Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/corey-johnson 2018-02-21T19:11:45+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Bronx Electeds, Residents Cry Foul as Mayor and Council Announce Jail Site 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7486:bronx-electeds-residents-cry-foul-as-mayor-and-council-announce-jail-site Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_1.jpg" alt="Bronx jail site NYPD tow pound" width="600" height="310" /></p> <p>Planned Bronx jail site (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced last week that they’d reached a deal to speed up the closure of Rikers Island by creating or expanding jail facilities in every borough except Staten Island, it seemed to be a clear sign of a productive partnership between the administration and local elected officials.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall, alongside four Council members -- Diana Ayala, Karen Koslowitz, Stephen Levin, and Margaret Chin -- willing to accept the political risk of a new or expanded jail in their districts. The city will launch a unified land use review application for all four jails, the mayor and speaker said, combining the arduous and lengthy multi-stage approval process for siting certain municipal facilities.</p> <p>But the proposal to build the Bronx jail -- the only one of the four that is not either a current or former jail facility -- immediately raised the hackles of elected officials from the borough other than Ayala, a newly elected Council member whose districts spans East Harlem and part of the South Bronx.</p> <p>“Look the site in the Bronx is a site owned by the City of New York. It is a very smart site in terms of its closeness to the courthouses,” de Blasio explained at the news conference, when asked about a critical statement put out by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who had not been kept in the loop by the administration or the Council. “There is going to be a full community process, but let's be clear, we're going to talk to everyone, we're going to listen to everyone, we're going to try in every way possible address community needs and address other benefits that communities need.”</p> <p>De Blasio emphasized, “That being said, up here are the people who ultimately have to make the decision – the Council, represented by the Speaker, the members who represent those individual districts, and me and my administration.”</p> <p>Ayala was aware of the criticism she may face for supporting a site in her district. “We all know that this siting process is bound to be controversial,” she said. “In the Bronx in particular, we are not repurposing an existing detention center but instead building a brand new facility that will require additional careful thought, serious consideration and robust community engagement, and I really wanna underline that…We also know that in the Bronx, too often we see a concentration of city facilities in our borough and there is rightfully some resistance to that. But we in the Bronx also understand the urgent need for criminal justice reform.”</p> <p>Top Bronx officials were taken aback that this was the first they were hearing of a new jail intended for their backyard. Any consultations that had happened had excluded Borough President Diaz Jr.; Assemblymember Michael Blake, whose district houses the proposed site at 320 Concord Avenue, currently an NYPD tow pound; and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Democratic Bronx County party leader whose support helped Johnson win the speakership.</p> <p>“I was surprised to learn that the administration has already selected a site for a new jail in The Bronx,” said Diaz Jr. in a statement that preceded the mayor and speaker’s Wednesday news conference. The proposed site had been first revealed by the <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-mayor-bill-de-blasio-to-build-jail-in-the-bronx-1518565743?mod=WSJ_NY_LEFTTopStories&amp;tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wall Street Journal</a> the previous night, just after de Blasio delivered his State of the City address. “I hope that, going forward, this lack of outreach is not a harbinger of the amount of community input the people of my borough will have in this process,” Diaz Jr. said. (At the news conference, Johnson showed some contrition immediately, apologizing to Diaz Jr. and promising a “robust, meaningful” community engagement process.)</p> <p>“It is simply disrespectful that a decision of this magnitude of proposing to open a new jail in the South Bronx was made behind closed doors, without engaging the broader Bronx community,” said Assemblymember Blake, in a statement released Wednesday night.</p> <p>Crespo, the Democratic Bronx county boss, took to Twitter, calling out the mayor and speaker. “We spent so much time talking the last few months how did this rikers plan in my district never come up?” he wondered.</p> <p>“I think we were all caught off guard with how far ahead the city seems to be when no one in the Bronx was informed of the process,” Crespo later elaborated, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “Once you decide on a site, that’s gonna have an impact for generations.”</p> <p>Crespo and the other electeds aren’t opposed to the administration’s goal: building capacity in the boroughs so that Rikers can close. But, he said the Concord Avenue site is not the best option, and the city should explore alternatives. The community and the borough already host their fair share of municipal facilities, Crespo insisted, echoing widespread criticism that the city has long chosen to place seemingly undesirable facilities such as jails, homeless shelters, and waste treatment plants in low-income communities of color. “Make no mistake about it, this borough has been handling an unfair share already for a long time,” he said.</p> <p>“There’s major investments and their success would also be endangered,” he said of the Mott Haven neighborhood, where new development is underway literally across the road from where the jail would be situated.</p> <p>The rapid outpouring of criticism didn’t seem lost on Speaker Johnson, who quickly seemed to equivocate on the Bronx site. “I am committed to facilities in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Johnson <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/bronx/politics/2018/02/16/council-speaker-says-he-is-not-wedded-to-specific-locations-for-new-jails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told NY1</a>. "We are not wedded to an individual location. If there is a better location I am happy to have that conversation."</p> <p>Responding to an assertion that he was backpedaling, Johnson said in a subsequent tweet that he is “not at all” backing away from the site, but reiterated that the main goal is closing the jails on Rikers Island and that he is “not wedded” to one location. “If there's a better one,” <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/964309861688336384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he wrote</a>, “I'm all ears. No other location has been presented.”</p> <p>If the Bronx elected officials were stunned by the announcement, it’s little wonder that those who live in the neighborhood around the proposed site were likewise surprised and offended to learn of the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_2.jpg" alt="bx jail site 2" width="325" height="187" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The site is located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, north of the Harlem River, with large industrial and manufacturing spaces running between the waterfront and the Major Deegan Expressway.</p> <p>Residents and others expressed a mix of astonishment, resignation, anger, and resentment as Gotham Gazette told them on Friday that the city intended to build a jail within blocks of their homes and places of work.</p> <p>“I thought they were gonna do a mall,” said Jesus Ortiz, 50, who runs an auto-repair shop across the street from the NYPD tow pound that occupies the block.</p> <p>The site is sandwiched between East 141st and 142nd Streets, next to Bruckner Boulevard, in a neighborhood with a mix of housing and commercial properties. Enclosed by metal sheet walls, the tow pound is almost a hill overlooking its neighbors, with impounded cars visible from the street through a peripheral treeline that is leafless in February.</p> <p>“They’re trying to rebuild the South Bronx to make it nice,” said Ortiz, “That’s not the way to rebuild, by putting a jail here.” Having worked there 15 years, Ortiz said he’s seen rapid development in recent times. Even the building that houses his auto shop was recently bought out, he said, and the landlords gave him a one-year lease till 2019. He’ll soon be gone from the neighborhood too.</p> <p>“They’re buying all around,” he said.</p> <p>Adam Bele, 40, loads containers at the lumber supply warehouse that sits behind 320 Concord. “Nobody wants to be near a jail,” he said. His biggest concern, one that others shared as well, is for the children that attend the several schools in the neighborhood.</p> <p>“You don’t want children hanging around a jail,” said the father of two infants who will likely attend one of those schools, he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>As with other residents, Bele was wary of the process for choosing the site. “It’s like they know it’s gonna be unpopular so they tried to hide it and do it quick, quick, quick,” he said. He had a simple piece of advice for the mayor. “Be transparent. Listen to this community, and take our recommendations into consideration.”</p> <p>But Bele empathizes with the city’s rationale that detainees deserve to be housed closer to their families in humane and modern facilities, and that Rikers needs to close. “You don’t want them treated like animals, they’re human like us,” he said. The mayor and speaker have promised to seek community feedback on the proposed site and, as required by the city’s land use review process, community boards will get an opportunity to hold votes, albeit nonbinding, to approve or reject the proposal. Borough presidents also get to weigh in with advisory opinions.</p> <p>Along Concord Avenue, in what could eventually be the shadow of a new jail, sit rowhouses, a few of them old and abandoned and showing signs of disrepair. “For Sale” signs hung in a few windows.</p> <p>In one of those houses lives Nereida Chavez, 38, a stay-at-home mom with four kids. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed on hearing that her biggest neighbor could one day be a jail.</p> <p>“I don’t like the idea of having a jail here,” she said. “It’s just scary.”</p> <p>She worried that a jail could mean more traffic along a little-traversed street. “We have our kids and they love to play out here with their bikes,” she said. And, it might also mean that parking, which has become an issue already owing to the large lumber and oil and gas companies around them, might worsen. “We hardly have any parking here. It’ll be even more complicated if they put a jail here,” she said.</p> <p>But Chavez was more concerned that she hardly had an opportunity to be heard on an issue that quite directly would affect her. “It makes me worried that things happen around us and we don’t know anything,” she said. “They also put shelters around us. They don’t let us know until it’s there.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_3.jpg" alt="bx jail site 3" width="325" height="161" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />At a bodega on East 141st Street, Mel McKenzie, 33, was buying milk. Gotham Gazette asked if the homemaker knew about the city’s plan to build a jail, three blocks from her home.</p> <p>“For real?” she said.</p> <p>“I’m not with it,” she frowned. “It should stay an impound lot....[A jail] won’t bring the community together. It’ll probably make us scared. And it’s too close to home.”</p> <p>Another shopper, Nancy Lopez, 43, chimed in. “Why move it so close when there’s other areas where they could put it?” she wondered. “Put it across Bruckner where it’s more industrial. There’s kids that walk by everyday on Concord.”</p> <p>The city’s plan to close Rikers and replace some of its capacity in borough facilities near courthouses entails building for about 6,000 inmates, with the goal of getting the jail population down to about 5,000, according to the mayor.</p> <p>McKenzie acknowledged that its a laudable objective to help detainees, most of whom are pre-trial and not convicted of any crime, remain connected to their communities. “That makes sense,” she said, but she also expressed concern about what school-going children would take away from it. “That’s the message they’re sending? You’re gonna be close to home if you get locked up.”</p> <p>“What happens if a prisoner escapes?” said Lopez, who said she is on disability and lives on Concord Avenue in the same row as Nereida Chavez. Instead, she proposed a “positive” alternative. “Why don’t they build affordable housing?”</p> <p>Both women had one shared concern, however, that neither of them had received an opportunity to weigh in. “They should notify the public,” McKenzie said.</p> <p>“As it’s happening, not when it’s already decided,” added Lopez. The city will present plans to the public, particularly through the community board, when the site is set for its place in the land use review process. It may be up to local residents to seek out opportunities to hear more and provide their feedback.</p> <p>Presenting the site as a “fait accompli” would undermine the process, said the Bronx borough president in his statement, but it’s what one resident seemed to expect from the administration. “The city does whatever it wants,” said Hector Camilo, 55. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t argue with the city.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_1.jpg" alt="Bronx jail site NYPD tow pound" width="600" height="310" /></p> <p>Planned Bronx jail site (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>When Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced last week that they’d reached a deal to speed up the closure of Rikers Island by creating or expanding jail facilities in every borough except Staten Island, it seemed to be a clear sign of a productive partnership between the administration and local elected officials.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall, alongside four Council members -- Diana Ayala, Karen Koslowitz, Stephen Levin, and Margaret Chin -- willing to accept the political risk of a new or expanded jail in their districts. The city will launch a unified land use review application for all four jails, the mayor and speaker said, combining the arduous and lengthy multi-stage approval process for siting certain municipal facilities.</p> <p>But the proposal to build the Bronx jail -- the only one of the four that is not either a current or former jail facility -- immediately raised the hackles of elected officials from the borough other than Ayala, a newly elected Council member whose districts spans East Harlem and part of the South Bronx.</p> <p>“Look the site in the Bronx is a site owned by the City of New York. It is a very smart site in terms of its closeness to the courthouses,” de Blasio explained at the news conference, when asked about a critical statement put out by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who had not been kept in the loop by the administration or the Council. “There is going to be a full community process, but let's be clear, we're going to talk to everyone, we're going to listen to everyone, we're going to try in every way possible address community needs and address other benefits that communities need.”</p> <p>De Blasio emphasized, “That being said, up here are the people who ultimately have to make the decision – the Council, represented by the Speaker, the members who represent those individual districts, and me and my administration.”</p> <p>Ayala was aware of the criticism she may face for supporting a site in her district. “We all know that this siting process is bound to be controversial,” she said. “In the Bronx in particular, we are not repurposing an existing detention center but instead building a brand new facility that will require additional careful thought, serious consideration and robust community engagement, and I really wanna underline that…We also know that in the Bronx, too often we see a concentration of city facilities in our borough and there is rightfully some resistance to that. But we in the Bronx also understand the urgent need for criminal justice reform.”</p> <p>Top Bronx officials were taken aback that this was the first they were hearing of a new jail intended for their backyard. Any consultations that had happened had excluded Borough President Diaz Jr.; Assemblymember Michael Blake, whose district houses the proposed site at 320 Concord Avenue, currently an NYPD tow pound; and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Democratic Bronx County party leader whose support helped Johnson win the speakership.</p> <p>“I was surprised to learn that the administration has already selected a site for a new jail in The Bronx,” said Diaz Jr. in a statement that preceded the mayor and speaker’s Wednesday news conference. The proposed site had been first revealed by the <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-mayor-bill-de-blasio-to-build-jail-in-the-bronx-1518565743?mod=WSJ_NY_LEFTTopStories&amp;tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Wall Street Journal</a> the previous night, just after de Blasio delivered his State of the City address. “I hope that, going forward, this lack of outreach is not a harbinger of the amount of community input the people of my borough will have in this process,” Diaz Jr. said. (At the news conference, Johnson showed some contrition immediately, apologizing to Diaz Jr. and promising a “robust, meaningful” community engagement process.)</p> <p>“It is simply disrespectful that a decision of this magnitude of proposing to open a new jail in the South Bronx was made behind closed doors, without engaging the broader Bronx community,” said Assemblymember Blake, in a statement released Wednesday night.</p> <p>Crespo, the Democratic Bronx county boss, took to Twitter, calling out the mayor and speaker. “We spent so much time talking the last few months how did this rikers plan in my district never come up?” he wondered.</p> <p>“I think we were all caught off guard with how far ahead the city seems to be when no one in the Bronx was informed of the process,” Crespo later elaborated, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “Once you decide on a site, that’s gonna have an impact for generations.”</p> <p>Crespo and the other electeds aren’t opposed to the administration’s goal: building capacity in the boroughs so that Rikers can close. But, he said the Concord Avenue site is not the best option, and the city should explore alternatives. The community and the borough already host their fair share of municipal facilities, Crespo insisted, echoing widespread criticism that the city has long chosen to place seemingly undesirable facilities such as jails, homeless shelters, and waste treatment plants in low-income communities of color. “Make no mistake about it, this borough has been handling an unfair share already for a long time,” he said.</p> <p>“There’s major investments and their success would also be endangered,” he said of the Mott Haven neighborhood, where new development is underway literally across the road from where the jail would be situated.</p> <p>The rapid outpouring of criticism didn’t seem lost on Speaker Johnson, who quickly seemed to equivocate on the Bronx site. “I am committed to facilities in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Johnson <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/bronx/politics/2018/02/16/council-speaker-says-he-is-not-wedded-to-specific-locations-for-new-jails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told NY1</a>. "We are not wedded to an individual location. If there is a better location I am happy to have that conversation."</p> <p>Responding to an assertion that he was backpedaling, Johnson said in a subsequent tweet that he is “not at all” backing away from the site, but reiterated that the main goal is closing the jails on Rikers Island and that he is “not wedded” to one location. “If there's a better one,” <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/964309861688336384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">he wrote</a>, “I'm all ears. No other location has been presented.”</p> <p>If the Bronx elected officials were stunned by the announcement, it’s little wonder that those who live in the neighborhood around the proposed site were likewise surprised and offended to learn of the plan.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_2.jpg" alt="bx jail site 2" width="325" height="187" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />The site is located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx, north of the Harlem River, with large industrial and manufacturing spaces running between the waterfront and the Major Deegan Expressway.</p> <p>Residents and others expressed a mix of astonishment, resignation, anger, and resentment as Gotham Gazette told them on Friday that the city intended to build a jail within blocks of their homes and places of work.</p> <p>“I thought they were gonna do a mall,” said Jesus Ortiz, 50, who runs an auto-repair shop across the street from the NYPD tow pound that occupies the block.</p> <p>The site is sandwiched between East 141st and 142nd Streets, next to Bruckner Boulevard, in a neighborhood with a mix of housing and commercial properties. Enclosed by metal sheet walls, the tow pound is almost a hill overlooking its neighbors, with impounded cars visible from the street through a peripheral treeline that is leafless in February.</p> <p>“They’re trying to rebuild the South Bronx to make it nice,” said Ortiz, “That’s not the way to rebuild, by putting a jail here.” Having worked there 15 years, Ortiz said he’s seen rapid development in recent times. Even the building that houses his auto shop was recently bought out, he said, and the landlords gave him a one-year lease till 2019. He’ll soon be gone from the neighborhood too.</p> <p>“They’re buying all around,” he said.</p> <p>Adam Bele, 40, loads containers at the lumber supply warehouse that sits behind 320 Concord. “Nobody wants to be near a jail,” he said. His biggest concern, one that others shared as well, is for the children that attend the several schools in the neighborhood.</p> <p>“You don’t want children hanging around a jail,” said the father of two infants who will likely attend one of those schools, he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>As with other residents, Bele was wary of the process for choosing the site. “It’s like they know it’s gonna be unpopular so they tried to hide it and do it quick, quick, quick,” he said. He had a simple piece of advice for the mayor. “Be transparent. Listen to this community, and take our recommendations into consideration.”</p> <p>But Bele empathizes with the city’s rationale that detainees deserve to be housed closer to their families in humane and modern facilities, and that Rikers needs to close. “You don’t want them treated like animals, they’re human like us,” he said. The mayor and speaker have promised to seek community feedback on the proposed site and, as required by the city’s land use review process, community boards will get an opportunity to hold votes, albeit nonbinding, to approve or reject the proposal. Borough presidents also get to weigh in with advisory opinions.</p> <p>Along Concord Avenue, in what could eventually be the shadow of a new jail, sit rowhouses, a few of them old and abandoned and showing signs of disrepair. “For Sale” signs hung in a few windows.</p> <p>In one of those houses lives Nereida Chavez, 38, a stay-at-home mom with four kids. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed on hearing that her biggest neighbor could one day be a jail.</p> <p>“I don’t like the idea of having a jail here,” she said. “It’s just scary.”</p> <p>She worried that a jail could mean more traffic along a little-traversed street. “We have our kids and they love to play out here with their bikes,” she said. And, it might also mean that parking, which has become an issue already owing to the large lumber and oil and gas companies around them, might worsen. “We hardly have any parking here. It’ll be even more complicated if they put a jail here,” she said.</p> <p>But Chavez was more concerned that she hardly had an opportunity to be heard on an issue that quite directly would affect her. “It makes me worried that things happen around us and we don’t know anything,” she said. “They also put shelters around us. They don’t let us know until it’s there.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bx_jail_site_3.jpg" alt="bx jail site 3" width="325" height="161" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />At a bodega on East 141st Street, Mel McKenzie, 33, was buying milk. Gotham Gazette asked if the homemaker knew about the city’s plan to build a jail, three blocks from her home.</p> <p>“For real?” she said.</p> <p>“I’m not with it,” she frowned. “It should stay an impound lot....[A jail] won’t bring the community together. It’ll probably make us scared. And it’s too close to home.”</p> <p>Another shopper, Nancy Lopez, 43, chimed in. “Why move it so close when there’s other areas where they could put it?” she wondered. “Put it across Bruckner where it’s more industrial. There’s kids that walk by everyday on Concord.”</p> <p>The city’s plan to close Rikers and replace some of its capacity in borough facilities near courthouses entails building for about 6,000 inmates, with the goal of getting the jail population down to about 5,000, according to the mayor.</p> <p>McKenzie acknowledged that its a laudable objective to help detainees, most of whom are pre-trial and not convicted of any crime, remain connected to their communities. “That makes sense,” she said, but she also expressed concern about what school-going children would take away from it. “That’s the message they’re sending? You’re gonna be close to home if you get locked up.”</p> <p>“What happens if a prisoner escapes?” said Lopez, who said she is on disability and lives on Concord Avenue in the same row as Nereida Chavez. Instead, she proposed a “positive” alternative. “Why don’t they build affordable housing?”</p> <p>Both women had one shared concern, however, that neither of them had received an opportunity to weigh in. “They should notify the public,” McKenzie said.</p> <p>“As it’s happening, not when it’s already decided,” added Lopez. The city will present plans to the public, particularly through the community board, when the site is set for its place in the land use review process. It may be up to local residents to seek out opportunities to hear more and provide their feedback.</p> <p>Presenting the site as a “fait accompli” would undermine the process, said the Bronx borough president in his statement, but it’s what one resident seemed to expect from the administration. “The city does whatever it wants,” said Hector Camilo, 55. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t argue with the city.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Union Square Hub, with 600 Projected Tech Jobs, Appears on Smooth Path to Reality 2018-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7471:union-square-hub-with-600-projected-tech-jobs-appears-on-smooth-path-to-reality Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/union_square_tech_hub.jpeg" alt="union square tech hub" width="600" height="715" /></p> <p>Union Square tech hub rendering via the mayor's office</p> <hr /> <p>This past week, two Manhattan Community Board 3 committees voted to approve the city's application for the proposed Union Square Training Center, also known as the Union Square tech hub, which the de Blasio administration says will create 800 construction jobs and then 600 permanent jobs in the growing technology sector. The land use and economic development committees of CB3 opted not to condition their vote in favor of the proposal on rezoning several blocks south of the proposed project as the board had considered and some preservationists and long-time community members are fighting for.</p> <p>The non-binding community board vote to approve the project came on the heels of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) setting in motion the public review process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP), on January 29 by officially obtaining permission to move forward with the initial project design and chosen developer, RAL Companies &amp; Affiliates LLC. The clock will continue to tick on the roughly seven-month timeline that requires approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council before any demolition or construction can take place in Union Square.</p> <p>The tech hub would serve as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, with floors allocated to technology training and startup offices, as well as retail space, located on 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. The building, which sits on valuable city-owned land, is currently a P.C. Richard &amp; Son. Community board approval, and without conditions, indicates that the project is almost certain to become a reality, though there are indeed still points of contention that will be negotiated over the coming months among local stakeholders, the de Blasio administration, and elected officials, especially City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p>According to EDC, the 240,000-square-foot, 21-floor facility would allocate six floors to <a href="https://civichall.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Civic Hal</a>l -- three for digital skills training center, three for the company’s own operations as a center for tech innovation &nbsp;-- five for “flexible” office space, eight for larger office space, and the ground floor for retail and market space, 25 percent of which would be reserved for first-time entrepreneurs and new local businesses. EDC projects construction would cost $250 million and last 18 months, after which the building would be the third-tallest on the block, behind Zeckendorf Towers and the Consolidated Edison Building, and open for business sometime in the middle of 2020.</p> <p>The project is a component to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/414-17/100-000-good-paying-jobs-mayor-de-blasio-releases-10-year-plan-invest-new-industries-raise#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Works</a>” plan, a decade-long initiative to create 100,000 jobs, 30,000 of them coming from the technology sector, that pay salaries north of $50,000 annually. Currently, technology is the fastest-growing sector in New York City’s economy. Increasing jobs in the field has been a point of emphasis for de Blasio, continuing the Bloomberg administration’s prioritization of creating tech jobs in New York, as evidenced by his heading the effort to bring the Cornell Technion campus to Roosevelt Island. The city also says the project will serve those that might otherwise not have access to jobs in the technology sector.</p> <p>“This new hub will be the front-door for tech in New York City,” de Blasio said in a February 2017 press release announcing an outline of the project. “People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support. No other city in the nation has anything like it.”</p> <p>“One of the biggest priorities for the de Blasio administration when it comes to the the economy is really ensuring that there is access to tech jobs [and] that they are accessible to New Yorkers of all neighborhoods and backgrounds,” said Anthony Hogrebe, EDC senior vice president of Public Affairs, echoing de Blasio’s pitch for the tech hub, on a call with Gotham Gazette. “One of the biggest ways you do that is improving workforce development, and by helping folks get the skills they need to qualify for those jobs.”</p> <p>Hogrebe said the tech hub would “ensure tech jobs really are for all New Yorkers,” not solely for “those who have advanced degrees in computer science.”</p> <p>He emphasized the centrality of the space allocated to teaching technological skills. “The cornerstone of this project is the digital skills training center. This is a place where some of the top organizations from all over the city will train New Yorkers on how to do the jobs that are in demand and give New Yorkers the skills they need,” said Hogrebe.</p> <p>Most elected leaders, advocates and residents of the community are in favor of the proposal; they see it as a way to bring to the area jobs and educational opportunities that prepare people for job-rich fields. But some are pushing to include a concession in the deal: rezoning several blocks south of the hub in order to limit development.</p> <p>During her 2017 City Council campaign, then-candidate Carlina Rivera said she was open to the tech hub project as long as the city implemented protective zoning measures aimed at curbing commercial and residential development in the nearby areas. The de Blasio administration, on the other hand, has generally been less likely to favor down-zonings as it seeks to add housing density, with affordability provisions, across the city. It remains to be seen how hard Rivera will push for the restrictive measures, and it is telling that the community board did not insist on them despite some loud and organized voices who call them essential to the neighborhood’s future.</p> <p>In order to build the tech hub as planned, the lot in between two New York University-owned buildings -- University Hall and Palladium -- needs to be rezoned for additional height allowances. The rezoning must be approved through the five-step, roughly seven-month ULURP process. After the de Blasio administration put forward its ideas, solicited bids for the project via a request for proposals (RFP), and chose a developer, last month’s certification was the first hoop the proposal was required to jump through and this past Wednesday’s community board hearing was the second.</p> <p>Next, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Borough Board, which includes community board leaders and City Council members from across the borough, will review the proposal. While they may influence the project, the opinions of the local community board and borough board are both advisory.</p> <p>However, the following steps, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, both have power to either approve or deny the tech hub project. In the coming months, the Council will hold committee hearings and subsequently vote on the matter -- the full Council approval of the project, in whatever exact form it is finalized, will likely occur around Labor Day. Usually, City Council members follow the lead of the member who represents the area home to a proposed rezoning, and there has been little to suggest this particular rezoning process will be a departure from the norm.</p> <p>New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the area west of Union Square, said at a press conference on January 24 that he expects Rivera to helm negotiations with the de Blasio administration and trusts her judgement on the issue. “I defer to Council Member Rivera,” he said. “She has my full support and she knows that. She’s a pragmatic, thoughtful person who spent time on her local community board, who understands these issues, so I think she will handle this in a responsible, thoughtful way.”</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of rezoning the blocks south of Union Square to limit development. “I know that area. It’s right on the border of our district,” he said. “To me, I think it makes sense, knowing that area, seeing developments going on there.”</p> <p>At the Community Board 3 hearing on the matter, a slight majority of those who testified voiced support for the tech hub. They said it would bring jobs and educational opportunities to the area, though some in the pro-tech hub camp wanted confirmation from the EDC representatives in attendance that those from the local communities would reap the benefits of the new facility. Another faction, which skewed older, whiter, and included many long-time residents of the East and West Villages, expressed their concern the tech hub would spawn unwanted changes in the neighborhood if they didn’t fight for measures -- like more restrictive zoning on commercial development -- to thwart these shifts.</p> <p>After the tech hub is erected, one theory goes, more residential and commercial development -- such as luxury and market-rate apartment buildings, chain stores, and hotels -- would change the community character, make the surrounding areas less affordable to small businesses and unrecognizable to long-time residents. Rezoning the area, in the skeptics’ telling, would preserve affordability by forestalling a potential wave of development adjacent to the tech hub.</p> <p>Notably, many of the expressed qualms with the project sans an accompanying downzoning closely mirrored those voiced by <a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/about/andrew-berman.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation</a> (GVHSP), a community nonprofit that typically opposes development. In a press release following the project’s ULURP certification and ahead of the community board hearing, GVPA executive director Andrew Berman, who made his case to the community board Wednesday night, argued that if the “surrounding predominantly residential neighborhood” is not protected, the tech hub would “accelerate the transformation of the area.”</p> <p>Following over four hours of testimony and discussion, the community board committees voted 16 to 5 to approve the ULURP application without any condition.</p> <p>After Wednesday’s vote, Rivera said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that she will work with the local community board, the mayor, and stakeholders to construct a “plan that satisfies and includes everyone.”</p> <p>“This tech center has the potential to be a great space for the local residents who historically have not had access to the high-paying jobs of the tech industry, a field whose companies continue to grow in and around our neighborhoods,” Rivera continued.</p> <p>Rivera said she will ensure the impending construction of the tech hub does not encourage excessive commercial development, which she said would adversely impact nearby residents and small businesses. “I will also continue to work towards the protections and rezoning which have broad community support that promote the development of housing and projects that are in line with our values and residential character,” she stated.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Berman, for his part, expressed displeasure with the community board’s process and decision. “By the narrowest of votes in which several of our supporters who should have been allowed to vote but were not given the opportunity to do so, a strong resolution incorporating all of our concerns was defeated for a weaker one incorporating some but not all of our concerns,” said Berman in a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/east-village/east-village-tech-hub-clears-first-hurdle-public-review">statement to Patch</a>. He vowed to “keep working” to advocate for policies that ensure the neighborhood “gets the protections it deserves and needs."</p> <p>Needless to say, not all of those who participated in the hearing were disappointed with the outcome. Meghan Heintz of <a href="http://www.morenyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">More New York</a>, a group that advocates for policies that increase housing supply in the city, argued at the hearing that the tech hub was a boon to residents of nearby neighborhoods, and warned against the consequences of prohibitively restrictive zoning.</p> <p>Heintz was pleased with the board’s decision to approve the ULURP application.</p> <p>“Education and job training for the new economy is vital and should be accessible to people from all backgrounds and delaying it is the same as denying those benefits to New Yorkers. We staunchly oppose the exclusionary zoning proposal that NIMBYs from an adjacent neighborhood clumsily tried to tack onto the project,” she said Thursday in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Heintz added, “If their proposal could really stand on its own merits, they wouldn't need to try to take a great project hostage to pass it.”</p> <p>Along with the community advocates and stakeholders, New York University would also be impacted by the tech hub as the lot on which the new facility would be built is in between the two aforementioned NYU buildings. NYU spokesperson John Beckman said Wednesday that while the university has not had “direct involvement” in the project, the university supports “overall efforts to strengthen NYC's science, tech, and innovation economy” which includes the tech hub. “The Union Square Tech Hub is meant to advance NYC's tech economy, and that's an objective NYU supports,” he stated.</p> <p>Asked to evaluate the idea to downzone areas surrounding the planned tech hub during a call Tuesday, Regional Plan Association director of community planning and design Moses Gates said that though fears of displacement are legitimate, downzoning would not advance the preservationists’ goals. Gates said the proposed rezoning would only be good news for those who “don’t want to see any change in the neighborhood.”</p> <p>“I think a downzoning is not really in the community interest,” he said. “I don’t think it will release any kind of displacement pressures, which have been going on for decades at this point in the East Village.”</p> <p>Instead, Gates said, the city should build more housing in the transit-rich area while ensuring that a sufficient amount of it is affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines, which require affordable housing in any area or project that is upzoned to add housing density. “We should also be looking to get some mixed-income housing in a very upper-income and increasingly exclusionary neighborhood,” he said.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/union_square_tech_hub.jpeg" alt="union square tech hub" width="600" height="715" /></p> <p>Union Square tech hub rendering via the mayor's office</p> <hr /> <p>This past week, two Manhattan Community Board 3 committees voted to approve the city's application for the proposed Union Square Training Center, also known as the Union Square tech hub, which the de Blasio administration says will create 800 construction jobs and then 600 permanent jobs in the growing technology sector. The land use and economic development committees of CB3 opted not to condition their vote in favor of the proposal on rezoning several blocks south of the proposed project as the board had considered and some preservationists and long-time community members are fighting for.</p> <p>The non-binding community board vote to approve the project came on the heels of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) setting in motion the public review process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP), on January 29 by officially obtaining permission to move forward with the initial project design and chosen developer, RAL Companies &amp; Affiliates LLC. The clock will continue to tick on the roughly seven-month timeline that requires approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council before any demolition or construction can take place in Union Square.</p> <p>The tech hub would serve as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, with floors allocated to technology training and startup offices, as well as retail space, located on 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. The building, which sits on valuable city-owned land, is currently a P.C. Richard &amp; Son. Community board approval, and without conditions, indicates that the project is almost certain to become a reality, though there are indeed still points of contention that will be negotiated over the coming months among local stakeholders, the de Blasio administration, and elected officials, especially City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the area, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.</p> <p>According to EDC, the 240,000-square-foot, 21-floor facility would allocate six floors to <a href="https://civichall.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Civic Hal</a>l -- three for digital skills training center, three for the company’s own operations as a center for tech innovation &nbsp;-- five for “flexible” office space, eight for larger office space, and the ground floor for retail and market space, 25 percent of which would be reserved for first-time entrepreneurs and new local businesses. EDC projects construction would cost $250 million and last 18 months, after which the building would be the third-tallest on the block, behind Zeckendorf Towers and the Consolidated Edison Building, and open for business sometime in the middle of 2020.</p> <p>The project is a component to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/414-17/100-000-good-paying-jobs-mayor-de-blasio-releases-10-year-plan-invest-new-industries-raise#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">New York Works</a>” plan, a decade-long initiative to create 100,000 jobs, 30,000 of them coming from the technology sector, that pay salaries north of $50,000 annually. Currently, technology is the fastest-growing sector in New York City’s economy. Increasing jobs in the field has been a point of emphasis for de Blasio, continuing the Bloomberg administration’s prioritization of creating tech jobs in New York, as evidenced by his heading the effort to bring the Cornell Technion campus to Roosevelt Island. The city also says the project will serve those that might otherwise not have access to jobs in the technology sector.</p> <p>“This new hub will be the front-door for tech in New York City,” de Blasio said in a February 2017 press release announcing an outline of the project. “People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support. No other city in the nation has anything like it.”</p> <p>“One of the biggest priorities for the de Blasio administration when it comes to the the economy is really ensuring that there is access to tech jobs [and] that they are accessible to New Yorkers of all neighborhoods and backgrounds,” said Anthony Hogrebe, EDC senior vice president of Public Affairs, echoing de Blasio’s pitch for the tech hub, on a call with Gotham Gazette. “One of the biggest ways you do that is improving workforce development, and by helping folks get the skills they need to qualify for those jobs.”</p> <p>Hogrebe said the tech hub would “ensure tech jobs really are for all New Yorkers,” not solely for “those who have advanced degrees in computer science.”</p> <p>He emphasized the centrality of the space allocated to teaching technological skills. “The cornerstone of this project is the digital skills training center. This is a place where some of the top organizations from all over the city will train New Yorkers on how to do the jobs that are in demand and give New Yorkers the skills they need,” said Hogrebe.</p> <p>Most elected leaders, advocates and residents of the community are in favor of the proposal; they see it as a way to bring to the area jobs and educational opportunities that prepare people for job-rich fields. But some are pushing to include a concession in the deal: rezoning several blocks south of the hub in order to limit development.</p> <p>During her 2017 City Council campaign, then-candidate Carlina Rivera said she was open to the tech hub project as long as the city implemented protective zoning measures aimed at curbing commercial and residential development in the nearby areas. The de Blasio administration, on the other hand, has generally been less likely to favor down-zonings as it seeks to add housing density, with affordability provisions, across the city. It remains to be seen how hard Rivera will push for the restrictive measures, and it is telling that the community board did not insist on them despite some loud and organized voices who call them essential to the neighborhood’s future.</p> <p>In order to build the tech hub as planned, the lot in between two New York University-owned buildings -- University Hall and Palladium -- needs to be rezoned for additional height allowances. The rezoning must be approved through the five-step, roughly seven-month ULURP process. After the de Blasio administration put forward its ideas, solicited bids for the project via a request for proposals (RFP), and chose a developer, last month’s certification was the first hoop the proposal was required to jump through and this past Wednesday’s community board hearing was the second.</p> <p>Next, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Borough Board, which includes community board leaders and City Council members from across the borough, will review the proposal. While they may influence the project, the opinions of the local community board and borough board are both advisory.</p> <p>However, the following steps, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, both have power to either approve or deny the tech hub project. In the coming months, the Council will hold committee hearings and subsequently vote on the matter -- the full Council approval of the project, in whatever exact form it is finalized, will likely occur around Labor Day. Usually, City Council members follow the lead of the member who represents the area home to a proposed rezoning, and there has been little to suggest this particular rezoning process will be a departure from the norm.</p> <p>New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the area west of Union Square, said at a press conference on January 24 that he expects Rivera to helm negotiations with the de Blasio administration and trusts her judgement on the issue. “I defer to Council Member Rivera,” he said. “She has my full support and she knows that. She’s a pragmatic, thoughtful person who spent time on her local community board, who understands these issues, so I think she will handle this in a responsible, thoughtful way.”</p> <p>Additionally, Johnson indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of rezoning the blocks south of Union Square to limit development. “I know that area. It’s right on the border of our district,” he said. “To me, I think it makes sense, knowing that area, seeing developments going on there.”</p> <p>At the Community Board 3 hearing on the matter, a slight majority of those who testified voiced support for the tech hub. They said it would bring jobs and educational opportunities to the area, though some in the pro-tech hub camp wanted confirmation from the EDC representatives in attendance that those from the local communities would reap the benefits of the new facility. Another faction, which skewed older, whiter, and included many long-time residents of the East and West Villages, expressed their concern the tech hub would spawn unwanted changes in the neighborhood if they didn’t fight for measures -- like more restrictive zoning on commercial development -- to thwart these shifts.</p> <p>After the tech hub is erected, one theory goes, more residential and commercial development -- such as luxury and market-rate apartment buildings, chain stores, and hotels -- would change the community character, make the surrounding areas less affordable to small businesses and unrecognizable to long-time residents. Rezoning the area, in the skeptics’ telling, would preserve affordability by forestalling a potential wave of development adjacent to the tech hub.</p> <p>Notably, many of the expressed qualms with the project sans an accompanying downzoning closely mirrored those voiced by <a href="http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/about/andrew-berman.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation</a> (GVHSP), a community nonprofit that typically opposes development. In a press release following the project’s ULURP certification and ahead of the community board hearing, GVPA executive director Andrew Berman, who made his case to the community board Wednesday night, argued that if the “surrounding predominantly residential neighborhood” is not protected, the tech hub would “accelerate the transformation of the area.”</p> <p>Following over four hours of testimony and discussion, the community board committees voted 16 to 5 to approve the ULURP application without any condition.</p> <p>After Wednesday’s vote, Rivera said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that she will work with the local community board, the mayor, and stakeholders to construct a “plan that satisfies and includes everyone.”</p> <p>“This tech center has the potential to be a great space for the local residents who historically have not had access to the high-paying jobs of the tech industry, a field whose companies continue to grow in and around our neighborhoods,” Rivera continued.</p> <p>Rivera said she will ensure the impending construction of the tech hub does not encourage excessive commercial development, which she said would adversely impact nearby residents and small businesses. “I will also continue to work towards the protections and rezoning which have broad community support that promote the development of housing and projects that are in line with our values and residential character,” she stated.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Berman, for his part, expressed displeasure with the community board’s process and decision. “By the narrowest of votes in which several of our supporters who should have been allowed to vote but were not given the opportunity to do so, a strong resolution incorporating all of our concerns was defeated for a weaker one incorporating some but not all of our concerns,” said Berman in a <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/east-village/east-village-tech-hub-clears-first-hurdle-public-review">statement to Patch</a>. He vowed to “keep working” to advocate for policies that ensure the neighborhood “gets the protections it deserves and needs."</p> <p>Needless to say, not all of those who participated in the hearing were disappointed with the outcome. Meghan Heintz of <a href="http://www.morenyc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">More New York</a>, a group that advocates for policies that increase housing supply in the city, argued at the hearing that the tech hub was a boon to residents of nearby neighborhoods, and warned against the consequences of prohibitively restrictive zoning.</p> <p>Heintz was pleased with the board’s decision to approve the ULURP application.</p> <p>“Education and job training for the new economy is vital and should be accessible to people from all backgrounds and delaying it is the same as denying those benefits to New Yorkers. We staunchly oppose the exclusionary zoning proposal that NIMBYs from an adjacent neighborhood clumsily tried to tack onto the project,” she said Thursday in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>Heintz added, “If their proposal could really stand on its own merits, they wouldn't need to try to take a great project hostage to pass it.”</p> <p>Along with the community advocates and stakeholders, New York University would also be impacted by the tech hub as the lot on which the new facility would be built is in between the two aforementioned NYU buildings. NYU spokesperson John Beckman said Wednesday that while the university has not had “direct involvement” in the project, the university supports “overall efforts to strengthen NYC's science, tech, and innovation economy” which includes the tech hub. “The Union Square Tech Hub is meant to advance NYC's tech economy, and that's an objective NYU supports,” he stated.</p> <p>Asked to evaluate the idea to downzone areas surrounding the planned tech hub during a call Tuesday, Regional Plan Association director of community planning and design Moses Gates said that though fears of displacement are legitimate, downzoning would not advance the preservationists’ goals. Gates said the proposed rezoning would only be good news for those who “don’t want to see any change in the neighborhood.”</p> <p>“I think a downzoning is not really in the community interest,” he said. “I don’t think it will release any kind of displacement pressures, which have been going on for decades at this point in the East Village.”</p> <p>Instead, Gates said, the city should build more housing in the transit-rich area while ensuring that a sufficient amount of it is affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) guidelines, which require affordable housing in any area or project that is upzoned to add housing density. “We should also be looking to get some mixed-income housing in a very upper-income and increasingly exclusionary neighborhood,” he said.</p> <p> </p> Anti-LGBT City Council Members Given Prominent Positions 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7469:anti-lgbt-city-council-members-given-prominent-positions Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39073524394_703a8340cb_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Fernando Cabrera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Above: Corey Johnson and Fernando Cabrera (photo: William Alatriste) (photo below: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>When new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive person to hold the powerful position, unveiled his leadership team and Council committee assignments, he appointed two anti-LGBT Council members to chair committees, and named one to senior leadership in the 51-member legislative body. The moves seemed to have raised few eyebrows despite the stark contrast with Johnson’s life story and politics, as well as the politics of the overwhelming number of Council members.</p> <p>Johnson created a new committee for Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a conservative reverend who will chair the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, and named Council Member Fernando Cabrera, also a socially conservative pastor known to hold anti-gay views, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7452-favorable-to-the-bronx-council-committee-shuffle-also-seen-as-retribution" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to lead the Committee on Governmental Operations</a> and serve as the majority whip on Johnson’s senior leadership team.</p> <p>Both members, who represent districts in the Bronx, are outliers in the largely progressive body, holding far-right stances on LGBT rights and social issues in general. Their politics seem out of place not only in the City Council but in an overwhelmingly liberal city where Republicans often nominate socially progressive candidates and vote along the same lines. Notably, the Bronx Democratic County organization was key to supporting Johnson’s winning speakership bid, and a number of Bronx members were rewarded in kind when it came to committee and leadership assignments.</p> <p>Diaz Sr., a former state Senator and minister who founded the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, was the sole dissenting Democratic Senator on the state Legislature’s successful marriage equality bill <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed</a> in 2011. The bill was supported by four Republicans who were in the Senate majority. Diaz Sr. also voted against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) last year in a Senate committee vote, is a vocal opponent of abortion and, in 2003, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/16/nyregion/lawsuit-opposes-expansion-of-school-for-gay-students.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sued</a> the Department of Education over plans to expand the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan for gay students. &nbsp;</p> <p>Cabrera, the senior pastor at the New Life Outreach International church, has his own history of controversial statements and positions. In 2014, when he was serving his second term on the City Council, he praised the Ugandan government in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSs8UQQgOVc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a video</a> posted online after it passed a law that criminalized homosexuality.</p> <p>"Godly people are in government," Cabrera said of the country’s government, noting that gay marriage was not acceptable there and stating that the government had withstood pressure from the U.S. to allow it. “And they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.”</p> <p>Following a furor over his remarks in 2014, he later insisted, “I do not support the persecution of gays and lesbians anywhere, whether it's in Uganda or right here in New York State.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Names New Leadership, Committee Chairs and Members</a>]</p> <p>For people familiar with Speaker Johnson’s personal history, which he wears on his sleeve, the move to empower the two conservative Council members could easily trigger a degree of cognitive dissonance. Johnson became famous as a teenager when he came out as gay while the captain of his high school football team in Massachusetts, and has often approached politics and legislation from the lens of his own lived experience. He represents a Manhattan district including Chelsea and the West Village, home to the gay rights movement and many of its leaders, including former State Senator Tom Duane, who Johnson has called a role model and mentor.</p> <p>“For decades, the gay activist community has fought to keep people like Ruben Diaz Sr. and Fernando Cabrera out of positions of power,” said Allen Roskoff, a gay activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, in a phone interview. “I find this shocking and cringeworthy.”</p> <p>Several activists and elected officials were hesitant to criticize Johnson, whose election was celebrated by the LGBT community. But, Roskoff was not alone in his displeasure.</p> <p>"Of course it's a big deal," said an LGBT Democratic insider, who requested anonymity to speak freely. "You have hate emanating from Washington on a daily basis; on the ground in New York City, bias attacks are happening more often; and to put two vocally anti-LGBT people in places where they have a bigger platform is really worrying and not something we want to see in a progressive body."</p> <p>The insider also pointed out that Diaz Sr.'s and Cabrera's neighborhoods are where LGBT youth have long felt especially unsafe and unaccepted, and that those same young people need elected officials to be leaders for them, not spreading anti-LGBT sentiment that makes them less safe.</p> <p>Assemblymember Deborah Glick, New York State’s first openly gay legislator, was similarly disappointed, though she said she did not want to “second guess” Johnson’s decisions as speaker.</p> <p>“I was pleased to have Reverend Diaz removed from the Senate Democrats because his anti-choice and his anti-LGBT attitude and aggressive rhetoric was destructive and unpleasant,” she said. “I’m sorry they’re in elected office. Just as I would not want to spend time and energy seeing that people who are actively homophobic are not elected to seats in other parts of the country, I’m not happy to see them in elected office here. You would have to ask the speaker what went into his thinking in giving them prominent positions.”</p> <p>Gotham Gazette did ask Johnson about the decision on January 11, shortly after the new committee chairs were approved by the full Council. Though he insisted that he disagrees with Diaz Sr.’s and Cabrera’s positions on LGBT issues, he said that just as he does with certain Republican Council members and those within his own Democratic caucus, his new position as speaker requires him to treat each member equally.</p> <p>“I’m gonna treat every member of this body with respect...Everyone knows where I stand on LGBT equality. No one can question my credentials on LGBT equality and I’m the Speaker of the Council and we’re going to push the envelope to expand protections for all New Yorkers, transgender New Yorkers, LGBT new Yorkers, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, people of different religious faiths and beliefs,” he said. “That’s where I stand. I don’t agree with every member on everything but I’m still going to work collegially with every member of this body because that is part of my job now as Speaker of this Council.”</p> <p>He also said that Cabrera’s view didn’t necessary align with his votes. Indeed, Cabrera voted in favor of a bill last year that banned gay conversion therapy in the city and supported a bill requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to create a plan to provide behavioral health services to LGBT individuals. Durign the race to become Speaker, Johnson caught some flack for visiting Diaz Sr. in the hospital, a visit that Diaz Sr. referenced on the day Johnson was officially elected Speaker.</p> <p>Fellow Council members -- including LGBT members such as Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer and Carlos Menchaca -- also came to Johnson’s defense, insisting that conservative members would hardly have an effect on the larger policy agenda or leanings of the Council as a whole. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The foundation of this body requires us to listen to all sides of every issue and that’s what we’re going to be committed to this next session,” said Council Member Menchaca in a brief interview outside City Hall last week.</p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer similarly said, “There’s good things that can come out of appointing a leadership team that is diverse and has opinions that contradict your own.”</p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander, not a member of the LGBT caucus, echoed the view. “As long as the policies that we pursue represent the progressive values that [Speaker Johnson] articulated, that he continues to articulate, then I think it’s great to have a diverse leadership team in many ways,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Torres, from the Bronx, called Gotham Gazette upon hearing of the reporting of this article to show support for the speaker. The two members in question, he said, represent some of poorest districts in the city where it is a “particular imperative” to show equal representation. “I think it’s unreasonable to expect the Speaker of the Council to deny resources to lower-income districts simply because he rejects the social views of those who represent them. It’s unfair to begrudge the speaker for his obligation to represent everyone equally,” he said.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39073522554_89beb687db_z.jpg" alt="Ruben Diaz Sr. City Council" width="300" height="201" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />Torres also refuted the possibility that the two members were rewarded for their support for Johnson’s ascension to the speakership, which owed to the backing from the Bronx and Queens County Democrats, as well as other members whose support Johnson had secured. Council members from both counties were handed the most powerful Council committees, with the land use committee going to Council Member Rafael Salamanca of the Bronx and finance to Queens Council Member Daniel Dromm, who is a member of the LGBT caucus.</p> <p>“I think [Speaker Johnson’s] magnanimity transcends the normal transactions of the speaker race,” Torres said, noting that even though he also ran for speaker, he was given a plum position as chair of the newly empowered oversight and investigations committee. “I would do exactly what he’s doing as speaker,” he added.</p> <p>“Winning coalitions reward their members,” observed one Council Member, who asked to remain unnamed.</p> <p>Assemblymember Glick conceded that the speakership is a complicated position that requires keeping numerous stakeholders satisfied. “I’ve been in politics a long time and I understand that people in positions of authority have a very tough balancing act,” she said. “By the same token, I’m not happy about seeing people who have engaged in hateful rhetoric being given what in political terms would be seen as a reward.”</p> <p>Regardless, she said, “I’m very proud of Corey. I consider him a friend and I will do whatever I can to make his tenure a successful and positive one.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>(picture inset: Ruben Diaz Sr.; photo by John McCarten)</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to clarify that Diaz Sr. was the sole Democratic Senator, not the only Democratic legislator, to oppose the state's marriage equality bill.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39073524394_703a8340cb_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Fernando Cabrera City Council" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Above: Corey Johnson and Fernando Cabrera (photo: William Alatriste) (photo below: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>When new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the first openly gay and openly HIV-positive person to hold the powerful position, unveiled his leadership team and Council committee assignments, he appointed two anti-LGBT Council members to chair committees, and named one to senior leadership in the 51-member legislative body. The moves seemed to have raised few eyebrows despite the stark contrast with Johnson’s life story and politics, as well as the politics of the overwhelming number of Council members.</p> <p>Johnson created a new committee for Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a conservative reverend who will chair the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, and named Council Member Fernando Cabrera, also a socially conservative pastor known to hold anti-gay views, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7452-favorable-to-the-bronx-council-committee-shuffle-also-seen-as-retribution" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to lead the Committee on Governmental Operations</a> and serve as the majority whip on Johnson’s senior leadership team.</p> <p>Both members, who represent districts in the Bronx, are outliers in the largely progressive body, holding far-right stances on LGBT rights and social issues in general. Their politics seem out of place not only in the City Council but in an overwhelmingly liberal city where Republicans often nominate socially progressive candidates and vote along the same lines. Notably, the Bronx Democratic County organization was key to supporting Johnson’s winning speakership bid, and a number of Bronx members were rewarded in kind when it came to committee and leadership assignments.</p> <p>Diaz Sr., a former state Senator and minister who founded the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, was the sole dissenting Democratic Senator on the state Legislature’s successful marriage equality bill <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">passed</a> in 2011. The bill was supported by four Republicans who were in the Senate majority. Diaz Sr. also voted against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) last year in a Senate committee vote, is a vocal opponent of abortion and, in 2003, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/16/nyregion/lawsuit-opposes-expansion-of-school-for-gay-students.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sued</a> the Department of Education over plans to expand the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan for gay students. &nbsp;</p> <p>Cabrera, the senior pastor at the New Life Outreach International church, has his own history of controversial statements and positions. In 2014, when he was serving his second term on the City Council, he praised the Ugandan government in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSs8UQQgOVc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a video</a> posted online after it passed a law that criminalized homosexuality.</p> <p>"Godly people are in government," Cabrera said of the country’s government, noting that gay marriage was not acceptable there and stating that the government had withstood pressure from the U.S. to allow it. “And they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.”</p> <p>Following a furor over his remarks in 2014, he later insisted, “I do not support the persecution of gays and lesbians anywhere, whether it's in Uganda or right here in New York State.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Names New Leadership, Committee Chairs and Members</a>]</p> <p>For people familiar with Speaker Johnson’s personal history, which he wears on his sleeve, the move to empower the two conservative Council members could easily trigger a degree of cognitive dissonance. Johnson became famous as a teenager when he came out as gay while the captain of his high school football team in Massachusetts, and has often approached politics and legislation from the lens of his own lived experience. He represents a Manhattan district including Chelsea and the West Village, home to the gay rights movement and many of its leaders, including former State Senator Tom Duane, who Johnson has called a role model and mentor.</p> <p>“For decades, the gay activist community has fought to keep people like Ruben Diaz Sr. and Fernando Cabrera out of positions of power,” said Allen Roskoff, a gay activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, in a phone interview. “I find this shocking and cringeworthy.”</p> <p>Several activists and elected officials were hesitant to criticize Johnson, whose election was celebrated by the LGBT community. But, Roskoff was not alone in his displeasure.</p> <p>"Of course it's a big deal," said an LGBT Democratic insider, who requested anonymity to speak freely. "You have hate emanating from Washington on a daily basis; on the ground in New York City, bias attacks are happening more often; and to put two vocally anti-LGBT people in places where they have a bigger platform is really worrying and not something we want to see in a progressive body."</p> <p>The insider also pointed out that Diaz Sr.'s and Cabrera's neighborhoods are where LGBT youth have long felt especially unsafe and unaccepted, and that those same young people need elected officials to be leaders for them, not spreading anti-LGBT sentiment that makes them less safe.</p> <p>Assemblymember Deborah Glick, New York State’s first openly gay legislator, was similarly disappointed, though she said she did not want to “second guess” Johnson’s decisions as speaker.</p> <p>“I was pleased to have Reverend Diaz removed from the Senate Democrats because his anti-choice and his anti-LGBT attitude and aggressive rhetoric was destructive and unpleasant,” she said. “I’m sorry they’re in elected office. Just as I would not want to spend time and energy seeing that people who are actively homophobic are not elected to seats in other parts of the country, I’m not happy to see them in elected office here. You would have to ask the speaker what went into his thinking in giving them prominent positions.”</p> <p>Gotham Gazette did ask Johnson about the decision on January 11, shortly after the new committee chairs were approved by the full Council. Though he insisted that he disagrees with Diaz Sr.’s and Cabrera’s positions on LGBT issues, he said that just as he does with certain Republican Council members and those within his own Democratic caucus, his new position as speaker requires him to treat each member equally.</p> <p>“I’m gonna treat every member of this body with respect...Everyone knows where I stand on LGBT equality. No one can question my credentials on LGBT equality and I’m the Speaker of the Council and we’re going to push the envelope to expand protections for all New Yorkers, transgender New Yorkers, LGBT new Yorkers, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, people of different religious faiths and beliefs,” he said. “That’s where I stand. I don’t agree with every member on everything but I’m still going to work collegially with every member of this body because that is part of my job now as Speaker of this Council.”</p> <p>He also said that Cabrera’s view didn’t necessary align with his votes. Indeed, Cabrera voted in favor of a bill last year that banned gay conversion therapy in the city and supported a bill requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to create a plan to provide behavioral health services to LGBT individuals. Durign the race to become Speaker, Johnson caught some flack for visiting Diaz Sr. in the hospital, a visit that Diaz Sr. referenced on the day Johnson was officially elected Speaker.</p> <p>Fellow Council members -- including LGBT members such as Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer and Carlos Menchaca -- also came to Johnson’s defense, insisting that conservative members would hardly have an effect on the larger policy agenda or leanings of the Council as a whole. &nbsp;</p> <p>“The foundation of this body requires us to listen to all sides of every issue and that’s what we’re going to be committed to this next session,” said Council Member Menchaca in a brief interview outside City Hall last week.</p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer similarly said, “There’s good things that can come out of appointing a leadership team that is diverse and has opinions that contradict your own.”</p> <p>Council Member Brad Lander, not a member of the LGBT caucus, echoed the view. “As long as the policies that we pursue represent the progressive values that [Speaker Johnson] articulated, that he continues to articulate, then I think it’s great to have a diverse leadership team in many ways,” he said.</p> <p>Council Member Torres, from the Bronx, called Gotham Gazette upon hearing of the reporting of this article to show support for the speaker. The two members in question, he said, represent some of poorest districts in the city where it is a “particular imperative” to show equal representation. “I think it’s unreasonable to expect the Speaker of the Council to deny resources to lower-income districts simply because he rejects the social views of those who represent them. It’s unfair to begrudge the speaker for his obligation to represent everyone equally,” he said.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39073522554_89beb687db_z.jpg" alt="Ruben Diaz Sr. City Council" width="300" height="201" style="margin-right: 15px; float: left;" />Torres also refuted the possibility that the two members were rewarded for their support for Johnson’s ascension to the speakership, which owed to the backing from the Bronx and Queens County Democrats, as well as other members whose support Johnson had secured. Council members from both counties were handed the most powerful Council committees, with the land use committee going to Council Member Rafael Salamanca of the Bronx and finance to Queens Council Member Daniel Dromm, who is a member of the LGBT caucus.</p> <p>“I think [Speaker Johnson’s] magnanimity transcends the normal transactions of the speaker race,” Torres said, noting that even though he also ran for speaker, he was given a plum position as chair of the newly empowered oversight and investigations committee. “I would do exactly what he’s doing as speaker,” he added.</p> <p>“Winning coalitions reward their members,” observed one Council Member, who asked to remain unnamed.</p> <p>Assemblymember Glick conceded that the speakership is a complicated position that requires keeping numerous stakeholders satisfied. “I’ve been in politics a long time and I understand that people in positions of authority have a very tough balancing act,” she said. “By the same token, I’m not happy about seeing people who have engaged in hateful rhetoric being given what in political terms would be seen as a reward.”</p> <p>Regardless, she said, “I’m very proud of Corey. I consider him a friend and I will do whatever I can to make his tenure a successful and positive one.”</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>(picture inset: Ruben Diaz Sr.; photo by John McCarten)</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to clarify that Diaz Sr. was the sole Democratic Senator, not the only Democratic legislator, to oppose the state's marriage equality bill.</p>
400 Old and New Bills Introduced at City Council 2018-02-01T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7456:400-old-and-new-bills-introduced-at-city-council Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38866912505_c447a0d733_z.jpg" alt="Johnson podium stated meeting" width="600" height="426" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>After weeks of mostly procedural activity to start its new four-year term, the New York City Council convened Wednesday afternoon for its first legislation-focused 2018 meeting, which included discussion and reintroduction of bills from the previous session that had not passed, as well as the introduction of new bills.</p> <p>Some of the 408 <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Legislation.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pieces of legislation</a> reintroduced deal with tenant protection, zoning and scaffolding regulations, and a bill to prohibit people who have been found guilty of a specific set of felonies from holding office.</p> <p>Following roughly five minutes of formalities, new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that immigration activist Ravi Ragbir, who a federal judge ruled had been wrongfully detained by ICE on January 11, was in the chamber. Johnson called his detention “brutal” and “unjust;” Ragbir was greeted with a standing ovation from the majority of those in attendance. Earlier, activists and Council members gathered to support him at a press conference on the City Council steps. Two Council members, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, had been arrested protesting Ragbir’s detainment.</p> <p>Johnson then led the Council through its vote on legislation that had moved through committee, mostly land use items, outlining two Manhattan locations to be given property tax exemptions, one on West 28th Street, located in District 3, which he represents. “It’s going to create 37 units of supportive housing, which I am really happy about,” he said.</p> <p>The other building proposed to be granted a property tax exemption is in District 1, represented by Council Member Margaret Chin, which aims to preserve 198 units of affordable housing in the Two Bridges neighborhood. In addition, Johnson briefly mentioned a rezoning along Bedford Avenue.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan’s Upper East Side re-introduced a pair of bills, Intro. 85 and 86, aimed at ensuring people who have had cases heard in housing court do not face discrimination from landlords. “[The bill] would require tenant screening companies who make these so-called “tenant blacklists” to provide fair and complete information. Landlords would no longer be able to discriminate against tenants,” he said. “No one should face homelessness suddenly because they’ve been to housing court.”</p> <p>In a similar vein, Chin introduced a tenant protection measure of her own, Intro. 30. This bill, she said, would mandate that landlords, in the event that residents needed to be vacated, could not put relocation expenses on the city's dime. “We need to continue holding bad landlords accountable for their actions,” she said. “Or in this case, inaction.” <br /> <br />Kallos, who announced his wife is imminently due to give birth and that he is slated to begin paid parental leave until March, spoke about the importance of fathers taking their paid leave and re-introduced a bill designed to limit how long scaffolding could remain in place. “Some scaffolding is almost old enough to vote,” he quipped.</p> <p>While not discussed during the session, one notable bill reintroduced this week was Intro. 374, which was sparked by former State Senator and former City Council Member Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted for domestic violence, launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid for City Council last summer, which was met with condemnation from elected officeholders and many others.</p> <p>Asked about the scaffolding bill at a press conference after the Council session, Johnson said he is receptive to the idea of reducing the amount of time scaffolding remains in place, though he did not explicitly state his position on it. “We have to make sure the public is safe, while at the same time not allowing scaffolding to remain up longer than needs to,” he said.</p> <p>“I don’t know enough about the nitty gritty on the bill itself, but there was an issue yesterday, I believe the Republican House did something to invalidate our scaffolding laws” he added, presumably referencing H.R. 3808, the Infrastructure Expansion Act, designed to undermine New York’s “Scaffold Law,” which is meant to protect workers by placing legal responsibility on property owners when they incur injuries. He went on to label scaffolding a “blight” and “eyesore.”</p> <p>Johnson was asked about allegations related to Mayor de Blasio allowing a pay-to-play climate to fester in his government. “Every New Yorker, regardless of if you gave money to an elected official or you’re a random person that calls someone’s office or shows up outside City Hall, your local elected official should be responsive to you,” Johnson said.</p> <p>Asked if mayor de Blasio acts in this spirit, Johnson said, “He says he does that.”<br /> <br />He added, “I don’t know what it’s like for any New Yorker who stops him on the street, but you have to make sure that government is responsive to everyone.”</p> <p>Johnson was also asked to comment on NYCHA, which has come under fire in recent months for issues ranging from lead paint to malfunctioning boilers, the topic of a hearing set for Tuesday, February 6.</p> <p>“I’m going to be there the whole time,” he said of the hearing. “Four hours, five hours, however long the meeting goes.”</p> <p>The speaker had harsh words for management of the authority, but stopped short of calling for the chair, Shola Olatoye, to step down. The problems at NYCHA, he said, could not be blamed solely on Olatoye. “If she left tomorrow, the issues would still exist,” said Johnson.</p> <p>“This is a long-term issue. It’s taken a lot of time for the neglect that NYCHA has faced to get in this situation,” he explained. “We’re not going to get all the money overnight, we’re not going to fix the developments overnight.”</p> <p>To that end, Johnson vowed to use the city budget process to ensure NYCHA receives more funding.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38866912505_c447a0d733_z.jpg" alt="Johnson podium stated meeting" width="600" height="426" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>After weeks of mostly procedural activity to start its new four-year term, the New York City Council convened Wednesday afternoon for its first legislation-focused 2018 meeting, which included discussion and reintroduction of bills from the previous session that had not passed, as well as the introduction of new bills.</p> <p>Some of the 408 <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Legislation.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pieces of legislation</a> reintroduced deal with tenant protection, zoning and scaffolding regulations, and a bill to prohibit people who have been found guilty of a specific set of felonies from holding office.</p> <p>Following roughly five minutes of formalities, new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that immigration activist Ravi Ragbir, who a federal judge ruled had been wrongfully detained by ICE on January 11, was in the chamber. Johnson called his detention “brutal” and “unjust;” Ragbir was greeted with a standing ovation from the majority of those in attendance. Earlier, activists and Council members gathered to support him at a press conference on the City Council steps. Two Council members, Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams, had been arrested protesting Ragbir’s detainment.</p> <p>Johnson then led the Council through its vote on legislation that had moved through committee, mostly land use items, outlining two Manhattan locations to be given property tax exemptions, one on West 28th Street, located in District 3, which he represents. “It’s going to create 37 units of supportive housing, which I am really happy about,” he said.</p> <p>The other building proposed to be granted a property tax exemption is in District 1, represented by Council Member Margaret Chin, which aims to preserve 198 units of affordable housing in the Two Bridges neighborhood. In addition, Johnson briefly mentioned a rezoning along Bedford Avenue.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan’s Upper East Side re-introduced a pair of bills, Intro. 85 and 86, aimed at ensuring people who have had cases heard in housing court do not face discrimination from landlords. “[The bill] would require tenant screening companies who make these so-called “tenant blacklists” to provide fair and complete information. Landlords would no longer be able to discriminate against tenants,” he said. “No one should face homelessness suddenly because they’ve been to housing court.”</p> <p>In a similar vein, Chin introduced a tenant protection measure of her own, Intro. 30. This bill, she said, would mandate that landlords, in the event that residents needed to be vacated, could not put relocation expenses on the city's dime. “We need to continue holding bad landlords accountable for their actions,” she said. “Or in this case, inaction.” <br /> <br />Kallos, who announced his wife is imminently due to give birth and that he is slated to begin paid parental leave until March, spoke about the importance of fathers taking their paid leave and re-introduced a bill designed to limit how long scaffolding could remain in place. “Some scaffolding is almost old enough to vote,” he quipped.</p> <p>While not discussed during the session, one notable bill reintroduced this week was Intro. 374, which was sparked by former State Senator and former City Council Member Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted for domestic violence, launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid for City Council last summer, which was met with condemnation from elected officeholders and many others.</p> <p>Asked about the scaffolding bill at a press conference after the Council session, Johnson said he is receptive to the idea of reducing the amount of time scaffolding remains in place, though he did not explicitly state his position on it. “We have to make sure the public is safe, while at the same time not allowing scaffolding to remain up longer than needs to,” he said.</p> <p>“I don’t know enough about the nitty gritty on the bill itself, but there was an issue yesterday, I believe the Republican House did something to invalidate our scaffolding laws” he added, presumably referencing H.R. 3808, the Infrastructure Expansion Act, designed to undermine New York’s “Scaffold Law,” which is meant to protect workers by placing legal responsibility on property owners when they incur injuries. He went on to label scaffolding a “blight” and “eyesore.”</p> <p>Johnson was asked about allegations related to Mayor de Blasio allowing a pay-to-play climate to fester in his government. “Every New Yorker, regardless of if you gave money to an elected official or you’re a random person that calls someone’s office or shows up outside City Hall, your local elected official should be responsive to you,” Johnson said.</p> <p>Asked if mayor de Blasio acts in this spirit, Johnson said, “He says he does that.”<br /> <br />He added, “I don’t know what it’s like for any New Yorker who stops him on the street, but you have to make sure that government is responsive to everyone.”</p> <p>Johnson was also asked to comment on NYCHA, which has come under fire in recent months for issues ranging from lead paint to malfunctioning boilers, the topic of a hearing set for Tuesday, February 6.</p> <p>“I’m going to be there the whole time,” he said of the hearing. “Four hours, five hours, however long the meeting goes.”</p> <p>The speaker had harsh words for management of the authority, but stopped short of calling for the chair, Shola Olatoye, to step down. The problems at NYCHA, he said, could not be blamed solely on Olatoye. “If she left tomorrow, the issues would still exist,” said Johnson.</p> <p>“This is a long-term issue. It’s taken a lot of time for the neglect that NYCHA has faced to get in this situation,” he explained. “We’re not going to get all the money overnight, we’re not going to fix the developments overnight.”</p> <p>To that end, Johnson vowed to use the city budget process to ensure NYCHA receives more funding.</p> <p> </p> Favorable to The Bronx, Council Committee Shuffle Also Seen as Retribution 2018-01-29T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-29T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7452:favorable-to-the-bronx-council-committee-shuffle-also-seen-as-retribution Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39017821735_d3657cee54_z.jpg" alt="Kallos Salamanca City Council" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Council Members Ben Kallos, left, and Rafael Salamanca (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>When new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson reshuffled committee portfolios earlier this month, Council Member Ben Kallos lost his position as chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. Sources say the move was punishment for Kallos’ approach to Board of Elections commissioner nominations and because of his support for one of Johnson’s opponents in the speaker race.</p> <p>By virtually all accounts, Kallos had done an exceptional job chairing the governmental operations committee during last legislative session, from 2014 through 2017. He led the way on a slew of reforms to campaign financing, government transparency and accountability, and was viewed by good government advocates as a valuable partner on the Council. He was praised by many, and snickered at by some, for his independence.</p> <p>But, with the election of Johnson as speaker, committee portfolios would be changed, with significant influence from the Queens and Bronx Democratic county organizations, which gave Johnson the backing he needed to ascend to what is arguably the second-most powerful position in city government behind the mayor.</p> <p>Kallos, who multiple sources say wanted to keep chairing the committee, was among a small number of members left out in the cold. His committee chair position went to another member, Council Member Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx, and Kallos was instead assigned to lead the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions, which falls under the land use committee. He was named as a member of the governmental operations committee, among others.</p> <p>Kallos declined multiple requests to comment for this article.</p> <p>The Committee on Governmental Operations has a broad purview, overseeing several city agencies including the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Campaign Finance Board, the city Board of Elections, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and the Law Department, among others. The committee also has oversight of the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Government reform groups generally praise Kallos’ leadership of the committee. “He raised a lot of good government issues that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day, and he raised them on the merits,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, in a phone interview. “Maybe that miffed people at times but they were important issues to be raised and I don’t think that warrants removal from the chairmanship.”</p> <p>As chair, one of Kallos’ priorities was to reduce patronage hires at city agencies, particularly the Board of Elections, a bipartisan body where positions are filled by the county organizations for both parties. Patronage, Kallos said, invariably leads to conflicts of interests and the appointment of subpar employees. The BOE’s ten commissioners -- one from each party in each borough -- are nominated by the county committees and confirmed by the Council. The commissioners play a crucial role in deciding who gets to be on the ballot in elections and in interpreting state election law.</p> <p>In 2016, Kallos was among those members who rankled the Bronx Democratic County Committee, led by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, by insisting that a nominee for Democratic commissioner from the Bronx be required to give up her registration as a lobbyist in order to be confirmed as an elections commissioner. The nominee, Rosanna Vargas, initially refused but later relented. Vargas is now the president of the Board of Elections.</p> <p>“The Queens and Bronx county committees felt that Council Member Kallos wasn’t a team player with regards to BOE appointments,” said one source with knowledge of internal county party dynamics, when asked about Kallos losing his committee chairmanship, and speaking only on the condition of anonymity.</p> <p>Council Member Cabrera told Gotham Gazette that while he did not push to chair the governmental operations committee, he was “excited” to be offered it. “There were different options that were being put forth, but as soon as it was presented to me, I said that I was very eager to do so,” he said at City Hall recently. Cabrera did not serve on the committee in the last term but was co-sponsor of a few bills under its purview.</p> <p>Cabrera said he would pursue legislation to improve the city’s campaign finance system, which is centered around public matching of low-dollar contributions and is held up as a national model, and would look to expand voter engagement in a city known for low turnout in the last few elections. “I’m a team player,” he said, insisting he will approach legislation and oversight collaboratively with his colleagues, “and so this is not a solo dance that we’re going to be doing here. Working with the administration as well, we want collaboration.”</p> <p>He said he sees “eye-to-eye” with Kallos. Asked if Kallos was punished for opposing the Bronx County’s BOE pick in 2016, Cabrera pleaded ignorance. “To be honest with you, I have no knowledge, I don’t even know what you’re really referring to, honestly,” he said.</p> <p>“I do know he did well,” Cabrera added. “I have to tell you he got, and I spoke to him, he got a very good committee. It’s a committee you can do a whole lot with. Anything related to finance. It’s one that has influence and can bring systemic change.”</p> <p>The subcommittee Kallos now chairs feeds the land use committee now being chaired by Council Member Rafael Salamanca of the Bronx, an appointment by Johnson perhaps most indicative of the rewards provided to the county for its support of his speaker bid.</p> <p>Kallos was a known supporter of Council Member Mark Levine’s bid for the speakership of the Council. Levine was among the frontrunners for the post, but was unsuccessful after the Bronx and Queens County Democrats coalesced around Johnson, who gained the backing of those vote-rich counties in part because he had also secured individual support from about ten other Council members, according to Johnson.</p> <p>“A land use subcommittee is as important or more important than a lot of full committees, honestly,” Levine told Gotham Gazette at City Hall earlier this month. He refused to speculate on why Kallos lost his chair position but said that Kallos was “amazing” as chair of the committee. “I think reshuffling of committees is a standard practice in any new term. Very few people continued in the same committee...the movement is natural.” he said. “I’ll tell you this about Ben Kallos, he’s going to be a leader in this body, no matter what portfolio he’s handed. He’s one of the smartest and most effective legislators I know. So he’s going to be impactful without a doubt in the next four years.”</p> <p>Asked about the decision to give the chair position to Cabrera, Council communications director Robin Levine referred Gotham Gazette to Johnson’s remarks at a January 11 news conference immediately after the new committee chairs were voted on by the full Council. She did not address a question about whether Crespo wanted Kallos removed from the position.</p> <p>At the news conference, in response to a question from Gotham Gazette, Johnson emphasized that the committee appointments were a complicated task. “Every decision that was made...when you moved one piece around, it affected the rest of the matrix,” he said. “So that’s why we spent the whole weekend here. That’s why I met with every individual member. That’s why we were in conversations, of course, with the county leaders.”</p> <p>“The process was a consultative process that, number one, involved the members,” he continued. “Number two, involved of course having conversations with the county leaders, with the mayor -- he wanted to understand who would be chairing certain committees -- with certain labor unions who played a role in this process, with members of Congress, with members of the Assembly, with members of the state Senate. There were over a hundred people who were calling every day for a week wanting to try and ensure that certain people got certain things.”</p> <p>“I was really trying to make everyone as happy as I could, by being as flexible as I could, by being as creative as I could and to try and give different people avenues for leadership and avenues to work on issues that matter to them,” Johnson said.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Crespo did not directly respond to a question on whether he pushed for Kallos’ ouster. “As it has been in the past, City Council committee chairs frequently change at the start of new legislative terms,” Crespo said. “Our focus is to always advocate for our members in the Bronx delegation of the City Council and in doing so, providing the city and our constituents sound and steady leadership. The primary focus should be on the fact that an important committee now continues to have strong leadership with Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera as chair.”</p> <p>One Council member, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely about the committee appointments, said Kallos was a victim of a combination of factors. “I think it was an accumulation of the running into the counties on BOE, running up against Corey in the speaker’s race, and he’s also got some very complicated land use stuff in his district as well. Probably didn’t help this matter either, he’s seen as very anti-development,” the Council member said.</p> <p>But, the Council member added, “He could have fared worse.” Indeed, some other Council members who opposed Johnson’s bid or supported his opponents appeared to come away with less. Among those were Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, neither of whom was given a committee chair position after having led the rules committee and the housing and buildings committee, respectively, in the last term. Lander did retain his position as Deputy Leader for Policy.</p> <p>“Is everyone 100 percent happy? No. Are some people happier than others? Yes,” Johnson said at the January 11 hearing where the new committee chairs were confirmed. “I did my best...There was no level of vindictiveness towards any member of this body from me, there was no level of vindictiveness, there was no score-settling, there was no keeping track of what happened during the Speaker’s race.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39017821735_d3657cee54_z.jpg" alt="Kallos Salamanca City Council" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Council Members Ben Kallos, left, and Rafael Salamanca (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>When new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson reshuffled committee portfolios earlier this month, Council Member Ben Kallos lost his position as chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. Sources say the move was punishment for Kallos’ approach to Board of Elections commissioner nominations and because of his support for one of Johnson’s opponents in the speaker race.</p> <p>By virtually all accounts, Kallos had done an exceptional job chairing the governmental operations committee during last legislative session, from 2014 through 2017. He led the way on a slew of reforms to campaign financing, government transparency and accountability, and was viewed by good government advocates as a valuable partner on the Council. He was praised by many, and snickered at by some, for his independence.</p> <p>But, with the election of Johnson as speaker, committee portfolios would be changed, with significant influence from the Queens and Bronx Democratic county organizations, which gave Johnson the backing he needed to ascend to what is arguably the second-most powerful position in city government behind the mayor.</p> <p>Kallos, who multiple sources say wanted to keep chairing the committee, was among a small number of members left out in the cold. His committee chair position went to another member, Council Member Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx, and Kallos was instead assigned to lead the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions, which falls under the land use committee. He was named as a member of the governmental operations committee, among others.</p> <p>Kallos declined multiple requests to comment for this article.</p> <p>The Committee on Governmental Operations has a broad purview, overseeing several city agencies including the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Campaign Finance Board, the city Board of Elections, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and the Law Department, among others. The committee also has oversight of the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Government reform groups generally praise Kallos’ leadership of the committee. “He raised a lot of good government issues that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day, and he raised them on the merits,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, in a phone interview. “Maybe that miffed people at times but they were important issues to be raised and I don’t think that warrants removal from the chairmanship.”</p> <p>As chair, one of Kallos’ priorities was to reduce patronage hires at city agencies, particularly the Board of Elections, a bipartisan body where positions are filled by the county organizations for both parties. Patronage, Kallos said, invariably leads to conflicts of interests and the appointment of subpar employees. The BOE’s ten commissioners -- one from each party in each borough -- are nominated by the county committees and confirmed by the Council. The commissioners play a crucial role in deciding who gets to be on the ballot in elections and in interpreting state election law.</p> <p>In 2016, Kallos was among those members who rankled the Bronx Democratic County Committee, led by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, by insisting that a nominee for Democratic commissioner from the Bronx be required to give up her registration as a lobbyist in order to be confirmed as an elections commissioner. The nominee, Rosanna Vargas, initially refused but later relented. Vargas is now the president of the Board of Elections.</p> <p>“The Queens and Bronx county committees felt that Council Member Kallos wasn’t a team player with regards to BOE appointments,” said one source with knowledge of internal county party dynamics, when asked about Kallos losing his committee chairmanship, and speaking only on the condition of anonymity.</p> <p>Council Member Cabrera told Gotham Gazette that while he did not push to chair the governmental operations committee, he was “excited” to be offered it. “There were different options that were being put forth, but as soon as it was presented to me, I said that I was very eager to do so,” he said at City Hall recently. Cabrera did not serve on the committee in the last term but was co-sponsor of a few bills under its purview.</p> <p>Cabrera said he would pursue legislation to improve the city’s campaign finance system, which is centered around public matching of low-dollar contributions and is held up as a national model, and would look to expand voter engagement in a city known for low turnout in the last few elections. “I’m a team player,” he said, insisting he will approach legislation and oversight collaboratively with his colleagues, “and so this is not a solo dance that we’re going to be doing here. Working with the administration as well, we want collaboration.”</p> <p>He said he sees “eye-to-eye” with Kallos. Asked if Kallos was punished for opposing the Bronx County’s BOE pick in 2016, Cabrera pleaded ignorance. “To be honest with you, I have no knowledge, I don’t even know what you’re really referring to, honestly,” he said.</p> <p>“I do know he did well,” Cabrera added. “I have to tell you he got, and I spoke to him, he got a very good committee. It’s a committee you can do a whole lot with. Anything related to finance. It’s one that has influence and can bring systemic change.”</p> <p>The subcommittee Kallos now chairs feeds the land use committee now being chaired by Council Member Rafael Salamanca of the Bronx, an appointment by Johnson perhaps most indicative of the rewards provided to the county for its support of his speaker bid.</p> <p>Kallos was a known supporter of Council Member Mark Levine’s bid for the speakership of the Council. Levine was among the frontrunners for the post, but was unsuccessful after the Bronx and Queens County Democrats coalesced around Johnson, who gained the backing of those vote-rich counties in part because he had also secured individual support from about ten other Council members, according to Johnson.</p> <p>“A land use subcommittee is as important or more important than a lot of full committees, honestly,” Levine told Gotham Gazette at City Hall earlier this month. He refused to speculate on why Kallos lost his chair position but said that Kallos was “amazing” as chair of the committee. “I think reshuffling of committees is a standard practice in any new term. Very few people continued in the same committee...the movement is natural.” he said. “I’ll tell you this about Ben Kallos, he’s going to be a leader in this body, no matter what portfolio he’s handed. He’s one of the smartest and most effective legislators I know. So he’s going to be impactful without a doubt in the next four years.”</p> <p>Asked about the decision to give the chair position to Cabrera, Council communications director Robin Levine referred Gotham Gazette to Johnson’s remarks at a January 11 news conference immediately after the new committee chairs were voted on by the full Council. She did not address a question about whether Crespo wanted Kallos removed from the position.</p> <p>At the news conference, in response to a question from Gotham Gazette, Johnson emphasized that the committee appointments were a complicated task. “Every decision that was made...when you moved one piece around, it affected the rest of the matrix,” he said. “So that’s why we spent the whole weekend here. That’s why I met with every individual member. That’s why we were in conversations, of course, with the county leaders.”</p> <p>“The process was a consultative process that, number one, involved the members,” he continued. “Number two, involved of course having conversations with the county leaders, with the mayor -- he wanted to understand who would be chairing certain committees -- with certain labor unions who played a role in this process, with members of Congress, with members of the Assembly, with members of the state Senate. There were over a hundred people who were calling every day for a week wanting to try and ensure that certain people got certain things.”</p> <p>“I was really trying to make everyone as happy as I could, by being as flexible as I could, by being as creative as I could and to try and give different people avenues for leadership and avenues to work on issues that matter to them,” Johnson said.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Crespo did not directly respond to a question on whether he pushed for Kallos’ ouster. “As it has been in the past, City Council committee chairs frequently change at the start of new legislative terms,” Crespo said. “Our focus is to always advocate for our members in the Bronx delegation of the City Council and in doing so, providing the city and our constituents sound and steady leadership. The primary focus should be on the fact that an important committee now continues to have strong leadership with Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera as chair.”</p> <p>One Council member, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely about the committee appointments, said Kallos was a victim of a combination of factors. “I think it was an accumulation of the running into the counties on BOE, running up against Corey in the speaker’s race, and he’s also got some very complicated land use stuff in his district as well. Probably didn’t help this matter either, he’s seen as very anti-development,” the Council member said.</p> <p>But, the Council member added, “He could have fared worse.” Indeed, some other Council members who opposed Johnson’s bid or supported his opponents appeared to come away with less. Among those were Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, neither of whom was given a committee chair position after having led the rules committee and the housing and buildings committee, respectively, in the last term. Lander did retain his position as Deputy Leader for Policy.</p> <p>“Is everyone 100 percent happy? No. Are some people happier than others? Yes,” Johnson said at the January 11 hearing where the new committee chairs were confirmed. “I did my best...There was no level of vindictiveness towards any member of this body from me, there was no level of vindictiveness, there was no score-settling, there was no keeping track of what happened during the Speaker’s race.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Johnson Hands Over Council Health Portfolio, Including Hospital Crisis, to New Committee Chairs 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7441:johnson-hands-over-council-health-portfolio-including-hospital-crisis-to-new-committee-chairs Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson_health_care_rally.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson health hospitals " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Corey Johnson at a rally (photo: City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Before being elected Speaker of the City Council, Council Member Corey Johnson led the Committee on Health for four years. Drawing from his own personal experience as an openly gay, HIV-positive man who has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and tobacco use, he pushed a raft of legislation to improve healthcare services and outcomes for many of New York’s most underserved populations. In his early days as Speaker, Johnson has indicated that health and healthcare issues will continue to be one of his main priorities over the next four years.</p> <p>At the same time, though, as he takes on his larger role Johnson has in some ways passed the torch to other Council members who will lead relevant committees related to health and oversee the city’s public hospital system, which is in the midst of a financial crisis that Johnson has been tasked with helping to monitor over the past four years and will now, as speaker, have even greater responsibility for as he negotiates the city budget with Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>Among the first steps that Johnson took upon assuming his new leadership position was to create a new committee, chaired by Council Member Carlina Rivera, dedicated to hospitals, especially New York City Health + Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system that has long suffered from budgetary difficulties and struggled to remain afloat even as the de Blasio administration has sought to overhaul its finances. Johnson’s move was a clear recognition of the H+H crisis, one that Council members, the mayoral administration, and healthcare advocates agree must be addressed amid threats of federal funding cuts to the city.</p> <p>The move to make the new committee also comes in conjunction with the beefing up of the Council’s oversight committee, now led by Council Member Ritchie Torres, and a repositioning of the health committee, under new chair Council Member Mark Levine. Levine, taking over the health committee from Johnson, will be able to focus his efforts closely on oversight of the city’s health services and to advance legislation expanding equitable access to healthcare for New Yorkers. There is some discussion among the parties of a city-run single-payer health care system, but it is unclear how far down this road Johnson, Levine, and others may go.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2018/01/02/corey-johnson-ny1-exclusive-interview-courtney-gross-says-he-will-be-independent" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NY1 interview</a>, shortly before his election as speaker, Johnson indicated his continued interest in pursuing it. “My goal is for this city to be a laboratory for potential ideas that we could achieve,” he said, citing San Francisco’s implementation of a municipal single-payer system as a potential model albeit for a population a tenth of the size of New York City. “This would be a legacy item, it would be a big seismic thing to do,” he added, “but it’s gonna take a lot of work, it’s gonna take cooperation from the governor and from the state insurance superintendent and other folks that are gonna have a say in this. But it’s something that I want us to look at.”</p> <p>Over the four-year course of the last Council session, Johnson’s committee held 62 hearings, passing 34 bills that became law. Johnson was the prime sponsor on 11 of those bills, which included new regulations on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, mandated air quality surveys by the city, new animal safety protections, required reporting on health services in city jails, and allowing individuals to change their gender designation on their birth certificates.</p> <p>The committee also conducted broad oversight of the city’s hospital system, healthcare services provided by city agencies, and the city’s efforts to enroll people under the Affordable Care Act. Naturally, Johnson raised many of the same issues during separate Council hearings to examine de Blasio’s budget proposals over the years. His advocacy also extended beyond the Council’s work: he was arrested in Washington D.C. in July of last year while protesting the Republican-led Congress’ (so-far unsuccessful) efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p>“He believes really strongly in universal health access and he talks a lot about the importance of single-payer,” said Claudia Calhoon, director of health policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, discussing Johnson’s record as health committee chair. Johnson’s support of implementing a single-payer healthcare system in the city could only be achieved through collaboration with the state, as Calhoon noted. “It’s really great to have leadership talking about that when you’re trying to advocate for closing gaps and trying to engage the city in doing the work to close the gaps as they are able,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>In particular, Calhoon praised Johnson’s efforts to create the Access Health NYC initiative, which, starting in 2016, provided funding to community-based organizations for health education and outreach efforts, particularly for underserved communities. “I think he has a very good vision for equity which flows into a lot of different areas,” Calhoon said.</p> <p>Johnson has spoken openly about coming of age in the 1990s and watching how treatment of the AIDS-HIV epidemic was handled, and about discovering his HIV-positive status and the need for medication and good health care. He represents a district largely made up of Chelsea and the West Village that was and continues to be home to much of LGBT activism, including around equitable health care.</p> <p>Elizabeth Adams, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood of New York City, praised Johnson’s work in holding city agencies accountable for sexual and reproductive health services, particularly abortion access for young New Yorkers, and to expand health care to immigrants. “During a time of increased federal attacks on abortion and rollbacks of funding for healthcare, it’s really really critical that New York City is examining its own care options and leads the nation in accessible and affordable health care, including abortion,” Adams said in a phone interview.</p> <p>Taking over the health committee, Council Member Levine has expressed support for issues that Johnson has championed, but he has yet to lay out an agenda of his own. “We are still in the midst of reviewing all the policy issues before the committee, still in the midst of forming our legislative priorities,” he told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week, not long after being named to chair the committee.</p> <p>“[Speaker Johnson] did a lot,” as chair of the committee, Levine said. “We look to build on that.” Among broader items, Levine has said he will pursue a single-payer municipal health system, tackle the city’s opioid epidemic, address racial inequities in health outcomes, assess bioterrorism threats, and promote animal protections. “I think all of us need to step up on Health + Hospitals,” said Levine. “It is a crisis and it ultimately could affect every hospital in the city and effect the health of New Yorkers in profound ways and it’s gotta be a higher priority for all of us in this term.”</p> <p>As Levine noted, perhaps the most significant area of oversight for the health committee has now largely fallen to the newly created Committee on Hospitals, under Council Member Rivera. “Health + Hospitals, it can’t be overstated how important it is to the fabric of the city,” said NYIC’s Calhoon. The system -- comprised of 11 hospitals, six neighborhood health centers, five nursing facilities and more than 60 community and school-based health centers -- mostly treats patients on Medicaid or who are uninsured, including many undocumented immigrants.</p> <p>In fiscal year 2017, the system treated more than 1.1 million patients according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/mmr2017/hhc.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mayor’s Management Report</a>, of which nearly 415,000 were uninsured. But the system faces a projected budget gap of $1.8 billion by 2020. In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the de Blasio administration expects to spend $897 million on the system, of which $784 million will come from the city’s coffers and the rest from state and federal funds. Those costs are only expected to grow over the next few yearsn. Johnson, Levine, Rivera, and other Council members, including new finance chair Danny Dromm, will now lead budget negotiations with the administration.</p> <p>While the de Blasio administration has put in place a plan to reinvigorate the municipal hospital system, any progress that has been made is threatened by federal funding cuts. The city, and state, have long braced for reductions in Disproportionate Share Hospital payments from the federal government, which help reimburse hospitals for providing healthcare to low-income and uninsured patients. The DSH cuts went into effect in October last year, further exacerbating a trend of decreasing investment from the federal government that city officials have repeatedly cited.</p> <p>First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, at a forum hosted by Citizens Budget Commission on Wednesday, said those cuts amounted to about $300 million in lost funding, placing “an additional and unnecessary strain on our hospitals.” And he warned of the larger implications of the federal budget. “[E]very major proposal that’s come out of either the [House of Representative] or the president has had dramatically huge cuts to New York City,” he said. “We’re going to have to balance all of this and be very careful how we proceed.”</p> <p>At the same time, Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly promised that the city will not shut down any municipal hospitals. “The hospital facilities are going to stay open. We’re also going to constantly look at how to use them better because the previous uses in many cases weren’t working and a lot of them were outmoded,” he said at an unrelated <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/758-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-move-convert-cluster-buildings-permanent-affordable" target="_blank" rel="noopener">December 12</a> news conference. In that vein, the new president of Health &amp; Hospitals, Dr. Mitchell Katz, who took over earlier this month, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/07/nyregion/mitchell-katz-nyc-health-hospitals.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has said</a> he will focus the hospital system more closely on primary care while implementing certain cost-saving and efficiency measures.</p> <p>Rivera recognizes the responsibility handed to her. “This is probably the most important public system in the city,” she told Gotham Gazette at City Hall last week. Looking back at Johnson’s leadership of the health committee, she said, “I think he was doing as much as he could in trying to cover as many health topics and issues as there are. He passed some great legislation, he worked on policy, and he took some of those issues very personally, which I appreciate in terms of his openness.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Rivera agreed that the creation of her committee “does lend an urgency to the issue,” a point echoed by advocates.</p> <p>In a statement on Tuesday, Rivera noted the numerous challenges that H+H faces, including “closing Health + Hospitals’ growing budget deficit and updating hospital facilities for modern usage, to increasing access and support to community-based clinics."</p> <p>“We as advocates are really trying to change the narrative around the value of Health + Hospitals,” said Calhoon, “and think about it less in terms of a crisis and think about it more in terms of ‘how do we keep this tremendous resource we have and make it stronger?’” Although she did not fault anyone in particular, she said “it certainly would’ve been better to have that conversation happen early.”</p> <p>Planned Parenthood’s Adams acknowledged that though Johnson had worked to ensure adequate oversight and accountability at public hospital facilities, that much remained to be done. “It’s really exciting to see this committee be formed and really dig into how to strengthen and support healthcare options and availability of health options to all New Yorkers, regardless of income or immigration status,” she said.</p> <p>Beyond Health and Hospitals, however, Adams and Calhoon noted a number of policy areas where they hoped to see renewed energy from the Council. Both said the city needs to expand support for community health organizations through Access Health NYC.</p> <p>Adams said the city needs to prioritize abortion access at H+H, expand free-of-cost contraceptive coverage, and improve sexual health education in city schools along with ensuring that school-based health centers have the resources to provide comprehensive care to students. “Given all the public attention to sexual assault and sexual harassment, and bullying of LGBT students, we’re in a moment where we need to really be examining our health education program and putting in place comprehensive K-12 sexuality education,” Adams said.</p> <p>Calhoon stressed that all stakeholders need to work to provide better care to uninsured New Yorkers, particularly ensuring quality behavioral and mental health services for immigrants. “That is something that I think there is going to be a really important role for both the Council and the administration, and I do think all entities -- advocates, the Council, the administration -- are gonna have to work together and collaborate to figure out what’s going to happen,” she said, “because we’re obviously in a moment of crisis in terms of the impact that changes at the federal level, the impact its having on immigrant communities.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

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by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated to better clarify Diana Ayala's comments on safe injection sites.</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role 2018-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7426:max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-ritchie-torres-on-the-new-council-his-new-role Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 17, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/ritchie-torres-277px.jpg" alt="ritchie torres 277px" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Bronx City Council Member Ritchie Torres is very excited about the new class of the City Council and his role in it -- he's been named by new Speaker Corey Johnson to chair the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, with a promise to beef the committee's staff so that it can be a powerful force in holding city government accountable.</p> <p>Torres joined the podcast to discuss that role and how he will approach it, as well as other Council and political dynamics, including his own bid for the speakership that came up short, his decision to leave the Progressive Caucus, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>, with guest <a href="https://twitter.com/RitchieTorres" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RitchieTorres</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/385080701&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>January 17, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Ritchie Torres<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/ritchie-torres-277px.jpg" alt="ritchie torres 277px" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Bronx City Council Member Ritchie Torres is very excited about the new class of the City Council and his role in it -- he's been named by new Speaker Corey Johnson to chair the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, with a promise to beef the committee's staff so that it can be a powerful force in holding city government accountable.</p> <p>Torres joined the podcast to discuss that role and how he will approach it, as well as other Council and political dynamics, including his own bid for the speakership that came up short, his decision to leave the Progressive Caucus, and more.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>, with guest <a href="https://twitter.com/RitchieTorres" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RitchieTorres</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/385080701&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Candidates File Final Campaign Finance Reports of 2017 Election Cycle 2018-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-17T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7429:candidates-file-final-campaign-finance-reports-of-2017-election-cycle Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/27660778559_4de5300545_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio inauguration" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at inauguration (photo: NYC Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The recent citywide municipal election saw more than $53 million in spending, with nearly $42 million in private funds raised by candidates and more than $17 million in public matching funds disbursed by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Candidates just filed their <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/WebForm_Finance_Summary.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">final campaign disclosures</a> with the Board, which were due Tuesday, showing the last weeks of activity as the election cycle came to a close, and totals for the full campaign cycle.</p> <p>The final filing period covered December 1, 2017 to January 11, 2018, therefore largely including the last spending outlays by campaigns, especially in contested general election races, and including those who ran for City Council speaker.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who was handily reelected for a second and final term, spent a total $10.2 million on his campaign, raising $6.5 million in private funds. He received about $3.5 million from the CFB’s matching funds program, which provides a 6-to-1 match for small dollar donations up to $175 from city residents. As of Tuesday, de Blasio had spent $210,267 more than he had brought in, strangely leaving him a negative balance.</p> <p>As with most candidates, de Blasio’s major post-election expenditures went to payroll and campaign consultants that deal with issues such as compliance with election law. In the last disclosure period, Dec. 1-Jan. 11, de Blasio spent about $211,000, with $82,500 in payments to a campaign consultancy -- Kantor, Davidoff, Mandelker -- and much of the rest to campaign workers.</p> <p>De Blasio finished the cycle having brought in donations from 11,772 different donors, with an average donation of $556, according to CFB records. He raised about $4 million from within the five boroughs and more than $2.5 million from outside New York City.</p> <p>De Blasio’s Republican opponent, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, had a much smaller war chest, raising $1.2 million and getting about $2.5 million in public funds. She spent nearly all of it, about $3.7 million, leaving her $47,689 in the end. She spent $53,613 in the latest disclosure period.</p> <p>In a city with nearly seven Democrats for each Republican, the citywide Democratic incumbents stood at a great advantage. Like de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James vastly outraised and outspent their opponents and were comfortably reelected.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer raised $2.3 million for his reelection, spending about $880,000 of it on his race. Although the comptroller was a participant in the matching funds program, his GOP opponent Michel Faulkner posed little competition and Stringer declined a potential public funds payment of nearly $600,000. After the election, Stringer transferred $1.3 million to another campaign account, Stringer For New York. He has $131,200 in cash on hand, money he is widely expected to use toward a mayoral run for 2021.</p> <p>Faulkner, a Harlem pastor and former professional football player, raised $281,706 in sum, much of which was his own money on loan. He ended up spending $405,963, leaving him $124,257 in the red. He participated in the matching funds program but did not qualify for any payments.</p> <p>Unlike Stringer, Public Advocate James decided to take public funds, controversially claiming that she faced a competitive opponent. James got $756,486 from the CFB and raised $947,530. After spending more than $1.6 million, including about $10,000 in the last period, she was left with a balance of $30,517. She is also widely expected to run for mayor next cycle.</p> <p>James’ opponent, Republican J.C. Polanco, raised just $26,456 and spent $27,076.</p> <p>Although the citywide positions saw a continuity of leadership, at the New York City Council, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito faced term limits and could not run for reelection. Her eventual successor was fellow Democrat Council Member Corey Johnson, a prolific fundraiser and retail campaigner who was reelected for a second and final term to Council District 3 in Manhattan. Johnson raised $507,416 and spent $415,993. He spent about $44,000 in the last disclosure period, leaving $91,423 in his campaign coffers. Johnson spent a good deal of money <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7356-inside-the-fundraising-of-the-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">donating to his Council colleagues</a> in order to both help them win their elections and curry favor ahead of the January 3 speaker vote that he won.</p> <p>Johnson had a nominal, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170911/chelsea/city-council-general-election-marni-halasa" target="_blank" rel="noopener">albeit colorful</a>, opponent in Marni Halasa, a former legal journalist who runs a <a href="https://www.revolutionissexy.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">protest consulting group</a>. Halasa only raised $13,625, most of it from personal loans to her campaign, and spent all but $61.</p> <p>The five borough presidents mostly faced little competition, each of them being reelected with at least 75 percent of the vote.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams raised $659,932 for his race and spent $350,656. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. brought in more than $1.3 million and dropped $927,404 on his race. Both are considered likely 2021 mayoral candidates.</p> <p>Manhattan BP Gale Brewer ran practically unopposed and spent $201,118, after raising $115,562 and receiving a $209,334 public funds payment. Queens BP Melinda Katz raised &nbsp;$980,312 and got another $567,464 in public funds, despite facing a weak underfunded opponent. She spent $1.4 million on her reelection bid, leaving her $145,263 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Staten Island BP James Oddo, the only Republican of the five, raised $138,891 and received $215,737 from the CFB. He had $154,336 left after spending $200,293.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/27660778559_4de5300545_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio inauguration" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at inauguration (photo: NYC Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The recent citywide municipal election saw more than $53 million in spending, with nearly $42 million in private funds raised by candidates and more than $17 million in public matching funds disbursed by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Candidates just filed their <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/VSApps/WebForm_Finance_Summary.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">final campaign disclosures</a> with the Board, which were due Tuesday, showing the last weeks of activity as the election cycle came to a close, and totals for the full campaign cycle.</p> <p>The final filing period covered December 1, 2017 to January 11, 2018, therefore largely including the last spending outlays by campaigns, especially in contested general election races, and including those who ran for City Council speaker.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who was handily reelected for a second and final term, spent a total $10.2 million on his campaign, raising $6.5 million in private funds. He received about $3.5 million from the CFB’s matching funds program, which provides a 6-to-1 match for small dollar donations up to $175 from city residents. As of Tuesday, de Blasio had spent $210,267 more than he had brought in, strangely leaving him a negative balance.</p> <p>As with most candidates, de Blasio’s major post-election expenditures went to payroll and campaign consultants that deal with issues such as compliance with election law. In the last disclosure period, Dec. 1-Jan. 11, de Blasio spent about $211,000, with $82,500 in payments to a campaign consultancy -- Kantor, Davidoff, Mandelker -- and much of the rest to campaign workers.</p> <p>De Blasio finished the cycle having brought in donations from 11,772 different donors, with an average donation of $556, according to CFB records. He raised about $4 million from within the five boroughs and more than $2.5 million from outside New York City.</p> <p>De Blasio’s Republican opponent, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, had a much smaller war chest, raising $1.2 million and getting about $2.5 million in public funds. She spent nearly all of it, about $3.7 million, leaving her $47,689 in the end. She spent $53,613 in the latest disclosure period.</p> <p>In a city with nearly seven Democrats for each Republican, the citywide Democratic incumbents stood at a great advantage. Like de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James vastly outraised and outspent their opponents and were comfortably reelected.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer raised $2.3 million for his reelection, spending about $880,000 of it on his race. Although the comptroller was a participant in the matching funds program, his GOP opponent Michel Faulkner posed little competition and Stringer declined a potential public funds payment of nearly $600,000. After the election, Stringer transferred $1.3 million to another campaign account, Stringer For New York. He has $131,200 in cash on hand, money he is widely expected to use toward a mayoral run for 2021.</p> <p>Faulkner, a Harlem pastor and former professional football player, raised $281,706 in sum, much of which was his own money on loan. He ended up spending $405,963, leaving him $124,257 in the red. He participated in the matching funds program but did not qualify for any payments.</p> <p>Unlike Stringer, Public Advocate James decided to take public funds, controversially claiming that she faced a competitive opponent. James got $756,486 from the CFB and raised $947,530. After spending more than $1.6 million, including about $10,000 in the last period, she was left with a balance of $30,517. She is also widely expected to run for mayor next cycle.</p> <p>James’ opponent, Republican J.C. Polanco, raised just $26,456 and spent $27,076.</p> <p>Although the citywide positions saw a continuity of leadership, at the New York City Council, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito faced term limits and could not run for reelection. Her eventual successor was fellow Democrat Council Member Corey Johnson, a prolific fundraiser and retail campaigner who was reelected for a second and final term to Council District 3 in Manhattan. Johnson raised $507,416 and spent $415,993. He spent about $44,000 in the last disclosure period, leaving $91,423 in his campaign coffers. Johnson spent a good deal of money <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7356-inside-the-fundraising-of-the-city-council-speaker-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">donating to his Council colleagues</a> in order to both help them win their elections and curry favor ahead of the January 3 speaker vote that he won.</p> <p>Johnson had a nominal, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170911/chelsea/city-council-general-election-marni-halasa" target="_blank" rel="noopener">albeit colorful</a>, opponent in Marni Halasa, a former legal journalist who runs a <a href="https://www.revolutionissexy.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">protest consulting group</a>. Halasa only raised $13,625, most of it from personal loans to her campaign, and spent all but $61.</p> <p>The five borough presidents mostly faced little competition, each of them being reelected with at least 75 percent of the vote.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams raised $659,932 for his race and spent $350,656. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. brought in more than $1.3 million and dropped $927,404 on his race. Both are considered likely 2021 mayoral candidates.</p> <p>Manhattan BP Gale Brewer ran practically unopposed and spent $201,118, after raising $115,562 and receiving a $209,334 public funds payment. Queens BP Melinda Katz raised &nbsp;$980,312 and got another $567,464 in public funds, despite facing a weak underfunded opponent. She spent $1.4 million on her reelection bid, leaving her $145,263 in cash on hand.</p> <p>Staten Island BP James Oddo, the only Republican of the five, raised $138,891 and received $215,737 from the CFB. He had $154,336 left after spending $200,293.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
New City Council Committee Chairs Have Plenty on Their Plates 2018-01-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7419:new-city-council-committee-chairs-have-plenty-on-their-plates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25610093938_e706039a14_z.jpg" alt="City Council Speaker Corey Johnson members" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>Members of th new City Council with Speaker Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new class of the New York City Council took greater shape on Thursday <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with the appointment of chairs and members to the 40-plus committees and subcommittees</a> that oversee the broad legislative, land use, and oversight roles of the 51-member body. Most returning Council members were reassigned to lead different committees while some remained in the positions they’ve served the past four years. New Speaker Corey Johnson also chose to create a few new committees to boost staff levels in certain areas and to better address specific issues that were subsumed under broader committee purviews. </p> <p>In their new roles, many of the committee chairs will have to navigate a slate of issues, which in many cases will likely lead them into direct confrontation with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. This holds particularly true for the powerful land use and finance committees, both of which have new Council members at the helm. Speaker Johnson has also pledged broader independence from the mayor than his predecessor, indicating that members will be allowed, and even encouraged, to take the administration to task. He has pledged an enhanced oversight and investigations committee to lead the way in that regard.</p> <p>Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. of the Bronx was appointed chair of the land use committee, which is tasked with overseeing and reviewing land use applications, zoning amendment,s and landmark preservation in the city. Since the committee has the final say on any development projects that require city government approval, it plays a prominent role in determining the success of the mayor’s affordable housing program, in particular thus far by approving comprehensive, and controversial, neighborhood rezonings in communities such as East New York and East Harlem.</p> <p>The city is exploring similar rezonings -- to create more affordable housing while also injecting economic energy and other benefits into neighborhoods -- in the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and Flushing, Queens, among other communities. “Our city is at a crossroads, including my community in the South Bronx,” Salamanca said in a statement Thursday. The City Council, he said, “should be on the front lines on shaping the planning, development and all other land use actions in a way that listens to and addresses the concerns of all New Yorkers.” Freshman Council Member Francisco Moya is heading up the subcommittee on zoning and franchises which falls under Salamanca’s purview. </p> <p>The finance committee, led by its new chair Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens, also has a tough task ahead as it heads into budget season. Dromm will lead the Council’s negotiations with the administration over the $86 billion-plus city budget. The mayor is expected to release his fiscal year 2019 preliminary budget proposal later this month and the administration has been bracing for cuts in federal funding, threatened by the Trump administration, and a widely expected economic slowdown after years of continuous growth.</p> <p>Last year, the Council advocated for increased savings and reduced agency inefficiencies even as they called for new funding for Council priorities. “I intend to use this position to move a progressive budget forward working closely with Speaker Corey Johnson who I thank for giving me this opportunity to serve,” Dromm said in a statement. </p> <p>The Council’s budget hearings will no doubt also touch on the city’s $96 billion capital budget. Numerous Council members called last year for increased transparency in how capital projects are funded and managed, insisting that the city needs to reduce financial waste and cut down on project delays.<br />Johnson has now gone so far as to create an entirely new subcommittee to oversee the capital budget, chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “Many members, including myself, have been frustrated by the capital process itself,” Gibson told Gotham Gazette outside the Council chambers on Thursday. She said the new committee will allow expanded oversight of capital spending, particularly by individual city agencies. “At the end of the day, we just wanna say to the public, to New Yorkers and to all of my colleagues that we are spending your money wisely,” she said. </p> <p>The transportation committee continues to be led by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been a vocal supporter of the Move New York congestion pricing plan, which would impose tolls on the East River bridges to raise funds for mass transit infrastructure and reduced fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, while also lowering tolls on other bridges.</p> <p>De Blasio has opposed both congestion pricing and the “Fair Fares” campaign, insisting that fair fares should be funded by the state and that congestion pricing is a “regressive tax” that hurts outer borough commuters. He has instead proposed a so-called millionaires tax, which Rodriguez also supports, that would accomplish both goals - subsidized MetroCards and new transit revenue. However, like congestion pricing, the tax would have to be approved by the state Legislature where it has already been rejected by Governor Cuomo and the state Senate, portending perhaps that the fair fares fight will be fought locally yet again. Cuomo appears on the verge of pursuing some version of congestion pricing.</p> <p>In keeping with Johnson’s promise to stand up to the de Blasio administration, the Council now has an expanded Oversight and Investigations committee, led by Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. The committee is expected to have a full-time investigation staff made up of professional investigators, former prosecutors, and journalists. In an interview with the New York Times, Torres indicated a number of different issue areas he would approach for added oversight. “The abuse of placards. The use of eminent domain. The disposition of public land. Deed restriction. The disbursement of city subsidies. All of it is on the table,” he said.</p> <p>On Thursday, Torres told Gotham Gazette that the New York City Housing Authority’s lead contamination issue, which has been a black eye for the de Blasio administration, was a “continuing concern” for him. “I have not set the investigative priorities of the committee just yet, but given my former position as chairman of the public housing committee, given my interest in the subject, NYCHA is going to be figuring prominently in my oversight priorities,” he said. </p> <p>Torres’ role will crossover with the work of other committees, such as the Committee on Public Housing, which he led last term and will this term be led by Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The public housing authority needs $25 billion for infrastructure improvements, with few forthcoming state and federal funds this year. The authority’s numerous public failures continue to haunt the administration and invite criticism from the Council and community activists. And although the city has put a NYCHA overhaul plan into motion and seen some successes and promising developments, problems are not likely to abate any time soon.</p> <p>“As chair, I will ensure that critical issues are addressed, from heat, to lead, to security issues,” Ampry-Samuel said in a statement. “I look forward to visiting every housing development in the city and the opportunity to hear from the residents and the resident leaders.” </p> <p>Johnson also chose to expand the role the Council plays in scrutinizing the city’s criminal justice system. Council Member Rory Lancman of Queens was chosen to lead the newly formed Committee on the Justice System, which has oversight of city courts, district attorneys, legal service providers and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers will be heading the Committee on Criminal Justice, which has oversight of the Department of Correction and Department of Probation. Both committees will play a prominent part in the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which is contingent on reducing the city’s jail population to less than 5,000 -- it is currently just under 9,000 detainees -- while also creating borough-based jail facilities. Lancman told Gotham Gazette he expects to “aggressively oversee and try to reform” the city’s justice system. “You’ll see a very robust agenda coming out of my committee,” he said. </p> <p>Lancman and Powers’ committees were carved out of the earlier Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services and the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, which Lancman led last term. Powers, who is new to the Council like Ampry-Samuel and others, said that move “recognizes that Rikers Island and the corrections system is really its own issue that needs to be tackled in the next coming years.” </p> <p>“There are a lot of thorny issues,” Powers said of the closure of Rikers, “and I think a big part of it is really making sure that we put on the right timeline and that we make sure we manage all the different constituencies that are involved here.”</p> <p>New York City Health + Hospitals, the cash-strapped municipal hospital system, continues to be a big area of concern for the Council and in particular Johnson, who led the health committee for the last four years. Johnson created a separate Committee on Hospitals to oversee the system, appointing new Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera as chair.</p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine, chosen to be the new health committee chair, noted a number of issues he will address, including the opioid crisis, racial disparities in health outcomes, animal rights and the threat of bioterrorism. He has promised to push for a single payer healthcare system in the city -- a priority for the speaker -- and told Gotham Gazette he expects “there will be times when the Council and the administration are on different sides of an issue,” and that its incumbent on members to advocate for the Council’s priorities. “That’s the job of a good committee chair,” he said. </p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">See the full list of new Council leadership, committee chairs, and committee members.</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25610093938_e706039a14_z.jpg" alt="City Council Speaker Corey Johnson members" width="600" height="351" /></p> <p>Members of th new City Council with Speaker Johnson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new class of the New York City Council took greater shape on Thursday <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with the appointment of chairs and members to the 40-plus committees and subcommittees</a> that oversee the broad legislative, land use, and oversight roles of the 51-member body. Most returning Council members were reassigned to lead different committees while some remained in the positions they’ve served the past four years. New Speaker Corey Johnson also chose to create a few new committees to boost staff levels in certain areas and to better address specific issues that were subsumed under broader committee purviews. </p> <p>In their new roles, many of the committee chairs will have to navigate a slate of issues, which in many cases will likely lead them into direct confrontation with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. This holds particularly true for the powerful land use and finance committees, both of which have new Council members at the helm. Speaker Johnson has also pledged broader independence from the mayor than his predecessor, indicating that members will be allowed, and even encouraged, to take the administration to task. He has pledged an enhanced oversight and investigations committee to lead the way in that regard.</p> <p>Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. of the Bronx was appointed chair of the land use committee, which is tasked with overseeing and reviewing land use applications, zoning amendment,s and landmark preservation in the city. Since the committee has the final say on any development projects that require city government approval, it plays a prominent role in determining the success of the mayor’s affordable housing program, in particular thus far by approving comprehensive, and controversial, neighborhood rezonings in communities such as East New York and East Harlem.</p> <p>The city is exploring similar rezonings -- to create more affordable housing while also injecting economic energy and other benefits into neighborhoods -- in the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and Flushing, Queens, among other communities. “Our city is at a crossroads, including my community in the South Bronx,” Salamanca said in a statement Thursday. The City Council, he said, “should be on the front lines on shaping the planning, development and all other land use actions in a way that listens to and addresses the concerns of all New Yorkers.” Freshman Council Member Francisco Moya is heading up the subcommittee on zoning and franchises which falls under Salamanca’s purview. </p> <p>The finance committee, led by its new chair Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens, also has a tough task ahead as it heads into budget season. Dromm will lead the Council’s negotiations with the administration over the $86 billion-plus city budget. The mayor is expected to release his fiscal year 2019 preliminary budget proposal later this month and the administration has been bracing for cuts in federal funding, threatened by the Trump administration, and a widely expected economic slowdown after years of continuous growth.</p> <p>Last year, the Council advocated for increased savings and reduced agency inefficiencies even as they called for new funding for Council priorities. “I intend to use this position to move a progressive budget forward working closely with Speaker Corey Johnson who I thank for giving me this opportunity to serve,” Dromm said in a statement. </p> <p>The Council’s budget hearings will no doubt also touch on the city’s $96 billion capital budget. Numerous Council members called last year for increased transparency in how capital projects are funded and managed, insisting that the city needs to reduce financial waste and cut down on project delays.<br />Johnson has now gone so far as to create an entirely new subcommittee to oversee the capital budget, chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “Many members, including myself, have been frustrated by the capital process itself,” Gibson told Gotham Gazette outside the Council chambers on Thursday. She said the new committee will allow expanded oversight of capital spending, particularly by individual city agencies. “At the end of the day, we just wanna say to the public, to New Yorkers and to all of my colleagues that we are spending your money wisely,” she said. </p> <p>The transportation committee continues to be led by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who has been a vocal supporter of the Move New York congestion pricing plan, which would impose tolls on the East River bridges to raise funds for mass transit infrastructure and reduced fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, while also lowering tolls on other bridges.</p> <p>De Blasio has opposed both congestion pricing and the “Fair Fares” campaign, insisting that fair fares should be funded by the state and that congestion pricing is a “regressive tax” that hurts outer borough commuters. He has instead proposed a so-called millionaires tax, which Rodriguez also supports, that would accomplish both goals - subsidized MetroCards and new transit revenue. However, like congestion pricing, the tax would have to be approved by the state Legislature where it has already been rejected by Governor Cuomo and the state Senate, portending perhaps that the fair fares fight will be fought locally yet again. Cuomo appears on the verge of pursuing some version of congestion pricing.</p> <p>In keeping with Johnson’s promise to stand up to the de Blasio administration, the Council now has an expanded Oversight and Investigations committee, led by Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. The committee is expected to have a full-time investigation staff made up of professional investigators, former prosecutors, and journalists. In an interview with the New York Times, Torres indicated a number of different issue areas he would approach for added oversight. “The abuse of placards. The use of eminent domain. The disposition of public land. Deed restriction. The disbursement of city subsidies. All of it is on the table,” he said.</p> <p>On Thursday, Torres told Gotham Gazette that the New York City Housing Authority’s lead contamination issue, which has been a black eye for the de Blasio administration, was a “continuing concern” for him. “I have not set the investigative priorities of the committee just yet, but given my former position as chairman of the public housing committee, given my interest in the subject, NYCHA is going to be figuring prominently in my oversight priorities,” he said. </p> <p>Torres’ role will crossover with the work of other committees, such as the Committee on Public Housing, which he led last term and will this term be led by Brooklyn Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. The public housing authority needs $25 billion for infrastructure improvements, with few forthcoming state and federal funds this year. The authority’s numerous public failures continue to haunt the administration and invite criticism from the Council and community activists. And although the city has put a NYCHA overhaul plan into motion and seen some successes and promising developments, problems are not likely to abate any time soon.</p> <p>“As chair, I will ensure that critical issues are addressed, from heat, to lead, to security issues,” Ampry-Samuel said in a statement. “I look forward to visiting every housing development in the city and the opportunity to hear from the residents and the resident leaders.” </p> <p>Johnson also chose to expand the role the Council plays in scrutinizing the city’s criminal justice system. Council Member Rory Lancman of Queens was chosen to lead the newly formed Committee on the Justice System, which has oversight of city courts, district attorneys, legal service providers and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers will be heading the Committee on Criminal Justice, which has oversight of the Department of Correction and Department of Probation. Both committees will play a prominent part in the plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which is contingent on reducing the city’s jail population to less than 5,000 -- it is currently just under 9,000 detainees -- while also creating borough-based jail facilities. Lancman told Gotham Gazette he expects to “aggressively oversee and try to reform” the city’s justice system. “You’ll see a very robust agenda coming out of my committee,” he said. </p> <p>Lancman and Powers’ committees were carved out of the earlier Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services and the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, which Lancman led last term. Powers, who is new to the Council like Ampry-Samuel and others, said that move “recognizes that Rikers Island and the corrections system is really its own issue that needs to be tackled in the next coming years.” </p> <p>“There are a lot of thorny issues,” Powers said of the closure of Rikers, “and I think a big part of it is really making sure that we put on the right timeline and that we make sure we manage all the different constituencies that are involved here.”</p> <p>New York City Health + Hospitals, the cash-strapped municipal hospital system, continues to be a big area of concern for the Council and in particular Johnson, who led the health committee for the last four years. Johnson created a separate Committee on Hospitals to oversee the system, appointing new Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera as chair.</p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine, chosen to be the new health committee chair, noted a number of issues he will address, including the opioid crisis, racial disparities in health outcomes, animal rights and the threat of bioterrorism. He has promised to push for a single payer healthcare system in the city -- a priority for the speaker -- and told Gotham Gazette he expects “there will be times when the Council and the administration are on different sides of an issue,” and that its incumbent on members to advocate for the Council’s priorities. “That’s the job of a good committee chair,” he said. </p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7418-city-council-names-new-committee-chairs-and-members" target="_blank" rel="noopener">See the full list of new Council leadership, committee chairs, and committee members.</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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