sent out-of-state; and issues relating to the transition of the TBI Waiver program to managed care."

At 9 a.m. Thursday New York State Assembly Members Latoya Joyner and Marcos Crespo will kick off "Let's Put Our Cities on the Map," sponsored and hosted by Google at the Bronx Museum of Arts, which will offer free counseling for small businesses on how to reach local customer bases, specifically by using "SmartLogic" online tools.

"The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Thursday, October 8 at 10:00 AM."

At 5 p.m. Thursday, EmblemHealth and LaborPress will honor 12 labor union members, from eight different labor unions, for their remarkable contributions to the labor communities at the fourth annual "Heroes of Labor Awards". EmblemHealth has invited many city elected officials to speak, several are expected.

At 6 p.m. Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Brennan Center for Justice and Vox will hold "The Politics of Participation: Building an Engaged Citizenry for Millennials and Beyond," including City Council Member Eric Ulrich. It is billed as "a candid conversation about what the shifting demographic landscape means for grassroots movements, political action, and civic engagement; how can we shape our democracy into one that is truly representative of the people being governed?"

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will hold "The Changing Face of Activism," which will explore the historical progression of activism from the 1960s desegregation movement to the present day Black Lives Matter movement. Moderated by Alethia Jones, a leader of 1199 SEIU, the panel will feature activist Barbara Smith; Joo-Hyun Kang of Communities United for Police Reform; and Jose Lopez, Lead Organizer at Make the Road NY and member of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

At 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Dan Abrams of ABC News will talk with Ray Kelly, the longest-serving NYPD Commissioner, at the 92nd Street Y. Kelly will hold a book signing for his new memoir Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City, after his talk with Mr. Abrams.

Thursday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

  • CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 5 pm
  • CM Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 pm
  • CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 6:30 pm
  • CM Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens) 7 pm
  • CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan) 8 pm

Friday and the weekend
Friday at 8:15 a.m., NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton will speak at New York Law School, as part of the CityLaw breakfast series.

Weekend participatory budgeting:

  • Friday, CM Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens) 1 pm.
  • Saturday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.
  • Sunday, CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), time TBA.

*Note: we'll publish our next 'Week Ahead' on Monday, October 13 given the Columbus Day holiday

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 Sun, 04 Oct 2015 05:00:00 +0000
Amid Federal Brinksmanship, New York City Officials Redouble Support for Planned Parenthood http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5917:amid-federal-brinksmanship-new-york-city-officials-redouble-support-for-planned-parenthood http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5917:amid-federal-brinksmanship-new-york-city-officials-redouble-support-for-planned-parenthood Chirlane PP

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray at a Planned Parenthood rally (photo: @Chirlane) 


In the face of federal debate and brinksmanship over funding for Planned Parenthood, many in New York City have doubled down on support for the women's health care organization.

In the past month, the city has seen the opening of a Planned Parenthood health center in Queens (expanding the organization's presence into all five boroughs), two large rallies during which numerous elected officials championed the importance of Planned Parenthood’s health care services, and one leading Assembly Democrat calling for the state to boost its financial support for the clinics if conservatives in Congress were to cut off the organization's federal funding.

“The attacks against Planned Parenthood, we all know, are attacks against women and, in particular, low-income women and women of color who rely on Planned Parenthood for vital services - medical services that are comprehensive,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at a large rally in Manhattan Tuesday. The speaker and others rallied in support of Planned Parenthood, repeatedly attacking conservative Republicans for their efforts to defund the organization.

The city government’s strong support for Planned Parenthood, seen at Tuesday’s rally, which featured several elected officials, and in budget dollars that go toward supporting the organization, help cement New York City’s national reputation as a liberal capital.

On Wednesday, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a temporary spending bill that will keep federal agencies operating through December 11. The threat of a potential shutdown over funding of Planned Parenthood loomed for weeks, spurred by the release of secretly filmed videos this summer which showed Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the preservation of fetal tissue for medical research.

The Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group that filmed the videos, claims that they show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue. The videos have prompted an ongoing investigation by Congress into Planned Parenthood’s practice of donating fetal tissue for medical research. A forensic analysis of the videos commissioned by Planned Parenthood found evidence of manipulation, "intentionally deceptive edits, missing footage, and inaccurately transcribed conversations," according to Politico, which obtained a copy of the report.

Four states - Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah - have ordered state agencies to cut off federal funding to local Planned Parenthood chapters, leading those branches to file lawsuits. According to the Associated Press, in court documents, the Utah branch said the governor's decision to cut off funding is based solely on unproven allegations that took place in other states, by other arms of the national group.

New York City government sends approximately $850,000 a year to the city’s central Planned Parenthood branch in the forms of various grants, namely for health care services and sex education, according to an official from PPNYC. The city also allocates capital awards to Planned Parenthood each year, which have ranged from $75,000 to $400,000.

Speaking about the services that Planned Parenthood provides for New York City residents, PPNYC CEO Joan Malin told Gotham Gazette, “Roughly 85 percent of our services are preventative care - birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, STI testing, annual exams - we do the full range of reproductive health care services for women and men.”

Malin explained that Planned Parenthood New York’s funding comes from a combination of “private donors, public funding from the city, state, and federal government,” and an endowment, “but for our patient services, we rely overwhelmingly on Medicaid and Title X family-planning grants, which allows us to provide services for anyone who needs our care regardless of their ability to pay. Out of a $44 million budget, $9 million is federal funding. If that were to go away we would be sorely challenged to continue to provide our services."

Mark-Viverito, joined on stage at Tuesday’s “Pink Out NYC” rally by fellow Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Brad Lander, said, "We are proud as Council members to ensure that we direct your taxpayer dollars and invest your taxpayer dollars in Planned Parenthood, to make sure that they are able to provide vital services throughout the City of New York. We expect the federal government to continue to do the same thing."

The rally on Tuesday in lower Manhattan was one of nearly 300 events held in 90 cities across the country in support of Planned Parenthood’s work, organized as negotiations continued in Washington, D.C.

"Congress should be ashamed!" New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray shouted to the crowd of some 500 pink-clad supporters, just hours before it was announced that government funding would be extended until mid-December. "Congress should be ashamed to punish women who have no other health care options. I know firsthand that Planned Parenthood provides excellent services!"

McCray continued, “Planned Parenthood provides services to "2.7 million women, men, and young people....Did you realize that? We need Planned Parenthood and we will not allow the funding to be taken away!"

McCray, Mark-Viverito, Rosenthal, and Lander were joined at the rally by Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and state Senators Daniel Squadron and Liz Krueger.

"Our bodies will not be used as an organizing strategy for the right," Public Advocate James shouted, eliciting cheers from the crowd. "This is nothing more than a distraction from the issues that we care about — a need to educate girls, a need to end income inequality, and a need to end poverty in this country."

James pointed out that the bulk of services Planned Parenthood provides have nothing to do with abortion, despite the national conversation being focused on the abortion issue. "Let me tell you the facts,” James said, “80 percent of Planned Parenthood clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 400,000 pap smears, and 500,000 breast exams every year. These tests detect life-threatening cancers. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and Planned Parenthood educates and provides outreach to 1.5 million young people."

On Thursday, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues, emailed Gotham Gazette to call Planned Parenthood of New York City a long-time “staunch advocate, educator, and provider of reproductive health care to 50,000 patients annually.” PPNYC “has received funding from the New York City Council to expand services to support family planning, curb teen pregnancy and STDs through education.”

When asked what might happen next for Planned Parenthood, even with a temporary compromise in Washington, PPNYC CEO Malin replied, "This issue is going to remain in the public discussion, unfortunately. As all of our speakers said, there are so many issues that we need to be talking about - greater access to health care, immigrant reform, Black Lives Matter - there's so many issues we need to be talking about. Focusing on reproductive health care is important, but the way [opponents are] talking about it is a distraction. I would say that that distraction is going to continue throughout this election, and Republicans are going to look for ways to keep this issue at the forefront."

Not all Republicans are looking to keep the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood in the spotlight, however. Republican strategist and president of Somm Consulting, Evan Siegfried, told Gotham Gazette, “Until we know what the facts are, the calls to defund are premature.”

Congressional investigation is ongoing, and as analysis of the incendiary videos showed the footage had been drastically altered, Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards testified before Congress just this Tuesday. Richards defended the $450 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood, explaining that 87 percent of it comes from Medicaid and Title X family planning monies. “We, like other Medicaid providers, we are reimbursed directly for services provided,” she said.

“No federal funds pay for abortion services, except in the very limited circumstances allowed by law. These are when the woman has been raped, has been the victim of incest, or when her life is endangered,” Richards explained (abortions account for just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services nationally, according to the organization’s most recent report).

Hard-line conservatives like Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz are committed to defunding Planned Parenthood to the point that they would rather plot to shut down the government than allow the organization to continue its work through federal funding.

Cruz recently decried the state of his divided party, saying that the more socially liberal Republicans, specifically the “New York billionaire” donors who insist candidates are pro-choice, hate the base and hold the party back from really fighting on key social issues. It’s part of the intra-Republican conflict that led to House Speaker John Boehner’s recent resignation announcement.

Speaking anonymously with Gotham Gazette, New York Republicans have indeed expressed frustration with the far right wing of their party, with one saying it is “on a crazy quest that will kill [Republicans] with the swing voters in 2016.”

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
@MegOConnor13
@GothamGazette

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Amid Federal Brinksmanship, New York City Officials Redouble Support for Planned Parenthood Thu, 01 Oct 2015 22:24:31 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 7-11 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5885:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-7-11 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5885:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-7-11 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday September 11

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton surveys Times Square, via @CommissBratton; Mayor de Blasio & First Lady McCray greet a family on the first day of school, via @NYCMayorsOffice; and a 9/11 rememberance, via Ben Max

bratton times sq

BdB greets prek

Engine 7 911

TOP FOUR STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. Primary Election Results: It was a rare Thursday election day and a year with lower-profile races on the ballot and thus even lower voter turnout, but there were still ballots being cast. In one of the higher-profile races, Barry Grodenchik emerged from a crowded Democratic primary in a Queens City Council race to fill a seat vacated by Mark Weprin, who left to work for Gov. Cuomo (Grodenchik is heavily favored to also win the November general). Read about other results around the state here, via Politico NY. And, read our look at the many voting opportunities for New Yorkers in 2015 and 2016.

2. De Blasio Celebrates Expanded Pre-K: Mayor Bill de Blasio went on a five-borough school tour Wednesday to celebrate the first day of the 2015-2016 academic year and the initial success of his universal pre-kindergarten program, now enrolling more than 65,500 children. If there is one thing that de Blasio promised on the 2013 campaign trail, it was "UPK," as it is often called, and in a short time he has devoted unseen resources to increase the number of New York City four-year-olds in school - up from about 20,000 full-day pre-K students in 2013-2014. De Blasio also defended his larger education agenda Wednesday and previewed the argument he'll make for another extension of mayoral control of city schools.

3. Cuomo Pushes $15/hr Minimum Wage: On Thursday, Governor Cuomo called for an across-the-board increase in the minimum wage to an eventual $15 per hour for all workers in New York State. He'll seek passage of a phased-in increase during the next legislative session in Albany, but is sure to face fierce Republican opposition.

4. Cuomo Announces New York Aid for Puerto Rico: On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo concluded a brief "solidarity mission" to Puerto Rico with a promise to offer advice, technical assistance, and other aid to the island territory facing some $72 billion in debt. In part, though, Cuomo is calling on the federal government to help Puerto Rico through a restructuring of its debt and systems.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • 50 first days of school as an educator for city schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña as of this week's opening day.
  • 45% of excessive force allegations made against police were substantiated with video evidence in the first six months of 2015 – as opposed to 34% in 2014, according to the CCRB’s semiannual report.
  • About 500 units of affordable housing to be built on public land at NYCHA developments in Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side, officials said Wednesday.

THE FLASH:

  • 14 years ago, on September 11th, 2001, terrorists attacked New York City and other U.S. locations
  • 2 years ago around this time, on September 10, 2013, then-mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio took the lead in the primary, just attaining more than 40% of the vote to claim the nomination
  • 44 years ago around this time, on September 9, 1971, prisoners seized control of the maximum-security Attica Correctional Facility near Buffalo, N.Y., beginning a four-day siege that claimed 43 lives.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Pre-K Pillar in Place, De Blasio Must Build Rest of His Case for Mayoral Control, by Ben Max

In Battle with Local Bronx Media, Klein Publishes Own Newspaper, by David Howard King

McCray Set to Unveil ‘Mental Health Roadmap,' Signature De Blasio Plan, by Kaela Sanborn-Hum

Proposed Rikers Visitation Rules Stir Debate, by Meg O’Connor

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

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NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

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by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 7-11 Fri, 11 Sep 2015 17:34:14 +0000
McCray Set to Unveil ‘Mental Health Roadmap,' Signature De Blasio Plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5877:mccray-set-to-unveil-mental-health-roadmap-signature-de-blasio-plan http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5877:mccray-set-to-unveil-mental-health-roadmap-signature-de-blasio-plan McCray roundtable

Chirlane McCray hosts a mental health roundtable (all photos: the Mayor's Office via flickr


Over the past several months, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray has had conversations with many of the city’s service providers, non-profit organizations, and long-time advocates for mental health care provision. In preparation to unveil a “roadmap” addressing the “mental health crisis in New York City,” McCray has spoken with a diverse array of constituents who will be directly impacted by new policies.

In collaboration with key departments of her husband’s administration, McCray, who is Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, is leading a multi-agency effort to evaluate mental health care provision city-wide, particularly for low-income and at-risk communities, and chart a path forward.

“It is long overdue to acknowledge that our inattention to mental illness is a public health crisis that requires a public health solution,” McCray wrote in a recent column at CNN.com, in which she discusses mental health care in a national context.

Key to the push behind the initiative is the notion that better mental health care can not only help people live healthier, happier, and more productive lives, but that an improved approach to mental health care can help the city’s education, housing, criminal justice, and other systems.

Schools, homeless shelters, senior centers, and jails have been highlighted in the city’s new fiscal year 2016 budget as targets of funding for improved mental health care services. In unveiling her roadmap, McCray is likely to follow up with additional initiatives supporting and tying together these and other sectors, “bringing more resources and better resources to those who need it most,” as she writes. McCray’s plan is due to be released this fall and is certain to discuss mental health as important to all aspects of life, and city services.

Gotham Gazette spoke with service providers and experts in anticipation of the release of McCray’s roadmap and many applauded the work of the First Lady and Mayor de Blasio. There is widespread appreciation for their efforts to prioritize reforming mental health care in New York City - and relief that it is being spoken about so openly and with such urgency.

Regarding the roadmap, general suggestions were consistent, with experts and stakeholders saying that it should call for:
-Improved and sustained communication among service providers, city government and organizations for mental health care advocacy;
-Prioritizing mental health care in all aspects of city government policy;
-Reducing stigma of mental illness and promoting larger public education about mental wellness.

Last week, de Blasio’s office announced that Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, will spearhead the implementation of the plan “to create a more effective mental health system.” Over the past two years Buery has overseen and coordinated the rollout of de Blasio’s ambitious and initially successful universal pre-Kindergarten program. Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the city Health Department, is also sure to play a key role in implementing any new mental health programming.

“Mental illness touches the lives of most New Yorkers,” McCray said in a statement, adding that there has long been two separate health care systems, “one for physical health and one for mental health."

“We can – and will –  improve access to mental health care in New York City and bring mental health care services where New Yorkers live, work and study," McCray promised.

In drawing a “mental health roadmap” to accomplish those lofty goals, it appears that McCray will focus on reducing stigma around mental illness and treatment; conducting a detailed assessment of the current state of service provision city-wide; and, creating a comprehensive and sustainable plan for mental health care for all New Yorkers. Informing the entire plan will be the notion that both governmental and non-governmental service providers of all kinds can contribute to a better, more intertwined mental health care system.

Programming efforts will surely be tied with outreach and publicity campaigns pushing New Yorkers to seek treatment and ensuring that people are more aware of both warning signs of mental illness and available services. There will all but certainly be a focus on equity throughout the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods, with a special focus on the poorest New Yorkers and those who do not speak English - aligning with the motivating theme of the de Blasio administration.

A few recent announcements regarding mental health care show key elements of the roadmap and give indication of what the larger plan will look like. McCray's map and contracts with service providers should provide indication of how the city will measure the effectiveness of its efforts.

On August 6 Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the NYC Safe program, “an evidence-driven public safety and public health program.” NYC Safe, a $22 million program, centralizes oversight of efforts by public health and public safety officials to intervene or prevent violence from people with mental health challenges.

“This is a subset of a much bigger mental health reform plan that you’ll hear about from the First Lady in the fall. This is just the first of many pieces,” said the mayor.

Connections to Care (CTC), a $30 million program launched in a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and private funders, seeks to expand access to mental health care for low-income and at-risk communities.

The Mayor’s Fund announced the program on July 30, having successfully secured a $10 million federal grant, to be administered over the course of five years, from the Social Innovation Fund of the CNCS; an additional $20 million has been matched by the Mayor’s Fund and selected service partners. CTC will expand mental health care access by collaborating with community organizations to integrate mental health services into existing programs, providing training and support for staff.

The program will also fund a study to assess the efficacy of service providers and the experiences of those receiving care. In the fall, proposals from service providers will be accepted for review.

In May, de Blasio announced his fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget, allocating a projected total of $132.7 million for mental health care during fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The City increased funding for mental health care services in the sectors outlined below. The investment is intended to “build a more effective and inclusive mental health system in New York City” and create a national model. It is sure to form much of the backbone to McCray’s roadmap.

McCray de Blasio

Schools
According to the Office of School Health, it is estimated that 9% of 6-12 years olds in New York City suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. A survey conducted in 2011 reveals 8.4% of high school students have attempted suicide one or more times. McCray described the need to eliminate stigma around mental illness, citing statistics that 61% of adults and 35% of children in the city are not receiving the services they need.

More counselors and outside clinicians at city schools, especially in the "community schools" being opened by the de Blasio administration, are key to the effort of providing better mental health care to students.

Maria Astudillo, Director of Mental Health Services at the Children’s Aid Society, asks “what are some of the universal interventions we can do [in schools]?” Given that every year students are required to have physical examinations, Astudillo believes there should be social and emotional screenings for students as well. “We have to be creative, we have to think outside the box,” she said.

Jails
“What we effectively have seen in this country is that the largest mental health facilities in the country now are jails. And people who are mentally ill end up going through the criminal justice system in ways that are utterly inappropriate and hugely damaging and not at all helpful for community safety,” JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society told Gotham Gazette.

Rikers Island jails, recently headlining news due to the deaths of Bradley Ballard, Kalief Browder and others, are under review by the de Blasio administration and outside entities for both immediate and long-term reform.

“Being at Rikers is trauma -- when you’re talking about mental illness, both creation of it and exacerbation of it,” Page added.

Most recently, the de Blasio administration announced in June it would not renew the contracts with two contracted for-profit Rikers health care providers, Corizon, Inc. and Damian Family Care Centers, Inc. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) will take over as the primary provider.

“We have an essential responsibility to provide every individual in our City’s care with high-quality health services – and our inmates are no different,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a June press release. “This transfer to HHC will give our administration direct control and oversight of our inmates’ health services – furthering our goal of improving the quality and continuity of healthcare for every inmate in City custody.”

John Boston of the Legal Aid’s Prisoner’s Rights Project noted, “It is especially appropriate to make this change with respect to mental health care, since the City is attempting to improve mental health treatment in the jails,” adding that Corizon had a “track record” of failing to administer appropriate treatment.

Often anyone receiving treatment while in jail, juvenile detention centers, or homeless shelters has had “experiences with mental health services that were more about control than treatment,” says Page of The Fortune Society.

Furthermore, Page says that policing policies such as adherence to the “broken windows” model leaves “people getting arrested for things like being mentally ill and homeless. So the criminal justice system is stigmatizing people even more.”

In December 2014, the de Blasio Administration launched a $130 million, 4-year plan detailed in a report by the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System in order to “drive down crime while also reducing the number of people with behavioral health issues needlessly cycling through the criminal justice system.”

First Lady McCray described the criminal justice system as “a maze [New Yorkers with mental health and substance use disorders] can never escape. The City has made a real commitment to addressing the root causes of this urgent problem.”

Initiatives outlined in the Task Force’s Action Plan -- fewer arrests for low-level crimes and, largely, more alternatives for police can use; better community-based treatment for mental illness; and better alternatives for incarceration or detention -- Page believes are a good start to  implementing any sustainable change.

“People should be in jail as a last resort – not on low bail,” Page says. “Not because nobody knows what to do with them, they should [only] be in jail because they’ve done something serious and there’s no better alternative. We lock up way too many people.”

McCray Oddo

Homelessness
The Coalition for the Homeless reports that every night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep in the streets and other public spaces. The large majority of street homeless people live with mental illness or other health problems, according to the Coalition.

“Many cities have a troubling number of cases in which a person with mental illness is subjected to unnecessary arrest or unnecessary violence,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College.

NYC Safe, the violence prevention program introduced in August by de Blasio, will partially assist in serving the homeless with “mobile treatment teams” and other resources for immediate care.

Though improved access to services and treatment is necessary, Vitale stresses that “ultimately, it is not just mental health outreach workers or a few targeted programs for violent offenders that is needed." To deal with chronic homelessness, to help mentally ill homeless people, “a supportive housing program” is essential, Vitale says. He wrote about such a need in a recent Gotham Gazette column.

Susan Wiviott, CEO of The Bridge, shares this sentiment. Wiviott believes McCray’s roadmap will revolve around preventative care and access to mental health services in communities, which is needed, but the costlier programs of supportive housing and in-treatment services must be on the agenda as well. “If you really want to help people and change their lives so they’re not living on the street, then there must be some access to a stable place to live.”

McCray’s outline could very well advocate for an increase of city funds toward supportive housing and renew de Blasio administration calls for the state government to significantly up its contribution to a new NY/NY supportive housing program, the source of recent controversy.

Seniors
Senior adults – 60 years and older – represent the fastest growing population in New York City. By 2030, one in five New Yorkers will be a senior adult. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) estimates that approximately 20% of New Yorkers 55 and older experience mental illness.

The de Blasio administration has allocated $800,000 in fiscal year 2016, which began July 1, to place clinical social workers in the city’s 20 largest senior centers.

This is not quite enough, though, for some service providers. “You have to recognize that a good portion of the people who are older, who will need mental health services, are homebound. There has to be support for those services,” Nancy Harvey, CEO of Service Program for Older People (SPOP), told Gotham Gazette.

“You can’t just be at senior centers because a lot of the older populations can’t get to senior centers,” Harvey adds. “Forty percent of clients at my agency are homebound, they cannot get out so you have to be able to deliver the services to their homes, there has to be support and recognition for that model, which is more expensive, but certainly less expensive than them ending up in hospitals or nursing homes.”

Harvey credits the First Lady for “bringing visibility to mental health” in New York City and is hopeful about the attention highlighting the need for greater services and treatment, especially for older adults. Senior centers cannot remain the sole focus, however, because “we need to have a broader view of how we’re going to reach [homebound] people,” she says.

McCray Bassett

Building a Better Mental Health Care System
DOHMH created the Center for Health Equity in 2014 under the direction of Commissioner Mary Bassett, hoping to employ a community-based approach toward healthy New Yorkers.

Marlon Williams works at the center as Director of Cross Agency Partnerships at DOHMH. He uses a “health-in-all-policies” (HiAP) approach, focusing on promoting community health in the work of different city agencies.

In an interview with Urban Omnibus, Williams spoke of external factors affecting the health of New Yorkers.

“Very few health outcomes actually have to do with your access to healthcare services,” Williams said. “Much of what determines your ability to live to your fullest health potential is about the physical and social context in which you live. Issues of race, discrimination, class, and poverty all have a tremendous impact on health and create specific health inequities.”

As has been cited in the recent Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the South Bronx, poverty and health care issues often overlap. The new Connections to Care program will soon be looking to contract with community-based organizations where vulnerable populations can be reached and people with symptoms or at risk of mental illness can be identified and helped. These can include people struggling with stable housing, employment, or sobriety; new or expecting parents; and out of work young adults.

McCray and her husband’s administration have announced programming so far that reflect the complexities of health, particularly mental health, disparities. McCray’s roadmap is all but certain to follow a HiAP model, including schools, jails, and other places where New Yorkers may access services and evaluating needs based on income, cultural background, and more.

Creating an effective and comprehensive mental health care system will require, Williams believes, that the city government figures out “place-based intervention to address, mitigate, or even prevent [health inequities] — so anyone anywhere in New York City has an opportunity for optimal health.”

Essential to the city's efforts will be tracking its programs and the work being done by community organizatins, service providers, and city agencies. With more investment comes more scrutiny and the need to prove the efficacy of devoting resources to new work.

In her recent op-ed for CNN, McCray extended a call for action to other local and national leaders, urging them to commit the time and resources to implement needed mental health care services.

“Stigma, a lack of resources and the marginalization of mental health for decades have left us a fragmented and broken system that must be fixed. Too many people's lives are at stake, in New York City and beyond.”

***
by Kaela Sanborn-Hum, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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McCray Set to Unveil ‘Mental Health Roadmap,' Signature De Blasio Plan Tue, 08 Sep 2015 19:06:12 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 8 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5875:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-8 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5875:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-8 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

From the governor's office: "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today [Monday] departed for Puerto Rico with a New York delegation that will discuss the Puerto Rican government's ongoing healthcare crisis and economic challenges. The Governor and the delegation will be meeting with Puerto Rican officials and will also be discussing the need for Washington to take action to help Puerto Rico." The trip is a quick one-night visit and the delegation includes, in part: New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr.; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; Congressman Charles Rangel; and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

Cuomo said on the plane to Puerto Rico that the island should be allowed to file bankruptcy and restructure its debt - the first time he has indicated a position. Cuomo has been criticized for the large campaign contributions he receives from finance industry leaders who hold Puerto Rican debt.

Noticeably absent from the trip is state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who reportedly received an invitation after the trip was announced. And, many have pointed out, of course, that Mayor Bill de Blasio is not on the trip - de Blasio's office said that he had not been invited, Cuomo said it didn't make sense to bring the mayor.

TRACKING DE BLASIO: Meanwhile, de Blasio went to Connecticut again on Friday, visiting with his son Dante, who is now a Yale freshman, for Dante's birthday. De Blasio returned to New York City, but did not have public events on Saturday or Sunday.

On Monday, de Blasio attended and gave remarks at the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Breakfast and then marched in the West Indian American Day Carnival Association Labor Day Parade. De Blasio and Cuomo did not interact at the parade, though both addressed the overnight shooting of a Cuomo administration official, Carey Gabay, who was the victim of a stray bullet in Brooklyn late Saturday night. After the parade Monday, de Blasio visited the hospital where Gabay is being treated. Cuomo also visited with Gabay's family at the hospital.

Coming up: on Tuesday morning on MSNBC: "In a rare joint interview, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The live in-studio interview is on Tuesday, September 8 during the 7 a.m. ET hour of "Morning Joe." They will discuss education, crime, homelessness, mental health and the 2016 presidential race." Also on Tuesday, in the evening, the mayor will deliver remarks at the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, and he will appear in a taped interview on Telemundo in which he'll discuss Pope Francis' upcoming visit to New York.

On Thursday afternoon at Pace University, de Blasio will appear at an event being hosted by his national progressive group, The Progressive Agenda: "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?"

OTHERWISE: It's back-to-school week for the large majority of New York City students, even though some at charter schools have already begun the school year. Keep an eye out for major themes of this educational year: how does year two of de Blasio's pre-K program go now that 70,000-plus children are involved? Is progress being made at the city's most struggling schools? Relatedly, how is the community schools initiative going?

The New York City Council will surely look at some of these educational issues over the course of the coming months. The Council returns to more active duty this week, beginning what promises to be a busy fall of oversight and legislative hearings.

Thursday is primary election day, with many races happening around the city, mostly for hyperlocal positions like District Leader. One key result to watch is in the crowded Democratic primary to fill a vacant Queens City Council seat (Mark Weprin resigned this spring to take a job with Governor Cuomo).

Our look at the many voting opportunities - starting Thursday - for New Yorkers over the next 14 months.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy." It is likely that Manhattan DA Cy Vance will be a key part of the former and that Governor Cuomo will be involved with one, if not both.

Speaking of Cuomo, keep an eye out for a state Senate hearing this Thursday that will examine the process by which Cuomo's fast food wage board did its work this spring.

Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that hit New York City and elsewhere. There will be commemorative events on and around the 11th.

The 7-train extension to the far West Side will open on Sunday. Former Mayor Bloomberg will not be in attendance. It is unclear at this time if Gov. Cuomo will be there, one would expect Mayor de Blasio to be, but who knows.

For more detail on the week ahead, read our day-by-day rundown below...

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday: Labor Day

Tuesday
De Blasio is due on MSNBC's Morning Joe Tuesday morning. "In the evening, the Mayor and First Lady will attend the 2015 West Indian American and Caribbean American Heritage Reception, where the Mayor will deliver remarks...The Mayor will also appear on Telemundo in an interview with Anchor Ricardo Villarini to discuss Pope Francis's upcoming visit. Note: This is a taped interview that will air during the 6 pm and 11 pm hours."

On WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday morning: "Chancellor Fariña on the New School Year" at approximately 10:50 a.m. "New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña talks about what's changed and how best for kids, parents, teachers and administrators to approach the new beginning."

At the City Council on Tuesday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will see a bill introduced that would prohibit small stores from propping their door(s) open when the air conditioning is on.
  • 11 a.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will consider several land use applications from City Council Member David Greenfield of Brooklyn.

City Council member Participatory Budgeting meetings to be held on Tuesday:

  • 10 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)
  • 4 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)

[Read our recent report on one Council member, Brad Lander, who has launched a project tracker so that constituents can better see how money is getting spent and whether projects are progressing - and it is an interactive mapping project that Lander hopes will be a model for the city]

On Tuesday at 9 a.m. the NYC Board of Corrections will have a public board meeting. There is a 15 minute "public comment period" at the end of the session.

At 11 a.m. Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, both Manhattan Democrats, join forces with women's advocacy organizations and others to hold a press conference "to announce legislation requiring state contractors to disclose data on their gender wage gaps." Public Advocate Letitia James, NOW-NYS, A Better Balance, Eleanor's Legacy, PowHer NY, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and other various elected officials and stakeholders will attend.

At 1:30 p.m. the NYC Jails Action Coalition (JAC) will hold a press conference at City Hall with City Council members, faith leaders, children and families of incarcerated individuals, and other criminal justice advocates. Speakers will include Johnny Perez of NYC Jails Action Coalition, Council Members Daniel Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez, and Julia L. Davis of Children's Rights, among others.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday state Senator Liz Krueger teams up with GenderAvenger founder Gina Glanz to give a talk on how Glanz's organization 'helps to ensure that women are always represented in the public dialogue.'

At 6:30 p.m. City and State NY will hold a reception to celebrate the launch of the publication's special Manhattan issue. A variety of Manhattan elected officials will attend.

Wednesday
At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Youth Services will have an oversight hearing to assess the "goals of the City's youth mentoring program" and whether or not they are being met.
  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor is scheduled to meet.
  • 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use meets to hear proposition Int 7705-2015, which would "establish a maximum period of time for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to take action on any item calendared for consideration of landmark status." [Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, penned a recent op-ed at Gotham Gazette warning against its passage.]
  • 1 p.m.. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections meets to approve the appointment of Shampa Chanda to the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, and to discuss the possible appointments of Helen Arteaga to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Board of Directors, and re-appointment of Arva R. Rice to the Council to the New York City Equal Employment Practices Commission.

"On Wednesday, September 9th, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, the Council Jewish Caucus and nearly 100 Holocaust Survivors will join community leaders to commemorate the restoration of a recently discovered Torah Scroll which was hidden for over 70 years in Poland. The event will also recognize the Council's efforts to help our city's Holocaust survivors who are living in poverty with the allocation of $1.5 million in funding though the Survivors Initiative."

In Albany on Wednesday at 1 p.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will hold a public hearing "to discuss the future of online poker in New York State."

City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings will be held Wednesday:

  • 6 p.m. by CM Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan)
  • 6:30 p.m. by CM Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn)
  • 6:30 p.m. by CM Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn)

On Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., the city Department of Consumer Affairs will continue its workshop series to help "employers understand their responsibilities under the Paid Sick Leave Law."

At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer and AARP NY are hosting a fraud protection workshop at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center.

At 6:30 p.m. the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) will hold a public board meeting to field complaints about and recommend action against abusive police tactics.

Thursday
Thursday, September 10th is 2015 Primary Day in New York City. There are nominations for the following positions: Judge of the Civil Court District, Female District Leader, Male District Leader, Delegate to Judicial Convention, Alternate Delegate to the Judicial Convention, and County Committee. There's also the hotly contested Democratic Primary for City Council in Queens District 23. See a full list of candidates for all offices here. And read our look at how this is the first of many opportunities - too many? - for New Yorkers to vote over the next 14 months, culminating with the presidential election next year.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden is due back in New York City, this time for an event "addressing the national backlog of sexual assault kits" and an "event on the economy."

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

In Albany on Thursday at 11 a.m., the Senate Standing Committee on Labor will hold a public hearing to "examine the overall process of the Fast Food Wage Board of 2015."

City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings will be held:

  • 6:30 p.m. by CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn)
  • 6:30 p.m. by CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)
  • 6:30 p.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)

On Thursday at 12:00 p.m. #YesWeCode and the Office of New York State Assembly Member Michael Blake (D-Bronx) will join forces for "New Faces of Tech in the Bronx." In a one-hour special titled "Growing Hope Live from the Bronx," MSNBC will provide live coverage of the event at 2 p.m. MSNBC's program will include interviews with Blake, New York City Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco and Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode.

On Thursday at 12:30 p.m. "NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and a panel of experts and advocates will join AARP to develop strategies for closing a federal legal loophole that allows bad-acting financial advisers to promote retirement investments that net them high commissions at the expense of clients' savings." Panel members include Ali Khawar, Counselor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Scott Evans, New York City Deputy Comptroller for Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer and Kathleen McBride, Chair of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.

At 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Pace University, it is, "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?", an event featuring Mayor de Blasio. "Did you know that the top 25 hedge fund managers in the United States make more than every single kindergarten teacher in the country—combined? There are a lot of reasons that the math shakes out so unfairly, but one of them is the carried-interest loophole, a tax law that essentially gives these one-percenters a much lower tax rate than they should be paying. On Thursday, September 10 at 4:30 p.m., director Robert Greenwald will premier his new short film that examines this problem and advocates for the clear solution. The screening will include a live conversation and Q&A with Robert and with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—and we'd like you to join us."

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday at The New School, urban policy professor Jeff Smith will read from his new book "Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis." After Smith's presentation, Touré, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?, will moderate a discussion about criminal justice reform with Professor Smith, Soffiyah Elijah (Executive Director of Correctional Association of New York), Dr. Carla Shedd (Columbia University sociologist), and Melissa Mark Viverito (New York City Council Speaker).

At 7:00 p.m. New York City is hosting a public hearing to "solicit community input" on future development projects in Lower Manhattan. The developments focus on coastal and storm protection measures and upgrades to affordable housing units.

Friday and the weekend
Friday is the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and elsewhere in the United States.

On Friday at 8:15 a.m., New York Law School Dean Anthony W. Crowell will moderate a panel on New York City's lawyers response to 9/11, as part of City Law's Breakfast Series. Participants include city officials who were in office at the time of the attacks. Their names and (former) positions are as follows: Jeffrey D. Friedlander, Law Department; Steven Fishner, Criminal Justice Coordinator; Marjorie Landa, Law Department; Bryan Grimaldi, Mayor's Office; and Florence Hutner, Law Department.

On Friday at 6:30 p.m., Staten Island will host its annual Postcards Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the lost lives of Staten Islanders on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. Borough President James Oddo, who will help lead the event, calls it "an opportunity for us to come together as one community and to show the families that even though it is 14 years later, we remain committed to honoring the memories of those who have lost."

On Saturday starting at 10 a.m., New York City will hold its annual Labor Day Parade. The procession will start at 5th Avenue and 44th Street and march up to 67th street before stoping. George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU, will be Grand Marshal and George Miranda, President of IBT Joint Council 16, will be Parade Chair.

On Saturday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is holding another "Begin Again" event. New Yorkers with outstanding summonses and open arrest warrants will receive a Legal Aid attorney and a hearing in front of a judge. Read our story on Thompson's Begin Again initiative and its place in the larger justice reform conversation.

Weekend City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings:

  • Saturday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)
  • Sunday at 11:30 a.m. by CM Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan)

On Sunday, after a nearly two-year delay, the new 7-train extension to the far west side of Manhattan will open. The expansion, undertaken in conjunction with the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, extends the subway line from 42nd Street Times Square to the new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station. The first train will depart from the station at 1:07 p.m.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Colin O'Connor, Erika Wang, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 8 Mon, 07 Sep 2015 05:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, July 27-31 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5832:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-july-27-31 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5832:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-july-27-31 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday July 31

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: rendering of the next LaGaurdia Airport, via the Governor's Office on flickr

La Guardia rendering

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. New LaGuardia: Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden announced that LaGuardia Airport will be overhauled by 2021, with an estimated first-phase cost of about $4 billion. Experts say the project could take more than 10 years to build and cost about $8 billion.  

2. MTA Budget Battle: MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast sent an open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, pushing for the city to add $3.2 billion over five years to the capital budget for MTA funding. Governor Cuomo has said he’s agreed to add more than $8 billion to the state budget plan towarding closing the MTA budget gap, and the governor has repeatedly pointed out that the city benefits the most from MTA services; while a spokesperson for the mayor said that “New York City, through taxes, tolls and fares already contributes over 70 percent of the MTA’s operating budget.”

3. JCOPE Controversy: Four of the 14 commissioners from the Joint Committee on Public Ethics wrote an open letter on the questionable hiring of “special counsel,” a position excluded from the original JCOPE staffing plan, but created previously and now being again filled, this time with Kevin Gagan, who will be chief of staff and counsel, by the outgoing executive director, Letizia Tagliafierro, at the behest of the governor, whom she is leaving to work for. Gagan has worked with the governor in multiple positions previously, part of a lengthy public sector resume, and the commissioners are calling this an example of “incessant interference.”

4. City Mental Health Plans: First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, announced a $30 million public-private partnership to support the new Connections to Care program, which will “integrate mental health services into programs already serving low-income communities.” It will be part of a larger mental health roadmap McCray is preparing, which will be unveiled in September.

5. Flanagan Names DeFrancisco Senate #2: New Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Republican from Long Island, named Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco (who had a friendly battle with Flanagan for the top post when indicted Sen. Dean Skelos stepped down) as Deputy Majority Leader - a seat also vacated due to corruption, this one when former Sen. Tom Libous was convicted on charges of lying to the FBI.

THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:

  • 400,000 New Yorkers now have an IDNYC six months after the program began, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced.

  • 31 cases of Legionnaires disease have been diagnosed in the South Bronx since July 10 through July 29. New York City health officials are tracking the unusual increase, but say that there is no cause to panic.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Governor Cuomo, who not only unveiled plans for a new La Guardia Airport, but was lauded by Vice President Joe Biden in multiple appearances Monday - Biden called Cuomo, “about the best governor in the United States.”

  • It was a bad week for New York Canna, Inc, the sixth-placing company in the competition for medical marijuana licences in New York. Five winners were announced Friday by the State Department of Health and will be allowed to dispense medicinal marijuana. Canna just barely missed out - the scoring revealed it was just .15 points behind the fifth-place company.

THE FLASH:

  • Last year, on July 28, 2014, Governor Cuomo called the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (created by Governor Cuomo in July 2013 and shuttered less than a year later) a “phenomenal success,” following a report into the relationship between the governor’s office and Moreland amid reports that Cuomo was being investigated by United States Attorney Preet Bharara for interfering with the commission’s work.

  • 29 years ago, on July 30, 1986, Mayor Ed Koch, city, state and federal law enforcement held a press conference at City Hall and called for “more state judges, more Federal judges, more prosecutors, more courtroom space and the deportation of all illegal aliens convicted of narcotics offenses.”

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • WNYC’s The Takeaway tackles the economic effects of raising the minimum wage after a New York State Wage Board unanimously finalized their recommendation to gradually raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour.
  • City Comptroller Scott Stringer released his office's analysis of the city's new fiscal year 2016 adopted budget.
  • Capital New York goes inside a meeting of New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and a Bronx superintendent.

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Erika Wang and Ben Max

Note: this article has been updated with more detail about the JCOPE storyline, noting that the counsel position had been filled previously and adding other information.

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The Week That Was in New York Politics, July 27-31 Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:13:07 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5815:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-july-20 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5815:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-july-20 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

It's hot in New York City! "With dangerously hot weather expected through Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio today urged New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves and help others who may be at increased risk from the heat...an Air Quality Alert is in effect today through 11:00 p.m. Monday." At 11 a.m. Monday in Brooklyn, de Blasio "and members of the administration will hold a press conference at the Office of Emergency Management to discuss safety in the extreme heat."

With things between Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo a bit cooler, the heat is perhaps only rivaled by what's happening between car-hailing company Uber and the City.

Uber Politics: De Blasio and some in the City Council are advocating for a one-year cap limiting the number of new cars that can be added to the Uber fleet (and those of other similar companies), while the city studies the issue. The New York Times editorial board came out against the proposed cap (and reiterated support for the Move NY transportation plan), while de Blasio explained the rationale behind it in a Daily News op-ed. There could be a Council hearing on the bill this week (it's not scheduled as of publication, but could be added last minute, with a committee hearing on Wednesday, then committee and full Council votes on Thursday).

Mayor & Governor: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have not spoken directly in weeks, as each has indicated as they continue to be peppered by journalists dissecting their relationship. The governor has indicated that, as usual, members of their staffs have been in touch regularly, and that the two will speak directly when necessary.

On Saturday, de Blasio was in Crown Heights with many other elected officials and city leaders for the funeral service for Reverend Clarence Norman Sr., where the mayor made remarks.

On Sunday, de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray were in Queens attending the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival; the mayor participated in the cook-off and delivered remarks. Meanwhile, Cuomo "held the 2015 Summer Adirondack Challenge to promote summer tourism and showcase recreational opportunities in the Adirondack region...At the Adirondack Challenge, the Governor announced four vital investments to strengthen tourism in Upstate New York...the "I LOVE NY Cash and Travel" lottery ticket; $2 million for campgrounds in the Catskills and Adirondacks; a new Adirondack Park website and mobile app; and an extended, outdoors-specific I LOVE NY marketing campaign."

Monday evening, de Blasio "will depart New York City and fly to Rome, Italy to attend Pope Francis' event, "Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of The Cities." He'll return on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the governor could be in the spotlight this week as the fast food worker wage board that he ordered the department of labor to convene is set to issue a recommendation on the minimum wage Wednesday. It appears the wage board could recommend $15 per hour and that the state labor commissioner could accept that recommendation, thus putting pressure on the legislature, especially Senate Republicans, to move the state's minimum wage to $15/hour.

Police Reform: Criminal justice reform is an essential issue for any governor and mayor, and things have been especially intense for Cuomo and de Blasio. The governor recently made a move whereby Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office will take charge of investigations of police killings of unarmed civilians. Friday was the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner's death. The mayor and other city officials participated in a memorial service on Tuesday and reform activists marched and rallied at various points throughout the week and weekend. While the mayor touts NYPD reform, including officer training, some activists say he's done little to address systemic problems. Many await the results of the federal investigation into Garner's death as well as the NYPD's review (NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has indicated he will not be releasing the department review until the federal probe has concluded).

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At 10:15 Monday on Long Island, “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will announce a new push to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products.”

At 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will make an announcement on the “Unaccompanied Minors Initiative.” At 5:30 p.m., Mark-Viverito, Council Member Daneek Miller, and other Council Members will host an Eid ul-Fitr celebration for the end of Ramadan.

Also at 11 a.m., “Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will join The Bronx Dominican Parade Committee Directors Felipe Febles and Rosa Ayala to officially announce the celebrations and events that will lead up to the 26th Annual Gran Parada Dominicana de El Bronx  (Bronx Dominican Day Parade). The parade “will take place on Sunday, July 26th, along the Grand Concourse from East Tremont to East 166th Street.”

Monday signals a busier week for the City Council than we’ve seen yet in July - leading to the lone July Stated Meeting on Thursday. Monday’s Council schedule:

  • At 9:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet on six land use applications - all sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield.
  • At 11 a.m. the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will examine a land use application on the Bank of the Manhattan Company Building.
  • At 12 p.m. the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet on an introduction that would require the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to “consider the potential impact of climate change on public and private telecommunications infrastructure.”
  • At 1 p.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Disposition and Concessions will meet on three different land use applications for Aerospace Metals and the Acacia Gardens.

City Council Member Corey Johnson and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are hosting “Rat Academy...a free training on safe and effective methods for rat prevention in your building and neighborhood,” 6 p.m. at Hudson Guild's Elliot Center.

At 6 p.m. Monday there will be a forum hosted by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office on Mitchell-Lama housing. Updates will be delivered by Mitchell-Lamas staff followed by small group discussions.

At 6:30 p.m. a special “police accountability working group” meeting hosted by Brooklyn Movement Center to train community members in “Cop Watch” and “Know Your Rights.” This event is also sponsored by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and People’s Justice Cop Watch Alliance.

As mentioned, Mayor de Blasio leaves Monday evening for Rome. He will visit the Vatican for an event, “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of The Cities,” at which he will be giving a speech on OneNYC and joining other Mayors for an audience with the Pope. Mayor de Blasio will be returning on Wednesday, July 22.

Tuesday
According to NY1's Zack Fink, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will embark Tuesday on a tour of Central New York. Heastie will reportedly visit Syracuse, Watertown, Utica and Madison County over the course of the week.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday there will be a “symposium on innovative procurement” hosted by Civic Hall. Minerva Tantoco, New York City’s Chief Technology Officer and Bryan Sivak, former-CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be among those attending the event at Civic Hall.

Tuesday at the City Council: at 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet at City Hall.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board is offering a compliance training session for the 2017 election cycle at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. “Compliance trainings cover campaign finance laws and CFB rules. C-SMART trainings provide an overview of the CFB’s web-based application, which campaigns must use to manage and disclose financial activity. The candidate, treasurer, campaign manager or other individual with significant managerial control over the campaign is legally required to attend both a Compliance and a C-SMART training.”

At 6 p.m. there will be a forum on the Lower East Side hosted by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office as part of the “Community-Police Dialogues” series. There will be an opportunity for group discussion. 

Wednesday
At 8 a.m. City & State NY will host “New York Moves: Transportation Conference,” a discussion on all different forms of transportation in New York and “where the biggest investments will be made.” Anthony R. Foxx, the United States Secretary of Transportation; Council Members Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez; Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and Elizabeth M. McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are a few of the speakers.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, "American Elections at the Crossroads: How do we restore voters' faith in elections and get them back to the polls?" featuring keynote remarks by Ann Ravel, chair of the Federal Election Commission, and co-hosted by Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Committee for Economic Development. Other speakers will include Rose Gill Hearn, Chair of the New York City Campaign Finance Board; Mike Petro, Vice President of the Committee for Economic Development; Letitia James, New York City Public Advocate and City Council Members Eric Ulrich and Brad Lander.  

At 9:30 a.m. the Community Service Society will host a training on “surviving in public housing,” to help tenants in public housing keep their apartments. Compliance with NYCHA lease and filing a grievance are among topics that will be discussed.

Wednesday at the City Council:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Aging will meet about a resolution “requiring banking organizations to provide, at minimum, the immediately preceding six months of financial documents following a request for such financial documents to help fight financial exploitation of older adults.”
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Parks and Recreation examines two bills, one on renaming two thoroughfares and public places and the other mandating the Department of Parks and Recreation to “create an annual report on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessible design.”

At 2:30 p.m. at the Department of Health in Manhattan, the state department of labor fast food wage board is set to meet, likely to announce its recommendations. As there have been for other meetings of the wage board, a rally led by workers and their allies is planned for right beforehand.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board is offering a C-SMART training session for the 2017 election cycle at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. “Compliance trainings cover campaign finance laws and CFB rules. C-SMART trainings provide an overview of the CFB’s web-based application, which campaigns must use to manage and disclose financial activity. The candidate, treasurer, campaign manager or other individual with significant managerial control over the campaign is legally required to attend both a Compliance and a C-SMART training.” 

At 6:30 p.m. City Council Member Brad Lander will host a town hall meeting on climate change.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Attorney General Schneiderman, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer co-host a “Know Your Rights” forum on co-op/condo/loft procedures. This forum is held in cooperation with Council Member Chin, Johnson, and Mendez; State Senator Hoylman; Assemblymember Glick and Congressmembers Maloney, Nadler and Velazquez.

At 7 p.m. there will be a civic hacknight in Brooklyn. The Code for America Brigade program, Microsoft Civic and Accela are event partners.

Thursday
At 8 a.m. Thursday City & State NY hosts NYPD Commissioner, William Bratton for a public conversation on policing in New York City.

Thursday at the City Council:

  • At 9:30 a.m. the Committee on General Welfare will meet on two proposed bills - one requires the Department of Social Services to "provide semiannual reports to the council regarding referrals to adult protective services" and the other mandates "providing adult protective services training for certain employees of the city of New York."
  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Finance will meet to approve "new designation and changes in the designation of certain organizations to receive funding in the Expense Budget."
  • At 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will meet as a continuation of their July 15 recessed meeting.
  • At 1:30 p.m. in City Hall there will be a Stated Meeting. This will be the first stated meeting since the Budget passed, on June 26.

At 6:30 there will be a forum on preventing super-scrapers. This event is co-sponsored by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; State Senators Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano; Assembly members Rebecca Seawright, Dan Quart and Robert Rodriguez; and City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos.

Friday and the weekend
As is often the case at this point in the week, especially during the summer, we don't have events listed for Friday or the weekend, but as the week gets going we're sure to see some.

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Erika Wang and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, July 20 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 23:39:57 +0000