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/governor-s-office 2017-10-18T20:18:00+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Calls For Long-Term Solutions As City Transit Crisis Worsens 2017-07-19T05:25:19+00:00 2017-07-19T05:25:19+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7072:calls-for-solutions-as-city-transit-crisis-worsens Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8146324848_d93a71e4cd_k-2.jpg" alt="8146324848 d93a71e4cd k 2" width="600" height="465" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo with MTA Chair Joe Lhota (photo: Governor's Office/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>Two separate subway track fires on Monday, in the morning and evening, that led to stoppages on multiple lines and delays across the system were just the latest incidents that put the spotlight on problems with New York City’s subways. The last few weeks have seen c<span style="font-weight: 400;">hronic delays, a recent A-train&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.amny.com/transit/a-train-derailment-in-harlem-caused-by-human-error-mta-says-1.13768866"><span style="font-weight: 400;">derailment</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">passengers trapped on an F Train for nearly an hour without running air or power.</span>&nbsp;Although issues with the subway system have long been apparent, and only increasing in severity, the official response has widely been deemed insufficient. Transit and infrastructure experts agree that the city and state must act now, and act together, to deal with the system’s overcrowding, aging trains and archaic signal mechanisms, and there seems to be broad consensus among them on policies and proposals that could solve the city’s transit crisis.</p> <p>The problems with the city’s subways have been decades in the making, stemming from chronic underinvestment in mass transit infrastructure. Earlier this month, in a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/opinion/rahm-emanuel-chicago-l-mass-transit.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times op-ed</a>, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contrasted New York City’s system with Chicago’s own, pointing out that the key to his city’s transit successes was prioritization of maintenance and direct accountability of local officials. “[F]irst, we put reliability ahead of expansion,” he wrote. “We focused relentlessly on modernizing tracks, signals, switches, stations and cars before extending lines to new destinations.”</p> <p>Although the editorial drew a harsh rebuke from elected officials and New York’s tabloids, Emmanuel’s criticisms were not entirely off the mark. The MTA has largely failed to maintain and modernize the analog signal system in New York, which dates back to before World War II and is one of the key factors in system breakdowns. Although improvements are underway, at the rate the MTA is progressing, a system-wide upgrade is expected to take 50 years.</p> <p>Official accountability has also been lacking. Mayor Bill de Blasio has faced increased pressure from constituents, activists and political opponents to address the MTA’s poor performance, though he does not in fact control the state agency. The mayor has sought to distance himself from those issues, laying the problems at the feet of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has authority and control over the MTA’s day-to-day operations.</p> <p>Cuomo, however, has argued that he has insufficient control of the agency despite appointing a plurality of the MTA’s board members and its chair. He recently proposed increasing the number of gubernatorial MTA appointees, declared a state of emergency for the MTA to ease procurement rules, and appointed Joe Lhota, who has previously served as MTA chair, to lead the agency yet again. Cuomo also pledged another $1 billion to the MTA capital plan.</p> <p>"If suspending procurement rules is a good idea, why is it only being done for $1 billion? Why isn't the governor pressing for more fundamental reform?” wondered Stephen Smith, an urban and transit policy expert who runs the popular Twitter account <a href="https://twitter.com/MarketUrbanism" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Market Urbanism</a>. Smith, along with other transit experts, are skeptical that throwing more money at the problem will work unless officials implement multi-faceted solutions that address existing infrastructure, spending efficiency, management and capital project completion, to name a few.</p> <p><strong>Fixing signals and reducing crowds</strong><br />One of the main ailments affecting subway infrastructure is the old and neglected signal system, which the MTA has acknowledged is one of its most important challenges. The state has already allocated $2.1 billion, of the MTA’s total $29.5 billion capital plan, for signal improvements. “We’re undergoing a top-to-bottom review, but make no mistake, we must do maintenance and system expansion to underserved communities at the same time,” said MTA Chair Lhota in a statement earlier this month to the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-takes-big-dig-nyc-subway-crisis-article-1.3298095" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News</a>, responding to Emmanuel’s op-ed.</p> <p>On a recent <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">episode</a> of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/what-s-the-data-point" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s the [Data] Point?</a>, a joint podcast hosted by Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission, Janno Lieber, the MTA's new chief development officer pointed towards expanding use of Communications-based train control (CBTC), a signal system that would allow trains to move in closer proximity to one another due to more precise tracking of trains. According to Lieber, CBTC improves service by allowing more cars to run on a particular lines while reducing the delays and danger that often come with crowded tracks. The upgrade is currently in use on on the 7 and L lines, with plans to implement them in the E, F, M and R lines as well.</p> <p>But the slow pace of upgrading the system stems from the balancing act that the MTA and State have to strike in implementing physical infrastructure improvements. The MTA’s modus operandi has generally been to shut trains down for nights or weekends at a time in order to make repairs and upgrades, allowing trains to run during high-use periods. But that work is time consuming and less efficient, driving many in the transit world to lean towards avoiding stop-and-go style fixes. “Full shut downs of subway lines get work done faster,” said Ben Kabak, editor of the New York City-centric transit news blog, Second Avenue Sagas. “At some point, that's going to have to be the conversation we’re going to have.”</p> <p>Kabak supports the MTA’s plan to effect repairs on the L Train, which will involve a complete shutdown of the line starting in 2019. This option, though understandably unpopular with commuters, results in faster and less costly repairs.</p> <p>David Jones, a de Blasio appointee on the MTA board and long-time transit advocate, echoed Kabak. “I was convinced by the arguments they made that to do this in a piecemeal fashion would have led to chronic delays and lasted a much longer period of time,” he said of the planned L Train shutdown. “I don’t think this is going to be pleasant,” he added, though conceding that it is the best approach to a less-than-ideal situation.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">7 Transit Commitments Advocates Want From Candidates This Year</a>]</p> <p>A prime factor that causes a majority of subway delays is overcrowding. In a sense, the MTA is a victim of its own success and, since the 1990’s, has seen ridership <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/28/nyregion/subway-delays-overcrowding.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rise</a> from four to six million daily riders. Unfortunately, in that time, the system has added less than 30 new train cars, leading to trains running at peak capacity. As a result, overcrowding is now responsible for more than one-third of the 75,000 subway delays each month, according to MTA data.</p> <p>“The only truly effective way to address crowding on the subway is to run more trains,” John Raskin, Executive Director of Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group, told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/28/nyregion/subway-delays-overcrowding.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times</a> in January. “It’s not a cheap or quick solution.”</p> <p>An effort to add more miles of track would also improve service. This is evident from the launch of the Second Avenue subway line, which, in its first month, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/nyregion/second-avenue-subway-relieves-crowding-on-neighboring-lines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduced ridership</a> on the busy Lexington Avenue line by 27 percent between 42nd and 110th streets. But Smith is not optimistic that Governor Cuomo will launch large subway expansion projects to reach underserved neighborhoods. “Andrew Cuomo is very focused on the 2020 election, which is why he’s focused on rebuilding bridges,” he said. He doesn’t expect Cuomo to show a similar commitment to mass transit. “I don’t have much hope,” he said.</p> <p><strong>More bang for the MTA’s buck</strong> <br />It’s widely acknowledged that the MTA has lacked for investment for years, and elected officials and advocates have proposed numerous options to fund repairs. Fare hikes have been used in the past but are unpopular, for obvious reasons. The Empire Center’s E.J McMahon <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/06/26/heres-a-few-billions-cuomo-can-send-to-the-mta-right-now/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suggested</a> in June the State should use 40 percent of the over $10 billion from banking fines and penalty money in the last three years to finance subway improvements. Recently, State Assembly Member Robert Carroll proposed increasing the city’s 50-cent taxi surcharge to one dollar, and expanding this tax towards black cars and ride-hailing services. A coalition of eight transit advocacy groups have also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proposed</a> taxing the property value added through real estate upzonings to finance investment in transportation.</p> <p>But experts told Gotham Gazette that it’s not a lack of funds, but rather the manner in which they are put to use which is the more significant. Costs for long-term transit projects in the city tend to balloon over time, owing to delays in construction and increasing labor costs. Transportation writer Alon Levy <a href="https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated</a> that New York City’s cost per mile of subway construction astronomically outpaces what other major cities such as Madrid, London and Paris spend. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway first phase, for example, cost $4.5 billion -- $1.7 billion per kilometer, or just under two-thirds of a mile. In comparison, London’s Jubilee Line Extension, Amsterdam’s North-South Line and and Berlin’s U55 cost $450 million, $410 million and $250 million per kilometer respectively. The cost of the Second Avenue Subway, about four times as much as the equivalent in Paris, was not an aberration. The 7 line extension has cost near as much per kilometer of construction and the East Side Access is even projected to surpass the cost of the Second Avenue line.</p> <p>Smith and Levy agree that until officials figure out how to get more bang for their buck for both tune-ups and new construction, the city’s transit troubles will likely continue. For them, the discourse on the issue features an outsized emphasis on raising revenue while ignoring the soaring costs. “It’s difficult to ask people for more money when they’re not getting much for it,” Smith said.</p> <p>Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, echoed that argument. “The problem is we’ve implemented a new tax for the capital plans but we’ve never dealt with the cost side,” she said, attributing the bulk of costs to labor. “Labor is 40 percent of the costs, 40 percent materials and then 20 percent overhead and white collar,” she said, referring to <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/prevailing-waste/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> released in April by the Empire Center for Public Policy. Those labor costs are “25 percent higher than they should be,” she said. Smith concurred, suggesting that high labor costs and a “mind-boggling amount of waste” are the likely culprits.</p> <p>MTA’s Lieber conceded as much on the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gotham Gazette-CBC podcast</a>, pointing out that the agency has not been sufficiently scrupulous in its procurement and project coordination, leading to costly labor. Lieber, who previously worked for Silverstein Properties as president of World Trade Center Properties, believes the MTA can take lessons from the private sector to lower costs. “You have to have design process that is going to resolve all the design questions and then not reopen them,” he said, contending that continuous arguing and haggling over design often delays and increases project costs. To do this, the parties involved need “close collaboration on design, so you don’t have change,” he said, insisting that the agency needs to ensure efficient and timely construction work.</p> <p>Another factor behind high prices is the premiums that contractors place on construction when faced with uncertainty going into a project, Lieber said. “Sometimes we say to the contractor, ‘take all these risks about conditions that you don’t know about and throw a huge premium on it,’” he said. He suggested that hiring outside contractors may not be the best approach. “We’d probably be better off letting the public sector own and manage those risks and try to eliminate them,” said Lieber, “rather than having the contractor in effect charge you...much, much higher price for risks that he or she doesn’t really understand or can’t envision.”</p> <p>Lieber also noted that builders often squander money on excessive last-minute repairs to completed projects, which adds to the final price tag. In his new role, Lieber said he’d enact measures to tackle these inefficiencies and improve how the MTA conducts its business.</p> <p><strong>Opportunities for the City</strong><br />In the absence of state action, experts agree that there are initiatives de Blasio can take on his own. Earlier this month, a coalition of transit advocates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rallied</a> around seven transit initiatives they want City Hall, and any candidate running for elected office in the city, to adopt. These include discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, alternatives for when the L Train shuts down, and enhancing bike and bus lanes.</p> <p>For his part, the mayor has touted the expansion of the express Select Bus Service and the New York City Ferries as examples of incremental improvements his administration has made. And, more ambitiously, his administration is exploring the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) proposal, a streetcar that would run along the waterfront from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria, Queens. Similar to the procedure with which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg expanded the 7 train to the West Side, the de Blasio administration hopes to finance the project with value capture funding, which collects the value of increased property taxes in the neighborhoods along the route.</p> <p>Other than the Select Bus Service, transit experts are skeptical about de Blasio’s ideas and priorities. Ferries, while useful for some, have a relatively limited capacity. And the BQX draws mostly harsh reviews from transit experts, who say it would neither serve a currently popular and overcrowded route nor a necessary one with demand. Smith called it a “terrible idea’ and “a solution in search of a problem.”</p> <p>Kabak concurred. “Their plan is suspect from a transit routing perspective and the plan is suspect from a financial perspective.” He argued that real estate interests were the driving motivator behind the misbegotten idea. Kabak suggested what he believes to be better alternatives to the BQX route, that the mayor can work on without state cooperation. He pointed to the Triboro RX proposal, a proposed route that would run from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn through Queens to Co-op City in the Bronx. It would serve an “unmet demand” for trains in areas such as Flatbush and Flushing, he said.</p> <p>Smith favors more significant structural and jurisdictional reforms. “My personal opinion is that the city needs to take back the NYC Transit Authority for it to ever really be fixed,” he emailed. “Leaving it in the governor's hands is just a recipe for political unaccountability, since the vast majority of voters in New York State do not ride the subway or buses and don't care about their fate.”</p> <p>He said Mayor de Blasio should take steps towards getting mayoral control of the MTA, starting with buses. “They're much lower-stakes – lower ridership, less capital funding – and the governor might be more willing to give them, and, of course, their funding, back to the city,” Smith said. “And if the city shows that it can be a better steward of the buses than the state was, I think the case for taking back the big prize – the subway – becomes a lot more convincing.”</p> <p>He continued, “This would have the effect of both fixing the substantive and the jurisdictional unaccountability problems by making the powers-that-be that manage the city’s mass transit more responsive to the cohort that uses it.”</p> <p><strong>Easing congestion</strong> <br />Coinciding with mass-transit troubles, and partly because of them, New Yorkers have also experienced an uptick in traffic congestion, and continued subway dysfunction is likely to make matters worse. Gelinas said this is an area where de Blasio can take small steps such as making the streets safer for bicycles and improving street management. “When you look at the streets, the streets are just complete chaos, so you can understand why people don’t want to ride bikes,” she said. Along these lines, the City Council has discussed pushing the NYPD to increase bus lane enforcement and crack down on placard abuse, as well as adding bus and bike lanes.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6975-calls-for-small-large-fixes-to-city-congestion-transit-woes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Calls for Small &amp; Large Fixes to City Congestion, Transit Woes</a>]</p> <p>A more ambitious measure requires encouraging ridership from the outer parts of Queens via the Long Island Rail Road. In fact, as transit experts are quick to note, one of the few advantages of gubernatorial control of all New York public transportation agencies is the ability to integrate different modes of transportation.</p> <p>Levy argued that the LIRR, though passing through decidedly urban parts of Queens, better serves suburban commuters. He recommended that the LIRR be integrated, like the subways and buses. This would reduce E train ridership and take drivers off the road, he argued. He also proposed matching subway schedules with the LIRR to allow for quicker commutes from Queens. <br /> <br />In Kabak’s view, the most impactful option available to lawmakers is congestion pricing, with strategically increased tolls to discourage driving on busy roads. “I think the only real way to get these cars off the road is to price traffic accordingly,” he said. “It’s a tough sell because people who drive have a loud political voice but until you’re willing to say this traffic comes at a price that the rest of us are paying, as opposed to the drivers, then you’ll have traffic.”</p> <p>Jones, the MTA board member, voiced support for gas taxes and congestion pricing to discourage driving. These measures would, however, need the backing of the governor and the state legislature. Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/06/29/albanys-extraordinary-session-ends-with-ordinary-dysfunction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has said</a> congestion pricing is a “nice idea” but insists that the legislature, which has rejected it in the past, still lacks the appetite for it. Mayor de Blasio similarly has insisted that congestion pricing is contingent on state action, and has shown little interest in pushing the issue.</p> <p>Instead of redirecting responsibility and kicking the can down the road, Jones hopes that Cuomo and de Blasio can work together to push these fixes as commuters desperately await action. “The public doesn’t really care about the dispute between the mayor and the governor,” he said. “They just want to be able to get to work on time.”</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/8146324848_d93a71e4cd_k-2.jpg" alt="8146324848 d93a71e4cd k 2" width="600" height="465" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo with MTA Chair Joe Lhota (photo: Governor's Office/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>Two separate subway track fires on Monday, in the morning and evening, that led to stoppages on multiple lines and delays across the system were just the latest incidents that put the spotlight on problems with New York City’s subways. The last few weeks have seen c<span style="font-weight: 400;">hronic delays, a recent A-train&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.amny.com/transit/a-train-derailment-in-harlem-caused-by-human-error-mta-says-1.13768866"><span style="font-weight: 400;">derailment</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">passengers trapped on an F Train for nearly an hour without running air or power.</span>&nbsp;Although issues with the subway system have long been apparent, and only increasing in severity, the official response has widely been deemed insufficient. Transit and infrastructure experts agree that the city and state must act now, and act together, to deal with the system’s overcrowding, aging trains and archaic signal mechanisms, and there seems to be broad consensus among them on policies and proposals that could solve the city’s transit crisis.</p> <p>The problems with the city’s subways have been decades in the making, stemming from chronic underinvestment in mass transit infrastructure. Earlier this month, in a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/opinion/rahm-emanuel-chicago-l-mass-transit.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times op-ed</a>, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contrasted New York City’s system with Chicago’s own, pointing out that the key to his city’s transit successes was prioritization of maintenance and direct accountability of local officials. “[F]irst, we put reliability ahead of expansion,” he wrote. “We focused relentlessly on modernizing tracks, signals, switches, stations and cars before extending lines to new destinations.”</p> <p>Although the editorial drew a harsh rebuke from elected officials and New York’s tabloids, Emmanuel’s criticisms were not entirely off the mark. The MTA has largely failed to maintain and modernize the analog signal system in New York, which dates back to before World War II and is one of the key factors in system breakdowns. Although improvements are underway, at the rate the MTA is progressing, a system-wide upgrade is expected to take 50 years.</p> <p>Official accountability has also been lacking. Mayor Bill de Blasio has faced increased pressure from constituents, activists and political opponents to address the MTA’s poor performance, though he does not in fact control the state agency. The mayor has sought to distance himself from those issues, laying the problems at the feet of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has authority and control over the MTA’s day-to-day operations.</p> <p>Cuomo, however, has argued that he has insufficient control of the agency despite appointing a plurality of the MTA’s board members and its chair. He recently proposed increasing the number of gubernatorial MTA appointees, declared a state of emergency for the MTA to ease procurement rules, and appointed Joe Lhota, who has previously served as MTA chair, to lead the agency yet again. Cuomo also pledged another $1 billion to the MTA capital plan.</p> <p>"If suspending procurement rules is a good idea, why is it only being done for $1 billion? Why isn't the governor pressing for more fundamental reform?” wondered Stephen Smith, an urban and transit policy expert who runs the popular Twitter account <a href="https://twitter.com/MarketUrbanism" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Market Urbanism</a>. Smith, along with other transit experts, are skeptical that throwing more money at the problem will work unless officials implement multi-faceted solutions that address existing infrastructure, spending efficiency, management and capital project completion, to name a few.</p> <p><strong>Fixing signals and reducing crowds</strong><br />One of the main ailments affecting subway infrastructure is the old and neglected signal system, which the MTA has acknowledged is one of its most important challenges. The state has already allocated $2.1 billion, of the MTA’s total $29.5 billion capital plan, for signal improvements. “We’re undergoing a top-to-bottom review, but make no mistake, we must do maintenance and system expansion to underserved communities at the same time,” said MTA Chair Lhota in a statement earlier this month to the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-takes-big-dig-nyc-subway-crisis-article-1.3298095" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Daily News</a>, responding to Emmanuel’s op-ed.</p> <p>On a recent <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">episode</a> of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/what-s-the-data-point" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s the [Data] Point?</a>, a joint podcast hosted by Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission, Janno Lieber, the MTA's new chief development officer pointed towards expanding use of Communications-based train control (CBTC), a signal system that would allow trains to move in closer proximity to one another due to more precise tracking of trains. According to Lieber, CBTC improves service by allowing more cars to run on a particular lines while reducing the delays and danger that often come with crowded tracks. The upgrade is currently in use on on the 7 and L lines, with plans to implement them in the E, F, M and R lines as well.</p> <p>But the slow pace of upgrading the system stems from the balancing act that the MTA and State have to strike in implementing physical infrastructure improvements. The MTA’s modus operandi has generally been to shut trains down for nights or weekends at a time in order to make repairs and upgrades, allowing trains to run during high-use periods. But that work is time consuming and less efficient, driving many in the transit world to lean towards avoiding stop-and-go style fixes. “Full shut downs of subway lines get work done faster,” said Ben Kabak, editor of the New York City-centric transit news blog, Second Avenue Sagas. “At some point, that's going to have to be the conversation we’re going to have.”</p> <p>Kabak supports the MTA’s plan to effect repairs on the L Train, which will involve a complete shutdown of the line starting in 2019. This option, though understandably unpopular with commuters, results in faster and less costly repairs.</p> <p>David Jones, a de Blasio appointee on the MTA board and long-time transit advocate, echoed Kabak. “I was convinced by the arguments they made that to do this in a piecemeal fashion would have led to chronic delays and lasted a much longer period of time,” he said of the planned L Train shutdown. “I don’t think this is going to be pleasant,” he added, though conceding that it is the best approach to a less-than-ideal situation.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">7 Transit Commitments Advocates Want From Candidates This Year</a>]</p> <p>A prime factor that causes a majority of subway delays is overcrowding. In a sense, the MTA is a victim of its own success and, since the 1990’s, has seen ridership <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/28/nyregion/subway-delays-overcrowding.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rise</a> from four to six million daily riders. Unfortunately, in that time, the system has added less than 30 new train cars, leading to trains running at peak capacity. As a result, overcrowding is now responsible for more than one-third of the 75,000 subway delays each month, according to MTA data.</p> <p>“The only truly effective way to address crowding on the subway is to run more trains,” John Raskin, Executive Director of Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group, told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/28/nyregion/subway-delays-overcrowding.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times</a> in January. “It’s not a cheap or quick solution.”</p> <p>An effort to add more miles of track would also improve service. This is evident from the launch of the Second Avenue subway line, which, in its first month, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/nyregion/second-avenue-subway-relieves-crowding-on-neighboring-lines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduced ridership</a> on the busy Lexington Avenue line by 27 percent between 42nd and 110th streets. But Smith is not optimistic that Governor Cuomo will launch large subway expansion projects to reach underserved neighborhoods. “Andrew Cuomo is very focused on the 2020 election, which is why he’s focused on rebuilding bridges,” he said. He doesn’t expect Cuomo to show a similar commitment to mass transit. “I don’t have much hope,” he said.</p> <p><strong>More bang for the MTA’s buck</strong> <br />It’s widely acknowledged that the MTA has lacked for investment for years, and elected officials and advocates have proposed numerous options to fund repairs. Fare hikes have been used in the past but are unpopular, for obvious reasons. The Empire Center’s E.J McMahon <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/06/26/heres-a-few-billions-cuomo-can-send-to-the-mta-right-now/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suggested</a> in June the State should use 40 percent of the over $10 billion from banking fines and penalty money in the last three years to finance subway improvements. Recently, State Assembly Member Robert Carroll proposed increasing the city’s 50-cent taxi surcharge to one dollar, and expanding this tax towards black cars and ride-hailing services. A coalition of eight transit advocacy groups have also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proposed</a> taxing the property value added through real estate upzonings to finance investment in transportation.</p> <p>But experts told Gotham Gazette that it’s not a lack of funds, but rather the manner in which they are put to use which is the more significant. Costs for long-term transit projects in the city tend to balloon over time, owing to delays in construction and increasing labor costs. Transportation writer Alon Levy <a href="https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated</a> that New York City’s cost per mile of subway construction astronomically outpaces what other major cities such as Madrid, London and Paris spend. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway first phase, for example, cost $4.5 billion -- $1.7 billion per kilometer, or just under two-thirds of a mile. In comparison, London’s Jubilee Line Extension, Amsterdam’s North-South Line and and Berlin’s U55 cost $450 million, $410 million and $250 million per kilometer respectively. The cost of the Second Avenue Subway, about four times as much as the equivalent in Paris, was not an aberration. The 7 line extension has cost near as much per kilometer of construction and the East Side Access is even projected to surpass the cost of the Second Avenue line.</p> <p>Smith and Levy agree that until officials figure out how to get more bang for their buck for both tune-ups and new construction, the city’s transit troubles will likely continue. For them, the discourse on the issue features an outsized emphasis on raising revenue while ignoring the soaring costs. “It’s difficult to ask people for more money when they’re not getting much for it,” Smith said.</p> <p>Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, echoed that argument. “The problem is we’ve implemented a new tax for the capital plans but we’ve never dealt with the cost side,” she said, attributing the bulk of costs to labor. “Labor is 40 percent of the costs, 40 percent materials and then 20 percent overhead and white collar,” she said, referring to <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/prevailing-waste/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> released in April by the Empire Center for Public Policy. Those labor costs are “25 percent higher than they should be,” she said. Smith concurred, suggesting that high labor costs and a “mind-boggling amount of waste” are the likely culprits.</p> <p>MTA’s Lieber conceded as much on the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gotham Gazette-CBC podcast</a>, pointing out that the agency has not been sufficiently scrupulous in its procurement and project coordination, leading to costly labor. Lieber, who previously worked for Silverstein Properties as president of World Trade Center Properties, believes the MTA can take lessons from the private sector to lower costs. “You have to have design process that is going to resolve all the design questions and then not reopen them,” he said, contending that continuous arguing and haggling over design often delays and increases project costs. To do this, the parties involved need “close collaboration on design, so you don’t have change,” he said, insisting that the agency needs to ensure efficient and timely construction work.</p> <p>Another factor behind high prices is the premiums that contractors place on construction when faced with uncertainty going into a project, Lieber said. “Sometimes we say to the contractor, ‘take all these risks about conditions that you don’t know about and throw a huge premium on it,’” he said. He suggested that hiring outside contractors may not be the best approach. “We’d probably be better off letting the public sector own and manage those risks and try to eliminate them,” said Lieber, “rather than having the contractor in effect charge you...much, much higher price for risks that he or she doesn’t really understand or can’t envision.”</p> <p>Lieber also noted that builders often squander money on excessive last-minute repairs to completed projects, which adds to the final price tag. In his new role, Lieber said he’d enact measures to tackle these inefficiencies and improve how the MTA conducts its business.</p> <p><strong>Opportunities for the City</strong><br />In the absence of state action, experts agree that there are initiatives de Blasio can take on his own. Earlier this month, a coalition of transit advocates <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7052-seven-transit-commitments-advocates-want-from-candidates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rallied</a> around seven transit initiatives they want City Hall, and any candidate running for elected office in the city, to adopt. These include discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, alternatives for when the L Train shuts down, and enhancing bike and bus lanes.</p> <p>For his part, the mayor has touted the expansion of the express Select Bus Service and the New York City Ferries as examples of incremental improvements his administration has made. And, more ambitiously, his administration is exploring the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) proposal, a streetcar that would run along the waterfront from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria, Queens. Similar to the procedure with which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg expanded the 7 train to the West Side, the de Blasio administration hopes to finance the project with value capture funding, which collects the value of increased property taxes in the neighborhoods along the route.</p> <p>Other than the Select Bus Service, transit experts are skeptical about de Blasio’s ideas and priorities. Ferries, while useful for some, have a relatively limited capacity. And the BQX draws mostly harsh reviews from transit experts, who say it would neither serve a currently popular and overcrowded route nor a necessary one with demand. Smith called it a “terrible idea’ and “a solution in search of a problem.”</p> <p>Kabak concurred. “Their plan is suspect from a transit routing perspective and the plan is suspect from a financial perspective.” He argued that real estate interests were the driving motivator behind the misbegotten idea. Kabak suggested what he believes to be better alternatives to the BQX route, that the mayor can work on without state cooperation. He pointed to the Triboro RX proposal, a proposed route that would run from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn through Queens to Co-op City in the Bronx. It would serve an “unmet demand” for trains in areas such as Flatbush and Flushing, he said.</p> <p>Smith favors more significant structural and jurisdictional reforms. “My personal opinion is that the city needs to take back the NYC Transit Authority for it to ever really be fixed,” he emailed. “Leaving it in the governor's hands is just a recipe for political unaccountability, since the vast majority of voters in New York State do not ride the subway or buses and don't care about their fate.”</p> <p>He said Mayor de Blasio should take steps towards getting mayoral control of the MTA, starting with buses. “They're much lower-stakes – lower ridership, less capital funding – and the governor might be more willing to give them, and, of course, their funding, back to the city,” Smith said. “And if the city shows that it can be a better steward of the buses than the state was, I think the case for taking back the big prize – the subway – becomes a lot more convincing.”</p> <p>He continued, “This would have the effect of both fixing the substantive and the jurisdictional unaccountability problems by making the powers-that-be that manage the city’s mass transit more responsive to the cohort that uses it.”</p> <p><strong>Easing congestion</strong> <br />Coinciding with mass-transit troubles, and partly because of them, New Yorkers have also experienced an uptick in traffic congestion, and continued subway dysfunction is likely to make matters worse. Gelinas said this is an area where de Blasio can take small steps such as making the streets safer for bicycles and improving street management. “When you look at the streets, the streets are just complete chaos, so you can understand why people don’t want to ride bikes,” she said. Along these lines, the City Council has discussed pushing the NYPD to increase bus lane enforcement and crack down on placard abuse, as well as adding bus and bike lanes.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6975-calls-for-small-large-fixes-to-city-congestion-transit-woes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Calls for Small &amp; Large Fixes to City Congestion, Transit Woes</a>]</p> <p>A more ambitious measure requires encouraging ridership from the outer parts of Queens via the Long Island Rail Road. In fact, as transit experts are quick to note, one of the few advantages of gubernatorial control of all New York public transportation agencies is the ability to integrate different modes of transportation.</p> <p>Levy argued that the LIRR, though passing through decidedly urban parts of Queens, better serves suburban commuters. He recommended that the LIRR be integrated, like the subways and buses. This would reduce E train ridership and take drivers off the road, he argued. He also proposed matching subway schedules with the LIRR to allow for quicker commutes from Queens. <br /> <br />In Kabak’s view, the most impactful option available to lawmakers is congestion pricing, with strategically increased tolls to discourage driving on busy roads. “I think the only real way to get these cars off the road is to price traffic accordingly,” he said. “It’s a tough sell because people who drive have a loud political voice but until you’re willing to say this traffic comes at a price that the rest of us are paying, as opposed to the drivers, then you’ll have traffic.”</p> <p>Jones, the MTA board member, voiced support for gas taxes and congestion pricing to discourage driving. These measures would, however, need the backing of the governor and the state legislature. Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/06/29/albanys-extraordinary-session-ends-with-ordinary-dysfunction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has said</a> congestion pricing is a “nice idea” but insists that the legislature, which has rejected it in the past, still lacks the appetite for it. Mayor de Blasio similarly has insisted that congestion pricing is contingent on state action, and has shown little interest in pushing the issue.</p> <p>Instead of redirecting responsibility and kicking the can down the road, Jones hopes that Cuomo and de Blasio can work together to push these fixes as commuters desperately await action. “The public doesn’t really care about the dispute between the mayor and the governor,” he said. “They just want to be able to get to work on time.”</p> <p> </p> Comptroller vs. Governor: An Old Story in New York 2017-07-10T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-10T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7047:comptroller-vs-governor-an-old-story-in-new-york Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/6637183655_d9a3047ea6_z.jpg" alt="6637183655 d9a3047ea6 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo (left) and Comptroller DiNapoli (center) (photo: Governor's Office/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been airing public disagreement in the news media over the past several months. It is the latest chapter in a long story here in New York -- the Governor and the Comptroller sometimes agreeing but often challenging each other.</p> <p><strong>Calling out Cuomo's fiscal policies</strong><br />DiNapoli's <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis of the recently-enacted State 2017-2018 budget</a> (crafted by Cuomo and enacted through his negotiations with the Legislature) warns of fiscal risks ahead with uncertainty about the federal budget and $10.5 billion in new state bonded indebtedness. The budget, which also included a number of public policy changes, was enacted with little time for public review, DiNapoli’s report says. It also raised additional concerns about "transparency, accountability and oversight."</p> <p>Early in May, the Comptroller issued an <a href="https://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">audit of the State Economic Development Corporation</a>, the governor's economic development agency, citing it for lax reporting on key projects, particularly those that create tax-free economic development zones to encourage business development. “Too often Empire State Development Corporation is either late or not reporting on the results of economic development programs,” DiNapoli said. “We need better reporting to ensure transparency in economic development spending and to promote an informed analysis on the return of the investments state taxpayers make in these programs.” A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation said the Comptroller's audit "cherry-picks information" and "profoundly misrepresents our efforts."</p> <p>Cuomo has called the Comptroller’s audits “opinion” and sought to undermine DiNapoli’s oversight at several turns.</p> <p>DiNapoli's office signed off on the state Senate Republican majority's list of stipend payments for committee chairs, where in some cases vice chairs have received payments that typically only go to chairs. Democrats and the media have questioned some of these payments. Cuomo used the issue as an opportunity to criticize DiNapoli. "If it was not legal, the Comptroller shouldn't have done it," Cuomo said. "If it's not legal, the Comptroller should call up and say, 'Whoops, I made a mistake, I need the money back.'" A spokesperson for the Comptroller's office responded that "the comptroller's office is not a court of law" and the issue "needs to be decided by the Senate itself, or the legal system."</p> <p>DiNapoli has often been critical of the Governor's spending plans. Four years ago, in 2013, he issued a report that New York's debt, counting bonds issued by public benefit corporations, amounted to $63.3 billion — about $3,253 per state resident. "We spend billions each year to repay existing debt, so fewer resources are available for more pressing needs," he said. Much of the debt has been developed by public authorities. "Taxpayers have little or no say in how much the state borrows, but they're the ones who have to foot the bill," DiNapoli continued.</p> <p>The Comptroller responded to an alleged bid-rigging scandal within Cuomo’s economic development programs -- for which nine Cuomo associates and donors have been charged by federal authorities, with a trial set for October -- by proposing more oversight through his office. Cuomo has made his own proposal in response to the scandal, which does not include restoring contract approval by the Comptroller for certain types of programs.</p> <p><strong>A history of tension and balance</strong><br />Established in 1797 as an appointed position, the Comptroller's position has been constitutionally based and elective since 1846. The state constitutional convention that year, recognizing the need for an independent Comptroller, made it an independent position, elected by the voters. Until the early 20th century, the position rivaled the Governor's in power, including compiling the state budget, receiving taxes, monitoring banks, and preparing financial reports. That power diminished with the reorganization and consolidation of state government, including the creation of the Division of the Budget, carried out by Governor Al Smith in the 1920s.</p> <p>But the Comptroller remains the state's chief financial officer, controls payment of state funds, borrows and invests for the state, manages the state retirement fund, reports on the state's fiscal conditions, and audits both state agencies and local governments. The <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/about/response.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller's website</a> notes that the Comptroller "is the State’s chief fiscal officer who ensures that State and local governments use taxpayer money effectively and efficiently to promote the common good."</p> <p>Governors and Comptrollers usually have good working relationships. But there is a potential inherent tension in a relationship between the state's chief executive, who uses public tax dollars to initiate and administer state programs, and the state's chief fiscal watchdog, who makes sure that the state stays fiscally solvent and strong and that those tax dollars are used well.</p> <p>Comptrollers have challenged Governors many times during the course of state history.</p> <p>For instance, Arthur Levitt (1955-1978), the longest serving Comptroller in the state's history, criticized borrowing practices that bypassed state constitutional referendum requirements for incurring state debt. Levitt, a Democrat, was a frequent critic of Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1959-1973), whose administration expanded state government and constructed the Empire State Plaza governmental complex in Albany, often relying on bonds.</p> <p>In a February 1964 speech, Levitt assailed Rockefeller as a "pseudo pay-as-you-go governor" who through the "subterfuge" of selling authority bonds had imposed on the people of the state "a staggering burden of debt without their consent." Rockefeller responded that Levitt "is a partisan, organization Democrat, not an independent, nonpartisan, nonpolitical watchdog of the public treasury, as he likes to be projected." Levitt's motive was "to discredit the fiscal integrity and soundly solvent fiscal policies of this administration."</p> <p>Levitt had a number of run-ins with Rockefeller, including lawsuits to require more detailed budget information and to open up the books of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Summarizing his years of working with Rockefeller, Levitt concluded, "I haven't been soft on him at all."</p> <p>"As the people's auditor, I have reported factually to the people in accordance with my constitutional mandate," Levitt said. He made the office a high-profile watchdog and force for fiscal restraint and probity.</p> <p>Many years earlier, in the 1830s, the state was spending money lavishly on enlarging the Erie Canal, building additional canals and providing loans and other aid to railroads, mostly by issuing state bonds.</p> <p>Democratic Comptroller Azariah Flagg (1833-1839 and 1842-1847) published an alarming report in 1838, warning that the state had reached "the utmost verge of prudence" and should curtail borrowing.</p> <p>But Governor William Seward, a Whig (the Whig Party was then one of New York's two most important parties, along with the Democrats), told the Legislature in 1839 that "history furnishes no parallel to the financial achievements of this state." He added that "taxation for the purposes of internal improvement is happily unnecessary," since future canal user fees would provide funds to pay off the bonds.</p> <p>Seward in 1840 called for spending $4 million more each year for 10 years for canals and railroads. The Whig majority in the state Legislature kept pushing up the debt.</p> <p>Comptroller Flagg's warning turned out to be warranted.</p> <p>The state entered a downward fiscal spiral. Recession sparked by the Panic of 1837 cut into state revenues. Canal construction costs rose. Even Seward admitted "severe shock" at learning that canal expansion would cost twice what he had estimated. The Erie Railroad fell behind on its repayment of state loans. Selling state bonds became more difficult as nervous creditors began to worry about New York's solvency. State debt rose to $27 million in 1842, a huge sum in those days. <br />Comptroller Flagg warned that New York was at "the very brink of dishonor and bankruptcy" and "it is a question of solvency or insolvency."</p> <p>The voters heeded Flagg's warning. They gave fiscally conservative Democrats a majority in the next Legislature. They curtailed or suspended canal work and railroad aid. With Seward's reluctant concurrence, they enacted a special tax to keep the state solvent. The debt began to decline. Creditors' confidence returned, and state securities regained the status of good investments.</p> <p><strong>The lure of higher office</strong><br />Some Comptrollers have had political ambitions and used the position as a stepping-stone to higher office, occasionally another source of tension with Governors. <br />William L. Marcy, Comptroller 1823-1829, went on to serve as Governor, 1833-1838. Silas Wright served as Comptroller from 1829 to 1833 and Governor, 1845-1856 (in those days, governors were elected every two years). Washington Hunt, Comptroller 1849-1850, went on to become governor, 1851-1852. Lucius Robinson, Comptroller 1862 to 1865, went on to become Governor, 1877-1879.</p> <p>Martin Glynn, Comptroller 1907-1908, was nominated and elected Lieutenant Governor in 1910 and became Governor when William Sulzer was impeached and removed from office in 1913. But Glynn was defeated when he ran for Governor in his own right in 1914.</p> <p>Nathan L. Miller, Comptroller 1901-1903, defeated Al Smith in his campaign for reelection as Governor in 1920, running on a platform of fiscal restraint and criticizing Smith's administration for overspending. But Smith returned to oust Miller in 1922.</p> <p>Millard Fillmore served in the House of Representatives before being elected Comptroller in 1847 (the first person elected rather than appointed to the office). He was nominated for Vice President in 1848, elected along with presidential nominee Zachary Taylor, and became President upon Taylor's death in 1850. He ran for President in 1852 but was defeated.</p> <p><strong>Cuomo and DiNapoli both playing appropriate roles</strong><br />Comptroller DiNapoli is playing an appropriate role, in line with many of his most impressive and judicious predecessors such as Arthur Levitt and Azariah Flagg. His reports are clear and readable, his warnings measured and documented, and his custody of the state retirement fund reassuring.</p> <p>On the other hand, Governor Cuomo, like Nelson Rockefeller, Al Smith, William Seward and other bold, expansionist-minded Governors before him, is inclined to use public funds for innovative programs that he sees as investments in New York's future.</p> <p>The conscientious Comptroller and the proactive Governor are well-suited to their respective positions. Their views, while sometimes at odds with each other, complement each other and offer the public contrasting visions for New York's future. That is useful for public debate and, hopefully, for creation of sound state fiscal policies.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/6637183655_d9a3047ea6_z.jpg" alt="6637183655 d9a3047ea6 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo (left) and Comptroller DiNapoli (center) (photo: Governor's Office/Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been airing public disagreement in the news media over the past several months. It is the latest chapter in a long story here in New York -- the Governor and the Comptroller sometimes agreeing but often challenging each other.</p> <p><strong>Calling out Cuomo's fiscal policies</strong><br />DiNapoli's <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis of the recently-enacted State 2017-2018 budget</a> (crafted by Cuomo and enacted through his negotiations with the Legislature) warns of fiscal risks ahead with uncertainty about the federal budget and $10.5 billion in new state bonded indebtedness. The budget, which also included a number of public policy changes, was enacted with little time for public review, DiNapoli’s report says. It also raised additional concerns about "transparency, accountability and oversight."</p> <p>Early in May, the Comptroller issued an <a href="https://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">audit of the State Economic Development Corporation</a>, the governor's economic development agency, citing it for lax reporting on key projects, particularly those that create tax-free economic development zones to encourage business development. “Too often Empire State Development Corporation is either late or not reporting on the results of economic development programs,” DiNapoli said. “We need better reporting to ensure transparency in economic development spending and to promote an informed analysis on the return of the investments state taxpayers make in these programs.” A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation said the Comptroller's audit "cherry-picks information" and "profoundly misrepresents our efforts."</p> <p>Cuomo has called the Comptroller’s audits “opinion” and sought to undermine DiNapoli’s oversight at several turns.</p> <p>DiNapoli's office signed off on the state Senate Republican majority's list of stipend payments for committee chairs, where in some cases vice chairs have received payments that typically only go to chairs. Democrats and the media have questioned some of these payments. Cuomo used the issue as an opportunity to criticize DiNapoli. "If it was not legal, the Comptroller shouldn't have done it," Cuomo said. "If it's not legal, the Comptroller should call up and say, 'Whoops, I made a mistake, I need the money back.'" A spokesperson for the Comptroller's office responded that "the comptroller's office is not a court of law" and the issue "needs to be decided by the Senate itself, or the legal system."</p> <p>DiNapoli has often been critical of the Governor's spending plans. Four years ago, in 2013, he issued a report that New York's debt, counting bonds issued by public benefit corporations, amounted to $63.3 billion — about $3,253 per state resident. "We spend billions each year to repay existing debt, so fewer resources are available for more pressing needs," he said. Much of the debt has been developed by public authorities. "Taxpayers have little or no say in how much the state borrows, but they're the ones who have to foot the bill," DiNapoli continued.</p> <p>The Comptroller responded to an alleged bid-rigging scandal within Cuomo’s economic development programs -- for which nine Cuomo associates and donors have been charged by federal authorities, with a trial set for October -- by proposing more oversight through his office. Cuomo has made his own proposal in response to the scandal, which does not include restoring contract approval by the Comptroller for certain types of programs.</p> <p><strong>A history of tension and balance</strong><br />Established in 1797 as an appointed position, the Comptroller's position has been constitutionally based and elective since 1846. The state constitutional convention that year, recognizing the need for an independent Comptroller, made it an independent position, elected by the voters. Until the early 20th century, the position rivaled the Governor's in power, including compiling the state budget, receiving taxes, monitoring banks, and preparing financial reports. That power diminished with the reorganization and consolidation of state government, including the creation of the Division of the Budget, carried out by Governor Al Smith in the 1920s.</p> <p>But the Comptroller remains the state's chief financial officer, controls payment of state funds, borrows and invests for the state, manages the state retirement fund, reports on the state's fiscal conditions, and audits both state agencies and local governments. The <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/about/response.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller's website</a> notes that the Comptroller "is the State’s chief fiscal officer who ensures that State and local governments use taxpayer money effectively and efficiently to promote the common good."</p> <p>Governors and Comptrollers usually have good working relationships. But there is a potential inherent tension in a relationship between the state's chief executive, who uses public tax dollars to initiate and administer state programs, and the state's chief fiscal watchdog, who makes sure that the state stays fiscally solvent and strong and that those tax dollars are used well.</p> <p>Comptrollers have challenged Governors many times during the course of state history.</p> <p>For instance, Arthur Levitt (1955-1978), the longest serving Comptroller in the state's history, criticized borrowing practices that bypassed state constitutional referendum requirements for incurring state debt. Levitt, a Democrat, was a frequent critic of Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1959-1973), whose administration expanded state government and constructed the Empire State Plaza governmental complex in Albany, often relying on bonds.</p> <p>In a February 1964 speech, Levitt assailed Rockefeller as a "pseudo pay-as-you-go governor" who through the "subterfuge" of selling authority bonds had imposed on the people of the state "a staggering burden of debt without their consent." Rockefeller responded that Levitt "is a partisan, organization Democrat, not an independent, nonpartisan, nonpolitical watchdog of the public treasury, as he likes to be projected." Levitt's motive was "to discredit the fiscal integrity and soundly solvent fiscal policies of this administration."</p> <p>Levitt had a number of run-ins with Rockefeller, including lawsuits to require more detailed budget information and to open up the books of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Summarizing his years of working with Rockefeller, Levitt concluded, "I haven't been soft on him at all."</p> <p>"As the people's auditor, I have reported factually to the people in accordance with my constitutional mandate," Levitt said. He made the office a high-profile watchdog and force for fiscal restraint and probity.</p> <p>Many years earlier, in the 1830s, the state was spending money lavishly on enlarging the Erie Canal, building additional canals and providing loans and other aid to railroads, mostly by issuing state bonds.</p> <p>Democratic Comptroller Azariah Flagg (1833-1839 and 1842-1847) published an alarming report in 1838, warning that the state had reached "the utmost verge of prudence" and should curtail borrowing.</p> <p>But Governor William Seward, a Whig (the Whig Party was then one of New York's two most important parties, along with the Democrats), told the Legislature in 1839 that "history furnishes no parallel to the financial achievements of this state." He added that "taxation for the purposes of internal improvement is happily unnecessary," since future canal user fees would provide funds to pay off the bonds.</p> <p>Seward in 1840 called for spending $4 million more each year for 10 years for canals and railroads. The Whig majority in the state Legislature kept pushing up the debt.</p> <p>Comptroller Flagg's warning turned out to be warranted.</p> <p>The state entered a downward fiscal spiral. Recession sparked by the Panic of 1837 cut into state revenues. Canal construction costs rose. Even Seward admitted "severe shock" at learning that canal expansion would cost twice what he had estimated. The Erie Railroad fell behind on its repayment of state loans. Selling state bonds became more difficult as nervous creditors began to worry about New York's solvency. State debt rose to $27 million in 1842, a huge sum in those days. <br />Comptroller Flagg warned that New York was at "the very brink of dishonor and bankruptcy" and "it is a question of solvency or insolvency."</p> <p>The voters heeded Flagg's warning. They gave fiscally conservative Democrats a majority in the next Legislature. They curtailed or suspended canal work and railroad aid. With Seward's reluctant concurrence, they enacted a special tax to keep the state solvent. The debt began to decline. Creditors' confidence returned, and state securities regained the status of good investments.</p> <p><strong>The lure of higher office</strong><br />Some Comptrollers have had political ambitions and used the position as a stepping-stone to higher office, occasionally another source of tension with Governors. <br />William L. Marcy, Comptroller 1823-1829, went on to serve as Governor, 1833-1838. Silas Wright served as Comptroller from 1829 to 1833 and Governor, 1845-1856 (in those days, governors were elected every two years). Washington Hunt, Comptroller 1849-1850, went on to become governor, 1851-1852. Lucius Robinson, Comptroller 1862 to 1865, went on to become Governor, 1877-1879.</p> <p>Martin Glynn, Comptroller 1907-1908, was nominated and elected Lieutenant Governor in 1910 and became Governor when William Sulzer was impeached and removed from office in 1913. But Glynn was defeated when he ran for Governor in his own right in 1914.</p> <p>Nathan L. Miller, Comptroller 1901-1903, defeated Al Smith in his campaign for reelection as Governor in 1920, running on a platform of fiscal restraint and criticizing Smith's administration for overspending. But Smith returned to oust Miller in 1922.</p> <p>Millard Fillmore served in the House of Representatives before being elected Comptroller in 1847 (the first person elected rather than appointed to the office). He was nominated for Vice President in 1848, elected along with presidential nominee Zachary Taylor, and became President upon Taylor's death in 1850. He ran for President in 1852 but was defeated.</p> <p><strong>Cuomo and DiNapoli both playing appropriate roles</strong><br />Comptroller DiNapoli is playing an appropriate role, in line with many of his most impressive and judicious predecessors such as Arthur Levitt and Azariah Flagg. His reports are clear and readable, his warnings measured and documented, and his custody of the state retirement fund reassuring.</p> <p>On the other hand, Governor Cuomo, like Nelson Rockefeller, Al Smith, William Seward and other bold, expansionist-minded Governors before him, is inclined to use public funds for innovative programs that he sees as investments in New York's future.</p> <p>The conscientious Comptroller and the proactive Governor are well-suited to their respective positions. Their views, while sometimes at odds with each other, complement each other and offer the public contrasting visions for New York's future. That is useful for public debate and, hopefully, for creation of sound state fiscal policies.</p> <p>***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</p> <p>

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

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Jobs with Gotham Gazette 2016-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/jobs Super User <p>There are no current job openings at Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>We do offer rolling internship opportunities.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 12pt;"><strong>Intern with Gotham Gazette:</strong></span><br />We accept interns on a rolling basis, though we mostly put together cohorts along a three-season calendar of fall (Sept-Dec), spring (Jan-May), and summer (May-Aug). To appy, e-mail editor Ben Max with a resume, letter of interest, and any clips you'd like to share: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a> - please know, though, that due to the volume of submissions, Ben may not be able to respond to every applicant. A variety of internship roles and arrangements are possible.</p> <p>There are no current job openings at Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>We do offer rolling internship opportunities.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 12pt;"><strong>Intern with Gotham Gazette:</strong></span><br />We accept interns on a rolling basis, though we mostly put together cohorts along a three-season calendar of fall (Sept-Dec), spring (Jan-May), and summer (May-Aug). To appy, e-mail editor Ben Max with a resume, letter of interest, and any clips you'd like to share: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a> - please know, though, that due to the volume of submissions, Ben may not be able to respond to every applicant. A variety of internship roles and arrangements are possible.</p> The Week That Was in New York Politics, October 5-9 2015-10-09T16:32:01+00:00 2015-10-09T16:32:01+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5928:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-october-5-9 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" width="600" height="409" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 9</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Mayor de Blasio pitches his rezoning plans in East New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/MC_NYC/status/651037854584467456" target="_blank">via Chang W. Lee for the New York Times</a>; charter school supporters rally in Brooklyn, <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva/status/651796803646541824" target="_blank">via Eva Moskowitz</a>; Gov. Cuomo and former VP Al Gore celebrate a climate change-prevention announcement, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/22042803655/in/album-72157659219247088/" target="_blank">via the governor's office</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/BdB_East_NY_Change_Lee_NYT.jpg" alt="BdB East NY Chang W Lee NYT" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="400" height="224" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/charter_rally.jpg" alt="charter rally" width="400" height="300" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22042803655_d279fc0050_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Gore climate change" width="400" height="266" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Cuomo On Climate Change:</strong> On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with former Vice President Al Gore, <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-new-actions-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-lead" target="_blank">announced</a> four actions to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across New York State. Cuomo signed the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding, reaffirming his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. By signing the ‘Under 2 MOU,’ Cuomo committed New York to the global effort to keep the earth’s average temperature from rising two degrees. The governor reiterated several measures that will make up New York’s efforts to do so, including an increase in the cultivation and use of solar power.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Charter School Politics:</strong> A large pro-charter school <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8578935/charter-rally-treads-familiar-ground-amid-shifts-political-climate" target="_blank">rally</a> led by Families for Excellent Schools was held on Wednesday; bolstered mostly by Eva Moskowitz, who closed her Success Academy Charter Schools so that students, parents, and staff would attend. Moskowitz accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of going back on his word to find space for seven new elementary charter schools in time for them to open in August. Generally, charter supporters are upset with the mayor for being against the expansion of charter schools. Then, on Thursday, Moskowitz <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/charter-school-leader-eva-moskowitz-not-running-for-mayor-1444320249" target="_blank">announced</a> that she will not be running for mayor in 2017, despite speculation that, as one of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest critics, she was going to run.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. New Info In Deadly Brooklyn Explosion:</strong> On Thursday, fire marshals <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/09/nyregion/natural-gas-not-the-cause-of-deadly-brooklyn-explosion-officials-say.html" target="_blank">eliminated</a> natural gas as a possible cause of the explosion in Brooklyn last Saturday that destroyed a three-story building, killed two, and injured thirteen. Investigators are now looking into whether some type of accelerant or fuel was involved in the blast. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said information from the investigation and “examination of the building gas meters, found that there was no natural gas flowing to the second-floor apartment (where the fire originated) since June 26.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. MTA Funding Feud Continues:</strong> Governor Cuomo again took issue with Mayor de Blasio over funding the MTA in a WNYC <a href="http://citizensunion.us3.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ca0fb41d668202ba6cc542ca8&amp;id=504196afe9&amp;e=e35a0ce952" target="_blank">interview</a> on Tuesday. Cuomo and the head of the MTA, the governor’s appointee, are demanding the city contribute about $3 billion more. De Blasio is apparently offering over $2 billion, a major increase from previous commitments, but is saying he wants assurances that Cuomo will not remove any money from the MTA budget as he has done repeatedly in the past. The sniping continues.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Staten Island Family Justice Center Finally Breaks Ground:</strong> After <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank">years</a> of delays, Mayor de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and others gathered on Monday for the <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151005/st-george/long-delayed-staten-island-family-justice-center-finally-breaks-ground" target="_blank">groundbreaking</a> of The Staten Island Family Justice Center, largely focused on domestic violence prevention and response. The center is the first of its kind on Staten Island, following the lead of every other borough in the city, each of which already has such a center dedicated to providing comprehensive civil legal, criminal justice, and social services free of charge to victims of domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and elderly abuse.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1.5 million</strong> New Yorker City residents live in <a href="http://nydn.us/1PdVI2m" target="_blank">overcrowded</a> (more than one occupant per room) or “severely overcrowded” (at least 1.5 occupants per room) situations, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>282,000</strong> domestic violence incidents were <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/downloads/pdf/Statistics_Annual_Fact_Sheet_2014.pdf" target="_blank">filed</a> by the NYPD in 2014 - roughly 800 per day.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$11.7 million</strong> in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8578822/klein-takes-home-more-11-million-earmarks" target="_blank">earmarks</a> have been awarded to State Senator Jeff Klein over the last three years - more than triple the amount of any other senator.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>32%</strong> of the newest class of <a href="https://twitter.com/GunaRockYa/status/652176939004895232" target="_blank">NYPD officers </a>are Latino, the highest ever percentage ever. The new class of NYPD recruits hail from 36 countries, speak 22 languages, and are 20% women.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>68</strong> is how old NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton turned this Tuesday. Commissioner Bratton has <a href="https://twitter.com/CommissBratton/status/651849901312241664" target="_blank">45 years</a> of policing under his belt as of this week.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$155</strong> million will be spent by the city over the next year to fix up more than <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-nyc-eyes-repairs-neighborhood-parks-article-1.2386534" target="_blank">35 parks</a> in high-poverty areas.</li> </ul> <p><strong>THE FLASH:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time four years ago</strong>, on October 7, 2011, the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/07/2011-10-07_largest_identity_theft_ring_in_us_history_busted_in_queens_111_indicted_in_13_mi.html" target="_blank">NYPD busted</a> a Queens-based identity theft and retail crime ring, arresting over 110 people - the largest identity theft ring in the history of the United States at the time, making an annual profit of over $13 million.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time two years ago</strong>, on October 9, 2013, a 'Times Square Elmo' was <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/10/us-usa-newyork-elmo-idUSBRE9981BM20131010" target="_blank">sent to jail</a> for a year for trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts of the USA.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Around this time last year</strong>, on October 7, 2014, the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold while wrestling Garner to the ground in order to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/nyregion/eric-garners-family-to-sue-new-york-city-over-chokehold-case.html" target="_blank">filed a claim</a> to sue the city over his death.</li> </ul> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5923-progressive-critics-largely-convinced-by-cuomos-wage-push" target="_blank">Progressive Critics Largely Convinced by Cuomo's Wage Push</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5925-buffalo-billion-boss-offers-cancels-interview-claims-threat-of-jail" target="_blank">Buffalo Billion Boss Offers, Cancels Interview; Claims 'Threat of Jail'</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5927-city-council-takes-aggressive-role-in-workplace-issues" target="_blank">City Council Takes Aggressive Role in Workplace Issues</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5924-a-better-way-to-fund-the-mta-quart" target="_blank">A Better Way to Fund the MTA</a>, by Assembly Member Dan Quart (opinion)</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5926-kleins-newspaper-touts-his-ability-to-bring-home-the-bacon" target="_blank">Klein's 'Newspaper' Touts His Ability to Bring Home the Bacon</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li>The New York Times' Liz Harris&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/09/nyregion/dual-language-programs-are-on-the-rise-even-for-native-english-speakers.html?&amp;hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">looks at</a> the city's dual-language programs</li> <li>WNYC's Beth Fertig&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/bronx-renewal-school-enthusiasm-takes-root/" target="_blank">reports</a> from a "renewal school" in the Bronx</li> <li>The Daily News' Harry Siegel <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-cops-trust-east-new-york-article-1.2389428" target="_blank">writes about</a> police-community relations in East New York</li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" width="600" height="409" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday October 9</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Mayor de Blasio pitches his rezoning plans in East New York, <a href="https://twitter.com/MC_NYC/status/651037854584467456" target="_blank">via Chang W. Lee for the New York Times</a>; charter school supporters rally in Brooklyn, <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva/status/651796803646541824" target="_blank">via Eva Moskowitz</a>; Gov. Cuomo and former VP Al Gore celebrate a climate change-prevention announcement, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/22042803655/in/album-72157659219247088/" target="_blank">via the governor's office</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/BdB_East_NY_Change_Lee_NYT.jpg" alt="BdB East NY Chang W Lee NYT" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" width="400" height="224" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/charter_rally.jpg" alt="charter rally" width="400" height="300" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22042803655_d279fc0050_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Gore climate change" width="400" height="266" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Cuomo On Climate Change:</strong> On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with former Vice President Al Gore, <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-new-actions-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-lead" target="_blank">announced</a> four actions to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across New York State. Cuomo signed the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding, reaffirming his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. By signing the ‘Under 2 MOU,’ Cuomo committed New York to the global effort to keep the earth’s average temperature from rising two degrees. The governor reiterated several measures that will make up New York’s efforts to do so, including an increase in the cultivation and use of solar power.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Charter School Politics:</strong> A large pro-charter school <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8578935/charter-rally-treads-familiar-ground-amid-shifts-political-climate" target="_blank">rally</a> led by Families for Excellent Schools was held on Wednesday; bolstered mostly by Eva Moskowitz, who closed her Success Academy Charter Schools so that students, parents, and staff would attend. Moskowitz accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of going back on his word to find space for seven new elementary charter schools in time for them to open in August. Generally, charter supporters are upset with the mayor for being against the expansion of charter schools. Then, on Thursday, Moskowitz <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/charter-school-leader-eva-moskowitz-not-running-for-mayor-1444320249" target="_blank">announced</a> that she will not be running for mayor in 2017, despite speculation that, as one of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest critics, she was going to run.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. New Info In Deadly Brooklyn Explosion:</strong> On Thursday, fire marshals <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/09/nyregion/natural-gas-not-the-cause-of-deadly-brooklyn-explosion-officials-say.html" target="_blank">eliminated</a> natural gas as a possible cause of the explosion in Brooklyn last Saturday that destroyed a three-story building, killed two, and injured thirteen. Investigators are now looking into whether some type of accelerant or fuel was involved in the blast. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said information from the investigation and “examination of the building gas meters, found that there was no natural gas flowing to the second-floor apartment (where the fire originated) since June 26.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. MTA Funding Feud Continues:</strong> Governor Cuomo again took issue with Mayor de Blasio over funding the MTA in a WNYC <a href="http://citizensunion.us3.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ca0fb41d668202ba6cc542ca8&amp;id=504196afe9&amp;e=e35a0ce952" target="_blank">interview</a> on Tuesday. Cuomo and the head of the MTA, the governor’s appointee, are demanding the city contribute about $3 billion more. De Blasio is apparently offering over $2 billion, a major increase from previous commitments, but is saying he wants assurances that Cuomo will not remove any money from the MTA budget as he has done repeatedly in the past. The sniping continues.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Staten Island Family Justice Center Finally Breaks Ground:</strong> After <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131213/st-george/city-breaks-ground-on-staten-island-family-justice-center" target="_blank">years</a> of delays, Mayor de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and others gathered on Monday for the <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151005/st-george/long-delayed-staten-island-family-justice-center-finally-breaks-ground" target="_blank">groundbreaking</a> of The Staten Island Family Justice Center, largely focused on domestic violence prevention and response. The center is the first of its kind on Staten Island, following the lead of every other borough in the city, each of which already has such a center dedicated to providing comprehensive civil legal, criminal justice, and social services free of charge to victims of domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and elderly abuse.</p> <p><strong>THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>1.5 million</strong> New Yorker City residents live in <a href="http://nydn.us/1PdVI2m" target="_blank">overcrowded</a> (more than one occupant per room) or “severely overcrowded” (at least 1.5 occupants per room) situations, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>282,000</strong> domestic violence incidents were <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/downloads/pdf/Statistics_Annual_Fact_Sheet_2014.pdf" target="_blank">filed</a> by the NYPD in 2014 - roughly 800 per day.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$11.7 million</strong> in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/10/8578822/klein-takes-home-more-11-million-earmarks" target="_blank">earmarks</a> have been awarded to State Senator Jeff Klein over the last three years - more than triple the amount of any other senator.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>32%</strong> of the newest class of <a href="https://twitter.com/GunaRockYa/status/652176939004895232" target="_blank">NYPD officers </a>are Latino, the highest ever percentage ever. The new class of NYPD recruits hail from 36 countries, speak 22 languages, and are 20% women.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>68</strong> is how old NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton turned this Tuesday. Commissioner Bratton has <a href="https://twitter.com/CommissBratton/status/651849901312241664" target="_blank">45 years</a> of policing under his belt as of this week.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$155</strong> million will be spent by the city over the next year to fix up more than <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-nyc-eyes-repairs-neighborhood-parks-article-1.2386534" target="_blank">35 parks</a> in high-poverty areas.</li> </ul> <p><strong>THE FLASH:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time four years ago</strong>, on October 7, 2011, the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/07/2011-10-07_largest_identity_theft_ring_in_us_history_busted_in_queens_111_indicted_in_13_mi.html" target="_blank">NYPD busted</a> a Queens-based identity theft and retail crime ring, arresting over 110 people - the largest identity theft ring in the history of the United States at the time, making an annual profit of over $13 million.</li> </ul> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time two years ago</strong>, on October 9, 2013, a 'Times Square Elmo' was <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/10/us-usa-newyork-elmo-idUSBRE9981BM20131010" target="_blank">sent to jail</a> for a year for trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts of the USA.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Around this time last year</strong>, on October 7, 2014, the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold while wrestling Garner to the ground in order to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/nyregion/eric-garners-family-to-sue-new-york-city-over-chokehold-case.html" target="_blank">filed a claim</a> to sue the city over his death.</li> </ul> <p><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5923-progressive-critics-largely-convinced-by-cuomos-wage-push" target="_blank">Progressive Critics Largely Convinced by Cuomo's Wage Push</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5925-buffalo-billion-boss-offers-cancels-interview-claims-threat-of-jail" target="_blank">Buffalo Billion Boss Offers, Cancels Interview; Claims 'Threat of Jail'</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5927-city-council-takes-aggressive-role-in-workplace-issues" target="_blank">City Council Takes Aggressive Role in Workplace Issues</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5924-a-better-way-to-fund-the-mta-quart" target="_blank">A Better Way to Fund the MTA</a>, by Assembly Member Dan Quart (opinion)</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5926-kleins-newspaper-touts-his-ability-to-bring-home-the-bacon" target="_blank">Klein's 'Newspaper' Touts His Ability to Bring Home the Bacon</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:</strong></p> <ul> <li>The New York Times' Liz Harris&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/09/nyregion/dual-language-programs-are-on-the-rise-even-for-native-english-speakers.html?&amp;hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">looks at</a> the city's dual-language programs</li> <li>WNYC's Beth Fertig&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/bronx-renewal-school-enthusiasm-takes-root/" target="_blank">reports</a> from a "renewal school" in the Bronx</li> <li>The Daily News' Harry Siegel <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/harry-siegel-cops-trust-east-new-york-article-1.2389428" target="_blank">writes about</a> police-community relations in East New York</li> </ul> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p>