Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/235 Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:55:45 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7348:max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-elizabeth-crowley http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7348:max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-elizabeth-crowley

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette


December 5, 2017 - Max & Murphy podcast: City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley

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City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley was elected in 2008, the first woman and first Democrat to represent her Queens district. She's chaired the Council's Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, holding hearings on Rikers Island jails and much more, including a hearing on closing Rikers jails that occurred just one day before taping the podcast with Max & Murphy. In November, Crowley was defeated in her reelection bid by 137 votes. Her loss, to Robert Holden, shocked many people and means one fewer woman on the City Council come January, when just 11 of the 51 seats will be occupied by women.

On the podcast Crowley discussed her work in the Council, the effort to close the Rikers jails, her election loss, working to see more women elected to the City Council, and her future.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy and guest @ElizCrowleyNYC. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley Tue, 05 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Killing of FDNY EMT Spotlights Issues for Unsung Profession http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6839:killing-of-fdny-emt-spotlights-issues-for-unsung-profession http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6839:killing-of-fdny-emt-spotlights-issues-for-unsung-profession ;fdny ambulance and hats

(photos: @FDNY)


Of the city’s various uniformed workers, some dominate media attention and public awareness. Along with the historical presence and mythology of firefighters and police officers, corrections officers have been in the news recently, mostly for the wrong reasons, while New Yorkers rely on sanitation workers for a basic essential of city life.

Public soul-searching over questions about broken windows policing and the future of the Riker’s Island jail also have many New Yorkers thinking about police and corrections officers, with ongoing policy discussions now moving into a city election year.

Yet one uniformed group, which like the others has a unique set of responsibilities, labor issues, and policy priorities, has found itself largely locked out of the conversation, even as its 4,700 members continue to risk their own well-being and save lives on a daily basis: FDNY emergency medical service (EMS) workers, which include EMTs and Paramedics.

The service came suddenly into the limelight on March 16 when Yadira Arroyo, 44, a 14-year veteran of the FDNY EMT and mother of five, was killed, allegedly by a 25-year-old Bronx man who commandeered her ambulance and ran her over.

“The primary concerns have not changed for many years,” said Izzy Miranda, president of Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Local 2507, in an interview a few days after Arroyo was killed on the job. “We get resistance from the administration no matter which one it is. We’re truly not recognized by the administration as a true uniformed service.”

His members’ primary concern is pay, Miranda said. Base salary for an FDNY EMT after five years on the job is $47,685. A firefighter, meanwhile, can expect to take home $85,292 in base pay after five years, the same as an NYPD officer after 5.5 years.

“They have to work overtime, second and third jobs…We lose the best quality people,” said Miranda, explaining that members turn to private sector jobs like nursing because they cannot afford to live in the city on EMT pay.

That’s the case for FDNY rescue medic Usman Rahyab, an 11-year veteran of the department, who had worked with Arroyo and described her as someone who “sincerely loved her job.”

“I have to teach on my days off, I have to work overtime,” Rayhab said. “I teach paramedics to make enough money to support myself and my son…My own barber makes more money than I do, and he cuts my hair.”

Rayhab also painted a picture of an agency with a multitude of internal budgetary and management issues, and a punishing work culture that drives out talented medical workers.

“We’re constantly, constantly running out of essential equipment. We’re allowed to go out there and respond and not have that. That’s because of the budget,” he said, citing the example of CPAP devices, which can prevent a patient from having to be intubated. “Right now, at this time, I do not have any in my truck. They still send me out…I shouldn’t be told ‘do what you have to do, do the best with what you have,’” he added.

In an email, Frank Gribbon, a spokesperson for the FDNY, denied there is any shortage of the devices, writing “I'm told we do not have a shortage of CPAP devices - plenty in stock.”

A report by the Citizens Budget Commission in December 2015 calculated that just 13% of the FDNY’s budget for fiscal 2015 was allocated for EMS, despite at least 75% of incidents to which the agency responded being medical in nature. The city’s EMS was moved from the Health and Hospitals Corporation to the FDNY in 1996 in an attempt to increase coordination between emergency services and reduce redundancies.

Gribbon said that “the budget for EMS has never been greater, having been increased by nearly $40 million two years ago by the Mayor” and specified that the cost of running EMS was $600 million, with $180 million recovered through insurance billing. He did not answer a question about how the EMS operating budget was calculated internally.

Rayhab also outlined functional and cultural problems within the agency, claiming that members were stretched so thin they could go 12 hours without a single break, even to eat. If discovered eating at an unsanctioned time, he said, they could lose “four or five days worth of pay.”

When paramedics get hurt, Rayhab said, “you’re either going to recover, you’re going to get demoted, or you’re going to lose your job. There’s nothing else. And there’s a high injury rate.”

When an EMS worker does become injured to the point that they cannot continue to work, that can be an uncertain process.

Miranda, the union president, recently held a rally on the steps of City Hall with State Senator Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) to introduce a bill that would allow New York state courts to grant disability pensions to EMS, corrections, and sanitation workers if they disagreed with a pension denial from the New York City Employees' Retirement System (NYCERS).

Currently, courts can only remand cases back the board. In a phone interview, Sen. Golden said “[EMS workers] fall, mess up their back, their head, they cannot function as an EMS, they’re forced into disability. They have to go back and forth between the panel and the supreme court if they’re denied. This takes time, and it takes money. It can be two years and $10,000 before they’re done.”

Golden also worries about the physical safety of EMS workers. In 2015 he introduced a bill, which passed and was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, removing a requirement that an assault on an EMS worker had to intend to obstruct their official duties for it to be considered assault in the second degree, a class D felony.

For Golden, who was a New York City police officer in the 1970s and early ‘80s, the death of Arroyo is part of a larger pattern of renewed violence against uniformed responders and peace officers. “I remember people throwing garbage cans on firetrucks and EMS vehicles,” Golden said of his time in the NYPD, adding, “it seems to be back to that. They want to attack anyone in uniform.”

Another point of contention is the EMS service’s own leadership. As opposed to their firefighter counterparts, the appointment and promotion of EMS supervisors does not require a competitive civil service examination, a situation Miranda said does not afford EMTs ample opportunity to advance. Rahyab was more blunt: “they promote their buddies…Our members do not look up to the EMS administration.” Golden has introduced a bill in the Senate to require the examinations.

On the municipal front, the EMS workers union has a few specific interests, starting with contract negotiations that will bring their compensation more in line with their uniformed colleagues. Miranda said that their next contract negotiations will begin around April of next year, but his union is open to starting conversations with the city now.

Miranda is also pushing a bill, introduced by Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who is chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, that would require bulletproof vests for some EMS workers “meet certain safety requirements related to their warranty, history of use, and fit” and “meet standards for bullet resistance developed by the National Institute of Justice.” The bill is designed to upgrade vests that were issued to EMS workers under the Giuliani administration in the late 1990s.

Crowley said she was also advocating for funding for the vests in the city budget, regardless of whether the bill passes in the Council. “If the [fire] department believes it’s important to give every graduating EMT a bulletproof vest, why are they not upgrading that vest after five years, when it’s no longer effective?” she said.

Crowley also intends to introduce legislation that will require public reporting of so-called vital statistics, internal figures that provide more detail than the department’s annual reporting on fire fatalities. She mentioned that these statistics showed that lives saved by EMS were down year-over-year.

“Unfortunately, many of the calls they get now are about overdoses…So naloxone use should be part of the vital statistics,” she said as an example of what could be included. Echoing the irritation of EMS workers, she said that it “frustrated me in the past, and it frustrates me today that they’re treated like a second class public safety arm.”

yadira arroyo emtBoth Rahyab and Miranda lamented the lack of attention that their profession’s struggles have received, but hoped that if there was one good thing to come out of the recent tragedy, it would be increased awareness.

“It’s a shame that it has to take a tragedy, one of our sisters making the supreme sacrifice, for these issues to even be looked at,” Miranda said.

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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Killing of FDNY EMT Spotlights Issues for Unsung Profession Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Drafting Bills to Regulate Political Nonprofits Like Campaign for One New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6545:city-council-drafting-bills-to-regulate-political-nonprofits-like-campaign-for-one-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6545:city-council-drafting-bills-to-regulate-political-nonprofits-like-campaign-for-one-new-york Kallos

Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: John McCarten for the City Council)


At least three City Council members have made requests to the Council’s bill drafting unit to formulate legislation that would regulate political participation by and with “social welfare” nonprofit organizations. These are political advocacy, or lobbying, groups, which have been the subject of intense scrutiny in New York City of late due to the Campaign for One New York, a political nonprofit established by allies of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The bills currently being drafted in the Council would increase disclosure requirements for political nonprofits and reclassify the groups under the jurisdiction of the city’s Campaign Finance Board and its rules around donation limits, including by entities with city business.

“Social welfare” or political nonprofits, designated 501(c)(4)s by the Internal Revenue Service, are issue advocacy groups that have been around for decades, but their heavy involvement and influence in electoral politics has been a more recent phenomenon, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in the Citizens United case. In that judgement, the Court recognized unions and corporations as individuals whose political expenditures are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. That opened the floodgates to massive independent expenditures in political campaigns and also allowed political nonprofits that advocate, or lobby, on issues to use the unlimited fundraising at their disposal for political means, as long as politics is not their main focus. These groups are tax-exempt and are not required to disclose their donors - thus, their expenditures are often referred to as “dark money.”

Separate from promoting or attacking a candidate for office, these groups also lobby government on any number of issues or agendas.

When allies of de Blasio established the Campaign for One New York to push his progressive agenda it did not take long before questions were swirling around the major donations being given to the group by labor unions, real estate developers, and others with city business. The group’s fundraising activities, the mayor’s involvement, and whether government action was offered or given in exchange for donations to the Campaign for One New York are currently under federal and state investigation. Earlier this year, de Blasio announced that the organization was shutting down - he declared that it had done its job given his administration’s successes around pre-kindergarten and affordable housing policy.

A separate probe by the city’s Campaign Finance Board concluded in July, where the board found that the nonprofit and the mayor had not acted illegally, but criticized the mayor for exploiting loopholes in the campaign finance law. De Blasio has maintained throughout that he and the group followed the letter of the law, while also willingly disclosing donors and expenditures, which is not currently required.

The mayor’s deep connection with the group and its donors, including big moneyed interests with business before the city, have created impressions of a pay-to-play culture at City Hall and led to calls for closer monitoring of such organizations. Certain City Council members are taking up this charge.

Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, and Elizabeth Crowley - all Democrats like de Blasio - have each submitted a request that legislation be crafted around regulating 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Kallos’ bill drafting request is “on point” with a recent proposal made by Citizens Union, a government reform group. That proposal would require that 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) organizations created at the behest of elected officials to promote their own image or agenda be treated like political committees under the city’s campaign finance laws. This would entail detailed disclosure of contributions and expenditures, limits on contributions similar to those for political candidates, and oversight by the Campaign Finance Board.

“Anytime you’ve got elected officials whose political campaigns are limited in the money they can raise affiliated with 501(c)(4)s that engage in quasi-electoral activities that don’t have the same limits, that is a place we should be paying attention,” Kallos said in a phone interview. Kallos chairs the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, where the bills would likely be introduced and heard.

Council Member Lancman’s request was along similar lines. He has suggested that 501(c)(4)s face contribution restrictions similar to those imposed on political campaigns, which would also limit the amount of money donated by entities that have business before the city. For instance, in a citywide campaign, an individual can currently make a maximum contribution of $4,950 while an individual with business before the city can only give $400. A citywide candidate can also not accept contributions from corporations, partnerships, or Limited Liability Companies. Under Lancman’s proposal, these limits would apply to 501(c)(4)s as well. He called his proposal a “direct response to the mayor distorting the political process and undermining the campaign finance law.”

“The mayor’s transformation of this loophole into a gaping hole in the campaign finance system is probably unique,” Lancman said in an interview. “To the extent that any other elected would think of [skirting] the campaign finance law by setting up an issue advocacy organization that is for all intents and purposes an extension of the CFB-limited campaign committee, this would be a deterrence.”

The third proposal, Council Member Crowley's, would prohibit candidates who participate in the CFB's public matching funds program from fundraising for 501(c)(4)s established for lobbying purposes. "It’s important the city look at multiple approaches to ensure that candidates who participate in the Campaign Finance Board’s matching funds program run a fair race," Crowley said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "This legislation would work to prevent the influence of unregulated money used by an elected official or candidate for office to push their own political agenda and prevent an unfair advantage."

The progress of the Council members’ bill requests is currently unclear. Both Kallos and Lancman separately indicated that their proposals may conflict with others and that they were unsure of who would finally introduce legislation. While the Campaign for One New York is closing down and appears to no longer be soliciting or accepting donations, the 2017 city election cycle is about to truly take off.

Asked about the status of the bill requests and if City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito had comment on the proposals, spokesperson Eric Koch emailed, “We're going through our normal legislative process.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated with comment from Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.

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City Council Drafting Bills to Regulate Political Nonprofits Like Campaign for One New York Fri, 23 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Opposing Shelters Won’t End the Housing Crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6509:opposing-shelters-won-t-end-the-housing-crisis http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6509:opposing-shelters-won-t-end-the-housing-crisis Crowley Maspeth shelter

Council Member Crowley opposes a shelter in Maspeth (photo via Twitter)


On Wednesday night I attended my community board meeting on a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens. The city Commissioner of Social Services, Steve Banks, was there, along with hundreds of residents who are against the shelter. I was one of just a handful of homeless and housing rights advocates in the audience.

Though I was horrified by the residents who chose to stigmatize our homeless community – describing them as criminals, drug dealers, welfare hogs, and addicts, and questioning their immigration status – I was most struck by the vehement energy this community has thrown behind this cause, somehow believing that the community is exempt from the city’s housing crisis.

Homelessness is not an isolated issue. Homelessness is a product of the broader housing crisis – a crisis that is having an impact across the city in endless ways: gentrifying neighborhoods, segregating communities, and increasing income disparity, just to name a few. Keeping a homeless shelter out of your community does not solve problems.

At one point, a speaker shouted, “de Blasio brought this social engineering experiment to the wrong community!” But the “social engineering experiment” has been lingering in this community for years. Long before Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Banks came along, decades of failed government policies built the foundation of the housing crisis we’re living in today. Be it the loss of manufacturing industries and union jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, a state-sponsored shelter allowance for low-income households that has remained the same since the 1980s, quality-of-life policing of poor communities of color, and slashes to drug education and support programs, the city’s housing and homeless crisis was long in the making. This is what Mayor de Blasio inherited – this mess is what Commissioner Banks is urgently trying to reverse with limited resources, limited support from the State, and within a limited timeframe.

While failed policies have propelled the housing crisis, a lack of commitment and leadership from our elected officials has kept us from halting its momentum. Promising to preserve the “quality-of-life” of residents, Queens City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has helped legitimize NIMBYism in Maspeth.

On Wednesday Crowley’s office announced a lawsuit against the City over the proposal to open the shelter. Rather than becoming an elected official who is actively involved in the fight to end homelessness and the housing crisis, Crowley falls sorely short by opposing the creation of the first homeless shelter in the jurisdiction of Community Board 5.

Meanwhile, at the state level, eight months have gone by since Governor Cuomo made a commitment to build 20,000 units of supportive housing, and there has not been enough movement. Supportive housing is a crucial source of housing that pairs permanent housing with on-site services. Research has shown time and again that it is the most successful (and cost-effective) way to end homelessness for individuals living with disabilities or other special needs.

Since the 1990s, New York City and State have made a joint commitment to fund supportive housing. While few Maspeth residents mentioned the need for support and services for homeless individuals, most are likely unaware that our governor is currently sitting on nearly $2 billion set aside in the state budget for crucial housing, including supportive housing. Only a small portion of the funds have been allocated.

It’s worth mentioning here that the City has made true to its commitment.

With 80,000 homeless statewide and thousands more living on the streets, in three-quarter houses, doubled up in apartments and in other precarious housing, it’s incomprehensible that our governor continues to pay so little attention to this crisis. It’s also unconscionable that people in our communities are turning their backs on city officials working to combat the homelessness and housing crises, and on their fellow New Yorkers in need.

What I saw last night was a crowd of people who know little about what has propelled us into this housing crisis in first place; they know little about the needs of the homeless community in New York, and they are not willing to learn about either. Imagine where we might be if instead of vehemently opposing a shelter, the community put equal effort into fighting for truly affordable housing for the New Yorkers who need it the most.

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Paulette Soltani is a community organizer with VOCAL-NY, a grassroots organization that builds power among low-income people impacted by homelessness, HIV/AIDS, drug use, and mass incarceration. She is a resident of Community Board 5 in Queens.

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

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Opposing Shelters Won’t End the Housing Crisis Thu, 01 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Toward Progress on Equal Pay Day http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6275:toward-progress-on-equal-pay-day http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6275:toward-progress-on-equal-pay-day womens caucus council

The City Council Women's Caucus, including two authors (photo: William Alatriste)


Today - Tuesday, April 12 - New York City recognizes Equal Pay Day – a day to confront the challenges our mothers, daughters, and sisters still face in achieving workplace equality.

Significant progress has been made, but substantial discrepancies exist between women and men – most notably, a sizable wage gap. As of 2013, women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, with a median income over 27 percent lower than that of men. For women of color, the pay gap widens: black and Hispanic women earn 64 and 56 cents on the dollar, respectively. Stretched over a lifetime of work, this leaves women with much less money than the average man.

At S&P Fortune 500 companies, women hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions and only 16 percent of board seats. When women are top earners, the pay gap tends to close at a faster pace. But disappointingly, the numbers show that women are vastly underrepresented in these higher-level positions, resulting in a persistent pay gap and lack of diversity in board rooms big and small.

Yet, women are more educated and prepared for the workforce than ever before. Women now account for nearly 60 percent of annual four-year university graduates, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates being awarded in the United States.

Though the longstanding pay gap is an undeniable social injustice; it amounts to much more, and is actually hurting corporate bottom lines.

Study after study, particularly those from Catalyst, the global expert on accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion, has stated that when women hold leadership or board positions, it improves company financial performance, economic growth, productivity, and profitability. This makes it crystal clear that business is better and companies perform most effectively when they bring equal opportunity, allowing everyone a seat at the table.

The City of New York, as the global center of business and commerce, and proprietor of billions in private contracts, can play an important role in promoting the levels of diversity we need in the 21st century. Let’s make sure we get the best value for our own tax dollars, and promote businesses that promote equal opportunity.

Last week, the City Council voted and passed Introduction 704-A, a bill we sponsored to gather more information on the gender and racial makeup of the individuals who make up executive-level staff and boards of companies that do business with the City. Once signed into law, it will require the Department of Small Business Services to survey companies that do business with the City and obtain the demographics of companies’ executive-level staff and board members.

In 2015, the City procured $13.8 billion worth of goods and services through more than 60,000 transactions, yet we do not know who is running the companies that are conducting this business. Our new law will provide the City with the data it needs to ensure that city-contracted companies are promoting the diversity that makes this City so great, and could ultimately boost the economy.

It’s a small step that we believe will go a long way to help our City recognize inequities in our own front yard and create incentives for businesses throughout New York to promote diversity in their top ranks.

We hope you will all join us today in the fight for equal opportunity, equal pay, and a New York City where everyone can succeed.

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Elizabeth Crowley and Darlene Mealy are New York City Council Members; Deborah Gillis is President & CEO of Catalyst.

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

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Toward Progress on Equal Pay Day Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:19:41 +0000
Council Passes Bill to Improve Diversity at Upper Levels of City-Contracted Businesses http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6271:council-passes-bill-to-improve-diversity-at-upper-levels-of-city-contracted-businesses http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6271:council-passes-bill-to-improve-diversity-at-upper-levels-of-city-contracted-businesses crowley johnson lean in

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and colleagues (photo: William Alatriste) 


On Thursday, the City Council approved a bill requiring the Department of Small Business Services to survey and study the gender, ethnic, and racial makeup of executive-level staff and board members of companies that contract with the city. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Darlene Mealy, came about while the two were co-chairs of the Council’s Women’s Caucus, and is an effort to “promote transparency,” Crowley says, and to gather information needed to make the city’s workplaces more equitable.

“This legislation is not only fair and smart, it promotes opportunity,” Crowley said in a press release following the Council’s vote. “Diversity matters in the corporate world and also impacts the bottom line. Studies have proven that diversity improves financial performance, with greater economic growth, increased productivity and increased profitability. This bill promotes diversity on boards and amongst senior-level staff, which benefits employers and makes a stronger, better New York City.”

Crowley and Mealy worked with organizations that advocate for diversity in the workplace to develop the bill, including Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women. During the full Council vote, Crowley framed the bill as a means to help achieve greater equity for women in particular, calling the lack of women in board rooms something that is “more than an injustice to women - it’s actually hurting bottom lines.”

Recent studies show “that companies with more diversified boards do in fact yield better returns,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Committee on Economic Development, which unanimously approved the bill Wednesday, during an Oct. 22 hearing. A 2015 study by Credit Suisse found that the presence of at least one woman on the board of directors can make a difference.

“Companies with one woman on the board have seen an average return on equity of 14.1% since 2005, compared to 11.2% for all-male boards,” Garodnick said. “The benefits are clear, which is why the bill is crucial to help us understand how diverse our corporate boards are right now and how the city can create policies to encourage that moving forward.”

Should Mayor Bill de Blasio sign the bill, which he is expected to do, the Department of Small Business Services will be required to create a voluntary survey and have it ready to distribute to proposed city contractors and subcontractors by January 15, 2017. The survey will be distributed along with existing employment reports, and will collect information regarding the selection and employment practices, policies, and procedures related to the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of city-contracted companies’ directors, officers, and other executive-level staff.

By July 1, 2018, the Mayor or a designated agency will need to publish a report on the website of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) that analyzes the information collected and details companies’ plans for improving diversity in those positions, as well as their efforts to achieve those plans.

The bill is generally viewed as a win-win by Council members involved with the legislation, who say it will help all involved by facilitating diversity and equal opportunity while at the same time increasing the profitability and performance of companies.

While the administration is generally supportive of the bill, concerns have been raised about the onus fulfilling the mandate would put on SBS.

“The intention of this legislation is laudable and in line with the administration's efforts to fight inequality and promote the economic mobility of social inclusion of all New Yorkers,” Andrew Schwartz, then-acting commissioner of SBS said during the Oct. 22 hearing.

However, Schwartz continued, “The proposals would require significant additional work and analysis” and “many businesses may be reluctant to gather and provide this type of information. So the requirement may, in fact, deter some businesses from competing for contracts with the city.”

Additionally, Schwartz said, the new requirement could work against the city’s ongoing efforts to speed up the procurement process, and selecting vendors for contracts based on the diversity of their leadership “could raise issues that conflict with laws governing the city’s procurement process.”

Changes were made to the bill in response to those concerns. Responding to the survey was made voluntary for contractors, the deadline by which SBS must have the survey ready to distribute was extended, as was the date by which the administration has to publish a report analyzing the data collected. Notably, language was added to prohibit agencies from using information obtained by the survey as a basis for any procurement decisions.

“On it’s final version,” Garodnick told Gotham Gazette, “we have seen mostly support. We want to make sure that we encourage board room diversity among all businesses, and this bill will give us an understanding of where we stand.”

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Council Passes Bill to Improve Diversity at Upper Levels of City-Contracted Businesses Fri, 08 Apr 2016 03:38:05 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5920:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october-5 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The run of the week in detail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

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

Wednesday
JCOPE is set to meet Wednesday morning in Albany.

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

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

At the City Council on Wednesday:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

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

Thursday
On Thursday at the City Council:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday's City Council Participatory Budgeting events:

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

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

Weekend participatory budgeting:

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

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

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

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

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 5 Sun, 04 Oct 2015 05:00:00 +0000
Inmate Bill of Rights Among New Wave of Rikers Reforms http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5897:inmate-bill-of-rights-among-new-wave-of-rikers-reforms http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5897:inmate-bill-of-rights-among-new-wave-of-rikers-reforms bdb rikers video

Mayor de Blasio at Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)


The New York City Council passed eight bills last week in an effort to mandate greater transparency into and oversight of the Department of Correction and to reduce violence within the city's jails. All are expected to soon be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the package part of ongoing reforms aimed at changing the culture at Rikers Island and other jail facilities run by the city.

One of the bills (Intro 784-A) creates an inmate Bill of Rights and Code of Conduct and mandates rules for ensuring that it is presented to prisoners.

The bill would require the DOC to inform all incoming inmates of their rights and responsibilities under the DOC rules of conduct in plain and simple language. The bill also requires inmates' rights and code of conduct to be communicated orally to the inmates in their primary language. Currently, upon intake all inmates are given a rulebook, which explains the regulations they are expected to adhere to.

Yet, with so many regulations listed in the dense rulebook, many inmates have failed to understand just what rules they are expected to follow behind bars, and many remain unaware of their rights as prisoners, especially since a significant number of inmates on Rikers are illiterate. There are also often language barriers if inmates primarily speak a language other than English.

The bill aims to "clear the lines of communication between inmates and staff," Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the bill's prime sponsor, said last week at the meeting of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services that saw the bills passed before they were then moved through the full Council.

The inmate bill of rights will "communicate their rights to services, such as visitation and medical care," Crowley said at City Hall on Thursday. "It is critical that all individuals are aware of these rights."

"Carlos Mercado died while in our city jails because of a diabetes-related complication, and because of simple neglect," Crowley continued, referring to the recent death of a Rikers Island inmate whose repeated pleas for medical assistance were ignored by correction officers over a 14-hour period. The new rules appear meant not only to make sure that inmates know their rights and expected conduct, but also to remind correction officers of what they must provide inmates.

Seymour James, Jr., the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice of The Legal Aid Society, worked closely with the City Council to develop the legislation. James Jr. said that he believes the eight bills passed last week "will go a long way to address some of the problems," but added, "Aside from these bills, there needs to be greater oversight and discipline of the correctional officers. There's a pending lawsuit which is awaiting approval for the court which will attempt to address some of the problems."

On the other hand, the president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, Norman Seabrook, called the move for greater transparency a "welcome development," but added, "this package of legislation completely ignores the needs of our heroic correction officers."

Though 784-A does not alter the rules that have already been established for prisoners, the change in the methods of communicating those rules (and rights) to inmates seeks to curb violence and mistreatment within Rikers by ensuring that all inmates (and guards) are well-informed.

The bill mandates that prisoners are given information about their rights "under federal, state, and local laws, and the board of correction minimum standards" on topics such as "personal hygiene, recreation, religion, access to legal services, visitation, telephone calls and other correspondence, media access, due process in any disciplinary proceedings, medical care, safety from violence, and the grievance system."

The plain-language document provided inmates will also have to include "a description of educational, vocational development, drug and alcohol treatment, counseling and other related services available to inmates." DOC will be required to post the documentation "on the department's website." The bill also mandates that each inmate receives a copy of "Connections," the resource-filled guide to reentry.

Other bills passed last week are specifically intended to increase Department of Correction transparency by mandating that the city makes far more information publically available, including: demographic breakdowns of inmates; the rules regarding the use of force by staff on inmates; the number of inmates on a waiting list for a segregated housing unit; the bail amounts set for inmates; how long inmates are incarcerated pretrial; the number of visits inmates in city jails receive; and the number of grievances filed by inmates, the status of grievances, and the resolution or dismissal of grievances.

"There has been a lack of transparency and that goes back a long time," City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at a press conference last Thursday. "The majority of inmates in our jails, in fact, have not been convicted of any crime and are still awaiting their day in court."

"It is our moral obligation to ensure people in our jails are treated decently and humanely," Mark-Viverito continued. "These bills will mandate greater transparency regarding conditions in our city jails so the nature and extent of problems can be more readily assessed and addressed."

Transparency alone will not necessarily reduce violence or protect inmates rights' within the city's jails, Alex Vitale, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project, points out. Vitale told Gotham Gazette that "rights are only as good as the enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure them."

"So it seems to me that it's not likely to be a very fruitful strategy for reducing abuses. The existing Board of Correction already has the authority to guarantee these rights, and to enforce them, but almost never does so," Vitale elaborated. "So, in my mind, if you want to really improve the situation at Rikers you need to do two things: reduce the population and get the BOC to be a robust oversight agency."

The move to mandate greater transparency is still a "positive development," Vitale said, since the bills "hold out the possibility of giving advocates additional tools to push for meaningful reforms."

Martin Horn, executive director of the New York State Sentencing Commission, expressed a similar point of view, "I'm a big believer in transparency. Increased transparency is always a good thing. The test will come when we see what they do with the data."

Although Crowley maintained that the "grouping of bills emphasizes the Council's desire to curb violence on Rikers Island by addressing inmates' as well as staff's needs," the head of the correction officers' union does not share the same view.

"We need to do much more to achieve real reform for inmates as well as the hard-working correction officers who are still treated like second-class citizens by a Department of Correction that doesn't seem to care about them," Seabrook said in a statement.

The new package of Council bills comes as Mayor de Blasio and DOC Commissioner Joe Ponte continue to make changes at Rikers, including to limit the use of solitary confinement. There are also new proposed rules around visitation to Rikers inmates that have drawn criticism from advocates and family members of incarcerated individuals.

Greater transparency about the conditions on Rikers Island and increased protection of inmates' rights are desperately needed, as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's 2014 investigation into the conditions on Rikers Island found there to be "rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction staff," and that the "inadequate reporting by staff of the use of force, including false reporting" contributed to the "excessive and unnecessary use of force by DOC staff."

At City Hall on Thursday, Council Member Dan Garodnick, who sponsored three of the eight bills that were passed, called attention to the fact that "conditions have deteriorated to the point where the United States government is now suing the New York City Department of Correction in order to enforce change. It should never have come to that."

Garodnick and other Council members have noted that it is the Council's responsibility to perform oversight of city agencies and in doing so, they must have more data at their fingertips. Ideally, the increased availability of information will make the situation in New York City jails much clearer, ultimately making it easier for advocates and policymakers to enact meaningful reform to alleviate some of the problems that plague the jails system - including violence that hurts both inmates and officers.

"We believe that if they have to report on the problems that are in existence, then there will be pressure on them to reduce the problems and limit them," James Jr. of Legal Aid Society told Gotham Gazette. "If in fact there are long waits for people to get into housing, if there are problems with visitation, if they have to report on it, it's an incentive for them to correct the problem."

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
@megoconnor13

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Inmate Bill of Rights Among New Wave of Rikers Reforms Mon, 21 Sep 2015 20:19:49 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 14 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5887:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-14 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5887:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-september-14 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

  • Where will the heated discussion over MTA funding go?
  • What's next in the James Blake-NYPD saga?
  • Is there any sense that Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo may figure out a truce and work together instead of being antagonists?
  • What bills will be introduced and passed at the City Council's first (of two) full-body Stated Meeting of the month, set for Thursday?

These are a few of the questions we're asking as a new week in New York politics dawns. Sunday saw plenty of politial action as Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials held a ribbon cutting for the new 7-train extension to the far west side of Manhattan.

The event saw de Blasio and others praise former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the project's vision (and funding), though Bloomberg was not in attendance. It also was the latest theater for the ongoing conflict over the MTA capital plan and whether the state can secure more funding from the city. De Blasio insists that the city is paying its fair share, while the MTA and Governor Cuomo continue to say the city must put billions more into the plan. The 7-extension opening comes just a couple of days after a G-train derailment, which brough the system's need for repair into stark relief yet again. What's next?

On Saturday, de Blasio, Cuomo, and most other major New York political figures marched in the Central Labor Council's 2015 New York City Labor Day Parade. Cuomo and de Blasio did not appear together, though they did speak in person on Friday at a September 11th commemoration.

On Monday, at 12:30 p.m., de Blasio will take part in a multi-agency preparedness excercise for the papal visit. One Police Plaza will host a 3 p.m. press conference on the papal visit featuring de Blasio, Bratton and members of the Secret Service and FBI.

Cuomo has no events announced as of yet. 

As tense as this week may or may not be, there will be some levity in city politics Thursday night at the annual de Blasio administration-City Council softball game.

In terms of hearings and events, it's a slow start to the week, but then things get quite busy - read our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Monday will likely be a fairly quiet day in New York City as Rosh Hashanah is observed.

City Council member Participatory Budgeting meeting to be held on Monday:
7 p.m., Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)

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

Tuesday
At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Joseph S. Murphy Institute/CUNY will hold "Unions, Workers and the Democratic Party," a panel exploring how to most effectively influence political candidates with financial contributions from labor organizations. Participants will include Basil Smikle, Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party; Juan Gonzalez, columnist for Daily News and co-host of Democracy Now!; Larry Cohen, former President of Communications Workers of America; and Randy Weingarten of President of the American Federation of Teachers.

At Civic Hall Tuesday night, "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will make remarks at an event, hosted by NY Tech Meetup, entitled "Tech and Government Featuring NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman"...The Attorney General's remarks will be followed by a panel of representatives from his office, moderated by Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of NY Tech Meetup. The panel will include: Lacey Keller, Director of Research and Analytics; Eric Stock, Chief of the Antitrust Bureau; Kathleen McGee, Chief of the Internet Bureau; and Tim Wu, Senior Enforcement Counsel and Special Advisor."

Wednesday
The Board of Regents will meet Wednesday to discuss a number of issues, including the recently reported 20% state standardized test opt-out movement and teacher evaluations.

At 10:30 a.m. at The Sagamore Resort on "scenic Lake George" the Business Council of New York State will commence its 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference will run through Friday and include "engaging speakers" and "incomparable access to business leaders and politicians." Notable speakers include Emmy Award winning journalist Campbell Brown (keynote); former Governor David Paterson; Bob Duffy, the President and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance; former Assemblymember Michael Benjamin; and policy experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Cuomo administration, and the state Legislature. The governor has been invited to speak, but had not confirmed as of last week.

At the New York City Council on Wednesday:

  • 10 a.m., The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to discuss four bills. The first two mandate a stricter filing system for the Department of Buildings when dealing with restrictive covenants and applications for the construction of new buildings or the alteration of existing ones. The latter two bills alter the rate of interest applied "by the Department of Finance to unpaid charges owed by landlords to the City for emergency repair work conducted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development" and the filing fees for new buildings or alterations.
  • 10 a.m., The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet to discuss legislation dealing with waste disposal policy. More specifically, the proposed bills would increase fines for littering and depositing residential or commercial waste into public receptacles, require "food and beverage establishments" to clean up any liquid waste their trash left on the sidewalk, and order special trashcans for rodent infested buildings.
  • 11 a.m., The Committee on Environmental Protection will continue discussion from last week concerning a bill that would prohibit stores from propping their door(s) open when the air conditioning is on.
  • 1 p.m., the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations will meet to pass a resolution praising Pope Francis and "his lifelong pursuit of peace among all peoples" during his upcoming visit to NYC (which is set for the end of next week).
  • 2 p.m., the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services will assemble to make decisions on bills directing the Department of Correction to provide a list of all inmates waitlisted for placement or transfer to alternative housing, to expand its report on "enhanced supervision housing," to publish "their rules and regulations regarding the use of force by staff on inmates," to post quarterly reports detailing the visitation of incarcerated individuals, the department's grievance system, and the demographic of incarcerated individuals in city jails, and to create "an inmate bill of rights." Proposed legislation also requires "the office of criminal justice to post an annual report on bail and the criminal justice system."

City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings to be held on Wednesday:

  • 2:30 p.m. Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn)
  • 6:30 p.m. Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)
  • 7 p.m. Andrew Cohen (District 11, Bronx)
  • 7 p.m. Costa Constantinides (District 22, Queens)

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, "Hear from the NYPD executives, ask questions and get involved" at a Staten Island Community Forum on public safety. The event will be held at Ralph R. McKee Career & Technical Education High School.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Brooklyn Historical Society kicks off its fall public programming with the event "Why New York? Our Segregated Schools Epidemic." WNYC education reporter Beth Fertig will moderate a discussion about school segregatin and integration in New York. Participants will include Norm Fruchter, writer, scholar and Principal Associate of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative reporter with The New York Times Magazine; Clara Hemphill, founder of insideschools.org; and Craig Gurian, Executive Director of the Anti-Discrimination Center.

Thursday
At 8 a.m. Thursday, New York State Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie "will present his priorities for New York State and reflect on his first session as speaker" at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will hold a "public hearing on Manhattan traffic congestion" to gain a full perspective on "all sources of traffic increases."

At The City Council on Thursday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to consider a land use application for the Tremont Renaissance in the Bronx, and a resolution regarding the allocation of funding from the Expense Budget to "certain organizations."
  • 10:30 a.m. the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will submits the names of three people to the City Council: Shampa Chanda, a resident of Queens, for appointment as a member of the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, Helen Arteaga as a Council candidate for designation and subsequent appointment by the Mayor to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Board of Directors, and Arva R. Rice, candidate for re-appointment by the Council to the New York City Equal Employment Practices Commission.
  • 1:30 p.m., the City Council will have a full-body Stated Meeting, its first of two this month (the other is scheduled for 9/30). As always, this will be pre-faced by a pre-stated press conference led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at City Hall.

City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings to be held on Thursday:

  • (time TBD) Donovan Richards (District 31, Queens)
  • 4 p.m., Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)
  • 6 p.m., Jimmy van Bramer (District 26, Queens)
  • 6:30 p.m., Steven Levine (District 33, Brooklyn)
  • 6:30 p.m., Carlos Menchaca (District 39, Brooklyn)
  • 7 p.m., Costa Constantinides (District 22, Queens)

At noon Thursday, Crain's New York Business is hosting its "50 Most Powerful Women in New York Celebratory Luncheon." The event will feature a panel discussion with Candace Beinecke, chair of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP; Katherine Farley, Senior Managing Director of Brazil and China and Global Corporate Marketing for Tishman Speyer; Alicia Glen, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development for City of New York; and Liz Rodbell, the president of Hudson's Bay Company. Several elected and appointed officials including Glen, who is number one, are on the Crain's list.

At 5:30 p.m. the Museum of the City of New York will host a symposium, "Affordable Housing: What about the Future?" Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York, and Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, will give opening remarks. Barney Frank, former Massachusetts Congressman, will follow with the keynote address. The last segment of the event will feature a discussion panel featuring John Banks, President, The Real Estate Board of New York , Rafael E. Cestero, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Community Preservation Corporation, Ron Moelis, CEO and Chairman of L+M Development Partners Inc. , Richard Roberts, Managing Director of Acquisitions of Red Stone Equity Partners LLC, Ismene Speliotis, Executive Director of Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) and Saky Yakas, Partner at SLCE Architects. Sam Roberts, New York Times Urban Affairs Correspondent, will be the moderator.

The Contracts Committee of the Panel for Educational Policy will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Tweed Courthouse.

At 6 p.m. the CUNY School of Law Democrats will welcome New York City Public Advocate Letitia James as part of their "Ignite Justice! Speaker Series awards event." James will give a talk about her role in city government and how she uses the law as a vehicle for social justice and change. Take a look at our recent coverage of PA James and her approach to her position: Suing the Hand That Feeds You.

At 6:30 p.m. the Brooklyn Historical Society will host "How Brooklyn Works: Trash Pick-Up" with "Famed TED Talk presenter, author of Picking Up, and the New York City Department of Sanitation's anthropologist-in-residence, Robin Nagle." Nagle will present a brief overview of the history and structure of the DSNY and lead a discussion with a panel of DSNY sanitation workers.

At 7 p.m. former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the longest serving police commissioner in New York City history, will hold a book signing on Staten Island. In his new memoir Vigilance: My Life Serving America Protecting its Empire City Former NYPD Commissioner Kelly gives an account of his nearly 50 years in law enforcement.

In the evening the City Council will square off with and the de Blasio administration a softball game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. De Blasio and his crew will be looking for revenge after a 17-13 loss last year.

Friday and the weekend
On Friday at noon, the Manhattan Institute will host former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly for a book luncheon highlighting "Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting its Empire City."

At the City Council on Friday:

  • 10 a.m., the Committee on Women's Issues will meet with the Committee on Courts and Legal Services to hold an oversight hearing on the effectiveness of human trafficking intervention courts.
  • 12:30 the Committee on Waterfronts will meet for a tour of the Saw Mill Creek Mitigation Banks.
  • 1 p.m the Committee on Community Advancement will meet (agenda TBA)
  • 1 p.m. the Committee on Veterans will meet to consider a bill creating a taskforce to study veterans in the Criminal Justice System

Weekend City Council Participatory Budgeting meetings:

  • Friday at 6 p.m. by Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan)
  • Saturday at 10 a.m. by Robert Cornegy (District 36, Brooklyn)
  • Saturday at 6:30 p.m. by Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan)

On Sunday at 1 p.m. outside Gov. Cuomo's Manhattan office, Riders Alliance says: "We're heading to Governor Cuomo's NYC office to tell him to fix the subways--and we want you to join us! As you know, we've been calling for Gov. Cuomo to fix our trains and buses by funding the MTA Capital Plan. Our message is definitely getting across: after your "Subway Horror Stories," our #RideCuomoRide petition, and the Cardboard Cuomo subway tour, the Governor finally responded by pledging $7.3 billion toward the capital plan's budget gap."

[Read the latest in-depth reporting from Gotham Gazette]

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

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

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 14 Sun, 13 Sep 2015 15:51:59 +0000
Queens Library Scandal Spurs Nonprofit Oversight Bill http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5828:queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5828:queens-library-scandal-spurs-nonprofit-oversight-bill crowley rally

CM Crowley at a City Hall rally (photo: @magghayes)


On the heels of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's report on Queens library executives engaging in questionable practices, Queens Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley is renewing her push for greater oversight of officers of city-funded nonprofit organizations.

Crowley's bill, introduced to the Council's contracts committee and currently in preliminary stages, would require officers of nonprofit organizations— defined as chief executive, operating and finance officers— that receive 50 percent or more of their funding from the city to file conflict of interest disclosure forms to the city agencies that fund them.

"This [bill] just came from my frustration learning about this and understanding that this corruption was happening and the city had no idea," Crowley told Gotham Gazette, referencing former Queens Borough Public Library President Tom Galante.

Galante was fired in December after the library board of trustees reviewed his expense account and discovered lavish spending on pricey meals, alcohol, and furniture at the same time the library cut staff. Stringer's audit and investigative report into the library's finances— released in July— found a series of abuses: Galante failed to disclose his outside businesses on government filings and recorded "time spent performing part-time services for another public employer" that conflicted with his library schedule. Stringer's report also questioned the practices of the current interim library president Bridget Carey-Quinn, who served as chief operating officer under Galante.

"If we only had extended this law, that we extend to all elected officials, to those that are top management at nonprofits getting most of their money from the city, then we would know if there was a conflict and we would've known already that Tom Galante was abusing his privileges as CEO of the library," Crowley said.

Crowley introduced the bill in April 2014, a month after the Council convened a special oversight hearing on library executives' compensation following a series of articles scrutinizing Galante's salary. A hearing for the bill is expected in September or October in the contracts committee, which is chaired by Manhattan Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

"Every time he answered another question, we were more and more horrified by what he had to say," Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette of Galante's 2014 testimony, "and what we unearthed is that there was very little oversight for the Queens library president."

Rosenthal indicated she is eager to have a hearing on it this fall. Questions exist, though, about the burdens the bill would place on nonprofits if enacted into law. These questions are likely to be raised at the planned hearing.

Lauren George, associate director of Common Cause New York, a good government group, said the bill will require nonprofits to do some additional work in order to prevent future malfeasance.

"It will pose an additional burden, on small nonprofits especially, which have very limited staff and resources," George said. "Though increased public disclosure can't be a bad thing, and could help deter bad actors abusing access to city funds in the future, with the appropriate oversight and watch-dogging."

To what extent the bill will prove burdensome for nonprofits is not yet clear. For Doug Sauer, the CEO of the New York Council of Nonprofits, the bill overreaches in trying to regulate private organizations like public employees.

"If you look at Boeing industries and see how much money they get from the federal government, does the federal government come in and control how Boeing operates at the officer level, who their CEO is, or require all this personal information?" Sauer asked rhetorically. "So the basic premise— and there's gray area—is that the vast majority of not-for-profit organizations are independent, private not-for-profit corporations with boards of directors that share responsibility for the organization."

Sauer predicted the bill, if passed, will have a chilling effect on nonprofits and their ability to attract and retain employees in leadership positions.

"A lot of the City Council contracts are for small organizations so this would be tremendously onerous already on a talent pool that's very limited, that they can't properly compensate to begin with," Sauer said. "People won't want to do that [file disclosures], they're applying for a job where they may make $35,000. If they're a public employee they're in the pension system, they get good healthcare, they get good benefits. That's not the case for the majority of nonprofits."

Sauer also took issue with the 50 percent threshold the bill uses to determine whether officers of nonprofits will have to file conflict of interest disclosure firms.

"If you're talking about 85 or 90 percent of government money, you're talking a little bit of a different story, is this really more of a quasi-governmental entity? And that's a different debate," Sauer said. "But this is a real low figure and most organizations are community, grassroots organizations, not institutions, the vast majority don't have adequate funding as it is."

Rosenthal said that once taxpayer money is involved, nonprofits open themselves up to public scrutiny. "Taxpayers have the right to know what [their money] is being spent for," Rosenthal said.

It is also unclear how many nonprofits would be compelled to file disclosures if the bill is passed— an issue Crowley said will be looked into at the hearing in the fall but doesn't foresee as providing a significant burden. Representatives of the nonprofits that received the most money from the Council's pot of discretionary funds, the Hispanic Federation and the Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New York, were not available for comment.

"I think that we'll see a clear benefit by rooting out corruption, you know when I file [my conflict of interest form] every year, I file electronically. I don't know that it would be so burdensome," Crowley said.

The bill currently has nine sponsors, including Crowley (but not Rosenthal), many of whom are from Queens. Indicating her support, Rosenthal lamented the need for the bill, but says it is necessary to ensure ethical practices are occurring at these nonprofits.

"It's always the bad apples that ruin it for the rest of us," Rosenthal said. "And I think that we are often as lawmakers dragged down to the lowest common denominator and it's too bad that we should be in this situation, but given that what [Galante] was doing was so egregious, it raises the question, is this happening in other sectors as well— so you want to check that out."

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Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette
@CatieEdmondson

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Queens Library Scandal Spurs Nonprofit Oversight Bill Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:27:32 +0000