Gotham Gazette Sat, 22 Sep 2018 17:17:31 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) District Attorneys Outline Budget Needs at the City Council gibson cornegy city council

Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Robert Cornegy (photo: William Alatriste)

At a preliminary budget hearing before the City Council committee on Public Safety Thursday morning, the district attorneys of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island and representatives for the district attorneys of Brooklyn and Queens and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor laid out the case for their budget priorities.

Several themes emerged during the hearing chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chiefly the issues of salaries for the offices’ hundreds of assistant district attorneys, the entry position for much of the essential staff; the ongoing opioid crisis and its public health and budgetary implications; and the efficiency and speed of the criminal justice system.

Also looming were potential state and federal budget cuts; Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. said that his office “could be losing $675,000” in federal grant money and an additional $500,000 in state funds, a burden that the city may have to shoulder.

Prompted by a question from Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the D.A.s and their representatives stated that the range of salaries for entry-level A.D.A.s went from $60,000 in Brooklyn, the lowest paid, to $68,000 on Staten Island. All said that they needed to raise those numbers to combat what Leroy Frazer Jr., chief of staff to Acting Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez, called “record attrition.”

“Are they going to white-shoe firms? No. To Fortune 500 companies? No. They’re going other city and state agencies...that pay better,” said Bronx D.A. Darcel Clark. Each office is seeking additional funds for A.D.A. recruitment and retention, with the Brooklyn office seeking the most, at $1.8 million.

The subject of the city’s opioid problem was discussed at length. Steven Goldstein, Chief Assistant District Attorney with the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, called the popular synthetic opioid fentanyl, which in some forms can be 10,000 times more potent than morphine, “truly a game-changer.” Overdose deaths have increased for six consecutive years in all five boroughs. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a new plan to reduce those deaths.

Staten Island D.A. Michael McMahon, who tied drug crime to domestic violence and crimes against children, touted the importance of the Heroin Overdose Prevention & Education (HOPE) program. “We need to get people in the throes of addiction into treatment earlier,” he said. In response to a question from Minority Leader Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican, about the use of naloxone, a drug that is used to cut short overdoses, McMahon said the drug was “saving lives” and that he and his public safety colleagues “understand the public health aspect of this issue.”

Other common budgetary requests centered around upgrading computer systems and finding suitable office space, with Frazer stating that the Brooklyn D.A.’s office had been run out of the same office space for almost 20 years. The Queen’s D.A.’s office’s budget presentation included a $3.8 million request for upgrades in network infrastructure, including cabling, power supplies, and network hardware like routers.

In general, the five D.A. offices have budget allocations that vary widely.

As it stands, the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018 allocates $103.9 million for the Manhattan D.A.’s office, an increase of $1.3 million over FY 2017’s adopted budget; $72.3 million for the Bronx D.A.’s office, an increase of $713,360 over FY 2017; $97.1 million for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, an increase of $886,590 over FY 2017; $63.8 million for the Queens D.A.’s office, an increase of $792,905 over FY 2017; $14.2 million for the Staten Island D.A.’s office, an increase of $263,143 over FY 2017; and $22.4 million for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, an increase of $231,750 over FY 2017. The total FY 2018 budget for the prosecutors is $373.6 million.

In a notable exchange, Brooklyn Council Member Robert Cornegy commended Vance for charging white supremacist James Jackson with murder in the first and second degrees as an act of terrorism. Jackson, who is white, came to the city from Baltimore with the intention of killing black men, resulting in the stabbing death of 66-year-old Queens native Timothy Caughman. Cornegy called the charge “landmark” and asked if Vance had received pushback from colleagues at the federal level. Vance indicated that he had not.

by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette

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District Attorneys Outline Budget Needs at the City Council Thu, 30 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000
District Attorneys, City Council Agree Mayor is Underfunding DAs district attorneys city council hearing

The five District Attorneys at a March hearing (photo: William Alatriste)

The district attorneys of the five boroughs reasserted their need for increased funding in the 2017 fiscal year at a City Council executive budget hearing Monday at City Hall. Council members—opting to forego heavy questioning of the necessity of this funding—framed fulfilling the district attorney requests as a crucial step towards criminal justice reform.

The public safety committee hearing was the penultimate executive budget hearing, with the finance committee set to finish the proceedings Tuesday before closed-door negotiations lead to a budget deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

De Blasio’s preliminary budget, released Jan. 21, estimated $94 million would be allocated to the King’s County (Brooklyn) DA office, $57 million to Queens County, $10 million to Richmond County (Staten Island), $101 million to New York County (Manhattan), and $59 million to Bronx County.

The five DAs presented additional funding requests during a preliminary budget hearing in March, after which the Council called on de Blasio to fully fund those budget needs in its response to his preliminary budget and listed public safety among its top eight priorities. Of the five offices, New York County requested an additional $600,000, Bronx County $11.5 million, Kings County $1 million, Queens County $4.9 million, and Richmond $3.6 million. The Bronx request was so large because new DA Darcel Clark plans to open a new bureau on Rikers Island, as well as several other significant initiatives.

None of the additional funding requests were included in de Blasio’s $82.2 executive budget, released April 27—a decision Council Member and Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson said on Monday she was “very disappointed to see.”

“The City Council is making significant impacts to criminal justice reform, but none of this will matter if the city does not support our District Attorneys,” Gibson said. “Though I applaud the efforts that the administration’s [making] to fund other law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD, it is irresponsible not to include funding for our city’s prosecutors.”

At Monday’s executive budget hearing, representatives from the DA offices, including three DAs themselves, said increased funding would be the only solution to severe problems facing each county, and Council Member and Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said the Council was “on the same page.” Ferreras-Copeland criticized de Blasio’s executive budget earlier in May when she said it did not “ensure that the shared priorities of both the Administration and the Council are included.”

In response to Monday's comments from the district attorney offices and Council members, mayoral spokesperson Monica Klein said in an emailed statement, "The administration is committed to appropriately funding the critical needs of our District Attorneys, and we look forward to working with the Council and DAs throughout the budget process. Mayor de Blasio has also invested in numerous initiatives to support our DAs' essential efforts -- including an additional $2 million per year to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and $10 million to the Anti-Violence Innovation challenge -- and launched expansive initiatives aimed at reducing opioid misuse and overdose deaths across the City, in close partnership with local elected officials."

Manhattan DA Cy Vance said on Monday that additional funding would go toward the creation of an Alternative to Incarceration unit aimed at preventing low-level nonviolent offenders from facing jail time.

Staten Island DA Michael McMahon, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Dan Donovan (now a member of Congress) as DA, said his predecessors “did not aggressively pursue” sufficient funding at City Hall. As a result, McMahon said his office is unequiped to combat Staten Island’s rising heroin overdose epidemic and domestic abuse incidents, and currently unable to finance a case management system. All five DAs are now Democrats, like de Blasio and 48 of the 51 City Council members.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson, represented at the hearing by his chief of staff Leroy Frazer, and Queens DA Richard Brown, represented by Chief ADA Jack Ryan, both hope to direct additional funding towards increasing personnel and improving facilities.

While Bronx DA Clark said some funding would go towards facilities and retaining more staff within her offices, she also hopes to establish a Rikers bureau that targets the prison complex, where she said corruption currently fosters “criminal business as usual.”

by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

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District Attorneys, City Council Agree Mayor is Underfunding DAs Mon, 23 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
40 Questions for New York Politics in 2016 bdb mmv lupo

photo: William Alatriste

Happy new year! As we jump right into 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares for his State of the State and budget address, Mayor Bill de Blasio works to improve his public approval ratings, and the two keep on feuding. There's a lot to look for in the new year, here are about 40 political questions we're asking as the year begins - if you want to share them, answer any, or let us know one we missed, tweet @GothamGazette:

  1. How will the Cuomo-de Blasio feud play out?
  2. Who's next for Preet Bharara?
  3. What will Albany do about preventing public corruption?
    1. Will the LLC loophole close?
    2. Will New York move forward on a public campaign finance system?
    3. Will there be agreement on pension forfeiture?
    4. Will further limits be placed on legislators' outside income?
    5. Will legislator salaries be raised?
    6. Does the budget process become more transparent?
  4. What kind of Assembly reforms will Speaker Carl Heastie allow in terms of the ways in which his legislative house conducts its business?
  5. How does the Governor's minimum wage push wind up?
  6. What happens with the 421-a tax break/affordable housing program?
  7. Will the de Blasio administration show significant progress in turning around struggling schools?
  8. What happens with mayoral control of city schools, as dictated by state policy?
  9. What do teacher evaluations look like next, as dictated by state policy?
  10. What's the future of the Common Core in New York?
  11. Does the opt-out movement continue to grow?
  12. How do the 2016 elections affect which party controls the state Senate?
    1. Who wins the special election for the seat previously held by Dean Skelos?
    2. Who wins other vacant state legislative seats, like that held by Sheldon Silver?
  13. Will de Blasio improve his relationship with Albany Democrats?
  14. Can de Blasio effectively reduce the street and shelter homeless populations?
  15. How will the city and the state approach the homelessness crisis together/separately?
  16. Will New York "raise the age" of criminal responsibility from 16 (to 17 or 18)?
  17. Will de Blasio successfully negotiate paid parental leave with the city's municipal unions after announcing he is offering it to nonunion city employees?
  18. Will the State move on a paid family leave program?
  19. Can Cuomo show more progress in his efforts to revive struggling city and regional economies?
  20. How do the mayor's rezoning proposals fare in the City Council?
  21. How does City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito differentiate herself from Bill de Blasio?
  22. Will the City Council move any bills that the mayor isn't behind - like the Right to Know Act?
    1. Will de Blasio use a veto for the first time as mayor?
  23. What's next for Mark-Viverito as she faces term-limits (at the end of 2017)?
  24. Can the Mayor keep making progress toward his affordable housing goals?
  25. What will city elected officials' compensation increases look like once the mayor and Council come to an agreement based on the compensation commission's recommendations?
    1. Will Council pay increases come with the elimination of lulus and other reforms?
  26. Who will replace Charlie Rangel in Congress?
  27. How does it go for the two new District Attorneys, in the Bronx and on Staten Island?
  28. Can the NYPD continue to drive crime down, reducing murders after a small rise, while also improving community relations?
  29. Will there be progress on Rikers Island?
  30. What steps will the City take to desegregate its schools?
  31. What does Bill de Blasio's cabinet look like after a deputy mayor is replaced and the homeless services department is reassessed?
    1. Will other top officials leave the administration?
  32. What will happen with Uber?
  33. Will the City pass a plastic bag fee?
  34. Is there a compromise on reducing Central Park carriage horses?
  35. Can de Blasio improve his public approval ratings?
  36. Does anyone formidable emerge to declare a challenge to de Blasio for 2017?
  37. What will Comptroller Scott Stringer's charter school audits look like?
    1. What other audits and reports come from Stringer's office?
  38. Will Public Advocate Tish James continue to use litigation against the city to seek change? If so, what suits?
  39. How are New York officials involved in the presidential race?
    1. How will de Blasio, Cuomo, Mark-Viverito and other city and state officials who have endorsed her be involved in Hillary Clinton's campaign?
    2. Who wins New York in the Democratic and Republican primaries?
  40. Who becomes the next President of the United States?

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

40 Questions for New York Politics in 2016 Mon, 04 Jan 2016 01:15:12 +0000