Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/eric-ulrich 2018-12-13T20:14:53+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Declared and Exploring Candidates for New York City Public Advocate 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-11T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8136-declared-or-exploring-candidates-for-new-york-city-public-advocate Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10-candidates.jpg" alt="10 candidates" width="600" height="350" /></p> <p>(l-r) Tish James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-viverito, Jumaane Williams, Latrice Walker<br />Rafael Espinal, Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim</p> <hr /> <p>There are roughly two dozen candidates who have officially declared or indicated they are exploring a run in the expected February special election for New York City Public Advocate.</p> <p>Attorney General-elect Letitia James will officially vacate the office of New York City Public Advocate on January 1, setting off the next steps of the process, whereby Mayor Bill de Blasio will be required to call a special election within a few days of the vacancy for what will be the first citywide special election.</p> <p>Candidates have already been hitting the forum and debate circuit, with groups and voters across the city eager to hear from those seeking to become of just three popularly-elected citywide officials. The Public Advocate is significantly less powerful than the Mayor or the Comptroller, but has a citywide perch, important responsibilities as a watchdog and ombudsperson, the power to introduce legislation and file litigation, and a bully pulpit. People who have held the position in its relatively short history have been elected mayor (Bill de Blasio) or almost so (Mark Green), and now attorney general.</p> <p>It won’t be completely clear who is fully running to become the next Public Advocate until candidates collect signatures to get on the ballot and file their fundraising numbers with the Campaign Finance Board. Special elections in the city are “nonpartisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and candidates cannot run on the major party ballot lines. Each candidate will create their own party label to run on, and they’ll need to collect 3,750 valid signatures from registered voters of any party (or none) to make the ballot.</p> <p>Declared and exploring candidates include several current and former elected officials and a variety of other individuals looking to pull off a surprise win. With the prospect of well more than ten candidates on the ballot and low voter turnout virtually a given, the winner of the special election could be anyone who finds the right formula for the necessary thousands of voters.</p> <p>The winner of the special election will quickly have to win a regular election, though, since city law dictates that for such a vacancy, there is not only a special election but then a regular election, with party primaries if needed, the following fall. So, there will be an election for Public Advocate in November, with September party primaries if necessary, in the fall of 2019.</p> <p><em>Below is a running list of candidates, either declared or exploring, for the Public Advocate special election (in alphabetical order):</em></p> <p>-Assemblymember Michael Blake represents part of the Bronx and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. <a href="https://twitter.com/MrMikeBlake" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MrMikeBlake</a></p> <p>-Theo Chino is a bitcoin entrepreneur and county committee member. <a href="https://twitter.com/theochino" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@theochino</a></p> <p>-Daniel Christmann is a radio host. <a href="https://twitter.com/EcallerTh" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EcallerTh</a></p> <p>-David Eisenbach is a professor of history at Columbia University, who unsuccessfully challenged Tish James in the 2017 Democratic primary for Public Advocate. <a href="https://twitter.com/Eisenbach4NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Eisenbach4NY</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/RLEspinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RLEspinal</a></p> <p>-Peter Gleason is an attorney and former police officer and firefighter, who once represented the infamous “Soccer Mom Madam.” <a href="https://twitter.com/PeterGleasonEsq" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@PeterGleasonEsq</a></p> <p>-Tony Herbert is a community activist who was a candidate for Public Advocate in 2017. <a href="https://twitter.com/herbert4nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@herbert4nyc</a></p> <p>-Ifeoma Ike is an attorney and co-founder of consultancy Think Rubix, LLC. <a href="https://twitter.com/ifyworks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@IfyWorks</a></p> <p>-Walter Iwachiw is a perennial Republican candidate for various offices, such as mayor, state Assembly, CUNY Student Senator, and even U.S. president.</p> <p>-Assemblymember Ron Kim represents parts of Queens. <a href="https://twitter.com/rontkim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@rontkim</a></p> <p>-Nomiki Konst is a journalist, activist, and member of the Democratic National Committee. <a href="https://twitter.com/NomikiKonst" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NomikiKonst</a></p> <p>-Melissa Mark-Viverito is former Speaker of the City Council who helped lead the Latino Victory Fund after being term-limited out of office at the end of 2017. <a href="https://twitter.com/MMViverito" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MMViverito</a></p> <p>-Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell represents part of Manhattan. <a href="https://twitter.com/DannyforNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DannyforNYC</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez represents part of Manhattan. <a href="https://twitter.com/ydanis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ydanis</a></p> <p>-Diane Signorile is a real estate broker from Staten Island. <a href="https://twitter.com/kittydat2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@kittydat2</a></p> <p>-Nancy Sliwa is an attorney and real estate broker who ran for Attorney General this year on the Reform Party line. <a href="https://twitter.com/SLIWA4NYAG" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SLIWA4NYAG</a></p> <p>-Dawn Smalls is an attorney who previously worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations. <a href="https://twitter.com/DawnSmalls2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DawnSmalls2</a></p> <p>-John Tabacco is the New York State Reform Party Secretary. <a href="https://twitter.com/HTBExperts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HTBExperts</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Eric Ulrich represents part of Queens. <a href="https://twitter.com/eric_ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@eric_ulrich</a></p> <p>-Assemblymember Latrice Walker represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/WalkerForNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@WalkerForNYC</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Jumaane Williams represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JumaaneWilliams</a></p> <p>-Ben Yee is a technology entrepreneur, member of the Democratic state committee, and secretary for the Manhattan Democratic Party. <a href="https://twitter.com/yben" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@yben</a></p> <p>-Mike Zumbluskas is the former Chairman of the Manhattan Independence Party. <a href="https://twitter.com/MikeZumbluskas" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MikeZumbluskas</a></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/10-candidates.jpg" alt="10 candidates" width="600" height="350" /></p> <p>(l-r) Tish James, Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-viverito, Jumaane Williams, Latrice Walker<br />Rafael Espinal, Danny O'Donnell, Michael Blake, Erich Ulrich, Ron Kim</p> <hr /> <p>There are roughly two dozen candidates who have officially declared or indicated they are exploring a run in the expected February special election for New York City Public Advocate.</p> <p>Attorney General-elect Letitia James will officially vacate the office of New York City Public Advocate on January 1, setting off the next steps of the process, whereby Mayor Bill de Blasio will be required to call a special election within a few days of the vacancy for what will be the first citywide special election.</p> <p>Candidates have already been hitting the forum and debate circuit, with groups and voters across the city eager to hear from those seeking to become of just three popularly-elected citywide officials. The Public Advocate is significantly less powerful than the Mayor or the Comptroller, but has a citywide perch, important responsibilities as a watchdog and ombudsperson, the power to introduce legislation and file litigation, and a bully pulpit. People who have held the position in its relatively short history have been elected mayor (Bill de Blasio) or almost so (Mark Green), and now attorney general.</p> <p>It won’t be completely clear who is fully running to become the next Public Advocate until candidates collect signatures to get on the ballot and file their fundraising numbers with the Campaign Finance Board. Special elections in the city are “nonpartisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and candidates cannot run on the major party ballot lines. Each candidate will create their own party label to run on, and they’ll need to collect 3,750 valid signatures from registered voters of any party (or none) to make the ballot.</p> <p>Declared and exploring candidates include several current and former elected officials and a variety of other individuals looking to pull off a surprise win. With the prospect of well more than ten candidates on the ballot and low voter turnout virtually a given, the winner of the special election could be anyone who finds the right formula for the necessary thousands of voters.</p> <p>The winner of the special election will quickly have to win a regular election, though, since city law dictates that for such a vacancy, there is not only a special election but then a regular election, with party primaries if needed, the following fall. So, there will be an election for Public Advocate in November, with September party primaries if necessary, in the fall of 2019.</p> <p><em>Below is a running list of candidates, either declared or exploring, for the Public Advocate special election (in alphabetical order):</em></p> <p>-Assemblymember Michael Blake represents part of the Bronx and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. <a href="https://twitter.com/MrMikeBlake" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MrMikeBlake</a></p> <p>-Theo Chino is a bitcoin entrepreneur and county committee member. <a href="https://twitter.com/theochino" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@theochino</a></p> <p>-Daniel Christmann is a radio host. <a href="https://twitter.com/EcallerTh" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@EcallerTh</a></p> <p>-David Eisenbach is a professor of history at Columbia University, who unsuccessfully challenged Tish James in the 2017 Democratic primary for Public Advocate. <a href="https://twitter.com/Eisenbach4NY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@Eisenbach4NY</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Rafael Espinal represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/RLEspinal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@RLEspinal</a></p> <p>-Peter Gleason is an attorney and former police officer and firefighter, who once represented the infamous “Soccer Mom Madam.” <a href="https://twitter.com/PeterGleasonEsq" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@PeterGleasonEsq</a></p> <p>-Tony Herbert is a community activist who was a candidate for Public Advocate in 2017. <a href="https://twitter.com/herbert4nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@herbert4nyc</a></p> <p>-Ifeoma Ike is an attorney and co-founder of consultancy Think Rubix, LLC. <a href="https://twitter.com/ifyworks" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@IfyWorks</a></p> <p>-Walter Iwachiw is a perennial Republican candidate for various offices, such as mayor, state Assembly, CUNY Student Senator, and even U.S. president.</p> <p>-Assemblymember Ron Kim represents parts of Queens. <a href="https://twitter.com/rontkim" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@rontkim</a></p> <p>-Nomiki Konst is a journalist, activist, and member of the Democratic National Committee. <a href="https://twitter.com/NomikiKonst" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NomikiKonst</a></p> <p>-Melissa Mark-Viverito is former Speaker of the City Council who helped lead the Latino Victory Fund after being term-limited out of office at the end of 2017. <a href="https://twitter.com/MMViverito" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MMViverito</a></p> <p>-Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell represents part of Manhattan. <a href="https://twitter.com/DannyforNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DannyforNYC</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez represents part of Manhattan. <a href="https://twitter.com/ydanis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ydanis</a></p> <p>-Diane Signorile is a real estate broker from Staten Island. <a href="https://twitter.com/kittydat2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@kittydat2</a></p> <p>-Nancy Sliwa is an attorney and real estate broker who ran for Attorney General this year on the Reform Party line. <a href="https://twitter.com/SLIWA4NYAG" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SLIWA4NYAG</a></p> <p>-Dawn Smalls is an attorney who previously worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations. <a href="https://twitter.com/DawnSmalls2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DawnSmalls2</a></p> <p>-John Tabacco is the New York State Reform Party Secretary. <a href="https://twitter.com/HTBExperts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@HTBExperts</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Eric Ulrich represents part of Queens. <a href="https://twitter.com/eric_ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@eric_ulrich</a></p> <p>-Assemblymember Latrice Walker represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/WalkerForNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@WalkerForNYC</a></p> <p>-City Council Member Jumaane Williams represents part of Brooklyn. <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JumaaneWilliams</a></p> <p>-Ben Yee is a technology entrepreneur, member of the Democratic state committee, and secretary for the Manhattan Democratic Party. <a href="https://twitter.com/yben" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@yben</a></p> <p>-Mike Zumbluskas is the former Chairman of the Manhattan Independence Party. <a href="https://twitter.com/MikeZumbluskas" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MikeZumbluskas</a></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
At First Debate, Candidates for Public Advocate Pitch Visions for the Role 2018-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8076-at-first-debate-candidates-for-public-advocate-pitch-visions-for-the-role Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="The candidates, moderator and hosts" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Public Advocate Letitia James’ victory in the race for state attorney general has kicked off what will be roughly three months of jostling by candidates running to replace her. While James won’t be sworn in until January and the nonpartisan special election for her seat won’t be held till February, several candidates have already declared their interest in the seat and, on Wednesday evening, seven of them shared a stage at New York Law School, staking out their positions on the roles and responsibilities of the office and how they would employ the limited powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>The 90-minute forum, hosted by AARP-NY and good government group Citizens Union, featured New York City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Eric Ulrich and Jumaane Williams, Assembly Members Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell, Dawn Smalls, a former Obama White House appointee, and journalist Nomiki Konst. Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max moderated the discussion, which largely focused on how the candidates would execute the role of public advocate, but also touched on a number of issues, from development in the city to the recently-announced deal that would bring an Amazon headquarters to Queens.</p> <p>The candidates were all in the same neighborhood in defining the role of the public advocate as an independent watchdog in city government that provides a voice for the voiceless and holds the mayor accountable. Each presented their vision of the key responsibilities of the office and how they would creatively use its resources, and discussed areas of government function and city agencies where they would focus their efforts. There was minimal daylight among them, all Democrats save for Ulrich, who admitted he was the “elephant in the room” as the only Republican on stage (he calls himself a Rockefeller Republican and is pro-choice, pro-labor union, and opposed to President Donald Trump).</p> <p>The candidates mostly agreed that the office is underfunded, at $3.3 million for the current fiscal year, and agreed that the budget should be independent of the whims of the City Council and the mayor, though none of them offered specific projections for adequate funding.</p> <p>Council Member Espinal pitched his record of bringing resources to his district and fighting for affordable housing, chiefly through the East New York rezoning plan that included $250 million in city investments in the neighborhood. He agreed that the public advocate should use their position to hold the mayor accountable for his decisions. “But I also believe that the public advocate should be responsible for making sure that we have a plan that’s going to benefit the future of New York City,” he said, insisting that the role should be about more than just reacting to crises after the fact. “NYCHA’s crumbling, the MTA’s crumbling, but no one’s talking about what are some sustainable solutions on how the city should move forward to make sure those problems do not end up at our steps at City Hall.”</p> <p>Espinal said the office should be empowered to audit city agencies, conduct independent environmental studies on land use deals, and should run the city’s most efficient constituent services program. Asked how he would work to make the city more aging friendly, he promised to advocate for investments in infrastructure and accessibility, and to push for increased senior services and funding for health care facilities.</p> <p>Ulrich repeatedly made some of the most forceful pledges to hold the mayor accountable, arguing he is best suited to do so given his party affiliation. “The office of the public advocate was supposed to be, or was designed to be, I believe, a check on the power of the executive branch in this city, not a rubber stamp,” he said, noting that officials sometimes fail that duty when both the public advocate and mayor are members of the same party while giving credit to several prior public advocates for ways in which they used the office.</p> <p>Ulrich said the powers of the office could be expanded without increased funding, by allowing the public advocate to sit on the boards of more city commissions and authorities, such as the MTA executive board and the CUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>To aid seniors, Ulrich said he would push to expand support for naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), advocate for legislation in Albany to give tax credits to caregivers of senior citizens and also promote greater affordable housing set asides for seniors. He stressed that it was necessary to set up a communication pipeline, perhaps within the office, dedicated to seniors’ complaints and issues.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner in the race is Council Member Williams, who is fresh off a defeat in the primary for lieutenant governor in which he nonetheless won nearly 47 percent, more than 640,000 votes, against the incumbent, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Williams prides himself on being an “activist elected official” and has vowed to bring that philosophy into the public advocate’s office. “I want to make sure that people feel someone is watching the mayor, the City Council, the agencies to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Williams said. More than just raising issues with government failures, he said the public advocate should also propose solutions to solve them.</p> <p>Williams pushed for the office to receive subpoena power and an independent budget with enough resources to hire a dedicated investigations staff and to give them the ability to file lawsuits and see them through. To Williams, the biggest issues facing seniors are the lack of affordable housing in the city and “resource inequality” across neighborhoods for which he pointed fingers at Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, promising that he would prioritize those problems if elected.</p> <p>Smalls, an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations and formerly as a commissioner at the New York State Joint Commission for Public Ethics, pitched herself as an independent candidate from outside the established political structure. “I am running for public advocate because I believe in government as a force for good, but only if it works,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls said she would reorganize the office to be “laser focused” on a few key areas, in particular the city’s subway system, affordable housing, homelessness, and voting reforms. “Rather than doing a little bit of everything, when you have such a limited budget, and you have such a limited staff, I think the way to leverage that is to really focus in on a few key issues that affect all New Yorkers and really use that watchdog status to drill down and hold leaders accountable,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls also said she supported providing more affordable housing for seniors and a caregiver tax credit, and said the city needs to put more money into NYCHA which is home to many seniors and is experiencing a “five-alarm emergency.”</p> <p>Similarly to Smalls, Konst touted her independence from politics as her strongest qualification. “I’m running for public advocate because it is independent, it should be independent of politics,” she said. Konst previously served on the Democratic National Committee Reform Commission, appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and has been a vocal proponent of reform within the party. A democratic socialist, she also holds what are in this race likely the furthest left positions on many issues.</p> <p>She offered several unique ideas for how she would use the public advocate’s office including setting up a unit of out-of-work reporters to investigate public corruption, creating a conflicts of interest map to portray the connections between elected officials, lobbyists, and special interests, and appointing a representative of the public advocate’s office in each of the 51 City Council districts to monitor community issues. “The public advocate is there to shine light on all the dark places in this city, expose it and take it on,” she said.</p> <p>Konst said senior issues were “intersectional” and argued that across the board, underfunding of government services was the root of the problem, whether it be in NYCHA or the MTA. She promised to sue landlords that improperly evict elderly tenants and inveighed against overdevelopment that she said was leading to services and resources being concentrated in richer communities.</p> <p>Assemblymember Blake, who was recently reelected for a third term and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the number one responsibility of the office is “to be the watchdog of the agencies and to fight for the people.” He outlined four critical areas where he would “mobilize” the office’s resources -- the MTA, NYCHA, affordable housing, and the Department of Education. Blake repeatedly chided the deal signed between the city and state with Amazon to help the tech giant establish a satellite office in Long Island City. The deal was struck without input from local elected officials and will cut out the City Council from the land use review process. Blake said it was a chief example of why the city needs a strong public advocate.</p> <p>Blake called for an expansion of the SCRIE program, which provides rent freezes for seniors, insisted that the city should expand transit options for the elderly and also emphasized the need to provide services to senior veterans and seniors living in public housing. Additionally, he emphasized a focus on preventative health care for the city’s aging population, insisting that “too often we’re addressing the crisis on the back end.”</p> <p>“I’m running for public advocate because I don’t want to be mayor,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell, insisting that anyone seeking to use the office as a springboard should be “disqualified” from the race. (Only Ulrich would later say that he would consider running for mayor, while the rest either denied or deflected). “You have to have an independent outside voice who’s unafraid of the consequences of telling the truth,” O’Donnell added.</p> <p>O’Donnell said his first legislative proposal would be to give the public advocate’s office the power to subpoena city agencies, later touting his experience conducting investigations as head of the Assembly’s ethics committee. He repeatedly said the top issue the office should combat is overdevelopment and gentrification he says is running rampant across the city.</p> <p>O’Donnell also raised the issue of so-called food deserts in low-income communities, which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are generally linked to worse health outcomes. He said he would work to solve that problem. “I believe the public advocate’s office is the perfect place to promote it, to organize it,” he said.</p> <p>He also touted a bill he authored to remove social security income from SCRIE application numbers, alleviating pressure on seniors who cannot afford their rent, and he said the city should take over control of the bus system from the MTA, to ensure better transit options for seniors.</p> <p>Not all of the participating candidates are officially declared, Ulrich indicated he hasn’t made up his mind about running yet, and others who were not part of the forum are running or may run. Among others who are running or considering a run are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, David Eisenbach, Ben Yee, and Theo Chino. Candidates will have to officially petition in early January to get on the February ballot. As soon as James vacates the seat, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself a former public advocate, will have to call the special election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/public-adv-debate-first-ls.png" alt="The candidates, moderator and hosts" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City Public Advocate Letitia James’ victory in the race for state attorney general has kicked off what will be roughly three months of jostling by candidates running to replace her. While James won’t be sworn in until January and the nonpartisan special election for her seat won’t be held till February, several candidates have already declared their interest in the seat and, on Wednesday evening, seven of them shared a stage at New York Law School, staking out their positions on the roles and responsibilities of the office and how they would employ the limited powers of the public advocate.</p> <p>The 90-minute forum, hosted by AARP-NY and good government group Citizens Union, featured New York City Council Members Rafael Espinal, Eric Ulrich and Jumaane Williams, Assembly Members Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell, Dawn Smalls, a former Obama White House appointee, and journalist Nomiki Konst. Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max moderated the discussion, which largely focused on how the candidates would execute the role of public advocate, but also touched on a number of issues, from development in the city to the recently-announced deal that would bring an Amazon headquarters to Queens.</p> <p>The candidates were all in the same neighborhood in defining the role of the public advocate as an independent watchdog in city government that provides a voice for the voiceless and holds the mayor accountable. Each presented their vision of the key responsibilities of the office and how they would creatively use its resources, and discussed areas of government function and city agencies where they would focus their efforts. There was minimal daylight among them, all Democrats save for Ulrich, who admitted he was the “elephant in the room” as the only Republican on stage (he calls himself a Rockefeller Republican and is pro-choice, pro-labor union, and opposed to President Donald Trump).</p> <p>The candidates mostly agreed that the office is underfunded, at $3.3 million for the current fiscal year, and agreed that the budget should be independent of the whims of the City Council and the mayor, though none of them offered specific projections for adequate funding.</p> <p>Council Member Espinal pitched his record of bringing resources to his district and fighting for affordable housing, chiefly through the East New York rezoning plan that included $250 million in city investments in the neighborhood. He agreed that the public advocate should use their position to hold the mayor accountable for his decisions. “But I also believe that the public advocate should be responsible for making sure that we have a plan that’s going to benefit the future of New York City,” he said, insisting that the role should be about more than just reacting to crises after the fact. “NYCHA’s crumbling, the MTA’s crumbling, but no one’s talking about what are some sustainable solutions on how the city should move forward to make sure those problems do not end up at our steps at City Hall.”</p> <p>Espinal said the office should be empowered to audit city agencies, conduct independent environmental studies on land use deals, and should run the city’s most efficient constituent services program. Asked how he would work to make the city more aging friendly, he promised to advocate for investments in infrastructure and accessibility, and to push for increased senior services and funding for health care facilities.</p> <p>Ulrich repeatedly made some of the most forceful pledges to hold the mayor accountable, arguing he is best suited to do so given his party affiliation. “The office of the public advocate was supposed to be, or was designed to be, I believe, a check on the power of the executive branch in this city, not a rubber stamp,” he said, noting that officials sometimes fail that duty when both the public advocate and mayor are members of the same party while giving credit to several prior public advocates for ways in which they used the office.</p> <p>Ulrich said the powers of the office could be expanded without increased funding, by allowing the public advocate to sit on the boards of more city commissions and authorities, such as the MTA executive board and the CUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>To aid seniors, Ulrich said he would push to expand support for naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), advocate for legislation in Albany to give tax credits to caregivers of senior citizens and also promote greater affordable housing set asides for seniors. He stressed that it was necessary to set up a communication pipeline, perhaps within the office, dedicated to seniors’ complaints and issues.</p> <p>The presumed frontrunner in the race is Council Member Williams, who is fresh off a defeat in the primary for lieutenant governor in which he nonetheless won nearly 47 percent, more than 640,000 votes, against the incumbent, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Williams prides himself on being an “activist elected official” and has vowed to bring that philosophy into the public advocate’s office. “I want to make sure that people feel someone is watching the mayor, the City Council, the agencies to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Williams said. More than just raising issues with government failures, he said the public advocate should also propose solutions to solve them.</p> <p>Williams pushed for the office to receive subpoena power and an independent budget with enough resources to hire a dedicated investigations staff and to give them the ability to file lawsuits and see them through. To Williams, the biggest issues facing seniors are the lack of affordable housing in the city and “resource inequality” across neighborhoods for which he pointed fingers at Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, promising that he would prioritize those problems if elected.</p> <p>Smalls, an attorney who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations and formerly as a commissioner at the New York State Joint Commission for Public Ethics, pitched herself as an independent candidate from outside the established political structure. “I am running for public advocate because I believe in government as a force for good, but only if it works,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls said she would reorganize the office to be “laser focused” on a few key areas, in particular the city’s subway system, affordable housing, homelessness, and voting reforms. “Rather than doing a little bit of everything, when you have such a limited budget, and you have such a limited staff, I think the way to leverage that is to really focus in on a few key issues that affect all New Yorkers and really use that watchdog status to drill down and hold leaders accountable,” she said.</p> <p>Smalls also said she supported providing more affordable housing for seniors and a caregiver tax credit, and said the city needs to put more money into NYCHA which is home to many seniors and is experiencing a “five-alarm emergency.”</p> <p>Similarly to Smalls, Konst touted her independence from politics as her strongest qualification. “I’m running for public advocate because it is independent, it should be independent of politics,” she said. Konst previously served on the Democratic National Committee Reform Commission, appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, and has been a vocal proponent of reform within the party. A democratic socialist, she also holds what are in this race likely the furthest left positions on many issues.</p> <p>She offered several unique ideas for how she would use the public advocate’s office including setting up a unit of out-of-work reporters to investigate public corruption, creating a conflicts of interest map to portray the connections between elected officials, lobbyists, and special interests, and appointing a representative of the public advocate’s office in each of the 51 City Council districts to monitor community issues. “The public advocate is there to shine light on all the dark places in this city, expose it and take it on,” she said.</p> <p>Konst said senior issues were “intersectional” and argued that across the board, underfunding of government services was the root of the problem, whether it be in NYCHA or the MTA. She promised to sue landlords that improperly evict elderly tenants and inveighed against overdevelopment that she said was leading to services and resources being concentrated in richer communities.</p> <p>Assemblymember Blake, who was recently reelected for a third term and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the number one responsibility of the office is “to be the watchdog of the agencies and to fight for the people.” He outlined four critical areas where he would “mobilize” the office’s resources -- the MTA, NYCHA, affordable housing, and the Department of Education. Blake repeatedly chided the deal signed between the city and state with Amazon to help the tech giant establish a satellite office in Long Island City. The deal was struck without input from local elected officials and will cut out the City Council from the land use review process. Blake said it was a chief example of why the city needs a strong public advocate.</p> <p>Blake called for an expansion of the SCRIE program, which provides rent freezes for seniors, insisted that the city should expand transit options for the elderly and also emphasized the need to provide services to senior veterans and seniors living in public housing. Additionally, he emphasized a focus on preventative health care for the city’s aging population, insisting that “too often we’re addressing the crisis on the back end.”</p> <p>“I’m running for public advocate because I don’t want to be mayor,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell, insisting that anyone seeking to use the office as a springboard should be “disqualified” from the race. (Only Ulrich would later say that he would consider running for mayor, while the rest either denied or deflected). “You have to have an independent outside voice who’s unafraid of the consequences of telling the truth,” O’Donnell added.</p> <p>O’Donnell said his first legislative proposal would be to give the public advocate’s office the power to subpoena city agencies, later touting his experience conducting investigations as head of the Assembly’s ethics committee. He repeatedly said the top issue the office should combat is overdevelopment and gentrification he says is running rampant across the city.</p> <p>O’Donnell also raised the issue of so-called food deserts in low-income communities, which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are generally linked to worse health outcomes. He said he would work to solve that problem. “I believe the public advocate’s office is the perfect place to promote it, to organize it,” he said.</p> <p>He also touted a bill he authored to remove social security income from SCRIE application numbers, alleviating pressure on seniors who cannot afford their rent, and he said the city should take over control of the bus system from the MTA, to ensure better transit options for seniors.</p> <p>Not all of the participating candidates are officially declared, Ulrich indicated he hasn’t made up his mind about running yet, and others who were not part of the forum are running or may run. Among others who are running or considering a run are former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, David Eisenbach, Ben Yee, and Theo Chino. Candidates will have to officially petition in early January to get on the February ballot. As soon as James vacates the seat, Mayor Bill de Blasio, himself a former public advocate, will have to call the special election.</p> <p>[LISTEN: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
LISTEN: Public Advocate Candidate Forum - Nov. 14, 2018 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="pa forum aarp afterward" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With Public Advocate Letitia James' victory to become the next New York State Attorney General, she will vacate her current position on January 1 and there will be a special election to fill it sometime in February, once the Mayor decides on the exact date within a limited window he has to call it. In the days before and after Election Day 2018, candidates for Public Advocate have announced their intentions to run, or at least explore it, in some cases. Seven of those candidates participated in a forum on Wednesday, Nov. 14, hosted by Citizens Union, AARP NY, and New York Law School: Assembly Members Michael Blake and Danny O'Donnell; City Council Members Eric Ulrich, Jumaane Williams, and Rafael Espinal; activist and journalist Nomiki Konst; and attorney and former federal aide Dawn Smalls (there are other candidates who have declared or are exploring a run -- candidates will have to decide early in January at the latest).</p> <p>The debate touched on a wide range of issues, but was especially focused on how the candidates would approach the office of Public Advocate and what issues they would focus on, and it was moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max. Listen to the debate through the audio embedded below, or find it wherever you get your podcasts under "Gotham Gazette" and "Max &amp; Murphy" -- we've added it to those podcast streams.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530246352&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/pa_forum_aarp_afterward.jpg" alt="pa forum aarp afterward" width="600" /></p> <p>The candidates, moderator and hosts (photo via Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>With Public Advocate Letitia James' victory to become the next New York State Attorney General, she will vacate her current position on January 1 and there will be a special election to fill it sometime in February, once the Mayor decides on the exact date within a limited window he has to call it. In the days before and after Election Day 2018, candidates for Public Advocate have announced their intentions to run, or at least explore it, in some cases. Seven of those candidates participated in a forum on Wednesday, Nov. 14, hosted by Citizens Union, AARP NY, and New York Law School: Assembly Members Michael Blake and Danny O'Donnell; City Council Members Eric Ulrich, Jumaane Williams, and Rafael Espinal; activist and journalist Nomiki Konst; and attorney and former federal aide Dawn Smalls (there are other candidates who have declared or are exploring a run -- candidates will have to decide early in January at the latest).</p> <p>The debate touched on a wide range of issues, but was especially focused on how the candidates would approach the office of Public Advocate and what issues they would focus on, and it was moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max. Listen to the debate through the audio embedded below, or find it wherever you get your podcasts under "Gotham Gazette" and "Max &amp; Murphy" -- we've added it to those podcast streams.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530246352&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Field for Public Advocate Special Election Comes Into Focus 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8069-field-for-public-advocate-special-election-comes-into-focus Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/39766002621_7e972f43a2_z.jpg" alt="Rafael Espinal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Rafael Espinal (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Letitia James’ win in the race to become the next New York Attorney General means there will be a special election early in 2019 to name New York City’s next Public Advocate. The candidates for what will be a roughly three-month race were just beginning to become clear when news broke of planned City Council legislation calling for the position of public advocate to be abolished, as <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/11/12/council-to-consider-abolishing-office-of-the-public-advocate-691815" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported by Politico</a>.</p> <p>Though the post of public advocate has had critics since it was created during a massive 1989 New York City Charter revision process, the Council bill faces an uphill path to passage, and the race to replace James as one of just three popularly-elected citywide officials will capture much of the city’s political attention over the coming weeks.</p> <p>The somewhat undefined and underfunded role of public advocate is largely shaped by the person who fills it. It is broadly expected that the public advocate will do as the name suggests and fight for public interests, serving as a watchdog over the rest of city government. It is also seen as a stepping stone post -- Bill de Blasio launched his successful 2013 campaign for mayor from the perch.</p> <p>With James expected to win her race for attorney general since she launched her campaign several months ago, a long list of potential public advocate candidates formed. Now that Election Day is in the past, some are making it official, while others are still officially in the considering phase.</p> <p>Pushing the decision-making is that organizations have begun to host candidate forums, including the first on Monday night, held in Manhattan by several progressive advocacy groups and Democratic clubs. <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Another will follow on Wednesday night</a>, hosted by government reform group Citizens Union and AARP-NY. Candidates must also consider fundraising and pursuing endorsements from groups, labor unions, and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>Even before James won her race, a handful of candidates declared their candidacies: City Council Member Jumaane Williams, state Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell and Michael Blake, activist and journalist Nomiki Konst, and Columbia history professor David Eisenbach, who ran in the 2017 public advocate Democratic primary against James.</p> <p>Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is said to be nearing the launch of a campaign, while there have been grumblings that her predecessor in that role, Christine Quinn, may also give the race a look. There has also been some question about whether Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams would consider it, though he has expressed his intention to run for mayor in 2021. Both Quinn and Adams appear unlikely candidates at this point.</p> <p>Meanwhile, along with Williams, who just lost a bid to become the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, current City Council Members either starting or flirting with a run for public advocate include Rafael Espinal, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Eric Ulrich, the lone Republican in the mix at this point. (Meanwhile, five of their colleagues - Kalman Yeger, Robert Holden, Ruben Diaz Sr., Mark Gjonaj, and Rtichie Torres -- announced on Monday that they are backing a new bill to eliminate the position.)</p> <p>Also in the running for public advocate are Dawn Smalls, a Manhattan attorney with a background in federal government, open government advocate and Democratic Party activist Ben Yee, and systems engineer Theo Chino. Other names could easily emerge in the coming days and weeks.</p> <p>Once James is officially sworn in as attorney general on January 1, Mayor de Blasio will have just a few days to call a special election, likely to take place in late February. That election will be “non-partisan,” meaning there are no party primaries and each candidate must create their own ballot line through petitioning to accrue signatures from voters.</p> <p>Once the special election is decided, the winner will only hold the office until the end of 2019. In the fall, there will be a “regular” election, with party primaries (as necessary) and a general election. The winner of that election will serve out the rest of James’ term until the end of 2021. He or she would be eligible to run for reelection that fall and able to serve two full terms on top of the partial term, though there is of course talk that whoever holds the seat at the start of 2020 may very well run for mayor in 2021, when de Blasio is term-limited out of office.</p> <p>The <a href="http://aarp.cvent.com/events/aarp-new-york-city-nyc-public-advocate-town-hall-new-york-ny-11-14-18/event-summary-314a803f5d324ce18be85b3e3986817a.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">forum on Wednesday</a> will be held at New York Law School starting at 6:30 p.m., participating candidates including Blake, Williams, Espinal, Ulrich, O'Donnell, Konst, and Smalls.</p> <p>[Updated: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8074-listen-public-advocate-candidate-forum-nov-2018" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Listen to the full Wednesday forum here</a>]</p> <p>

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Ben Max contributed to this story.</p> <p>This story has been updated to indicate that City Council Member Robert Cornegy told Gotham Gazette he is not running for public advocate and that he is pursuing a run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021.</p>
Former and Current Elected Officials Discuss Potential Changes to City Campaign Finance System 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7854-former-and-current-elected-officials-discuss-potential-changes-to-city-campaign-finance-system Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nyccfb-twitter.jpg" alt="nyccfb twitter" width="600" /></p> <p>Schaffer, Ulrich, Torres, Quinn, Gotbaum, Cho (l-r) (photo: @NYCCFB)</p> <hr /> <p>Former and current New York City elected officials broadly praised the city’s campaign finance system at a panel at New York Law School on Wednesday, while acknowledging that it could be improved to incentivize more reliance on small donors and streamlined to encourage first-time candidates to run for office.</p> <p>The panel was hosted by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and moderated by Daniel Cho, assistant executive director for candidate guidance and policy at the CFB. The panellists included sitting City Council Members Ritchie Torres and Eric Ulrich, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who shared their divergent experiences in running for elected office, raising campaign money, and navigating the city’s campaign finance program.</p> <p>The CFB administers the system and its widely lauded public matching funds program, which intends to level the playing field in elections by matching the first $175 of every qualifying contribution at a 6-to-1 ratio. The rationale is simple: It motivates candidates for local and citywide office to cast a wider net and seek smaller individual donors rather than depend on wealthy contributors giving larger donations.</p> <p>But, even as other jurisdictions have begun to model programs after New York City’s, the CFB is hoping to strengthen its system, further limit the size of maximum donations, and encourage pursuit of small donors, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7735-campaign-finance-board-to-propose-reforms-at-charter-commission-hearing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recommending a slew of reforms</a> for consideration by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision commission, which will soon announce the proposals it will put before voters on November’s Election Day. CFB Chair Rick Schaffer gave opening remarks before the panel, during which he outlined the history of the campaign finance program and the CFB's new recommendations.</p> <p>Those reforms include drastically lowering contribution limits, increasing the matching fund ratio to 8-to-1 and the value of matchable donations to $250, changing the thresholds for qualifying for matching funds -- including the addition of a geographic requirement where a citywide candidate would have to get at least 50 donations from each borough -- and lowering the minimum qualifying contribution from $10 to $5. In the coming weeks, the charter commission will issue its final report, and the proposals it lands on will be presented to voters on the November general election ballot.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7735-campaign-finance-board-to-propose-reforms-at-charter-commission-hearing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Campaign Finance Board Proposes Reforms at Charter Commission Hearing</a>]</p> <p>Council Member Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, said the matching fund system was instrumental in his special election campaign in 2009, which he ran without help from labor unions or the local party establishment. “The critical factor in me deciding to move forward and to run was in fact the campaign finance program,” he said.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat, similarly said the program gave him “sufficient resources” to run his City Council campaign in 2013, but with one caveat. “The cost of running a campaign seems to vary widely from Council district to Council district.You could win a district like mine on the sheer strength of door-to-door campaigning,” he said.</p> <p>Quinn -- who is the only mayoral candidate to ever max out on public matching funds, Cho later said -- subsequently noted that rent for campaign offices in particular is one cost that can be drastically different depending on the district.</p> <p>Gotbaum, who is now executive director of government reform group Citizens Union, said that when she ran for public advocate in 2001, she raised large numbers of maximum donations -- currently $5,100 for citywide candidates -- because of a crowded field and because the CFB’s matching funds tend to be doled out late in the campaign. The program does appear to serve its intended purpose better for City Council candidates as citywide candidates continue to raise a majority of their funds from large donors.</p> <p>Gotbaum supports the public funds program but worries about the public reaction to the cost of public financing if the matching amounts are raised, though she also acknowledged that not enough New Yorkers even know the program exists. “I think if you put the match up terribly high, those few people that participate may start to complain...I’m just throwing that out there as a point of discussion,” she said.</p> <p>The CFB gives out public funds twice in an election in most cases, for the primary and then for the general. But Ulrich pointed out that for Republicans, who tend to be involved in far fewer primaries owing to Democrats’ heavy voter enrollment advantage in the city, matching funds are usually only disbursed once. In some cases, Ulrich argued, this gives Democratic candidates advantages in terms of getting their message out to voters and attacking their Republican opponent. “So I think the board should probably look at that,” he said. “It doesn’t affect most participants but...certainly in my part of the city, it does.”</p> <p>All the panellists agreed that a big challenge to ensuring ordinary voices are reflected in elections is that voter participation and engagement is far too anaemic in New York City. They not only stressed the need for more voter education but also the dire necessity of reforming the state’s antiquated voting and election laws which are widely held responsible for low voter turnout.</p> <p>“The reliance at the state level is on these big donors, corporate donors in fact,” said Ulrich, who ran for state Senate in 2012 and said he received dozens of large, unsolicited donations. “I would much rather if there was any way possible for state, federal, and city candidates for public office to be participating in a matching funds program. It’s a much more transparent, fairer, and I think ethical approach to running for political office.”</p> <p>Ulrich’s Republican colleagues who control the state Senate have not had the same opinion, however, as the chamber has opposed most campaign finance reforms supported by the Democratic Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as most voting and election reforms.</p> <p>Quinn took particular issue with state election law’s LLC loophole, which allows hidden donors to legally circumvent the already high state contribution limits through multiple limited liability companies. As Council speaker, Quinn ushered in campaign finance reforms which included a prohibition against LLC donations in city elections. She also said the practice of intermediaries “bundling” donations from several contributors for a single candidate tend to be more corrupting than a single, maxed-out donation.</p> <p>“That’s really where the amplification of corporate interests comes into place,” she said, urging the CFB to go beyond simply lowering contribution limits.</p> <p>Torres also wanted to see “bolder” reforms. “Some of these improvements do feel incremental,” he said, pointing out the heavy reliance on large donors, particularly in the mayoral race. He wants to see a drastic reduction in the contribution limits. “I think it would create a system that is purely powered by small donations,” he said.</p> <p>The Council member also noted that the recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- who ran on a platform opposed to corporate donors -- over Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in the June congressional primary shows a “millennial outcry” against excessive money in politics. “If the mayor’s charter commission were to radically reduce contribution limits in response to the national zeitgeist that’s taking hold, I think it would be a legacy achievement for the mayor,” he said.</p> <p>The panellists also agreed that perception matters in politics, and that constituents need to be reassured that government is not for sale, with some discussion around the “doing-business” limits on donations from entities seeking or holding city contracts.</p> <p>“For me, the standard is whether you contribute to the appearance of corruption,” Torres said, noting that Council members can raise substantial sums of money from industries that they regulate and that individual members also hold an almost “veto power” over land use matters that could be worth tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. “I’m not suggesting that this happens but the fact that it’s even a theoretical possibility is problematic,” he said. “A member could leverage the power you have over the [Uniform Land use Review Procedure] to extract sizable contributions. So why not foreclose that possibility.”</p> <p>Ulrich blamed the negative perceptions that the public holds of New York politicians on the long and constant stream of state-level elected officials, mostly in the state Legislature, who have been convicted of corruption. “I think until Albany gets their act together and enacts some form of real and robust ethics reform and campaign finance reform,” he said, “that is going to overshadow...all the wonderful and great work that the CFB is doing.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/nyccfb-twitter.jpg" alt="nyccfb twitter" width="600" /></p> <p>Schaffer, Ulrich, Torres, Quinn, Gotbaum, Cho (l-r) (photo: @NYCCFB)</p> <hr /> <p>Former and current New York City elected officials broadly praised the city’s campaign finance system at a panel at New York Law School on Wednesday, while acknowledging that it could be improved to incentivize more reliance on small donors and streamlined to encourage first-time candidates to run for office.</p> <p>The panel was hosted by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and moderated by Daniel Cho, assistant executive director for candidate guidance and policy at the CFB. The panellists included sitting City Council Members Ritchie Torres and Eric Ulrich, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who shared their divergent experiences in running for elected office, raising campaign money, and navigating the city’s campaign finance program.</p> <p>The CFB administers the system and its widely lauded public matching funds program, which intends to level the playing field in elections by matching the first $175 of every qualifying contribution at a 6-to-1 ratio. The rationale is simple: It motivates candidates for local and citywide office to cast a wider net and seek smaller individual donors rather than depend on wealthy contributors giving larger donations.</p> <p>But, even as other jurisdictions have begun to model programs after New York City’s, the CFB is hoping to strengthen its system, further limit the size of maximum donations, and encourage pursuit of small donors, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7735-campaign-finance-board-to-propose-reforms-at-charter-commission-hearing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recommending a slew of reforms</a> for consideration by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision commission, which will soon announce the proposals it will put before voters on November’s Election Day. CFB Chair Rick Schaffer gave opening remarks before the panel, during which he outlined the history of the campaign finance program and the CFB's new recommendations.</p> <p>Those reforms include drastically lowering contribution limits, increasing the matching fund ratio to 8-to-1 and the value of matchable donations to $250, changing the thresholds for qualifying for matching funds -- including the addition of a geographic requirement where a citywide candidate would have to get at least 50 donations from each borough -- and lowering the minimum qualifying contribution from $10 to $5. In the coming weeks, the charter commission will issue its final report, and the proposals it lands on will be presented to voters on the November general election ballot.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7735-campaign-finance-board-to-propose-reforms-at-charter-commission-hearing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Campaign Finance Board Proposes Reforms at Charter Commission Hearing</a>]</p> <p>Council Member Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, said the matching fund system was instrumental in his special election campaign in 2009, which he ran without help from labor unions or the local party establishment. “The critical factor in me deciding to move forward and to run was in fact the campaign finance program,” he said.</p> <p>Torres, a Bronx Democrat, similarly said the program gave him “sufficient resources” to run his City Council campaign in 2013, but with one caveat. “The cost of running a campaign seems to vary widely from Council district to Council district.You could win a district like mine on the sheer strength of door-to-door campaigning,” he said.</p> <p>Quinn -- who is the only mayoral candidate to ever max out on public matching funds, Cho later said -- subsequently noted that rent for campaign offices in particular is one cost that can be drastically different depending on the district.</p> <p>Gotbaum, who is now executive director of government reform group Citizens Union, said that when she ran for public advocate in 2001, she raised large numbers of maximum donations -- currently $5,100 for citywide candidates -- because of a crowded field and because the CFB’s matching funds tend to be doled out late in the campaign. The program does appear to serve its intended purpose better for City Council candidates as citywide candidates continue to raise a majority of their funds from large donors.</p> <p>Gotbaum supports the public funds program but worries about the public reaction to the cost of public financing if the matching amounts are raised, though she also acknowledged that not enough New Yorkers even know the program exists. “I think if you put the match up terribly high, those few people that participate may start to complain...I’m just throwing that out there as a point of discussion,” she said.</p> <p>The CFB gives out public funds twice in an election in most cases, for the primary and then for the general. But Ulrich pointed out that for Republicans, who tend to be involved in far fewer primaries owing to Democrats’ heavy voter enrollment advantage in the city, matching funds are usually only disbursed once. In some cases, Ulrich argued, this gives Democratic candidates advantages in terms of getting their message out to voters and attacking their Republican opponent. “So I think the board should probably look at that,” he said. “It doesn’t affect most participants but...certainly in my part of the city, it does.”</p> <p>All the panellists agreed that a big challenge to ensuring ordinary voices are reflected in elections is that voter participation and engagement is far too anaemic in New York City. They not only stressed the need for more voter education but also the dire necessity of reforming the state’s antiquated voting and election laws which are widely held responsible for low voter turnout.</p> <p>“The reliance at the state level is on these big donors, corporate donors in fact,” said Ulrich, who ran for state Senate in 2012 and said he received dozens of large, unsolicited donations. “I would much rather if there was any way possible for state, federal, and city candidates for public office to be participating in a matching funds program. It’s a much more transparent, fairer, and I think ethical approach to running for political office.”</p> <p>Ulrich’s Republican colleagues who control the state Senate have not had the same opinion, however, as the chamber has opposed most campaign finance reforms supported by the Democratic Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as most voting and election reforms.</p> <p>Quinn took particular issue with state election law’s LLC loophole, which allows hidden donors to legally circumvent the already high state contribution limits through multiple limited liability companies. As Council speaker, Quinn ushered in campaign finance reforms which included a prohibition against LLC donations in city elections. She also said the practice of intermediaries “bundling” donations from several contributors for a single candidate tend to be more corrupting than a single, maxed-out donation.</p> <p>“That’s really where the amplification of corporate interests comes into place,” she said, urging the CFB to go beyond simply lowering contribution limits.</p> <p>Torres also wanted to see “bolder” reforms. “Some of these improvements do feel incremental,” he said, pointing out the heavy reliance on large donors, particularly in the mayoral race. He wants to see a drastic reduction in the contribution limits. “I think it would create a system that is purely powered by small donations,” he said.</p> <p>The Council member also noted that the recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- who ran on a platform opposed to corporate donors -- over Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in the June congressional primary shows a “millennial outcry” against excessive money in politics. “If the mayor’s charter commission were to radically reduce contribution limits in response to the national zeitgeist that’s taking hold, I think it would be a legacy achievement for the mayor,” he said.</p> <p>The panellists also agreed that perception matters in politics, and that constituents need to be reassured that government is not for sale, with some discussion around the “doing-business” limits on donations from entities seeking or holding city contracts.</p> <p>“For me, the standard is whether you contribute to the appearance of corruption,” Torres said, noting that Council members can raise substantial sums of money from industries that they regulate and that individual members also hold an almost “veto power” over land use matters that could be worth tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. “I’m not suggesting that this happens but the fact that it’s even a theoretical possibility is problematic,” he said. “A member could leverage the power you have over the [Uniform Land use Review Procedure] to extract sizable contributions. So why not foreclose that possibility.”</p> <p>Ulrich blamed the negative perceptions that the public holds of New York politicians on the long and constant stream of state-level elected officials, mostly in the state Legislature, who have been convicted of corruption. “I think until Albany gets their act together and enacts some form of real and robust ethics reform and campaign finance reform,” he said, “that is going to overshadow...all the wonderful and great work that the CFB is doing.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
Attacks on Yeshivas Present a Dangerous Slippery Slope 2018-03-26T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7569-attacks-on-yeshivas-present-a-dangerous-slippery-slope Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eric_ulrich1.jpg" alt="eric ulrich1" width="600" height="577" /></p> <p>Eric Ulrich, the author, right, and Cardinal Dolan (photo: @eric_ulrich)</p> <hr /> <p>In the coming months, the city and state education departments are expected to rule on an issue that may have huge repercussions for parental school choice and religious freedom. A small group of former yeshiva graduates have alleged that religious schools in Orthodox Jewish communities are failing to provide adequate education to students. As an avid supporter of parental choice, I worry education leaders will side with these critics, posing a threat to private schools well beyond the Jewish community.</p> <p>Many years ago, I attended P.S. 63, an elementary school in Queens. My mother, a single parent and devout Catholic, made the decision to transfer me to the former Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, a Catholic elementary school. She wholeheartedly believed Catholic school was a better environment for me at the time – and it was. Appreciative of the opportunities Catholic school afforded me, I continued my religious education at Cathedral Prep Seminary High School.</p> <p>As the product of both public school and Catholic school education, I recognize the importance of parental school choice. The values instilled in me through my religious upbringing and education paved the way for my career as a public servant. Attending Catholic school ignited my passion for helping people; and at one point in my life, I seriously contemplated becoming a priest. If my mother did not have the freedom to enroll me in the school of her choice, I might not have taken the path I’ve taken, which I have found extraordinary fulfilling.</p> <p>During my time in office, I have visited many yeshiva schools. In each of those visits, I saw a vibrant atmosphere. It is clear to me the Orthodox community takes education seriously. The school day begins just after sunrise, and the majority of yeshiva students study long after they are dismissed. Their studies are deeply rooted in the Torah and Talmud, which encourage discussion and debate at a very young age. Their studies focus heavily upon religious and legal texts, and teachers employ a method of Socratic dialogue with students more commonly found at law schools. That may not be a familiar experience for graduates of traditional secular schools, but tens of thousands of parents choose these schools each year because yeshivas have served them – and their families – well for generations.</p> <p>The narrow issue before officials is whether these yeshivas are adhering to a vague state regulation requiring private schools to provide a substantially equivalent education to that of public schools. What that means in practice is enormously subjective; private and religious schools throughout the state are awaiting the results of a looming “clarification” from the State Education Department with deep trepidation.</p> <p>Government officials are being subjected to a pressure campaign by anti-yeshiva activists, who continuously attack the Orthodox Jewish community under the guise of educational quality. We must continue to protect freedom of religion and the rights of parents to send their children to religious schools – whether they are Catholic, Islamic, or Jewish. If we do not stand-up for yeshivas today, the future of other private schools may be next.</p> <p>***<br /> Eric Ulrich is a City Council member representing parts of Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/eric_ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@eric_ulrich</a>.</p> <p>

***
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&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/eric_ulrich1.jpg" alt="eric ulrich1" width="600" height="577" /></p> <p>Eric Ulrich, the author, right, and Cardinal Dolan (photo: @eric_ulrich)</p> <hr /> <p>In the coming months, the city and state education departments are expected to rule on an issue that may have huge repercussions for parental school choice and religious freedom. A small group of former yeshiva graduates have alleged that religious schools in Orthodox Jewish communities are failing to provide adequate education to students. As an avid supporter of parental choice, I worry education leaders will side with these critics, posing a threat to private schools well beyond the Jewish community.</p> <p>Many years ago, I attended P.S. 63, an elementary school in Queens. My mother, a single parent and devout Catholic, made the decision to transfer me to the former Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, a Catholic elementary school. She wholeheartedly believed Catholic school was a better environment for me at the time – and it was. Appreciative of the opportunities Catholic school afforded me, I continued my religious education at Cathedral Prep Seminary High School.</p> <p>As the product of both public school and Catholic school education, I recognize the importance of parental school choice. The values instilled in me through my religious upbringing and education paved the way for my career as a public servant. Attending Catholic school ignited my passion for helping people; and at one point in my life, I seriously contemplated becoming a priest. If my mother did not have the freedom to enroll me in the school of her choice, I might not have taken the path I’ve taken, which I have found extraordinary fulfilling.</p> <p>During my time in office, I have visited many yeshiva schools. In each of those visits, I saw a vibrant atmosphere. It is clear to me the Orthodox community takes education seriously. The school day begins just after sunrise, and the majority of yeshiva students study long after they are dismissed. Their studies are deeply rooted in the Torah and Talmud, which encourage discussion and debate at a very young age. Their studies focus heavily upon religious and legal texts, and teachers employ a method of Socratic dialogue with students more commonly found at law schools. That may not be a familiar experience for graduates of traditional secular schools, but tens of thousands of parents choose these schools each year because yeshivas have served them – and their families – well for generations.</p> <p>The narrow issue before officials is whether these yeshivas are adhering to a vague state regulation requiring private schools to provide a substantially equivalent education to that of public schools. What that means in practice is enormously subjective; private and religious schools throughout the state are awaiting the results of a looming “clarification” from the State Education Department with deep trepidation.</p> <p>Government officials are being subjected to a pressure campaign by anti-yeshiva activists, who continuously attack the Orthodox Jewish community under the guise of educational quality. We must continue to protect freedom of religion and the rights of parents to send their children to religious schools – whether they are Catholic, Islamic, or Jewish. If we do not stand-up for yeshivas today, the future of other private schools may be next.</p> <p>***<br /> Eric Ulrich is a City Council member representing parts of Queens. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/eric_ulrich" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@eric_ulrich</a>.</p> <p>

***
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City Landmarks Brooklyn Home Against Owner’s Wishes 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 2018-03-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7503-city-landmarks-brooklyn-home-against-owner-s-wishes Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/peter-rosa-huberty-google-earth.jpg" alt="peter rosa huberty google earth" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>1019 Bushwick Avenue (via Google Maps)</p> <hr /> <p>In October, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Peter P. and Rosa M. Huberty House, at 1019 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, as a city landmark.</p> <p>“The designation of the Huberty House honors both the historic character of Bushwick Avenue as it developed in the early 20th century, as well as the contributions of architect Ulrich Huberty to the borough of Brooklyn," LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said at the time. “Today's landmark designation will preserve this splendid Colonial Revival for future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy."</p> <p>A little more than three months later, on February 6, the item passed the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. It then passed the Council’s Land Use Committee on February 8, and finally the full City Council on February 15. The landmarking has the support of the LPC, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the district the house sits in, Reynoso’s predecessor, Diana Reyna, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the Historic Districts Council, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, to name a few.</p> <p>The problem: the owner of the house, Virginia Giovinco, is staunchly against it.</p> <p>Giovinco testified at a January 23 meeting of the Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee, when the landmarking of the house was being considered.</p> <p>“It’s a terrible burden on me,” she told the subcommittee. “I just cannot live with that idea. So I strongly oppose this designation for that moment that I don’t have control over my house.”</p> <p>The home has been in Giovinco’s family since 1937, when it was purchased by her grandfather, Luciano Giovinco, a tailor who had immigrated from Italy at the beginning of the 1900s. The house, a 4,000 square foot colonial revival mansion, was originally built in 1900 by the architect Ulrich Huberty for his parents, Peter and Rosa. Huberty also designed buildings such as the landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Hotel Bossert, and the Prospect Park Boathouse.</p> <p>Giovinco, now in her eighties, claimed at the hearing that the city has been attempting to landmark the house for at least 15 years. Her main worry appeared to be losing the autonomy of regular homeownership. She testified that, over the course of the Giovinco family’s 81-year ownership of the house, it had been kept in immaculate condition and any improvements had not deviated from the original colonial style of the home.</p> <p>“The old-timers did not need an outside agency to tell them they should preserve the appearance of this house,” she said. “And I don’t need an outside agency either.”</p> <p>Virginia Giovinco’s cousin Paul Giovinco also testified at the hearing, attesting that the house was not just within Virginia’s immediate family but rather a focal point for the entire extended family. Paul called out the city for not being supportive, saying that they had not received an offer from the city to cover a fixed portion of maintenance costs required by the landmarking.</p> <p>“We’re not gonna go ahead and throw down some tar paper, and some shingles,” Paul said. “We’re gonna maintain it the same way. But I don’t see no compensation or help. So what is the landmark giving us?”</p> <p>In response to testimony from the Giovincos, Council Members Daneek Miller and Mark Treyger discussed the need to strike a balance between the issues of homeowner autonomy and the need to preserve historic structures and communities through the landmarking process. Council Member Peter Koo recommended that the committee lay over the matter until further study.</p> <p>At the February 15 meeting of the full City Council, Miller, Treyger, and Koo all voted to advance the landmarking.</p> <p>Seven Council members voted against the designation: Joe Borelli, Ruben Diaz, Sr., Mark Gjonaj, Bob Holden, Steven Matteo, Eric Ulrich, and Kalman Yeger -- the Council’s three Republicans and several more conservative Democrats. Giovinco’s objections to the landmarking were on their mind.</p> <p>“It is my understanding that the property owner was not in favor of the landmark designation,” Ulrich told Gotham Gazette. “Therefore I voted against it.”</p> <p>Borelli went even further in his objections, suggesting that the landmarking is a violation of the owner’s personal liberties.</p> <p>“No owner is treated fairly if their rights are taken away without compensation,” Borelli said in an email. “There is no other agency in government that has that power, only this commission that decides which buildings are more relevant than others.” Among the rights Borelli cited as being taken away by LPC include “everything from putting a new addition on; to painting it with purple polka dots; [t]o using aluminum siding; [t]o demolishing it, because the cost of maintaining it under LPC guidelines is costly.”</p> <p>Borelli said the Landmarks Preservation Commission should be focusing more on landmarking buildings wherein preservation would be a public benefit, rather than simply picking “the prettiest house on the block.”</p> <p>The Landmarks Preservation Commission describes itself as “the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation;” 36,000 buildings are landmarked properties in New York City. Most of those are located in larger historic districts, but there are 1,405 individually landmarked buildings, along with 120 “interior landmarks” and 10 “scenic landmarks,” which consist of city parks such as Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park. Its leadership is made up of 11 commissioners appointed by the mayor. When the LPC designates a city landmark, the designation must then be approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee and then the full council.</p> <p>Virginia Giovinco declined to comment for this story. She has been on record against the landmarking since at least 2013, when she <a href="https://pastdue.nycitynewsservice.com/2016/05/25/bushwicks-treasures-could-be-sitting-ducks/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testified</a> at an LPC hearing with the same concerns as she has now: that landmarking the house would result in her losing autonomy over her property.</p> <p>For its part, an LPC representative said that the commission has designated approximately 150 free-standing homes as landmarks, with another 2,000 being landmarked as part of a historic district. Zodet Negron, a spokesperson for the LPC, told Gotham Gazette that the LPC has designated eight single-family homes as landmarks in the past four years, receiving the support of six of the owners; in the end, the owner’s approval is not required for designation. Negron stated that the LPC had done “extensive outreach” with Giovinco and that it intended to work with her “to ensure a smooth regulatory process.”</p> <p>“Our intent and approach is always to seek the cooperation of owners and establish a collaborative relationship that continues after designation,” Negron told Gotham Gazette. “Thousands of single-family homes are regulated by the Commission throughout the city, including both individual landmarks and within historic districts, and we work closely with homeowners to appropriately and expediently meet their needs.”</p> <p>According the city’s administrative code, minor work on a landmarked property typically requires a permit from the LPC, unless another city agency deems an improvement necessary for safety. Major work such as demolitions or new construction requires more permissions from LPC, including a “certificate of no effect” on “protected architectural features,” a “certificate of appropriateness,” or are otherwise authorized to proceed with the work. The code also says that owners should keep properties in “good repair” and prevent decay and deterioration. Negron said “routine maintenance” of landmarked properties typically does not require review from LPC.</p> <p>City Council Member Adrienne Adams, the chair of the Landmarks Subcommittee, also told Gotham Gazette that she had met with Giovinco after the hearing.</p> <p>Though Bushwick Avenue is lined with many historic properties, <a href="https://nyclpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=93a88691cace4067828b1eede432022b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only one</a> other home on the avenue has been landmarked: the Catherina Lipsius House at 670 Bushwick Ave. Other landmarks on the stretch include a church, a Brooklyn Public Library branch, a Masonic Lodge, and the Williamsburg Houses NYCHA development.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/peter-rosa-huberty-google-earth.jpg" alt="peter rosa huberty google earth" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>1019 Bushwick Avenue (via Google Maps)</p> <hr /> <p>In October, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Peter P. and Rosa M. Huberty House, at 1019 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, as a city landmark.</p> <p>“The designation of the Huberty House honors both the historic character of Bushwick Avenue as it developed in the early 20th century, as well as the contributions of architect Ulrich Huberty to the borough of Brooklyn," LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said at the time. “Today's landmark designation will preserve this splendid Colonial Revival for future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy."</p> <p>A little more than three months later, on February 6, the item passed the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. It then passed the Council’s Land Use Committee on February 8, and finally the full City Council on February 15. The landmarking has the support of the LPC, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the district the house sits in, Reynoso’s predecessor, Diana Reyna, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the Historic Districts Council, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, to name a few.</p> <p>The problem: the owner of the house, Virginia Giovinco, is staunchly against it.</p> <p>Giovinco testified at a January 23 meeting of the Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee, when the landmarking of the house was being considered.</p> <p>“It’s a terrible burden on me,” she told the subcommittee. “I just cannot live with that idea. So I strongly oppose this designation for that moment that I don’t have control over my house.”</p> <p>The home has been in Giovinco’s family since 1937, when it was purchased by her grandfather, Luciano Giovinco, a tailor who had immigrated from Italy at the beginning of the 1900s. The house, a 4,000 square foot colonial revival mansion, was originally built in 1900 by the architect Ulrich Huberty for his parents, Peter and Rosa. Huberty also designed buildings such as the landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Hotel Bossert, and the Prospect Park Boathouse.</p> <p>Giovinco, now in her eighties, claimed at the hearing that the city has been attempting to landmark the house for at least 15 years. Her main worry appeared to be losing the autonomy of regular homeownership. She testified that, over the course of the Giovinco family’s 81-year ownership of the house, it had been kept in immaculate condition and any improvements had not deviated from the original colonial style of the home.</p> <p>“The old-timers did not need an outside agency to tell them they should preserve the appearance of this house,” she said. “And I don’t need an outside agency either.”</p> <p>Virginia Giovinco’s cousin Paul Giovinco also testified at the hearing, attesting that the house was not just within Virginia’s immediate family but rather a focal point for the entire extended family. Paul called out the city for not being supportive, saying that they had not received an offer from the city to cover a fixed portion of maintenance costs required by the landmarking.</p> <p>“We’re not gonna go ahead and throw down some tar paper, and some shingles,” Paul said. “We’re gonna maintain it the same way. But I don’t see no compensation or help. So what is the landmark giving us?”</p> <p>In response to testimony from the Giovincos, Council Members Daneek Miller and Mark Treyger discussed the need to strike a balance between the issues of homeowner autonomy and the need to preserve historic structures and communities through the landmarking process. Council Member Peter Koo recommended that the committee lay over the matter until further study.</p> <p>At the February 15 meeting of the full City Council, Miller, Treyger, and Koo all voted to advance the landmarking.</p> <p>Seven Council members voted against the designation: Joe Borelli, Ruben Diaz, Sr., Mark Gjonaj, Bob Holden, Steven Matteo, Eric Ulrich, and Kalman Yeger -- the Council’s three Republicans and several more conservative Democrats. Giovinco’s objections to the landmarking were on their mind.</p> <p>“It is my understanding that the property owner was not in favor of the landmark designation,” Ulrich told Gotham Gazette. “Therefore I voted against it.”</p> <p>Borelli went even further in his objections, suggesting that the landmarking is a violation of the owner’s personal liberties.</p> <p>“No owner is treated fairly if their rights are taken away without compensation,” Borelli said in an email. “There is no other agency in government that has that power, only this commission that decides which buildings are more relevant than others.” Among the rights Borelli cited as being taken away by LPC include “everything from putting a new addition on; to painting it with purple polka dots; [t]o using aluminum siding; [t]o demolishing it, because the cost of maintaining it under LPC guidelines is costly.”</p> <p>Borelli said the Landmarks Preservation Commission should be focusing more on landmarking buildings wherein preservation would be a public benefit, rather than simply picking “the prettiest house on the block.”</p> <p>The Landmarks Preservation Commission describes itself as “the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation;” 36,000 buildings are landmarked properties in New York City. Most of those are located in larger historic districts, but there are 1,405 individually landmarked buildings, along with 120 “interior landmarks” and 10 “scenic landmarks,” which consist of city parks such as Central Park, Prospect Park, and Riverside Park. Its leadership is made up of 11 commissioners appointed by the mayor. When the LPC designates a city landmark, the designation must then be approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee and then the full council.</p> <p>Virginia Giovinco declined to comment for this story. She has been on record against the landmarking since at least 2013, when she <a href="https://pastdue.nycitynewsservice.com/2016/05/25/bushwicks-treasures-could-be-sitting-ducks/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">testified</a> at an LPC hearing with the same concerns as she has now: that landmarking the house would result in her losing autonomy over her property.</p> <p>For its part, an LPC representative said that the commission has designated approximately 150 free-standing homes as landmarks, with another 2,000 being landmarked as part of a historic district. Zodet Negron, a spokesperson for the LPC, told Gotham Gazette that the LPC has designated eight single-family homes as landmarks in the past four years, receiving the support of six of the owners; in the end, the owner’s approval is not required for designation. Negron stated that the LPC had done “extensive outreach” with Giovinco and that it intended to work with her “to ensure a smooth regulatory process.”</p> <p>“Our intent and approach is always to seek the cooperation of owners and establish a collaborative relationship that continues after designation,” Negron told Gotham Gazette. “Thousands of single-family homes are regulated by the Commission throughout the city, including both individual landmarks and within historic districts, and we work closely with homeowners to appropriately and expediently meet their needs.”</p> <p>According the city’s administrative code, minor work on a landmarked property typically requires a permit from the LPC, unless another city agency deems an improvement necessary for safety. Major work such as demolitions or new construction requires more permissions from LPC, including a “certificate of no effect” on “protected architectural features,” a “certificate of appropriateness,” or are otherwise authorized to proceed with the work. The code also says that owners should keep properties in “good repair” and prevent decay and deterioration. Negron said “routine maintenance” of landmarked properties typically does not require review from LPC.</p> <p>City Council Member Adrienne Adams, the chair of the Landmarks Subcommittee, also told Gotham Gazette that she had met with Giovinco after the hearing.</p> <p>Though Bushwick Avenue is lined with many historic properties, <a href="https://nyclpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=93a88691cace4067828b1eede432022b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only one</a> other home on the avenue has been landmarked: the Catherina Lipsius House at 670 Bushwick Ave. Other landmarks on the stretch include a church, a Brooklyn Public Library branch, a Masonic Lodge, and the Williamsburg Houses NYCHA development.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Election Post-Mortem with Nicole Malliotakis’ Campaign Manager 2017-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-10T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7316-election-post-mortem-with-malliotakis-campaign-manager Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/malliotakis_with_people_and_banner.jpg" alt="malliotakis with people and banner" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Nicole Malliotakis and company (photo: @NMalliotakis)</p> <hr /> <p>“I targeted 750,000 votes,” said Leticia Remauro, campaign manager for Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis’ mayoral bid, “and broke them up into about 26 Assembly Districts we needed to target.”</p> <p>“To win as a Republican in New York City, you have to win Queens, Staten Island, and the Upper East Side,” Remauro told Gotham Gazette in an election post-mortem interview, with the intensity of the campaign still evident.</p> <p>While some absentee and other ballots are still being counted, Malliotakis, the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio, received just under 304,000 votes, to de Blasio’s 726,000 and change. (Malliotakis also appeared on the Conservative and “Dump de Blasio” ballot lines, while the mayor also appeared on the Working Families Party line.)</p> <p>The campaign did win convincingly in Malliotakis’ home borough of Staten Island, she got 74 percent of the vote there, and did very well on the Upper East Side, while Queens was more of a mixed bag, as de Blasio won 64 percent of the vote in the borough.</p> <p>In the interview, Remauro explained the long odds the Malliotakis campaign faced from the get-go, and what needed to happen for her to pull off the upset that did not transpire. She admitted no mistakes in how the campaign was run -- “I don’t think that we could have run a better campaign.” -- but did express a few regrets, and she pointed the finger at several causes of the loss.</p> <p>“The reason de Blasio has been reelected has a lot do with Eric Ulrich,” Remauro said, referring to the Republican City Council member from Queens who endorsed Bo Dietl, an independent mayoral candidate who tried to run in the Democratic, then Republican primaries, but was unsuccessful in both efforts and ran on his own ballot line. Dietl raised and spent over $1 million in the race, participated in the two televised debates alongside de Blasio and Malliotakis, was the subject of a good amount of media coverage, and ultimately received 1 percent of the vote (about 10,600 votes).</p> <p>Other factors Remauro pointed to included Dietl’s inclusion in the televised debates (“Bo Dietl turned those debates into an entertainment circus. I believe voters were cheated”); the rain that came down around rush hour on Election Day and she believes led some people to stay home (“Had that rain decided not to let go as people were just coming home from work you would’ve seen a higher number”); how the news media covered Malliotakis’ candidacy and the race in general; and the presence of President Donald Trump atop the Republican Party. “He caused a lot of hurt to a lot of candidates and there’s nothing anyone could have done about that,” Remauro said of Trump.</p> <p>When asked about mistakes or things she wishes the campaign had done differently, Remauro said, “I would have liked to have had more money sooner. If I could turn back time it would have been good to get into the race in February, not in May or June, when we really got into it.” With more money sooner and thus public matching funds earlier, “get on the air sooner, done more mail than we did, spend earlier.”</p> <p>“A young Assemblywoman from Staten Island running in a 7-to-1 Democrat city” against an incumbent, Remauro explained of the tough odds. “We had Paul Massey who had taken millions out of New York City, real estate money...and we suffered for that,” she added, referring to the real estate executive who had been the Republican mayoral frontrunner until Malliotakis got in the race and who dropped out after their first side-by-side debate a few weeks later.</p> <p>“She had every disadvantage that you could imagine, and she still managed to capture a higher vote total and a higher vote percentage than Joe Lhota,” Remauro said, referring to the 2013 Republican mayoral nominee. She also explained that Lhota was more well-known and connected than Malliotakis at the times of their mayoral campaigns, explaining, for example, that he had been a deputy mayor and MTA chair, and that he was well-connected in Manhattan and had been endorsed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.</p> <p>Remauro, who runs The Von Agency, a public relations firm, noted that she has known Malliotakis since the Assembly member was in college, and always thought highly of her.</p> <p>As for Council Member Ulrich, who at one point flirted with his own mayoral bid, and “fractured” GOP support in Queens, Remauro gave Ulrich credit given that he won his reelection handily, but expressed frustration and confusion about why he continued to back Dietl. Ulrich maintained throughout the campaign that of any candidate in the race, Dietl had the best chance to defeat de Blasio in the general election. “If he had embraced her he could have been working with a Republican mayor,” Remauro said of Ulrich and Malliotakis.</p> <p>Remauro said that support for Massey, then Dietl from some leaders in Queens held Malliotakis’ campaign back (Ulrich supported Dietl throughout the campaign). While Remauro said that many district leaders and other GOP officials in Queens were helpful, “we always had to overcome the Dietl factor.”</p> <p>“She was out there repeatedly, but it’s difficult to be able to get in deep in a borough unless you have the support from the district leaders in that borough and the people who are organizing in the borough, and that never manifested itself,” Remauro said. Not getting Ulrich and a few others on board “was a killer,” she added.</p> <p>She drew a comparison to the Bronx, the most Democratic borough, where the Republican county party had also endorsed Massey in the early going, but then quickly embraced Malliotakis when her path to the Republican nomination became clear. “We took 16 percent in the Bronx versus Lhota’s 7 percent,” Remauro said. In 2013, Lhota received about 23 percent of the overall vote to de Blasio’s 73 percent. Malliotakis received about 28 percent to de Blasio’s 66.5 percent.</p> <p>“It was difficult for us to get into Queens the way we got into the Bronx,” Remauro said. She also criticized Dietl’s inclusion in the two debates, which was at the discretion of the lead sponsors, first NY1, then CBS.</p> <p>“It was always my opinion that Bo Dietl and [Reform Party nominee] Sal Albanese would take votes away from Nicole and indeed we saw that on Staten Island and elsewhere,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Press conference after press conference she put out substantive issues,” Remauro said, when asked to elaborate more on comments she made about the media’s treatment of Malliotakis’ candidacy. She listed mental illness, homelessness, education, school safety, property taxes, illegal conversions. “She held at least two press conferences a week where she presented plans, and reporters had other things on their mind, and would ask questions and ask questions until they landed on an answer they enjoyed, and everyone would write about that.”</p> <p>“Up until that first debate, for whatever reason, she would get at every single press conference a question about the president. Her issues got buried,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Shame on some of the reporters, because they could have done their homework. She was out there...Too often reporters are becoming commentators and not just being reporters. And that’s what I’d say to those who say we didn’t have new ideas,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Nobody in the fourth estate wanted to talk about rape being up,” she said, touching on one of Malliotakis’ main lines of attack against de Blasio (rape reports are up slightly under de Blasio, which the mayor and NYPD officials have said is likely due to more awareness, encouragement, and willingness to report, something Remauro acknowledged as plausible).</p> <p>Remauro went on to say that she feels good about the fact that the Malliotakis campaign clearly got de Blasio’s attention and pushed him on issues like sex crimes against women, homelessness, and property taxes that he will have to continue to work to address, possibly collaborating with Malliotakis in some way, she said, referring to a phone call the two had on Wednesday. She praised de Blasio as being “a good guy, a nice guy -- he wants to help the city.”</p> <p>Other than a potential Assembly reelection bid in 2018, Remauro did not have anything specific to say in terms of what Malliotakis might do next, but said “the world is her oyster.” Malliotakis is “so intelligent, and she has great communication skills -- she can do whatever she wants,” Remauro added.</p> <p>“If anyone can become the Republican mayor in my lifetime, it would be her,” she said of Malliotakis. “She has a lot of opportunity ahead of her. Her phone has been ringing.”</p> <p>As for this mayoral bid that just ended, Remauro ultimately noted that Malliotakis “took votes from the mayor...she damaged him.”</p> <p>“What could we have done differently?” she said, “Nothing. We did exactly what we could do.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Joe Lhota does not live in Manhattan, but is well-connected in the borough. Lhota lives in downtown Brooklyn.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/malliotakis_with_people_and_banner.jpg" alt="malliotakis with people and banner" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Nicole Malliotakis and company (photo: @NMalliotakis)</p> <hr /> <p>“I targeted 750,000 votes,” said Leticia Remauro, campaign manager for Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis’ mayoral bid, “and broke them up into about 26 Assembly Districts we needed to target.”</p> <p>“To win as a Republican in New York City, you have to win Queens, Staten Island, and the Upper East Side,” Remauro told Gotham Gazette in an election post-mortem interview, with the intensity of the campaign still evident.</p> <p>While some absentee and other ballots are still being counted, Malliotakis, the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio, received just under 304,000 votes, to de Blasio’s 726,000 and change. (Malliotakis also appeared on the Conservative and “Dump de Blasio” ballot lines, while the mayor also appeared on the Working Families Party line.)</p> <p>The campaign did win convincingly in Malliotakis’ home borough of Staten Island, she got 74 percent of the vote there, and did very well on the Upper East Side, while Queens was more of a mixed bag, as de Blasio won 64 percent of the vote in the borough.</p> <p>In the interview, Remauro explained the long odds the Malliotakis campaign faced from the get-go, and what needed to happen for her to pull off the upset that did not transpire. She admitted no mistakes in how the campaign was run -- “I don’t think that we could have run a better campaign.” -- but did express a few regrets, and she pointed the finger at several causes of the loss.</p> <p>“The reason de Blasio has been reelected has a lot do with Eric Ulrich,” Remauro said, referring to the Republican City Council member from Queens who endorsed Bo Dietl, an independent mayoral candidate who tried to run in the Democratic, then Republican primaries, but was unsuccessful in both efforts and ran on his own ballot line. Dietl raised and spent over $1 million in the race, participated in the two televised debates alongside de Blasio and Malliotakis, was the subject of a good amount of media coverage, and ultimately received 1 percent of the vote (about 10,600 votes).</p> <p>Other factors Remauro pointed to included Dietl’s inclusion in the televised debates (“Bo Dietl turned those debates into an entertainment circus. I believe voters were cheated”); the rain that came down around rush hour on Election Day and she believes led some people to stay home (“Had that rain decided not to let go as people were just coming home from work you would’ve seen a higher number”); how the news media covered Malliotakis’ candidacy and the race in general; and the presence of President Donald Trump atop the Republican Party. “He caused a lot of hurt to a lot of candidates and there’s nothing anyone could have done about that,” Remauro said of Trump.</p> <p>When asked about mistakes or things she wishes the campaign had done differently, Remauro said, “I would have liked to have had more money sooner. If I could turn back time it would have been good to get into the race in February, not in May or June, when we really got into it.” With more money sooner and thus public matching funds earlier, “get on the air sooner, done more mail than we did, spend earlier.”</p> <p>“A young Assemblywoman from Staten Island running in a 7-to-1 Democrat city” against an incumbent, Remauro explained of the tough odds. “We had Paul Massey who had taken millions out of New York City, real estate money...and we suffered for that,” she added, referring to the real estate executive who had been the Republican mayoral frontrunner until Malliotakis got in the race and who dropped out after their first side-by-side debate a few weeks later.</p> <p>“She had every disadvantage that you could imagine, and she still managed to capture a higher vote total and a higher vote percentage than Joe Lhota,” Remauro said, referring to the 2013 Republican mayoral nominee. She also explained that Lhota was more well-known and connected than Malliotakis at the times of their mayoral campaigns, explaining, for example, that he had been a deputy mayor and MTA chair, and that he was well-connected in Manhattan and had been endorsed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.</p> <p>Remauro, who runs The Von Agency, a public relations firm, noted that she has known Malliotakis since the Assembly member was in college, and always thought highly of her.</p> <p>As for Council Member Ulrich, who at one point flirted with his own mayoral bid, and “fractured” GOP support in Queens, Remauro gave Ulrich credit given that he won his reelection handily, but expressed frustration and confusion about why he continued to back Dietl. Ulrich maintained throughout the campaign that of any candidate in the race, Dietl had the best chance to defeat de Blasio in the general election. “If he had embraced her he could have been working with a Republican mayor,” Remauro said of Ulrich and Malliotakis.</p> <p>Remauro said that support for Massey, then Dietl from some leaders in Queens held Malliotakis’ campaign back (Ulrich supported Dietl throughout the campaign). While Remauro said that many district leaders and other GOP officials in Queens were helpful, “we always had to overcome the Dietl factor.”</p> <p>“She was out there repeatedly, but it’s difficult to be able to get in deep in a borough unless you have the support from the district leaders in that borough and the people who are organizing in the borough, and that never manifested itself,” Remauro said. Not getting Ulrich and a few others on board “was a killer,” she added.</p> <p>She drew a comparison to the Bronx, the most Democratic borough, where the Republican county party had also endorsed Massey in the early going, but then quickly embraced Malliotakis when her path to the Republican nomination became clear. “We took 16 percent in the Bronx versus Lhota’s 7 percent,” Remauro said. In 2013, Lhota received about 23 percent of the overall vote to de Blasio’s 73 percent. Malliotakis received about 28 percent to de Blasio’s 66.5 percent.</p> <p>“It was difficult for us to get into Queens the way we got into the Bronx,” Remauro said. She also criticized Dietl’s inclusion in the two debates, which was at the discretion of the lead sponsors, first NY1, then CBS.</p> <p>“It was always my opinion that Bo Dietl and [Reform Party nominee] Sal Albanese would take votes away from Nicole and indeed we saw that on Staten Island and elsewhere,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Press conference after press conference she put out substantive issues,” Remauro said, when asked to elaborate more on comments she made about the media’s treatment of Malliotakis’ candidacy. She listed mental illness, homelessness, education, school safety, property taxes, illegal conversions. “She held at least two press conferences a week where she presented plans, and reporters had other things on their mind, and would ask questions and ask questions until they landed on an answer they enjoyed, and everyone would write about that.”</p> <p>“Up until that first debate, for whatever reason, she would get at every single press conference a question about the president. Her issues got buried,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Shame on some of the reporters, because they could have done their homework. She was out there...Too often reporters are becoming commentators and not just being reporters. And that’s what I’d say to those who say we didn’t have new ideas,” Remauro said.</p> <p>“Nobody in the fourth estate wanted to talk about rape being up,” she said, touching on one of Malliotakis’ main lines of attack against de Blasio (rape reports are up slightly under de Blasio, which the mayor and NYPD officials have said is likely due to more awareness, encouragement, and willingness to report, something Remauro acknowledged as plausible).</p> <p>Remauro went on to say that she feels good about the fact that the Malliotakis campaign clearly got de Blasio’s attention and pushed him on issues like sex crimes against women, homelessness, and property taxes that he will have to continue to work to address, possibly collaborating with Malliotakis in some way, she said, referring to a phone call the two had on Wednesday. She praised de Blasio as being “a good guy, a nice guy -- he wants to help the city.”</p> <p>Other than a potential Assembly reelection bid in 2018, Remauro did not have anything specific to say in terms of what Malliotakis might do next, but said “the world is her oyster.” Malliotakis is “so intelligent, and she has great communication skills -- she can do whatever she wants,” Remauro added.</p> <p>“If anyone can become the Republican mayor in my lifetime, it would be her,” she said of Malliotakis. “She has a lot of opportunity ahead of her. Her phone has been ringing.”</p> <p>As for this mayoral bid that just ended, Remauro ultimately noted that Malliotakis “took votes from the mayor...she damaged him.”</p> <p>“What could we have done differently?” she said, “Nothing. We did exactly what we could do.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Joe Lhota does not live in Manhattan, but is well-connected in the borough. Lhota lives in downtown Brooklyn.</p>
An End-of-Term Agenda for the City Council Veterans Committee 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7238-an-end-of-term-agenda-for-the-city-council-veterans-committee Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/ulrich_hearing.jpg" alt="City Council Ulrich hearing" width="600" height="427" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>In early 2014, City Council Member Eric Ulrich was appointed chair the veterans committee by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. At that time I wrote that no one within the veterans community knew what to expect, and as one of a few Republicans in a largely Democratic City Council, there were some who opposed Ulrich’s selection.</p> <p>Fast forward nearly four years and the majority of the veterans community agrees that without his leadership and guidance, there would not have been a renewed conversation and there certainly wouldn’t have been many legislative accomplishments, particularly the creation of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS). &nbsp;I dare say that Ulrich’s record of accomplishments, along with Council Member Paul Vallone and the other veterans committee members, has been the greatest within the Council since I started as an advocate back in 1995.</p> <p>With the general election coming next month and the race for the next Speaker already hot, there are some who believe that if re-elected, Ulrich may be moved to chair a new committee by the next Speaker. There are many moving part to this equation, but given the final three months of this Council’s term are upon us, there is some important veterans business to take care of.</p> <p>The veterans committee held a hearing earlier this week, and with that and the ticking clock in mind, there are several topics the committee should consider holding hearings on over the coming months.</p> <p><strong>Department of Veterans’ Services:</strong>&nbsp;This week the veterans committee held an oversight hearing on DVS. This hearing focused on the growth and accomplishments of the agency since it came online in April 2016.</p> <p>Overall, many agree that there have been a number of successes, but growing pains and confounding issues as well. While DVS leadership touted the department’s work and successes, particularly with its integrative health model (VetsThriveNYC), its work regarding housing homeless veterans, its Public Artist in Resident program, and its information and technology, many items remain.</p> <p>Procurement of its VetsConnectNYC program, an online platform that will connect veterans with service providers, is still being negotiated. Veterans are concerned about information missing on DVS’ website, its lack of inclusion in the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which DVS reps acknowledged will be in the next report, and the functions and actual outreach of the Community Outreach Specialists.</p> <p>Lastly, many veteran organizations receiving money from the City through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) have stated that DVS needs to have autonomous control over contracts to speed up the contracting processing and disbursement of funds, particularly for those veteran organizations that have unique contracting situations. This issue should be considered for a separate hearing with the Council’s finance committee.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Treatment Courts:</strong>&nbsp;Almost two years ago the committee held a hearing regarding Veteran Treatment Courts throughout the city; as well as Council Member Rory Lancman’s proposed legislation calling for the creation of a Veterans Legal Task Force to study veterans’ access to legal services and resources within the city’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, that bill, Intro. 793, didn’t make it out of committee, however with Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan’s recent <a href="https://donovan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/donovan-announces-federal-grants-drug-court-veterans-treatment-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announcement of grants for Veteran Treatment Courts</a>; and the Manhattan veterans court up and running, the time is right to revisit this issue to see what the courts are doing, learning, learning from each other, and how they have evolved in helping veterans from all eras.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Homelessness:</strong>&nbsp;In 2009 there were roughly 3,700 homeless veterans in New York City. &nbsp;At the end of 2015 the federal government announced that New York City had ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning veterans homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly. That is a major accomplish that could not have taken place without a coordinated approach from federal, state and city agencies.</p> <p>In November 2015, the Council’s veterans committee, in conjunction with the general welfare committee held a hearing on what the city was doing to provide services to veterans, especially those experiencing homelessness. With the recent announced reductions of SSVF providers last month, along with the city not reaching “functional zero” and the federal VA dropping that goal recently, an update is needed in regards to what the veterans homeless population looks like, where the dity is in maintaining the end of “chronic homelessness” for veterans and what the plans are to address any future changes that may come from the federal government. This hearing also needs to solicit input from non-profits that are working on the ground with this population.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Small Business and Entrepreneurship:</strong> Almost three years ago, the veterans committee, along with the small business committee, held a hearing on supporting veteran-owned businesses. This was based on Local Law 144 of 2013, which required the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to study veteran-owned business enterprises and determine the need for a city veteran-procurement program.</p> <p>In December 2014, SBS, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), and the then-Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) published a report of their findings, which the committees examined at a January 2015 hearing. The report contained seven recommendations, which included increasing outreach to veterans, better training veteran business owners (VBOs) on how to do business with the city, and creating a designation for VBOs who wish to be potential vendors with the city.</p> <p>There was also discussion of supporting the development of a veterans business enterprise program (VEB) through executive fiat (as a pilot program) or by working with the City Council to create legislation for the program. With the rise of veteran entrepreneurs over the last couple of years, there needs to be a hearing to update what has changed and where DVS and SBS are with this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Lastly</strong>, the committee should also consider follow-up hearings regarding the City University of New York (CUNY); as well as from DVS regarding its new public-private partnership “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/354-17/nyc-creates-college-veterans-consortium-veterans-campus-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Veterans on Campus-NYC</a>.” &nbsp;The committee should consider holding a hearing on the overall veterans population in New York City and should hold a hearing in the Bronx, as Council Member Ulrich promised to Council Member Fernando Cabrera earlier this year.</p> <p>This is a fairly hefty agenda and some issues will certainly get left off the table. However, if Council Member Ulrich and the committee members continue to approach veterans’ issues with the diligence they’ve shown over the past three and a half years, they will have a busy and productive next few months, and leave the committee in a much better place for whoever follows.</p> <p>***<br />Joe Bello served 11 years in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve and has been a veterans advocate in New York City for over two decades. He is a member of the City’s Veterans Advisory Board and the founder of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYMetroVets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY MetroVets</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/ulrich_hearing.jpg" alt="City Council Ulrich hearing" width="600" height="427" /></p> <p>Council Member Ulrich (photo: John McCarten)</p> <hr /> <p>In early 2014, City Council Member Eric Ulrich was appointed chair the veterans committee by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. At that time I wrote that no one within the veterans community knew what to expect, and as one of a few Republicans in a largely Democratic City Council, there were some who opposed Ulrich’s selection.</p> <p>Fast forward nearly four years and the majority of the veterans community agrees that without his leadership and guidance, there would not have been a renewed conversation and there certainly wouldn’t have been many legislative accomplishments, particularly the creation of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS). &nbsp;I dare say that Ulrich’s record of accomplishments, along with Council Member Paul Vallone and the other veterans committee members, has been the greatest within the Council since I started as an advocate back in 1995.</p> <p>With the general election coming next month and the race for the next Speaker already hot, there are some who believe that if re-elected, Ulrich may be moved to chair a new committee by the next Speaker. There are many moving part to this equation, but given the final three months of this Council’s term are upon us, there is some important veterans business to take care of.</p> <p>The veterans committee held a hearing earlier this week, and with that and the ticking clock in mind, there are several topics the committee should consider holding hearings on over the coming months.</p> <p><strong>Department of Veterans’ Services:</strong>&nbsp;This week the veterans committee held an oversight hearing on DVS. This hearing focused on the growth and accomplishments of the agency since it came online in April 2016.</p> <p>Overall, many agree that there have been a number of successes, but growing pains and confounding issues as well. While DVS leadership touted the department’s work and successes, particularly with its integrative health model (VetsThriveNYC), its work regarding housing homeless veterans, its Public Artist in Resident program, and its information and technology, many items remain.</p> <p>Procurement of its VetsConnectNYC program, an online platform that will connect veterans with service providers, is still being negotiated. Veterans are concerned about information missing on DVS’ website, its lack of inclusion in the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which DVS reps acknowledged will be in the next report, and the functions and actual outreach of the Community Outreach Specialists.</p> <p>Lastly, many veteran organizations receiving money from the City through the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) have stated that DVS needs to have autonomous control over contracts to speed up the contracting processing and disbursement of funds, particularly for those veteran organizations that have unique contracting situations. This issue should be considered for a separate hearing with the Council’s finance committee.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Treatment Courts:</strong>&nbsp;Almost two years ago the committee held a hearing regarding Veteran Treatment Courts throughout the city; as well as Council Member Rory Lancman’s proposed legislation calling for the creation of a Veterans Legal Task Force to study veterans’ access to legal services and resources within the city’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, that bill, Intro. 793, didn’t make it out of committee, however with Congressional Rep. Dan Donovan’s recent <a href="https://donovan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/donovan-announces-federal-grants-drug-court-veterans-treatment-court" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announcement of grants for Veteran Treatment Courts</a>; and the Manhattan veterans court up and running, the time is right to revisit this issue to see what the courts are doing, learning, learning from each other, and how they have evolved in helping veterans from all eras.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Homelessness:</strong>&nbsp;In 2009 there were roughly 3,700 homeless veterans in New York City. &nbsp;At the end of 2015 the federal government announced that New York City had ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning veterans homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly. That is a major accomplish that could not have taken place without a coordinated approach from federal, state and city agencies.</p> <p>In November 2015, the Council’s veterans committee, in conjunction with the general welfare committee held a hearing on what the city was doing to provide services to veterans, especially those experiencing homelessness. With the recent announced reductions of SSVF providers last month, along with the city not reaching “functional zero” and the federal VA dropping that goal recently, an update is needed in regards to what the veterans homeless population looks like, where the dity is in maintaining the end of “chronic homelessness” for veterans and what the plans are to address any future changes that may come from the federal government. This hearing also needs to solicit input from non-profits that are working on the ground with this population.</p> <p><strong>Veteran Small Business and Entrepreneurship:</strong> Almost three years ago, the veterans committee, along with the small business committee, held a hearing on supporting veteran-owned businesses. This was based on Local Law 144 of 2013, which required the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to study veteran-owned business enterprises and determine the need for a city veteran-procurement program.</p> <p>In December 2014, SBS, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), and the then-Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) published a report of their findings, which the committees examined at a January 2015 hearing. The report contained seven recommendations, which included increasing outreach to veterans, better training veteran business owners (VBOs) on how to do business with the city, and creating a designation for VBOs who wish to be potential vendors with the city.</p> <p>There was also discussion of supporting the development of a veterans business enterprise program (VEB) through executive fiat (as a pilot program) or by working with the City Council to create legislation for the program. With the rise of veteran entrepreneurs over the last couple of years, there needs to be a hearing to update what has changed and where DVS and SBS are with this issue. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Lastly</strong>, the committee should also consider follow-up hearings regarding the City University of New York (CUNY); as well as from DVS regarding its new public-private partnership “<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/354-17/nyc-creates-college-veterans-consortium-veterans-campus-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Veterans on Campus-NYC</a>.” &nbsp;The committee should consider holding a hearing on the overall veterans population in New York City and should hold a hearing in the Bronx, as Council Member Ulrich promised to Council Member Fernando Cabrera earlier this year.</p> <p>This is a fairly hefty agenda and some issues will certainly get left off the table. However, if Council Member Ulrich and the committee members continue to approach veterans’ issues with the diligence they’ve shown over the past three and a half years, they will have a busy and productive next few months, and leave the committee in a much better place for whoever follows.</p> <p>***<br />Joe Bello served 11 years in the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve and has been a veterans advocate in New York City for over two decades. He is a member of the City’s Veterans Advisory Board and the founder of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYMetroVets" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NY MetroVets</a>.</p> <p>

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

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4 Interesting Participatory Budgeting Project Winners 2017-05-23T04:00:00+00:00 2017-05-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6949-4-interesting-participatory-budgeting-project-winners Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pb_vote_via_lander.jpg" alt="pb vote via lander" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: Council Member Lander's office)</p> <hr /> <p>After an 11-day window in which over 100,000 residents of pertinent districts cast ballots, the City Council recently announced the winners of the 2016-17 participatory budgeting cycle. Thirty-one of 51 Council districts participated this year, leading to $34 million in capital funds going towards hyper-local projects chosen directly by the districts’ voters.</p> <p>A total of 138 projects received funding in this cycle, with most districts backing three to five projects. Some districts awarded funding for many more projects -- District 38, which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn and is represented by Democrat Carlos Menchaca, is funding 10 projects. Many project proposals were represented in multiple districts, such as laptops or air conditioning in schools and security cameras for places such as parks, schools, and police precincts, but many were more unique to the respective districts. While participatory budgeting funds are all for capital projects, like equipment or some kind of small construction work, and often show a lot of similarity to each other and to those funded in past cycles, a handful of winning projects stand out this year.</p> <p>The participatory budgeting movement, which began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 as a means of decentralizing budgetary authority and handing power to the people, has since spread to numerous municipalities worldwide. It reached New York City in 2011, when City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams launched participatory budgeting projects in their respective districts, dedicating about $1 million of the funds at their disposal to a community process.</p> <p>While it’s not required of all Council districts, and it hasn’t been implemented citywide, the movement is clearly growing at a rapid pace in the city. Districts participating in participatory budgeting set aside, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5946-participatory-budgeting-grows-in-nyc-why-isnt-every-council-member-doing-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at minimum</a>, $1 million of their capital budget allocation for public determination.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting allows issues unique to each community to gain both attention and funding from a city budget process that may have overlooked them without direct citizen input. For instance, one out of four public school classrooms in the city lack air conditioning, which can become not only a health hazard for both students and teachers, but also an impediment to effective learning in the later months of the school term, which ends on June 28 this year.</p> <p>Several districts voted to allocate participatory budgeting funds toward putting air conditioning in classrooms devoid of it. As it turns out, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his executive budget proposal, unveiled last month, includes almost $29 million to put air conditioning in every public school classroom in the city within five years. Another long-requested but never-delivered service, bus countdown clocks, also won funding in numerous districts. The countdown clocks have a lurid history, with the MTA removing physical clocks from some stops upon the development of a BusTime app by the Authority, which can alienate low-income New Yorkers who don’t possess smartphones.</p> <p>“This is democracy in action,” City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said in a statement announcing the results of the cycle, getting at the essence of participatory budgeting, at least for its proponents.</p> <p>While those like Mark-Viverito, dozens of other Council members, a variety of community groups, and many residents are pleased with participatory budgeting, some critics say that it is a waste of time and Council staff resources (it is a labor heavy program for aides to Council members) and that the projects funded are ones that should really be taken into consideration in the regular budget process. Critics say that Council members are supposed to be gauging their constituents’ needs year-round anyway and influencing the larger budget process and allocating their member item funding accordingly.</p> <p>The City Council won the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award for Public Engagement for participatory budgeting in 2015 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, winning $100,000 as a means of “<a href="https://ash.harvard.edu/news/new-york-san-francisco-named-winners-harvards-2015-innovation-american-government-award" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">replication and dissemination of their innovations</a>.”</p> <p>This year’s participatory budgeting winners include many typical projects, but a few others stand out.</p> <p>The highest number of votes for any project in the city went to a proposal in District 39, represented by Democrat Brad Lander, who has been a vocal proponent of PB since he was one of the original four to pilot it in the city. The votes were for providing mobile showers for homeless people. The project received 5,293 votes. The program is administered by CHiPS, a homeless services non-profit that runs a soup kitchen and a residency program, and will be stationed in front of its soup kitchen in Park Slope.</p> <p>District 39, which includes parts of Park Slope and Gowanus, has a relatively low number of homeless shelter beds. It is one of 18 City Council districts without any family shelter units, but does have nearly 300 adult single shelter beds.&nbsp;Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon change these numbers given that his new homeless shelter plan includes opening 90 new shelters of various types across the city. He has promised more beds for Park Slope, where he used to live and was the City Council member before being elected Public Advocate, then Mayor.</p> <p>Another winning project is the addition of a courtroom for Benjamin Cardozo High School in District 23, represented by Barry Grodenchik; the school is known for its Mentor Law and Humanities program. All students in the program must participate in either mock trial or model UN in their sophomore year. The courtroom will not be the first in a Queens high school; Maspeth High School opened a student courtroom in February of last year.</p> <p>In District 22, represented by Democrat Costa Constantinides, the Steinway Branch of the Queens Library will be fitted with solar panels after receiving over 1,000 votes in the district’s cycle. The library will join several other public library branches in the city that have adopted solar energy.</p> <p>The total votes in Constantinides’ district more than doubled since last year. Constantinides said this shows “that neighborhood residents care about our public and community spaces.”</p> <p>And in District 32, represented by Republican Eric Ulrich (the only one of three Republican Council districts participating in the program), Shore Front Parkway will be the site of new adult exercise equipment “adjacent to the boardwalk” as well as a “labyrinth/yoga/meditation area.” Projects in Ulrich’s district received the fewest votes of any district participating in the program this year; only 858 votes were cast in total.</p> <p>The full list of winners of New York City’s 2016-17 Participatory Budgeting Cycle can be found <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2017/05/15/1414/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: the article has been clarified to better explain the homeless shelter beds currently in District 39.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/pb_vote_via_lander.jpg" alt="pb vote via lander" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>(photo: Council Member Lander's office)</p> <hr /> <p>After an 11-day window in which over 100,000 residents of pertinent districts cast ballots, the City Council recently announced the winners of the 2016-17 participatory budgeting cycle. Thirty-one of 51 Council districts participated this year, leading to $34 million in capital funds going towards hyper-local projects chosen directly by the districts’ voters.</p> <p>A total of 138 projects received funding in this cycle, with most districts backing three to five projects. Some districts awarded funding for many more projects -- District 38, which includes Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn and is represented by Democrat Carlos Menchaca, is funding 10 projects. Many project proposals were represented in multiple districts, such as laptops or air conditioning in schools and security cameras for places such as parks, schools, and police precincts, but many were more unique to the respective districts. While participatory budgeting funds are all for capital projects, like equipment or some kind of small construction work, and often show a lot of similarity to each other and to those funded in past cycles, a handful of winning projects stand out this year.</p> <p>The participatory budgeting movement, which began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 as a means of decentralizing budgetary authority and handing power to the people, has since spread to numerous municipalities worldwide. It reached New York City in 2011, when City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams launched participatory budgeting projects in their respective districts, dedicating about $1 million of the funds at their disposal to a community process.</p> <p>While it’s not required of all Council districts, and it hasn’t been implemented citywide, the movement is clearly growing at a rapid pace in the city. Districts participating in participatory budgeting set aside, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5946-participatory-budgeting-grows-in-nyc-why-isnt-every-council-member-doing-it" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at minimum</a>, $1 million of their capital budget allocation for public determination.</p> <p>Participatory budgeting allows issues unique to each community to gain both attention and funding from a city budget process that may have overlooked them without direct citizen input. For instance, one out of four public school classrooms in the city lack air conditioning, which can become not only a health hazard for both students and teachers, but also an impediment to effective learning in the later months of the school term, which ends on June 28 this year.</p> <p>Several districts voted to allocate participatory budgeting funds toward putting air conditioning in classrooms devoid of it. As it turns out, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that his executive budget proposal, unveiled last month, includes almost $29 million to put air conditioning in every public school classroom in the city within five years. Another long-requested but never-delivered service, bus countdown clocks, also won funding in numerous districts. The countdown clocks have a lurid history, with the MTA removing physical clocks from some stops upon the development of a BusTime app by the Authority, which can alienate low-income New Yorkers who don’t possess smartphones.</p> <p>“This is democracy in action,” City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito said in a statement announcing the results of the cycle, getting at the essence of participatory budgeting, at least for its proponents.</p> <p>While those like Mark-Viverito, dozens of other Council members, a variety of community groups, and many residents are pleased with participatory budgeting, some critics say that it is a waste of time and Council staff resources (it is a labor heavy program for aides to Council members) and that the projects funded are ones that should really be taken into consideration in the regular budget process. Critics say that Council members are supposed to be gauging their constituents’ needs year-round anyway and influencing the larger budget process and allocating their member item funding accordingly.</p> <p>The City Council won the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award for Public Engagement for participatory budgeting in 2015 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, winning $100,000 as a means of “<a href="https://ash.harvard.edu/news/new-york-san-francisco-named-winners-harvards-2015-innovation-american-government-award" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">replication and dissemination of their innovations</a>.”</p> <p>This year’s participatory budgeting winners include many typical projects, but a few others stand out.</p> <p>The highest number of votes for any project in the city went to a proposal in District 39, represented by Democrat Brad Lander, who has been a vocal proponent of PB since he was one of the original four to pilot it in the city. The votes were for providing mobile showers for homeless people. The project received 5,293 votes. The program is administered by CHiPS, a homeless services non-profit that runs a soup kitchen and a residency program, and will be stationed in front of its soup kitchen in Park Slope.</p> <p>District 39, which includes parts of Park Slope and Gowanus, has a relatively low number of homeless shelter beds. It is one of 18 City Council districts without any family shelter units, but does have nearly 300 adult single shelter beds.&nbsp;Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon change these numbers given that his new homeless shelter plan includes opening 90 new shelters of various types across the city. He has promised more beds for Park Slope, where he used to live and was the City Council member before being elected Public Advocate, then Mayor.</p> <p>Another winning project is the addition of a courtroom for Benjamin Cardozo High School in District 23, represented by Barry Grodenchik; the school is known for its Mentor Law and Humanities program. All students in the program must participate in either mock trial or model UN in their sophomore year. The courtroom will not be the first in a Queens high school; Maspeth High School opened a student courtroom in February of last year.</p> <p>In District 22, represented by Democrat Costa Constantinides, the Steinway Branch of the Queens Library will be fitted with solar panels after receiving over 1,000 votes in the district’s cycle. The library will join several other public library branches in the city that have adopted solar energy.</p> <p>The total votes in Constantinides’ district more than doubled since last year. Constantinides said this shows “that neighborhood residents care about our public and community spaces.”</p> <p>And in District 32, represented by Republican Eric Ulrich (the only one of three Republican Council districts participating in the program), Shore Front Parkway will be the site of new adult exercise equipment “adjacent to the boardwalk” as well as a “labyrinth/yoga/meditation area.” Projects in Ulrich’s district received the fewest votes of any district participating in the program this year; only 858 votes were cast in total.</p> <p>The full list of winners of New York City’s 2016-17 Participatory Budgeting Cycle can be found <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2017/05/15/1414/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: the article has been clarified to better explain the homeless shelter beds currently in District 39.</p>